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My God, My God, WhyÖ?

Part 9 - To Keep us Focused

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(9/13) Introduction Ė I enjoy a good comedy movie. Do You? I love the Princes Bride, and Second Hand Lions. One of Amandaís favorite comedies is Jack Blackís, Nacho Libre. I thought of that movie and the Kevin Jamesí movie, Here Comes the Boom, as I was studying for this lesson. How many of you are familiar with those movies? How about the Stallone movie, Rocky?

What these movies all have in common is that the hero of the movie enters a fight and gets the snot beat out of him. But in the end, each hero re-focuses on why they are fighting and with a resurge of energy they turn the tide and whoop the heavyweight champion. Nacho Libre was the priest that focused on the orphans and a special nun, and Kevin James character was the teacher that focused on the students of his school and a special teacher. Rocky focused on Adrianne.

Now, what does this have to do with our series, My God, Why? We are going to let Paul answer that question for us as we look at his autobiographical letter to the Corinthians; that is, 2 Corinthians. This will be the theme of this weeksí and next weeksí life lesson, and then we will conclude with Hebrews 12.

Paul was the Jewish Golden Boy on a fast track to become the Supreme Court Chief Justice of Israel. He would pad his resume by stopping this new sect of Jesus followers that was leading people away from the temple and Mosesí law. And we know from Lukeís history and Paulís own testimony that he hurt, punished and even killed Christís followers. Until he met Jesus. Look at Acts 9:10-15.

Our Lord Jesus said Paul would suffer for Him and suffer is what Paul did. Why? Payback from God? How many of you believe that your trials are payback from God? He is getting me back forÖ. That is so wrong. Unless you are deliberately hiding or living with unconfessed sin, God is not giving you payback. Jesus took your payback on the cross. You could be experiencing the consequences of sin, but it is not payback. If payback is your theology, we need to have some serious counseling sessions. Look at the back of Jesus because that is where your payback was placed.

God used Paul as a new kind of poster boy. He would be the poster boy of grace received. He would also become the poster boy of a focused life. In this second letter to the Corinthians, he speaks repeatedly about his sufferings and trials and how he faced them. Letís do a fast look.

What kept Paul in the ring? I didnít say the game, or the race, but the ring. In Chapter 4, Paul refers to what he has experienced as one who has entered the ring or the cage against the heavyweight champion of the world. Look at 4:7-9, "7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyedó I believe that this treasure refers to the light and life message of Jesus, the Gospel. The earthen vessels, or clay pots, refer to our bodies that regardless of how much you exercise, or eat healthy, or protect with seat belts and helmets, are still subject to cracking and breaking, or getting brittle, and wearing out. But we are the living examples and messengers of this treasure

Verses 8-9 is the imagery of the movies we spoke of earlier. Paul was speaking of his life as being in the boxing or WWE ring or UFC cage.

We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed, or troubled but not distressed. The word picture is of a fighter who is being forced to the ropes but not the corner. The punches keep coming and we seem to be going backwards, but we still have some room to move, we havenít run out of options. We are still moving.

We are perplexed, but not in despair. We donít know which way to move, what to do, or what to say, so we listen to the corner to hear their wisdom, telling us our options.

9 Persecuted, but not forsaken. The heavy weight is chasing us all over the ring, he is relentless; punching, swinging, kicking, and he doesnít seem to let up, but our corner is still there, still encouraging us, we are not in this fight alone.

Struck down, but not destroyed. In Paulís day, the fights were often to the death. Picture the gladiators. When you were pinned to the ground it was seldom thumbs up. The wrestling matches or fights were not meant to outscore, or to pin the shoulders, or to knock out the opponent, it was to completely destroy him. Paul says, that, like all our movie heroes, he gets knocked down a lot, but never for good. He always manages to get back to his feet for another round.

When these kinds of trials come into our lives, we donít usually say, "Bring it on, I can go another round or two." James MacDonald says we usually respond in one of 4 ways. We:

Complain - This isnít fair, I donít deserve this, Why are you doing this to me God?

Lash Out Ė Take it out on someone like my spouse, my kids, my employees or co-workers. Donít get in my way, leave me alone. Donít talk to me, Keep your advice to yourself. I donít want your help or sympathy!

Bail Ė I want out of this; I donít need this, I wonít take this; I am so out of here.

We Fold Ė I want to die, take me out God, I canít get up, I wonít get up, I give up. Give me a pill, or hand me a bottle.

Remember 2 weeks ago when we looked at Hebrews 12? That is exactly where they were. They wanted to quit. I canít take it any longer. I donít think this is worth it. If that is where you think you are, you must hear me. Donít quit. That is the worse decision you can make. You may be hurting like Paul but you are still moving. You are not alone, there is someone in your corner. There are moves you can still make, and even if you are bloodied and bruised you are still in the fight. You are a child of God.

So for the rest of our time, let me use Paulís imagery and some othersí to encourage you to re-adjust your focus.

