What is faith? How does faith work? What is our faith based on? What is saving faith? What happens when our faith is shattered? Those faith questions and others are addressed in this nine-week series simply called faith.
Pastor G takes a nine-week break from his “Just Jesus” series walk through the Gospel of Mathew.
This is a series Greg first heard Andy Stanley preach way back in 2002. It had such an impact on Greg that he has preached his version of it at every church he has served since.
Today is week two and Greg focuses us in on the importance of “fixing our eyes on jesus.”
Last week, we began a new series called faith that I originally learned from Pastor Andy Stanley almost 20 years ago and I have shared my version of that teaching at every church I’ve served since. Last week we talked about The Foundation of Our Faith. We looked at a passage in Hebrews. There we discovered the foundation of our faith is not our circumstances but it is actually a real person named Jesus who is the Christ, the Messiah. We believe the eyewitness accounts that say He came to this earth in a miraculous birth. He claimed to be the Son of God and then He validated His claim by performing many miracles. He predicted His own death and His own resurrection. Then He actually pulled both of them off. He appeared alive to more than five hundred eye-witnesses, many of whom went to their deaths to testify to the truth of what they had seen and experienced. Many watched as He ascended back to heaven and promised to return. The empty cross and the empty tomb settled once and for all the question of God’s love for us.
Jesus is the foundation and the focus of our faith. And when all of circumstances, when everything around us shouts that there is no God, or if there is a God, He doesn’t care about us, we can instead stay steady. Why? Because the foundation of our faith does not rest on our ability to interpret circumstances. The foundation of our faith is a person. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN? If you are ready to hear part two – what God has put on my heart to share with you today about faith would you give me some encouragement and say or type HIT ME WIT IT G! I’M READY! Awesome! Mahalo. Here we go.
Today, I want us to look again in the book of Hebrews. Let’s look at the verse that we have been talking about on the last four Wednesday nights. We’ll look at it today, along with some more context, in a little more depth. And then if we have enough time, I’d like to tell you an amazing story at the end of our time. Let me remind you again, the book of Hebrews was originally a letter written to a group of Jewish Christians who were starting to turn away from the faith. They were told that Jesus was coming back soon and after quite some time, He still hadn’t shown up. As they continued their Christian walk they were thrown out of their Jewish synagogues. They were alienated socially. They weren’t invited to parties. Their stores were going bankrupt. People wouldn’t have anything to do with them. So they were saying, wait a minute, this isn’t such a good deal. If God is a good, loving, faithful God, why are all these bad things happening to us? Maybe we need to go back to Judaism.
And the writer of Hebrews writes in this book to say to them exactly what we talked about last week: “Folks, the foundation of your faith is not your ability to determine what’s happening. It’s not your ability to understand the ways of God. The foundation of your faith is a person, Jesus Christ, who really came to earth, really performed miracles, really died for your sin, really rose from the dead, and really ascended back to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father and He is really interceding for you, ready to welcome you when you die.” And his whole argument is simply this. Don’t miss this. Listen to this. Listen. If those historical facts are true, then that is enough for you to continue trusting God even when all of life falls apart around you. He begins Chapter 12
Therefore … ~ Hebrews 12:1a
Stop right there. What do we do when we see a therefore in Scripture? We stop and ask “What’s that therefore there for?” Right? He’s referring back to everything he just said in chapter 11 where he listed many great examples of people of faith. Then, he says
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses … ~ Hebrews 12:1a
Let’s stop again. This great cloud of witnesses is made up of those people he just talked about in chapter 11. He’s saying “Look, I know that you may not have ANY good circumstances to sink your faith into right now. Life’s tough. But listen, that’s no reason to back off on your faith. These great heroes of the faith, the ones in chapter 11, they didn’t have anything to sink their faith into either. They went through tremendously difficult times. Yet they remained faithful, and God was faithful to keep His promises to them.
