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Suffering, Saving, and Serving, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
September 15, 2023 9:00 am

Suffering, Saving, and Serving, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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September 15, 2023 9:00 am

As we continue our series through Psalm 23, Pastor J.D. Greear examines the life of Namaan—a powerful king with a powerful problem: leprosy. Naaman would eventually get the healing he was after, but not before God led him in a direction he never expected to go.

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Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Pastor, author, and theologian, J.D. Greer.

As always, I'm your host, Molly Bidevich. You know, if you pay attention, one of the Bible's most consistent and compelling themes is the idea of the suffering servant. Time and time again, God brings redemption and healing to the nations through the suffering of his righteous servants. It's what he did through Joseph. It's what he does in a young girl from today's teaching. And it's what he does ultimately in Jesus. And it's what he intends to do in and through us. Could it be that God wants to use our suffering to bring about good?

And if that's a question you've wondered about before, then you definitely don't want to miss today's teaching. And as a reminder, if you've missed any part of our brand new teaching series from Psalm 23 so far, you can always catch up free of charge online at jdgreer.com. Now let's rejoin Pastor J.D. in Psalm 23. Naaman had not been looking for God. He'd been looking for a cure for leprosy. But God used his search for a cure to lead him to something even greater than the cure itself. And that is a relationship with God himself. And the knowledge of God that he found was so valuable that when he finally met Elisha for the first time, he forgot even to mention the healing.

All he talked about was God. If you go into your boss's office to request this Friday off and the boss says, well, sure, but while you're here, I just got done meeting with our board. You did a great job last year, and we're going to give you a $200,000 bonus. When you get home that night and your wife or your husband says, how was work today?

I doubt you'll even bring up that you were able to get Friday off. See, that's what happened to Naaman. He found something better than a healing for leprosy. He found the Lord.

So I want to use this story to make two points. Number one, God uses your pain to bring you to him. Here is the question that Naaman's story ought to make you ask. What if God was trying to send you a message in your pain?

I'm not saying that this is true for everybody that's in pain right now, but it is a question that some of us should at least ask. You see, up until this moment, Naaman, up until the moment that Naaman discovered this spot on him, he had felt on top of the world. The story says he was on the king's arm, which means he was the king's right-hand man. It says he was highly regarded, which meant he was a celebrity. Everybody in Syria loved him.

People were always asking to take selfies. He was a national hero, trending on Twitter, whatever. All that was taken away in a moment by one small spot. One small spot brought the mighty Naaman crashing to the ground.

One small spot showed him how fragile everything else was. What if God was doing something similar in your pain? Again, I'm not saying for sure that that is what is happening, but what if that problem had been put there by God to wake you up to a bigger problem?

And that is a problem that you're not right with God and you don't know him. I know a lot of athletes that point to a debilitating injury as the thing that finally woke them up to the really important things in life. I once met a professional athlete a few years ago who had just signed a multimillion dollar contract to play in the pros. But then he got into an accident doing something dumb that totally destroyed his future career. This guy did not know God.

His career was his God. He told me with tears in his eyes, I lay there on the ground, my legs broken, saying to myself, I can't believe I threw away my entire career for a few foolish seconds of fun. And I said to him, I said, respectfully, man, I think God may have been doing something way bigger in your life. I think he might've been trying to say to you, you're throwing away your entire eternity for a few seconds of glory in an athletic arena. Make a long story short, God ended up using this tragedy as he does with many people to bring this man to Christ. So what if God in your pain had something for you beyond something even better than the cure that you seek?

And what if this thing that God had for you was so valuable that after you found God like Naaman, you find yourself failing even to mention the healing so great is the treasure you now have in God. So again, I ask, has God revealed a spot in your life that tells you that you're not as together as you fought? Maybe that spot is a wrinkle in your marriage. I said what powerful men and women sometimes who can speak and command things that work and their power is amazing, but their marriage is falling apart and they don't know anything they can do about it. Maybe it's a problem with your kids and you feel helpless.

That's maybe where I see this the most. You're worried about your kids or maybe your kids are wandering. Maybe you got no more relationship with them and you keep asking, how did we get here? Maybe it's a habit that you can't break this morning. Alcoholism has somehow snuck up on you.

And you're like, I don't know how, I don't know how to start talking about this. Pornography, a bad temporary bad temper. Maybe it's a personal failure that you're humiliated by. Maybe it's just a dull, aching unhappiness that you just can't get rid of. Maybe it's this inability to figure things out.

You feel paralyzed, unsure of what way you're supposed to go. A health scare. In a sense, all of us have that same spot. It's our mortality. We are all going to die. Your body has an expiration date on it. It's like we're all walking around with a stick of dynamite in our hand with no idea how long the fuse is.

It could be a week, it could be 70 years, but at some point you will die. Even with all of our advances in modern medicine, the death rate is holding steady at 100%. See these spots can all wake you up to a bigger problem. That is where you stand with God, the God who created all of us. You see leprosy throughout the Bible symbolizes sin. Like leprosy, sin deadens. Like leprosy, it grows in you and corrupts you over time. Because of it, you slowly begin to lose feeling in parts of your life. Parts of you die. Your innocence dies, your joy dies, your optimism, your compassion for others. In many ways, you become grotesque spiritually. Scripture says the penalty, the wages, the result of sin is death. Our souls have a spot of sin on them that is corroding us from the inside out. So the sin is dead.

Sometimes these lesser spots, the problems in our lives can wake us up to the ultimate spot that we should be worried about. I haven't told this story in a while, I think, but before I became pastor here, I worked on a landscaping crew. So when you got me as pastor, you got somebody highly qualified, right? This foreman on our crew was this giant of a man. I never knew his real name. I only called him Ivan because he looked just like Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. He was tall, about 6'8", he was blonde, he was mean, he cussed all the time.

One day as we pulled up to a job, he started cussing and he let out, I don't know what kind of mood he was in that day, but he just let out strange cussed words. It was kind of like a work of art. I was like, I don't, that was impressive. But it included several phrases that just blaspheme God's name. And I don't know what got into me. Actually, I do know, I got filled up with the Holy Spirit. And I said, Ivan, you need to watch your mouth because one day you're going to stand before God and you're going to give an account for all that you have said. And trust me, man, when you stand there, you don't want to have all that blaspheme of God's name on your account. And then y'all, the Holy Spirit totally left me.

Just me, looking at the 6'8", guys. So I turned and walked off stage. I heard these big footsteps coming up behind me. He got right in front of me. And he said, do you, in fact, I remember it was one of the oddest moments, never would have anticipated this. I look up at him and he's got this look in his eye. He looks mad, but he's also, there's something, he said, do you really think, wait, back to the first thing. He said, say that again. So this time I said it a lot less eloquent and bold. And his face softened.

He said, do you really think God is going to judge me for how I live? And I said, well, yes. And we started to talk. And the more I found out there was these things going on, he had just been, he told me the week before his wife and him, he'd gone to the doctor and cause he discovered a skin cancer spot. And the doctor had said, look, it's kind of 50 50.

We might be able to cure this, but this might be the beginning of the end for you. And he said, my wife and I were terrified. He goes, that's all we can think about.

And then here you are now telling me that I'm going to stand before God. Later that afternoon, like three or four hours later, there was an accident right beside the lot where we were working. And Ivan was the first one on the scene, the teenage kid in this accident almost died. We were standing there waiting for the police to come.

He was, Ivan was really, really quiet. And finally he looked over at me and he said, JD, do you, you feel like God is trying to speak to me, the spot, then you say what you said to me earlier. And then now this accident right here where I see this kid just about die, you feel like God is speaking to me.

And I'm like, no, I think God is screaming at you. God uses spots in our lives to wake us up to him. The point of this story is not of course, that every leper who heads out to the Jordan river is going to find healing for their skin disease. The point is to show you that God sometimes uses suffering to open up your eyes to your need of him.

Again, I'm not saying that's the case with you. Like we saw with Job and with Joseph, a lot of our suffering does not have a root cause in our lives, but sometimes God is trying to get your attention. That's why the writer of Psalm 119 says, before I was afflicted, I went astray. In other words, but now I obey your word. In other words, God used affliction to bring me back to himself. And now I obey, now that I've been afflicted.

Maybe that's happening to you. Our first point is that God often uses our pain to bring us back to him. And Naaman shows us that all we need to do to respond to God, all that we need to say yes, it's just humility and faith. You're like, where do I start?

What do I do? That's all you need, humility and faith. Isn't that the one thing that God keeps going after with Naaman? Naaman in this story keeps trying to get to the top. Let me see the prophet.

Here's an enormous amount of money. Ask me to do something hard. Yet God keeps sending Naaman to the bottom.

Talk to an intern, do something humiliating. The path to God is the path of humility. The way up is the way down.

You can't get there any other way. If you are going to be saved, the one thing you absolutely need is a crushing sense of absolute need. Ephesians 2 8 and 9 says, it's by grace, grace, God's unmerited favor that you have been saved through faith and faith not in what you've done, faith in what Jesus has done. It's the gift of God. This healing Naaman has nothing to do with your might or strength.

In fact, your might and strength are only getting in the way. It's not given as a reward for anything in you. It's the gift of God. You see, the cross absolutely destroys our pride. The cross declares God's verdict on our lives was death. Listen, I know a bunch of you, some of you've always lived for the report card. You always want the A, you always want the high pass, the graduated with honors, the magna cum laude, the pat on the back on the report card of life, the only report card that actually matters.

