Summary: God loves to bring out His purposes through our problems.
God’s Purpose in our Problems
Rev. Brian Bill
Lydia and I went to the Demolition Derby at the 4-H Fair this past week and had a blast. I loved watching drivers take aim at each other with the attempt to demolish or disable one another. We saw some great smash ups and did a lot of laughing. I don’t know much about how these derbies work but I do know that the last car still running is declared the winner. The announcer pointed out that each driver has a long wooden stick duck-taped to the side of the car and if for some reason he can’t go on, either because he’s feeling a bit woozy from getting clobbered, or the car has gone caput, he simply reaches up and breaks the stick which is supposed to signal to the other drivers that he has surrendered. No one is supposed to smash into a car that has a broken stick.
During one of the heats a car stalled and I saw a driver reach up and break his stick. Apparently the other cars didn’t see this and so they revved up their engines and came at him full-speed and collided with the stalled car. The driver was not very happy at all. I couldn’t hear what he said but I could tell that what came out of his mouth was not a word of blessing. He held his hands up in exasperation and starting waving the stick at the other drivers as if to say, “What’s up with that? Can’t you see that I’m out of commission here? Stop hitting me.”
I suspect that some of you feel like you’ve been in a demolition derby. You’ve waved the surrender stick but the hits just keep coming and you don’t know how much more you can take. As we wrap up our series called, “When Life is Hard,” we’re going to learn that God loves to bring out His purposes through our problems.
Here’s what we’ve been discovering the last several weeks: Trials are designed to teach us so that our conduct and our character changes. And, God works His good through our trials when we pray and when we stay. One of the suggestions I made last week was to read the Book of Psalms when you’re suffering. Anyone care to share what you learned through this assignment? What themes jumped out at you in your reading?
Check out this email from a PBC member: “Pastor Brian, on Sunday you mentioned reading the Psalms as a great way to deal with trials. I thought I’d share the one I’ve come back to several times in the last few months. Sounds funny, but it helps me to know that the Israelites used this as a song in their worship. Not only did they feel the same as I do but they talked (and sang) about it publicly. As a group they acknowledged their doubts and pain before their holy God. They asked hard questions but they weren’t smashed by God’s justice or holiness. He heard every word they said.”
She then quotes this paraphrase of Psalm 44:23-26: “Get up, GOD! Are you going to sleep all day? Wake up! Don’t you care what happens to us? Why do you bury your face in the pillow? Why pretend things are just fine with us? And here we are—flat on our faces in the dirt, held down with a boot on our necks. Get up and come to our rescue. If you love us so much, help us!”
It’s so hard to hang in there when we cry out for help and it seems like heaven is silent. My guess is that you have felt something similar to the psalmist at some time in your life. What possible purpose could my problems have in my life? Why doesn’t God remove my pain? When will relief come? Why do I keep getting smashed? Can’t God see that I’m already broken?
I want to propose today that God works His purposes through our problems. That reminds me of this poem.
I walked a mile with laughter,
She chatted all the way
But I was none the wiser
For all the things she had to say.
But, I walked a mile with sorrow,
And not a word said she.
But, oh, the things I learned
When sorrow walked with me!
To help us better understand how God works His purposes through our problems, I want us to study a signature passage on suffering found in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. But instead of preaching a typical sermon, I want to ask you to use your imagination for several minutes as I step into a different character. I’m not going to wear a costume because I’m too self-conscious in a bathrobe and sandals but if it’s OK with you, I’m going to morph in to the Apostle Paul for a short period of time.