Noah spent 100 years building a boat, being ridiculed by everyone. God told David, “You’re going to be the king!” Next thing you know, David is living in a cave, hiding from the current king who wants to kill him. God told Moses, “You’re going to lead my people out of Egypt to the Promised Land.” Then, for forty years Moses wandered around in the desert going, “Hmmm, maybe I didn’t hear Him right. This doesn’t look like the Promised Land to me.” But God was faithful to Noah and David and Moses. He kept His promises to all of them. And so the writer of Hebrews essentially says this: “Even though there may not be anything circumstantially to sink YOUR faith into right now, you should still remain faithful, because you are among a host of people, who have come before you, who also went through very trying periods, stages, years, of their lives as well.”
“They had nothing to look at for hope except for their faith in the promises that God had made to them. They were faithful because God was faithful. And the author of Hebrews, down through time, says to you and to me, I want you to do the same. Why? Because our faith does not rest in our circumstances or in our ability to interpret circumstances. Our faith rests on the person of Jesus Christ and the faithfulness of our Heavenly Father. Look what he says next.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance. The race marked out for us. ~ Hebrews 12:1
He describes and compares the Christian life to a race. And the picture here is that someone running has on things that will seriously encumber them, things that will keep them from successfully running. And so he says look, instead of complaining about how difficult it is to trust God, instead of continuing to complain about how hard it is to follow the Lord Jesus, first of all, you need to examine yourself, and ask the question, “Is there something about me that’s making it unnecessarily difficult for me to follow through with a life of faith? Is it possible that I am the problem and not God?”
Imagine you were jogging down the beach here in Hawaii and you came up on a guy who’s also jogging down the beach. But he’s got on snowshoes and tight blue jeans and a winter parka. And the guy begins to complain about how hard it is to run on the beach. What would you say to him? You would immediately ask him, “Have you thought about swapping your shoes out? I mean, have you thought about some shorts? Maybe the parka needs to go?”
I mean, there’s some obvious things he could do to make the run easier. And the author of the book of Hebrews says to you and to me, “Hey, one of your problems, one of the reasons it’s so difficult to get your eyes off of your circumstances, is because there might be some hindrances in your life that make running the race of faith more difficult than it needs to be. You need to identify them and deal with them.” How do you do that? Through prayer. You Ask the question, “God, why is it when the bottom falls out, I doubt you? God, what causes that? Lord, is there something wrong in my thinking, in my behavior, in my patterns, that causes me to doubt you?” You know, for some of you, the reason that you fall apart when your circumstances go south is because of fear. Maybe you’re afraid to trust God with your whole life because you’re afraid you might miss out on something better. FOMO right? The fear of missing out. I hear that from people all the time. They are afraid to give their whole life open-handed to God because they are afraid He’s going to ask them to give something up, become a missionary to China, move, give up a job, give up a relationship or give up a practice or a habit they enjoy.” Maybe you are afraid God will take away all the stuff you like and cause you to miss something good.
I want to challenge you this morning to pray, “Lord, OK, what are the hindrances in my life? What are the things that keep me from really trusting you?” This is something to really think and pray about, because you know what our tendency is? Our tendency is to not to do ANY self-examination. We just try to force ourselves to ACT like we trust Him, even though we know, deep down, we really don’t. We need to pause regularly and identify any hindrances to our faith.
Once you identify them, THEN you can begin to deal with them, strip them off, get rid of them. Because that’s the only way you’re going to have faith that endures. Getting rid of those hindrances is the only way you’ll be able to move freely and intentionally from circumstantial faith to faith that is based and rooted solely in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s continue in Hebrews.
… Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that’s so easily entangles …~ Hebrews 12:1
And here’s the picture of a runner who’s running along and his ankles get caught in something and he’s not able to take strides. He’s down on Hapuna beach with fishing line wrapped tight all around his legs. He’s not able to take big steps. His legs are all tied up, and he begins to stumble. And the writer of Hebrews compares this to sin. All sin is rebellion against God and It is impossible to both trust someone and rebel against them at the same time.