All of us got a failing grade. And to receive healing from Jesus, you got to admit that, you got to embrace it. You got a glory in it. Thanks for joining us today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. We'll get back to today's teaching from Psalm 23 in a moment. But first, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about our newest premium resource, which is also based on Psalm 23. That's right, we've designed a study specifically to help you dig deeper into this profoundly famous Psalm in a whole new way. Sure, you might have heard Psalm 23 before. You might even have it memorized.

You might even have it memorized. But what I love about this study is how the application questions really make you think about what it means that the Lord is our good shepherd and the implications that that has for our lives. Do you have a friend or a family member in need? This resource could be just the right encouragement to help them along the way. And we'd love to send you a copy with your gift of $35 or more to support this ministry. As always, we're sending this resource to each of our gospel partners this month as well.

And we'd love to have you join that team. To give, call us at 866-335-5220 or head to jdgreer.com. Now let's get back to today's teaching here on Summit Life. Once again, here's Pastor JD. So I ask again, do you have the humility to come to Jesus? Think about how much humility it took for Naaman to cross that border into Israel, a place he regarded as inferior to Syria.

To admit that the healing that he sought could not be found among his own mighty Syrians, but among the despised Jews. I say that because maybe that's where some of you are. You never ever thought you would be in a place like this one right here this morning. With people like these, a bunch of born-again Christians.

And for some of you, we're in the same category as knuckle dragon Neanderthals. Do you have the humility and courage to question your convictions and to consider these things with an open mind? Y'all, God can save anybody. It just takes humility and faith. Faith means just believing what God says and taking a chance on it like Naaman did. You see, just as it was with Naaman, there is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins. Sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stain. But you got to believe that and you got to plunge yourself in. I got to definitely get a second point.

So I love talking about this stuff. Number two, God uses your pain to bring others to him. Well, y'all let's turn away from the pain of Naaman and let's turn toward the pain of this little girl for a minute.

Because in a big way, she's the real hero of this story. Here's why I say that. How would you respond if the man who had murdered your friends and family and then took you captive and made you a slave in his house, how would you respond if that man got leprosy?

I know what I would have said. Old goons got leprosy, serves him right. Now I get to watch his decrepit old body fall apart and die. But listen to what this incredible young lady of faith says, verse three. Would that my Lord were with the prophets who was in Samaria, he could cure him of his leprosy. She seems genuinely to care about Naaman. Y'all, she seems remarkably to have forgiven him for all the pain that he caused her. Somehow a little 14 year old girl has the faith to say, you know what? I'm going to let God be the judge and I'm going to let him make things right. My job is to have compassion.

Her cup ran over. I have to imagine, y'all the only way that she responded like this was because she had internalized the stories and the songs of her Jewish people. This is generations after David, so she might even have known or memorized Psalm 23.

Many Jews had most of the Psalter memorized. So can't you just picture this little girl lying in her bed at night, probably terrified, lonely, quoting this Psalm to herself. When we get to heaven, I really want to give this little girl a hug because this sweet little 14 year old girl whose name we never even know gives us one of the clearest Old Testament pictures of Jesus. I mean, think about it. She suffered through no fault of her own. In fact, her suffering was caused by Naaman's sin and yet she forgave the man who caused her sin and what's more, her suffering became the means of his salvation. His healing came only because of the suffering of the one that he sinned against, right?

I mean, think about it. Had she not been in this situation, Naaman would never have heard about Elisha and so he would have died of his leprosy. So her suffering, which he caused became the means of his salvation. In the same way, our salvation would come through a suffering servant whose suffering we caused. Like this little girl, Jesus suffered not for his own sin, but for ours. And like her, instead of hating us for causing his suffering, he forgave us and kept loving us. And his suffering became the means by which we can wash our sins away.

We killed it, but we killed it. But surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows. We esteemed him smitten by God and afflicted, but in actuality, he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The price, the punishment that brought us peace was laid upon him and by his stripes, the stripes we cause, we now are healed. And so now, Lord, now indeed, I find that thy power and thine alone can change this leper's spots and melt the heart of stone. Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe, said it left a crimson stain.

He washed it white as snow. Here's what that means for you, believer. Like this little girl, God uses our suffering now to bring others to him. Remember the melody line of the Bible that I mentioned earlier? The melody line is that God, through the suffering of his righteous servants, brings redemption and healing to the nations. It's what he did through Joseph.

It's what he did with this little girl. Ultimately, it's what he's gonna do in Jesus, and it's what he intends to do through you. Suffering servants are at the center of God's plan.

Let me say that again. Suffering servants are at the center of God's plan. Some of you are like, oh, I wanna be at the center of God's will.

Are you sure? Because suffering servants are at the center of God's plan. If God's gonna put you in the center of his will, I'm guessing, based on the melody of the line of the Bible, that this is gonna be part of your life. Or to put it a different way, suffering is the God-ordained means by which God brings salvation to others.

Listen to how the apostle Paul says it. Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake. Who am I suffering for? My sake?

No, for your sake. And in my flesh, I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body that is the church. Now, y'all, in one sense, that verse almost sounds blasphemous, does it not? What could possibly be lacking in Christ's afflictions? Wasn't like the last thing Jesus said before he died, it is finished. If it's finished, what could still be lacking? Well, yeah, the work of salvation is finished.

Jesus said it's finished, it's done. But the work of telling people about it is not. And it's like Martin Luther said, it wouldn't matter if Jesus died a thousand times if nobody ever heard about it.

And God has appointed your suffering and my suffering and our sacrifices as the means by which others can hear the gospel. Some of you may have heard the story of Eric Little, or some of people say Liddell. He's a Scottish Olympic runner in the 1920s whose story inspired the movie Chariots of Fire. We remember Little for what the movie depicts, how because of his religious convictions, he refused to race on Sunday, was reassigned to a race that was four times longer than the one he trained for, and he still won.

It's an awesome movie. But what we often skip is that after he became an Olympic gold medalist, Little went on to be a missionary in China in 1925. He worked in one of the poorest provinces in the country. And when war broke out in 1941, the British government ordered all their citizens to leave China. But Little stayed, Eric Little stayed because he knew that his ultimate allegiance was not to the British government or the Chinese government, it was to Jesus. And when the Japanese army got closer to his city in 1942, he stayed to help the poor Chinese that he'd given his life to. And when in 1943, the Japanese took the city, he got sent along with all of them to an internment camp where he spent the last two years of his life. All who knew him there described him as this selfless, loving, completely focused on others guy. He led all kinds of Chinese prisoners to Christ, and he started a church in there in that prison.

Well, right toward the end of the war, 1945, the Japanese selected a random group of prisoners to be set free, and they were gonna kill the rest of them. He got chosen to be set free, but he chose, he voluntarily gave up his spot so that a pregnant woman that he led to Christ could go free in his place, and he was shot and died. Eric Liddell understood that it is often through our wounds that God brings healing and salvation to others. Now y'all wanna be clear, listen, I don't mean that if you're in an abusive situation like this young lady in our story was, that God wants you to stay there. If you're in a situation where you're being abused, mistreated, you got the opportunity to get out, please by all means take that opportunity. You are not helping anybody by staying in an abusive situation when you could get out of it. If anything, you're just empowering the abuser. I'm just saying that often what we later see is that in those moments where we felt like we couldn't control things, and when we were suffering and we didn't know why, God had a good plan in that to use our suffering to point others to Jesus.

So here's the question. Are you willing to take on wounds so that other people can come to know Jesus? See, maybe that's what he's doing in your pain. He's giving you a chance to put Jesus on display, and you need to ask God. You need to ask God to help you shine in suffering.

He is, life is squeezing you right now, and you just say, God, give me the ability to wring out Jesus. Maybe that's gonna require you forgiving somebody, a spouse, a boyfriend, a parent, a business partner. Maybe that's gonna happen through you voluntarily making a financial sacrifice. A financial sacrifice can be a kind of voluntarily imposed suffering, particularly if it's one that affects your lifestyle. Y'all, listen, I'm not questioning anybody's suffering in here.

Please hear me on that. But isn't there something about talking about suffering while sitting in an air-conditioned auditorium in the most developed country in the world that ought to make us ask the question, am I willing to embrace, am I really willing to embrace sacrifices to voluntarily take on wounds so that other people can hear about Jesus and experience that abundant, flourishing life? What powerful insights from God's word today. And as we wrap up another week, I want to pause and say a special thank you to all of our gospel partners. If you're new to Summit Life and you're not familiar with our gospel partners, they are our team members. They are our team of monthly financial donors who make every part of this ministry possible. So if you've been blessed by this ministry, we would be honored if you would consider joining this exclusive team. And as our way of saying thank you, we craft and curate exclusive premium resources that we'll send directly to you each month. Right now, we'd love to send you a copy of Goodness in the Middle, a study guide through Psalm 23 that Pastor JD wrote to accompany our brand new teaching series that we've been enjoying this week. To join us as a gospel partner or to give a one-time gift, simply call us at 866-335-5220, or you can always visit us online at jdgrier.com. While you're on the website, don't forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter. It's a great way to stay connected with Summit Life, and it's completely free to subscribe. Sign up when you go to jdgrier.com. I'm Molly Vidovitch, wishing you a very happy rest of your weekend and inviting you to join us next time as we continue our teaching series through Psalm 23. We'll see you again right here, same time, same place for Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-29 01:43:53 / 2023-10-29 01:55:10 / 11

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