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When Providence Stings #2

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green
The Truth Network Radio
May 10, 2024 12:00 am

When Providence Stings #2

The Truth Pulpit / Don Green

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May 10, 2024 12:00 am

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Welcome to The Truth Pulpit with Don Green, Founding Pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hello again, I'm Bill Wright. It is our joy to continue our commitment to teaching God's people God's Word. Today Don is continuing with the second part of a message we started last time. So let's get right to it.

Open your Bible as we join Don now in The Truth Pulpit. Years and years ago I had a friend back in my college days, my law school days, who actually was an Olympic gold medalist in wrestling. 1960 in Rome.

I think it was in Rome. He won a gold medal. He showed me his gold medal.

It was really cool. He went through so much training, so much difficulty, persevered through key prior defeats in his earlier career as he lost at championship levels, matches that he was expected to win. Then he gets to the Olympics and he wins.

Unbelievable. So, so cool for him to have done that. But beloved, the victory of the gold medal was preceded by all kinds of adversity, by all kinds of hard training, by years and years of training in private with sweat and blood and tears. But the victory was worth it.

But you don't get a victory like that without embracing and going through the adversity that precedes it. Letting him say, well done, thou good and faithful servant. Every one of you should want that. Every one of you should understand that that is the ultimate goal in life.

That's the gold medal for all of us. It does not come in this life when we stand before him and he affirms us, well done, thou good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master. He places the gold medal, as it were, around our neck.

But beloved, the path to that is through the training and the discipline and the adversity that comes. And so we don't follow Christ looking for a problem-free life. We don't use Jesus like that. We don't use him in a way that just makes it easy for us when he himself said, take up your cross and follow me. When he himself went to Calvary, he himself suffered. What is the mindset? What is the dark genius behind the evil spirit that would make people think you could follow a crucified Christ in order to have a successful, prosperous, pain-free life?

That's ridiculous. If we follow our master, we expect to share in his sufferings. And so beloved, do not come to Christ looking for a problem-free life because that approach inevitably collapses on you when disappointment and grief and illness and your deathbed inevitably come.

It's inevitable. I'm being your friend. I'm helping you by emphasizing that point. We need a faith that is grounded upon an understanding of God's purpose when he sends a stinging providence to us, whether it stings a little or it stings a lot. Lord, this hurts.

Yes, it does. Now what? We've seen the context. Let's consider the goals of a stinging providence.

We'll see if I can get through these six points in the time remaining. What are the goals of a stinging providence? What is God doing and intending when adversity comes to us?

What I'm about to describe to you is not at all intended to be comprehensive or exhaustive, but it's more than enough to give your mind things to consider and to help you find some footing in the midst of a slippery slope. Here are some of the designs that God has for you in your sufferings. First of all, he is testing you. He is testing you. Adversity exposes the true nature of men.

It exposes the true nature of men. The test, beloved, of your Christianity, the test of your sanctification, the test of your maturity in Christ is never what is happening and how you respond to prosperity and a favorable providence. That's never the real test of it, any more than a soldier is tested by marching through a 4th of July parade, you know, with adoring crowds and confetti falling around him.

That's not the test. A soldier is tested in battle. A soldier is tested under fire. That's where courage is manifested. That's where honor, that's where all of the training comes to bear. For that soldier is under fire and in like manner. Beloved, your Christian character is tested and even revealed by what happens and how you respond to the storm.

Does the house stand when the winds blow or does it collapse? Do you affirm your trust in God even though there are no outward circumstances to reinforce that for you or do you turn to grumbling and questioning and discontent? That's a series of its own, the whole matter of discontentment. But in a stinging providence, God is testing you, not because He needs to know what's there. He already knows so that you would see what's there. And the Apostle Peter speaks of the exposing nature of this affliction if you would turn to 1 Peter chapter 1. 1 Peter chapter 1, after the books of Hebrews and after James.

1 Peter chapter 1, beginning in verse 3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials. You've been grieved by it.

What's the point of that? Verse 7, so that the tested genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. In part, God sends trials to you to refine the gold of your faith. It is not because He's opposed to you. If you've been reconciled in Christ, that's impossible. That's no way to think. But God sends trials to test us, to purify us.

