This sermon examines biblical ways to move past the discouragement and pain of life's difficulties to restoration and recovery.
[Steve Myers] The other day, we were talking at Ambassador Bible College about a section of the Scripture in the Old Testament that was critical. In fact, I had the wonderful opportunity to teach the former prophets, which is Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. I kind of threw the Chronicles in there as well. And as we were going through the Kings, we started to zero in on what we might consider one of the greatest triumphs, one of the biggest blessings during the time of the Kings.
And as we were discussing this, lots of different ideas came up, and then the class seemed to come to a consensus that maybe one of the greatest blessings of that time, of that era, was the temple and the dedication of the temple. It was such a monumental experience when Solomon stood up and asked God to bless the temple, and that His very presence would be right there.
So in I Kings 8, he petitions God, and there’s this long prayer about a real triumph of God’s people at that time, when God would fill that temple with His presence, and what an awesome time it was. Now, of course, at the same time, it also involved one of the greatest disappointments because if you think about one of the most devastating events, maybe the greatest heartbreak of that Old Testament period also involved the temple because it didn’t seem like it was that much later that that temple was destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar’s armies came in and wiped out that temple and devastated God’s people. And so on one hand, you have a great triumph, and yet on the other hand, just a heartbreaking situation.
Now as we talked about that, it was really interesting to see how much that seemed to coincide with our personal lives because oftentimes we have a heartbreak in our life, and it seems like the walls have been tipped over, the stones have been overturned, and we’re just left so devastated and disappointed. Oftentimes, by many different kinds of things. Maybe it’s a loss of a job. Maybe it’s a health situation. Maybe it’s a death in the family, and you might think about the situations that you personally have been through perhaps over the last year. I think maybe all of us could think of heartbreaks that have happened.
And what was interesting in that particular story is God didn’t want it to stay that way. After the temple had been destroyed, His people carted off into Babylon, God brought them back. He didn’t want them to remain a heartbroken people. So how could you go from heartbreak to healing? How is that possible? God didn’t intend the people to remain heartbroken and in a tragic situation. And when you get to the section of scripture that describes what God wanted to do to help healing to take place, something interesting happened. We can find out about this over in the book of Haggai, if you’d like to turn there, Haggai is one of the minor prophets. And right at the very beginning of this book, the prophet Haggai records I think something significant for us that it seems in our human state, when we are disappointed, when we are heartbroken, oftentimes we might find ourselves in the same position that God’s people were in as they began to return out of Babylon. And, of course, as God brought them back, you would think this was the ultimate solution.
Finally, healing can begin, and it was supposed to, and yet here we are at the beginning of Haggai, 16 years after the people had begun to return to Jerusalem. They were commissioned to rebuild that temple that had been broken down. And yet here we are 16 years later, and what was the state of that building process? Well, if we notice what it says, verse 2, it says, “Thus speaks the Lord of Hosts saying, ‘This people says the time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.’”
Here 16 years after the process was supposed to be started, there was still a healing that needed to take place. There was still the walls of the temple that needed to be built, and so God says to the people in verse 4, “Is it time for you, yourselves, to dwell in your paneled houses and this temple to lie in ruins?” It was time to grow spiritually speaking. It was time to build that temple. So God instructs them. Sixteen years is a long time of feeling devastated, of feeling like this job can’t be accomplished.
Of feeling like things have been so broken down, how in the world can we be back where we need to be, and because of the people’s focus, the temple was still in ruins. The people themselves lost their focus. They had, well, you might say, they were weakened. They had been deteriorated. They were atrophied, and it seemed that the heartbreak pushed them that way. They had been overwhelmed by allowing the challenges and the difficulties to take their focus away from them.
