MIXEDconception #1: God Wants to Prosper Me
If God really loves us, would He ever let us encounter suffering?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Happy Mother’s Day to you!!
Before we get started this morning, I wanted to talk with you a little bit about an amazing day we have coming up in 3 and a half weeks!
On Wednesday, June 5th are going to be baptizing a whole bunch of people at the Edgett’s house in Blaine at 7:30pm
And you need to be there.
Because Baptisms are the best thing ever to watch!
And some of you need to be there because you need to get baptized!
The Bible tells us that baptism is simply an outward symbol of what has happened on the inside of your life when you accept Christ as your Savior.
The Bible describes it as a symbol of what Jesus’ death did on Easter weekend
We die (to our old life), are buried (under water), wiped clean (by the water), our sins are left behind (under water), and we are resurrected (come up from the water) as clean and sinless.
Now, baptism doesn’t do that. Your faith in Jesus does that. But it’s an amazing symbol of what God has done in your life.
And baptism is something that happens AFTER we believe.
We see plenty of examples of this in the Bible.
After a jailer puts his faith in Christ in Acts 16, he is baptized
After an Ethiopian Eunuch puts his faith in Christ in Acts 8, He is baptized
We don’t always do such a great job of it here in the northern united states, but baptism is something that typically followed belief pretty quickly…
And if it’s already been a year for you…or 3 years or 20 years…it’s still worth doing.
It’s SUCH an AMAZING thing. And we want you to experience it!
And we do it because for one, Jesus commands it in Matthew 28
It’s an integral part of being a follower of Jesus
Secondly because Jesus himself was baptized…setting the example for us.
And thirdly because it’s an outward witness to the world of what God’s doing in your heart.
And Baptism is something we’re commanded to do AFTER we believe
This is really difficult for many of us in our culture, and something I had to really wrestle with personally in my life
Like many people in the upper Midwest, I grew up in a tradition where I was baptized as a baby.
And I had to wrestle through it because nowhere in the Bible are babies ever baptized.
It’s a tradition some churches developed outside of Scripture over time.
Babies are sometimes dedicated to God in the Bible. But not baptized.
Baptism is something entirely different. Baptism is something that we’re commanded to do as youth or adults after we’ve made our own personal belief.
And it is an amazing thing to be a part of!
If you’ve never been baptized, after the service today, stop by the hallway table and sign-up to be baptized in early June.
It’s such an incredible experience.
You’re going to see a video in announcements that will help prove my point about how awesome it is.
If you have any questions about this…feel free to ask me.
All right, let’s get started with the message this morning
We are starting a BRAND new series this morning called “MIXEDconceptions.”
The idea behind the series is this: So many of our ideas about God are actually just misconceptions.
But more than that, they’re mixtures of different ideas: MIXEDconceptions if you will.
A mixture of Biblical verses and worldly ideas.
It’s like we take a little bit of Bible…a little bit of American culture…mix them together in a bowl, and wal-a, “Here’s our idea of who God is!”
So, each week of the series, we’re going to try and unwind those MIXEDconceptions.
Each week, we’re going to look at a Bible verse (or a few verses), and I want to show how we’ve taken some of these verses out of context, mixed them with our American ideas, and then called it Godly.
But honestly, much like our Illusions series, I think this is going to be a really challenging series.
It’s hard when you believe something to be one way, and you have to adjust your thinking.
I remember, when I was in seminary, I used to leave class every day going, “Man, this is no fun. It’s hard work going to class every day and finding out you’re wrong.”
But I craved to know the truth of God’s word, and thus I pushed through it.
And my prayer is that you also have that craving. To know God’s love and God’s truth for you.
MIXEDCONCEPTIONS ABOUT LOVE
I think one of the biggest MIXEDconceptions we have is around the area of how God’s love works.
And maybe it’s because most of us haven’t seen love modeled very well in our own lives.
But for whatever reason, for most professing Christians, we think, “If God is love, He will love me by minimizing my struggles and maximizing my pleasures.”
We think, if God loves me, he will SHOW his love in protecting me, guarding me from harm, keeping me happy, blessing me with finances, children, a job, health, you name it.
