Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
During their enslavement in Egypt, the people of Israel found themselves in some real tough spots. Only when the pressure really mounts do some of us cry out to God for help. Today, a final lesson on finding God in a tight place. 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, life is certainly not a bed of roses. All of us face trials, and today I believe you will be telling us why those trials come. And Dave, you know, as we anticipate the new year, I am not exactly optimistic. I think that we are going to continue to have political conflict. Other issues are going to arise in our country and around the world. And of course, as we watch the news, we realize that the human need and tragedies are all around us. By the way, this is the last time you'll be listening to Running to Win in 2022. Can you believe it?
Time has gone so quickly. And even as you anticipate those last year-end gifts, we trust that you'll consider the ministry of Running to Win. We are listener supported.
Thanks to you, this ministry continues to expand. Here's what you can do. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's rtwoffer.com, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And at the end of this message, I'm going to be sharing with you a verse of scripture that is really difficult to understand. You stay tuned. The Greek text and the Hebrew text 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 7.
You remember the Israelites go up against Ai, and they're defeated. Three thousand 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 as 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 6, 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?
Well, 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. The Bible says in Psalm 37, my soul, weigh to thou on God. He says, my expectation comes from him. That does not mean passivity.
It doesn't mean that you don't do anything. But you are submitted to God's timetable. Will you say, what about those Israelites who died who never got to go?
They were older. They never experienced deliverance. That is true. But as we shall see in a moment, even they could have walked with confidence before God if they had only believed.
Yes, there are some trials that will never be taken from us. There are some things that you can pray for. It may be a health issue.
It may be a relational issue. No matter how long you call on God, I think that Paul's thorn in the flesh dogged him until the day he died. But God is doing something deep even when the trial stays.
But we wait for his timing and not ours. Finally, and this is really most important, and that is that we realize that the purpose of all this, why were the people there in Egypt going through such hard times? Why slavery?
Why genocide? Why straw that you have to collect? I mean, what's going on in the text? You know what the whole thing funnels to? It all funnels to this in chapter 14 when they are finally leaving and they're finally saying goodbye to Egypt and they are on their way.
We read these interesting words. Chapter 14 verse 15, the Lord said to Moses, why do you cry to me? Now there's another instance in which God says, you know, there's a time to cry to me and then there's a time to act. Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground and I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And there it is, folks, underline it in your Bible.
It is underlined in mine. I will get glory over Pharaoh. Verse 18, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh.
It's the whole purpose. Whether the Israelites saw it or not, whether a person who was a slave understood it or didn't understand it, God was after one thing and that is glory. And you say, are you telling me that God is willing to put people through slavery? God is willing to put people through excruciating circumstances, even to the point of death, just for his glory? And the answer to that question is it depends on how much you value God.
If God is ultimately of ultimate value, in the end, the answer is yes, because nothing else really matters except his glory. And this morning before I got out of bed, I prayed what I hope you pray every morning before you get out of bed. Oh God, today glorify yourself in me at my expense, because there's nothing else that matters. Best illustration in the Bible. You have to turn to this if you have your Bible with you. It's in the 12th chapter of John, John chapter 12. It is Jesus himself who gives us an illustration and a powerful model to follow when you're going through pain and excruciating difficulty.
Jesus knows that he's about to die in John chapter 12 and he prays to his father in verse 27. Now is my soul troubled and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? Shall I pray that? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. Shall I pray that I'll get out of this difficult situation, this tight place?
Shall I pray for deliverance? Not if it's not the Father's will, because there's something more important than our happiness, something even more important than our health, something more important than all the things that we strive for, and that is ultimately we bow in submission and say, in my life, Lord, be glorified at my expense. Let's nail this down for ourselves even more specifically as we think about our own lives. I want to give you some implications, and the first one is quite long, so I'm going to repeat it maybe two or three times because I want you to write it down. The first implication is simply this, that it is not necessary to see the big picture in order to believe that God has one. It's not necessary to see the big picture as long as we can believe that God has one. In other words, sometimes we don't see the purpose of it all, but we don't have to.
If we believe that God has a purpose, that is sufficient. Rebecca and I have seven beautiful grandchildren, but actually we have eight. Our first granddaughter, Sarah, who would have been our oldest grandchild, was stillborn. She'd have been a teenager now. And as we held her in our arms, my daughter, weeping, said, Dad, why did this happen to us?
Wow. And I gave an answer I want you to write down because somebody may ask you a question like that sometime. It was perhaps the most profound theological answer I have ever given in my life.
My answer was, I don't know. We don't know all of God's hidden purposes. We can't read the fine print of his diary. We can't see all of the purposes that God has in the death of a little girl that would have been so well taken care of. We don't understand that, but we don't have to understand in order to believe that there are purposes, that God's way is best.
And so often in life, during hard times, we don't see the purposes. We don't know the outcome. We don't know all of the hidden things that God is up to. But is God's way best?
Blessed is the person who says yes, his way is best. You don't have to know. We live not by explanations, but by promises.
And there's a big difference. Second, I'd like to say that during a hard time and actually during any time, we should spend more time. We should spend more time looking up than we do looking around. If all that you do during a trial is to see the wind and the waves and all that you see is unending boredom with no answers, it can certainly lead to despair and hopelessness. But if in the midst of this, we are committed to the word of God, we are committed to his promises, we are deeply embedded in our pursuit of God, and we use all of the trials of life to get to know him, even if it means a demotion, even if it means that our ministries are curtailed because we believe that God is bigger than all this.
When we begin to do that, even in the midst of our trials, we discover God is there. When God really wants to prune us, he uses a knife and it hurts. Have you ever seen a gardener, a vine grower that has pruned a vine in the middle of the floor, in the middle of the patch there, there's all kinds of twigs that are deeply cut, but he knows what he's after.