We’ve all tried this. “Oh Lord, increase my faith. Help me to trust you. But God, don’t mess with this relationship. God teach me to trust you. Bless me. Help me to see you the way you are and help me walk by faith. But God, don’t mess with my finances. Lord, I want to grow closer to You, but here are some habits and desires You can’t touch, things I am not willing to stop, things I will not give up.”And what the writer of Hebrews says, and what we all know in our hearts, is It is impossible to both trust someone and rebel against them at the same time. One of the things that sets us up for very, very fragile faith, especially when things are going good, is our unwillingness to allow God access to every area of our lives and to those sins and those habits and those relationships you reserve for yourself, that you know, you need to get rid of. Sins weaken your faith.
God says “You can’t trust me and rebel against me at the same time. It’s got to be one or the other.” Then the author of Hebrews goes on, This is my favorite part of this passage and the core part of the message today. This is what we talked about for the last four Wednesdays.
…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith … ~ Hebrews 12:1b-2a
This little phrase “fixing our eyes on Jesus” is actually a negative phrase in Greek. In Greek he uses the word aphoraó which means looking away from all else, in order to fix one’s gaze upon one thing In other words, let us turn away from everything else TOWARD Jesus. Remember Peter walking on the water with Jesus in the storm? When he took his eyes off of Jesus and started looking at the storm, that’s when his faith failed. Let us turn our attention AWAY FROM the storm, away from those other things, and let us instead focus all of our attention, fix our eyes, on Jesus. That’s the secret of faith. And then the author of Hebrews calls Jesus the author (The Greek word actually means the inaugurator or the beginner) and the perfecter (or we can read that word, the finisher) of our faith.
Jesus is the one that started the ball rolling and Jesus is the one that will one day finish it up. He is the inaugurator of this story and He will, one day, finish His story. He came to save us from our sins and He’s coming a second time to remove all sin, all sorrow and all death from all of creation. He will one day wipe every tear from our eye in the grand finale of His book. And again, it’s as if the author of Hebrews is saying, “Look, forget your circumstance. Stop putting your faith in your circumstance.
There is a God who sent His real Son, who came once and who is coming again. And that is the context of your suffering. That is the context of your doubt. That is the context of your fears. If you will turn away from focusing on those things and instead fully focus in Jesus, then all these other things will eventually take care of themselves. If not in this world then certainly in the next. Of course, the difficult thing for us is, that we’re caught in the middle of those two advents, those two comings, of Jesus. We know He came the first time and we believe He’s coming the second time. But what do we do in the meantime? And the author of Hebrews says you’ve only got one hope. If you keep looking to circumstance, like Peter did, if you keep looking to the storm around you, it’s all over. You will sink for sure.
But if you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, clinging to the facts of who He is, what He’s done, what He promises to do, then that hope is what will get you through. That will build and develop a new enduring faith. The only way that you and I can have faith that endures in this world, so horribly broken by sin and evil, is to get our attention off of what’s happening around us and to instead learn to always fix our eyes on Jesus, who is the beginning and ending of our life of faith. In just a minute, I want to give you some practical ways to do that. First, let’s look at the rest of this passage. It’s a tricky part. The author of Hebrews says this about Jesus:
… who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:2b
Now, when I read that passage in my early believer years forty years ago, I didn’t get what that really meant. Even now, I often read devotions about it or I hear it read and preached on and I say “Nope. They don’t get it.” I didn’t get it at first either. In my early faith, I used to always assume that verse meant this: Here’s Jesus and He knows that one day He’s going to sit down at the right hand of the Father and He’s going to have all this joy, this fantastic reward, AS LONG AS He follows through with the plan and endures the pain and shame of being crucified. So, in order to get there, to reach that goal, in order to gain that reward, Jesus, perhaps kind of grudgingly, agreed to die on the cross. Because of the reward He would one day receive, the joy of sitting down at the right hand of the Father, that’s why Jesus was willing to die on the cross. Kind of a no pain, no gain thing. That’s the way I hear this verse preached on a lot. And then the application is, so you suck it up and endure too, just like Jesus did, and one day, you too will get your reward, just like Jesus did.
