Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Today's hard times are nothing like those Israel faced under the heel of the Pharaoh of Egypt.
The people were brutally oppressed as slaves. The lessons they learned might help us face the stress of a modern era when hope again is fading. 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, when the money runs out and the mortgage payment is due, we're in a tight place. Today, you'll help us learn how to deal with those kinds of places. And you know Dave, when those hard times come, blessed is the person who can see God in the midst of those hard times, even if those hard times don't go away.
Slavery is evil, but the Israelites endured it and they did not see God's bigger picture and the deliverance that he was going to bring to them. This is a wonderful opportunity for me to thank all those who minister to us through their gifts, through their prayers, so that Running to Win can continue to expand. Thousands upon thousands of people are blessed because of this ministry thanks to people just like you. And as you consider your year-end giving, we ask that you would humbly pray about helping this ministry as we continue to expand.
At the end of this message, I'll be giving you info as to how you can do just that. Well, life is hard. I'm going to begin with a story of a friend of mine who does not attend Moody Church and who gave me permission to share his story, just so that you know what he is currently going through. He's had two employment opportunities in the past in the business world, and in each instance, promises that were made to him were not fulfilled. He tried to recoup what belonged to him in court, but he was ruled against recouping any of what he deserved. He's been without a job for about a year and a half or two, I suspect, and so his house is in foreclosure. He's going through a divorce. In fact, this past week, he was in court over the divorce, which he hopes will be finalized.
His wife is divorcing him. In the middle of this, one of his children has a serious addiction problem. Life is hard. You're probably wondering how he's doing, and I'll tell you how he's doing at the end of the message, but first of all, I want to remind you that no matter what you are going through, you could stay here tonight and you could tell me your story, and I would know this that somebody else somewhere has a worse story to tell, number one, and number two, somebody went through your trial and was totally successful. You are not alone in what you endure. This morning on my computer, there was an email regarding a student in one of our universities here in the United States who committed suicide because of sexual abuse that occurred in his youth, the darkness and the depression. If you are going through that, let me tell you that there is help.
There are people who care. Whatever you do, don't choose the suicide route, but continue to believe and to connect with others who can pull you through those dark times because somebody somewhere went through what you've gone through, and they've made it successfully. Well, today in the second of this message series entitled When Life is Hard, I want you to take your Bibles and turn to Exodus chapter two, and we're going to be looking at a few passages in Exodus, but you can certainly turn to Exodus chapter two, but I'm going to begin in Exodus chapter one. Exodus chapter one, and I want us to see how life was hard in those days for the children of Israel.
I'm going to just pick it up simply in the middle of verse 14 of chapter one. Speaking of the Egyptians, it says, and they made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work, they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.
So first of all, you have slavery. You also though have attempted genocide because you'll notice that the king of Egypt said that the midwives were to kill all male infants that were born. They were to be thrown into the Nile River. Surely some of the midwives carried this out.
Some didn't because that's the way Moses escaped, but you can see this. And by the way, the word genocide was coined to explain and describe what happened to the Armenians when the Turks invaded their country in 1915. Do you know that things were so bad that I was reading that when women were on their way to a death camp, some of them took their babies on the train and as they were crossing a river, a bridge on a river, they took their babies and threw them out into the water, wanting them to drown rather than go through what they knew awaited them at the other end.
Life is hard. So here you have slavery. You have genocide. And then as if that wasn't enough, Moses eventually goes to the king and says, please let my people go. And the king of Egypt is angry about it.
And you know what he does now? He says in chapter five, verse five, Pharaoh said, behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens. The same day, Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, you shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks as in the past. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of bricks that they made in the past, you shall impose upon them.
You shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Now just think slavery, working morning till night, being beaten. The text says that they were sometimes beaten. And now suddenly you're told that you have to even gather your own straw and make the same quota of bricks. And one burden is laid upon another. Tragedies oftentimes come in pairs. And may I ask you today, what is the straw that you were asked to gather? What is that last straw that seems to break your back, the last thing in a series of hard times? Whatever it is, the children of Israel were forced to endure it.
They had no opportunity for unions, no opportunity to redress their wrongs, no opportunity to argue that they should be paid more. They were locked into a terrible system, and there they were. Times were hard. There is a booklet entitled Red Sea Rules. The idea is that there are rules that you follow when you cross the Red Sea by a man by the name of Robert Morgan.
It's a little booklet and I found it helpful. And I have to say that some of the ideas that I'll share with you today are actually inspired at least by that book. But what I'd like to do now is to give you a five-point program that you and I must follow when times are hard so that we can get through life and the hard times successfully.
