Consider four truths that will help you to cope well in these troubled times.
Well, brethren, many of us have been in the Church a long time, but I see quite a few here have not been in the Church all that long. We have quite a few teenagers, quite a few young adults, quite a few middle-aged people, and then we got some old people like me that have been around the church a long time. Regardless, we've all seen many brethren struggle with health issues in various ways. And I think especially recently, I would say that we all know people, even if we weren't the ones that were sick, we know people that were sick and may have even died in some cases. It's a reality that we're dealing with right now. Suffering and death are not new to the Church of God, we understand that. We know that. Certainly, those of us have been around a long time have seen a lot of that over the years.
The Bible catalogs much suffering and death among the children of God for the past nearly 6000 years. And there have been periods of pandemic, of course, in the world much worse than what we've been experiencing lately. And, obviously, there were some of God's children living at the time of those pandemics. They had to go through those times as well because we know there's been a church throughout the ages, very small at times, but people have been affected in the past. But in the modern era of God's Church, let's say in the past 90 years, I don't believe we've experienced the level of sickness in a concentrated period of time namely, the last year and a half, and especially the last three or four months. I don't recall ever experiencing this type of situation with sickness, with health issues. This is different. It feels different. It is different. It's a unique period of history in the modern era of God's church. And I think we need to acknowledge that.
I think this is a teaching moment, perhaps. Mr. Metzel gave a wonderful sermonette. This is a teaching moment, I believe. And whatever it is God wants us to learn and teach us, I hope we will get it. You know, I hope we'll learn it. And I hope that we will all be praying that God will help us understand the sign of the times, the times that we live in, the gravity of the situation, and how it applies to each and every single one of us. This is a teachable moment, so let us learn so that we can perhaps do better in certain ways in the future, all of us, in various ways.
So, we should all acknowledge that we're living in troubled times. The pandemic we're facing is not a hoax. You know, I've heard people say that. Well, I would hope they're not saying it any longer because they've got their head stuck in the sand somewhere and they're not dealing with reality. It's certainly not a hoax. You know, we know people who have died from it. How could anyone be so calloused to go down that path any longer? I would hope not. I hope we're learning some things as we go along. It's not a hoax. Real people are dying. Real people are suffering. You probably know some of those real people that I'm talking about today. I don't know about you, but this has sobered me the last few weeks, the last few months, or the last year and a half, and especially the last few months.
I'd like to address that reality in today's sermon. People are suffering. People are dying. So, I'd like to address that reality in today's sermon, but I want to do so in a realistic, balanced, encouraging way. Because I'm not depressed. I'm not even really discouraged. But I want to learn what it is God would have me learn at this time. So, brethren, let us consider four truths that will help us to understand and cope with the troubling times in which we're now living. I've entitled this, "Coping Well in Troubled Times." I believe we all need to cope well in these troubled times. So, I've got four truths that I've selected. I'm sure there are more. But here are four that I'd like to share with you today.
And the first one is, rest assured, God knows what is going on with His people and His church. God knows what's going on down here. God is very well aware of what's happening. God is allowing these challenging times to affect His children and His Church, but He is fully aware of what's been going on in the lives of our brethren. You know, God knows those who are suffering. God knows the loved ones of those who have died. God knows those who have died. God is intimately involved in our lives. Make no mistake, rest assured, God is on His throne. He is omnipotent, He's all-powerful, He's all-loving, He's almighty. He knows what's happening down here. In Job 34:21, you don't need to go there because it's very short. This was Elihu.
Job 34:21 “Elihu said, ‘For His eyes…’” Speaking of God. “‘For His eyes are on the ways of man and He sees all his steps."
God sees all his steps. God knows what's happening. In 1 John 3:20, again, you don't need to turn here.
1 John 3:20 It says, “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things."
God knows the very thoughts and the intentions of our heart. He knows things better than we know ourselves. That's the God that we serve. That's the God who is on His throne. God really does know what's going on, as the scriptures clearly point out. I could go through many other scriptures that show God is very fully aware of what's happening.
So, this ought to be very reassuring to us. It should be very reassuring to know that God understands, God knows, God's allowing. And we know, again, that God is love and that God loves His children, and yet God allows these things to occur to happen for various reasons. You know, the Bible clearly acknowledges, and God acknowledges, that His servants who keep His laws and His ways, such as the feast days, He is well aware of them and He is pleased with that. God is pleased with those who keep His commandments, who keep His laws, who defer to Him, who honor Him, who pray to Him, who fast to draw nearer to Him. God is very, very aware and acknowledges all people who have dedicated their hearts and their minds to serving God and to humbling themselves before God.