The Rock Opera Jesus Christ Superstar operated on that assumption as well. As Jesus is struggling with going to the cross and actually before agreeing to go to the cross. He sings
[PASTOR G SINGS] “I’d have to know, I’d have to know my Lord. If I die what will be my reward?” But that’s NOT AT ALL what this verse actually means. In Greek, there’s a little word that is usually translated “for” in this verse (for the joy set before Him.) It is a very common word, used all through the Greek New Testament. It is actually the Greek word anti. It’s spelled the same as our English anteeee or antiiii right? And it actually means the same thing. Against, opposite of, instead of, opposed to. So here’s an alternate translation of this verse that I think is much more accurate and I certainly think fits the context and it definitely is corroborated by the context of the rest of Scripture. Listen to this.
Fix our eyes on Jesus ——-
Who, instead of embracing and experiencing the joy already set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and then sat back down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:2 (Pastor Greg Version)
That’s what the verse really implies and certainly is supported by the whole New Testament. And this is the foundation of what we believe. Jesus Christ is God the Son. For all of eternity He has already enjoyed the joy of sitting at the right hand of God the Father. They have always been one, have always been together. Jesus chose to leave that state, leave heaven, leave the Father, and come to earth for you to become your sin. He chose to die for you and me, to take on the shame of our sin and the shame of the cross, because He loves us. Not just so He could cash in on a big reward later.
The author of Hebrews says He endured the cross. The Greek word for endure is hupomenó and it means to hang back, to stay back. The reason Jesus chose to stay back on this earth, on that cross, as long as He did, was not to receive some sort of reward He never had or to become something He wasn’t before. He’s always been God. He’s always had a right to sit down at the right hand of the father. He’s always had the joy of being God and being in perfect unified communion with the Father. What this verse says is that Jesus Christ chose willingly to temporarily leave that joy, to temporarily put off what was already rightfully His for a time, to come and to die for you and to die for me and to send a message through eternity. “I love you so much! You are so important to me! I see your pain. I am aware of your sin. I know about your problems. I choose to be involved in your life.
God the Father didn’t MAKE me die for you against My will. I didn’t die for you just because I was supposed to, or because I felt I HAD to. I didn’t die for you just because it was the right thing to do. I didn’t die for you because of some reward I would receive for doing it, some big payoff for enduring the tough stuff. I died for you just because I love you and you needed Me to save you.” Listen, don’t miss this. Listen. Despite any circumstance you are facing in your life that should settle once and for all that God has care and concern for your life and that He is faithful. You can have faith in Him.” Does that make sense? As we said last week, the empty cross and the empty tomb settle for us once and for all the question of whether or not God loves us, regardless of any circumstances we endure now.
Do you know why fixing our eyes on Jesus is the only hope of enduring faith? Because it’s only as we fix our eyes on Jesus, and it’s only as we begin to discover the significance of the cross, that we find the confidence within ourselves to say, “I don’t understand what’s happening around me. It doesn’t make any sense. In fact, I hate it. I hate this illness. I hate this pain. I hate this grief. I hate this fear. I hate this sorrow. Right now, it might appear to someone else as if God has forgotten all about me. But I know Jesus freely chose to die for me, even though He didn’t have to. So I know He has my best interest at heart. He has proven His love for me already. I can trust Him to finish what He started.” Jesus willingly chose to be crucified to solve my sin problem and THEN He went back and sat back down in His place, at the right hand of the throne of the Father, where He had always been. And that is the solid truth.
That’s the nugget of truth upon which we must fix our eyes. That is the key to enduring faith. Jesus Christ is the foundation of our faith. Keep your eyes fixed on Him. And then, look what the author of Hebrews says in verse three:
consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. ~ Hebrews 12:3
This verse is constantly misinterpreted and poorly preached as well. So often I’ve heard this preached. “If Jesus could hang in there through all of the pain and opposition you can too. Look, folks, quit losing heart and quit growing weary. Come on, buck up. Come on, have faith. What’s your problem? Where is your positive thinking? Come on! Manifest joy in your life! Jesus hung in there and got through it. You can too!” No. That’s not what this says. What he says is, consider Jesus. In Greek, analogizomai. It is actually a mathematical term. It means sum it all up, add it all up, put it all together. And as you do, as you total up everything you know about Jesus, and as you fix your eyes on Jesus, you’ll endure, you’ll handle all of life. You’ll be OK because you know there’s a God who loves you and cares very much for you.
IF you will keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, THEN, no matter what you are going through … IF you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, THEN you won’t grow weary and you won’t lose heart. IF you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, THEN the outcome will be, even when trying times come, your faith won’t be shattered under the weight of circumstance. IF keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today and forever, THEN neither the pleasures of this life or the pressures of this life, will not lead you astray. IF you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus THEN, when all is said and done, your faith will endure.
IF you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, THEN you will not grow weary in your faith, you won’t lose heart in your faith. AMEN? You see how different that is than just (GRUNT) have faith. Think positive! Stay strong! Buck up! Fixing your eyes on Jesus. That should be your focus and your goal shouldn’t be to try to (grunt) “have faith” or to try to (grunt) “have more faith.” We’re going to talk about that next week, because that is so central to so much of the false teaching we hear today. You just need MORE faith. You know, you’ve got to dig down deep and drum up some more faith. Jesus said faith the size of a mustard seed is all you need. Listen, don’t miss this. Listen. The writer of Hebrews says having a whole bunch of faith, that’s not it at all. All you’ve got to do is keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author (the inaugurator, the beginning) and the perfecter, (the finisher, the end) of your faith. He is the foundation of your faith. If you successfully do that, the outcome is, your faith will endure. You will not grow weary. You will not lose heart. The circumstances of life won’t wash you away or uproot you from the faith.
Isn’t that good news? Would you type that online right now? That’s good news. Would you turn to a neighbor and tell them “That’s good news.” Now, turn to your other neighbor, the one who was your second choice, and tell them “That’s Good News!” Now, maybe you are here today, or you are watching online, and you’d say “Pastor G. I confess. Right now, I fall into the category of losing heart and growing weary. My life right now is really hard. My circumstances really suck. I have COVID. I have cancer. I just lost a loved one to death. I am about to give up on faith, I am about ready to give up on God, on Jesus.”
You know what God’s message is for you today? That you need to get alone with this book called the Bible and as you read,” you need to say, “God, I’m going to stay on my knees, reading your word and praying until I can get re-focused on Jesus.” That’s what we’ve been talking about in our Just Jesus series right? And, if you do that long enough, let me tell you what will happen. And many people I know all across the world, if they were here, they would stand and give testimony of this, that when the love of God, as demonstrated through Jesus at the cross, begins to sink into your heart and to sink into your emotions, you will come away so overwhelmed that anyone could love you that much that your doubts and your fears about all the circumstances in your life will begin to subside. Why? Because you can live life with this knowledge, that no matter how bad things get in this life, sadness, disease, injury, trials, troubles, tribulations, I have not been abandoned as an orphan. No matter how much things look as if there is no God or that if there is a God, He has forgotten about me. I still have faith in Him and in His promises to me. Any one who would die for me, I can rest assured, has my best interest at heart. That’s the outcome of fixing our eyes on Jesus.
Do you know who that is hardest for? To fix our eyes on Jesus? It’s not the person has a lot of things going bad. I mean, sure, that’s hard. It’s hard to stay focused on Jesus when times are really bad. But, it’s actually hardest for some of us today where everything’s going good. When everything in life is smooth sailing, happy and perfect. Whenever folks in that circumstance pray, they tend to thank God for all the good things He has given to them, provided for them.
So often, they completely forget to just thank Him for Jesus. If your faith is still resting on circumstance and your current circumstances are good, really good, you’re likely not even aware there’s a problem. “Whoop glory and Yay God! Look how good God is. I got this. Look how good God is. I got that. Look how good God is. Look at this cool thing. Look at all this stuff. Look at all this money. God is blessing me and blessing me and blessing me! Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Boy, you’re really a good God. Look at all this stuff. Look at all these blessings. You’re so good.”