If life isn't hard now, believe me, it will eventually become hard because all of us go through those deserts that we spoke about last time. First of all, number one, you are where you are by divine appointment. You are where you are by divine appointment. Let me ask you the question, who was it that led the Israelites into Egypt? It was God.
Who kept them there? It was God. Who hardened Pharaoh's heart so that he might impose more laws and more strictures upon the people and demand from them more work. It was God. God told Moses in advance, I'm going to harden Pharaoh's heart. He's not going to let you go.
He's going to make things worse. It was all of God. You are where you are today by God's will and purpose. You say, but Pastor Lutzer, it's my fault. I mean, I did things that I should not have done. And so they were there because they had no choice. I had a choice and I made a series of bad choices.
A couple of things. First of all, if you deeply repent and turn from those bad choices, not only will God forgive you, but then you're going to have to experience what could be called self forgiveness. And you need to realize that at that moment, God has you exactly where he wants you. You are where you are by divine appointment. And God knows exactly where you are. He knows the speed of the wind and the height of the waves. He knows the longitude and the latitude of your little boat.
He knows every single slat on that boat, every frame of it. And he knows exactly and sees you. And today you are where you are by divine appointment.
Andrew Murray, man from another era, was going through a very excruciating time. And he wrote these words. First of all, he brought me here. It is by his will that I am in this straight place. In that I will rest. Next, he will keep me here in his love and give me grace to behave as his child. Then he will make the trial of blessing. Teach me some lessons he intends me to learn, working in me the grace that he intends to bestow. And in his good time, he can bring me out again, how and when he knows. So in summary, I'm here by God's appointment in his keeping under his training for his time.
You are where you are, exactly where God wants you. Second, I think it's important for us to realize that you must believe a divine promise. Now is the time that you cleave to the promises of God.
Now let's see how this works out. In chapter six, God reveals to Moses that he's going to deliver his people. Your Bibles are open to chapter six, and it says in verse six, say therefore to the people of Israel, I am the Lord and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
I will deliver you from slavery and redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment. So Moses is supposed to tell the people about the promise that God made. So that's what Moses does in verse nine. He spoke thus to the people of Israel, but you know what?
I should read it this way. Moses spoke to the people of Israel and they said, oh, that's wonderful. Now we can go to work tomorrow with a great deal of encouragement and hope because we know that God is on our side. We know that he's going to deliver us and we're going to accept this gladly as God's will. Verse nine, Moses spoke to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery. They were cynical about this. And I believe that you're probably listening to me today.
There are some of you who fit that category exactly. You're going through a time that is so hard. God seems so far away. The miracle that you have been expecting has not come year after year after year, something like Moses in the desert for 40 years. And you say to yourself, what good are the promises?
Where are they when I need them? Well, as this message progresses, it is my intention to help you to believe and to trust again. But what you really need is to, is to remind yourself of the promises. You say, well, what are some of the promises?
How do you like this one? Keep your life free of money. Be content with what you have for he has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. Therefore God is my helper. I will not fear what man do unto me. Did you know that in that verse I will not leave you and forsake you? There are five negatives in the Greek text.
I don't know how to say it exactly, but it would be something like this. I will know not leave you. I will know never not forsake you. Five times God says, never, never, never, never, never.
I'm going to be with you through your experience. Now there's a verse that you should put onto your refrigerator. Did I already give you the reference? Of course, everybody who's been saved six months knows the reference for that verse, don't they?
Just in case you don't. It is the 13th chapter of Hebrews chapter five verses five and six. God says, I'm going to be with you. There is the divine presence. What about the divine intention? All things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose. God has some good that he wants to bring out of your situation. God would never have you in the place where you are unless he intends it for your good. God can be believed and he is with you. There's a third point that we must do during those times when times are hard, and that is you must cry up for divine help.
You must cry up for divine help. Notice in chapter two already, we have the phrase that the children of Israel cried up to the Lord. I'm in chapter two and I'm looking at verse 23.
Because of their slavery, they cried out for help and their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God and God heard. That expression is especially found in the Psalms. David repeatedly says, and I cried onto the Lord in my desperation. I cried to the Lord, he says.
Listen to his words in the book of second Samuel. In my distress, I called upon God to my God. I called from his temple.
He heard my voice and my cry came to his ears. You see, this isn't just a regular kind of prayer. You know, there are times when we say, Oh God bless me. Keep me safe.
Give me a good day. I mean, there are times when you can't pray like that. There are times when life is so hard and everything is against you and you have to say like Peter who began to go down in the water, Lord, save me. It's one of the shortest prayers in the Bible.
There are times for short prayers. It's the prayer of desperation. See, most people don't pray unless they're desperate. And so God leads us into desperate situations. The Greek text and the Hebrew texts that talk about crying up to the Lord are very intense. You are absolutely desperate and you cry up to God and pour out your soul before him. It's a sign of desperation, but it is also a sign of yieldedness.
If you cry up to God, you not only are desperate, but you're saying God anything. I surrender. I give up the weapons of a rebel. You see, in the book of Joshua, we have a very interesting story. This is Joshua chapter seven. You remember the Israelites go up against Ai and they're defeated.
3000 men are dead. And the Bible says, and Joshua fell on his face and cried up to the Lord. And you know what God told them?
Get up. That's what God says. The only time I know in the Bible when God interrupted somebody's prayer and says, stop praying because he says there's sin in Israel's camp. Take care of the sin and then we'll talk. If you're sleeping with your boyfriend, there's really no use, you know, crying up to God for blessing. You can cry up to God.
I asked to how to get out of a destructive relationship, but when you cry to God, it is a cry of saying, God, whatever you demand, I am willing to submit to desperation and yieldedness. Well, there's another step that we must take and that is we must wait for divine timing. Wait for divine timing. Now the Israelites had to wait. God says in chapter six, I'm going to deliver you, but the deliverance doesn't come. And God has to go through a series of plagues.
He has to prepare the people. He has to work in the heart of the Egyptians so that the Egyptians actually gave the children of Israel money, gave them all of their jewelry, all of their silver, all of their trinkets. They gave them all to Israel and then so God needed time.
By the way, why did God do that? You know, I'm sure that when the Israelites finally left, they thought to themselves, what a windfall. You know, they were going into the homes there and the Egyptians were saying, oh, there's a gold necklace. You want to take that?
We'll take this one too. And they thought to themselves, wow, just to think we're getting all of this gold and silver. You know what God had in mind? He had the tabernacle in mind and that's why the people were getting it. They thought it was for themselves. They didn't understand that any windfall is for the purpose of the kingdom.
It is never for us. But anyway, God had to take them through that, teach them the Passover. They had to go through the Red Sea, all in God's timetable.
My friend, I want to talk to you very directly. If God has blessed you financially, the reason is not just for you. The reason is so that we might be able to share with others and invest in the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
That's what God has in mind. And as you consider year-end gifts, and of course we're getting to the end of the year, you might want to consider and pray about helping the ministry of running to win. We are listener supported. If you have a pen or pencil, you can write this down. Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now, I'm going to be giving you that contact info again because as we think of the generosity of God, God is asking all of us to be generous in recognizing His grace that we might be able to help others hear the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Thanks in advance for helping us. If you could look into my heart today, you'd see a very grateful heart to all those of you who are helping us and to the many of you who perhaps have never connected with us, we rejoice in you as well that we might be able to come into your homes and into your lives through the ministry of radio and the internet. Go to rtwoffer.com. Of course, RTW offers all one word. Or pick up the phone right now and call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 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. Modern medicine and the Christian, how do we strike the proper balance?
Norman listens to Running to Win and tells this story. I find comfort in the Scriptures, but I have a very difficult time functioning without taking psychiatric medications. Is it a sin to be dependent on them? Is the brain or mind exempt from the curse of sin? Norman, thank you so much for connecting with us and asking that question.
I will take your last question first. Is the brain or mind exempt from the curse of sin? The answer is no. Our minds, our hearts, we are all under this quote curse of sin. And so we just need to understand that. We are fallen human beings, body, soul, and spirit. However, in answer to the question, is it wrong for you to take medications?
I don't think so. I'm not going to judge you for doing that. I hope that this is something that you do during a period of transition when you can get healthier. But there are times when there are drugs that help us. Perhaps they help us sleep. Perhaps they help give us a sense of tranquility in the midst of depression. And while we shouldn't be totally dependent on those because our faith ultimately is in God, sometimes we as fallen human beings need these kinds of encouragements, this kind of strength, so that we can carry on.
God will understand, and I understand that too. Thank you, Norman, and thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or call us at 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. The people of Israel found themselves in some real tough spots. Only when the pressure really mounts do some of us finally cry to God for help. Next time on Running to Win, tune in for a final lesson on finding God in a tight place. Erwin Lutzer will wrap up his series on what to do when life is hard. We'll explore some of the reasons for Israel's national trial and the trials we go through. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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