As gold is purified by fire, the impurities rise to the top and are skimmed off and there's a pure version of the gold left behind after the heat has been applied. So it is when really long-term serious trials come, God is testing you, refining you, purifying you. He is teaching you to trust in Him alone even when there are no outward promptings for any confidence. Have you ever been in a situation like that where there seemed no way forward? There was no human relief to be found? Maybe even the people around you were not even helpful in their counsel to you?

And it's so dark, so difficult, so plodding. It's precisely in those moments where you're being tested. Will you trust in God alone? Will you trust Christ alone even if there is no outward support for that faith?

You're being tested. And when all of the self-trust, all of the hope and trust in man is purged out and you still can affirm your trust and your faith in Christ, then that results in praise and glory and honor to Him. Just like with Job, Job repented in chapter 42 after all of his sufferings.

He said, I'd heard about you before, but now my eye sees you. I repent in dust and ashes. And thereby it was shown that the purpose of the trial, the purpose of what we're to understand is not why does Job suffer, because Job never knew that himself. The purpose of the book of Job is to teach us and to ask and answer the question, why does Job serve? Why do we follow Christ? We follow Him not for what He can do for us. We follow Him because He is implicitly, intrinsically, entirely, and exclusively worthy of that devotion come what may.

That's part of what your trials are designed to bring out to you. Face to face with the question, why are you professing Christ? Why do you serve Him? Why do you confess Him? The answer is because He's worthy of it. Period.

Full stop. I don't need anything else to justify it. That results in praise and glory to God. So He tests us. Secondly, He exposes your sin. He exposes your sin. And I suppose I could write an autobiography just around this point that I'm making here. You and I, we tend to think well of ourselves when things are going well.

It's easy to be polite and supportive to others when things are going our way. But then suffering or then something contrary comes to us and shows us what the truth actually is. And the ugly stuff comes out. The anger, the discontent, the retaliation. And what Scripture teaches us is that God uses that to show us our prior sin so that we would not continue in it. Look at Psalm 73, and as you're getting to Psalm 73, put your finger there.

And with another finger, put it to Psalm 119. Because there's a couple of passages in Psalms that I want to call your attention to. In Psalm 73, the psalmist had been discouraged by the prosperity of the wicked while he was in affliction. And he resented it.

He resented it. And in verse 21 of Psalm 73, he says, When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant. I was like a beast before you.

He looks back after the trial has been relieved and he says, My mind was dark. I was in sin. My heart was hostile to God himself. I was like a beast. I was like an unreasoning animal.

My mind was not working right. If only someone had built a Christian mind in me beforehand. But my mind wasn't operating right, and I was like an animal before you, God, with my resentment and my unthinking reactions. Verse 23, Nevertheless, I am continually with you.

You hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Now he's speaking from a position of faith.

He says, I'm always with you because you're faithful. I'll live this life, I'll die, and then you'll receive me into glory. God, that should have been governing my perspective all along. But before you taught me that in the midst of my affliction, I was like an unreasoning animal. I was a beast before you. Look at Psalm 119 in verse 67. Psalm 119 verse 67, Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep your word. Verse 71, It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. Before I was afflicted, before this stinging providence came, I was spinning out of control.

Your stinging providence brought me back to a place of obedience, beloved. In both Psalm 73 and in Psalm 119, the psalmist is looking back on adversity, looking back on mental or physical affliction. And in hindsight, in hindsight, he recognizes previously existing sin in his life that had been brought to the surface. The stinging providence exposed that sin, led him to repentance, and then he was moved on in restored, strengthened, and yet chastened faith. God exposes our sin in the midst of adversity. In the midst of your present adversity, you remember we framed the discussion around this? In your present adversity, is it pointing out things?

Do you look back and say, Man, look at what I used to be like. Look what I am like. I got to get out of this. God, be merciful to me.

Help me. Thirdly, third goal of the stinging providence, God tests you. He exposes your sin. Thirdly, he builds your character. He builds your character.

And this is a more positive design in a stinging providence. Look at Romans chapter 5. Romans chapter 5, remembering that all we can do is point these things out and then you're left to meditate on them.

You're responsible to meditate on them. In Romans chapter 5, verse 1. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him, we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces. OK, there's the key for us. There's the pivot for today. Suffering is doing something to us.

It brings something out and put something in. Suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Paul says we're not grumbling our way through a stinging providence. We're not simply keeping a stiff upper lip, folding our arms across our chest and say, I'll be a rock here.

I won't like it, but I won't bend. And those are sub-Christian attitudes. Paul says we rejoice in our sufferings because we understand what it produces. It does something to our character over the course of time.

And so God builds character into us by sending difficulties that we persevere through and come out better on the other side. Suffering presses you. I get that. It presses me.

Has pressed me in the past, I should say. Sometimes it crushes us and it's crushed me in the past. I understand. I get that.

And so I'm on your side here. But that suffering is producing a good long-term result. God sends that adversity to build character in you over the long haul.

Those of you that have walked for any length of time at all in Christ, maybe you haven't thought about it this way, but on the basis of prior adversity that God has brought you through, you should find if you reflect upon it that you've got a greater patience for adversity now than you did beforehand because you've been trained by it. You've been conditioned by it. You can look at a trial completely different in form, say, I've been here before. I know what it's like to suffer. I know what it's like to not get the immediate resolution I want.

I've done that in the past. I remember times and episodes in life, and so you draw upon that and say, I can be stronger. I can be better here because of what God put into me in my prior affliction. Fourthly. Fourthly, number one, He tests us. He exposes our sin. Thirdly, He builds character. Fourthly, He draws us closer to Himself. He draws us closer to Himself. The Savior who suffered appoints affliction for you, knowing that you will suffer under it because He knows that thereby you and He will have more in common.

There'll be more to share together. You read His sufferings in Gethsemane with a greater sense of sympathy, saying, I know what it's like to suffer, and Christ was suffering even more greatly there. Christ, because He took on human flesh, knows what human suffering is like Himself, and Scripture says He sympathizes with us in our suffering. There's a mutuality here. And beloved, beloved, for the one who genuinely loves Christ, for the one who really wants Christ, not simply what Christ can do for her, what Christ can do for Him, but wants Christ Himself, then this is actually appealing. Paul says, you know, I want to share in His sufferings.

I want to know the fellowship of His sufferings, Philippians 3. I alluded to Job earlier. You can turn back to Job chapter 42, just before the Psalms. Job 42.

And since I've already alluded to this, we don't need to spend much time here. Job was a blameless man. God sent deep affliction upon him. And at the end of the affliction, but before it had been removed, Job knew that he had come to know God better. In Job 42, verses 5 and 6, he said, I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. God, my knowledge of you is more direct than it was before this adversity hit.

Say that again. God, my knowledge of you is more direct, more personal. It's by experience in a way that was not true before this adversity hit.

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. God used the affliction, drew Job closer to himself. When the spiritual result had been achieved, he restored him, as you read in the rest of chapter 42. He draws us closer to himself.

Fifthly, and this is going to be very convicting, okay? Can't be any other way. He prepares us to love others.

He prepares us to love others. When God sends a stinging providence, we tend to get self-centered. I've got this problem. Let me tell you about my problem. Have I told you about my problem? Oh, I have.

I'll tell someone else. And we just become so self-preoccupied with it all. Beloved, that's part of what he's purging away. In the long run, what God is doing with those stinging providences is he's preparing you to love others more effectively. And as Christian people, we need to embrace that and not resent it, not turn away from it. Look at 2 Corinthians chapter 1. 2 Corinthians chapter 1. You see, beloved, there's more at stake than you and me in the midst of our stinging providences. There's a whole host of other people to think about that need help and blessing from God that God will bring across our paths in time to come. 2 Corinthians chapter 1 verse 3. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction so that there's a purpose to it.

It's not meant to be a cul-de-sac that ends it with you. You're not the end goal of the comfort of God that he gives to you in your stinging providence. He's preparing you for something else. So that, verse 4, we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. He comforts us in affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Here you are suffering in your stinging providence. God comforts you, not so that you can return to living selfishly, but so that you say, oh, I see how comfort works. I know the principles that helped me.

I need to share these with others. I need to come alongside those that are discouraged and say, here's how God comforted me. Let me help you with what God used to comfort me. And we don't speak down.

We don't speak theoretically. We speak experientially, saying, I know it hurts. Here's what helps. You know what helps, beloved? Knowing the context and the goals of our stinging providences. He stings us, heals us, and then sends us out to be vessels of His grace.

It's hard for young men, especially those that are theologically inclined in the early days of their experience, it's hard for young men to understand that. So, so often God will bruise them deeply before He sends them into ministry or sends them out in whatever capacity so that the edge of academic theory is softened into the comforting hand of God. Now, finally, sufferings prepare us for glory. Sufferings prepare us for glory. Let's just go back to Psalm 73 and wrap it up with this. Psalm 73, what a blessing and a comfort this is. Throughout all of our stinging providences, God, by His providence, is directing it all, determining the limits, the depth, the duration of it.

He's guiding all of it to accomplish a goal with an eternally glorious outcome. The psalmist said, I read it earlier, Psalm 73 verse 24, you guide me with your counsel and afterward you will receive me to glory. Beloved, when earthly comfort fails you, when circumstances cannot, will not change, God teaches you in those times to find your greatest blessing in God Himself.

That's what Habakkuk learned at the end of chapter 3. Nevertheless, I will exalt in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. Let nothing change, God. I'm content in you.

I rejoice in you. I celebrate, I exalt, I sing exuberantly to you because you have become the all-sufficient portion of my soul. Beloved, even within the so-called church, I'm leaving you with a final exhortation, challenge, aspiration here as I close. Most people are far more eager to get rid of their problems than they are to find the purpose of God in them. They're far more eager to have tranquil circumstances restored than to know the God who's behind all of our circumstances. Beloved, settle it in your heart in the midst of your presently stinging providence.

Say, whatever anybody else does, I'm going to be different. I want the purpose of God. I want to be satisfied in Christ.

I want to be content in Him. Whether this thing changes or not. And so our prayer becomes less.

God, change this and take it away. And our prayer becomes more, God, sanctify this affliction to the good of my soul. God, what is it that you have for my soul here? Martin Lloyd-Jones says, when we ask that question, we're on the high road to the blessing of God. What is it that God would have for my soul in this affliction?

That orients us rightly and properly. And you know, beloved, if God's going to send affliction to us, we might as well get the benefit of it, right? Let's pray together.

Father, I know that we've covered so much so quickly. I pray for the work of your Holy Spirit in each heart in the aftermath of what we've heard. And Father, I pray that for each one here, for each believer in Christ here, that you would sanctify each affliction to your eternal glory and to their eternal good. And help by your spirit, each one of us, to sort through the chaos of broken lives and find your sure purpose and presence in the midst of it. For others, Father, not in Christ, at least not yet, I pray that your spirit would use this affliction to reorient them away from a preoccupation with this world, that they might be consumed by the thought and the urgency. I must find Christ in this. I must be reconciled to Him. And then, Father, as your spirit works that desire, lead them safely to the crucified and risen Savior who made a blood atonement for the souls of all who would believe in Him.

We pray in Jesus' name. Amen. That's Don Green here on The Truth Pulpit. And here's Don again with some closing thoughts.

Well, thank you, Bill. And my friend, I want to let you know of a special ministry that we have at thetruthpulpit.com that's very near to my heart. We have a ministry to those who are in prison.

And in the nature of life, sometimes we have loved ones that go astray and find themselves behind bars spending significant time in incarceration. Well, we have a ministry to them. We send them transcripts of messages that I've preached from the pulpit of Truth Community Church. We do it on a weekly basis.

They get mail every week. If you have a loved one in prison that you would like to have us reach out to in that way, do me a favor. Go to our website, thetruthpulpit.com. That's thetruthpulpit.com. Click on the link that says about, and you'll see a dropdown menu that will take you to our prison ministry. You can fill out the form and we'll be happy to respond and then join in with you in ministering to that one who is outside the normal course of society. So that's thetruthpulpit.com, the about link for our prison ministry.

That will do it for today. We'll see you next time on The Truth Pulpit. That's Don Green, founding pastor of Truth Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Thank you so much for listening to The Truth Pulpit. Join us next time for more as we continue teaching God's people God's word.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-10 04:57:20 / 2024-05-10 05:08:02 / 11

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