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My God, My God, WhyÖ?

Part 11 - The Ball is in Your Court

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(10/5) Introduction Ė I was a little saddened a few weeks ago, to learn that the man that our senior class dedicated our yearbook to, had died of cancer. Ed Powelson was a great P.E. teacher and coach. He was a short and very intense man. He loved sports and he loved playing sports with us in our class. We had some extreme volleyball games. I hated it when he was on my team, but I loved playing against him. He used to call some of us, "Two Guns." I never asked him why. And he would often follow up something he said with, "Know what I mean?"

When I started the 9th grade, our school was too small to have a football team so I went out for the soccer team. I thought I was going to die. I never ran so much or exercised so much in my life. Mr. Powelsonís goal was to make us the best soccer team in Md. His speech was, "If I yell at you, donít think I donít like you. I just want you to be the best." He didnít have to cut a lot a people, many simply said, "You have got to be kidding, this isnít for me." They wanted to play soccer but didnít want to go through the training that would turn them into the best.

That freshman year I made the team and we lost our first game to Mt. Airy (before there was a South Carroll). He made us run laps and wind sprints until we couldnít breathe. There wasnít a muscle in any of our bodies that wasnít screaming in pain. But we didnít lose again that year until we played in the state championship game against a school that had more people on the soccer team then we had in our senior class. We didnít play class divisions back then and every year we would win the county, and district titles, but we lost the state championship 4 years in a row.

Our soccer training was so intense that I honestly thought my basic training in the Army didnít compare. Few of us ever called him, Mr. Powelson. To us, he was simply, Coach. We learned to love and trust him. I was saddened to hear of his death several weeks after the funeral.

I thought of him as I was studying this passage of scripture. Look at Hebrews 12:9-10. "Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness." I know this is speaking of dads but it is also true of our training officers, drill sergeants, and coaches. They did what they thought was right. They were not perfect and sometimes they made mistakes, but they did the best they knew how and we respected them and placed ourselves under their leadership. Most of us know our parents were not perfect but we love them and in no way did we want to disrespect them.

Our Father in heaven has a goal for us; a goal that is both for our good and His Glory. He wants us to be the best examples of Jesus Christ in the world. To do that He has to reshape our character and our conduct. It is for our profit or our benefit, our gain, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Look down at verse 14, without holiness, you will never see God.

Look at verse 11, "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." How fun was the calisthenics? How fun was the laps and the wind sprints, and those nasty leg lifts? They were not fun, but they turned us in to a well-trained team of winners. The word trained or exercised by it, is the word that means the training that occurs in the gym. Itís a tough workout. But the end product is righteousness that is characterized by peace. Righteousness and Holiness refers to doing what is right and acceptable to God. And as I do that I have His peace. I can sleep better knowing I did the right thing. It is instinctively responding with Godís will, as Jesus would do. It is living for the glory of God. God is Holy and it is His will that His children be Holy. He said so in Leviticus 11:44 and Peter affirms it for the Church, "Be holy, for the Lord your God is Holy (1 Peter 1:16)." Paul said in 2 Cor. 7:1, "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. It is to instinctively display the character and conduct of Jesus in all we do. You are special, you are an adopted child of God. You house the very presence of the Holy Spirit of God. I will live and breathe in all I do as a Son or Daughter of the Living God. That, my friends, is Godís goal in allowing all the trials, all the tests, and all the troubles that comes into our lives. The whole point of verses 5-11 is that your Father loves you and wants you to be the best. Do you believe that? Seriously, do you believe that? The author of this Book (Hebrews) wants you to trust God even when you donít understand, and regardless of the circumstances or the consequences. And donít quit. God loves you, and is training you to be a winner.

Although, there are many Biblical examples of trials like that of Joseph, Moses, David, Jeremiah, Job, Daniel, Paul and others, and many more texts to speak from, we are going to conclude here. Here is some of what we have learned so far.

ē Though Satan is a man-eater, he cannot attack us without our Fatherís consent.

ē God accepts us as we are but will not leave is that way. (Heb. 12:1-7)

ē He will correct us (Heb. 12:1-7)

ē He will discipline us when we do not adjust our thoughts, words, and deeds (Heb 12:1-7)

ē He has given us the text book and will train us and test us to be like Jesus (1 Pet 4:12; James 1:2-4)

ē No matter what we think, He loves us and wants the best for us (Heb. 12:1-7)

ē He tests us to keep us humble (Deut. 8:1-6)

ē He tests us to prove His faithfulness (Deut. 8:1-6)

ē He tests us to prove our faithfulness (Deut. 8:1-6)

ē He tests us to keep us focused on what is important (2 Cor. 4-5)

ē He tests us even to the point of death to show us His power over death (2 Cor, 1:3-11)

ē He tests us, literally lets us get shot and left for dead, so He can nurse us back to health and be our help, strength and encouragement (2 Cor. 1:3-11)

ē He wants us to pay His comfort, that is, His help, strength, and encouragement forward by being a Barnabas, or Tonto to someone else. No one is better qualified to help someone in pain than the person who has come through that pain (2 Cor. 1:3-11). That is why Jesus is the ultimate helper (2:17-18; 4:15-16). And your training is so you can be just like Him.