God is not asleep and God does care. God hears your prayers. You can count on it. God hears your prayers, every single one of them. He hears them. God answers some of them in a very positive way. Some, He answers immediately. Some, He doesn't. But He hears every single word that you put toward Him. So, keep praying during these difficult times. You know, this has sobered me. I've been praying more than I normally would. You know, I just feel like we need to step it up. You know, as God's children, as God's people, we need to do more in prayer. We need to do more in fasting because we have people suffering among us and we all need to turn to God in ways perhaps we've never really done before.
That's something that you need to ask yourself, could you do better? Could you do better for your friends, the people that you love, the people that live in other states and countries? We're all in this together. We hear that, but do you really believe it? And are you going to God in that context that you care for every single one of His children that suffers in any way, any possible way? Also, I know that miracles are happening today. I've talked to people who God has intervened in miraculous ways in the last few months to help them recover, to help them get over whatever it is they're facing. No matter what the problem is, no matter what the sickness, no matter what the trial is, God is there. He still performs miracles. And again, God does hear our prayers.
Now, I have a very close friend, a good friend down in Texas who has stage four cancer. She's probably in her late 30s. She has a three-year-old son. She didn't even know about this except for a couple of months ago before the feast she found out about it. It was shocking to everyone. Shocking to me, shocking to the family. A three-year-old boy, a husband. She came back to church just a few years ago when I was still pastoring in Dallas, and I met her and never got to know her real well, but we had a connection. And, you know, I've talked to her since this.
You know, this is happening all across the country. We do need to reach out to people that we care about, people that we love. It makes such a difference to show that you care and that you are concerned, and that maybe a TV program isn't more important than making a phone call once in a while. You know, these are real things that we live with. So, I hope and pray... Her name's gone out. I don't know that I need to mention it. But if you've been paying attention to the prayer requests, you probably know who I'm talking about. So, please pray for her. Pray for all of those prayer requests that we get. They are all important.
And I'm beginning to realize that, you know, it's easy to get into this idea that, God, I don't have time to pray for everyone, you know, I can just do a blanket prayer. Sometimes, maybe that's okay, but not all the time. We have to take some dedicated time to get down and to really show God that we care and that we really want Him to intervene. We really want Him to hear our prayers and to act on behalf of those we pray for. You know, God does care and He wants to see that we care.
So, why doesn't God always heal us? You know, we know God can do it. We know He's all-powerful. We know He could heal every single person in an instant. I have no doubt, no doubt of that. But He doesn't and He hasn't over the years that I've been around. That isn't how God operates. Why doesn't He? Well, obviously, there's a number of reasons. What if He did heal all of us? What would happen? Well, for one thing, we would be inundated. This room would be completely...we wouldn't be able to meet here anymore because we would have such notoriety. Jesus Christ healed those who came to Him. He had thousands and thousands, tens of thousands of people flocking around Him because He was a healing God. So, why isn't God doing this? It's not the right time for that. You know, maybe we will see that power in His church in the future, but that time is not here yet. We haven't seen it happen yet, but that doesn't mean it won't happen in the future.
God is also using death, sickness, and suffering, to help us develop spiritual muscle, to help you develop spiritual muscle. If you're the one that's going through the trial, then you have to learn to turn to God in faith. You know, I've heard of people that have been sick for a month or more struggling and wondering if they were going to live and turning to God in ways they never did before. Gary Petty mentions that in a sermon that he gave not long ago. He mentioned that, you know, he had to examine himself in ways he hadn't done before. I think that should be true of every one of us. You know, we need to look deeply within ourselves and ask God, "What do you want us to learn from all this, God? Why are you allowing these things to happen?"
No doubt He wants us to develop more spiritual muscle. He wants to help us grow. He wants to help us change. He wants to help us overcome. If we had no trials in our lives, or if God always healed us in this life, do you think we would be a little more prideful? Do you think there would be more vanity involved? Do you think that possibly it really wouldn't work in our best interest in some ways? You know, being sick and having trials is humbling, isn't it? God wants all of us to learn humility. And this is one of the greatest ways that He will help us learn humility. I hope we're all turning to Him in humility. I hope we're really seeking God and showing Him that we are humble servants.
Whatever the scripture means when it says that Christ learned obedience by the things that He suffered. He definitely was a more compassionate human being by suffering and caring for those who are suffering. Christ showed He was compassionate. He showed he was empathetic. He really did care about those who were sick, those who had died. You know, Christ certainly cared and He learned and was taught by the things that He suffered as well going through the crucifixion. Being willing to lay His life down even though, humanly, that was not something He really relished doing, was it? "Nevertheless, not My will, Father, but Your will." And He humbled himself and He was obedient and faithful to His Father's will. And so we all need to learn these lessons.
We know that we're all physical and, eventually, we're all going to have to die. I mean, Joshua died, Caleb died, Moses died, Abraham died, Jesus Christ died. There will come a time when we will all die unless Christ returns prior to that time. Otherwise, we're all going to die. We don't know when. Some sooner than others, no doubt, you know. We don't know. So, brethren, we'll talk more about what we learned by God allowing us to suffer, to go through these hardships, these trials, to have loved ones die. What we learn about that, what God is doing, we'll talk more about that in the third point.
But the first point, again, rest assured, God knows what's going on with His people. He knows what's going on with His church. And these are teachable moments, times when we need to get it, to learn what His disciples ought to learn. All right. Secondly, Satan is also quite aware and is responsible for much of what we've been experiencing. I have no doubt that Satan has had his hand in all of this. Satan has had his hand. You know, he's been involved. 1 Corinthians 14:33, you don't need to go there.
1 Corinthians 14:33 But it says, "God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches."
You know, that's what God wants for His church. He wants peace. He wants tranquility, He wants all of that, but He also allows Satan for other purposes, for other reasons. So, God is not the author of confusion. So, who is? Certainly, I believe Satan is the author of confusion. He wants to confuse us just as much as he possibly can. And this world is so confused in religious ways.
The Bible, to most people, is extremely confusing. You know, there's just so much confusion in the world. But that also is important for us to understand and realize that Satan's behind much of the confusion. And I've never seen a more confusing time when it comes to a pandemic. You know, this is the first pandemic I guess I've ever faced. You know, it goes back over 100 years, and I'm not quite that old. So, Satan is the author of confusion. You can know that he's been involved in all this confusion. It's just very difficult to wrap your mind around what's going on. You know, why are some people affected in one way and others in a different way? And, you know, there's just so much, so much. I don't have to belabor it. You know it's confusing, right? We've all experienced it.
In Job 1, we know that Satan allowed...or Satan was allowed to touch and hassle Job so much so that all of his goods were taken away, his family was killed, his sons, his daughters, grandchildren. His family, they were wiped out. God allowed that. God allowed Satan though to do it. God didn't do it. Satan was the one that did it. And Satan is the one that's continuing to wreak havoc on the earth. Satan is the god of this world. Now, that doesn't mean there isn't a greater God that we all understand and know who He is. But God's allowing this for His purposes, for His reasons. So, Job certainly was confused, wasn't he? He didn't know what was going on. I mean, Job was really, really confused because he had been a righteous man and he shouldn't be having this many trials and this many troubles.
And then Satan comes back and says, "Well, God, you know, you're not letting me touch his body. You know, give me free rein and then he will curse you." So, then God allowed that. And then he had boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet. I don't know how you could be more miserable than that. I've had poison ivy from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet and I was super miserable. I was a teenager at the time. That was bad, but I think boils would be a lot worse. Boils look nasty to me. I've seen a few. Never had one, but if I had them all over my body, I think it would be much worse. And God allowed Satan to do that. Of course, that was a special circumstance. You know, we can't know exactly what's going on. You know, Job didn't know it until God showed up and let him know. And then the story was written down for us to learn from it. But it was a very confusing time for Job for sure.
Now, in Luke 13, let's see another instance in the New Testament where someone who's quite sick and has been sick a long time, was sick because Satan was involved. Let's go to Luke 13. Luke 13, we'll start reading in verse 10.
Luke 13:10-15 "Now, He, Christ, was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, and behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity 18 years. She was bent over and she could in no way raise herself up." So, she had some real severe back problems, back issues. "But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, 'Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.' And He laid His hands on her, and immediately, she was made straight. And she glorified God." What an amazing miracle. This is what Jesus Christ did for her. "But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath. And he said to the crowd, there are six days on which men ought to work. Therefore, come and be healed on them and not on the Sabbath day."
Any self-righteousness there in that statement, do you think? Was there any vanity? Any pride in the statement that he just made? "Well, the Lord answered him and said, 'Hypocrite.'" That's not a soft word. Hypocrite. That gets people's attention. When you call them hypocrites, most people don't like that. Well, he didn't like it either. "Hypocrite. Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it away to water it. So ought not this woman being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound. Think of it?" You know, Christ said, "Think of it." She's been suffering for 18 long years. That's how long this woman has suffered. I can make her life whole. I don't care what day it is. I'm going to do it. And so Christ intervened and He healed her on that day. "And when He had said these things, His adversaries were put to shame. And all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him."
What a wonderful time to have seen that, to have been there when Christ did that. That's a real event. These are things that happened. There's so much we can learn from studying God's Word and contemplating it, thinking about it. Christ really cared about her. Think of it. 18 years. It's time to heal her, and so He did. But did you notice what He said? "Being a daughter of Abraham who Satan has bound. Whom Satan has bound." Satan had his hand in it. God is never to blame for these things that occur. You know, God does allow those things to happen. But God is there for our good. He's concerned about our good. He wants us to prosper. He wants us to be in good health. That's what the Scripture says, right? I think it's in 1 John, that we should prosper and be in good health. I think he said that to Gaius, that we are to prosper, to be in good health. That's really what God wants for us, but He allows other things to happen for our good as well.
In Luke 22, let's notice an incident where Satan was also involved with one of the apostles. Luke 22. In some ways, it's easy to forget that Satan is there, isn't it? I mean, I've done it. And probably it's a good thing because I wouldn't want to think about it too much, if you know what I mean. We don't need to think about it very much because God has our back. God is more powerful. Satan can only do what God allows, and God really isn't allowing him to do a whole lot in many, many respects. But this is interesting. In Luke 22, we see that Satan was after Peter.
Luke 22:31-34 "And the Lord said, 'Simon, Simon, indeed, Satan has asked for you,' Satan has asked for you, 'That he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail.'" So, Christ went to bat for him. He prayed for him, that his faith would not fail. "And when you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren." And Peter did that. Peter did return because notice what else it says, "But he said to Him, 'Lord, I'm ready to go with you both to prison and to death.'" Peter was so sure of himself. He was so sure that he would be willing to lay his life down at that point, but he really wasn't. He had things to learn. This was a teachable moment for him. He had things to learn. Then Christ said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you even know me."
Let alone die. And I'm sure that's what he was concerned, that they would take him along with Jesus. But Peter thought he was strong. He thought he was right with God. He wasn't right with God. He needed to be humbled. He needed to go through that experience. Brethren, I believe we all need to learn, we all need to grow, we all need to be humbled, and turn to God in all things. In 2 Corinthians 12, we see that Satan had a hand in another health issue. This had to do with the Apostle Paul. 2 Corinthians 12.
2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul says, "And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations..." Because Paul was... You know, Paul, has written things in the Bible that if we didn't have what Paul wrote, we would be hurting. He had revelations, God worked with him. God showed him things. "...by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me." This was something that Satan sent upon him. God allowed it. You know, we don't know what kind of negotiations God has had with Satan.
At other times, we know about Job. We know that they were actually conversing. They were talking. And it worked out for Job's benefit, and God knew it would. But he needed to be perfected. He was self-righteous. Job was self-righteous. He was also the most righteous. And those friends of his who, at first, you know, they started out well because they just sat and listened for seven days. That was commendable. For seven days, they sat there with Job. They saw his grief, they saw what he was going through. But then Job opens his mouth and reveals that things aren't exactly perfect there with Job either. But, you know, they didn't know why this was coming on. They thought Job had really sinned in some egregious ways, something he had done that God was punishing him for. He was being punished because he was righteous. I mean, that's what you hear. I mean, that's what it was about. But I don't know if anything went on between God and Satan in this regard.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 But Paul says, "It was a messenger of Satan to buffet me lest I should be exalted above measure." Again, pride and vanity, that was an issue with Paul. "Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me." This was significant. This was hurting. This was making him suffer. It was slowing him down. It was causing problems for him. "But God said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'"
He was better off being weakened by that. He needed to be humbled. He needed to see his frailty. He needed to see how much he desperately needed God just like Job needed to see God. Job did not see God well. Job was afraid of God in some ways. He had an inordinate fear of God. He said this thing that I feared came upon me. He was fearful about certain things he should never have been fearful about.
But if you read the book of Job carefully, and I read it during the Feast of Tabernacles, it's so eye-opening. Read it again if you haven't done it recently. A very wonderful book. "My grace is sufficient." God decides. God determines. "My grace is sufficient." David got up from his fasting when...he was fasting because the child...you know, his child was near to death. And he continued to fast until the child died, and then he went back to living. But he hung in there and stuck with it as long as that child was alive. And that's the same approach and attitude we should have when we pray for other people, not that we have to fast the whole time. But if you care for someone, maybe you should be fasting that God would hear, that God would intervene, that God would save them.
Satan is allowed to some degree to touch our lives and to cause havoc in them. We don't always know just how directly he may be involved, but I think you can see from the scriptures that we talked about today, Satan does get involved in the lives of God's servants. It's rather sobering. It's humbling. But notice, James 4:7-8 as well.
James 4:7-8 "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." Resist him. He's a roaring lion. He's seeking whom he may devour. Yes, you have to fight back. You have to fight back, you have to go to God, pour your heart out to God, seek His help. That's how you resist Satan, the devil. Because it says, "Draw near to God, He will draw near to you." And that's how we resist Satan's influence in our lives, by turning to God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our might. So, Satan is quite aware of what's going on down here as well. He is responsible, I'm sure, of much of what we've been experiencing. That's point number two.
Let's go on to the third truth. The third truth. God is with us and is refining us spiritually. Now, I've already talked about this to some degree, that God is with us and that He is refining us. He's shaping and molding us. He's forming us. He is the potter, we are the clay. God works with us. In Lamentations 3. Now, this was something that struck me during the feast, and I wrote a little something about this in the eNews a few weeks ago. Lamentations 3, it just was so enlightening to me. You know, during the feast, things were going really well for us in Lake Junaluska, you know. I knew of no issues health-wise. But I knew that some had not been able to go to the feast because they had COVID before the feast, several people.
I knew of a few churches that were being affected right before the feast, like, around trumpets. So, I was concerned about how things would go, but, you know, we're right at the feast time, you know, we go keep God's holy days, we keep His feasts. That's what we do. That's what I've always done. And I'm glad I did, and I'm glad we all did. You know, I'm glad, you know, we did that. Now, hindsight is 20/20, you know. If I'd known everything that I know now, sure, I would probably do things a little differently. I wouldn't do things exactly the same way. I have some impact in the responsibilities that I have. We're going to look at things carefully, you know. We'll have a feast coordinators meeting. We're going to sit down, we're going to go over what happened at each feast site and what we might be able to do to minimize any of this in the future. I mean, it's difficult. It's hard to wrap your mind around it because everything happened. It was different at every feast site.
But we are going to have those meetings and we are going to try to learn whatever we can learn. If we have a similar circumstance in the future, perhaps we can do better. You know, we all want to do better. We don't want anyone to suffer. We don't want anyone to die. But we also want to keep God's holy days and we want to assemble together. Maybe sometimes webcast is the best way for a while for this present distress. I'm glad to see all of you here. You know, I hope we're getting over this. Hopefully, we've seen the worst of it. Hopefully, we won't have so many issues in the future.
That God is refining us. So, in Lamentation 3... Lamentations is always a little difficult to find. Jeremiah. Lamentations. All right. Now, Chapter 3, we'll start...well, let me just say the first couple of chapters, you know, Jeremiah is just...I mean, he's beside himself, you know. I mean, he's gone through so much. You know, he's gone through so much. You know, the nation is going down. They're going into captivity. He's dealing with all of it. He's even seen...it gets so bad that women were cooking their children. They were eating their own children. Now, that's hard to fathom. These were not converted people doing this sort of thing. But this is the kind of stuff he was dealing with and that he was seeing. This was very, very tumultuous, cataclysmic. Things like that are going to happen in the future.
Now, these prophecies are oftentimes dual. God prophesied those things would happen. They did. They will happen again. So, I hope we do learn whatever lessons God wants us to learn. So, Jeremiah in the first three chapters, the first part of Chapter 3 as well as 1 and 2, talks about how horrific things have been, how horrible things have been, how destructive things have been, and God has allowed every bit of it. In fact, God brought quite a bit of it on them because of their sins, because they were a sinful people. They were worshipping idols, they were breaking the Sabbath, left and right. I mean, there's a lot of difference, obviously, about what was going on back with those people, and with us today. It's totally different. Totally different. You know, we are the New Testament church of God. We are the disciples of Jesus Christ. It's far different. I'm not saying that, you know, we're guilty like they were guilty. I'm not saying God is allowing this because of all of our sins. But I also believe we need to look deeply and see how we could do perhaps better. That's what this is about to some degree.
Lamentations 3:19-21 "Remember my affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall. My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore, I have hope."
Okay. He recalled something to his mind after all this. I probably should read more of this, but I'm going to leave it up to you to go back and read it about all the anguish that he expresses. And then he says, "But this came to my mind and I have hope."
Lamentations 3:22-26 "Through the Lord's mercies, we are not consumed." There was going to be a remnant who lived, who survived. He was among that remnant. "Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. Great is your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'Therefore, I hope in Him.' The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."
Now, that's what we all need to do. We need to do hope and look to God's deliverance in the future. God is going to deliver us all in His time. And He's in the process of doing that now because salvation is of the eternal. There is no salvation in any other except Jesus Christ and the Father. So, here, we see that God is faithful, and great is His faithfulness. So God is with us, but He's also refining us. The reason he allowed this to happen on the nation of Israel was so they would hopefully learn some lessons. Jeremiah did. You can imagine that Jeremiah was stuck in a dungeon himself for, I don't know how long, quite a while. I mean, he went through an awful lot of trials himself. To learn things and to see the nation go the direction that it was going, that was heart-rending for a prophet of God to see all that and to see so much suffering.
In James 1, we see that these things do happen though for our good and that we are to have a certain approach toward these trials that we face so that we can get up in the morning and go about whatever it is we have to do in life. James 1. Let's read what the book of James says here.
James 1:1-8 "James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the 12 tribes which are scattered abroad. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." That's the goal. We are to become perfect and complete. We won't make it fully in this life, but it is our goal to be as perfect and complete as we possibly can be. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith."
Let him ask in faith. Brethren, I hope you're going to God in faith. I hope you're going to God knowing that He's hearing your prayers and that He will respond, that He will answer. He may not answer exactly the way you want to, but He's hearing your prayer. "But let Him ask in faith with no doubting, for He who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." Yes, we've got to get the doubt and the fear out of our lives. That's something else we can learn through all this, get the doubt and the fear out of your life as best you can. "For he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, he is unstable in all his ways."
So, we should be single-minded in our approach toward God and we should believe that God will intervene and that God will set things right in His time. That's where the patience comes in, where we still continue to have faith and trust God. In Malachi 3, we see that God is in the process of making up His jewels. He's working with each and every one of us to make up His jewels. Let's go to Malachi 3. I've always found this very encouraging to know that God considers me as one of His jewels, a precious thing, precious and wonderful in His sight. He looks at you in the same way. Malachi 3:17. Well, let's read verse 16 along with it.
Malachi 3:16-18 "Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them. So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. 'They shall be mine,' says the Lord of hosts, 'On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves Him.'" God will spare them. He said, "Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him."
You know, God does want us to be His servants. He's called us out of this world to be His servants, to dedicate ourselves, to humble ourselves before Him, to be His humble servant. You know, that's what Christ was, a humble servant who suffered and died for all of us. We are to follow our Savior's example. We're to be like Him. We're to become like Him. We're to put on His mind and be just like He is. That is our goal as God's children. And we are His jewels. He's making us up, and it's hard. You know, to make a jewel, it takes pressure. It takes difficulty to make a special jewel. There's a lot that goes into that. Well, God's putting a lot into you. He's putting a lot into all of us. We are His precious jewels. We're priceless to God. We're very priceless in His sight, every one of us. In Isaiah 48:10. You don't need to turn here, it's just a one-liner.
Isaiah 48:10 He says, "Behold, I have refined you." Now, this is prophetic actually looking into the future. "Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver. I have tested you in the furnace of affliction."
Life is the furnace of affliction. Life isn't easy. Life is difficult. Life is hard. Sometimes, it's not so bad. In fact, I enjoy life. Most of the time, it's really pretty good. You know, I'm probably going to watch the Dodgers play tonight. I know Mr. Delamater is going to be rooting for the Dodgers this evening, at least part of the game. They start so late, they go so late. But anyway, you know, God wants us to enjoy our lives, but He also wants us to learn lessons, important lessons, and have balance in our life. God wants us to laugh, He wants us to enjoy, He wants us to go to the feasts. He wants us to enjoy the beauty of Montana or the beaches of Florida. You know, God's okay with that. God is happy to see us do that, to go before Him and to worship Him in that way. In Zechariah 13, this is also sobering. It's also a prophecy. Zechariah 13:8, and also I'll read verse 9.
Zechariah 13:8-9 “‘And it shall come to pass in all the land,’ says the Eternal, the Lord, ‘That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die." Two-thirds. "Two-thirds shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it." Just one-third will survive these times ahead. Verse 9, "I will bring the one-third through the fire. I will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested." We're all going to be tested. We're being tested now and we're going to be tested further in the future. "They will call on my name and I will answer them. I will say, 'This is my people.'" "These are my people."
God has protected them, God has seen them through. A third of them will survive, and God will work with them and test them. "And each one will say, 'The Lord, the eternal, is my God.'" And that relationship will be stronger than ever. I hope we're developing that relationship now, all of us. You know, God is a very personal God. He is your personal God, He can do that with all of us, each of us. You know, we all have a personal relationship with Him. I don't know what your personal relationship is, and you don't know what mine is, but we all have one. Every one of us has one. You have one.
So, that's the third truth. God is with us and is refining us. And again, the book of Job was all about refining Job. Job was the most righteous man on earth but he wasn't perfect. He thought he was. He thought he was. He had a feeling that he was. In fact, he blamed God, right? "I'm going to take you to court, God, because I know I can win the case. This is not supposed to happen to righteous people." Job was wrong about that. Job wasn't perfect. Job wasn't God. He came to see God and he said he repented in sackcloth and ashes. And that's where we all need to get eventually if we're not already there. And I don't think any of us are perfectly there, but we need to repent before God in sackcloth and ashes. So, that's what God was doing, He was refining Job. And that's what He's doing for all of us in His way, in His time.
Now, let's go on to the fourth truth. God wants us to learn to love each other more than we do now. I believe that's one of the essential lessons that God wants us to learn in these troubled times. If you're going to cope with these troubled times, then you need to learn to love better, you need to learn to love more, you need to learn to reach out more. You need to learn to care more. You need to be more involved. I need to be more involved, you know. We all do.
In John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples," Christ said, and that's "If you have love one to another." If you have love one to another. If you truly love each other and show that love to each other. As disciples of Christ, we are to be known by the love that we have for one another. That's how we are to be known. That's what people should say about us. "Well, that guy, man, he really cares, you know, he's a loving person."
In 1 Corinthians 12, we also see that it is love that bonds us together as a church, as a family, as a body. 1 Corinthians 12, and I know we're familiar with this chapter, it talks a lot about the body of Christ, 1 Corinthians 12, and how each of us has a part to play.
1 Corinthians 12:25-26 It says, "That there should be no schism in the body." All of this that he wrote prior to this is so that there will be no schism. There will be no divisions in the body. That we all need to learn to really respect and love each other and do the right thing with each other. "That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care," you could say the same love, "for one another." The same care, the same love for one another. "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it."
I hope we've been suffering. I hope we've all been suffering. You know, if you haven't, then you should ask yourself, why is that? Why haven't you been suffering? Is it because you don't care enough? It's because you're not focused enough? Is it because you're not spiritual enough? Why don't you care? Don't you know anyone, you know? I mean, that may be the case. Some of you may not really know anyone that's been sick, that's hurting, that's dying. I get that. You know, and if we're children, I know this affects you differently. I understand that. I mean, I was a kid. You know, this is too serious for kids. I get that.
You know, this is a very serious matter, and it's difficult for children. And, you know, I don't want you to get bogged down and worry about it either because when you get older, then you'll get a chance to do that. So, you know, go out there, enjoy your life, be good, be respectful, do the right thing, but don't let all this get you down, you know. God's good to us. God gives us so much to be grateful for, so much to be thankful for. And so that's what we need to do as children. You know, we need to enjoy our lives. Be thankful for every day, be thankful for your friends, you know, be good to your friends. Children, young people, be good to your friends. All right.
1 Corinthians 12:26-27 “So there is no schism in the body, that we all care for one another, that when one suffers, we all suffer. If one member is honored, then we all rejoice." And we're not jealous and envious of someone who's done well. We should all be grateful for someone who's done well. We should be thankful for them. He says, "Now you are the body of Christ, and you are members individually."
But collectively, you are the body of Christ. But you're individuals. You each have a personal relationship with God. You each bring something important to the table, and God wants you at the table. He wants every single one of you at the table.
On the other hand, Satan wants to divide us, doesn't he? Satan doesn't want to see us come together right now. He wants to see us pull apart. He wants to see us blame God or blame each other, blame the leadership. You know, that's what Satan wants us to do. He wants us to pull each other apart. But let's not allow Satan to play that game with us. Let's not let him get that into our heads. Again, we can all learn from these things that we're suffering, that we're going through. Satan wants to divide us, God wants to unite us. He wants us to be united. That's our name. Let's live up to it. I think it's a great name. Personally, I think God gave us that name. I think He wants us to live up to it. In James 5, and I'm going to have to wrap up here pretty quickly, James 5, the question is asked, "Is anyone sick? Is anyone sick among you?"
James 5:14 "Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."
That's what we're to do when we're sick, look to God first. Look to God for help first. That doesn't mean we can't get some other help perhaps, but we better be looking to God first because God is our healer. And God is the one that will heal us even if we get some medical attention and medical help. God is the one that has to heal the body. They can't do that. They can help it along perhaps. Those are personal decisions that we all make.
James 5:14-15 "Anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up."
I believe that to be true. I believe that God will do that. Now, He may not do it exactly when I want Him to. He may not do it immediately. He may even allow the person to die and raise him up at the resurrection. You know, that is one way He could answer. But I like to go for the first answer. When I anoint someone, I'm planning on it, like, right now, God. If not now, tomorrow. If not tomorrow, the next day. That's how we go to God when we anoint someone. You know, we want God to heal them. We want Him to restore their health. We want them to be around. We want to continue a relationship with them. And so we pray in that way and hope and pray that God will act quickly and immediately. And most people do survive anointings. That's probably not the way I should have put that. But you know what I mean. Most people do get better, you know. People that we anoint, the percentage is very high of those who are anointed, survive. But regardless, we go to God, we get anointed, we look to Him first and foremost.
James 5:16 He says, "Confess your trespasses to one another."
Confess those trespasses to one another. Now, you would only do that with someone you're close to, obviously. You know, you have to use wisdom when you're sharing things, but there are people I've been able to share things with, you know, things I've struggled with. It's good to have some friends like that that you can confide in that will keep it confidential, that will pray for you and will help you along. That's part of the equation, "Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another." So, we're all to be involved. It's not just the minister anointing. It's not just the minister anointing the person, it's you praying for the person. It's you going to God on their behalf as well "That you may be healed." And you need to be praying for others as well. If you're going to be anointed, if you want God to heal you when you're sick, you better be praying for others when they're sick. Now, that makes sense, right?