And then, what happens is, when we get sick…when we lose our jobs, when a family member dies, we question, “Does GOD EVEN LOVE ME?!? IS God even real?”
I can’t tell you how many times as a pastor, I’ve had people come to me and say, “My relative just died…I can’t believe in a loving God anymore.”
Well, what’s happening there??
Well, we’ve mixed some different ideas together.
Whether we admit it or not…we love the American dream.
This idea that IF WE WORK hard enough…then everything’s gonna work out.
If you just put your mind to it…and give it your best…you can go to college, get a degree, get a great job, buy a big house, have a couple of kids, and white picket fence to go along with it.
And we are starting to, as our Biblical illiteracy grows, fuse this idea together with Christianity.
Here’s an example: If I had a nickel for every time Ray Lewis or some other athlete quoted Philippians 4:13, I’d be on an professional athlete contract right now.
Many of us quote the same verse in the same way for our own lives and careers as well.
(Philippians 4:13) – NIV
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
But this isn’t a verse about, if you set your mind to it, you can prosper. If you work hard enough, because you’re a Christian, God will love you enough to keep you healthy and successful and win at sports.
If you read the context, it’s a verse about having a life of contentment in the face of adversity
That even in tough situations, Paul can have the strength to go on, because Christ is with him.
It doesn’t say, “That because God loves Him, he can accomplish anything he puts his mind to.”
That’s a MIXEDconception.
But we’ve somehow got this idea that if we are faithful and work hard, God will prosper us and keep us from harm because, afterall, He loves us and wants to bless us!
People always say, “God helps those who help themselves!”
Even when I was in Haiti, our driver said to us, “Well, it’s like the Bible says, “God helps those who help themselves.”
Except that…that’s not actually in the Bible.
It’s a MIXEDconception.
And speaking of Haiti…we are now exporting this kind of poor thinking all over the world.
And often to a much more ridiculous degree.
In impoverished countries in Africa, sometimes near 100,000 people will now show up to hear an American TV preacher talk about how God loves them, wants to prosper them, and make them rich. That’s disgusting.
And maybe you don’t take it that far. Maybe you don’t think that loving Jesus will help you get rich.
But SO many of us believe that if God really loves us…He would keep us from suffering.
Maybe you wouldn’t state it that way, but we question it in the inverse.
When suffering hits us hard, we say, “Where’s God?”
But we only say that because our underlying supposition is “A loving God wouldn’t allow me to suffer. He only wants to prosper me.”
Otherwise why would you question, “Where’s God?”
And again, I think part of this problem is just a scary mixture of what we call love in our culture and a few random Bible verses quoted completely out of context.
Let me give you another one.
And by the way…I told you this series was going to be hard. And some of you are going to hate me for ruining everyone’s favorite Bible verses this morning J
So, rather than make a few mad, I’ll just try and make everyone mad. Here’s another one of the most cherished Bible verses for Americans
(Jeremiah 29:11) – NIV
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
But reading the Bible isn’t as simple as just picking a verse and applying it to you…there are tools to figuring out what it really means in context.
We’re going to talk A LOT about how to do this next week when we reveal a ton of great info about our summer classes at Renovation
But the prophet Jeremiah, in chapter 29, is speaking to the people of Judah who were exiled for their great and terrible sins.
And through Jeremiah, God was telling them, that after 70 YEARS of exile, so in 538BC, that God still had a plan for them. To prosper them. To not harm them anymore. That there IS a future for their nation still. They will be back.
And after 70 years, God made due on that promise.
And that promise, and this is why it’s a GREAT verse, speaks of God’s character for all time.
That he can restore us even after great sin.
But it’s not necessarily indicative of what God is going to do in YOUR life
The parts of the verse about “a future and no harm and prospering” are for a specific people in a specific time.
Put another way, earlier in the Book of Jeremiah the prophet also gives these same people a message from God about what was going to happen at the beginning of their exile…in response to their wicked sin.
(Jeremiah 7:20) – NIV
“‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: My anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place—on man and beast, on the trees of the field and on the crops of your land—and it will burn and not be quenched.
But are you going to take THAT verse and write it on your mirror in pink marker?
But we like to pick and choose verses that fit well with our American concept that God wants to prosper us as long as we just keep holding on to Him.