So, now that you know these things, whatcha gonna do? The ball is in your court. How are you going to play it?

The author of Hebrews has used 12 chapters to encourage the Hebrews not to quit, donít drop out, letís keep going, letís complete this race. You should read this book and highlight all the times the author says, Let us, or letís. We are in this together, letís cross the finish line together, letís heed the warnings, letís not harden our hearts. Letís go on to maturity. Lets:

1. Make the Effort to Get Back Up (v. 12). Letís get out of that chair.

"Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees," The author is using Isaiah 35:3-4 to encourage them to keep on going in faith. Listen, "Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who are fearful-hearted, "Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you." The picture is of weary and discouraged people, perhaps depressed.

How? How do you up? How do you strengthen a weak and weary mind and body?

A. Determined Effort. I must determine to get up. I know Godís plan now and I need to get up and get active.

B. I need nutrition. Both physical and Spiritual. I need to eat healthy and not just fattening comfort food. Same spiritually, I must get back into my Bible and hear from my Father and learn from the Heroes of History

C. I need to learn to breathe as I commit my life God and call upon His name from help, strength and encouragement.

D. I need to start exercising. Physically! Its just true that you will feel better physically after you have stretched your muscles and your cardio-vascular system. Your brain letís out feel good stuff Ėendorphins?

E. You need to buddy up. As the Beatles said, you need a little help from your friends. Join a small group. This is where we find the presence of Barnabasí and Tontoís. When I was stationed in Germany, a friend from Texas named Wayne Durham and I used to run several miles and lift weights a few times a week. Running and lifting are always better to do with a friend. When one says, "I am tired, I want to quit," the other can say, "Just a little more. Letís go to that pole or that tree, or to that turn, we can do this." Letís get back in the race and do this together.

2. Donít Try to Take Short-cuts. (v. 13) "and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed." One of the worse things you can do is to try to do this on your own. I will not seek God, I will not trust and obey God, I can handle this, I can do this myself. I can choose my own road, I can solve my own problems. We visited Amanda this last Tuesday and Weds, and had to do some walking. Have you ever walked on the side of a road and where the road ends and the grass or shoulder begins? There is just a little angle but it is so easy to turn your ankle. Or you come out through a door and donít realize there is slight step down? And what you end up doing is getting yourself hurt even worse. I have never had a dislocated joint, but a fall or an accident can knock a limb out of socket or joint and putting it back is (I am told) a painful experience. If you watched the first Lethal Weapon movie, you saw Mel Gibsonís character constantly dislocating a shoulder and throwing himself into a wall or something to put it back. It gives me chills. If you try to do life apart from God, do a drug, do alcohol, do an immoral relationship, sit in your chair or lay in bed, or attempt suicide, you will only make your problem greater. Take Godís path and eventually you will find healing. The Psalmist said, "He leads me in paths of righteousness for His nameís sake." If I trust in Him what will He do? (Prov. 3:5-6)

3. Pursue Peace with All People. (v. 14a) Some of our trials come in the form of sicknesses or illnesses, but many of them come from people. It could be the government, employers, spouses, children, neighbors, or Church people. In many of these cases, we have a tendency to get bitter, angry, hateful, and want to see them pay, "They owe me!" Or, we just get an attitude with everyone. "I am hurting here. I am angry. So donít anyone get in my way." The author is telling us what we see throughout the Bible. It is on you, not them, to pursue peace. Itís on you to go out of your way to chase people down to initiate the end of conflict. Listen as Peter quotes from Psalm 34. Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For "He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. 11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." (1 Peter 3:8-12). Our Lord said, Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the Sons of God. (Matt. 5:9) God was in Christ do what class? Reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:18). And that my friends is Godís plan for you. Everyone turn and look at what Paul says in Romans 12:17ff, "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. 20 Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

4. Pursue Holiness (14b). Chase after it. It is a prize to be sought. Short and sweet, Honor God in all you do! My life is wrapped up in honoring Him, set apart to Him. I am to my Father what Jesus is to my Father. Special. There is a good chance that most of you ladies have dishes that are only used once a year or when special guests come. These are the good dishes. This is the life that results in peace. The life that lets me sleep at night. It is the right life in a wrong world. Itís what God is pursuing in you. Jesus relates it to being pure in heart, these are the only ones who will see God (Matt.5:8). My only motive is to honor my Father (1 Cor. 10:31)

5. Looking carefully (v. 15). These things must be your focus in your trials and difficulties or else! Anyone ever use that line with you? You better do this or else! It means this is serious. Or else what? Notice 3 things:

A. You will fall short of the grace of God (15a). What does that mean? Does it mean I lose my salvation? NO! It means you will miss the good that God was intending to give you when you get through this. The guys who dropped out of the soccer try-outs, will never know what it was like to get into shape, win games, and get the trophies. The scripture we read at the beginning (Ps. 95) was repeated in Hebrews 3. God tested the Hebrews and they murmured and complained and regardless of what God had done in the past, they didnít trust Him, they wanted out of their contract. They were never satisfied. The end result was they missed the blessing. They didnít get their land. Their kids did, but they didnít. Moses, Aaron, and Miriam did not get the land. Grace is Godís favor, and He wants to favor His children. He has good in mind when He allows you to go through pain. And listen, whether it is here or in heaven, I want all that God wants to give me. Donít You? Seriously. But if you drop out, or if you respond in doubt, disbelief, or with a hard heart, you are going to miss the grace. If you quit, you will miss what God wants to give you.

