Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Jesus knew that the disciples would be tested in ways they could not imagine after he went to the cross.
That's why he spent his final night with them explaining what would happen. Today, some fearful disciples gain understanding from their master. 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, fear can paralyze people. How do the words of Jesus help us overcome the fear many of us feel?
Dave, everyone listening can identify with what I'm going to say now. There is always a battle in our hearts between faith and fear, and sometimes fear wins. But when faith wins, the fear begins to dissipate, and that's the point of Jesus Christ.
To some extent, the question is, how much faith do we put in the words and the promises of Jesus? I feel very deeply about a book I've written entitled Prepare Your Heart for an Uncertain Future, and I wrote the book based upon the words of Jesus in the upper room. This is the last day that we are making this resource available, so be sure to write this down. You can go to rtwoffer.com, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for Prepare Your Heart for an Uncertain Future, and thanks in advance for your gifts that help us in the ministry of Running to Win.
Once again, go to rtwoffer.com, or 1-888-218-9337. And here's Lazarus, this poor guy, to be distinguished, by the way, from the other Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead. And this poor man would come and he would eat with the dogs. And then, in eternity, everything got reversed. The rich man was in torment in Hades, and he cried up and said, send Lazarus that he may dip some water on my tongue. You remember because he was able to communicate with Abraham, who was next door, though there was a great gulf between the two.
Isn't that interesting? And Lazarus was there with Abraham in paradise, in bliss, the great reversal. And the people who think that they have done away with Jesus will discover that they have not done it because he will come back, inflaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God and that obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. You just can't do away with him.
Even when you think you have, there he is. What about the disciples? Well, Jesus said their sorrow is going to be turned into joy. We're back here in the 16th chapter of John, where he gives this remarkable illustration in verse 21. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come, but when her baby is born, she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.
Let me give you a personal observed illustration of Christ's words in verse 21. When our daughter, who is now 26 years old, was born, my wife was actually in the same room pre-delivery with another woman, a young woman, bless her heart, from Appalachia. And this young woman didn't quite know what was going on. So she cried out continuously, kill me, kill me, somebody just take a hammer and kill me, kill me.
Oh, I thought, wow. So our daughter was born and I walked down the hall. She was born about one o'clock, if I remember correctly. And I walked down the hall later that afternoon and I kept hearing this woman through the door, kill me, just kill me. But the next day we were able to meet with her and to rejoice that indeed a child had been born into the world and she was glad that no one had killed her.
Don't take people up on some of the things that they request that you do. Now I don't want you to miss Christ's point and this is what it is. Jesus is not just simply saying that joy is going to come after the sorrow. What he's saying is that the very thing that caused the sorrow, namely the birth of this child, is the very thing that brings the joy. The very death that caused the disciples to be grieved is the very death from which blessings would flow.
Only God can do that. When I was a teacher at Moody Bible Institute many, many, many years ago, I used to sometimes ask the students in a classroom, how many of you think, in fact, I'll ask it to you today. You can raise your hand at this point. How many of you think that the crucifixion of Christ was evil?
Could I see your hands please? How many of you are willing to say that the crucifixion of Christ was evil? Oh my goodness, about what, two, three, four? Oh wow.
My goodness, am I seeing correctly? The Bible says in the book of Acts, evil wicked men nailed him to the cross. How many of you think that the crucifixion of Christ was good? Oh, a few more timid people.
Why, what are we going to do with these folks, Daryl? My friend, you should have gladly, enthusiastically, and instantly raised your hand in answer to both of those questions. It was evil. But it is also good in the cross of Christ I glory. God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world. We delight in the cross today. But it is only God who can take something that is evil and take that very same thing and turn it into a good that from it blessing might flow. And so that's what we have here.
Jesus is saying that your sorrow will be turned into joy. Remember the story of Joseph? Joseph, maligned by his brothers.
Some of you come from dysfunctional families. Now there's a dysfunctional family, four different brothers from four different mothers, or was it two different mothers? At any rate, a very motley crew thrown together, trying to work together, trying to herd their sheep together. And then they take this one boy whom they really hated, Joseph, and they want to sell him and they think that he's dead.
