March 23, 2014
“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
This Scripture is usually used when we teach about faith. It’s called the ‘faith chapter’. This morning I want to use it in a little different way. What intrigued me this week about this Scripture was the phrase “God had planned something better...”. Certainly these were great men and women of faith. They endured tremendous hardship. They suffered greatly. They sacrificed more than we can imagine. And they were commended for their faith. None of them received that which was promised them – yet they, by faith, lived and died believing in that promise. God planned something better for them and for us. It was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, our Savior. It will be consummated or completed when He returns for us, His beloved Body.
This morning I want us to think about that phrase, “God had planned something better for us” and use it in a little different context. I think it applies to each one of us in a personal way. This idea germinated with a remark Monica, my daughter, made to me this week. She had applied for a number of jobs and it was like God was shutting every door she tried. Then a door was opened she had never thought of. It was something she never pursued. It was something that someone came to her with. Something that she was really good at – numbers. So it seems she may start a bookkeeping business. And as she was sharing with me about those doors being closed she remarked, “God had something better in mind.”
I love that about God. He always has something better in mind for us. When I first came to the Lord fresh from an overseas tour in the army, beat up by life, suffering from low self-esteem and maybe struggling with an inferiority complex, God lead me to verse; a promise in the Bible. It was Psalm 113:7-8. It said,
“He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of his people.”
I think I first read it in the King James Version. It says,
“He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the dunghill;”
That verse more accurately depicted what I was feeling at that time. I was suffering from PTSD and feeling alone and reject by the world. I felt like I was thrown out on the dunghill or manure pile of life. But you know what? God had something better in mind. It wasn’t long before He called me to preach (which I agreed to reluctantly) and I went to college. It changed my life. Who would have thought that I would ever be the editor of the school paper, win a scholarship and serve on the student council? It was amazing! It was unbelievable! But that is the way God works.
As a pastor I have the privilege of getting to know people really well. I am confided in and let in on many people’s secrets. I have the honor of knowing many people’s past. Some of the most wonderful, most kind, most gentle people have not always been so. You might even be shocked at what some of those wonderful people did at one time. They might be shocked at what YOU did at one time.
The Bible says that we all fall short. We all sin. We all have been pretty despicable at times. It says,
“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:3
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
1 John 1:8
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Colossians 3:5-8
The key word there is ‘used’. “You USED to walk in these ways…” God’s child is not to continue in these ways. God has something BETTER in mind for us. We need to rid ourselves (with the Holy Spirits help) with the ungodly ways and the ungodly things we used to do.
There are many, many Spiritual teachers who will tell you that your sins are forgiven and under the Blood and paid for – so you don’t need to repent of your sins. That’s false teaching. The enemy always uses half truth and it IS true that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. But we are to repent of them. We are to turn from them. Why wouldn’t we want to? Sin is always destructive. Sin will always hurt you. Sin was so important that Jesus died for our sins. Anyone who loves Him will WANT to stop rebelling against Him. God says, “The soul that sins will die.” (Genesis 2:17; 3:3) Satan says “you will NOT die!” (Genesis 3:4) Who are you going to believe? The big lie is that “you can sin and not die”. “You can sin and get away with it”. Don’t believe it. God has something better in mind for us.
Sin always hurts you. It always causes more pain that pleasure. You can count on that. God doesn’t want you to sin. He has something better in mind for you. He has a special gift for the obedient. Listen to the promises.
“once made perfect, he (Jesus) became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” Hebrews 5:9
WHO is eternal salvation for? The obedient!
“We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Acts 5:32
WHO is given the Holy Spirit? The obedient!
God has something BETTER than rebellion in mind for us. God has something BETTER than sin in mind for us. He is the source of eternal salvation for those who obey him and He longs to give us the Gift of the Holy Spirit. When we receive Him in our lives ‘something better’ is added. He begins to teach us and equip us with His nature. The Bible says,
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...” Galatians 5:-23
Have you ever had a problem with depression? Have you ever had a problem with being negative? I have. I remember when life seems hopeless. I felt helpless. I was depressed and discouraged. God promises-
“to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:2-3
This is the nature of our Heavenly Father. He loves us. Life will use us up. Sin will destroy us. The problems of life will fill us with anxiety and people will cause us trouble. But the Lord delights to comfort those who mourn. Do you realize that He WANTS to provide for us? When all that is good burns down around us and all that we value lies in ashes at our feet – He is able to bring forth beauty. His Word promises,
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:8
God wants to fill our life with joy. The fruit of His presence in our lives is love and joy and peace. It is patience and self-control. It is gentleness and kindness and goodness. The world leaves us with a spirit of despair. God fills us with praise and gratitude.
I have lived a pretty long time now. I have walked with the Lord for quite a few decades now. I have not only experienced this truth in my own life but I have seen it to be true in many, many other people’s lives as well. Whatever the world hands you; whatever hand of cards you are dealt; it may seem pretty good or pretty terrible – but God has something better in mind for you. He said,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
God not only wants to give you a better life right here and right now – but He has something better for you for eternity. Jesus said,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” John 14:1-2
Jesus has something better than this in mind for us. If He created the world in 6 days – just imagine what He has been creating for two thousand years! It is going to be AWESOME! It is going to be worth it! Whatever you have to go through down here – it will be worth it. The Bible says,
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17
It will be worth it. Be encouraged. I know you often struggle. You contend constantly with the enemy. You fight temptation. You experience trials and tribulations.
But don’t give up. At the right time you will reap a reward for hanging in there. (Galatians 6:9) So hang in there. You are going to make it. God has something better in mind than you are experiencing right now.