"Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:35–39).
I want to talk to you about three men whom God used mightily — and how he used failure to produce godliness in them.
Today we hear so much talk about success and how people obtain it. Success in biblical terms is vastly different. As we consider those whom God used to stir their generations, we discover that the elements he used to shape them were torment, pain, sorrow and failure.
For the Lord loves justice, and does not forsake his godly ones; they are preserved forever; but the descendants of the wicked will be cut off” (Psalm 37:28).
In Luke 22, Jesus delivered a serious warning to perhaps his most devoted follower. Christ called the apostle Peter aside and told him the following in no uncertain terms: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail” (Luke 22:31–32).
Israel was in a hopeless predicament. They were trapped, with the Red Sea before them and the mountains on their left and right. An angry Pharaoh and his iron chariots were closing in on them from behind.
This is a very familiar story, one you’ve heard your whole church life. The children of Israel were led by God into a horrible crisis where they were surrounded by a fierce enemy. Incredible as it seems, the Lord had purposely led his people into this precarious spot. I believe it is a story with great importance for the church today, indeed at this moment in history.
I am simply amazed at our Lord’s loving response to grief. As I read the Bible, I see that nothing stirs our God more than the soul that is overcome with grief.
Grief is defined as “deep sorrow” or “sadness caused by extreme distress.” Isaiah tells us the Lord himself is acquainted with this most wrenching emotion: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
In John 2, Jesus and his disciples were invited to a marriage supper in Cana. Evidently, the Lord’s family received the invitation, too, because Jesus’ mother was there. Mary came up to him with a request: “The hosts have run out of wine.”
Jesus’ response to his mother seems a bit strange. He told her, “My hour is not yet come.”
What was this “hour” Jesus was referring to? He wasn’t talking about the moment of darkness he would face three years later, before his crucifixion. At that time Jesus did say, “My hour has come.”
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2, my italics).
This message is meant for all who have backslidden from the Lord. Backsliding is a biblical term that means “falling away, turning away, apostasy.” According to the apostle Paul, who wrote the verse above, “Today is the day of mercy and grace.” In other words: If you ever plan to believe, that time is now.
When the world seems to be shaking, there will arise a people who know how to maintain their strength in the midst of it all. These are people who draw near to the Lord in times of crisis.
According to Scripture, it won’t matter to these people if the moon and stars fall from the sky, or if the mountains quake and fall into the sea. They will still have faith in the Lord to save them, and they will not have their faith shaken by anything that comes.
In Psalm 31, David introduces a phrase to God’s people: “the secret of thy presence.” David writes:
As Christians we believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After the Lord’s crucifixion, the Holy Spirit entered the tomb where he lay and raised him up. This is why we sing on Easter that Christ rose from the grave, victorious over his foes, and now reigns forever with the saints.
We also believe that by Christ’s power we will be resurrected. This will happen when Jesus comes again. Scripture says all of us will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. The Holy Spirit will raise us up from this earth with incorruptible bodies and place us in the Lord’s very presence.
There is much talk right now about the fearful situation our world is in. Nation after nation is troubled, on the brink of economic disaster. Yet amid all the fear and turmoil gripping the world, God is still loving and saving lost souls.
His marvelous work of salvation never changes. It isn’t affected by the economy. His wooing, convicting Holy Spirit isn’t hindered by conditions on Wall Street or by teetering global finances. God’s saving power has never been limited by shrinking bank accounts.