Saturday, 22 June 2019

My God is Faithful, He provides hope in His Mercy (sermon from Bible School, April 2018)

Good evening and welcome to Dr. Joyce Boucher and all my fellow ministers of the gospel. Thank you for taking the time to listen and engage in the messages that God will speak to our hearts.
Allow me to begin with words penned and sung by worship artist Paul Baloche last night, because they aptly echo the words of Jeremiah and capture God’s heart and those of rebellious people who have known great suffering and desire to return to God.

I once was lost, I walked away
The road was dark, I could not see
My hope was gone, the pain was real
But your mercy
you felt my fear
You heard my cry
you ran to me
With your mercy
Your loving-kindness
It leads me to repentance

Each Fall, I pray for a word to carry me through the next year. None have impacted me more than those found in the book of Lamentations in a season of darkness. During this time, God’s healing words of mercy and hope penetrated the depths of my heart and through the meditation of Lamentations 3:21-26

But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
    “therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
    to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
    for the salvation of the Lord.
I came to understand that My God is Faithful, He provides hope in His Mercy.  But for God this would not have been possible.
Jesus longs for His Word to be understood and awaken the desires of our heart because information without application never leads to transformation. Yet the longest journey we will ever take is the 18 inches from our head to our heart. I confess that I am guilty of hindering this process – out of resistance, fear and disobedience. I either retreat or busily make everything a task to check off my list instead of embracing the process much like I did with this message at first. I must say however, last night’s worship event brought a completely different perspective – instead of foregoing worship to work on my message, I chose to participate – WOW! What an answer to prayer – finally I did like Mary and sat at his feet instead of being a busy Martha as I usually would have done in this case.
Perhaps, you too may have found yourself so busy that you have overlooked intimate relationship with our God. It’s been said that “if Satan can’t make you bad he will make you busy.” B-U-S-Y simply means Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke.
My own busyness became my sin, the sin that took away from my time with God. I was on the verge of a burn out… (truthfully, – I was clinical depressed and unwilling to ask for help or admit my suffering). While God is not to blame for the depression, and it wasn’t my fault neither, my lifestyle, repressed emotions and avoidance of cautionary warnings were not helpful.
Today marks the 5th anniversary of the day my world and I came undone, and I stopped denying the depression that held me captive. – after 10 years in the same job, I found myself without, as the result of a reorganization. During this time, I desperately searched for God through whichever means I could find. Most days I could barely utter a simple prayer like “Jesus help me” let alone read, write and memorize scriptures and confusion would set in – I was stuck in a downward spiral of anxious thoughts. Then I came across mindful worship – Thank you God! This audible meditation on Lamentations 3:21-26 repeated over and over “His mercies are new every morning” it gave me hope – it built me up and encouraged me to reach for His new mercies. That as Paul states in 2 Corinthians 4 “our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that…will last forever! don’t look at the troubles we can see now; but fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For they…will last forever.” As an act of repentance, I surrendered my worry, anxiety and fears to God and He began to restore me. Within a short period, I began to hope again particularly when like Jeremiah, I remembered this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.
 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
No matter the suffering that you may be facing rest assured in knowing that God’s Word provides Healing, Prayer and Encouragement particularly when we Obey. Hope without Obedience is empty and deferred or unfulfilled hope.
The story that unfolds in the book of Lamentations has been a healing balm to my hurried heart and wild mind. My prayer for you is that it gives you freedom to process your emotions, question the how and why of your darkness and call to God for restoration despite the mess. Now of course we cannot fully appreciate the significance of Chapter 3 without looking at it in context of the entire book. In these acrostic poems, all neatly organized despite the chaotic theme of the story, God’s heart is revealed through the prophet Jeremiah. As the story progresses, Jeremiah moves from horrible loss and shame to restored hope and prayer for renewal. He mourns for Jerusalem, reveals to us God’s mercy, the consequences of sin and eternal hope during suffering. Jeremiah warns people to repent and return to God; this is seen in Lamentations 3:39-41 (Then why should we, mere humans, complain when we are punished for our sins? Instead, let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the Lord. Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven.) Furthermore, Jeremiah pleads for restoration and reminds us to ask for God’s mercy and grieve with God (mourn for what he mourns and be broken for what breaks him) – Once we trust God, obey him and demonstrate a willingness to change then he can “contend” with us. (Jeremiah 2:9a)
In the first chapter, we see that because of immoral living, Jerusalem suffered God’s punishment- despite warnings “She defiled herself with immorality and gave no thought to her future. Now she lies in the gutter with no one to lift her out.” (Lam 1:9) Because of Jerusalem’s ongoing defiance and disobedience, God exacted judgment. Essentially, all of Jerusalem’s sources offering a sense of security were lost- the people had a choice to seek the Great Comforter, by repenting and returning to God or trusting only in themselves which ultimately led to desolation.
          Then, we get a glimpse of God’s compassion through Jeremiah’s lament “I have cried until the tears no longer come; my heart is broken. My spirit is poured out in agony as I see the desperate plight of my people.” (Lam 2:11). How much greater is God’s sorrow for his people. With everything taken from them– they were vulnerable, weeping and open to seeking forgiveness from God – this was an opportunity for them to experience God’s faithfulness and mercy as demonstrated in Chapter 3:21-25 the same verses that encouraged me to seek God wholeheartedly, to hold on to hope despite suffering and to ask Him to become A SIGNIFICANT part of my life AND ALLOW ME TO fully experience His rescue and restoration through love, mercy and hope! May he do the same for you!
In chapter 4, Jeremiah tells us of how God’s divine anger is satisfied. Because of the people’s sin there was destruction, guilt and poverty. Jerusalem was under siege for two years and couldn’t get out of the protection offered by their walls to get food and water – hope was gone!
Finally, in the last chapter, Jeremiah pleads for restoration. He recounts the plight of Jerusalem asking the Lord to remember them. In verse 21 he prays “Restore us, Oh Lord and bring us back to you again! Give us back the joys we once had!
God is faithful to his promises – if he follows through on punishment for disobedience then we can rest assured that he will follow through on restoration and blessings when we choose to repent and turn to Him. We can be confident in His great promises for the future.
The book of Lamentations reveals God’s merciful character. It shows us that despite our waywardness and sin we can hope in His faithfulness because he delights in showing unfailing love.
It’s not enough to gather information about God, we must activate our faith and choose to believe without seeing despite our circumstances. It has also ignited in me compassion for anyone wrestling with mental health and a desire to help set the captives free.
My final words to each of you as you go and make disciples - Do not be discouraged at the intersection of sorrow, suffering and surrender because there you will also find your Savior. Be encouraged for Great is God’s faithfulness.