6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: Five ways to regain confidence in God when everything around you suggests the contrary

I’m glad to be back from vacation. Thursday afternoon of last week, while Esther was napping and Susan was relaxing in front of the television, I sat quietly in front of my laptop in the Palm Spring resort home where we were staying. Susan suddenly asked me what I was doing. I sheepishly replied, "I’m working."

And on Sunday morning, before we left the resort, we had breakfast with a couple. The husband commented, "It’s back to the daily grind for you."

And I replied, "I don’t see it that way. I’m passionate about what I do."

Most people don’t know what a pastor does. He spends time listening to others. He goes to meetings. He preaches. He prays. He leads Bible studies. But what exactly do pastors hope to achieve through these various activities?

I summarize my pastoral mission with this one sentence: "I help more and more English-speaking Asians come to a right and healthy relationship with God and with one another through Jesus Christ." The achievement of this mission has less to do with what I do, and more to do with what you do and with what God does.

The question was asked, "How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?" The answer is, "One, but the light bulb really has to want to change."

And for the Christian, "How many Calvinists does it take to change a light bulb?’ The answer is, "None. Only God can change a light bulb."

The truth is I can’t change you. And I can’t have a right and healthy relationship with God and with one another for you. I can do that for myself, and you need to do that for yourself. Each one of us has to really want a right and healthy relationship with God, and each one of us has to personally turn to Jesus Christ for that kind of relationship.

Over the past year and a half, I’ve discovered nine characteristics necessary to fulfill this pastoral mission. They are listed on the banner behind me. And I want to help you grow in these nine characteristics. If you grow in these characteristics, instead of one person, myself, involved in achieving this mission, we can have forty or so people involved in achieving this mission.

So I will teach on one characteristic on the fourth Sunday of each month. This being the fourth Sunday of May, we will look at the first characteristic, a grace-sustained life. A grace-sustained life is a life characterized by confidence in and legitimate dependence upon God.

Grace simply means God’s favor, His provisions or His promises to us that we cannot earn and do not deserve. Who can say to God that they deserve to be born? Who can earn forgiveness for the wrongs done in life and done against God? Or what have we done to cause God to care for us?

A grace-sustained life, then, is a life that humbly and confidently receives God’s favor, provisions and promises to us. He gave us life, and we wake up each morning with thanksgiving. He gave us Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of sin, and we trust Him and receive His pardon. He maneuvers people and happenings moment by moment to provide for us and to fulfill His promises. So from morning to night, we thank and rely on God for His goodness that we need and cannot earn.

But how does a person enter into a grace-sustained relationship with God? Is she born into such a relationship? And once she has entered the grace-sustained life, does she ever slip from this confidence in God and return to an insecure or and self-centered life?

This morning, we will look at Psalm 73, to discover some answers for entering the grace-sustained life.

Asaph was a man who lived the grace-sustained life or the God-dependent life, but he almost lost confidence in God. Envy, self-pity, doubt, frustration and even resentment built up as Asaph looked at the prosperity, health and earthly rewards enjoyed by those who ignored God and did evil. Asaph kept his heart pure by living life with the purpose of pleasing God. But he was not rewarded with prosperity, health and a carefree life.

A Christian lady calls my wife periodically to complain about life. This lady points out that her church friends and co-workers are getting married, but she remains single and lonely. She knows the Bible teaches Christians to marry only Christians, but her confidence in God to provide a Christian mate is dwindling as each year passes.

Maybe you honor God in your family, your work and your church, but those who benefit from your faithfulness don’t appreciate you, and God hasn’t rewarded you with wealth and health. To make matters harder to understand, you see dishonest and godless people in your work, your neighborhood or in the news enjoy their marriage, wealth and health.

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