But that’s a MIXEDconception (little Bible…little American dream = new view of God)
But…again…and I know this is challenging to think through…and I apologize…kind of…but it doesn’t even make any sense Biblically.
Let’s play it out…
Who are some of the most faithful people in the Bible??
What about the 12 disciples?
What about the Apostle Paul?
What about Jesus himself?
You want to know what all of those people have in common, with the exception of the disciple John?
They were all murdered. For their faith.
And this sort of MIXEDconceptoins thinking…that because God loves me, He will keep me from harm, keep me from illness, keep me from job loss, and on and on…honestly, it hurts the reputation of the church.
In fact, I just read a blog last month by an atheist.
And it said, “Christians, do you know how ridiculous you sound when you say, “My God loves me, he’ll protect me from all illness, from tough times, from whatever… What about the 30,000 children who die of hunger every day? Did God not love them or something?”
Our theology of suffering HAS to be more Biblical.
THE PATH TO THE GREATEST JOY & LIFE
And not just for our witness to the world, but for our own hearts as well.
Because if we believe that “if God loves us He will keep us from suffering,” we’re going to miss out on His workings in our lives.
Because suffering, can actually lead you to greater things.
“God wants to prosper me” is a simple MIXEDconception.
He might…but it’s more complex than that.
In fact…He might want you to suffer.
For instance….My twins are just about to turn 3 months old. And recently, they’ve just discovered they have hands.
And their new favorite thing is to stick their hands in their mouth. It feels great to them. Especially when they’re hungry. It’s their comfort.
But if I’m home with of them and need to feed one of them, and give them a bottle, I have to move their hands out of their mouth.
And they don’t like it. At all. They fight it. I imagine them thinking, “WHY would you do this to me?!? Oh the suffering!!”
And yet, it’s just part of the process to give them real food. Real life.
And don’t we do the same?? At the first sign of struggle….of opposition. Of suffering, we want to look to our Father…to God…like my twins look at me, “What are you doing?!?”
But so often we don’t see the big picture.
And we forget that, in a beautiful way, suffering enhances joy.
You want to know why those 75 degree days were so nice this week?
It’s because we suffered SO much this winter.
My friend Kevin Thomas, who spoke last week, is from California originally.
He was telling me the other day that in his hometown in California, when it was 68 and cloudy…people wouldn’t go outside.
They’d say…”what a miserable day.”
But here…we’d be like, “Can you believe it?!??! What a day!!”
Because suffering enhances joy.
Victory is most glorious when suffering comes first.
Just like a sporting event with a great comeback is always more fulfilling than a blowout
Just like a movie where a character overcomes great adversity is better than movie where nothing goes wrong for 90 minutes.
But my fear is, when we believe the MIXEDconception that since God loves you, He’s going to keep you from all harm……
That when we experience any sort of suffering (job loss, physical pain, emotional pain, loss, you name it), that we’re going to go, “Where is God? Don’t you love me, GOd??!?”
And thus we’re going to miss His movement in our lives.
Now…let me be clear. not all suffering is from God. There is evil in the world.
But God is sovereign. God IS in control. And often suffering is part of His plan to build us into who we were meant to be.
(Romans 5:3-4) – NIV
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.
I want to illustrate this point further by having a man from our church come up and share his story of what’s happened to him this year. Let’s welcome up Matt Bishop.
And here’s what I want you to see: Matt could have, after his diagnosis, said to God, “Where are you? Don’t you love me?!? I thought you loved me?!?”
But he trusted in Him. And in this incredibly difficult time, God is growing him and maturing him in incredible ways!
And he’s using Him.
And if people come to Christ because of Matt’s sufferings, than by all means, it is worth it for His glory.
But many of us, in our MIXEDconception that God’s love means he wants to keep us from suffering, miss out on these things.
CAN DISPLAY GOD’S WORK
Sometimes suffering is an opportunity for God to display his power.
In John 9, Jesus heals a blind man, and his disciples ask him, “Why was he born blind in the first place?” It’s a fair question. Here’s how Jesus responds:
(John 9:3) – NIV
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
Now, this isn’t the reason for all suffering, but it’s in the darkness, that the light shines the brightest.