So how were they to move forward? In a sense, especially how can we move forward after we’ve experienced those trials and difficulties, those tragedies, the heartbreaks? Well, maybe sometimes we think, “Boy, it’d be great if we didn’t have to worry about those kinds of things. If we didn’t have the difficulties, wouldn’t it be great if God would just take away all of those troubles? And that I didn’t have to deal with the trials or the challenges of life.” Anyone ever felt that way? I know I’ve felt that way. It’d be great if I didn’t have to deal with this. But I got to thinking about that, and I was reading a little bit of a history lesson that reminded me how impractical that really is.
It sounds really good on the outside, but when you get down to it, it doesn’t really work, and it came to me, as I was reading the story about Soviet cosmonauts. Back in the ’80s, they were trying to break all the records for how long you could stay in space, and finally they did. There was a cosmonaut that was up in orbit for almost a year at that time, and that was a record. They got him off after he came back to earth. He was in good health. Everything could be great. He walked and showed just an amazing vitality to all the cameras after breaking those longevity records in space.
Now, that was the cool part. Five years before that, a couple of cosmonauts broke the record. They had been in space for over 200 days, but when they got them out of the space craft, they couldn’t even get up. They couldn’t walk. They were dizzy. They had heart palpitations. Their hearts were in a fibrillation. They were having all kinds of problems with blood pressure and pulse rates, and they couldn’t even walk for more than a week. I had to read a little bit more about it, and found out that even after a month of physical therapy, they were still undergoing more tests, more physical therapy in order to get those muscles that had become so weakened and so atrophied back to where they needed to be.
Now the interesting part about this story was how they got there to begin with. Of course, they had been in space all that time, and had been experiencing zero gravity, and in zero gravity, when there’s no resistance against your muscles, guess what begins to happen? They begin to weaken. They begin to atrophy because there’s no resistance, and that was the cause of all of the physical problems that those first cosmonauts were experiencing after being in space for so long. There was no resistance.
So the second group that were up there almost a year, they got off that vehicle in good health, and you know what the difference was? The difference between the 211 days and the 326 days in orbit was something called a penguin suit. That sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it? A penguin suit. What was a penguin suit? Well, it was the Soviet’s response to those cosmonauts not being able to walk for all those days, for having to experience all that physical therapy. They invented what they called a penguin suit.
It was kind of like a running suit that was laced with elastic rubber bands, for lack of a better term, and all these rubber bands, and they put this suit on, and it would cause resistance against their muscles. So their arms would be resistant, so that they wouldn’t atrophy. Their legs, the same thing, so that when they would force that resistance, the cosmonauts had to stay in shape. They had to exert their strength, and evidently, after all that time, that resistance paid off, that when they finally landed, the penguin suit was the solution. They weren’t in bad health. They were able to get right back at things. In fact, they were flying planes a day or so after they had landed.
And so it just reminded me, we think oftentimes, “Boy, if I didn’t have any problems, if there was no resistance in my life, wouldn’t things be great? I could just kind of laze around and not have to worry about problems.” And yet what would happen to our spiritual muscles if we didn’t have any resistance, if we had no problems, if we had no difficulties, if we didn’t have any trials or challenges? I think in a lot of ways God knows better. I think part of the lesson that I began to understand maybe a little bit better was that strength grows by exertion. You find that? That strength grows by exertion, because in this life, tough times are going to come. There are going to be challenges, and, of course, when those challenges come, sometimes we find ourselves like the Jews.
Sometimes we find ourselves in this position. It’s like, “Well, how am I supposed to get beyond this? How am I supposed to heal? How can I begin to grow and do the things God wants me to, especially when, like in their case here in Haggai, the devil is throwing all kinds of doubts in front of us?” He doesn’t want us to get back to being productive. He doesn’t want us to spiritually grow, and so those doubts are thrown our way it seems at every turn, because he wants to keep us like those Jews who came back to build the temple, wanted to keep them sidetracked. Didn’t want them to get back to the kind of vitality that God wanted them to have.