And then they lie to their father about his whereabouts. And yet when it all comes together, Joseph says this, he said, you sold me, he says to his brothers when he's reconciled to them, but God sent me. The selling was evil, but the sending by God to get him to Egypt was good. You meant it for evil, absolutely. And as a result of that, you will be judged for that evil. But God meant it for good. That's the way God always works. The sorrow can be turned into joy. Think of your sorrow.
Some of the purest joys you will ever have are sorrows that have been transformed by God into joys. Many years ago in Los Angeles, there was a woman who was raped, a teenage girl raped. A child was born. They decided that this little child, this little baby girl would be called Ethel. Well, you probably know the rest of the story. She was to grow up and to become a soloist and bless the hearts of tens of thousands and millions of people.
She was Ethel Waters who used to sing at the Billy Graham meetings, his eyes on the sparrow. Was the rape evil? You'd better believe it was evil, indescribably evil. Can God take that which is evil and from it bring blessing?
Yes, he does it all the time. Do not ever underestimate God's ability to take a sorrow and to turn it into a joy. He does do that even today for you and for me.
Let's nail this down to some bottom lines. First of all, the sorrows of today, or let me put it this way, temporary grief leads to permanent joy. Is not that what Jesus said?
I'm looking at the last part of verse 22. So with you now is the time of your grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice and now notice and your joy no one will take from you. Temporary sorrow, permanent joy. I need to tell you today, those of you who sorrow that this too will pass. God in his grace may bring from what you are going through something beautiful. Hang in there.
The joy becomes permanent. Many years ago, one of the greatest theologians and pastors in all of America, probably I think America's best theologian, Jonathan Edwards, was voted out of his church in North Hampton, Massachusetts. The controversy was because he believed that only those who should participate in communion were believers. And his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, had said that it's okay to have unbelievers come and so this created controversy within the church. I was at that church in North Hampton just a couple of weeks ago. Couldn't get in, unfortunately, but walked around it, thought about what happened there. So the congregation had a vote.
A short-tailed relative decided that he would use it to get Jonathan Edwards out and created all kinds of friction and so the vote, if I remember correctly, was 230 opposed to him and 32 were in favor of him. So Jonathan Edwards left the church, the great revivalist who had preached with such power and such glory in the first great awakening. How would you handle that? Have you ever been in a place where because of slander, because of misconceptions that people are so willing to believe, you have personally suffered your reputation, who you are, your position, all because of the evil of others?
Have you been there? His biographer said of Edwards, and here's the phrase now, that is, happiness in God was beyond the reach of his enemies. There is such a thing as being happy in God that your enemies cannot take away. Your joy, said Jesus, no man takes from you.
They can't get at it and also it's a complete joy because Jesus says in the next verse, in verse 24, until now you have not asked for anything in my name, ask and you'll receive and your joy will be complete, permanent and complete. Second, I want to say that the greater the sorrow, the greater the joy, the greater the sorrow, the greater the joy. Today as you walk through that valley that seems so dark and you do not see the end of it, this is what the Apostle Paul would say to you, for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. If I interpret this correctly what he's saying is the more sorrow, the more glory.
So hang in there because the day is coming when you will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you. Perhaps there's a final lesson and that is that everyone has to confront Christ at some point in their existence. The world thought that they had gotten rid of him because he was on the cross, there was proof, he's finished. No, he rises again, there he is again. The world today thinks that they've done away with Christ but he's there again and he's coming again and for those of you who don't know him as savior it's going to be a terrifying experience unless you believe on him because this Christ is one with whom you have to deal. You cannot get around it but meanwhile those who know him can hang in because we've read the last page. We don't have to win the battles, we know that the war has been won and we try to win the battles and we encourage people to win the battles but we're not disappointed because of what happens around us or what happens within our own souls or in our immediate circumstances because we know that there is another day coming as Tony Campallo says it's Friday but Sunday's coming.
It's on its way. Visualize a concentration camp. Here you have men who have been starved, people who are walking around almost like skeletons. Some within their camp are dying every single day and then suddenly a song begins to break out with some of the prisoners. There were some whispers and then they began to sing together and a smile came to their faces. Now what sense does that make? Why would anyone rejoice in those circumstances that are so depressing, demoralizing, painful and almost impossible? Where does that come from?
Where does the singing come from? Well someone in that concentration camp had a little radio and he had been listening to the news and discovered that the war was over. Germany had surrendered unconditionally and help was on the way. What Jesus is saying is look, in the world you shall have tribulation. In fact he ends this section saying that. He says in the world you shall have tribulation. Verse 33 of this chapter, I've told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.
Take heart. I've overcome the world. The war has been won. You and I can read the last page. Help is on the way. Let's pray together. Our Father, we do want to thank you for this assurance from the lips of Jesus. We thank you today that it is he who can take the deepest of sorrows and bring hope to that situation. We thank you today that nothing has escaped his attention, that the greatness of our God extends to all the knowledge that we might have.
And we thank you that he has perfect knowledge. And we ask today that you shall pour grace into the lives and hearts of those who grieve. We ask today that those who have never trusted Christ might know that they cannot eternally and continuously live without him, for they too shall meet him. And we pray, oh Father, until we see him face to face, grant us the ability to believe and to trust.
In Jesus' name we ask. Amen. My friend, may I have a personal word with you? Life is difficult, isn't it?
We're living in a time of political upheaval, so many different angry voices on social media, issues regarding COVID, we could make a long list. But at the same time, help is on the way. Jesus has given us words of assurance, and I want you to have those words hidden in your heart. I've written a book entitled Prepare Your Heart for an Uncertain Future.
It's not based on what I believe, but rather what Jesus Christ taught his disciples as he prepared them for their uncertain future. It gave them hope, it gave them rebuke, it gave them courage, and that's exactly what we need. Well, today's the last day we're making this resource available to you. We make these resources available to help you run all the way to the finish line.
For a gift of any amount, the book can be yours. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com. It's rtwoffer.com, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now, I'm going to be giving you that contact info again. And remember, as I just mentioned, this is the last day we are making this resource available to you. The title of the book, Prepare Your Heart for an Uncertain Future, based on the words of Jesus whose words we can trust. Go to rtwoffer.com, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Call right now.
Thanks for helping us, because we're making a difference. It's time again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question you may have about the Bible or the Christian life. Are there sins that we can commit that permanently prevent us from having a public ministry? That's the question troubling Joshua, who asks, Can a calling that the Lord has for a person be rescinded if they become ensnared in a sin like sexual immorality? I've carried the guilt of my sexual impurity for a long time, and I wonder if I can ever minister again. Well, you know, this is an excellent question, and of course it's being asked by many pastors and Christian leaders, because if they commit immorality, they are wondering, Can I go back into the ministry again? And I might say that the evangelical community is divided as to how we should answer that question. On the one hand, there are those who say, Absolutely not. You get one chance at this, and if your credibility is ruined, your credibility is ruined and you can no longer minister.
Others say, Well, let's be more redemptive than that. But considering your question again, as I look at it more carefully, you are asking whether or not your call is rescinded. Well, your call is something that God gave you, your call to the ministry. You were gifted.
You were probably trained. The ministry was really the gift that God gave you. And now you've committed immorality, or at least at some point in your life you have since your call was exercised. And I would say that the calling may still be there, but that doesn't mean that you can exercise it. There are plenty of men and women who have been called by God into ministry. The call was strong.
It was persistent. It was proven by their abilities. But now they've disqualified themselves, and it may well be that you are among them. So call or no call, the fact is that immorality disqualifies us to go back into the ministry.
And now I want to add a different part of my answer. Of course, it is possible that God may bring you back into ministry. I think that a person who commits immorality should be out of the ministry for probably years to come.
There has to be a real proving of their character. But within time, if they are under accountability, it may well be that they can minister again, probably not the way in which they did before. But it's possible that God may bring you back into the ministry. But here's my word from my heart to yours. Don't push it.
Don't be anxious to get back. You let God do this as you humbly and patiently wait before him, because credibility is the heart of Christian ministry. When we've lost it, it is very, very, very difficult to get it back.
But that doesn't mean it's the end of the world for you. God has something for you to do. It might not be ministry, but God keeps working in us, using us, and blessing us even after serious sin. Before there was a Bible, before even an Old Testament, God called a man out of Ur of the Chaldees and promised to make of him a great nation. Seeing that promise fulfilled required great faith. Next time on Running to Win, we begin a long journey on which we'll learn significant lessons of faith ourselves. Don't miss our first message, A Step of Faith. Thanks for listening. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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