More fruit cut back. I'm after something more important than what you can see. I've quoted it before, but I love the words of Spurgeon. Oh, blessed acts of sorrow that cuts a pathway to my God by chopping down the tall trees of human comfort. It's a pathway to God. Finally, if you don't submit to God in your trial, the trial might be wasted. Not everybody passes a trial successfully, you know. There are those, you know, who go into unbelief. There are those who go into rebellion. There are those who go into all kinds of sins because they figure, where is God anyway?
I might as well forget about him. And so the trial does them no good. You see, in every trial Satan's intention is to ruin you.
God's intention is to grow you. And that's why I'm preaching this message because I want you to make the right decision in the midst of it. I began this message by talking about a friend of mine out of work, stiffed, if we can put it that way, by two different employers, not getting what was due him.
Child struggling with an addiction. His wife is divorcing him. He's had a lot of physical problems hospitalized a week or two ago because of mysterious issues that are going on within him.
Reduced to food stamps. Let me read you an email he sent just this week. First of all, he says that as a kid he watched his father very closely because his father was a pastor and he said, I wanted to see whether my father really believed God, whether or not he had the real deal. He says he was at a meeting where that is this guy, this friend of mine was at a meeting where his father was voted out of the church. He said, I saw such anger in people's faces.
I couldn't understand their reaction. So my father was out of the pulpit for a long time. He struggled.
He says that we had very little money and he goes on to show and to illustrate what that little money meant. But then he goes on to say, I noticed that my father's faith remained firm and I knew it was for real. His father wasn't bitter.
His father worked in other venues. And then he said, I noticed even when my dad was in his final days and his mind was not fully there all the time, when he prayed, it was like he was connecting to a power source different than any other time. And he prayed with gusto, vigor and faith as he had done in his healthier times. I was amazed at the transformation that would occur whenever my dad would pray. When I was a kid, I prayed that God would give me a double portion of my father's spirit. Maybe these difficulties I'm going through are leading me to a double portion of his spirit.
And maybe my kids will see in me what I saw in my father, someone totally committed to the Lord and not wavering in his faith, no matter what the difficulty is. In these difficult times, I too have been humbled. In fact, I have been humbled many times for periods in my adult life. I've had to accept the fact that I failed, made bad decisions, succeeded in some things, failed in others. But I believe I have remained faithful and honest.
And now he describes what life is like. Now more than ever, I feel empathy for other people's struggles as never before. I've been taken into areas of society that I've tried to avoid. Manual labor has always been something I wanted to avoid, but I've done it recently in odd jobs.
I've been directed by God in recent months to do some of this. I've met men in different stratus of the economy and social ladder. I found people to love everywhere, in every place I've been. I've been living with great reliance on a food pantry and food stamps. I get to feel what others feel when they are waiting to check out a grocery store and the clerk says with a loud voice, oh, food stamps.
I get to feel what it is like to take cans of food and milk from the food pantry and have people see you carrying them out the door. In the midst of this, God is working in my life, greatly humbled before him. No matter what you are going through, remember this, somebody, somewhere, someplace has gone through something worse than you are experiencing. And they held to their faith and they made it on the other side. You know the illustration that I gave earlier about the children of Israel being in slavery? Actually in the Bible, the deliverance of the children of Israel out of Egypt is really a picture of our redemption. The Bible pictures us as slaves to sin. If you obey sin, you're its slave, Jesus said. How many of you, whenever sin tells you to do something, you do it?
It doesn't have to be an addiction, but you and I are slaves of sin. And it's not Moses now that we believe, though we believe all that Moses said, but our deliverer is Jesus, the Bible says, who came to save his people from their sins. I don't want to end this message without giving an opportunity to those of you who don't know God personally because you've never received Christ. And though you would not admit it likely, maybe the Holy Spirit has shown you that you're a slave to sin and you need to be purchased, redeemed by Christ. What you need to do is to open your life to him and say, Lord Jesus, I receive you as my savior, my deliverer, my redeemer, because that's why he came. So in this message, there's something for everybody, isn't there? For those of you who haven't gone through a trial, I hope you took notes because one is on the way.
For those of you who are going through a trial, you have the five-point program. And for those of you who don't know Christ personally, you have the opportunity to believe. Would you join me as we pray and would you pray, please, because God is watching and listening. Father, we pray. Help us to cleave to your promises, to believe that we are where we are by divine appointment. Help us, Lord, we pray, to wait for your timing and to realize that at the end of the day, nothing else matters except that you get glory through us for your honor.
Oh God, do that in us. Whatever work you desire to do now, as your people pray to you, we ask that you shall hear them. Well, my friend, this is Pastor Luther. Time certainly goes quickly, doesn't it?
To think that just around the corner, we'll be celebrating 2023. You know, there are many passages in the Bible that are puzzling. One of them actually comes to us in 2 Corinthians 9 where it says that God loves a cheerful giver. It's puzzling because doesn't God love all of His people equally? Is there something special about those who give joyfully?
Well, apparently there is. God loves a cheerful giver. And as you come to the end of the year, I trust that all of us will be cheerful givers. And as you consider giving, consider the ministry of Running to Win. Here's what you can do.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Of course, from my heart to yours, I want to thank the many people who support this ministry. For some of you who have listened to Running to Win for a long time, you've never connected with us, we encourage you to do that.
And of course, I hope that you continue to listen even as we enter a brand new year. Here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com. Of course, rtwoffer is all one word. Or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's rtwoffer.com or 1-888-218-9337. And have a blessed new year. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. As a new year beckons, make Running to Win a part of your daily journey through the unknowns that lie ahead. Thank you for being part of the Running to Win family this past year. We look forward to sharing another year of teaching to help all of us make it across the finish line. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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