But that’s not God’s intention. His is exactly the opposite, that in spite of the troubles, in spite of the challenges, even despite of the heartbreaks, God can turn that around and use it for our spiritual benefit. He tells us a lot about that over in the book of James. If you turn with me over to James 1, familiar section of scripture, certainly one that reminds us of the challenges in life and yet reminds us of God’s perspective, what his ultimate intent is for us and how we can deal with those difficulties and those challenges. Well, if you noticed, James 1, we’ll begin in verse 2. You know this passage. He says, “My brethren count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”
I have to step back and go, “Boy, I don’t count the joy as I should. Maybe I’m more like those first cosmonauts, and I’m so weak, and hurt, and I can’t hardly walk, and it doesn’t seem like I’m ever going to get over that.” And yet God, in a sense, tells us he’s got a spiritual penguin suit for us, that by the exertion and the challenges that we face in life, it can actually produce strong spiritual muscles.
That’s what he tells us in verse 2. He says, “Knowing the testing of your faith produces patience.” So imagine strapping on this spiritual penguin suit that God’s got in mind for us, and when we do that, we don’t get bogged down in the doubts and the discouragement. He says, “It can produce amazing spiritual fruit.” In fact, here in verse 4, he says, “Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
So God’s got in mind some amazing things, even though there are challenges and difficulties in life. He says, “When we lack wisdom,” he says, “we can ask.” We can begin exercising that side of the spiritual suit, and of course, when we ask, Christ says if we ask, and we seek, and we knock, he says, we will find. And so here it tells us God is going to pour out with all liberality and without reproach, it will be given to him. So despite the heartaches, God has healing in mind. In fact, not just healing, but growth in mind that even through those difficulties, God can work his purpose for amazing spiritual growth. So he says, “Don’t get caught looking down so much. Begin to look up. Pray and ask God for those things.”
So he says, “Let him ask in faith.” And of course, we know that God’s purpose is to give us the best things. We know every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of life. He’s got those good things in mind. And so he wants that temple, he wants our temple not to have broken down walls, not to be in disarray, not to be left in discouragement, but he wants it to be growing and built back up. And so he points this out so beautifully, and so God can work his purposes even among that.
In fact, look at verse 6, he says, “Let him ask in faith with no doubting. He who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” We know who’s throwing the doubts. We know who wants to get us discouraged. That’s not of God. We know the adversary wants to trip us up, and so he says, “Be confident.” Have our confidence in God’s purposes. Have our confidence in faith, in trust, and don’t waiver because we know God doesn’t waver. We know he’s got exactly the best thing in mind for us, and even in spite of the fact, we can’t see how this could work out for good. God says through his purposes, it can.
And we’ve got an amazing God that can bring those things about, and so he says, “My purpose will be served. Have faith, have trust, have that confidence in me, and it will be borne out.” And so we can begin to put that trust and faith in God, and I ran across an amazing example. Can you think of a disciple that had firsthand experience when it came to this very sort of thing? The one I think of is Peter. Talk about someone that went from heartbreak, the one who said he would never ever walk away from Christ. He would never turn his back on his savior, and yet he did that very thing.
He said something interesting. I Peter 5:10, notice what Peter himself said, and as we read this, I wonder if he had some of his own experience in his mind when he wrote this very thing. Here in 1 Peter 5:10 1 Peter 5:10But the God of all grace, who has called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.
American King James Version×, gives us the big picture. Look at the big picture when it comes to heartbreak, and trials, and difficulties. He says, “May the God of all grace, the God of all favor, the God who can work miracles in our hearts, in our minds,” he says, “may that God who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus,” because He didn’t call us to remain heartbroken. He didn’t call us to fall short. He called us to be a part of His eternal family, and yet he knows what life is like. He knows his own experienced life. He says, “After you’ve suffered awhile, may that God of all grace perfect you. May He establish you. May He strengthen and settle you.”
I believe Peter could say that maybe perhaps what he experienced in Luke 22, if you’d like to turn over to Luke 22 for just a moment. Imagine where Peter was at, at that very moment, in Luke 22. We know the story, but look at the devastation that Peter himself suffered here in Luke 22:54 Luke 22:54Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off.
American King James Version×, Luke 22:54 Luke 22:54Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off.
American King James Version×. This is the same chapter where Peter just got done saying, “I’m ready to go with you both to prison and to death,” and yet not long after that, we have Peter following Christ after his arrest. Peter was there. Someone recognized him. Verse 56, they looked at Peter and said, “This man was also with Him.” Peter who was ready to go to death for Christ said, “Woman, I don’t know Him.”
Then again, he was recognized. “You’re also with Him,” in verse 58, but Peter said, “Man, I am not.” We know the story. Verse 59, someone else said, “Surely this fellow was with Him. He’s a Galilean.” Verse 60, Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you’re saying,” and then immediately, that rooster crowed. When you talk about heartbreaking events, verse 62 paints Peter’s heartbreak. Peter went out and wept bitterly. He wept bitterly. How do you overcome that? How can you turn a life around after you’ve been such a hypocrite in ways that you were never going to give up? You would never stand for the Savior being taken. You would never deny Him, and yet this is where life found Peter.
Thinking about Peter’s story and how to overcome a devastation like this actually reminded me of a story I had heard about farmers in Alabama. It doesn’t seem to make much sense when you say it like that, but in Alabama, at the turn of the century, farmers were accustomed to planting one crop year after year after year. You know what that crop was? It was cotton. Every year they had seemed to plow as much land as they possibly could, and they’d plant cotton, and year after year, they thrived. Cotton was king until the dreaded boll weevil came along. That boll weevil devastated every year that followed. In fact, that next year was so bad that farmers had to mortgage their homes. In fact, they mortgaged their homes, and you know what they did? They planted cotton. The boll weevil came back again and destroyed and wiped them out.
They weren’t too many that survived those first couple of years of the boll weevil, but the few that did, the few that did survive decided, “This isn’t working.” After being devastated those two years, they decided we better try something else. So they planted something they had never planted before. And you know what that was? It was peanuts. Peanuts. They planted peanuts. And you know what happened to the peanuts? Oh, the boll weevil couldn’t affect the peanuts.
The peanuts, they proved so hardy they did unbelievably well, and, of course, America wanted peanuts. They were ravenous for peanuts. They couldn’t plant enough peanuts, and those that survived those first couple of years, that next year of the profits from peanuts enabled them to pay off their debts and plant those peanuts again the next year, and they thrived.
It turns out this devastation from the boll weevil led to something even better. It led to growth. It led to greater stability. It led to greater prosperity. And so you know what those new peanut farmers did? They decided that in the town of Enterprise, Alabama, they would build a monument, a monument to their success. You know what they built the monument to? Yeah, the boll weevil. You can go to Enterprise, Alabama today, and there’s this lady with her arms over her head holding not a giant peanut, holding a giant boll weevil, and the thing’s like this big. It’s huge. You can Google it, and you can see the statue at Enterprise, Alabama.
The farmers actually built a monument to their heartbreak, to their trial, to the discouragement of this boll weevil because they felt if it hadn’t been for the boll weevil, it hadn’t been for the devastation, they never would have discovered peanuts, and they never would have grown to the prosperity that they came to have. And they learned by building that monument, even out of disaster, great things can come. The devastation led to growth, the heartbreak led to healing, the tragedy led to rejoicing because those people around Enterprise realized it wasn’t a time to sit still. It wasn’t a time to be idle. It wasn’t a time to just stay in that discouraging state. They realized it was time to go forward. It was time to find new ways to do things, new ways to press on.
And in fact the same thing happened in Peter’s life. At the crucifixion he was devastated, and yet not long after that, in fact, it hardly was a couple of months, if you look over to Acts 2, look at this same man, Peter, in Acts 2:40 Acts 2:40And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
American King James Version×, Acts 2:40 Acts 2:40And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
American King James Version×, tells the amazing story after receiving God’s spirit here on the day of Pentecost, Peter says some amazing things. Critical things begin to happen, a whole different perspective. He gives this amazing sermon. People respond to that sermon.
People recognize where real growth can come from, even after being devastated by the death of the Savior, through His resurrection, there is life, there is hope, and so he says in verse 40, “With many other words he testified and extorted them saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’” Verse 41, “Those who gladly received the word were baptized, and that day, about 3,000 souls were added to them, and they continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine, in fellowship, the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
And you could read on through this section of the book of Acts, the amazing growth that the Church experienced right after devastating event. And I don’t think it’s there just to show us how awesome receiving the Holy Spirit was. Of course, that’s an amazing lesson, but I think it’s also a lesson for us to recognize the fact that even in our lives, even after heartbreak, there can be healing, and there can be growth after difficulties, and trials, and disaster. I think God wants us to really take that to heart and recognize when God is backing us up, what is there to hold us back?
We sing an amazing song oftentimes at services. It’s a song that’s titled “God is Our Refuge.” Remember that song? If you want a reminder of the lyrics, you can go back to Psalm 46. Psalm 46 is where those lyrics come from, “God is our Refuge.” We sing that God is our refuge and our strength, a very present aid. We sing that. If you look at that, a little bit different wording here in Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and our strength.” Did Peter begin to realize that? Absolutely. When did it really strike him that he could put his trust and his faith and his hope there? It was after the difficulties. It was after the challenges and the trials.
God is a very present help in trouble. We can put our confidence in him. Verse 2, it says, “Therefore we will not fear. Though even the earth be removed, if our legs are knocked out from under us, we have a great God that can even move spiritual mountains.” He says, “Though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea, though the waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake, when our world is falling down around us, God is our refuge. God never would leave us or forsake us. He is always there.”
These times of difficulties can bring us to a point to recognize that even more thoroughly in our lives, to recognize His presence in every way. When you look at verse 7, he says, “The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved. He uttered with his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of host is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge.” So what an amazing blessing this great God that we have can be in our lives. That’s where the healing can really begin. That’s where the growth can really begin, when we put that trust, and that faith, and that confidence right where it needs to be, right in our great God because through Him, amazing growth can take. Not only healing, but growth can result.
In fact that’s what it says here in Psalm 46 verse 10. It says, “Be still, God says, and know that I am God. I’ll be exalted among the nations. I’ll be exalted in the earth.” We exalt God by recovering. We exalt God by being healed, by allowing Him to heal us and work in our lives. We exalt God like those Enterprise farmers did. Out of disaster can be great growth. And so God can use those challenges to do that very thing, to give us a different perspective in the difficulties that we face.
The Book of Hebrews talks about that. Hebrews 10:32 Hebrews 10:32But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great fight of afflictions;
American King James Version×, in Hebrews 10:32 Hebrews 10:32But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great fight of afflictions;
American King James Version×we’re shown how these challenges that we face in our life can do that very thing. It can change the way we look at life, and I think God wants to give us that different perspective, doesn’t he? So in the book of Hebrews 10, it’s described in this section for us. Look at verse 32. Verse 32, “Recall the former days which after you were illuminated, you endured great struggle with sufferings.”
I know many have experienced those very things. Sometimes not that long after understanding the truth. We might run into struggle just coming to the truth. We’ve seen that certainly with those that begin to understand God’s way and His will. They strive to begin to maybe keep the Sabbath. They’re challenged on their jobs immediately, and the struggles and the difficulties that begin when we understand the truth. Maybe it’s like these that are described here. There are great struggles to endure, and yet it’s interesting here in verse 33, he says, “Partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, partly while you became companions of those who were so treated, and we have empathy for each other. We recognize each other’s difficulties and challenges.”
Verse 34, it says, “You had compassion on me and my chains,” most likely the apostle Paul writing here, “and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods knowing…” What can we take out of the challenges and the struggles and the trials? He says, “…knowing that you have a better and enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.” The Christ is going to return to this earth, and from heaven He’s going to bring His Kingdom to this earth, and we have an opportunity to be a part of His Kingdom and His family forever. So he says verse 35, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward, for you have need of endurance so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.”
So in a way, he’s telling us God can change our perspective on life and on the difficulties. He can help us to realize these things are just passing. These are fleeting things. These are things that we have to be brave. We have to be confident. We have to have faith in God so that we can endure, and that we will grow, and that we will see ourselves in God’s hands, who will help us to endure and help us to spiritually mature even more because that’s His promise. And we can have faith in that very promise that God is with us, because it’s not about that moment of difficulty. It’s not about that time of struggle. It’s what follows.
What do we do now? What do we do next when we find ourselves in those challenges and those difficulties? Moving to Cincinnati, I began to hear all the stories about the Cincinnati Reds. One that came to mind when I was thinking of this particular topic was a story someone told me I had to look it up to see if it was really true, and it was. It was a story about the Cincinnati Reds. I’m not a big baseball fanatic or anything like that, but they’re forcing me to be in Cincinnati. And, of course, with the Reds being there, I heard a story about a game that took place all the way back in 1954, and as this person began to tell me that story, I thought, “Do I really care about 1954 baseball? I don’t really care. What about it?”
Well, they were excited about it, so they were telling me about the Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Braves had a baseball game in Cincinnati, 1954. Two rookies were in that very game, they told me. Two rookies played in that game in Cincinnati. The Reds won, of course, they had to tell me. It was nine to eight, and the star of the game was a man named Jim Greengrass. Everybody heard of the famous baseball player Jim Greengrass? Maybe one or two. Not necessarily a big name, but boy, did he have a big game that time. He had four doubles in his very first big league game playing for the Reds. That’s pretty amazing. They were telling me, “That is sensational. What a debut for this rookie.”
Now there was another rookie that played left field for the Braves. He went zero for five that day. Terrible. Right? Awful beginning. It was a terrible start for that rookie, whose name was Hank Aaron. Oh, everybody’s heard of Hank Aaron. That’s right. Yeah, pretty amazing story when you think about it, and it’s true. It’s true. And reading a little bit about Hank Aaron, one of his sayings or one of his mottos was, “Always keep swinging,” and boy after starting as a rookie zero for five, what if he would have given up?
What if he would have said, “Forget it. Can’t do this. I wasn’t cut out for the big leagues”? Especially with all the challenges he faced, he could have easily given up, but he didn’t. He didn’t, and I think it’s a Reds example of this whole concept when we’re faced with the challenges, when we’re going zero for five, when we’re down, we’re depressed, we’re discouraged, we’re sick, we’re hurt, when life’s taken away from us, when we face those kinds of challenges, really life changing events, it really should point us to keep swinging, to be ready to follow God.
And how many times is that the lesson throughout the Bible? You can’t turn to Abraham without saying when life-changing events happen, turn to God. How about Lot? How about Jacob? How about Moses? When life-changing events happen, be ready for action. Be ready for growth. God is positioning you to grow and to stretch. When you’re ready to cross the sea, it looks there’s no way it’s going to happen, but somehow the seas are going to part.
Somehow that wall is going to collapse. Somehow the prison doors are going to fly open. Somehow the gospel will be preached. It is undoubtable. When we read those stories, I think we have to understand that for our lives, the same thing is true. When life-changing events happen to us, be ready. God has growth in mind. He wants us to take this opportunity and this situation as an opportunity for growth. He’s going to open doors so that will happen. And so what an amazing thing because we’re just like this.
