Excuses for Sin

Excuses for Sin

Excuse (def.) –suggests trying to justify a mistake or failure or to make it seem less serious, in order to escape being blamed or punished… something said to explain an offense or failure.

I keep wondering why we so often attempt to make excuses for sins in our lives. How is that though we say we love God, so often it is difficult to look at ourselves head-on and see the sin that God sees? How come it is so easy to make excuses to others, who often see us for what we are, and the sins we commit? Why is it that the sins we try to hide the most, are the ones that keep coming to light, until we finally say, “No more excuses”?

Hebrews 10:26 “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,”

Also Hebrews 10:10-24

There are so many excuses that people give for remaining in sin or denying that they are sinning. Over the years I’ve heard so many. One excuse often being used, that was close to home, was “my background”. Other examples are “my home life” or “the way I was brought up” or ???

Some other “pet” excuses used by people are “it’s my personality” or “God made me that way.” Regardless of how unique God has made each of us, the Bible clearly states that all are to have evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. There are no verses that describe or let us make excuses for sin because of our personalities, backgrounds or circumstances. But there are many verses that say we are to change and put off sin. God expects that of us.

Ephesians 4:20-26 “But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil”

Ephesians 4:29-32 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away with you, with all malice: And be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

The scriptures also speak of what happens to those that hang onto sin.

Romans 2 :5-9 “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; For there is no respect of persons with God.”

We can often deceive ourselves with our excuses, and justify remaining in sin and committing more sins. This type of behavior can happen over and over. It depends on how sensitive we are to the leading of the Holy Spirit. As well, justifying and deceiving ourselves can make us believe that we are absolutely right in our behavior, and that thinking often leads to further sin.

Jeremiah 17:9 ” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Proverbs 21:2 “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.”

Proverbs 28:25,26 ” He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat. He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.”

Life is strange

Romans 10:5–15

It’s not always what we would choose for ourselves.

Life is strange. You can set your course for good and end up in a very bad way. You can set your GPS with careful coordinates and accurate addresses; you can fill up the car, pack your bags and head toward your best intentions; and despite your best preparations, instead of the destination you hoped, planned, and set your course for, you suddenly find that you have arrived in hopelessness, helplessness, or just plain old hell.

But Paul reminds us that while we often can’t see how he’s going to get us there, professing Christ always leads to our salvation—and we who trust him will not be put to shame.

The Bible shows us over and over again that God’s plans aren’t what we would necessarily choose for themselves. But God never lets the faithful be put to shame.

It isn’t Noah’s plan to build an ark, or Moses’s plan to part the Red Sea. It isn’t Joshua’s plan to march around Jericho, and it isn’t the widow’s plan to give Elijah her last. It isn’t Esther’s plan to go before the king.

But they do it, and they are delivered. I tell you, we’d better think twice about how we react when things don’t go the way we think they’re supposed to go.

When we catch up with Paul in this text, he’s explaining to the believers in Rome that the law was given as a blueprint for righteousness, for how we get right with God. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings about a righteousness that comes from faith. It’s not your life, love, labor or anything else that can make you right with God.

Paul is helping us remember that it’s through our faith in Christ that we can conquer fear, no matter where this journey of faith may take us—because “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Bearing One Another’s Burdens

John MacArthur

The troubles of this world are manifold and relentless. It’s not easy to stay so focused on heaven that we remain unperturbed by the afflictions of earthly life. We’re commanded, of course, to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:2), but even the most committed believer will testify that earthly trials sometimes obscure the heavenly perspective.

We worry. We grieve. We stumble. We strain under the toil of our daily labors. We feel the guilt of our fallen condition. Meanwhile, we are assaulted with adversities of various kinds. Those are just a few of the many worldly burdens that frequently keep our thoughts from rising to heaven.

And yet we are commanded repeatedly to “seek the things that are above” (Col. 3:1). We are instructed to “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18). We must not allow the burdens of this life to divert our hearts from heaven.

How is that possible? When the load weighs us down and the troubles become too much for one person to bear, pie-in-the-sky sentiments can sound very hollow.

But that is precisely why the church is so important. It is our duty as believers to help bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2). When someone staggers, we help steady the load. If he is straining, we help bear the burden. And if he stumbles, we lift him up. Helping fellow believers carry the weight of their worldly troubles is one of the chief practical duties that ought to consume every Christian.

Of course, that concept is contrary to the drift of our culture, with secular society’s tendency to foster self-absorption. Our generation has developed an unhealthy obsession with entertainment; we are daily assaulted with a plethora of trivial diversions; and we tend to interact with one another in sound-bites or through faceless media. We live in crowded cities and over-populated neighborhoods; yet most individuals are more isolated than ever.

Contemporary churches sometimes even seem to encourage the “me first” agenda of self-love rather than the “one another” commands of Scripture. As a result, we don’t bear one another’s burdens as we should.

Yet Paul made this duty a high priority. It was the centerpiece of his admonitions to the Galatian churches. The first half (or more) of Galatians is a defense of justification by faith and a series of arguments against the false teaching that threatened to place those churches in bondage to the Law. In Galatians 5:14 he reminded them: “The whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

How is that love best manifest? “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2).

The first and preeminent example of burden-bearing Paul mentions involves dealing with the burden of another Christian’s sin. “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (v. 1). That, of course, isn’t a different approach from the steps of church discipline Jesus outlined in Matthew 18:15–17. It merely explains how that process is to be carried out (gently and meekly), and it underscores the true goal (restoration, not punishment or public rebuke per se).

In other words, the person restoring the sinning brother isn’t to approach him as if he were a master over him but meekly — as one who is willing to help shoulder the burden so that the one who has stumbled can get to his feet again.

Verse 2 then simply states the underlying principle as an imperative (“Bear one another’s burdens”). Obviously, the precept applies to all kinds of burdens — not merely the burdens of those who stumble into sin. When Paul suggests that burden-bearing “fulfill[s] the law of Christ,” he makes it clear that he has the whole moral law in view. Every act of compassion and self-sacrifice on behalf of our brethren is a practical means of displaying the love of Christ and thereby fulfilling the moral demands of His law.

But the apostle clearly has in mind spiritual, emotional, and temperamental encumbrances — not physical freight only. The burdens we need to help carry for one another include guilt, worry, sorrow, anxiety, and all other similar loads.

Do you want to fulfill the moral requirements of the Law? Love your neighbor. How do you love him? By bearing his burdens.

It’s interesting that Paul would emphasize this theme in an epistle written to confront people who were falling into legalism. It’s as if he were saying, “You want to observe a law? Let it be the law of Christ. If you have to impose burdens on yourselves, let it be through acts of love toward your neighbor.”

If you will do that faithfully, your own burden won’t seem so heavy. Best of all, you will find it easier to keep your focus heavenward, regardless of the trials you suffer in this life.

When God Changes Our Plans

By Dave Keehn

There is nothing like changes in one’s travel plan to reveal how we truly handle change. For myself, traveling with my family is a sacred obsession. I plan months ahead to get the best flights and reserve the “perfect” hotel to accommodate our sightseeing interests. As a family, we read travel books and blogs to find the out-of-the-way restaurants. With an itinerary in hand, we embark on our journey, only to be met with forced changes that were unforeseen. To say the least, I don’t deal with a “change in plans” well, especially when I am on vacation. Changes for me equal stress, hassles, and more work.

However, there is a common saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans!” While I don’t think God is malicious in his laughter; I do believe he wonders why I thought I had the right to determine my course in the first place. Proverbs 16 is filled with wise sayings that give the true perspective of who is in charge of “making plans.”

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” (Prov. 16:9)

Many of the wise sayings in Proverbs 16 identify that while it is natural, if not even good for me to make plans, I must recognize my future plans often may seem right to me, but are truly selfish and lead to bad results (Prov. 16:1, 2, 25). The good news is: God is in the business of changing our plans to His plan, resulting in something much better than I could hope for. This is what he did with his own disciples.

Throughout the Gospels, we read stories of the disciple’s ups and downs in the development of their faith, often rebuked for doubts and little faith (Matt. 8:26, 27). In Matthew 16:5-12, the disciples are still struggling with who Jesus truly is. Matthew 16 continues with a poignant discussion between Jesus and his disciples: Jesus questioning them, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13). The disciples gave some political answers of the prophet foretold in the Old Testament that would come before the Messiah. Then Jesus focuses upon their belief, to which Peter proclaims Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Peter fully recognizes that Jesus is the promised Messiah and he attaches his hopes and dreams to Jesus. Jesus affirms this confession and blesses Peter with the purpose and authority to establish God’s church, with promised victory over Hades (Matt. 16:17-19). Peter may have had visions of vanquishing the Roman occupation as well, for this was a common political expectation of the Messianic work.

So we can only imagine the shock to Peter’s plans when Jesus started to predict his death (Matt. 16:21). So upset was Peter with Jesus’ talk of death that Peter takes Jesus aside to rebuke him: “This shall never happen to you!” (Matt. 16:22). We can read into these words: “That is not my plan!” The response from Jesus is stinging, associating Peter’s plan with Satan, perverting God’s path of salvation. The reason for this rebuke is ultimately Peter “does not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man” (Matt. 16:23). This reveals the true issue at the center of the “who’s plans do I operate by” debate: man’s thoughts or God’s thoughts?

Dealing with a change in plans requires us to have God’s thoughts in our focus!

It is no wonder Jesus immediately discusses the conditions of discipleship with all his followers at this point of Matthew’s Gospel. He insists if anyone has the plan to follow him, “he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). Following Jesus requires a change in my plans. I must relinquish (deny) my desire to plan, scheme, and insist on my way through daily surrendering my life to Jesus. While my salvation is secure through my Savior Jesus, the struggle to make Jesus Lord is a constant giving up my plans for God’s plan. I must daily fill and focus my mind with God’s thoughts, including his plans for my life.

That is why, when God changes my plans, I must refocus my mind, asking what is God’s design for this moment. A year ago, I was leading a large group from my church to attend the Urbana Missions Conference in St. Louis, Missouri. The conference ended on New Year’s Day and I needed to be home immediately to teach an interterm class at Biola University. For unknown reasons, our group’s flight back to California was canceled, and the best I could do after hours on the phone was to get half our group out that day, with the remaining folks home the next evening. Needless to say, my stress level went through the roof. However, as I tried to focus on what God’s thoughts were, I began to experience some amazing benefits that made this delay a blessing in disguise. While true I was late in starting class by a day–which we made up through the videos Biola had already made of my teaching these lectures–I was able to experience a peace from God that replaced my frustration.

You may ask how or why? Simply because I was able to recognize my plans were not the authority the universe operates by. I was able to focus on God’s thoughts, which spared me the stress of worrying about things that were outside of my control. I did not waste time of fretting on what was lost, but rather realized God’s plan would allow for something better to happen. It was through this experience that I saw the implications of alternative teaching methods and now seek to offset all my courses with “outside” the classroom instruction. I also was able to receive new blessings of extra time with my students, even though I missed my family, in an extra day of celebrating the New Year. God opened up the home of a student’s out-of-state family to house and feed us this day, eliminating the frustration of sitting in an airport for hours. The benefits of keeping God’s thoughts in my focus also include less grief when I experience a change in plans, as I live with hope, knowing God’s best is coming because it is his plan I am now living.

So when God changes our plans, look for his blessing of something new and unexpected. While the pain of loss may be very real, God’s grace is sufficient to carry us into his next steps for our lives. For the “things of God” lead to life-giving plans.

What To Do When God Changes Your Plans

by Chris Andrade

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Or so the saying goes.

That opportunity of a lifetime, that relationship you’ve always wanted, or landing the job you’ve dreamed of can, just as quickly as it was granted, be taken away or dramatically change course from what you were anticipating. All because life does not go the way you intended.

But as Christians, we know that life isn’t the thing that has the power to orchestrate the events of our world. Life is merely the outcome of the one who does.

There’s a God in control of the circumstances of our lives and we know that every opportunity he gives, takes, or that doesn’t go the way we expected is for a purpose. Life’s outcomes don’t go unnoticed by God because he is the one who governs them.

But let’s be honest: this can be incredibly frustrating.

Especially, when the plans we have can be things we’ve either prayed for diligently, that we find no good reason for God to take away, or that seem absolutely clear is his will for us.

However, changed plans are often what happens. So, the question that the faithful, yet frustrated, Christian is left trying to answer in the midst of thwarted plans is: why?

There Are No Easy Answers

Unfortunately for us, there are no easy answers here and I don’t presuppose to know the mind of God any more than you do. I find myself just as perplexed and frustrated as the next man when things don’t turn out the way I think they ought.

The way we find understanding and peace in the events that frustrate us is by thinking, praying, and working out our faith in the midst of it.

But, triumph in the Christian life is only found by introspection and a working out of the things we struggle with. The way we find understanding and peace in the events that frustrate us is by thinking, praying, and working out our faith in the midst of it.

This absolutely goes against our instinctive desire for God to give us all the answers and to create a visible path for our lives. I know: we wish it was easier.

However, I’m hoping I can offer you encouragement by what I’m learning as I pray, examine God’s word, and move under the Holy Spirit’s conviction in the process of dealing with this in my own life. Here’s what I think are helpful considerations as to why God changes our course unexpectedly and what do when he does.

Three Possible Reasons To Consider

The first thing to consider is whether your change of plans is either corrective or preventative in order to help you identify and keep sin out of your life.

As sure as we may be that the plans we intend on pursuing are God-glorifying, from God’s perspective, they may be anything but. His grace and discipline may actually be thwarting what you intended in order to align your plans with his.

I know that it may be tough to view God’s grace in light of what he withholds or takes away because it’s natural to think of it only in terms of what he gives. But, it could very well be the case that what he’s keeping you from is the very thing you need instead of the thing that you had planned. We just can’t see it in the moment when we have our sights fixed on our initial course.

As sure as we may be that the plans we intend on pursuing are God-glorifying, from God’s perspective, they may be anything but.

Second, it may be that God is changing our course, not to correct, but rather give us something new to handle and steward because of our faithfulness. Our demonstrated faithfulness may be the thing that God wants to utilize for his purposes because he knows that whatever important work he has for us, we will tend to it well.

Again, this can be incredibly frustrating when we have our minds set on the current plans we’re faithfully pursuing. And especially when we don’t want what he’s giving us instead.

As important as you feel your plans may be, God may want you to focus on something bigger. Even if on the surface it appears to be smaller when compared to whatever you think is more important at the time.

Lastly, and this is the toughest one to swallow, God may have hidden purposes that you’ll never know what your disrupted plans were meant for. Just as Job never knew the reasons why he was suffering, God allowed it for purposes unknown to him but that ultimately served God’s will, even if he couldn’t piece together the reasons in the end.

If your plans have changed course because of one of these reasons, unfortunately, you’ll have to patiently figure it out. We only get to see the work of God’s mysterious plans once they’ve played out; if we even get to see them at all.

How To Respond When Life Changes Course

Trying to determine why God changes plans is a good thing for us to consider. But, the solution to our problem is less about determining why God changes our plans, but how we’re going to respond when he does. Because he will.

God changing your course is always designed to do one thing: to keep you in a place of humility and submissive to his purposes. These events serve as reminders that it is not us who are in control of the circumstances of our lives but God.

…our problem is less about determining why God changes our plans, but how we’re going to respond when he does. Because he will.

This flies completely in the face of our “I’m the master of my fate, the captain of my soul” culture. And perhaps it’s the influence of that idea that makes things so difficult for us when we find that God changes things in ways we didn’t plan for.

And so, every confusing turn of events in our lives becomes a struggle for this one reason: we’re trying to reconcile them with the way we think things should’ve turned out. They have to make sense to us, otherwise, they make no sense at all.

But, they make sense to the God who’s in control of those events. As confusing and disruptive as he is in our plans, we need to remember that life isn’t about our plans. They’re about his.

So our appropriate response, really, is to accept the changes God has given to us and pursue it as faithfully as we’d pursue the thing we’d rather do instead.

As tough as it may be to consider, we need to pursue every one of our plans with just tight enough of a grasp that we can run with it. But, loose enough that we’re ready to release it when God asks it of us.

And be prepared because as loose as we become accustomed to holding what God gives us, it can still be just as difficult to let them go.

Be Prepared to Be Frustrated Yet Faithful

The Christian life will always be lived in tension between the things that are known (what we want) and what lies in the realm of mystery (what God wants).

Get used to it. Be prepared for it not to make sense. Be prepared to struggle.

The tension God creates in the midst of that struggle provides us the opportunity to demonstrate something that he wants from our lives: faith.

That faithfulness isn’t about the certainty of our plans happening, as God-glorifying as we think they are. It’s about the certainty of God’s plans happening, even in the uncertainty of what it means for us at the moment.

Plan accordingly.

3 Reasons Why God Tells You No

  No, it’s not the best

 God answers prayers. It’s either He says “Yes or No”. But other times when God says No, He meant no because it’s not the best for you. “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts”(Isaiah 55:9). God knows what is best for us and when we ask from Him, He answers in ways that are greater than what we had originally planned.

No, not now but in My time

 “Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end”(Ecclesiastes 3:11). When God says No, He meant it’s not yet time. If we can only see the whole picture God is making just to make everything fit together into pieces in its perfect place, time, heart and people. Beautiful things will always happen when God says it’s time. So take heart and trust His plans. God knows what He is doing, He is altogether perfect!

No, there’s something better coming

 When God says No, it means there’s something better coming. God knows your heart more than what you know about yourself. God created you and so He knows where you belong. When you desire something that is outside the will of God, He will really say No and redirect you back into the great plan He has for you “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD”(Isaiah 55:8). Sometimes we settle for less because we don’t know what we are capable of. Only the Creator knows His creation and He made them in His own image “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:27). Our God is greater than any other and so are you! What makes you think you are less? So always believe in His unimaginable plans which are better than yours.

Conclusion  “Jesus hears us, and in His own good time will give an answer”. Just like juggling a puzzle, God makes everything fall into its place in order to see the whole beautiful picture. God’s no was never meant to hurt you. Neither it is because He doesn’t love you. In fact, His No is His way of saying “I love you and I got the best for you”. Why would you doubt the love that has already died for you? Trust Him.

Are You a Thermostat or a Thermometer?

By Greg Laurie

“Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.”—Genesis 6:9

Peter, in his second epistle, described the world’s effect on two believers. Both lived in a wicked culture, yet one thrived and the other shriveled.

First there’s Noah, who lived an uncompromised life. “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” and “walked with God” (Genesis 6:8, 9 NKJV). Times were so bad that wickedness was full to the brim (see Genesis 6:5), yet Noah faithfully served the Lord despite the criticism of his culture. He raised his family as believers as well, and preached to others.

On the other hand was Lot, who reluctantly left Sodom. “Yes, Lot was a righteous man who was tormented in his soul by the wickedness he saw and heard day after day.” (2 Peter 2:8 NLT). He ended up as a leader in the city who had no influence whatsoever.

When told by angels that judgment was coming, he told his sons-in-law. They “blew him off” because they thought he was joking. The angels had to take him by the hand to get him out. He did not want to leave. He lived a compromised life, and when judgment came, he left reluctantly. He could have sung (like Tony Bennett), “I left my heart, in Sodom and Gomorrah.”

No one is reached by compromise.

Which one of those men do you relate to? Are you changing culture, or is culture changing you? Are you a thermostat or are you a thermometer?

A thermometer is affected by its surroundings. Depending on the temperature, the mercury moves up or down. In contrast, a thermostat influences its surroundings. Unlike the thermometer, the thermostat controls the heat or coldness around it.

Noah was a thermostat and Lot was a thermometer.

So, what kind of a believer are you? It’s easy to blame our wicked culture for the way we are but the fact of that matter is that it’s our job as followers of Jesus is to permeate and affect it.

Do you influence your surroundings or do your surroundings influence you?

no sense to go to church

A church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday.
 'I've gone for 30 years now,' he wrote, 'and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them. So, I think I'm wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.' 
 This started a real controversy in the 'Letters to the Editor' column,much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher: 
 I've been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this... They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. 
 Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!
 When you are DOWN to nothing.... God is UP to something! Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible! 
 Thank God for our physical AND our spiritual nourishment! All right, now that you're done reading, share this! I think everyone Should read this! When Satan is knocking at your door, simply say,  'Jesus, could you get that for me?' 
 "Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." Hebrews 10:25

Why do we (mis)quote Romans 8:28?

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God , and are called according to His purpose”.

With the rise of technology has come the (apparent) rise in suffering around the world. Suffering has always been with us, but never have we been more aware of it on than we are now, as it is beamed into our living rooms and offices. The problem is even more acute for the church as people often look towards religion to make sense of it all.

As I have listened to (and preached) sermons on suffering, or heard/participated in discussions about suffering, Romans 8:28 is often a verse used. It says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God , and are called according to His purpose”. When it is used, it is often intended to be a form of encouragement, bringing hope to the person who is in the midst of suffering.

The interpretation we seem most often to attach however, has “a light at-the-end-of-the-tunnel” type of slant to it. We want to bring some meaning to the suffering being experienced, and so we intimate to the person that God has a purpose and some good will come out of their suffering.

Now what makes suffering bearable is that it has some meaning. If suffering was just arbitrary (as I think many people perceive it to be, and so would I if I suffered in the way some personal friends do), you would find a lot more people just giving up on life, either just wasting away or acting out in some or other form. The problem may be, not so much that suffering has no meaning but rather the meaning we attach to suffering. In the context of Romans 8:28 the question is what do we mean by “good”?

I think part of the answer arises out of our understanding of who we believe God is – that He is a good Father, and partly from our own understanding of what it means to be good. (Of course, we may not believe that God is good at all, and there is plenty of evidence in the Bible to suggest that He is not good, and so what I am saying would not necessarily apply). What happens I think is that our interpretation of what it means to be good is often projected upon God, so that when we say that God will cause good to arise from suffering we have a picture of the suffering person being relieved of their suffering (healed maybe), and then being able to become a role model as to how persevere through those times, and to discover Gods purpose in that suffering.

Now this may indeed happen to many people, and I am not belittling their contributions, but I think for many it does not turn out that “good”.
Besides the personal experiences of the latter type people, there is overwhelming evidence in the bible, that many people suffered and died without ever experiencing the “good” that we would wish people who suffer, would experience. In fact not only was there little relief for these people in these stories, many never discovered or saw the fruition of God’s purposes.

This does not mean that their suffering was in vain, devoid of any meaning, but what it does perhaps highlight is that the meaning of “good” been spoken of in a Romans 8:28 type of verse, is referring to an overarching “good”, that is part of who God is, but that we will never fully understand this side off heaven.

This complexity means that there are many who live miserable earthly lives in the name of a greater divine “good”, of which they have little or no understanding. They will never find relief and will never have the privilege of knowing God’s purpose in their suffering. To only communicate the popular (western?)meaning of “good” to a suffering person generates a false hope that, unlike many biblical characters, that person can expect God to intervene for their personal good (as opposed to the good of God’s greater purpose).

Now this is really a problem, because one wants to alleviate another’s suffering, if only to provide hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that things will be ok. But that is not always true.

So now what? Well I am not entirely sure. Perhaps it has something to do with making peace with the fact that your suffering has meaning, that it is for good, but that the “good” we hope for and see on earth may not be something we ever get to experience or understand on earth.

There are few things that I can imagine are more difficult for a suffering person. I would think that what I have just written, would be more likely to produce a sense of resignation than peace. And of course, resignation can also be misinterpreted as peace, when the sufferer outwardly seems “peaceful” but is really just dead inside. The person who has real peace however, has an inner strength that is difficult to understand, and a certain joy about them.

Perhaps this joy comes from a realization that only the most special people are asked to suffer for a cause they don’t really understand, but know ultimately will produce great good. Maybe this real peace comes from a divine revelation, a breakthrough in both heart and mind, that there really is real meaning in what they are experiencing, even though they may die never understanding it. Wow, that takes quite a person, and how they get to this point is also something else.

Two things come to mind though:1) People who are committed to journeying with you – “till death do us part” type of commitment, and 2) Meditation. I dont think that it is possible to live in peace with your suffering without spending a good amount of time just meditating on life, in general and your own specifically, as well as in commune with God as He ministers to your soul. How God does this is a mystery (i.e. what it feels like, or what actually happens in that time would differ from person-to-person), but it seems that one can only experience this if you actually do it. I would imagine discussing what happened in those times with those close group of committed friends would be the working out of that peace in one’s life.

40 Years of Nothing

By Jason Lovelace

Ezekiel 33.11-19 11Say unto them, “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”  12Therefore, thou son of man, say unto the children of thy people, “The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression: as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness; neither shall the righteous be able to live for his righteousness in the day that he sinneth.  13When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.  14Again, when I say unto the wicked, ‘Thou shalt surely die;’ if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; 15If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.  16None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.  17Yet the children of thy people say, ‘The way of the LORD is not equal:’ but as for them, their way is not equal.  18When the righteous turneth from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, he shall even die thereby.  19But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.”

Have you ever done something that was really and truly great, but nobody saw you do it?  Has some great event taken place in your life, but because it wasn’t recorded anywhere, few people believe that you did it?  Probably for everyone in the world today, some great thing has been done, or some great event took place, but because it wasn’t seen nor recorded by anyone, few believe that it really happened.  I wonder:  how often has some great invention been created, but because there was no way to record or write down the idea, nothing came about?  There is a story in the Bible where, for forty years, the lives, actions, and movements for millions of people were not recorded.  In fact, an entire generation died off and there is no record of where these people were buried, how they died, nor any other information.  Another question for you today:  could this happen with God?  Could the lives of people be totally forgotten because the records of them are totally erased?  What about your life?  Will your life be remembered or forgotten?

