LIFE IS HARD
One thing that every single person will learn is that “life is hard”
Many people learn that early in life.
They lose a parent when they’re just a child.
They go through trauma.
For others, it takes much longer.
Their childhood may even feel perfect to them.
And life doesn’t really hit them in the face until their 20’s…or even their 30’s.
But we all learn, at some point, that life is hard.
And sometimes, it’s incredibly hard.
And when people hit those really hard seasons of life…
Many people begin to ask the big questions of life…
We say, “God, why did you make life like this?”
“Why is life so hard?”
“If you are even real, why would you allow this?”
When you suffer, what does it lead you to?
That’s a key question for us today.
What should we learn from our suffering?
One of the things that we have to keep in mind today is that there are, in a sense, two types of suffering.
I’m generalizing here, so don’t read too much into this.
But in a sense, there is suffering that is a direct result of our own poor choices
If I decide that I’m going to scream at one of my friends in my anger…and they decide they don’t want to be friends with me anymore
That suffering…that broken relationship…would be a result of my own poor choice
But there is also a kind of suffering that isn’t caused by our poor choices
Someone hits you in a car accident.
You get cancer
Your child gets sick
And so on and so forth.
And I want to look at what BOTH of those types of suffering should lead us to, and what they should teach us about God.
SUFFERING FROM OUR OWN POOR CHOICES
Let’s first look at the suffering that results from our own poor choices…OUR SIN.
Jesus’ brother, James, says it this way:
(James 1:14-15) – NIV - PUT ON 1 screen and LEAVE UP UNTIL NEXT PASSAGE
but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
The forbidden fruit always looks good at first.
I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m going to have an affair because I’m looking forward to the pain and hurt it will bring to my children.”
No, what does the Word say?
It says we are dragged away by our own evil DESIRES.
And the desire, is like we sometimes say, a “chocolate-covered hook.”
You wouldn’t bite it if it didn’t look promising at first.
The Word says that “after desire is conceived though, that it gives birth to sin.”
It always starts with desire and excitement, but next comes sin.
When I was in college, I minored in history, and I took a Chinese History class, and one of things I remember from that class was when my Professor talked about the Opium Wars of the 1800’s
In the early to mid 1800’s, Europeans started making an unbelievable amount of money by bringing opium into China…
And as the number of opium addicts really began to grow, the Chinese leaders declared opium illegal.
However, Europeans continued to smuggle it in anyway.
And when the British and French went to war with China in the 1850’s (and won), one of the concessions they forced China to make in the treaty to end the war…was that China declare opium to be legal.
Can you imagine?
And this is what I most remember from my class.
The historians said that as soon as the Chinese leaders made opium “legal,” the Chinese people ran towards the freedom they now had to get opium.
They sought freedom, but they didn’t get freedom.
Millions upon millions more became addicted.
It was said that the coastal cities were absolutely devasted by opium
Visitors said you would just see an enormous SEA of people completed zoned out…under the influence of opium…unable to do anything.
Desire gives birth to sin…which gives birth to death.
It’s not that dissimilar in our own times; the examples are just different.
In a similar way, you could begin to watch pornography, and it might feel like an incredible rush of excitement and ecstasy at first.
It might feel like you’re getting to see all that you DESIRE.
It might feel like freedom.
Until it doesn’t.
Until, it’s every day, you have to sneak in a look on your phone
Hiding it from your spouse, your kids, your friends…everyone.
Until…you can’t stop.
You’re enslaved by it.
And now, it doesn’t feel wonderful at all.
Desire gives birth to sin, and sin gives birth to death.
(John 8:34) – NIV
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.
Our culture has lied to you…
And they’ve told you that you are free to live however you want to
They’ve told you that you can go out and experience all the pleasure you want, just make yourself happy.
But are you?
Is it really working?
Or does it feel like a suffering of its own?
God once said this through the prophet Isaiah
(Isaiah 57:20-21) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!
20 “But those who still reject me are like the restless sea,
which is never still
but continually churns up mud and dirt.
21 There is no peace for the wicked,”
says my God.
If you haven’t surrendered your life to God…or even if you’re running from Him…
You’ll never feel at rest.
Your heart will feel like the restless sea…unable to find peace.
And that ought to be a clue to you…that you were made for something more.
That Jesus, is the one who can set you free!
The question I mentioned at the beginning was: What should your suffering lead you to?
What should it teach you?
And our suffering from our own poor choices, should teach us…that God has hard-wired you to find life in something different…something better…
He’s made you to find life, not in the things of this world, but in Himself!
SUFFERING THAT IS NOT RELATED TO OUR CHOICES
But what about the suffering we experience that isn’t related to any poor choice that we’ve made?
What should that lead us to? What should that teach us about God?
As this is our 5th and final week of these series, I know that you’ve probably learned a number of things that God can teach us in our suffering…even when our suffering isn’t the result of our own choices.
As Justin Jeppesen said two weeks ago when He quoted C.S. Lewis, “Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world”
Think about this: If everything only went well for you, would you ever reach out to God?
If you got straight A’s through school, got into the best college, got the best job, married the perfect person, became a millionaire by 25…
And on top of that…let’s say you felt amazing, totally satisfied by all of it (which usually isn’t the case even if people DO get all of those things)
If all of that happened, would you ever reach out to God?
Because you wouldn’t think that you need Him.
And yet, a life “where everything works out” is not really how life works, right?
Suffering comes to visit us.
And when it comes, one of the main things we should learn from it…is that we weren’t meant to find all of our life and satisfaction from the things of this world.
SUFFERING IS EVIDENCE OF HOW EARTH IS OUR TEMPORARY HOME
This actually used be a really intuitive thing to people…especially if you go back 100 years or more
I read a ton of biography, and sometimes, I’ll make editorial comments to my wife if she’s sitting by me reading a different book.
I’ll say, “They just lost another child.”
“His 2nd wife just died too. On to the 3rd.”
It’s unbelievable what people had to suffer through before the advancements of modern medicine.
And yet, modern medicine has somewhat inoculated us from suffering.
Or at least the obvious kinds of death during childbirth, and death by tuberculosis, and diphtheria
Even in 1900, life expectancy in the U.S was still 48…in part because the infant mortality rate was so high.
And so in those days, the hard times of life directed people’s thoughts to heaven…often!
The “hard times” were a reminder that this world is temporary.
Sure people said that they’d like to be happy and have money, and all the things people still say today…
But they said, “life is short, and honestly, I’d rather be happy in the next life…because it’s eternal…so I’ll focus on that...Plus, I know God will give me ultimate happiness in that life!”
But now, we don’t live to 48, but to 78…many people even into their 90’s.
In a world that is both secular, and filled with long life-spans, people don’t think much anymore about the next life.
And that negatively affects their ability to both deal with, and learn from, suffering
When people live as if this life “is all there is,” then…if a relationship ends …or I run out of money …then…people aren’t sure if they can go on.”
But God doesn’t want your suffering to lead you to the conclusion that life is not worth living.
He wants your suffering to teach you that this world is not your permanent home.
And that He has come to rescue you, and bring you to another home.
I tell this to my kids sometimes.
When they’re really sad about something happening in their day.
I’ll just say, “Remember, earth is just our temporary home.”
And sometimes God lets us feel the pain of earth, to remind us that this isn’t what we’re meant for…it’s not what we’re destined for.
In fact, the Bible even tells this to us:
(Hebrews 13:14) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION!!!!
14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.
When the world lets you down, it should always be a reminder to you that the world isn’t where you were meant to find life.
It’s in God, and in a relationship with Him, and in our ultimate hope we have in Him
(1 John 2:16-17) – NIV
16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
The world will pass away.
It can’t give you what you want.
Trying to find life through the things of this world, or trying to live the perfect life without suffering…will just never happen.
SUFFERING SHOULD LEAD YOU TO THE SAVIOR
And so if you’re here this morning, and you haven’t fully surrendered your life to Christ…or you’re not trying to find your life in Him…
Or you’ve been wandering from Him, or avoiding Him…or honestly, just sitting on the sidelines unable to decide if you want to go all in for Him or not….
I want you to know something.
The greatest thing you can learn is that your suffering…from your dissatisfaction with life…is that you need a Savior
Suffering proves that you can’t do this on your own.
It proves that you weren’t meant for here.
And God is willing to have you go through difficult times to learn that.
Listen, no one can write like Spurgeon…look how he puts this:
“Are there not many men who would have been lost themselves if they had not lost their all? I talked with one the other day who said to me, “I never saw until I lost my eyes.” Another said to me, as I noticed that he had lost a leg, “It was the loss of that leg that made me think and brought me to my Savior’s feet!” Some of you cannot go to heaven with all your possessions and with all your prosperity. It will be necessary to have these things cut away. You are like a ship that is going down through overloading, and you will have to be unloaded so that you may float—and blessed is that hand of God that does unload you of many an earthly joy, so that you may find your all in the world to come! Affliction is God’s black dog that he sends after wandering sheep to bring them back to the fold.” – Charles Spurgeon
God is coming to rescue you…
He’d love to do it with His love and His kindness…but too many of us are too stubborn for that…so He’s left to use the “black dog of affliction,” because He’ll go to any means to rescue you.
He wants to save you from your sins, be in a relationship with you, and spend eternity with you.
There’s an old fairy tale with an evil woman who lived in a remote cottage, deep in the forest.
When travelers came through looking for lodging, she offered them a meal and a bed…
…and it was the most comfortable (kumpf-tuble) bed any of them had ever felt.
But if you were asleep in it when the sun came up, you turned to stone.
But you didn’t die.
Your heart and soul stayed trapped in there for all of eternity.
If you ever read the actual, like Brothers Grimm fairy tales (not the Disney versions), they are so dark.
Well in the story, eventually a young man comes to the evil woman, she feeds him to get him sleepy for bed.
However, the evil woman had a young woman who was her servant
The servant sees the young man and loves and feels sorry for him.
So before he goes to bed, she throws thorns and sticks and stones and thistles and all kinds of horrible things underneath his mattress.
And that night, every time he rolled over in bed, he felt another new object poking him or digging into his flesh…
And he couldn’t sleep at all the entire night.
He rose well before down, and as he walked out the door, he saw the servant and began to yell at her.
He said, “How could you give a traveler such a terrible bed full of sticks and stones? You are not good. You are an awful person!”
And as he left, the servant said under her breath:
“The misery you know now is nothing compared to the infinitely greater misery a comfortable sleep would have brought upon you.”
And how often are we like that man speaking to the servant?
We look to God, in our pain, and we say, “How could you do this to me? How could you make my life so hard? You’re not good at all!”
The misery you know now is nothing compared to the infinitely greater misery a comfortable sleep would have brought upon you.
We say, “But couldn’t got just get my attention through blessings? Couldn’t he just make me successful and rich and blessed?”
But Jesus says, “How hard it is for the rich to enter heaven…harder than a camel going through the eye of a needle”
Because when life is good we don’t think we need Him!
No, God’s megaphone isn’t usually blessing, but suffering,
Your suffering is meant to keep you alert and awake to “spiritual realities”
Awake to the fact that this world is not your final home
Alert to the fact that your job is not get sleepy here and drift off to an eternity of suffering.
Our earthly suffering is often the very thing that leads to salvation.
It reminds us that we need a savior to bring us to our final home!
If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines of faith, and you haven’t surrendered to Him…
He’s been trying to wake you up to the fact that you’re not in control of your life…that this is not your home…that you need him.
He’s trying to keep you awake before it’s too late.
Let Him save you!
And God can save you.
Whether you need to hear this message again in your heart, or hear it for the first time, I want you to listen to these words from the Bible
(commentate as you read the Scripture))
(Ephesians 2:1-5) – NIV
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Our desire leads to sin, which leads to death.
Our sin is deserving of God’s wrath, or His punishment, of hell.
But, the Bible says, “God, because of his great love for you” is willing to show you grace…underserved favor.
He sent His son Jesus to die in your place, dying for your sins.
And if you would believe in Him, and surrender your life to Him, He will come in your life and make you new.
Giving you love, and purpose.
The emptiness in your life will begin to fade away
The restless feelings will begin to be replaced with peace.
And He will save you for all of eternity…and you can go to heaven forever.
If you would just put your faith in Him as your savior and surrender your life to Him.
And so if you’re here today and life has been hard…
And you’ve been thinking, while I’ve been talking, “Maybe God has been trying to get my attention all along”
I assure you He has.
You can’t do this on your own.
Surrender your life to Him…fully.
Let Him forgive you and let Him in.
IN fact, I want to give you a chance to do that right now.
Let’s just have everybody bow their heads and close their eyes…for just a minute.
If you want to make that decision to believe that Jesus died for you, and let Him into your life…to be forgiven … in a minute…I’m actually going to ask you to respond by raising your hand.”
So if you’ve never done this before.. and you’d like to become a follower of Jesus Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him for the first time, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to raise your hand wherever you are.
If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s talking to you. That means…it’s TIME.
If God himself is prompting you to do something right now, don’t disobey that.
Raise your hand. God is talking to you!
If your hand is raised, would you pray this prayer with me?
This is just a prayer to tell God where you’re at… the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
Repeat after me
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
As everyone else still has their eyes closed, I want to talk to those of you that raised your hand for just a moment
I need you to do one more thing for me.
It will only take a few small minutes, but I believe these are a few of the most important minutes of your life.
You’ve just made the most important decision of your life, and I believe that requires some more information…
So here’s what we’re going to do…In just a second, one of our leaders is going to pray, but right before they do that, I need you to quietly sneak out of your row, and head towards the hallway where it will be quiet.
I’m going to go out there with you…and I want to give you some extremely important resources & next steps to get you started on the most important journey of your life.
No one will be looking as we pray, so come out there with me and then you’ll be able to sneak back in just a few minutes.
All right, one of our leaders is going to pray
But for now, would you please had out there with me.
Go ahead. We can all go together.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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