1st. From Yourself to Jesus. (Vv. 10-11) I donít care what the guys on TV tell you, the truth of the Bible is that to follow Jesus, to walk the same road as Jesus, is to suffer like Jesus. Period, Exclamation point! Remember what Peter said, "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." Paul said in Romans 8:17, "If we reign with Him we will also suffer with Him." And Paul said in Phil. 1:29, " For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake. Peter told us last week it is the norm for Christ Followers, not the exception (1 Peter 4:12). As a follower of Jesus I cannot expect less than Jesus. His death is my own, His mission is my own, and His destiny is my own. Thatís what Paul is saying in these verses, we bear His dying, His cross. Thatís what our Lord said in Matthew 16:24-25. If He could endure that for me, I can endure this for Him. Say this, "I can do this." I want people to see Christ in Me. Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

2nd. From Yourself to Others (Vv. 12-15a). I know they are movies, but what was the story line. Nacho Libre and Kevin James were driven by the mission of helping kids. This isnít just about me. Itís about the people who are watching me and hearing me. Itís about the people I am trying to minister to and share Jesus with. I am the only Bible some of them may ever read. I am the only Jesus they may ever see. This isnít just about me, itís about generations to come. Will they see the hero in me or the quitter? Will they see Jesus in Me? Will they see a fair weather Christian or a no matter the storm Christian? Jesus from the cross spoke grace, to a thief, and to His torturers. He was dying for them. He offered them forgiveness. His death was for them. Handling your trials with grace will cause people to listen to you. They can see that you are different. You are not cussing and cursing. You are trusting and merciful. People will want to know why you still have hope (1Peter 3:15).

3rd. From Yourself to the Glory of God (v. 15b). I will endure this and learn from this and trust my God in this, no matter what. I believe that God has a good plan even if I donít understand and I am going to honor Him no matter what. When you think of glory, think of honoring. God is honored when you walk the road that Jesus walked and thought of others more than yourself, AND trust Him. As you honor Him, He honors you. See verse 16a, thatís why we donít quit, or lose heart.

4th. From your Temporary Pain to Your Eternal Treasure (v. 16b-17)

a. Hardships, trials, and pain often drive us to God and His word. God has our attention like at no other time except when we first came to faith in Jesus. No matter if cancer, or an accident, or other illness attacks the body, our souls grow in closer to God, and stronger as we seek His wisdom, peace, strength and comfort. We seek and experience God like at no other time. I have actually had several people tell me that getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to them because it brought them to Jesus or made realize what is really important in life. Listen to David. Psalm 119:67; "Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word," and 71, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes." When all is well we often stop seeking God and His Word and Will. We intend to get back to it but it is not a priority. Affliction, David says, will move us back to the book.

b. Trials remind us of the brevity of life. (v. 17a) When Paul says our light affliction, he is acting like the hero. It was not light. More than once he thought, this is the end, but it wasnít until he was taken from Neroís jail to the martyrís block. He endured more than most can ever imagine. But, compared to eternity, this isnít much. And it wonít last that long. Here is a very important lesson to learn or for some to unlearn. WE grow up thinking that this life is all about this life and me. What is the idol that most Americans worship? Me! Remember the old beer commercial, "You only go around once in life so grab all the gusto you can." Foolishness and accidents claim the lives of young people, as does war. Cancer knows no age limits. One of our dearest friends worked hard all his life and was looking forward to retirement. He and his wife were going to travel across America. His company gave him a yearís salary and a bonus to retire a little early. He and his bride made one trip when they discovered that she had Alzheimerís. We spend our lives looking to build a retirement plan, and to experience a few years of paradise, but paradise is lost and life is short.

This life is for our preparation for the next, just as the womb was the preparation for this life. Trials are to remind us that our paradise, our reward is the life to come. Paul calls it an eternal weight of Glory.

c. Our Possessions are Temporary, His Rewards are Eternal (v. 18). All that we see and all the stuff we accumulate, and all the stuff that we don't have but want, are all temporary. Jesus, our Lord said, that it will all rust, bust, collect dust, and if it has any value, someone will want to steal it. Or, as many Americans and people around the world have discovered, a storm or disaster can take everything away from you in a momentís time. All the stuff that you have invested in and worked so hard and long for, gone. Stuff that you can't take it with you, and your children won't really want very much of if they can't spend it (Matt. 6:19-24). They will keep some memorable things and the rest of the stuff you have worked so hard for will end up at the Goodwill, or a yard sale or the county landfill. As the recent super storm Sandy showed us, or the fires that are raging out west, your houses and cars and property are all temporary and can be gone in moments. Jesus said our treasure is in heaven. It is ours if we will follow Him. Dear friends, the Crowns, the Gowns, and the Castles that Jesus has promised and has specially prepared for His followers are permanent and they are reserved for you (1 Peter 1:3-5; 2 Tim. 4:8).

d. Our Present Bodies are Temporary-Our Future Bodies are Eternal (5:1-5). Paul compares our bodies to a tent, a portable living space, no matter how big or small. Tents are temporary, and fragile. This body is subject to damage. We can injure, cut, or break these tents. They are subject to birth defects. They are subject to aging, sagging muscles, wrinkles, handles where muscles used to be. Skin where hair used to be, and two round glass things on my nose so I can see your beautiful faces clearly. My hearing starting going with my hair. And, I always thought arthritis was for old people. So why do I have it? These bodies are subject to disease, germs, bacteria, viruses, the C word, poor plumbing, and hearts that don't have the stamina they used to. Eventually, they will stop altogether and we will leave these bodies.

