PRINCIPLES OF CHANGE: PROFITING FROM OUR SUFFERINGS PART 2

INTRODUCTION

Even as Christians, we are still an imperfect people. We make mistakes.

  • Sometimes, the mistakes are unknowing or unintentional: we didn’t know what we were doing at the time. We were just plain ignorant.
  • Sometimes, the mistakes are a weakness of the flesh. While we have the best of intentions and spiritual desires, we were caught off guard in a temptation and, in a moment of weakness or passion, we gave in to sin. Afterwards, we really grieve over what happened, we condemn ourselves for it, because we knew better. We lament and regret our weakness.

Sometimes, however, the mistakes are willful and knowledgeable. We knew what we were doing. And we did it willfully and deliberately because we wanted to do it. We were, at that point, willfully rebelling against God’s law. We did what we wanted to do. And we didn’t care what anyone—including God—said about it. We sinned because we wanted to sin!

FOR A TRUE CHILD OF GOD, SIN DOESN’T MAKE OUR LIFE BETTER. IT DOESN’T PROFIT US. IT DOESN’T DO US ANY GOOD. In fact, sinning makes things even worse. WE’LL SUFFER FOR THE CHOICES WE MAKE. SIN BRINGS SUFFERINGS AND MISERY. AND WHEN WE DECIDE WE’RE GOING TO SIN WE’RE ALSO DECIDING AT THE SAME TIME THAT WE’RE GOING TO SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES OF THAT SIN.

We don’t like hearing it and we don’t want to hear it. So let me say it once again. Sin has consequences. It brings us suffering. And the root cause of this sin and suffering is a selfish, self-willed, stubborn, rebellious, desire to do something we know is wrong and displeasing to God. It is this sinful desire that the Lord wants us to get  rid of.

Unfortunately, we’re not going to get rid of this sinful desire on our own choice or initiative because we love the sin too much that we’re not going to give it up or let it go on our own. God is going to have to force us to give up this sinful desire. He’s going to have to bring us to a point where we finally admit and decide that this one sin isn’t worth all the suffering and grief we’re going through. This is the change that the Lord wants to produce in us.

LETTING CHASTISEMENT CHANGE US

This theme of suffering brings me to our next principle of change. And the principle is this. IN ORDER FOR US TO CHANGE WE NEED TO LEARN FROM OUR MISTAKES AND PROFIT FROM OUR SUFFERINGS.

Now there are many different kinds of sufferings. There are many different reasons why God’s people suffer. But the one reason and cause for suffering that I’d like to look at today is the suffering that is the result of sin. It’s called chastisement or chastening. When we sin God chastises us. Hebrews 12:6-8 puts it this way, For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child. (7)  As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?  (8)  If God doesn’t discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really His children at all.

God loves His children. He loves you by name! And when you disobey Him He chastens you. GOD’S CHILDREN ARE CHASTENED AND DISCIPLINED WHEN THEY SIN. It’s definitely not fun or enjoyable. In fact, we hate it and we don’t want it. But God lays it on us because He loves us. Chastening is proof that God still loves us and we’re still His children!

Why does chasten us? Because CHASTENING IS MEANT TO CHANGE US. TO MAKE US MORE RIGHTEOUS. MORE OBEDIENT. It will do this if we submit to the suffering, learn from our sin, and choose next time to be righteous instead of sinful.

Hebrews 12:10-11 tells us,  Our human fathers correct us for a short time, and they do it as they think best. But God corrects us for our own good, because he wants us to be holy, as he is.  (11)  It is never fun to be corrected. In fact, at the time it is always painful. But if we learn to obey by being corrected, we will do right and live at peace.

Let’s look at how chastisement changed a stubborn, hard-headed fellow named Jonah who, not surprisingly, was a spitting image of us. 

JONAH

Jonah was a prophet in Israel. And as a prophet, it was Jonah’s job to go to whoever and wherever God sent him to speak the message that God gave him to speak. On this particular occasion, God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach a word of warning and destruction (Jonah 1:1-2).

Now Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria. And Assyria was, at this time, the dominant world power. You could say that they were the rulers of the world. And it just so happened that Assyria and Israel were mortal enemies at this time. Assyria was Israel’s hated enemy #1. They fought several wars. And, within fifty years of Jonah’s ministry, Assyria would invade Israel and pretty much destroy Israel as a nation.

So when God told Jonah to go to Nineveh He was, in effect, asking an Israelite to go into the very heart of the heathen enemy and, as an enemy of the Assyrians, give these heathens a threatening message from a foreign God. It was, in the natural, a life-shortening recipe for disaster and death. Without God’s intervention, the prophet would never make it out of Nineveh alive. He would never see Israel again. His life was as good as dead and done. So what do you think Jonah did? Like a lot of us today, Jonah disobeyed God and ran for his life (Jonah 1:3).

Like I said, if you’re a true child of God, God isn’t going to let you get away with disobedience. You can run from Him and hide from Him. But God knows exactly where you’re at, where you’re going, and what you’ve got planned up your sleeve. And God goes right to work, making sure your plans don’t succeed. This is where your life starts to fall apart and one thing after another goes wrong for you.

Jonah 1:4-17 details how fearsome and awful God can be when you mess with Him:  But the LORD made a strong wind blow, and such a bad storm came up that the ship was about to be broken to pieces.  (5)  The sailors were frightened, and they all started praying to their gods. They even threw the ship’s cargo overboard to make the ship lighter. All this time, Jonah was down below deck, sound asleep.  (6)  The ship’s captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep at a time like this? Get up and pray to your God! Maybe he will have pity on us and keep us from drowning.” 

(7)  Finally, the sailors got together and said, “Let’s ask our gods to show us who caused all this trouble.” It turned out to be Jonah.  (8)  They started asking him, “Are you the one who brought all this trouble on us? What business are you in? Where do you come from? What is your country? Who are your people?”  (9)  Jonah answered, “I’m a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”  (10)  When the sailors heard this, they were frightened, because Jonah had already told them he was running from the LORD. Then they said, “Do you know what you have done?” 

(11)  The storm kept getting worse, until finally the sailors asked him, “What should we do with you to make the sea calm down?”  (12)  Jonah told them, “Throw me into the sea, and it will calm down. I’m the cause of this terrible storm.”  (13)  The sailors tried their best to row to the shore. But they could not do it, and the storm kept getting worse every minute.  (14)  So they prayed to the LORD, “Please don’t let us drown for taking this man’s life. Don’t hold us guilty for killing an innocent man. All of this happened because you wanted it to.” 

(15)  Then they threw Jonah overboard, and the sea calmed down.  (16)  The sailors were so terrified that they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made all kinds of promises.  (17)  The LORD sent a big fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.

Well, Jonah was pretty set and stubborn about not doing what God wanted him to do. But suffering and chastisement have a way of changing a  guy’s  heart and making him whistle a different tune. Jonah gets swallowed by a whale or something really humongous. He should have died. But God miraculously kept him alive because He had a job for Jonah to do.

When Jonah saw how precarious his circumstances were the very first thing he did was pray (Jonah 2:1). In the midst of his sufferings and chastisement Jonah had a change of mind. He vowed that if God ever got him out of this fix he would obey Him, go to Nineveh, and preach to those heathen enemies of Israel (Jonah 2:9).

Jonah got things right with the Lord and, once he did,  God brought the suffering and chastisement to an end. The fish vomited Jonah out and the relieved prophet found himself on dry ground once again (Jonah 2:10).  

What was it that got Jonah to change his mind? What brought him to repentance and obedience? God’s chastisement.

Brethren, God’s out to change you. To change your heart, mind, affections and desires for sin. If you will not do that on your own, God will take over and force you, or get you, to change your mind about sin. How’s He going to do that? By chastising you and making you suffer quite miserably. Intolerably.

Do you have your mind bent on sin? Are you sure you want to disobey God and do things your own way? If so, then be ready to suffer for your selfish, sinful, stubborn mindset.  I guarantee you, like  Jonah,  it  won’t be pretty. You can be stubborn all you want right now. But I guarantee you, if you want to live you will eventually change your mind about sin and cry out to God for mercy, help, and salvation.

So do you find yourself in the whale’s belly right now? Is life falling apart for you? Like Jonah, turn back to God and pray. Apologize to Him and ask Him for forgiveness. Ask Him to give you a change of heart. To cleanse you and rid you of your sinful desires (1 John 1:9).

God still loves you! It may not seem like He does. But He still loves you. That’s why He’s made things miserable for you. But He doesn’t want you to be miserable for the rest of your life! He doesn’t want to kill you! He’s not against you! He just wants to teach you a lesson. If you learned your lesson, humble yourself and go penitently to God in prayer. I guarantee you you’ll feel better, you’ll find yourself standing on dry ground, and life will be sweet once again. God’s grace be upon you, dear friend, to abhor what’s evil and cling to what’s good and Godly.

PRINCIPLES OF CHANGE: PROFITING FROM OUR SUFFERINGS PART 1

INTRODUCTION

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS MEANT TO BE A LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE. Romans 8:29 tells us that we were predestinated—that is, long before we were even conceived or born, God chose us to be His children. And when He chose us to be His children He decided that we all should look like Christ. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Jesus, in essence, tells us the same thing in Matthew 10:24-25, The disciple is not above his master, neither the servant above his lord. {25} It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.

In other words, the Christian life is all about growing and becoming more and more like Christ. THE LONGER WE LIVE THE MORE WE SHOULD BECOME LIKE CHRIST.

God, brethren, doesn’t want us to be the same ole person we’ve always been. Several months or years from now we’re not supposed to be the same person that we are today. I pray that all of us here today can honestly say that many areas of our life have been changed in the years since we first became a Christian.

Chances are, however, there are still one, two, or a handful of areas in our Christian life that have defied change. I’m talking about the nagging habits, the addictions, weaknesses, flaws, imperfections, the sin that we’ve kept hidden in the deepest, darkest recesses of our heart, that have heretofore dodged our half-hearted efforts at self-remediation or improvement. Even after all these years, there are still some aspects of our mindset, personality, emotions, behavior, lifestyle, and conduct that have remained unchanged.

So how do we change something that we don’t want to change? We love the sin too much to give it up. And we’ve got no intention of giving it up.

If we will not change, God will force change upon us. He has to—we’ve forced Him to—because we’re His children and He’s not gonna let sin destroy and damn us. If we will not help ourselves, God will help us. It won’t be pleasant or pretty. It’s gonna involve a lot of pain and suffering. But it works. Suffering has a way of changing us. It changes our mind and gives us a different, truer perspective of things.

Let’s look at how sufferings changed a guy who was remarkably very much like you and me.

THE LAW OF SOWING AND REAPING

There are different reasons for suffering. One of these is the law of sowing and reaping.

Now the law of sowing and reaping is this. WHATEVER YOU DO—WHETHER GOOD OR BAD—HAS CONSEQUENCES. AND YOU WILL EITHER SUFFER, OR ELSE ENJOY, THE CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR ACTIONS AND DECISIONS.

Galatians 6:7-8 warns us, Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. {8} For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

When you make the wrong decisions and do things that are wrong–you may not think you’re wrong, but you are in God’s sight; God is gonna let you suffer the natural consequences of your actions and decisions.

For example, if you decide to break into your neighbor’s house and steal a humongous diamond that they’ve hidden in a tin can; and you end up getting caught; then you going to jail isn’t God’s chastisement. It’s a matter of you doing time for the crime. It’s the law of sowing and reaping.

Now there are many different ways you can respond to your sufferings. You can get mad. Get bitter. Get even. Get delusional and proclaim your innocence. But none of these responses do you any good.

The only really good thing that can come out of your sufferings is if you choose to humble yourself, admit you’re wrong, and learn from your mistake. You can use your sufferings to change you and change your mind about sin.

Let’s look at how a young man who made a lot of terrible mistakes was able to turn his life around by profiting from his sufferings and doing the right thing. Generally speaking, YOUR LIFE AND YOUR LIFE’S CIRCUMSTANCES WON’T START TO CHANGE AND IMPROVE UNTIL YOU HEAD IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION AND START DOING THE RIGHT THING.

THE PRODIGAL SON

There once was a man who had two sons. The younger of these sons decided that he had had enough of the old homestead and farming as a way of life. He wanted to go out on his own, see the world, and get a taste of the good life that he felt he was missing by staying at home. So he went to his dad and asked for his share of the estate and inheritance (Luke 15:12).

Hebrews 11:25 tells us that the pleasures of sin are only for a season. They’re temporary and short lived. They don’t last forever.  The good times last as long as you’ve got money. And as long as you’re healthy enough to enjoy your sins. But when you run out of money, or when you get sick, you just can’t enjoy the pleasures of sin anymore—you’re too busy suffering and being miserable.

And that’s exactly what happened to the prodigal son. The bad times came and the young man was forced to live in a very different set of circumstances. He was basically worse off than he ever was, living at home.

Luke 15:13-16 chronicles the young man’s misfortunes:  A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.  (14)  About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.  (15)  He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.  (16)  The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

PAIN AND SUFFERING HAVE A WAY OF WAKING US UP. THEY GIVE US A LOT OF TIME TO STOP AND THINK THINGS THROUGH. To analyze. Reflect. Examine our self. SUFFERING HAS A WAY OF MAKING US SEE THINGS FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE. THEY MAKE US SEE THINGS WE NEVER SAW BEFORE. THEY GIVE US PERFECT VISION AND ENABLE US TO THINK CLEARLY ONCE AGAIN.

And this is precisely what the young man’s misfortunes did for him. When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! (18)  I will go home to my father and say, Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,  (19)  and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant (Luke 15:17-19).

Of course, it takes a lot of humility and courage to admit you were wrong. You’re gonna have to swallow your pride, head back home, and apologize to your dad. But when you’re hungry and hurting, with no other options left; you do whatever you have to do to get out of your mess and return to some semblance of what your life used to be. The prodigal son had not only learned from his mistakes: he swallowed his pride, humbled himself, went home, and made things right with his dad.

Do you know what it was that brought this stubborn, selfish, self-willed, sin-loving man to his knees? Do you know what it took for him to wake up and do the right thing? The sufferings that he went through. THE LAW OF SOWING AND REAPING WILL CHANGE YOU FOR THE BETTER…IF YOU LET IT.

SUFFERING DRIVES US BACK TO GOD. It causes us to admit how so much we need God back in our life. We’re lost and undone without Christ. We can’t make it in life without Him.

SIN DOESN’T PAY. IT DOESN’T GIVE US A LIFE. IN FACT, SIN TAKES OUR LIFE AWAY.

Only God can give us life. Only He can fill our life with meaning, peace, joy, and fulfillment.

Unfortunately, we don’t know that—at least, we don’t admit or accept that—when we’re too gung ho on having our own sinful, selfish way.

But, like I said, SUFFERING HAS A WAY OF GETTING US TO SEE THINGS CLEARLY, TO THINK CLEARLY. AND IT HAS A WAY OF GETTING US TO CHANGE OUR MIND ABOUT SIN. THAT’S WHAT SUFFERING IS SUPPOSED TO DO–GET US TO CHANGE  OUR MIND ABOUT SIN.

So if you’re tired of suffering and want to be done with the heartaches and sufferings of sin, come back to God, get down on your knees, tell Him you’re sorry, and ask Him to forgive you. God’s waiting for you. You might think He’s mad at you and doesn’t want any part of you. But you’re so totally wrong! God sooo loves you still and He waiting for you to come back home to Him.

I pray these verses of Scripture will lead you back to God. Psalm 103:8-18 gives us a true picture of God’s heart and love for you. The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.  (9)  He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever.  (10)  He does not punish us for all our sins; He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.  (11)  For His unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.  (12)  He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.  (13)  The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him.  (14)  For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.  (15)  Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.  (16)  The wind blows, and we are gone—as though we had never been here.  (17)  But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear Him. His salvation extends to the children’s children  (18)  of those who are faithful to His covenant, of those who obey His commandments!

God is a gracious, longsuffering God. He will hear you, forgive you, and receive you. He will bring the suffering to an end. And you will get your second chance to do things His way. Brethren, learn from your mistakes. Don’t suffer in vain! Let your sufferings do something good for you. Let them change you and make you a better Christian. God bless you mightily! See you at home.