Then what will likely happen when all the blessings disappear? Instantly, the person with circumstantial faith will be like “WHOAH! What happened to God? Where is God? I don’t think there is a God! If there is a God He doesn’t love me any more or He’s forgotten about me now because look, I don’t have all that cool stuff I used to have” And you see whether things are good or bad. The challenge for us is to do what is necessary to get our faith and our focus away from our circumstances, good or bad, and get our focus firmly on the person of Jesus Christ, fixing our eyes on Jesus, turning away from all other things to Jesus, and Jesus alone, the inaugurator and finisher of our faith.
Ok, in the time we have left, let’s make this really practical. I’d like to give you three words, three actions, three verbs, real quickly that I think will give you a head start or give you something really practical to do about fixing your eyes on Jesus. For those of you who are here today, watching online today, and you are undergoing very, very, very negative, very, very difficult circumstances, you will not want to do these things.
If you are struggling with faith right now, are going to be the very opposite of what you feel like doing. But I want to challenge you to break through that barrier and try them anyway. The first word is, listen, the second word is fellowship and the third word is worship.
Let’s talk about LISTEN first. The Apostle Paul tells us
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. ~ Romans 10:17
My faith and your faith is bolstered by, not by some internal thing we’re doing, it’s an external thing. Our faith comes from hearing the word of Christ. Listening to God’s word preached to you, listening to God’s word as He speaks to you in your quiet time as you read the Bible, it’s through that specific type of listening that our faith is made strong. This is why, when a person doesn’t believe in God, and doesn’t believe in Jesus, and they’re just there’s not into it, the best thing you can do for that person is to say, look, here’s a Bible. Would you just start reading the Bible? I’m not asking you to believe it. Just start reading it.
The Gideons have thousands of testimonies, and you and I have personally heard testimony, after testimony, after testimony of people with all sorts of intellectual problems, all sorts of scientific historical problems. But once they began reading, listening to the Word of God, they eventually came to a place of faith. That’s because faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. And their testimony is this. I’m listening and listening and then, one day, something inside of me just clicked. If your faith is suffering, if your faith has taken a big hit because of a painful or frightening or upsetting circumstance, the smartest thing you can begin to do is to just pour yourself into this book.Read it aloud for yourself or listen to someone else reading it aloud. Listen. That’s your first word. That’s why if you’ve been out of church for a long, long time and you’ve not sat under the teaching of God’s word, your faith had grown weak. Why? Because faith comes by hearing.
The second word is FELLOWSHIP.
You need to be with other people who are experiencing and aware of the faithfulness and the grace of God in their lives. And, at first, it’ll drive you crazy. Because if you’re having a tough time, the last thing you want to hear is about how good God has been to somebody else. Don’t you just hate that? It’s like all their stories end well and your story isn’t ending so well and you just don’t want to hear it. But you know something? Faith comes by hearing and you need to hear the stories of God’s faithfulness from other people. You need to be comforted by God’s people who have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, who have walked through some of these same difficult times, who have understood in a deep way the grace, and the goodness, and the provision of God when all of their circumstances were communicating the opposite. You need to be with God’s people.
When you drift away from church, your faith quickly begins to diminish and you may come to the place where you’ll say, I don’t even believe in God anymore. I’m not a Christian anymore. I don’t believe that anymore. And listen, don’t miss this. Listen, it wasn’t because of an intellectual pursuit. It’s only because you got detached from the truth. You got detached from God’s word. You got detached from God’s people. You started focusing on your circumstances instead of focusing on Jesus. And your faith will always suffer. So you need to listen and you need to fellowship.
The third word is, you need to WORSHIP.
Worship is God’s way of touching us emotionally. Worship is sort of putting our emotions up front and saying, [PASTOR G SINGS] “I want to know You. I want to hear Your voice. I want to know You more. I want to touch You. I want to see Your face. I want to know You more.”