James 5:16 He says "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
And hopefully, we are righteous, not perfect, but we're righteous. You know, we're trying to do the right thing. And when we sin, we pray God will forgive us and grant us repentance and restore us. We have that in Christ. We have that forgiveness in our Savior, Jesus Christ. So, you know, Job's friends were not very quick to give Job the benefit of the doubt. "Job, we know you're a horrible sinner. You know, there's no doubt about it. You know, this stuff is happening to you because you're a dastardly sinner." Okay, so that's what they assumed. That was not the case. They were all corrected for that approach. In fact, who had to pray for them? Job had to pray for them so that God would restore them.
I'm going to get right down to it. So, the point I'm making is let's give each other the benefit of the doubt, brethren. You know, let's not assume someone's sick because they've sinned or they've done something evil. You know, let's give them the benefit of the doubt. You know, we're not perfect either. Maybe they have sinned. Have you sinned? Of course, you have. Pray for them.
So, be respectful of one another's personal decisions. You know, people have to make personal decisions, especially these health decisions right now. Again, Satan would want to divide us over these things. He would want us to separate over these things. And some people have played right into his hand. They've gotten on Facebook, they've written things that are, you know, on either side of the thing that should never have been written, should never been expressed. We should have more wisdom than to allow Satan to get into us to play those games that divide people.
You know, you don't know what you're talking about half the time. So why act like it? You know, why get on Facebook and act like you really know what you're talking about when you don't? I mean, I don't do it because I know I'm stupid and I'm probably going to say something wrong. So, I don't know why so many people are so sure of themselves. I'm not that sure of myself. Be careful what you put out there. It can have an impact in people's lives.
Also, converted members of the body of Christ realize that assembling together is vitally important. It's vitally important that we're here today, you know. This is important. "Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together." You have not done that. You're here. Others are on the webcast. They have not done it either. They're still assembling with us. They still love us. They're still praying for us. Right, people, out there on the webcast? For whatever reason you're on the webcast, we give you the benefit of the doubt. You know, we believe that you're a part of the family of God and the children of God. We love you. And whatever personal decisions you make for your health, we're okay with that. That's between you and God. So, let us all remember that. You know, people have their own reasons why they make some decisions.
Now, I'm not giving anyone an excuse for being a hypocrite. You know, they won't come to church perhaps to be around people, but they seem to be around people everywhere else. You know, they don't seem to really be that cautious. Now, some people are very cautious at all times. That, I can respect. That, I can respect. But I can't respect someone who plays the hypocrite and can't come to church for some reason, but they can be around plenty of other people and mix and mingle and all that. So, you know, again, God's the judge. I'm not going to go to Hebrews 10, but it tells us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. And also tells us to stir up love and good works. And the same three verses, 23, 24, and 25, we're to stir up love and good works. And we're not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.
So brethren, again, health decisions ought to be left to the individual. you know, they get to decide their comfort level on whether or not they can mix among us. It's obvious that sometimes COVID comes among us, and we may not even know it. We certainly shouldn't be here if we have any inkling that we might be sick. We need to stay home. But, you know, if we're confident that we're fine, then it's fine to be here and to fellowship, and to mix together, to love each other, to have this relationship with each other. That's all great, and God wants us to do that.
But again, let's be careful that we don't judge people harshly like Job's friends. Let's not be that type of friend. And also, those should still...they should assemble together by the way. If they don't come to church, they should assemble in some way. And they should do it online or some other way. And I believe they are. I believe some of the people we haven't seen in a while, they've been very faithful. They're faithful Christians, they're converted Christians, they're fine Christians. All right. God wants us to learn to love each other more than we do now. I believe that to be true. I think these are times where we can learn to do that, to love each other more, to care for each other more.
So, brethren, understanding these four truths that we've talked about today, I believe will help you cope well in these troubled times. It will help you cope well. Rest assured God knows what's going on down here. Also, Satan's quite aware, and he's involved. God is with us and He's refining us spiritually, and that's why we go through so many trials in our lives. And God wants us to learn to love each other more. He wants us to really love each other, care for each other, pray for each other, fast for one another. I mean, we fast to draw nearer to God, but it's okay to fast for other people. You know, to spend some of that time praying more faithfully and fervently for someone you love, someone you care about, or many people that you love and care about, even if you don't know them, you know, right?
We have the prayer requests, we love them all, whether we intimately personally know them. They're still members of the body of Christ. And this love should go out beyond the walls of the church of God, the United Church of God. It should go out to all people. You know, that's really love, is when you love your enemies, when you love all people. Not that the world's our enemies, some of them are, but not everyone. But we're to love everyone, even our enemies.
So, brethren, I hope we're past the worst of the health issues. We may well be. I hope and pray that we are. Again, let's all turn to God, let's look to Him, let's go to Him in prayer and in fasting. Again, it's helped me see the importance of how I need to take this more seriously and I need to be more fervent and more faithful in my prayers, in my fasting.