But Christ Followers know that Our Father is preparing us a body, according to Phil. 3:20-21, that will be just like Jesus' body, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself." Here in our text, Paul makes the comparison of our new bodies as a building, a solid permanent structure, while our present bodies are like tents.

Revelation 21:4-5 says this, "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful." The brush of God's hand on our faces, the promise of no more sickness, hospitals, funeral homes or cemeteries, no more accidents or injuries, no more mental stress, depression, heart ache or heart break. 33 year old bodies without wrinkles, or acne, and I won't need a bow flex, tread mill or elliptical machine or a diet anymore. That's basically what Paul is saying in vv. 2-5. Verse 5 says that the presence of the Holy Spirit is our earnest guarantee that all of this is true. Can you say, "Amen?"

e. Our Present Separation from Loved Ones is Temporary- Our Reunion will be Eternal. (cp. 1 Thess 4:13-18 with vv. 6-8). We grieve when loved ones leave us even if we know that they loved Jesus. We feel like there is a hole in our soul when they are gone. But we know this, at the finish line, when we cross it, those who knew Jesus will be there to welcome us into the presence of Jesus and we will always be with them and with our Lord. And, oh, won't that be glory for us? The wonder of seeing our Savior's face, hearing Him sing and having Him prepare a meal for us. That's what the scriptures tell us. Rev. 22:4a says, "They (they is us) shall see His face,

f. Purposefully Focusing on the Finish Line (vv. 9-10) Dear friends, no matter what life throws at you; no matter what God brings or allows to happen to you, you must purpose in your hearts to respond with faith and in a manner that will honor your Father in Heaven, because here is the truth, The first thing you will do when you cross that finish line is to kneel before your Lord and King. His Judgement Seat is really His seat of rewards and commendations. It will be there that He will commend you for your faithfulness, your devotion to His cause and your focus on the finish line. It will be there that He will bestow a crown or crowns on your head, and give you a garment befitting His forever child, and it will be there that we hope to hear Him say the seven words I long to hear, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

But while I don't want to end on a sad note, there will be Christians there that did not concern themselves with the finish line and it will be noted that their deeds and their lives were worthless (bad, good for nothing), and there will be no additional rewards, no words of commendation. Saved? Yes! Embarrassed? Probably! (cp. 1 Cor. 3:12-15).

Contemporary Christian group, Bldg. 429's song is one that I have come to love. The lyrics are simple but fit Debbie and I so perfectly. Part of it goes like this, " So when the walls come falling down on me, And when I'm lost in the current of a raging sea, I have this blessed assurance holding me All I know is I'm not home yet, This is not where I belong Take this world and give me Jesus, This is not where I belong When the earth shakes I wanna be found in You When the lights fade I wanna be found in You, All I Know is I'm Not Home Yet. This is Not where I belong, take this world but give me Jesus, this is not where I belong."

Closing Illustration (Henry Morrisonís wife "You are not home yet!")

Henry C. Morrison was a great missionary who served the Lord in Africa for over 40 years. On the way back to United States, he began to wonder "will anyone remember us?" Unknown to Henry Morrison and his wife, Teddy Roosevelt, President of U.S., was also on board that ship. He had gone to Africa for a hunting trip. When ship pulled into New York harbor he looked to see if anyone had come to welcome them back home. Thousands of people were there cheering. Bands were playing. There were signs, banners, and billboards everywhere saying, "Welcome Home". Henry and his wife were so excited about the crowds of people that were there to welcome them home. When they went to get off they realized that the people were already gone. They had come to welcome Teddy Roosevelt. Henry Morrison went to his hotel room with a heavy heart. As he sat there on the bed, he asked his wife, "Honey, I just donít get it...for 40 years we poured our lives into ministry and service. And yet we come back to America and not a single soul comes to welcome us home!" His wife came and sat down next to her husband, she put her hand on his shoulder, and comforted him with words that he would never forget, "Henry, you have forgotten something, youíre not home yet!" (Source Unknown, Lou Nicholes - Missionary/Author).

Paulís trials teach us that one of the things our God wants us to do is focus on what is really important. How are you doing?

Let's close by asking some questions.

1. Have you prepared to live by being prepared to die? Do you know Jesus, and

His grace and do you have the assurance of eternal life (John 5:24)?

2. Where is your Focus? Is it on the here and now and acquiring all the stuff that is all temporary or is it on the eternal stuff God has waiting at the finish line? Be honest, and no rationalizing.

3. Are you determined to honor God no matter what, knowing that this pain may have a much bigger purpose than I know, and my response may well make an eternal difference in the lives of others?

4. How much do you know about your forever home? Why not get a good study Bible and find out? Or Randy Alcorn's book, Heaven.

5. Why not commit to God right now, to begin living by re-focusing on the Finish Line?

Letís Pray About It!

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman