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Looking Back - 2021

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Looking Back - 2021

MP3 Audio (91.79 MB)


Looking Back - 2021

MP3 Audio (91.79 MB)

We are told like to Lot's wife there are things we should not be looking back, but in others, as Paul taught to the Corinthians there so some things that we need to be looking back on, even focusing on. What are the things of 2021 that we need to look back on, need to look on with joy.


Looking Back -2021, Craig Clark UCG Freeland, 12-25-21

Last year, pretty much this same weekend, it was December 26, rather than the 25th. I began my message like this 2020 - WORST YEAR EVER. Now, I went on to say that I know there are a lot of people who feel like that. And I had received a note, just previous to that. From someone that said, or at least in part, it said, I never want to look back at it referring to 2020.

Every one of us had a difficult year last year. So, what does that make 2021? Was the worst year ever? What it was this year? The worst-est? Or, worst-er? {laughter} I know they're not words. But I think you get the idea that things really weren't any better this year, were they, in many ways? And then what about 2022 We're actually going to leave 2022 until next week, because I get to speak again. So, we'll put that off for the most part, but we're going to talk about 2021 a little bit, today.

Now, in the announcements, I just mentioned that two more deaths in our family. Just this past week, we have all suffered loss this year. We've lost husbands, fathers, mothers, siblings, aunts, and uncles. Children, and some of you came in close to death yourselves. Not to mention many other health issues and other trials. There were heart problems, back problems, pain in knees and other joints.

There are things that people are suffering through that they don't even know the cause. There is anxiety, and other mental physical, and spiritual problems that people are suffering. There are several people that haven't been able to attend for quite some time. And then, of course, there is the pandemic. Last year at this time, people were optimistic that it would be over in 2021. Right? But today? People hope that there's a possibility that maybe it'll be better next year. But I don't really think they're all that optimistic. Some cities, some colleges are closing down again. Our hospitals are filling up again. And the infection rate is actually accelerating. So, we're getting into next year again, we're going to stop there.

So, looking back, looking back on the past year, what do we focus on? Now, we've already mentioned a lot of the things that happened last year. But if we're going to talk about looking back, maybe there are some examples of looking back in the Bible that we might want to consider.

Now when we talk about the Bible and looking back, probably the first thing that comes to mind is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah we find that in Genesis 19. I'm not going to read the whole story here. But I do want to look at a part of it. I think you all remember what happened. God told Abraham, what he was going to do. Abraham then bargained with God, because his nephew Lot lived in Sodom. Can find all of that, again, as I said, in Genesis 18 and 19 leading up to it. God then sent his angels down to check it all out and see what it was really like. And they came to Lot's house. Partially, because he wasn't going to let them stay up there. And you remember what happened. After some strange and horrible things. They told Locke to gather up his family, and get out of the city because they were going to destroy it. So, let's pick up the story Genesis 19:15. It say, when the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, "Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city". I think we can kind of understand why they were reluctant to leave because they had other family there in the city, too.  It says, "and while he lingered the men took hold of his hand, his wife's hand, and the hand of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him. And they brought him out and set him outside the city. So, it came to pass when they had brought them outside that he said, escape for your life. Do not look behind you, nor stay anywhere in the plain, escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed." -  Struck down - verse 24.

See what happened next. It says "then the Lord rain and brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from the Lord, out of the heavens. So, he overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a color or a pillar of salt."

 Now, certainly looking back, this case, was not a good thing. And we can speculate on why she may have looked back, and what it was all about. I'm sure that we'll get there. But you can think about that. But there are some other examples of looking back that I do want to look at this morning.

How about the children of Israel? Did they ever look back?

Hmm I see a lot of heads nodding.

You all know that they did. Let's start with the book of Exodus. There are a couple of examples here in the book of Exodus, that I'd like to look at. We're going to start in Exodus 14. Now, in this chapter, we read about the crossing of the Red Sea of those miracles that took place as they were leaving Egypt. However, you know in the same story, even before they really left Egypt behind. They complain and want to go back. So, let's read Exodus 14:10-12. "And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes and behold, the Egyptians marched after them, so they were very afraid. And the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then, they said to Moses, because there are no were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt saying, 'Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?' For would not it have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness?"

You know, at the very beginning of this book, it said they cried out to the Lord, and He heard them because of the bondage, because of all that they were suffering with, in Egypt as slaves. But you know, every time the children of Israel found themselves in a difficult situation, they would look back and see how 'wonderful' Egypt had been and want to go back. Looking at that, from our perspective, is, well it seems ludicrous, doesn't. You know, not too long before this, right, they cried out to God, because of how awful it was being in bondage to the Egyptians. Now, I guess you could say that, well, what we just read, was before God destroyed the Egyptian army, but they also experienced all of the miracles that led up to them leaving, right?


The plagues, including the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians. Lets turn on few pages ahead to Exodus 16. And really, this isn't very much later. I mean, it's just a few days later, probably.

Exodus 16:1 "And they journeyed from Elam, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came to the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elam and Sinai. On the 15th day of the second month after they departed from the land of Egypt. Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. And the children of Israel said to them: 'Oh, that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, and when we ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly, with hunger'." Really? 'When we sat by the pots of meat, and had all the bread we wished for, all while being worked to death as slaves.'  "We" forget that part, don't they? Let's start with the book of Numbers. Look at one more example.

And again, we see the children of Israel complaining and unhappy with God. So we're going to look at Numbers 11:1. And this appears to take place shortly after they left Mount Sinai. You would think after all, they went through at Sinai that maybe it would take a little longer, but… Anyway, let's begin in verse one.

"Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord. For the Lord heard it and His anger was aroused, so the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire was quenched. So, he called the name of the place Taberah, because the fire of the Lord had burned among them. Now the mixed multitude who were among them, yielded to intense craving. So, the children of Israel also wept again and said, 'Who will give us meat to eat?' "

I guess they were thinking about those pots of meat, again.  

" 'We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our whole being is dried up, there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes'."

Here they are eating because of a miracle from God and yet, all they can do is look back at what they had in Egypt and would prefer that over what God had given them. And what they were now eating. Now, I don't deny at all, that they had trials and difficulties. It was not always easy. We understand that. Just as I know that all of us - all of you - have faced trials and difficulties this past year. I guess the question is, how do we deal with it?

How do you look at that past year? And all that we went through? And then maybe a better question is at this point, should we look back? Now, all of the examples we've looked at, at least so far, are not good. So, let's change tack and go in a completely different direction for that.

Thank you to turn to 1 Corinthians 11. Now you might have thought that I would say we shouldn't look back. But I think in this chapter we're told that we have to.

See, in this chapter, we see Paul offering some instructions to the Corinthians. He'd begins with an admonition to follow him as he followed Jesus Christ. He then talks about proper worship and gives some instruction or some constructive criticism of how they were conducting the Passover. And it's part of what I want to read. We're going to kind of break into the middle of this and begin reading in verse 26. 1 Corinthians 11:26-31.  "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. Whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord, and an unworthy manner, will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself."

 See, I would say that that means we need to look back to look back at ourselves, what we've done, what we have experienced, and how did we handle those things?

 Did we did we react in a Godly manner or di? Did we repent? Do we need to repent?

"Let a man examine himself. And so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup, for He who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner, eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."

So maybe as we look back at 2021, and all that has happened, we have gone through, we need to do so with that thought in mind. Passover will be here before you realize. I think what Paul then says next is very interesting. Now, he just said that if we do not properly examine ourselves, and whether we are headed in the right direction, from God's point of view, then we even drink judgment to ourselves, and are not discerning the Lord body.

And then he says this, it says, "For this reason, many are weak and sick among you. And many sleep where if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged".

Now, I'm not trying to say at all that we brought all of this on us, right? There are all sorts of reasons why things happen. But at the same time, maybe we make it worse for ourselves at times, because we are not looking at things from the right perspective. So, let's see if we can put things into the right perspective. Now, when we consider how we should react to bad things happening to us, what comes to mind? I can't help but think about Job. I know there's at least one other guy that probably thinks that way. So, let's take a look at Job one. Because I think if we had to pick someone in the Bible that had a bad year, I think it would have to be Job. And I'm not going to take the time to read all of this in its context. You know the story. We've talked about it quite a bit. had several messages on it in the last few years. So, we're just going to look at some of the things that Job lost. So, Job beginning in verse 13.


It says; Now, there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house. And a messenger came to Job and said, 'the oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them. When the Sebians raided them, and took them away. Indeed, they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone, have escaped to tell you', while he was still speaking, another also came and said, 'the fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone him escaped to tell you'. And while he was still speaking, another also came and said, 'the Chaldeans form three bands, rated the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you'. And while he was still speaking, another also came and said, 'Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house and it fell on the young people and they are dead'. An alone escaped to tell you.'

I think that you might say that Joe was having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

And how did Joe respond? Job 1:20. 'Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head. And he fell to the ground and worshipped. And he said, naked, I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there, the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord. And in all this Job did not sin, nor charge God with wrong'.

I think that's an incredible statement.

Now, all of Job's responses may not have been perfect. But what we see here is a completely different response from what we saw with the children of Israel, and from Lot's wife, as well. I think the biggest difference, the key difference is that they couldn't get over the perceived wrong they were given, and they blamed God. There was a different attitude in how they responded to how Job responded.

They didn't want to have anything to do with God at that point. While Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. How do we have that kind of and attitude? Let's face it, we all suffer trials and they're not over with. There will be more ahead of us.

So, I want to look at some scriptures, different passages that we're all pretty familiar with, that might help us to keep our head on the street, you might say, as we face different trials and difficulties, so that we can have the same kind of attitude that Job had. I'm sure that Job was devastated. He certainly didn't understand what was happening and why. We'd see that through the next 40 chapters or so. And he questioned God. He certainly didn't understand it. And yet, his initial attitude was he wasn't blaming God for that. He didn't charge God with wrong. He may have thought it came from God for some reason that he didn't understand, but that's different. I mean, let's face it, we all know that God's going to allow us to face trials and difficulties.

Let's start with the book of Jesus. You got to love James. He just lays it all out there doesn't He? No beating around the bush. No. I don't know. I was going to say sympathy. I don't think that's quite the right term. But it's just like, "here it is". That's how we start, right?

James 1:2. He says "my brethren, counted all joy when you fall into various trials." Do that, right? Now, I'm sure that some of you have been through enough trials and can kind of understand what he's saying. I think most of us probably don't fully understand that. Especially when we're in the middle of it. But isn't that what Job did? In the midst of an overwhelming trial He worshipped God. James goes say and explain some of this. He says, "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."

See what James is saying here is that we go through these things, and we can learn from them. And then as we learn those lessons, God is going to bring us to where he wants us to be - perfect and complete, lacking nothing. Isn't that the state that we want to be in? And sometimes it takes trials and difficult times to get there. But a lot of it depends on our process in dealing with it.

So, let's look at some other passages that might help us to get there, to understand how we can count these things as joy. Paul has quite a bit to say about trials and difficulties and how to deal with them and the way we're supposed to be. Let's go to 1Corinthians 10, next.

Because I think it's important to understand this, we're only going to read one verse here 1 Corinthians 10:13. But there's a lot to this, that we need to understand. And if we can understand it, then I think it helps us with the rest, helps us with the attitude that we need to have. And opening ourselves up to hearing what God wants us to learn.

 Paul says "No temptation has overtaken you, except such as is common to man."

We can certainly say that about last year. We're not the only ones that are suffering are we? Millions and millions of people have died. Many more millions have suffered because of it. But then he goes on to say "but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. But with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."

 You know what this tells us? It tells us God knows us, intimately.

He knows exactly what we can handle and what we can't. And whatever situation we find ourselves in. He's going to have to help us find a way to deal with it. And to get through it. We return to him. We rely on him. We trust him.

I think Paul certainly understood this. I think he understood it from experience.

How many times was he beaten? How many times was he left for dead? None of us have had to go through that, at least not yet. Maybe we will, who knows what's ahead. Turn to Philippians. We'll read a couple of passages here in Philippians.


Because, I think he also gives us Paul gives us some, some help in how to deal with these things, how to deal with our trials or difficult times. And again, I think he speaks from experience. Maybe giving us some of the things that he understood as he went through it, on how to get through the next trial or difficult time. Began in Philippians 4:8-9. He says, "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you."

So when we look back at 2021, what do we see?

You see the trials and difficulties. You see all the bad things that happen? Is that what you focus on? Maybe we're focusing on the wrong things, if that's what we're looking at. There were a lot of good things that happened in 2021. We think lately have overlooked some of that. We're here. We have our very own building. How excited were we? A year ago, when all of this was finally coming to fruition? How hard did everybody work to make this a place that we could be in for the Passover last year. We were excited.

We were ready to be together every week. And we have been all year long. For the most part, we've been here, I think there was only one Sabbath that we didn't have services because of so many that were sick. But other than that, we've been here, every week.

What a blessing that has been.

And not all of our congregations can say that. There were a lot that were not able to get together for probably a year or more. And some of them are going back to that. Because of the rules that are in place where they meet, where they live. The last year or so we've had babies born, Grandchildren mean there have been some really good things. We need to look at the things that God has blessed us and not focus on how horrible things were or are or will be, whatever it is. And I'm not discounting the fact that yeah, we do have trials, we do have sadness. And that's okay. We have to remember that God blesses us and will be with us.

Philippians 4:11. I think when you do that, when you focus on all those good things, that's how Paul can get to this point. He says, "not that I speak in regard to need for I have learned in whatever state I am in to be content." 

And we can do that. With all the loss with whatever suffering, whatever trial, we can still be content.

Philippians 4:12-13 "I know how to be abased and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

This is where we need to be, isn't it? And we can. I've seen it, I know it.

I think part of how we get there, we find in Hebrews chapter 13. Certainly not the only place in the Bible that says this, but I think this is something that we just always need to keep in mind.

Hebrews 13:5-6. "Let your conduct be without covetousness be content with such things as you have, for he himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you". So we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper. I will not fear.  What can man do to me?

Now there is an awful lot of fear in this world.

We should not be afraid. Not saying we shouldn't be careful, right? There are things we need to do, but we shouldn't be afraid. I mean, what's the worst thing that can happen to us? We might die. Okay. It certainly works for the people that are left is hardest, than it is for the person that has died. I mean, it sounds kind of weird. But it's true. See if we can have that kind of attitude. If we die, the next thing we know it's the kingdom.

It's not so bad, is it? But we have to get through the loss in our lives, to get there. To get to that, to understand that.

I mentioned earlier that God knows us intimately. He knows everything about us. He knows what we need. He knows what it takes for us to get through whatever it is that we're facing.

Let's go back to 1 Kings 19. I want to look at a fairly quick example of this. This is a story of Elijah a few years ago, I think I gave a sermon about Elijah and some others and how they seem to be prone to depression at times. And I think that this is part of that story. I mean, just the chapter so before this, we see Elijah's depressed. I don't know best maybe you could say right with the challenge to the prophets of Baal. And all that took place there and then afterwards, right he had called the godly God listen to his prayer and there was no rain for like three years. And then when they go through that battle between the two, between the prophets of Baal and himself and Israel there it basically challenges Israelites to you know, who is your God? Who are you going to follow? And then he prays, and he asked God for rain, and not only does he get rain, but he gets buckets of rain and then he runs for his life.

And then we pick it up here in 1Kings 19. We're going to start in verse nine. So here he is, he runs away, he's hiding for his life, says "there he came into a cave and spent the night in that place and behold, the word of the Lord came to him. And he said to him, 'What are you doing here? Elijah?" So he said, "I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts, for the children of Israel that forsaken your covenant, torn down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, I alone am left. And they seek to take my life." That's what Elijah was feeling at that time, right?

He had been through an awful lot. And he was worn down and he was tired, and he was depressed. And yet through all of that he had done his best to serve God. And God understood what he needed. Understood him. And so, God says to him, "go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by. And a great and strong wind tore into the mountains, and broke the rocks and pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind and earthquake, the Lord was not in the earthquake, and after the earthquake, a fire but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, a still small voice."

And it seems that that is exactly what Elijah needed. He showed him that He could do anything, that he was more powerful than anybody, anything else on Earth. And yet, he talked to Elijah in a still small voice.

I can empathize and deal with him as he needed to be dealt with. And then what does God do after that? God tells  'here's what I want you to do next'. And he goes and does it.

I think the lesson that we need to learn from all of that is that yes, God is always with us, right. And that's what we just read in Hebrews. "I will never leave you nor forsake you".

God also tells us that he's going to finish the work that he began in us. See, as long as we don't turn away from God, he is never going to turn away from us. He's going to help us through, it's going to help us deal with it. It's going to help us get where we need to be. But we need to be open to Him. I think that's really what we're told in Romans 8 We go to Romans 8 quite a bit. Let's take a look at Romans 8:25-28.

These are comforting words, and we do need to take them to heart. Same with, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

So here in Romans 8:25. "But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance."

 Not going to be easy.

"Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. Or we do not know what we should pray for as we ought. But the spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

 I think the story of Job tells us that doesn't. Job didn't really know, he didn't understand, but God knew what he needed, when he was asking and showing when the time was right.

"Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is because it makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose."

That's how we get our mind straight. That's how we have the right attitude to understand these things. We could go to Hebrews 11, and read about those pillars in the church, you might say. Those who we want to join in the kingdom. And you know, there were those that did great things, that it talks about. But there were also those who suffered great things. It says "of whom, the world was not worthy."

I think we all want to be worthy. And we can be if we trust God. If we're not afraid of the things that happen in the world, and we're not afraid of those in the world that may want to do us harm. God will never leave us, nor forsake us.

Do you know when we get to the point where James says counted all joy when you face trials, what is the end result of that? I think we can turn to the back of job and get a glimpse of what the future is all about. We can do that if we can have the right attitude, when we look back at the trials and difficulties that we face, and maybe even in the midst of our trials and difficulties, we can count them joy. We can trust God. Rely on him and know that he's with us.

Job 42: 10-17. You know, Job suffered more loss than I think any of us can imagine. He lost everything that he had pretty much he lost his family - 10 Children in one day.

Job 40:10. And the Lord restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends.

I think that's amazing. Those friends that accused him, that told him all of the things that he had done wrong, that he brought all of this on himself. The Lord restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed, the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before, that all his brothers, all his sisters and all those who had been his acquaintance, acquaintances before, came to him and ate food with him in his house, and they consoled him and comforted him for all the adversity that the Lord had brought upon him. Each one gave him a piece of silver and each a ring of gold. Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job, more than his beginning, for he had 14,000 sheep, 6000 camels, 1000 yoke of oxen, and 1000 female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. And then it says in verse 17, so Job died old and full of days.

I think God blessed him in that way - as an example for us.

We're not looking for the wealth, that Job had. Let's face it, we have everything that we need. We have been so incredibly blessed in this nation. None of us are hungry. We all have a roof over our heads. We have clothing, we have shelter, we have a congregation and a family that cares for us. You know, if anybody in here needs anything, there are so many people that are willing to help. In fact, that's one of the things I forgot to mention. I meant to during our announcements, but, you know, we received a note from our I received a note from Barb. Last week that, you know, after we collected all the donations that people made for the people down in Kentucky, we heard that they'd been so overwhelmed with donations that they said, "Please don't bring any more. And so here we have all of the things that we collected, and they're still here".

You are also generous. And like I said, if there's anybody that has a need, there's always plenty that we can help with. So, we need to figure out what to do with all those things. So maybe we can talk about that a little bit later. But boy, are we blessed!  So, we don't need stuff.

I think what this is showing us is what God has in store for us, is well beyond anything we can imagine. That's what we're really looking for. That's what we really need. What we really want is to be a part of God's family and His kingdom.

I want to end with something that Paul wrote to the Philippians because I agree with it wholeheartedly and think it applies to everyone here. Philippians1:6. He says, "Being confident of this very thing, that he who has done a good work in you will complete it, until the day of Jesus Christ."  

How can we ask for anything more!


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