The Sad Story of the Generation that Left Egypt

If you’ve been around a Christian church for any length of time, perhaps you have heard the story of the Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt.  God used Moses and his brother Aaron to help the Israelites to come out of slavery in Egypt, punishing Egypt and Pharaoh with ten plagues, wondrous miracles that enabled the Israelites to freely leave.  The trip from Egypt to what is today Israel probably took no more than a year or two.  With millions of people following Moses out, they very likely moved somewhat slowly through the area that is today called the Sinai Peninsula.  Along the way, God provided the Israelites with food, water, and protection against enemies through many miracles.  The Israelites literally saw on a daily basis the miracles of God performed right in front of them.  It should have been enough to make them very strong in their faith.  However, when they reached Canaan, sent out spies, and heard the evil report from ten of the twelve spies that were sent out, the people of Israel lost their faith.  Even though Moses, Caleb, and Joshua begged the people to remain close to God and to trust him, they refused.  They even threatened to kill Caleb and Joshua.  Because of this, the generation that came out of Egypt was not allowed to enter into the Promised Land.  These people had watched God literally destroy the most powerful nation on Earth at that time for them to be able to be free.  They had seen God provide them with food and water every day of their journey.  They had also seen God defend them against attacks by enemies that sought to destroy them.  Again, all of this should have been enough to make them faithful and strong.  In the end, they were not, and because of their lack of faith, they could not go into the land God had promised to them through Abraham.  They were also a generation that was not remembered, their lives for the next forty years left unrecorded.

Four Events Before Vanishing

Before they were ordered by God to go into the wilderness, there were four events that happened:

(1.) The Israelites tried to Enter the Promised Land without God – In Numbers 14, the closing verses tell about how the Israelites – after hearing that God had refused them entry into Canaan and that they were to wander for forty years – changed their minds and tried to enter Canaan anyway.  The result was humiliation and defeat.  Anytime we try to do something without God – especially when he has told us to do something else – will end this way.

(2.) Rebellion Against Moses – In Numbers 16, we see another tragic story.  A group of men challenged the Authority of Moses, and, indirectly, of God.  Wanting to return to Egypt to where they thought life was better, a great number of people appointed another leader.  The sad result was that a great earthquake took place, swallowing up the rebellious people and their leaders.  Again, a humiliating failure and end to some of the people because they were without God.

(3.) Miriam, the Sister of Aaron and Moses, Died – The very first verse of Numbers 20 states that Miriam died.  Unlike Moses and Aaron, who lived to be older than 100 years, Miriam died in her 80s.  Now why did this happen?  We don’t know the cause nor reason for her passing, but it is likely that God wanted to spare Miriam the pain of seeing so many pass away in the wilderness.  When we rebel and sin against God, it is not only ourselves that pay a price, but others also, including people that we love and look up to.

(4.) Moses and Aaron Sinned, and were refused entry into the Promised Land – In the 2nd through the 13th verses of Numbers 20, we see that Moses and Aaron chose to disobey God.  Though the people were given water, God pronounced his judgment against Aaron and Moses, and they, though living to be more than 120 years old, died on the borders of the Promised Land.  Our rebellion and sin against God oft influence the leaders we follow, and can even cause them to stumble.

Do you see the pattern here?  Rebellion against God is a serious thing!  Sin affects more than just the person who is doing it!  There are great upheavals in life when someone is guilty of sin.  But this, really, isn’t the worst part.

The Sound of Silence

Can you think of a great celebrity, government person, or historical figure who made a terrible mistake?  What did that person do?  How is that person remembered today?  In the USA, there was a baseball player named Darryl Strawberry.  Darryl Strawberry was one of the most talented players in the history of American Baseball.  He was a great hitter.  He was so fast that he could steal any base and rarely be tagged out.  Darryl Strawberry was so good that he helped his team, the New York Mets, win a world series.  However, just when Darryl Strawberry’s career was taking off, a terrible thing happened:  he was found by police with illegal drugs.  After that came the upheavals in his life.  Very similarly to the Israelites, Strawberry tried to continue playing baseball, but failed miserably.  He was released from the Mets, and was picked up by a few other teams, but his salary was cut, his playing began to get worse, and later, he went to prison.  Darryl Strawberry is not remembered today, and after his first drug arrest, his career was largely forgotten.  Today, very few people know the name “Darryl Strawberry”.  The silence surrounding Strawberry’s career is deafening and terribly tragic.  The same thing happened to the Israelites.  Because they rebelled against God, their wanderings for 40 years are not recorded.  Nobody knows what happened to that generation of Israelites after Moses and Aaron sinned because their forty years in the wilderness is not recorded.  The only thing we know from the Bible is that each and every one of them died.  The only two from the generation that left Egypt that were still alive were Caleb and Joshua.  Everyone else – possibly as many as two million people – died in the wilderness.  They died in anonymity, they died forgotten, and they died without God’s grace and without ever entering the Promised Land.

The Bad News

Does this tragic story of the Israelites and their 40 Years of Invisibility match your life?  Are you working, working, and working, hoping that at the end of your life here on earth, God will see your works and welcome you into heaven?  The bad news is that, all of your work without Jesus Christ in your life means that you are basically following the same path that the Children of Israel followed after they rebelled against God in Numbers 13.  Though you may have all the good works in the world, the Bible says that they will be like the actions of these Israelites:  they will neither be remembered nor really spoken of.  In fact, Isaiah 64 states that all of our good works without Jesus Christ are really like dirty laundry in the eyes of God.  Ezekiel also says that if we have sin in our lives that God will not recognize any good works that we do until the sin is dealt with.  In other words, without God, we are like the Israelites of Numbers 13-20:  we are wandering around in a wilderness of sin that will eventually kill us and leave us without God’s Promises nor will we ever see a minute in his Promised Land.  Friends, that’s the bad news.  Does this describe you?

The Good News

The Good News is that because of Jesus Christ, we can be like Caleb and Joshua.  You see, in Numbers 13, when the other spies were giving a terribly discouraging report about the Promised Land, Caleb and Joshua were carrying the fruit of the land, giving a good report.  When the other spies were complaining of the size of the Giants, Caleb and Joshua were praising God for being bigger than those giants!  When the others were crying about the size of the walled cities in the Promised Land, Caleb and Joshua believed that those cities were already defeated and taken!  Even in the face of being stoned to death, Joshua and Caleb remained faithful to God.  When everyone else around him was speaking of death, destruction, and disaster for the Israelites, Caleb and Joshua were speaking of how God would help them overcome.  How was this possible?  Caleb and Joshua were faithful because of Whom was living in their hearts.  They had trusted God with their eternity, and because of that, they saw how great and powerful God was instead of seeing how big and bad the giants, the cities, and their enemies were.  The good news for us today is that we can have that same Spirit that Caleb and Joshua had.  We can look at difficult circumstances, hard situations, and gloomy futures the same way that Caleb and Joshua saw the Promised Land.  If we choose to have Jesus Christ on the inside, and trust him wholeheartedly, we, too, can have that same attitude.  Paul writes in his letters that the Peace of Jesus Christ passes all understanding.  Even when the world around you is flying apart like a haystack in a typhoon, if you have Jesus Christ on the inside, you will have peace.

How Do You Want to be Remembered?

How do you want to be remembered?  Do you want to be remembered like the Israelites that wandered are remembered?  Do you want to be forever remembered as someone who rejected the Promised Land and wandered without memory for forty years?  Do you want to have your life recorded for the good things you did, or to have your memory and good works look like dirty laundry.  The way that the Wandering Israelites and the way Caleb and Joshua are remembered in the Bible are as different as night and day.  While the their kinsmen were dying off with no record of where they fell, where they were buried, or anything else that happened, Caleb and Joshua were remembered for leading the next generation into the Promised Land.  In fact, Caleb and Joshua are remembered in the Bible as having received special promises from God because they chose to trust in God!  God directly spoke his promises to Caleb and Joshua in Numbers 14, and forty years later, they came to pass:  Caleb and Joshua led the next generation into the Promised Land, and lived to enjoy it!  If we choose to trust in God, if we choose to believe he is greater still, we, too, will receive his special promises!

Conclusion – Forty Years of Nothing or an Eternity of Joy?

In conclusion, let me ask again:  how do you want to be remembered?  When people in ages and years to come think of you, will they think of you the same way the First Generation out of Egypt is remembered?  Will they instead remember you as a person who chose to remain faithful to God, even when everyone else was going the other way?  Do you want forty years of nothing, or an eternity of plenty?  The significance of Numbers 20.13-14, and Numbers 33.36-37 is what is not there!  In those two passages, there is a forty year gap.  Do you want four decades of being lost to the record of history, or do you want an eternity where God himself remembers your faithfulness to him?  The choice is yours!  Trust Jesus Christ today!

Verse to Remember:

“Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us:  their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us:  fear them not.”

– Numbers 14.9