I want to feel your presence. I want to feel your love. I want to sing love songs to You God. I want to feel You touch my heart and mind and soul in return. I want to feel that truth infuse my mind and heart. Oftentimes, worship is God’s way of emotionally, not only bringing about healing, but reminding us of His presence, reminding us of His faithfulness.
The reason I know how important this is is not just from personal experience, but over and over and over, throughout my ministry, people came up to me and said, Greg, you know, such and such happened this week. I was so angry at life, so angry at God. I was kind of doubting that God was really there for me. But when that worship music started up, and I started singing along to God, it’s like something on the inside of me just rose up. Greg, things are as bad as they’ve ever been, but I can’t wait to get in here on Sunday morning because the music just ministers to my soul. Some of these folks, they had nothing to cling to circumstantially, nothing. And yet they allowed the worship and the music and the praise and the power and truth of those words to touch them in a place where there’s nothing else in their life right now that can touch them. Everything else in their life is so negative and so bad.
In those crazy difficult times of life, that’s when you need to worship harder than ever. I can’t tell you how many times in my car, when life has been really hard, when I felt angry at God, abandoned by God, I just pulled over to the side of the road, blasted the worship music as loud as it would go and I cried and sang the truth about God at the top of my lungs and forced my awareness of His glory and His presence back into the doubts and fears of my life again. Through our worship, God restores to us, at an emotional level, our ability to trust Him and to believe Him and to follow Him and to obey Him. All of that happens as we listen, fellowship and worship as the ways we fix our eyes on Jesus.
A long time ago a young couple prayed for God to give them a child. God said yes to their prayers and the women gave birth. As soon as she saw their son she began to weep. Her husband heard her crying and burst into the room, past the midwives to see what was wrong. Their little boy had been born blind. Well, of course, they were devastated. Everyone tried to comfort them but what this young man and this young woman knew in their hearts was that although on the outside, people were comforting them, they knew that each one of those people had a question. And the question was this “What did this man or this woman do that would cause God to give them a son who was blind? Which one of them sinned so grievously against God that they would be punished like this?” That’s because the belief of their culture was whenever a child was born with anything wrong with it, that was the sign of the judgment of God. As time went by, they began to ask the same question.
They would lie awake at night and desperately pray for God to heal their son. They would pray “God, I don’t know how we sinned but if someone must be punished, please punish us and not our son.” In the depths of their hearts, each of them secretly wondered what their spouse had done to cause this tragedy to happen. They worried about their son’s future because they knew the only occupation for a blind man in that day, in that culture, was to be a beggar. As they prayed for his healing friends, family, rabbis would tell them, “It’s because your faith is not strong enough.” As the boy grew, he began to hear the same rumors and he began to hear the same teaching, an accepted doctrine. If someone had something wrong with them, it was either their sin or the sin of their parents. And time after time, time after time, he would hear people whispering around him and he would wonder what his father did, wonder what his mother did. He too would pray for his healing and yet when healing didn’t come, everyone told him it was either because he didn’t have enough faith, or it was because of some unconfessed sin of either himself or his parents.
When he grew up he would spend his days on the streets begging. He sat through days of ridicule and accusation. Often people would strike him, steal his money, spit on him. He would lay in bed at night and he would pray God, why won’t You heal me? This is so painful. This is so unfair.” But God never answered. His parents also still prayed for a miracle healing from God as well. They begged God. They did many good works in the community, they tried to live a perfectly holy life. They tried to increase their faith and force themselves to believe.” But healing didn’t come.
Again, often people would scold the man and his parents for their lack of faith or for their lack of repentance for some heinous sin one of them must have committed. Obviously, either they didn’t have enough faith or they still had some unconfessed sin, that must be why God would not answer their prayer. That must be the reason for this silence from God. They just needed to have more faith. Years went by. Then, one afternoon, as the young man sat begging with his little wooden cup among all the other beggars, he heard someone ask the question that was so familiar, a question that caused him anger, a question that caused him pain, a question that he knew was a reflection of his own frustration, of his own doubts and fears. He heard someone say, “Rabbi, who sinned that this man would be born blind, him or his parents?” For years he’d heard the debates. For years he’d heard the dialog. For years he’d heard the insensitivity. He was blind but not deaf. As he waited for the “not enough faith’ judgment from this unseen Rabbi, suddenly, he heard the kindest, most gentle voice he’d ever heard say this
… “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” ~ John 9:3-5
Before he could really understand or comprehend the magnitude of what was said, he felt someone grab him by both sides of the head and he prepared himself to be struck as he had been struck and robbed so many times before. Instead, he felt something cold and moist pressed onto his eyes. He heard excited whispers of people all around him identifying this Rabbi as Jesus.
He’d heard of Jesus. He’d heard of the miracles that He had been performing and hope welled up inside of this young blind man. Then that same gentle voice, the voice of Jesus, whispered in his ear and said “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.” Filled with hope and trust in the command of Jesus, he stood up with his cane and made his way, to the pool of Siloam. He dipped down into that pool and washed the mud off of his eyes and suddenly, he could see. The first thing he saw was his own reflection in the pool. He leapt up from the water and then ran so he could fix his eyes on Jesus, to look full on His wonderful face and the things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. And Jesus again reassured him, “This happened, your blindness happened, you spent your childhood and adolescence and early adulthood blind, ridiculed and judged. You’ve spent many years as a blind beggar. You’ve endured terrible circumstances. But all of this happened for a reason. It was so that God could demonstrate and manifest His power through your life.”
The young man went on to tell everyone he met, for the rest of his life, about how Jesus had come and healed him, how his blindness was a part of God’s grand plan. The stigma was gone. He was free. It wasn’t about having enough faith or not sinning, it was only about the will, the timing and purpose of God. You see, I will freely admit, I don’t know what God’s doing most of the time. You don’t know what God’s up to most of the time. But listen, don’t miss this. Listen. He is God, so we can trust him. And although our pain doesn’t always make sense and our circumstances don’t always make any sense, and sometimes we think it’s our fault and some people, including some preachers will tell us it’s our fault.
“Ohhh, if you just had more faith you wouldn’t be in this mess. If you just had more faith your son wouldn’t be blind, your daughter wouldn’t be autistic, your wife wouldn’t have left you, you wouldn’t have cancer. Ohhh, it’s all your fault because you don’t have enough faith!” What a terrible, terrible, heartless, lie of the devil. Listen, don’t miss this. Listen. Let’s face it, most of the time we don’t know why what has happened has happened. And we’re not able oftentimes in this lifetime to ever put it all together. But there is a God and we can trust Him. Jesus is His Son, and we can trust Him. We may not see for many years or maybe never see, even in this lifetime exactly HOW all things will work together for the good for those of us who love and trust Him who are called according to His purpose but God says it will work together for some greater purpose. So we need to trust Him.
There will come a time, the Bible indicates when God will look at each of us and all of our pain and all of our circumstances and say “This was done, you went through this, you experienced this, so that the power of God could be manifested in you and through you.” Here is all the good that came from what you endured. And then it will all make sense. But again, that insight may not come to us this side of eternity. Until we hear the why and the how, we have been called upon to trust Him anyway. Not because it makes sense, but because He is who he says He is and because His Son was who He said His Son was. And just as certainly as He came to this earth one time, He’s coming again to finally help us make sense of everything that has happened in between. Our only hope is the same and only hope of that blind beggar. We have to fix our eyes on Jesus.
It is upon Him alone that we are to depend, and it is upon Him alone that we are to trust. He is the foundation for all that we believe and all that we do. And my prayer for me and my prayer for you is that God would do whatever is necessary to cause us to move our focus off of the things, off of all the blessings, off of all of the curses, and that we would instead fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and the perfecter, the inaugurator and finisher of our faith. Because of His great love for us, He put off the joy that was already before Him in heaven and He endured the cross and despised it’s shame and now He sits again at the right hand of the father. That’s reason enough to trust him. He is the foundation of all that we believe.
~~~~~ LET’S PRAY ~~~~~