RS: The title is “What Does it Really Mean To Be Free?” What is true freedom? I haven’t prepared it yet, but I have a good idea what it’s going to be.
Unidentified audience member: When is it? The date?
RS: The 23rd.
Unidentified audience member: The Lynyrd Skynyrd laydown?
RS: Lynyrd Skynyrd laydown, yeah – Freebird. That ain’t a bad idea! I might want to include that in my materials. We need to play it.
[Laughter and general chatter]
RS: All right. Where we’ve been. This is really part seven in our series on prayer. We spent the first four sessions on the principles of prayer. The last two, we looked at the issue of thanksgiving and gratitude and having a grateful heart. If you were here, you heard me say several times that this is a very big deal and that gratitude does not come natural to us as human beings. What does come natural is taking things for granted or taking credit for everything that happens in my life. And therefore we said that it’s crucial to cultivate a thankful heart. I had a guy email me, that most of you know, who comes regularly, and he emailed me today, and said the teaching on thanksgiving has just really changed my life, and my family. It’s really had an impact.
So, I hope that you will take the time to really cultivate a thankful heart, but, believe it or not, today we’re going to talk about – this is kind of by request; I usually would leave this at the end, because it is pertinent to gratitude and thanksgiving – and that is how to pray when a storm comes into your life. You know what I mean by storm, right? Something very difficult comes into your life. Circumstance, you can call it what you want. Adversity. And, I ask you, I’m not looking for an answer, but think about it. When a storm enters your life, what do you do? Well, the first thing is quite natural, and you probably should do it, is get rid of it. How do I get it out of my life? Is there something I can do to deal with the storm? But it’s crucial that you do deal with it, as long as the means is not in disobedience to God. Sometimes to get out of trouble, people do things they shouldn’t do. But let’s look at it in terms of; think about the storms of life that are out of your control. A storm that creates emotional pain and fear. What do you do? We’re going to spend the next two weeks talking about this, but, before we really get into the prayer application, I would just turn your attention, and I’m going to just share with you what it says, because most of you are familiar with this, but, in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus says, “He who hears these words of Mine, and then acts upon them.” The NIV says, “…puts them into practice, will be compared to a wise man who builds his house upon the rock, and the winds come, and the rains come and storms come, and they beat against that house, and yet it did not fall, because it was founded on the Rock.” And then He gives the flip side of it. “He who hears My word, and fails to act upon it, or who fails to put it into practice, may be compared to a wise man who builds his house upon the sand, and the wind comes, and the rain comes, and the storm comes, and it falls.” Because his foundation had been the sand.
The question we need to ask is where am I building my house. And there is so much that we can glean from these words of Jesus, but maybe one of the most important things He’s saying is, I’m going to tell you this in advance. The storms in life are coming. Some of you may have storms today. Sometimes you may have a little squall and sometimes you might have a hurricane. But He says they’re coming. But, most significantly, you know what He’s saying? We can prepare for them in advance. We can prepare for them in advance.
Paul Brand, who was a very famous orthopedic surgeon, he’s deceased, but, he lived a good part of his life in England, particularly during World War II, during the Blitzkrieg, and then he moved to India, where he worked with people who had leprosy, and then finally, he ended up in the United States, where he ended his career, and where he died. But He said, I’ve seen a lot of pain in life, a lot of pain. And he said this, I quote, “I am convinced that the attitude we cultivate in advance may well determine how suffering will affect us when it does strike.” Again, being prepared. “I am convinced that the attitude we cultivate in advance may well determine how suffering will affect us when it does strike.”
Now, going back to what Jesus says in Matthew 7. What is He really saying? When He says, he who hears these words of Mine and acts upon them? Basically, what He’s saying is taking God’s Truth, God’s Word, and integrating it into my life, where it becomes foundational to my thinking. It becomes foundational to how I react when storms come. But, guys, in order for that to happen, you have to be in the Word of God. You have to read it. You have to study. You have to reflect upon it. I’ll be honest with you. A lot of Christian men just don’t do that. And if you’re not doing that, you’re building your life on the sand. Just a kind of side note, something you might want to think about if this is something you have a difficult time disciplining yourself to do. I was meeting with a guy last week who is a very busy guy. I’ll just put it that way. He’s got a huge company, travels a lot, and he always, we were talking about his spiritual life, and he said that’s been one of the hardest things for me to regularly be in The Word and pray, and he said, but, you know I’ve done something recently. He said, “I have a good friend who is in kind of a similar situation as I am, real busy guy, and we decided to hold each other accountable. This is the way we’re doing it, and it’s really working. Every morning, we email each other and share the one verse that was most significant in our morning reading. And, we both do it, and if we don’t send it, it means we didn’t read The Bible. And so, I know he’s expecting an email from me, and I feel really bad when he sends me an email and I haven’t got an email to send him back.” And he says, “It’s working.” Ironically, I talked to the other guy earlier this week, and he said, “It’s working in my life, too.” So, that’s just a thought and an idea. Find somebody you might want to do that with. The central truths of The Bible can serve as a very powerful comfort and a resource during difficult times, because, and this is what we’re really going to look at today, they teach you how to respond to adversity. So much of The Bible is that. It teaches you how to respond to adversity. Listen to what Tim Keller says about this. This is his wonderful book called Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. I like that title Walking with God. And he says, “Once you are in a crisis, there is no time to sit down and give substantive study and attention to parts of The Bible. As a working pastor for nearly four decades, I have often sat beside people who were going through terrible troubles, and silently wished that they’d taken the time to learn more about their faith before the tidal wave of trouble had engulfed them.”
As we have seen, the main reasons of the heart that help us endure suffering are the foundational doctrines of our faith. The creation, fall, atonement, and resurrection. These are profound and rich truths we need to grasp deeply before we suffer or we will be unprepared for it, and many of these lessons are very difficult to learn on the job, when we are in the midst of adversity. A great deal of preparation for suffering is simple but crucial. It means developing a deep enough knowledge of the Bible, and a strong and vital enough prayer life, which is what we’re going to be talking about, that you will neither be surprised by nor overthrown by affliction. So, a good question that we all probably should ask is, what do I need to know? What in The Bible do I need to know, that I need to have ingrained in my life that will provide that foundation? That will enable me to weather the storms of life? Now, I don’t know if you remember back in January, we talked about this a little bit. Remember when we talked about dealing with disappointment in life, and we talked about having a picture. The way we want life to be. Often those pictures will blow up, and how do we respond? Well, in that we kind of touched on that, and I’m not going to spend a lot of time on it, but this is the foundation, guys, for dealing with the storms of life. Pass these around real quick and I’m going to make a couple of comments on them, and I’ll see if you have any comments or questions.
[Passing around handouts]
RS: Everybody got it? These are four truths, and I kind of give you a simplistic outline, but there is so much more depth to all of these, but the first is very simply that, when you are going through a storm, it is important for you to know that you are of great value to God. He loves you. In Jeremiah, it says, “He loves you with an everlasting love.” This is what he’s committed to, guys. He is committed to your and my well-being, and if we don’t experience His well-being, usually it’s because we shoot ourselves in the foot. We self-inflict ourselves. We’ll go into that a little bit next week. But, He is committed to us and our well-being. I’ll give you another good verse. Psalm 118:6 says, “God is for you.” He is for you. It’s kind of like this. Think about your kids. You are FOR your kids, aren’t you? There’s nobody more interested, who stands behinds, and loves your kids more than you and your wife. In fact, I tell my children, there is nobody, basically, and they always remind me there’s God, but there’s nobody in their lives that loves them and is committed to them like their mother and I. They need to hear that. That’s the way that we are with God.
The second thing is He is sovereign over life, including our circumstances. Whatever is in our life is there by His consent. He has allowed it. He could have prevented it, but He has allowed it, but He loves you and is committed to your well-being, so they’ve got to be there for a reason.
Then we know this, number three. He can remove any storm whenever He chooses. Jeremiah 32:27 says, “Behold I am the Lord, the God of all flesh, is there anything too difficult for me?” The God of the Universe can handle your storm.
And then, finally, God is using the storms of life purposefully for our good. And I’m going to show you that today.
And so, the bottom line is, guys, when a storm comes into your life, one of two things is going to happen. The first is we will allow the pain we are experiencing to interpret our view of God. Do you get that? We will allow the pain we are experiencing to interpret our view of God. We’ll look at Him as, “He doesn’t care about me” or “He’s not a loving God”. Why would He allow this to happen? And people walk away from the faith because they see God or they view God based on what they’re experiencing. There’s a guy that for several years was involved in one of the studies here, and he walked away from it because, basically, his life was bad and he blamed it all on God. Just abandoned it. Kind of, this ain’t working for me. But the alternative, and the proper thing, is to allow our view of God, and what He has revealed to interpret the difficult experiences that we’re going through. This is how you respond correctly. Let me stop here. I’ve said a lot. Comments or questions, anybody?
Unidentified audience member: Can you repeat that second way we should respond?
RS: We will allow our view of God and what He has revealed to interpret the difficult times we are experiencing. Anybody else?
Well, before we consider the issue of prayer and the storms of life, let me just say this. How we respond to pain and affliction is everything. Our response is everything. And it is crucial that we respond correctly. If these words sound familiar, I used them in the book, The True Measure of a Man, so you’ve probably heard this, but very powerful words from the famous, highly influential 20th century Swiss psychologist, Paul Tournier. Tournier says, and I quote, “Only rarely are we masters of the events in our lives. But, we are responsible for our reaction.” Something happens to you – we are responsible for how we react. And he says, “In other words, we are accountable to how we respond to the struggles we encounter.” And he believed that a positive, active, creative response – we’re going to talk about this, what that means – to one of life’s challenges will develop us, while a negative, angry one will only debilitate us and stunt our growth.
In fact, Tournier believed that the right response, at the right moment, might actually determine the course of a person’s entire life. I don’t know if you know of anybody, but sometimes you might encounter an older person who’s angry and bitter towards life, and it’s affected their life because something happened in their past, and they never dealt with it. They didn’t react to it correctly. They’re angry and bitter about it. And what happens, is the past impacts their lives today, because they didn’t respond, usually it’s something that was painful in their lives. He goes on to say, that he found that, listen to this, guys, “quite often, humans are presented with rare opportunities to develop and grow only through hardship and trial.” That, in fact, was why Tournier moved away from the traditional pattern of diagnosis and treatment and began to address his patients’ emotional and spiritual needs as well. In other words, as a psychologist, he took what he normally, the traditional way that you treated people, but he added to it, helping them with their emotional and spiritual needs. Philip Yancey says, that, and we’ve got to remember this, guys, but God can solve every problem we have. But instant solutions are not what He’s all about, because that’s not what’s most important to Him. He says, what’s most important to Him is how we respond to our struggles, and ultimately, will we trust Him. So, a storm enters into your life. What do you do? Turn, if you would, to Psalm 121. We’re going to read verses 1 and 2. David Faulkner?
David: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and earth.”
RS: One of the things that you will notice, if you pay close attention to the scriptures, is that people who walk with God, often call Him their Helper. Their Helper. In fact, the Holy Spirit is referred to by Jesus and John as The Helper. Remember what He says? It’s for your good that I’m leaving you, because God is going to send The Helper. You know what? That word helper comes from the Greek word, parakletos. I love this; parakletos means, literally, someone who comes alongside you to help you. That’s what God wants to do. He desires to be our helper, but do we see Him that way? When a storm enters our lives, either we lift our eyes to God, like David says in Psalms 121, we lift our eyes to God, and bring our fears into His venue, or we gaze at our circumstances, we see them from our very worldly perspective, and we generally then carry them around on our shoulders. The problem is, guys, if you remember, we are not burden bearing creatures.
You know, the Bible doesn’t say we are like stallions or elephants; it says we are like sheep. And sheep can’t do squat. They can’t bear any burden. And so what happens when you begin to try to carry your burden around, you begin to sink. And it can easily become a downward spiral. I thought of Jesus, really, the twelve disciples. They are in a boat, and it’s storming, there is a storm, a literal storm, and Christ is not with them, and they are fearful, and, all of a sudden, they see Him walking on the water towards them. It scared the stew out of them, to see Him do that. He gets close to the boat, and Peter said, Lord can I come out to you? And Jesus says, come. He stops, and says, Come, and Peter gets out of the boat, and starts literally walking towards Him on the water. Remember what happens next?
Unidentified audience member(s): Got a little fearful, he got scared.
RS: He starts looking at the waves. He takes his eyes off of Jesus and starts looking at the waves, and when he does that, you know what happens? He starts to sink. Until Christ finally reaches back out to rescue him. That’s what we’re talking about here. Focusing on what God has said in the Scriptures. Focusing on these Truths right here. And focusing on other truths, which I’ll talk about in a minute.
But, let me share with you two really, really good verses. The first, I’m going to have all of you turn to Hebrews 4:16. I’m going to read to you from the Amplified, we we’ll really get this, I’m going to read Isaiah 26:3-4. Everybody there? All right, Frank, how about Hebrews 4:16?
Frank: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence so that we may find mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
RS: That is a great verse. It doesn’t just say we are to approach God’s throne, we are to approach God’s throne of what? We are to approach God’s throne of grace. Crucial word. Crucial word, grace. It means divine enablement. Grace literally means, there are several definitions, but you see, there is saving grace, but we are experiencing God’s grace as we live. In Hebrews 13:9, it says, “It is good for the hear to be strengthened by God’s grace.” And therefore, guys, our responsibility is to draw near to God’s throne of grace, to find help that He clearly wants to give us. That’s what this verse says.
Unidentified audience member: So grace has a definition as a noun?
RS: Well, there are several. I always like, God enabling us to do that which we cannot do ourselves. To me, that’s the best definition there is. Another is considered as divine enablement. But some people say it’s the power to do the Will of God. We’ll come back to grace in a minute. Let me read you this; this is from Isaiah. “You will guard him, and keep him…” Let me back up and say this. Do you know what God’s Will is when you’re going through a storm? Clearly, His Will is not necessarily that I’m going to grab you out of it every time you have one. But, you know what His Will is? That, as you walk through a storm, you experience His Peace. That you experience His Peace. That you can walk through it with peace in your heart, and peace in your life. Listen to what Isaiah says. “You,” being God, “will guard him and keep him in perfect peace”, listen to this, “whose mind is focused on You, because he commits Himself to You, he leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.” He goes on to say, “So trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock.” But, the most important thing is, to keep – He says, I’ll guard you and keep you in perfect peace, the person whose mind is focused on God and God’s truth.
I’m meeting with a guy right now who is experiencing a terrible storm in his life. A lot of fear and a lot of pain. And, we’ve met several times, and, I’ve gone with him, I’ve gone through with him, everything we’ve talked about so far, and everything we’ll talk about in the balance of our time. And we go through and we talk about how God is purposefully using this in his life. And I said, a year from now, I guarantee you, you will look back and realize, even though he brought a lot of this on himself, you will realize that this was incredibly beneficial to you. And he experiences this peace as he focuses on God’s truth. But then, I get a text from him out of the blue that says, I’ve got to see you right away. The peace has left him. He’s like Peter, and he’s looking at the waves. That doesn’t mean, guys, that you’ll always have perfect peace in a storm. In fact, I’ll share this with you real quick.
A number of years ago, I went through a difficult time, and I had a lot of fear, and a lot of pain. And yet, what we talked about today, and what we’ll talk about in the balance, was incredibly helpful. And I would find myself at peace. Then, two or three hours later, the fear comes right back. I’m looking at the storm. And yet, this is what happens when you’re in a storm. Tell me if you don’t agree. Your imagination starts running wild, as you start to think all the things that could possibly happen that are bad. And that could possibly happen. But the fear runs wild in our imagination. And you know when it really runs wild? You’ve heard me say this. When you wake up in the middle of the night and you start thinking about it. And so I would go through a period of peace and turmoil. Then I’d come back. Peace, turmoil. I mean, I really walked through this with God. And I don’t know how many, several weeks later, I’ll never forget this, I woke up one morning, and I realized the peace was permanent. The circumstances had not changed. The circumstances that caused so much anguish had not changed a lick. But I had a peace that was permanent. What was interesting, is that a couple of weeks later, the circumstances changed, to my liking, but it really didn’t matter, because the peace was there. And that’s why, you know what, is so cool about it, looking back, it’s a peace that I know I did not generate myself. That’s why Paul calls it, remember what he calls it, the peace that?
Unidentified audience member: Surpasseth all understanding.
RS: Surpasseth all understanding. How did this happen? One of the first things that I do when a storm enters, I go back to the truth on the sheet that you got, but then I also, I love to read the story of Joseph in the Old Testament, at the end of Genesis. It’s powerful. All these horrible things happen to Joseph. His brothers treated him terribly. He spends a long time in prison unjustly. And through a series of circumstances, he ends up coming out as the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. And when his brothers realized who he was now, and he could have them put to death, they were terrified, and he says, you know, guys, you meant harm to me, you meant evil to me, but God has taken it and used it for good, to bring about this current result. You see, that’s how the Word of God is. When you read about people who actually go through incredible suffering, to see how they handle it, to see their faith, it encourages us. Read about David. You know, we’ve talked about David. He and his men were out at war, and they come back, remember what happened? Their wives and their children were gone and their village had been burned, and they all started weeping. They didn’t know what to do. In fact, then they started saying it’s David’s fault. We’re going to stone David. We’re going to get him. Remember what it said. David did two things. He strengthened himself in the Lord. Then he said, Lord in the midst of this terrible situation what would you have me to do?
Unidentified audience member: Where is that?
RS: I knew you were going to ask. I’ll have it for you afterwards. I think it’s in I Samuel. Anybody else? Yeah, Dave?
Dave: This is kind of off; it’s related, but certainly I understand keeping our focus on the Lord in our storms, but the part here about whatever is in our lives is here by His consent, so maybe that, I guess that this….
RS: Can I share with you a different way?
Unidentified audience member: Yes.
RS: He could have prevented it, but He didn’t. Whenever I…
Unidentified audience member: Not that He created the storms, but…
RS: As we’ll see next week, so many of the storms in our lives, are self-inflicted.
Unidentified audience member: Right. But He allowed…
RS: This is the issue that has been debated for centuries. God’s sovereignty, God’s sovereign will, and our freedom. And, you know, they’re both true. They’re both true, and we could probably spend weeks talking about it. But, I hear what you’re saying. Everybody get that? A good way to see it is, though, God could prevent anything from happening, but He didn’t, so He allowed it, if you want to look at it that way, but He loves me, but He could also take it out of my life if He wanted to right now, but He hasn’t, so there must be purpose in it, because He is committed to my well-being. One way to look at it is, I don’t know about your own relationship with your Dad, but think about your own Father, if you had a good loving Father, and think about it, if your earthly Father let something into your life, or made you do something that – there’s a reason for it. And you can see it, and you can see there is purpose. To me, when you can see there is purpose in affliction, it will transform the affliction. When you see that it’s there, maybe for my own good, maybe for my own welfare, then it will have an impact on the way you view it as you go through it. We’re going to run out of time and I don’t want to do that. Let’s talk about how do you pray. What do you pray in a storm? Back in January, this was one of the things that we prayed, and we’ll go through it again, because that’s one of the things that’s so important. Matthew 11:28-30. Matthew 11:28-30. Mike Shannon, can you read those for us please?
Mike: “Come to Me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
RS: You know, guys, the first time I ever read that, and I probably read it a lot of times, and I looked at it, and I thought, what in the world is He talking about? Then a very wise, Godly man explained it to me, and it’s been significant. He said, you need to understand what a yoke, back in Biblical times, was designed to do. Basically, you put it on two animals, say, two oxen, so they work together, in unison, to accomplish a certain objective. So, if there is some objective in the storm you’re experiencing, God is saying, take My yoke upon you. How do I do that? What do I pray? You pray, or you declare this to God, guys, this is crucial. Lord, I’m committed to seeing Your objective done in my life. I’m committed to seeing the objective come to pass in my life in the circumstances that I find myself in. So, whatever Lord, You are trying to accomplish in my life, I am with You. I am with You. I am committed to whatever You are trying to accomplish in my life. And you may not even know what that is. That’s faith, guys. That’s putting on His yoke that is putting confidence in Him. He says, as you do this, as you approach the storms this way, He said, I will provide rest for your soul. Rest for your soul is peace. That’s what we’re looking for. Comments or questions?
Unidentified audience member: Say that again, Lord I’m committed to seeing…?
RS: Lord, I am committed to seeing Your objectives come to pass in the circumstances I find myself in. Whatever You’re trying to accomplish in my life, I’m with You. I’m committed to it.
Unidentified audience member: Think about Mary.
RS: Yes. Mary is the best example, one of the best examples of this, particularly having her picture blown up. You know, she was expecting this nice wedding, this nice family, and she’s told she’s pregnant. Just blew up her picture, big time. Brad, you were going to say something?
Brad: I was going to say, we talk about wanting to be Christ-like, and here, He lays it out for us, learn from Me, I’m gentle and humble in heart. Men don’t hear that. Many don’t teach their sons that.
RS: Amen. Great point. Anybody else? Well, a very significant verse on prayer as it relates to hardship is Philippians 4. So, if you would, turn to Philippians 4. Everybody there? Philippians 4:6-7. Michael Adams, you got it?
Michael: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
RS: There’s a lot here. We could spend a lot of time on it, but we don’t have that time. But He’s saying first of all, I don’t want you to be anxious about anything. But in everything, not just a few things, but in everything, by prayer and petition, and I’m going to skip those next two words, present your requests to God. So we’re called to bring everything before Him, that causes anxiety in our lives, and bring them before Him, but, don’t you find it interesting, we’re to do it with what? With…oh, come on guys.
Unidentified audience member: Prayer and supplication?
RS: Prayer and supplication, with…?
Unidentified audience member: Thanksgiving.
RS: Thanksgiving! I forgot, this is a slower class. Only kidding, only kidding. Butch said this morning; I need to find a slower class to be in.
Unidentified audience member: Tell him to join us.
RS: Anyway, we’re to do it with thanksgiving. Whatever comes up, we’re to bring it before Him with thanksgiving. How do you do that? How about this? Lord, I don’t really know what You’re doing in my life. I don’t know why these storms are in my life, but I want to, in advance, I want to thank You for the way You’re going to use it in my life, for my ultimate good. Now, guys, that’s radical faith. We’re told in I Thessalonians 5:18, in everything, give thanks. But, you know what, if you think this is radical, let me show you a verse in James that’s even more radical. Turn to James 1, we’re not too far from it, towards the back of the New Testament. James 1, right after Hebrews. Go to James 1. Everybody there? Russell, 2-4.
Russell: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, that you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature, and complete, not lacking anything.”
RS: Now, guys, think about this. You could almost think he would say, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work, so that you might be mature, and complete, not lacking in anything. You would understand that. But, what does he say? How are we to approach trials? What are the first three words?
Unidentified audience member(s): Joy.
RS: Joy. Consider it joy. Now that sounds just crazy. When a trial comes, consider it joy. Why? He says, because it’s going to generate in your life perseverance, strength, basically, but not only is it going to produce strength, but basically, God is going to use it spiritually so that you might become mature, and complete not lacking anything. So he’s saying, it’s almost like consider it joy because God is giving you an opportunity, and He’s going to do a work in your life. Now, when we talk about Paul’s instruction back in Philippians, we’re not talking about throwing up a little prayer. When you’re going through a difficult time, you need to spend some time praying about this. Praying about the issue. Paul says, “Prayer and petitions, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” But you can’t be necessarily, we have to be careful, because we’re very easily, our prayers are very self-serving. We’re not thinking about, okay, God You’re going to use this, we’re thinking, I’ll get…God get rid of this. So, you have to think maturely. You have to realize that God may be, you know, if He’s causing all things to work together for my good, then we want to make sure that His purposes and objectives for our lives come to pass. And so, it’s important to think maturely. Sometimes, yes, we do need to pray specifically about an issue. We need to pray for God’s strength. But sometimes, we need to pray Psalm 31:3. “Thou art my rock and my fortress, for Thy name’s sake, Thou wilt lead me and guide me.” Lord, what would You have me to do?
Unidentified audience member: Which one was that?
RS: That’s Psalm 31:3. Then you have James 1:5, where you ask God for wisdom. Maybe you need to pray, “Lord, I’m not sure how to pray what to do. I’m not even sure what to pray, but I’m bringing this issue before You that’s causing me so much anguish, and I give it to You, and I place it in Your hands, and I’m trusting You with the outcome. And this is something that, again, it kind of has to be learned as you walk through the storms of life. Maybe some of the most important verses on this are in II Corinthians. So, if you would, turn to II Corinthians. I’m sorry we’re having to go through this so fast. As it turns out, it’s a longer lesson than I anticipated. II Corinthians 12:7-9. Have you read? Would you read for us?
Unidentified audience member: “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”
RS: Very good. Paul, we don’t know what this affliction was. He calls it a thorn in the flesh, and Paul, the first thing he did, three times, he asked God to remove it. He asked God to heal. You know what, Paul was expecting it. And he probably experienced it in the past, where he had run into trouble and he prayed, and somehow, God delivered him. But, what’s the answer this time.
Unidentified audience member: No.
RS: No! I’m not going to do it. You see, Paul recognized, one thing that happens, he recognized the purpose in this thorn, which was what?
Unidentified audience member: A reminder that God’s grace is sufficient.
RS: Okay, but he says something else. That’s exactly right, hold that thought, I’m coming right back to it, but, what did God, how did God use it in his life? To keep him from what?
Unidentified audience member: To keep him from exalting himself.
RS: Yeah. There was purpose in it. It kept me from exalting myself. I went back and read Deuteronomy 8, which we read the last time that we met, about the people, the Israelites and the warnings. I went back to this verse and it says, Deuteronomy 8:16, “While you were in the wilderness…” How long were they in the wilderness?
Unidentified audience member: Forty years.
RS: Forty years, “While you were in the wilderness, God fed you manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you, and that He might test you, that He might do good for you in the end.” In other words, when it’s all said and done, it’s for your ultimate good. That’s what it led to, and God says I’m not going to give you the answer to the prayer, as you wanted it. Instead, I’m going to give you grace, and power, and peace. But this is so important, guys. You never know what you’re going to face in life. I mean, at the ages that we are, basically, we know that there are going to be storms coming. But God, basically, Paul tells us in verse 9, that whatever you’re facing in life, my grace is sufficient for whatever you experience. The key is, we need to know how to appropriate that grace, and the great thing is when you experience God’s grace, that’s when you experience the reality of God in your life.
Unidentified audience member: What was that verse?
RS: That was verse 9 from II Corinthians 12:7-9. I leave you with this final thought. Listen to this. In Philippians 1:6, we are told, this is Paul talking, I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in your life, when you became a Christian, will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. In other words, what he’s saying is, once you become a Christian, that’s when I began a good work in your life, and I’m going to continue it until the day that you die. He says almost the very same thing in chapter 2, verse 13. He says, for it is God that is at work in you, to will, and to act, according to His good purpose for your life. So, I leave you with this. God is saying, you are My child. As a Christian, you are a child of God. And He’s saying, from those verses, that I am committed to moving and working in your life. I’m committed to developing you, spiritually, your character, your faith, because this leads to your ultimate good. He says, there are different ways and means that I will use to see this come to pass, including the storms, because we’re told in Hebrews 5:8, that Jesus, even Jesus, learned obedience, from the things in which He suffered. And the great thing that we need to know about God, we’re told this in Hebrews 4:15. He is not immune to our suffering, because He has experienced suffering Himself when He went to the cross, so He’s not a God who is removed and doesn’t understand. He said, I’ve been there, and I’ve experienced it.