The book of Ephesians, or excuse me, Philippians, reminds us of that. Go over to Philippians 3, because life situations bring us opportunity when God is first and foremost in our plan, when God is our guide. When we submit our lives into His hands, He can work all those things for good. He doesn’t want us to stay there. He wants us to keep swinging. Philippians 3:8 Philippians 3:8Yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
American King James Version×is such a great reminder of these things, spoken by a man who lived it, spoken by a man who went more than zero for five in some of his attempts.
Notice what the apostle Paul said here in Philippians 3:8 Philippians 3:8Yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,
American King James Version×, “Indeed I count all things lost for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I’ve suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish that I might gain Christ. To be found in Him, not having my own righteousness from the law, but that, which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” How many times did Paul have to look to God and recognize God was moving him to grow, to continue on, to find new ways to preach and to teach and be that example of faith?
Verse 10 he says, “That I may know Him the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings and being conformed to His death. If by any means I may attain to the resurrection of the dead, not that I’ve already attained or am perfected, but I press on that I may lay hold of that, for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward of call of God, in Christ Jesus.” That was Paul’s perspective in the challenges, and the trials, and the difficulties of life.
He recognized through those difficulties God was positioning him for greater growth, for greater spiritual understanding. And He’s doing the same for us. God is doing that very…He’s not going to leave us down and out. He’s not going to leave us on the wayside. He is there every step of the way working through our lives so that we can be a representation of God’s way. We can be a living example of what the gospel is all about, that we can stand before Him in a state that He is forgiving and we can move on and be positioned for growth.
In fact, maybe we can finish the story of the temple before we get too far removed, before we conclude leaving them devastated. God didn’t leave them that way. Maybe if we go back to Haggai for just a moment as we conclude. Haggai 2 I think kind of tells that story about miraculous events happening and how God’s presence is such a phenomenal thing, and what God’s intent for us really is. Haggai 2, if you get right before the book of Zechariah after that gigantic book of Zephaniah, you can find Haggai.
Haggai 2, here’s what the New Century version says at the beginning of verse 1. Verse 1 chapter 2 of Haggai, it says, “On the 21st day of the seventh month, the Lord spoke His word through Haggai the prophet.” He said, verse 2, “Speak to Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah to Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the rest of the people who are left alive, here’s what you should say, ‘Do any of you remember how great the temple was before it was destroyed? What does it look like now? Doesn’t it seem like nothing to you?’”
I think sometimes we can step back in our life and say, “You know, things used to be really good. It seemed like I had it made in my life, and now the bottom fell out.” The temple was gone. It was destroyed. What did it look like then? It looked like a mess, and I think when we’re in that position, this is what God is telling us. God says this very thing to us, not just about a physical temple but about our life itself. What does God have in mind when we’re in those positions?
Verse 4, Here’s what the Lord says, “‘Zerubbabel, be brave. Joshua, be brave. All you people who live in the land be courageous,’ says the Lord.” Why should we be? So He says, “Work because I am with you,’” says the Lord all powerful, the Lord Almighty. We’ve got an almighty God on our side, and we will come out of the rubble. We can build a great spiritual building with the help of our Almighty God. Verse 5, He says, “I made a promise to you when you came out of Egypt.” Well, God made the same promise to us when we came out of the Egypt of this world, and He’s going to be with us. He says, “My spirit is still with you, so don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.”
So what an amazing thing this is. In fact down to verse 9 he says, “This new temple,” imagine this spiritual building we’re building, after a disappointment, after a devastation, after a trial, verse 9, “ ‘This new temple will be greater than the one before us,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘In this place I’ll give peace,’ says the Almighty God.” I think that’s what God wants us to recognize. He has positioned us through the challenges and the difficulties that we face in this life for growth. God speaks through events, and He works these things for our good. So God’s telling us, “Be strong. Be courageous. Move forward. Really live your life in a dedicated manner to Me,” and we can do that very thing because God’s told us we can do that. We can be dedicate even in difficulties, even in tragedy, because we recognize that by the authority of God and him working in our life, He promises to bring every heartbreak to healing.