Summary: There is a difference between how the world responds to life’s darker moments and how God’s best servants react. It is the difference between desiring and deserving.
OPENING: A magician working a cruise ship had recently purchased a parrot to be part of his act. However, the bird was not only clever but also annoying. It was constantly telling the audience how the magician accomplished each trick. For example, the bird would say to the audience, "He has the card in his pocket," or the "The card’s up his sleeve," or "It went through the hole in his top hat." One day there was a huge explosion and the ship sank. The parrot and the magician, both dazed and bruised, found themselves together on a piece of wreckage. For 4 days the parrot stared at the magician. Finally, the parrot said, "OK, I give up. What did you do with the ship?"
APPLICATION: There are times in our in our lives when we look at the difficulties we face or the hardships we encounter and we are tempted to turn to God and say "OK God, I give up, what have you done with my life."
The Israelites, in the days of Nehemiah, were faced with a situation that would cause many of us to say that very thing. They were a people of a once great nation, but now they were enslaved to foreign powers. The land was poor. And, while these people had worked hard to build the city walls back up - Jerusalem was still much in ruins.
But notice, they turn and look to God and say:
1. God you were faithful, just and true
2. We did wrong
3. Please, have mercy on us.
I. This is not the world’s way of responding to hardship.
The World often responds to life’s difficulties by saying:
"I don’t deserve this grief, this hardship, this loss. I deserve the good life, a long life, comfort and respect."
The World’s response contrasts the difference between deserving and desiring what one receives in life.
Romans 3:23 tells us "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."
And Romans 6:23 declares "The wages of sin is death."
If we got what we deserved in this life… none of us would survive.
ILLUSTRATION: The World often responds to life like a new born child. The baby enters life with a grasping hand.
But the dead leave with open hand.
Mankind enters this world grasping for whatever they can grab and squirrel it away and declare it to be theirs... and when they die they leave it all behind.
But the world faces life often with the grasping hand, the expectation of getting the best they can grab hold of… and may God Himself be pitied if He takes anything away.
By contrast, a Christian poet observed:
One by one God took them from me,
All the things I valued most,
Till I was empty-handed,
Every glittering toy was lost.
And I walked earth’s highways grieving
In my rags and poverty
Til I heard His voice inviting
"Lift those empty hands to Me."
So I turned my hands toward heaven,
And He filled them with a store
Of His own transcendent riches
Till they could contain no more.
And at last I comprehended,
With my stupid mind and dull
That God could not pour His riches
Into hands already full.
The world often can’t accept this mentality.
Instead worldly individuals either reject or condemn God.
As God tells Job "Men condemn God to justify themselves" (Job 40:8 "Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?")
Paul observed that many people shake their fists at God and declare: "Why have you made me thus?" (Romans 9:20)
ILLUSTRATION: Such people remind me of the story of the child and his doting grandmother who were walking along the beaches of Florida when all of a sudden a gigantic wave rolls and sweeps away the child.
Frantic in her distress, the grandmother cries out to God: "Oh, please God, save my grandson." And in short order another wave rolls and deposits the boy at her feet.
Inspecting the child closely to see if there were any cuts or bruises, the woman looks angrily toward the heavens and shouts: "When we came, he had a hat."
Because of such an attitude, many (who are even Christians) are tempted to fling God away.
ILLUSTRATION: In a sermon shortly after the sudden death of his wife, Arthur John Gossip said: "I don’t understand this life of ours. But still less can I comprehend how people in trouble and loss and bereavement can fling away peevishly from the Christian faith. In God’s name, fling to what? Have we not lost enough without losing that too? You people in the sunshine may believe in the faith, but we in the shadow must believe it. We have nothing else."
God’s people often rise above that mentality. Consider how the great men of God responded to adversity: