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Developing A Support System Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
July 1, 2021 1:00 am

Developing A Support System Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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July 1, 2021 1:00 am

There comes a time in the decline of a nation when God will no longer delay judgment—then things get really bad. America may be at that point. Economic and social calamity will strike everyone, including believers. How should believers live when the really hard times come? This message contains guidance from an Old Testament prophet who saw times like ours coming.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. There comes a time in the decline of a nation that God will no longer delay judgment. At that time, things get really bad.

America may be at that point. How should we as believers act and live when the really hard times come? Today, guidance from an Old Testament prophet who saw times like ours coming. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, this series has been on famines, deserts and other hard places. As you take us to Jeremiah chapter 17, what is your focus in this final message?

Well Dave, what we're going to be talking about is famine. It's a message that is based on the verse of scripture that talks about being like a tree planted next to water, so that even though hard times come, the tree is able to flourish. It's almost a repeat of Psalm 1, actually.

But the emphasis is going to be on the need for a support system in the midst of all that is coming to us. And I believe that it will be a great blessing to all who listen. But you know, that comes to us from Jeremiah. There's another Old Testament prophet by the name of Moses. And I've written a book entitled Getting Closer to God, Lessons from the Life of Moses. Now I believe that this book will be a great blessing because Moses had many ups and downs, many challenges, many issues regarding leadership, but God was there for him all the way. Getting Closer to God.

For a gift of any amount it can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to

That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now let us listen carefully as we learn what it is like to build that support system. So how are all of you doing? How's your inner world coming along? As I mentioned, one of our members was looking on the floor after a meeting and after a service, and somebody had scribbled this prayer on the bulletin.

I'll summarize it. Abba Father, I thirst and I hunger for your holy love, grace and truth and mercy. Grace to show your mercy even to others who are my enemies. Come, perfect my heart in your love for me. Cast out all fear. My Father of love and mercy, grace and truth, may my cup run over with your love and mercy. Please, I love this, cause my innermost being to overflow with rivers of living water, dealing to my enemies. Clearly this person was dealing with some enemies. I won't ask for a show of hands, but anybody here dealing with some enemies.

Alright, I hear you. And then he wants, or she, wants grace, truth, purity, holiness, strength, power. My Jesus, I hunger and thirst, and then I am so empty.

Please fill me. Cast out all fear, impurity, lust, jealousy, envy, coveting, greed, malice, revenge. And then the prayer goes on for a bit.

Come and fill my empty cup. I wonder if that speaks to you today, if the truth were known, your inner world is in great difficulty. Today we're going to go back to some basics. And as you know, this is the conclusion really of a series of messages entitled Famines, Deserts, and Other Hard Places. And we've talked about the famines, the deserts, the economic downturn, what people have had to experience in life, how hard times get.

But today we are going to concentrate on that inner life and enduring in the midst of it all. But first of all, some bad news before we get to the good news. I do believe that there is a time in the history of a nation where the nation seems to be at a tipping point and it goes the wrong direction and there's nothing that we can do to even stop it. I think, for example, of Ezekiel chapter 14, where God says, things are so bad that even if Noah and Daniel and Job prayed, I would spare them, but it would not reverse the direction of the country.

It's terrible. When you look at the news today, you may indicate that perhaps America is close to that. But in the midst of all that, God always has a remnant. There are always people who still are faithful and they deserve his special attention and ours as well. Would you take your Bibles and turn to the 17th chapter of Jeremiah? Jeremiah 17. I preached from this passage of scripture a couple of years ago, but it fits in so beautifully with what we've been talking about, the drought, the famine, the desert.

I really do feel that it needs to be reshaped as I tried to do it and very applicable to us today. Notice that Jeremiah begins in verse 1 of chapter 17, the sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron with a point of a diamond. It is engraved on the tablets of their heart.

Wow. What is he saying? He's saying that in those days, of course, if you wanted to carve a stone, carve a name into a stone, you used either a pointed piece of iron or you used a point of a diamond or a flint. And what he's saying is the sins of the people are just like stones. Their hearts are like stones and their sins are engraved on them.

And there's no way that they're going to give up their sin no matter what. Hard-heartedness. That's really a separate topic sometime.

I've been thinking about that and we'll get to it at some future time. Hard-heartedness. And then God goes on to say you're going to lose your wealth because these people are going to come, the Babylonians are going to come, they're going to destroy the temple. Just think, the gorgeous temple built by Solomon. You'd think that God would take an interest in a building and say after all this effort and all this beauty, surely this temple should stand. But God doesn't care much about temples actually. He's always after the hearts of this people. And that's where this passage of scripture now turns.

All right, well that's the negative part. That's the context of the deserts and famines and hard places. But now notice in the middle of this there is hope because we can have God change our inner world and he can take empty cups and fill them.

If you feel empty today, this is the place to be. Notice that he goes on and he says in verse five, thus says the Lord, cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come.

He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness in an uninhabited salt land. But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. He's like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream and does not fear when heat comes for its leaves remain green and is not anxious in the year of drought for it does not cease to bear fruit. Well, you know, the Bible is really an interesting book for many reasons.

You notice how it just sets these two off in contrast. And I say to you today that you are either a shrub in the desert, not bearing fruit, not being refreshed, or you are a tree planted by the rivers of water. To put it more clearly, according to the text, you're either cursed because you're trusting in yourself or you're blessed because you're trusting in God and you are finding that you are having inner resources to be able to cope with life and all that goes on in your inner world, despite the outer world. So he begins with this contrast. What I'd like to do is to give you some characteristics of that tree planted by water and then apply it and ask God to change us because we've heard his word. First of all, he shall be like a tree planted by water.

He's planted in the right place, planted in the right place. And of course, the place to be planted is trust in God as opposed to trust in man. Cursed is the man who trusts in man. But blessed is the person who trusts in God. Now, first of all, a couple of comments about trusting in man. Trust in man will work as long as life is going well for you.

If you have a job, if you're healthy and you enjoy what you're doing, trust in man will get you where you want to go, perhaps. But it can't take the heat of the desert. It can't take the famines, the drought. It can't take adversity. Therefore, it says, blessed is he who trusts in the Lord and the Lord is his strength.

And he is like a tree planted by the water. You say, well, Pastor Luther, I'm going through all of these difficulties, all of these trials, and God isn't responding to them. God usually doesn't respond to them. He responds to our faith. And if we do not have faith, we cannot we cannot access the resources that God has for us. That's why the scripture says in the book of Hebrews so clearly that without faith, it is impossible to please God. For he who comes to God must believe that he is and that he's a rewarder of all those who diligently seek him out, as one translation so accurately puts it. So you see, it is not simply a matter of saying the right things and even singing the right things. It is a matter of trusting the promises of God. And in this way, we are actually planted in the right place regarding issues of famine, health, relationships, where the weight of our lives and our lives are weighted down, aren't they?

Where the weight of our lives is actually transferred to the shoulders of Jesus Christ, because we believe that the governments of this world will be upon his shoulders and we actually trust him. That's being planted in the right place. But there's a second characteristic, and that is in addition to that, we must grow to the right depth.

Look at the way the text puts it. We grow to the right depth. He is like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream and does not fear when heat comes. You'll notice the prayer that I began with of this person and whoever it is, I hope that you're here today.

And thank you so much for writing that. But you'll notice that the prayer is also against fear. And who of us has not had to pray against fear? But there is such a thing as an inner resources.

He shall not fear when the heat comes, when the difficulties arise. Now, how do we extend our roots by the stream so that really we are growing to the right depth? I wish I had some new thing to say to you. Wish I had some magic wand that I could just wand to this congregation. Now, suddenly all of you would be so filled with a spirit, so filled with sanctification and that you might just even glow in the dark. Wouldn't that be wonderful if I could do that? But I can't.

It is back to the basics. It is, for example, the word of God, the word of God, the entrance to thy word gives light. You're going through a time of depression. There's hollowness and emptiness within. Why don't you take out time to read Psalm 119, which happens to be, by the way, one of the longest chapter in all the Bible.

Why don't you read Psalm 103? This morning, I woke up at four thirty six and I was sort of ready to go, sort of. But my heart wasn't hot for God.

Should have been, I'm sure. So what did I do? I had to take out time, clear my mind because I had kind of a very crazy dream last night.

I don't dream often, but I'll tell you, when I do, it really comes together in a weird way. But I wouldn't tell you what it was. You wouldn't, you wouldn't even want to know. If I told you, you'd say, I wish I hadn't known.

So what did I do? I read, I read the 15th chapter of John. Because in John 15, Jesus says, I'm the vine, you're the branches.

I wanted to read something about fruit bearing and how all that we need to do is to relax and to rely in him and we will be fruit bearers because he will bear the fruit through us. I needed to hear that this morning. And then my spiritual tank began to revive.

Why? Because faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God. I knew I needed faith.

I knew I needed to cleave to the promises. First of all, the word of God. Secondly, the presence of God.

I'm speaking plainly to you today. You cannot walk with God without Face Time, not talking about prayer per se, how important that is. But, but Face Time, when you come face to face with God and you, you say to yourself, I'm not going to bring any requests now, except I want to delight in his presence. It is in those moments that God shows me my sin, shows me my need, and God comes along and, and we connect in faith through the word of God, through the presence of God. We soon discover that our souls are revived, but you can't do it without that. You can cry up to the Lord.

You can ask, you can beg, but unless your inner man is renewed day by day, unless the inner man is renewed, and it can only be done through the word of God, through the presence of God, and then this is big now, through the people of God, people of God. If you are going through a hard time and you withdraw, which is what many people do. I've talked to people who've struggled with suicide and what do they want to do? They want to get away from all the people that are around them.

Why? Because they feel uncomfortable, especially in the presence of those who are rejoicing. And I remember one woman who tried to commit suicide. Her pills for the deed were in her purse and she came into a meeting and everybody was singing that old chorus that we used to sing as children or adults. Oh say, but I'm glad, I'm glad. Did any of you remember that? How many of you remember that? Oh, about 14 of you.

That tells me what category I belong to. But anyway, oh say that I'm glad, I'm glad. She said she felt like shouting, oh say, but I'm mad, I'm mad.

It's hard to be around glad people when you're mad. So the worst thing that you can do is to withdraw the people of God. This is Pastor Lutzer. I have to tell you that there are many flaws in the body of Jesus Christ.

There are many weaknesses. Today I'm speaking to those of you who perhaps are very disappointed with the church. Other Christians have disappointed you, but I want to warn you that withdrawal is not the answer to your problems. We need one another.

We need that support system. And I trust that this message that you have listened to would remind you of that. And I've written a book entitled Getting Closer to God, Lessons from the Life of Moses, Getting Closer to God. You and I won't have opportunities that Moses did, but from his life we learn what it is like to be led by the presence of God. By the way, I love that phrase, to be led by the presence of God. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours.

Here's what you do. Go to That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the book Getting Closer to God. I can assure you it will be life transforming because after all, Moses' life and testimony influences us all.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. The name of the book is Getting Closer to God and let me thank you in advance for helping us and we will help you make it all the way to the finish line. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life.

An anonymous listener is written asking this. My husband told me that his boss was reading the book Heaven is for Real. It's the story of a four-year-old boy who went to heaven and came back during surgery. The story was told by the boy's dad who is a pastor. I want to know your take on the book and topic.

Also, a second question. Is it normal for a kid brought up in a Christian home to doubt her salvation? Our daughter, who is 10 years old, has a lot of questions regarding her faith.

Is the Bible really true? Is she really saved? She says she wants to make sure because she wants to hear Jesus say, Well done, thou good and faithful servant, and she wants to be with us in heaven.

She's very disturbed and cries about this. That's why I want to know your opinion of that book and about heaven. Well, my friend, first of all, thank you so much for connecting with us. I've only read part of the book that you referred to about Heaven is for Real and so I'm not giving a definitive answer, but I do have a couple of comments. First of all, I think it is possible for someone to die and to see heaven and return.

I mean, that certainly is theoretically possible. It's interesting that Stephen, when he was being stoned, saw Jesus standing on the right hand of God the Father. It was as if Jesus was saying, Be faithful, Stephen, because I'm here to welcome you.

Interestingly, however, the Apostle Paul had an experience of going to heaven, evidently, as he tells us in 2 Corinthians. And yet he said that he would not tell us what he saw. He felt so overwhelmed, perhaps, or he felt it best that we not know all of the details.

So he was quiet about it. So I take the book about the little boy with a great deal of caution. And I would like to read a passage of scripture that comes from the book of Jeremiah. It says this, Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let him who has my word speak my word faithfully.

What has straw in common with wheat? What God is saying is this. There may be people who have dreams and visions or who claim that they've been to heaven and back, but we must look at their revelation as straw. Wheat is the word of God. Speaking about another book where somebody went to heaven and returned, I read about half of that, and I thought to myself, I don't think that this sounds legitimate.

So we have to be very cautious. Perhaps it's true, but see it as straw and not wheat. Ultimately, that which is sure is God's holy word.

And we should not become enamored with those who claim to have seen the other side. Now, in reference to your other question regarding your 10-year-old daughter, absolutely children doubt their salvation. You know, as a boy growing up on the farm, frequently I used to pray that Jesus would come into my heart and I always thought that he didn't. And I hadn't really no assurance until my parents prayed with me at about the age 14, and ever since that time I had the grace of assurance through the Spirit, through the Word. Your daughter is going through a normal time of questioning. What you have to do is to encourage her.

You have to continue to give her the promises and you have to just let her work through this. Doubts in themselves are not wrong as long as they're honest doubts. Now, if you're a dishonest doubter, that's a different matter. But an honest doubter, even Thomas was an honest doubter. I think it can be said that the faith isn't really yours unless at some point you've doubted it in the process of making it your own. John the Baptist had his doubts.

Here's an amazing thing. He's in prison and he begins to wonder whether Jesus is the Messiah, so he sends a delegation to ask, are you the true one or should we look for somebody else? And Jesus said that of the people born of women, there is none greater than John the Baptist.

Now follow this. Jesus made that amazing statement about John even when he was still doubting. Doubts are okay as long as they lead you to the truth, as long as they are honest doubts. Encourage your daughter. She will come, I can assure you, to the assurance of faith. Some very wise counsel from Dr. Erwin Lutzer. Thank you, Pastor Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337.

You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. When times are good, it's not hard to go it alone. But when calamity strikes, you need a support system around you. Jeremiah compares this to being like a tree next to a stream, drawing nourishment that can survive a drought. Next time, how believers facing a tough future can connect with each other so that all can bear fruit. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-25 13:04:58 / 2023-09-25 13:13:47 / 9

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