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When The Promises Don't Work Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
October 21, 2021 1:00 am

When The Promises Don't Work Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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October 21, 2021 1:00 am

It happens again and again. A child is at death’s door, and even after urgent prayer, the child dies anyway. Where was God? When prayer is not answered as we’d like, many simply stop praying. What is God doing?  

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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. It happens again and again, a child at death's door. Urgent prayer, the child dies anyway. Where was God? When prayer is not answered as we'd like, many simply stop praying. If your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling, you need to stay tuned for a life-changing series.

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, there are a lot of believers out there who, frankly, have had it with God. Tell us about the series you begin today, The Triumph of Unanswered Prayer. You know, Dave, the older I get, the more I realize that God very seldom does what I think God should do. And sometimes we pray to Him and He answers the way in which we have prayed, and at other times the answer is no.

And that no can hurt very deeply. That's why I preach this series of messages, which I believe is going to be a tremendous blessing and a help to people. The point, of course, is to enable them to have the faith to keep on believing and actually finding a yes in God's no. It's difficult to do, but that's what we're called to do. And the trial of our faith is more precious than gold that wishes. So I encourage all those who are listening to listen carefully, also would like to suggest that you pick up the phone, call someone, invite them to listen, because together I think we are going to find this to be a faith-building series of messages, even as we navigate some difficult theological terrain. So now, let us pay attention to God's Word. Let me begin today by reading a letter from Kevin, who is a prisoner.

He says, I am a prisoner trying to draw close to God, using all the resources I can to help me in my relationship with God. We have material from several preachers available to us here. A lot of the material has helped me to grow in my walk with God.

But I am uneasy about some of what I read, particularly from those who teach about health and wealth. I received a monthly letter a few months ago, said that there was power in my confession. If I were to take authority over my situation and shout, I am rich, these blessings would come to me. I did this for several months, but I have not received any extra money.

In fact, now the money from my commissary account does not make it on time. More recently, I began confessing that I walk in divine health, like their ministry instructs me to do. But I have discovered that my liver enzymes were off and other lab results were not encouraging. Since then, I've changed my praying and confessed that I'm only healed if God wants me to be. So I struggled with whether these ministries are of God or whether they are demonic. Then I thought that if God were to strike that ministry in judgment, then I would know it is wrong.

Please give me your advice on this. I'm afraid of making false accusations about ministries that talk about Jesus and say they are anointed of God. I just know that their teaching doesn't work for me. Well, Kevin, doesn't work for you and it doesn't work for millions of others.

You're right. It just doesn't work. We live at a time when we find that some of the TV teachers, those who are on television, particularly not all but some, are teaching false doctrine. Ever since a man by the name of William Kenyon, who was basically into Christian Science, the Christian Science faith, ever since he tried to unite Christianity and Christian Science, you have today what is known as the Word of Faith movement. This Word of Faith movement believes that we can simply speak ourselves rich. I was watching television less than two weeks ago and one of these preachers said, what you need to do is to say, I am a millionaire. And then he wasn't satisfied with that.

He says, you need to proclaim I am a billionaire. And you can speak things into existence that are not yet into existence. That is what is being taught. Throughout history, you find that the gods have always been manipulated by people in an attempt to get from them what we want.

And never before has the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ been so manipulated by people to make sure that he gives them what they want no matter what. If you feel guilty, you don't need to deal with your sin. What you need to do is to have a good feeling of self-fulfillment. So we have the self-fulfillment gospel.

If you need money, you don't have to budget carefully and work hard. What you need is a health and wealth gospel. And certainly if you are sick, you can simply command that you be healed. And according to one ministry, you can do that.

And you can do it successfully as often as you need to. No need to deal with issues of sin and reconciliation and repentance. God is there to meet all of your needs as they exist. You can speak to your wallet and say, be thou filled. And the wallet is going to be filled.

And it is filled with air. Why is it that these TV ministries, they drag in scripture, of course, and we're going to be dealing with that in successive messages. But let me give you three principles that they use that are false. First of all, they make no distinction of significance between Old Testament promises and New Testament promises. This takes a longer time to discuss, but in the Old Testament, God dealt with Israel as a theocratic kingdom.

That is to say that it was a theocracy. And God says, I'm going to bless you or curse you based on the land. If you follow me, I'm going to give you riches. I'm going to give you good crops.

If you don't follow me, I'm going to send you drought and grasshoppers. You find that throughout the book of Deuteronomy and elsewhere. Today, God doesn't deal with us that way.

That was Israel as a nation in the land. That's why you don't find promises like that in the New Testament. We must distinguish between the Old Testament and the New. Second, many of these preachers fail to or they totally ignore some of the conditions that are necessary for answered prayer. And it does seem as if some of the statements that Jesus made were blank checks where we could simply fill in whatever we want.

But a closer examination shows that actually there are some conditions. If you abide in me and my words abide in you, then you shall ask what you will. But all of this oftentimes is ignored. There are blessings available for everyone regardless of what they believe, regardless of who they are. They can speak things into existence. Finally, many of these ministries fail to understand that our authority as believers is a relative authority.

It is a limited authority. We don't have the same authority as Jesus. We are in Jesus, but we are not Jesus.

We cannot speak to storms and hurricanes. We cannot speak to them like Jesus spoke to the raging sea on Galilee. Many years ago, there were some of these folks who met in Washington, D.C., and they met to ban Satan from Washington, D.C. to send him packing and to make sure that he would not enter the city of Washington, D.C. again. Wow. Isn't that interesting?

What do you think? Do you think that God answered their prayer? Or isn't there some empirical evidence that maybe their prayer hasn't been answered? My dear friend, if we could do that, we'd banish him from the whole planet. If you ask why God has Satan in Washington, D.C., the answer is because the Lord has need of him.

The Lord has need of him. God uses Satan for his own purposes, but we don't have that kind of authority. We have authority over the devil. That's true, I believe, even in casting out demons, but our authority is totally derived.

It is not unlimited. We cannot speak things into existence. I was looking at a website yesterday where one of these men has written a book imitating God, where we can speak things into existence, and we can have unlimited authority.

No, we can't. This series of messages is entitled The Triumph of Unanswered Prayer. The Triumph of Unanswered Prayer. Normally we say, well, there's no triumph in unanswered prayer. There's only triumph when God answers. Oh, yes, you're wrong this time.

You're wrong. We will show that God, through unanswered prayer, has an agenda that might ultimately even be greater than his agenda through answered prayer. Another way that we could describe this series is to say that we must live with unfulfilled promises. Nothing wrong with the promises, but we need to know whether those promises are for today.

We see parts of them for today, but the fulfillment of them lies in the future. Who is this series of messages for? This series of messages is for anyone who asked and didn't receive. It's for anyone who has anger toward God. Anger toward God because you know that God could intervene. You know that God could heal that person and he didn't.

And in your soul, you have anger toward the Almighty. This message, this series of messages is for you. It's for those of you who found prayer to be boring and irrelevant. Those who would never attend a prayer meeting under almost any condition because they believe essentially that prayer changes nothing. It's for those who want to get closer to God, but it seems so impossible and you're so discouraged that you don't know how to do it. Before this series is over, I'm going to give you a whole new paradigm as to how to pray.

A paradigm that will lead to fulfillment in your own individual prayer life whether you get the specific answers that you seek or not. We're going to find that God has an agenda that transcends many of the things that we often ask him for. Hebrews chapter 10 is the text for today. I hope you brought your Bibles.

If not, you can use the Bible there that is in your seats. Hebrews chapter 10. Hebrews 10, we're talking about people who believed on Jesus and they are going through a time of great testing and there's no doubt that they are praying that they be delivered from the test, but there is no deliverance. We're going to look at this passage of scripture very simply. We're going to see the challenge that they face, the suffering that they face. Then what we're going to do is to see their attitude in the midst of it and the reward and then we're going to apply it to our lives and we're going to be changed because we've heard God's word. Notice it says, I'm in verse 32 of Hebrews chapter 10. But recall the former days when after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property since you knew that you yourselves have a better possession and an abiding one.

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward for you have need of endurance so that when you've done the will of God, you may receive what is promised. First of all, what is it that they were enduring? What was their challenge?

Well, it was severe suffering because of Jesus. They were not only being marginalized, you'll notice it says it was sometimes public. Verse 33, being publicly exposed to reproach. Reminds me of when the communists took over China, how pastors actually were paraded down the streets with all kinds of things strewn across their bodies, including Bibles that had been torn in two. They were humiliated and they were publicly exposed and publicly shown to be people who were to be reproached.

That's something like we have going on here in the text. And this was happening, not only was it severe and public, also it was voluntary. I find this very interesting because even those who didn't have to suffer chose to suffer by their identification with those who did. You'll notice that the text says, for you had compassion on those in prison, you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property.

You had compassion on those who were in prison. Verse 34 says that. Verse 33 says you became partners with those who were treated this way and you visited them in prison. Someone suggested that when the Holocaust was taking place in Germany, wouldn't it have been wonderful if every one of those freight cars filled with Jews, wouldn't it have been wonderful if in each of them there were two or three Christians who voluntarily joined them and went to their death, showing their identification with those who are being so severely mistreated. These people wouldn't have had to have as much suffering as they did, but they were willing to take up the cause of those who were targeted for persecution. And by the way, that's the way in which most of the church exists today.

It's not always like it is here in America. Kenya, just recently, you heard about it, 60, 80 people run into this church during what apparently became like a civil war. The church is burned down, the church is bombed, the people are running from the church to save their lives and people are waiting for them to gun them down. You look at what is happening in Muslim countries today and you find that that is a continual experience.

I saw pictures of bombed out churches and bombed out vehicles and dead bodies strewn along the streets in Nigeria. And so that's what the Church of Jesus Christ has always endured. Here in America, we sometimes are scorned, we're sometimes misrepresented by the media and that bothers me when you hear people say, oh, you know, these Christians, they want a theocracy and so forth.

No, if somebody wants a theocracy, we are as opposed to that as they are. But nonetheless, we put up with a lot of misrepresentation. And then we think we have it bad. These folks had their property plundered, plundered. What it means in the original text, the idea is suggested that mobs came and plundered their property. We're talking about huge devastation to families and to homes.

That's what they endured. But how did they take it? Well, you saw it there in the text.

The Bible is open and you have your finger on the text, don't you? It says you accepted joyfully, joyfully the plundering of your property. I don't know of any American, including myself, who would accept joyfully the plundering of my house or my property. I don't know of anyone who would. They did it.

Why? Because to them, you see, the presence of the world to come was so real. They said it doesn't matter what we endure for Jesus here. Eternity is coming. Eternity is coming.

And all the things of the earth were weighed in relationship to the coming of eternity. Reminds me of another story, true story, World War II, prisoners in a barrack being starved to death, horrendous conditions we can scarcely describe. And suddenly, joy breaks out and they begin to sing and they begin to laugh.

Why? Because word had been leaked into the barracks that World War II was over and deliverance was on the way. You can put up with anything, anything, as long as you know that it's going to be over and deliverance is on the way.

And these Christians said, we've heard from another world, news has been leaked to us that Jesus is Lord, he's King, he's God, and someday he's going to come. And we can accept joyfully the plundering of all that we have, because notice that the text says, it says, knowing that you had a better possession, a better possession. They suffered joyfully. They suffered confidently. There was something better that God had in mind. And so they endured it.

Not only that, however, however, there is a however here. You'll notice they were becoming discouraged and they were about to give up. I'm now in verse 35. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward for you have need of endurance so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what is promised. Wow. You have need of endurance.

You're running well. You accepted it well. But as it goes on year after year after year and no doubt they cried to God and said, God deliver us, bring us some justice.

The justice was not coming. And they became weary and they were about to take their confidence in God and throw it overboard and say, we're finished. That's where they were at. I've met Christians like that. Christians who threw away their confidence because they lived with injustice and unanswered prayer for so long. They said, if there's a God in heaven, if there's a God in heaven, clearly he doesn't care.

I'm finished. And they've thrown away their confidence. And the writer is saying, don't you dare do that because if you throw your confidence away, also with that goes your great reward is a don't throw away your confidence, which has great reward. You know, it really is difficult to trust God when he doesn't do the things that you think a good God should do. And yet that's exactly the calling that all of us have to go on believing. And if you turn away from God, what is the other option? There's no hope anywhere else. So what we have to do is to cleave to the promises.

And at the end of the day, believe that God has done well. I think that this series of messages is going to be faith building. I'd like you to have a copy so that you can listen to it again and again and share it with your friends. We're making this resource available for a gift of any amount. Here's what you do. Go to

That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the series of messages, the triumph of unanswered prayer. Yes, there is triumph even in the midst of discouragement, even during those times when we feel that God has abandoned us. He is there. I'm going to be emphasizing the fact that the trial of our faith is more precious than gold. Contact us, or 1-888-218-9337. It's time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. All too many people suffer because of the sins of others.

Florence contacted Running to Win with this question. My husband keeps cheating on me, even though I confront him. We have five children. I don't want to leave him, but he just will not stop.

What should I do? My dear sister, you cannot allow your husband to continue to live this way. Look at it from his perspective.

He has the best of both worlds, he thinks. On the one hand, he has a wife and five children, and he can give the appearance of being committed to them. On the other hand, he can have multiple affairs and get by with it. What you need to do is to go for help. Because you see, if you say nothing and simply put up with it, you are an enabler. You're helping him, and you're giving the illusion that somehow he can continue to misuse you and misuse his family, and he can get by. What you need to do is to sit down and confront him and tell him that you are going for help, that no longer can he live his life in secret. The truth is going to come out, and he had better experience some deep repentance and accountability, because if not, he's not only going to be in trouble with you, but he's going to be in trouble with his pastor, his counselor, and others that you are going to bring into this mix.

I am praying for you, and I trust that your husband will step to the plate and have the courage to do what is right and finally submit to God. Florence, thanks so much for bringing this matter to our attention. We hope that Dr. Lutzer's answer was of help to you. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or you can call us with a question 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. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. When we pray, there's a bigger purpose at work than we realize.

For us, getting the answer is all-consuming. For God, developing our characters is the real objective. Next time on Running to Win, coming to grips with what to do when our prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-05 01:02:00 / 2023-08-05 01:11:00 / 9

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