And often God shines the brightest amidst our suffering
Sometimes, God leads us right towards the Red Sea (as he did with the Israelites in the Old Testament), and we cry out, “What are you doing with my life, God?!? Have you lost your mind?!”
But in the moments where we feel there is no way out, are often the moments where God’s rescue is most glorified.
And in that moment, God splits open the red sea, and the Israelites escape while their enemies are drowned in the sea.
And for some of you right now…God is leading you TOWARD the red sea!
But don’t fall for the MIXEDconception.
You’re going to feel tempted to go: Wait…this isn’t on the path to the white picket fence? Does God still love me? Is he still in this?
But just cuz it looks like a dead end to you, doesn’t mean that God can’t find a way through. Doesn’t mean that God can’t bust through the wall.
And often, it doesn’t mean that He didn’t intend for you to go this way all along!
THIS IS GOD’S STORY, NOT OURS
Because God does have a plan, and He is in control, and often our suffering is what builds character and takes us eventually to a better place.
But ultimately, we have to remember…that what’s happening on earth right now, in our stories, in the broader story, isn’t ultimately about us.
We’re not the main character. God is.
This is another part of the same MIXEDconception. Even as Christians, we can sometimes believe that God is working everything together…weaving this perfect story around…well, who else? US!
We’re the main character…and God, through every event and trial, is going to make sure, everything works out for US.
But it’s just part of the MIXEDconception that God’s only goal is to prosper YOU and keep YOU from harm.
In fact, just three weeks ago, I was at the national church planter’s conference with Kevin Thomas and our 2 church planters, and 5,000 other church planters…and we were singing this really popular worship song.
And the Bridge goes, “You make all things work together for MY good”
And Kevin and I both looked at each other and said, “I’m pretty sure that’s not what the verse says.”
But it’s like, as Americans, we’ve been read too many fairytales.
And our ideas about God are just a mixture of a few chosen Bible verses and some Disney movie where everything works out in the end to make us prosper.
By the way, that verse about everything working together, really says this:
(Romans 8:28) – NIV
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
It’s that God works, for those (plural) according to HIS purpose.
God is working in this world for ALL people who love Him…and it’s according to His purposes.
He’s not just weaving a fairy tale for every one of us.
This is for HIS glory. Not yours.
David Platt, in his book Radical, tells the story of two missionaries, who many years ago went to the Batak tribe of Indonesia to share Christ.
And when the two told them about Jesus, they were murdered, and then brutally cannibalized.
Years later, two more missionaries came, boldly told the same stories about Jesus, and when they recognized the same story, they decided to listen.
And now fast forward to present day, there are more than 3 million Christians in the Batak Tribe.
But for those first two missionaries, it didn’t end in a fairy tale ending.
It wasn’t that God had planned a future for them and had a plan to not harm them….
No, he actually planned to have them harmed.
But remember…this is about God’s purposes…and his story.
We’re not the main character.
And those martyrs are now in eternity…celebrating with God…and also millions of Indonesians who will later greet them in heaven and thank them for their sacrifice for God’s story, and not their own.
And so I ask you…are you willing to do whatever it takes to glorify God and trust in His purposes?
Are you willing to trust…that if you suffer…that God still loves you?
That in suffering, God can change your character.
That in suffering, God can make you more like Him.
That in suffering, God can convince you to rely on Him.
And that even when our suffering makes no sense…and even when we can’t see why it’s happening…and WON’T understand this side of heaven….
That we trust that God is in control. That his purposes will be accomplished.
But I don’t want you to hear this morning that God in fact, doesn’t love you, or that He’s just using you in His story…because that’s not true either.
The truth is, He’s crazy about you. He’s madly in love with you.
IN fact, he’s so in love with you, that He will do whatever it takes to grow you as a person.
He will do whatever it takes to help you love Him more
He will do whatever it takes to let you be a part of changing the world with Him
And sometimes…he just richly blesses us to move us to those places
And other times, to get us to that place…he has to choose…NOT to prosper us.
But one thing’s for sure, you can trust whether it’s trouble, or hardship, or persecution, or famine…that NOTHING can separate us from the Love of Christ.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.
Trust in Him.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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