B. You will be bitter and will infect others with your bitterness (15b) If you donít respect and submit yourself to God and strengthen yourself with God, and seek peace and holiness, you will become bitter. Everyone turn to Deuteronomy 29:14-20. Moses is speaking to the people who are about to inherit what their parents didnít. He reminds them of the Covenant they were under with God. People under pressure are likely to forsake God, and follow their own dictates. They get bitter and their bitterness is infectious as they pull others into their pity parties. Let me give you a few characteristics of a bitter person.

ē They put the blame everywhere except where it belongs. Itís somebody elseís fault. I am the victim.

ē They are negative about everything; a sour disposition.

ē They are critical of everyone and everything.

ē They are angry with God- I donít deserve this. This isnít fair.

ē They reject counsel. I can handle this myself. I donít need you to tell me what to do.

ē They refuse to submit to God. Refuse to seek peace, and pursue holiness

ē Their misery becomes their comfort. I deserve to feel this way. I have a right to feel this way.

ē They want someone to pay. I want vengeance not peace

ē They will infect others with their poison. The result will be divisiveness and dis-unity. If you donít pursue peace and holiness you will miss Godís grace gift, you will get bitter and not better, and you will poison others and their attention will not be on God and His training and purposes. The end result is that the honor of our Lord is tainted by your bitterness.

C. You will live out your life with deep regrets (15c-17), "lest there be any fornicator or profane person like EsauÖ."

Now, we have no knowledge of immoral lifestyle about Esau. There is some in traditional writings. Sometimes such language is used of a spiritual adultery. That is, forsaking God for the things of this world, or idolatry, as in James 4:1-4.

Profane is unholy; no desire to honor or obey God; living contrary to the will and plan of God; no respect for the laws and order of God. Now this is all played out in the story of Esau and Jacob. Look at Genesis 25:27-34. Isaac and Rebekah had twin boys and each parent had their favorite. They were older when the boys were born. Esau was Isaacís boy. He was a boy that loved the outdoors. And Isaac loved the venison that Esau brought home. Rebekah favored Jacob, who loved to hang out in the house and cook with mom. Esau killed it and Jacob grilled it.

One day Esau came in from hunting and he was tired and hungry. Jacob had been preparing a pot of borscht; a soup or stew made with beef and beets, and onions. It was a red stew. Maybe it had a Bisquick crust on top. It smelled so good and Esau wanted some. Jacob had a plan. He would trade the stew for Esauís birthright. The text implies they were young men. Esau never thought of the significance of the birthright. That was for a long time in the future. He might not live to see it and it had no significant value to him at the time. Thatís the way a lot of young people feel about the gospel message and holiness. That may be important someday, but I have too much to do today. That part of my life isnít important. However, it was constantly on Jacobís mind. He would do anything to have that birthright. It meant being the patriarch of the family when Dad died. It meant a double portion of dadís inheritance. It meant being the family priest at that time. Jacob would trade his beet and venison stew for the birthright. And for a few moments satisfaction Esau, under oath, perhaps with witnesses gave his position in life away.

When people are under stress and they want relief, they will often do something for a temporary fix that will haunt them for the rest of their lives. The text implies that as Esau got older, he regretted his decision, he tried to change his mind. Perhaps, he tried to get his dad to reverse this bad decision. Maybe he begged Jacob to give it back. "I didnít mean it. We were young and dumb. I had my fingers crossed. I thought you were kidding." I can see him sitting down hands on head, bawling, "What have I done, what have I done? But no matter how much he cried and wanted to change his situation, he couldnít do it.

Does this mean he wasnít or couldnít be forgiven? I donít think so. I believe he may have sought forgiveness. But he couldnít change the consequences of a poor decision. The consequences would forever haunt him. Just like Davidís. David confessed his sins of adultery and murder and cover-up, and God forgave him, but it couldnít bring back Uriah, nor his dying baby, or change his disgrace, nor erase the haunting memory of his sin. When David wrote his song of repentance, he said, in Psalm 51:3, "I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me." It haunts me. And he would have to live out his life with deep regrets. Peter made a poor decision and though forgiven would never forget denying his Lord.

Neither will if you donít recognize that this trial, test, thorn, tribulation, temptation has been approved by God to help me grow my character and conduct to be like Jesus. I will honor him no matter what. I will respect Him and submit to His word. I will seek peace and holiness and trust my Fatherís wisdom in my situation. Thatís what Jesus did, and I want to be like him. I know He will be Faithful to me. I know He loves me. I am His favorite, just as you are. I will be faithful to Him.

Mr. Powelson, our coach, just wanted to bring out the best in us, and that is exactly what our Father in heaven wants to do in you.

I am going to bundle these life lessons and make them available to you.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman