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We are doing something different today. We have been in a series on the book of Corinthians but I want to put that on hold. We have all been in a tough time. Life is hard, and Corona made it harder.
I have known that but I saw an article that put some numbers to what has been going on. We all know anxiety and depression have increased. CDC released a new study that showed in the past month:
- 40% of adults struggled with mental illness and or substance abuse problems.
- 11% said they had seriously considered suicide as a way to cope with Covid19.
- 25% of people surveyed between the ages of 18-24 said they had contemplated taking their life over the last few months.
But the thing that changed for me recently is realizing Corona isn’t going away any time soon. I didn’t think we would quarantine and we did. I thought it would improve in the summer and it got worse. I didn’t think football would be altered and it has. And it is going to be here for a bit longer. We just need to talk about what is going on.
We are in a trial and we need to know how to stand strong through it.
“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (Jam 1:12 ESV)
Steadfast means to hold your ground. Refusing to flee. There is a patience, an endurance, a standing firm.
Scripture tells us we live in a fallen world with all kinds of hardship. But it also says God’s grace is sufficient. We need to stand strong. Hold our ground and also pray to see God’s kingdom move. That we experience blessing in trial. We don’t just survive, but let’s thrive.
We are in a trial. There is a sense of hurt and sadness that we all feel.
Think about when you get done with school and you want to go out and play with your friends, but your mom says no! Or what if you friend says “No.” We don’t like that. We we have been told not to play for a few months now.
I would not have connected my experience with being hurt but I was talking to someone and they said, “I feel like my life has been taken from me. I’m scared to go out. People are telling me what to do and what not to do.” It really does feel like a grief. Things have been taken from you.
*How has Corona made you sad or hurt?*
Had days where you just feel something is not right. You are just off. Iritiable. Frustrated. Mad. Disconnected.
For me one of the hardest days has been Sundays. I love Sundays because I get to see all of you. We say hello. I watch the kids run around and have fun. Knowing some people are struggling and they have this time to be reminded of what God has done for them and how they have hope and a calling to give their lives to Jesus. It’s a moment that can have eternal implications.
It feels like someone took my legs out from under me.
We are going to read a passage of Scripture that points to the hope we have in Christ, and how we can know things are going to be ok. Sometimes we just need someone to come up and say, “It’s OK.” When we hurt because of loss we have to trust God’s ability to restore.
Big Idea: When we experience loss we look to Jesus to restore things.
We will face loss, hardship. We will make mistakes. Things will go wrong. We will not be strong enough to fix things. But Jesus can. And he promises to come back and restore all things.
Restore, bring back to health. Bring it back to its former state.
If I have a lego set and it gets broken, I want to rebuild it. Bring it back to what I had before. But God doesn’t just take us backward. He is always moving us forward. And what we will be in the end is not just what we had before. It is better than all of it.
We are going to talk about a passage of Scripture where the disciples ask for things to be restored. It is in Acts 1 after Jesus’ resurrection.
Consider what the disciples had been through. Their Jewish nation is ruled by the Romans. They were constantly opposed by the Jewish religious leaders. They saw Jesus betrayed by one of their closest friends. They watch him arrested by a band of Roman soldiers and taken to trial. At trial he is condemned by a mob shouting to crucify him and while everyone believes him to have done nothing deserving death, he is still killed. They then spend the next weeks fearing for their lives, hiding from authorities, but also encountering Jesus at unexpected moments.
They have been on a roller coaster. And they want things fixed, and Jesus gives an anchor for them in these and future hardship.
3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:1-8 ESV)
The disciples. Confused. Scared. Not sure what just happened. Fear. And looking to what will take it away. The coming of God’s kingdom.
There is a longing for more. God doesn’t give them what they want, which is immediate restoration. But he does give them what they need. His spirit to empower and strengthen.
An important part of remaining steadfast is being strong mentally. Resting in what God has done and is going to do.
- Honesty on Loss and Longings
Throughout Scripture people are honest with God about what is going on. Some commentators have said verse 6 has as many errors as it does words. I won’t get into that but the disciples don’t understand what God is doing. But they are honest.
This is not unlike the trials that David went through. Psalm 109 David says:
- “wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues. With words of hatred they surround me.” 109:2. A sense of injustice and powerlessness comes on David. He is trapped.
- In return for his friendship they accuse him, but he gives himself to prayer. He rests in the Lord.
- V22 feels poor, needy and heart is wounded.
- He trusts himself to the Lord and asks “out of the goodness of your love deliver me.” v21
There is hurt, the emotional and spiritual cry within us that lets us know we have pain. The process of feeling our hurt can eventually transform it into healing and courage. When hurt is denied or minimized it often poisons our hearts and is then transferred to others. The disciples didn’t say:
It’s not that bad.
This too shall pass.
Don’t be a baby.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
They want things fixed. They are in a bad situation. We avoid the need for vulnerability by hiding, denying, or dying from it. We cover, deny.
We are in a trial. Everyone understands. You might have been so focused on just doing the next thing that you have not had time to realize you’re hurting.
It is OK to long for more.
For some of you this virus has robbed you. Others of you may feel the fear of this virus has robbed you. Some feel slighted by nature and some feel slighted by people or government.
You may be longing and asking if God is going to restore his kingdom at this time. That would be the easiest thing. The hardest thing is God saying, “No, it’s not time for that. But wait for my Spirit to empower you to do what you need to do.” Other trials.
Are you looking to God for the power you need, or have you turned to other things? Are you looking to his word? Are you looking to prayer? Are you looking to the church? Or have you turned from those things? God meets us in that. You want to be done, but it isn’t time yet . That is hard. Be honest.
When hurt is not properly dealt with it gives way to bitterness. Heb 12:15 When bitterness festers it becomes a catalyst for anger.
Revenge is the justification of my right to act badly to another because I carry a pain they (or someone like them) have given me.
Living in a fallen world with fallen people ensures there will be hurt.
Maybe you feel hurt by this situation, you share it with your husband and he does nothing with it. He doesn’t interact. He doesn’t come up with a plan. You feel even more hurt. You get mad. You resent him. Then you go on the offensive.
Maybe your wife doesn’t understand your needs. And then you withdraw. She doesn’t notice. You get mad.
And then you erupt because she decided to make peas rather than carrots for dinner. You are arguing about peas and carrots, but the real thing is you have been hurt.
When you admit life has gotten to you then you take a step towards healing. You are saying something is not right, and I long for it to be right. “I need restoration.” Something has been lost or removed or destroyed.
Jesus didn’t shut down the disciples when they asked this question.
- Focus on Our Hope
We are promised victory in Christ, and remaining steadfast in trial and overcoming hurt means we focus on what Christ has done. We focus on the hope we have.
Jesus will restore the kingdom. It may not be now, at this time, it may not be when we want, but he will make everything right.
We live in a fallen world. Viruses come and destroy you. There will be no more death in heaven. No more sickness. No more pain. All evil is removed. This pandemic reminds us the world is under judgment. It is not as it should be. Causes us to cry out for deliverance from it. When we feel that, we can then see what Jesus has done for us. He rescues us from it all.
“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1Pe 5:10 ESV)
We can escape the present sufferings and experience eternal glory in Christ. God is going to restore all things and make all things new. A new heaven and new earth. Not just a return to the old, but a new and better.
“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten– the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm– my great army that I sent among you.” (Joe 2:25 NIV)
It’s hard. But don’t live in defeat. I have mentioned we do homemade pizza on Saturday nights. It is one of our favorite dinners. We descend on that pizza like a swarm of locust. If you want to see someone get upset, wait for someone go in for more pizza and find out that it is all gone. “What!? How could that be?? I haven’t had seconds yet!” People start complaining and giving their opening remarks for the prosecution of why everybody in the family has wronged them and justice needs to be served. “It’s all gone” are some serious fighting words. But then Amanda will say there are two more in the oven. It settles us down. God is able to restore to us what we lose.
Most of us are losing time with friends and family. It’s significant but God can restore that. He can restore lost years of school. He can restore lost income. There may be some of you who have lost a friend or loved one. God can heal that, too. Even big things.
He can restore what your kids missed in school. He can restore the income you have lost. He can restore the time you have missed with friends.
Fix your thoughts on that. All this pandemic stuff we are bombarded with bad news. I went to play tennis the other day and the landscapers showed up as we were playing. We had four guys with blowers and two guys with lawnmowers hovering right on top of us. It was exhausting. I felt like I had spent five hours watching the news.
Meditate on how God’s kingdom is going to be established in the world. *Focus not on what has been taken from you but on how God is going to restore it.*
Read these passages of Scripture and go for a walk thinking about this. Draw a picture of what it will look like. Write a poem about what you feel and how God could heal you. Don‘t dwell on the negative; dwell on the redemptive. Some of you have only focused on the negative and not the redemptive. You only know the bad part of the story and that feeds your victim mentality. Maybe you are trapped but you will be delivered. Maybe you have been hurt but you will be healed. Maybe you are stuck but God can unstuck you.
- Stay on Mission.
Do what you are supposed to. Love others. Help others. Give to others. Can’t give if you are hurt.
When we are hurt we recoil. We hide. We take refuge. The disciples are basically in hiding after all that went down. We go on the defensive and maybe the offensive. Sometimes we hurt and so we hurt others. We take frustration out on others. Wounded people wound others.
Part of being steadfast is we keep doing the things God calls us to do. We keep loving others. We keep caring. We keep blessing. We are blessed by God and so we can bless others.
God sends his spirit to empower them to do what they are supposed to do. We are only going to overcome as we rest in him and seek him for strength.
The disciples had recoiled to an upstairs room with just a few people. God empowers them to go out and do what he called them to do. May have had fear, concern, worry, but their confidence in God became greater. They overcome their hurt and loss.
If we believe Jesus came to save us and he heals us from all our brokenness, and that all our tears are going to be wiped away and we will enter into a new and eternal heaven and earth, then we ought to be willing to love, to extend grace, to be faithful.
Go love people. Speak words that support and encourage. Don’t be a person that comes and deflates others. Fill them. Be a compressor. Be a dad that is still discipling his kids in the word of God even in a pandemic. Be a mom that is standing on God’s promises.
Our greatest challenge is ourselves.
Love is the overflow of being with God. It is the overflow of focusing on what Jesus has done. It is the overflow of experiencing the empowering of his Spirit. No pandemic can touch these. Pandemics will hurt your wallet, hurt your schedule, hurt your expectations.
But they can’t hinder the Spirit.
They can’t keep Jesus confined to the closet.
Can’t shorten your stay in eternity
Only person that hinders and stifles those is you. Are you stifling the work or letting it have its full work in you?
Turn off Netflix and open your Bible. Stop pouring over CNN or Fox News and memorize Scripture. Stop reading conspiracy theories. I can’t tell you how many people are freaking out not because of what is going on but because of fictional stories that are being written. Stay away from inflammatory stuff. Read your Bible more than you watch TV. Satan is jumping up and down when you push aside prayer, fellowship, Bible reading so you can watch one more episode, one more conspiracy theory. You are poisoning your mind and soul.
Christians become unanchored because they quit following God. Not reading their Bible. Not praying. Not relating with other Christians. It should be no wonder you are struggling. Keep grounded in what Christ has done for you.
Been hurt. Been hit. Experience what Jesus said the world would do to us. Are you finding your filling in God or are you squeezing other things for help and meaning?
Believe in him for restoration. And don’t just sit on the couch doing nothing and claiming to believe in what he has done. Go shout it on the roof tops. Go love people.
Greatest problem is the constant distraction from the truth of God’s word. Forget his promises. Forget hope. All for the sake of meaningless games, and idle distractions.
Remain steadfast. Overcome the hurt you have. Jesus endured the ultimate hurt so you would not have to.
A scared world needs a fearless church.” A.W. Tozer.
As John MacArthur recently said, “You have no chance of surviving death. It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that, the judgment. The church does not exist to protect people from flu– it exists to protect people from eternal punishment in Hell.