HOLDING ON TO YOUR FAITH DURING DIFFICULT TIMES
1. Have you ever asked God the question: Why God are you allowing me or my loved ones to suffer like this? If you have ever gone through some type of emotional, spiritual, or physical pain, then chances are you have asked or thought about this question.
a. That question went through the minds of Daryl and Clarita Gusstafson? This God loving, dedicated Christian couple was infertile for many years, despite exhaustive medical tests and procedures. They prayed consistently for God to grant them the privilege of bringing a child into the world, but the heavens were silent and the womb remained barren. Then one day it happened, Clarita discovered that she was pregnant. God had spoken at last. A healthy baby boy was born seven months later, and he was named Aaron, after Moses’ brother. This child was their pride and joy.
b. When Aaron was three years old, however, he was diagnosed as having a very dangerous form of cancer. What followed were 10 months of painful chemotherapy and radiation treatment. In spite of all the efforts to arrest the disease, Aaron’s little body continued to deteriorate. Despite many prayers and countless tears, Aaron went to be with the Lord in 1992, at four years of age.
c. And so the question echoed in Daryl and Clarita’s mind “Why God did you allow our precious child to suffer like this?
2. Brethren, in the Bible there are many reasons why we experience pain and suffering.
a. We suffer because of the Nature of Sin.
b. We suffer so that our character may be built up.
c. We may suffer because God is showcasing us to Satan like He did with Job.
3. But the message that I am going to present this morning is not geared around why we suffer, but how we can handle it.
THIS MORNING, I WILL DELIVER THREE CRUCIAL PRINCIPLES THAT WE SHOULD REFLECT ON WHEN WE ARE SUFFERING PHYSICALLY, OR EMOTIONALLY.
I. FIRST, DURING OUR TIMES OF SUFFERING, GOD IS NEAR EVEN WHEN HE SEEMS FAR AWAY.
1. When we experience difficult trials and tribulations, we normally pray to God and ask Him for immediate relief. However, as we all know, God answers prayer in His own time, so we may not receive immediate help from Him. We may have to go through many days, or weeks, or months or years of trying times.
2. And after suffering awhile we start wondering why God hasn't intervened. We begin questioning ourselves. What have I done to deserve this and then we begin to question whether or not God even cares. We feel as though God has abandoned us and that He is nowhere to be found. We feel alone and isolated from God.
3. Have you ever felt this way?
a. In the Bible, many great men of God experienced these types of emotions.
(1) For example, David experienced a feeling of isolation from God when he was running for his life from Saul.
(2) Job, who lost everything--his children, his wealth, his servants, his reputation, and his friends--experienced despair and isolation from God.
4. Brethren, it is common and natural to feel Isolated from God when we experience difficult times, however, the Bible assures us that God is present even when He seems far away!
5. Even when God seems 1,000 miles away and uninterested in our affairs, He is with us step-by-step during difficult times. A wonderful illustration of this unseen presence is described in (Luke 24:13-35 esp. vs. 15).
In this passage, two of Jesus’ disciples were walking toward a village called Emmaus. They just came from Jerusalem and were undoubtedly very upset and depressed because they witnessed the crucifixion of their Lord Jesus. They were not only discouraged because Jesus was dead, but also because it was the third day and they had hoped that Jesus would have been raised from the dead, as their Lord promised.
They must have given up hope on Jesus’ resurrection and decided to head home, back to their old way of life. But as they were walking, something marvelous happened. In (vv. 15 & 16), the Bible said, “As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them…”
These men, who were most certainly experiencing emotional and spiritual pain because of Jesus’ death, did not know that Jesus was walking right along with them the whole time. During their time of anguish, Jesus was next to their side.
6. My friends, if we are faithful, God is walking right along with us especially during our times of suffering, even when we feel isolated from Him. He has not abandoned us, for we are His children and He loves us and cares for us. We must realize that He is watching over us and is doing what is best for us.
7. When we suffer, we may feel isolated from God, but the reality is that God is with us step-by-step…Isn't that encouraging news?
Not only will God not leave us in our time of suffering; but...
II. SECOND, GOD’S TIMING IS PERFECT WITH HIS ASSSISTANCE, EVEN WHEN HE APPEARS CATASTROPHICALLY LATE.
1. When we suffer, we naturally want God to immediately take away our pain. But sometimes, He can be agonizingly slow in solving the problems that we bring to His attention.
2. But even though at times God seems to be late with His assistance, I would like to say that His timing is always perfect.
Let me illustrate this by looking at the story of Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus, as told in John 11. The members of this little family were among Jesus’ closest friends during the time of His earthly ministry. In fact, verse 5 says, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”
Well, one day, Lazurus became very ill, almost to the point of death, so his sisters did the logical thing--they sent an urgent note to Jesus, saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick” (v. 3). Now they had every reason to believe He would immediately respond. However, days had passed before Jesus finally made it to Lazarus and by that time it was too late, he had already died.
On Jesus’ arrival, we read that Martha came to Jesus and said, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Do you think that Martha could have been a bit discouraged that Jesus was too late? Could she have been annoyed when He showed up because she expected Jesus to be there for them. She may have been tempted to say,” Where have you been, Sir? You’re too late now. You could have saved him, but apparently there were more important things on your mind.”
Do we at times get angry at God because of His delayed timing?
But in (v. 43), Jesus performed one of His most dramatic miracles as He called Lazarus out of the tomb. You see, Jesus was not late at all. He only appeared to be overdue. He arrived at the precise moment necessary to fulfill the purposes of God--just as He always does. God’s purpose was fulfilled through Lazarus because in (v. 45), we read that many Jews because of what they had seen but their faith in Jesus.
3. You see, Brethren, God is never late when it comes to Him handling our painful situations. He is always on time: His time and not our time. When we suffer, there is a possibility that God is allowing us to go through it for His purpose and for our own good.
4. Our suffering may be necessary and for our own good.
One time, a man found a cocoon of an emperor moth and took it home so he could watch the moth come out of the cocoon. One day a small opening appeared. The man sat and watched the moth for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. To the man it appeared as if the moth had gotten as far as it could in breaking out of the cocoon and was stuck.
Out of kindness, the man decided to help the moth. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon so that the moth could get out. Soon the moth emerged, but it had a swollen body and small-shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the moth, expecting that in time the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would simultaneously, contract to its proper size.
Neither happened. In fact, that little moth spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly.
The man in his kindness didn't understand that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the moth to get though the tiny opening were God's way of forcing fluid from the body into the wings so that the moth would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
III. LASTLY, DURING OUR TIMES OF SUFFERING, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO IS KEEP OUR FAITH AND TRUST IN GOD.
1. When Job lost his sons and daughters, his wealth, his servants, and was stricken with painful soars that spanned throughout his body, it would have been easy for him to blame God and abandon his faith.
2. However, the Bible says that Job “fell to the ground” (Job 1:20) and worshipped God. He held onto his faith in God even thought his life was full of pain and agony.
3. When we go through tough times, the most important thing for us to do is to keep our faith in God. Faith is important to God.
4. Brethren, we must never give up on God and our faith just because we go through suffering situations. We must “be faithful, even to the point of death” and the Bible says that Jesus will “give us the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
5. We should have the kind of faith that a Minister had when he found out that he had cancer and only a few months to live. Instead of being angry with God and giving up on his faith, I want you to notice the kind of attitude that he exhibited towards God. On his final Sunday in his church, he preached a sermon and talked openly about his impending death. He said,
“Some of you have asked me if I’m mad at God for this disease that has taken over my body. I’ll tell you honestly that I have nothing but love in my heart for my Lord. He didn’t do this to me. We live in a sinful world where sickness and death are the curse man has brought on himself. And I’m going to a better place where there will be no more tears, no suffering, and no heartache. So don’t feel bad for me. Besides, our Lord suffered and died for our sins. Why should I not share in his suffering?
Then he began to sing, in an old, broken voice:
Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.
How happy are the saints above,
Who once went sorr’wing here;
But now they taste unmingled love,
And joy without a tear.
The consecrated cross I’ll bear,
Till death shall set me free,
And then go home my crown to wear,
For there’s a crown for me.”
6. His words that morning were his last from the pulpit. He slipped into eternity a few days later.
7. This is the kind of faith that we are to have. The kind of faith that loves God regardless of the trials and tribulations that we face.
1. The Bible teaches us that we are going to suffer in many different ways. And when we suffer, let us remember these three important principles: (a) If we are faithful, God is present, even when He seems far away; (b) God’s timing is perfect, even when He appears catastrophically late; and (c) During our times of suffering, the most important thing to do is keep our faith and trust in God.
2. If you have been suffering as of late, I hope that this message has uplifted your spirit. If you would like for us to pray for you this morning, or if there is someone who would life to become a Christian, won't you please come as we arise and sing.