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Mission Ardmore
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Bible Search
Knowing and Doing God’s Will
Can God Be Trusted?
Lamentations 3:22-27
 
As many of you know, we began last week a new series of messages designed to help us know and do God’s will.
 
We began with a rather in-depth look at Paul’s prayer for the church at Colossae where he requests of God they “be filled with the knowledge of God’s will”.  The idea is to be controlled or dominated by God’s will.
 
Now doing the will of God creates a crisis at several different levels.  First and most obvious, there is a natural desire to do our own will, not God’s.  And complicating it further are Satan attacks against any thought of us being under the control of God. In fact, early on in the history of the world, Adam and Eve were tempted to rebel against the will of God.
 
God warned them about eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and Satan came along with a temptation to disobey God. Specifically, his was an attack on the character and nature of God and it is there I want us to spend some time today.
 
Let’s suppose you either decide to give your life to Christ in salvation or if you are a believer, you make up your mind that you will follow the will of God.  You are going to fill your mind with the knowledge of His Word, bring your mind and actions under its control and you will live for God.
 
How can you be sure you can trust God?
The answer to that question depends on your perception of God.  Some have no personal knowledge of God at all.  In fact, some deny there is a God.  That leaves them free, they think, to do whatever they want to do.  There’s no need to worry about doing God’s will if there is no God to begin with.
 
But if we believe there is a God, then what we believe about that God determines to a great extent how we will respond to His will for us.
 
Some think there are two Gods in the Bible.  There is the God of the Old Testament and then there is the God of the New Testament and in their theology, they are as different from one another as night is from day.
 
The God of Old Testament was a God of judgment and anger while the God of the New Testament is a God of compassion and love.  And I suppose believing that helps to reconcile some of the behavior we find in God in the first part of the Bible.
 
But the Bible is clear on the fact that the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. In fact, God declared of Himself through the prophet Malachi, “I do not change”.
 
And as we’ve been learning in our Wednesday evening study of the book of Hebrews, God’s relationship with His people has always centered on the finished work of Jesus Christ.
 
In the Old Testament, they were given pictures and types and images of Jesus through the sacrifices and the ceremonies and rituals.
In the New Testament, we have the privilege of opening a finished and complete revelation called the Bible and learning about God.
 
But from either side of the cross, we get to see the same God doing the same things in the same way.  He does not change.
 
Now there is one characteristic of God in particular that is vital if we will be obedient in doing His will and that is, “God is good”.
 
Do you believe God is good?
 
Now, it’s easy to just spontaneously answer, "yes." We know that’s what we’re supposed to say. And of course, it’s easy to say "God is good" when things are going well.
 
But what about when we’re suffering or going through a time of pain, or difficulty, or trial?  What if  what God is leading you to do doesn’t make sense or will create hardships of problems?
 
When those are the circumstances we are dealing with, then it becomes a more difficult question.  In fact, if we are honest, our response at those times to the question of whether God is good doesn’t come so quickly and automatically.
 
All of us have had those times when we wonder, "If God is good, then why this?" Why this illness, why this painful relationship, why this financial problem, why this loss, why this disappointment? And so, even if we keep saying to ourselves and others that God is good, there’s a nagging voice in the back of our head that says, "Is that really true?" "Is God really good?"
“Can I really trust God?”
 
And I would submit that until you get that issue settled in your mind, you will always struggle with doing God’s will.
 
But once it gets settled, and regardless of what is going on around you, when you can say, “I know God is good and wants the best for me and is at work to bring good to me”, then you are liberated to do His will without reservation and with victory.
 
So this morning, I want to do two things. First, I want us to look at what the Bible says about God’s goodness.
 
Then I want us to see why it makes a difference in our lives whether we believe that God is good or not.
 
1. Understanding God’s Goodness
 
As I said earlier, most of us are quick to say that God is good.  Our theology is filled with that assertion.  We sing about it.  We preach about it.  We say it.  We teach it to our children.  We decorate our homes and businesses with that thought.  We print in on our checks.
 
God is good! He is morally upright and pure. He is just and righteous. There is not the slightest hint of evil, or sin, or wrongdoing in His nature. He is absolutely perfect and holy.
 
Now the reason we believe that and make that such a prominent part of our theology is because the Bible is so full of that teaching.  For instance,
 
John 1:5 says "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
 
Psalm 92:15 reminds us that "The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him." -
 
In Job 34:10, Job says, "Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong . . . It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice."
 
Those are just a few examples of the multitude in Scripture that remind us God always does what is right. Period. God will never treat us unfairly. He will never break His promises. He will never punish anyone unjustly.
 
To see that illustrated, think about the nation of Israel and their experiences with God.
 
Most of us know the history of the Jews.  They trace their beginnings back to Abraham and the covenant God established to make of them a great people and give them a land and protect them forever.
 
In spite of all the potential and promise, they are a study in sinning against the goodness of God.  Trace their steps and you will find yourself of the mountaintops of victory and in the valleys of judgment.
 
One of the forgotten books of their history is the book of Lamentations.  It was written by Jeremiah in the days following Jerusalem’s fall to Babylon and it is very closely related to the events described in the book of Jeremiah. It is not so much a sequel to Jeremiah, however, as it is a response.
And it is an extremely melancholy book.  You hear that from the very first verse which laments the triple disaster of childlessness, widowhood, and slavery:
 
But in chapter 3, there begins to be heard the sound of hope.
 
Lamentations 3: 22-24
 
There are two words used to describe God’s love in these verses.  The first one is “mercies”.  It is the Hebrew word that is sometimes translated as “covenant love” or “loyal love.”  It is used 250 in the Old Testament  and it is a comprehensive word that includes love, grace, mercy, goodness, forgiveness, truth, compassion and faithfulness. It is often used in regard to the covenant initiated by God.
 
It’s the word that Hosea uses when he speaks of God’s unchanging, loyal, steadfast love towards his people (Hos. 2:19). It is a love never changes, quite simply because God never changes.
 
The other word is the word “compassions”.  This word comes from a word related to the womb.  It describes the tender, caring love of a mother.  And Jeremiah says these compassions are experienced in a fresh new way every day.   This is the word God Himself uses when he gave Israel his Covenant.
 
Exod. 33:19
 
The emphasis of this word is clearly on compassion and mother-love.
 
 
Now notice is verse 22 of Lamentations 3, both these nouns occur in the plural.  The idea is that God’s expressions of steadfast, compassionate love are shown to us every day without fail and there is an abundant supply.
 
Next, he talks about God’s faithfulness.
 
Verse 23
 
The word used for faithfulness is related to our word amen. The word amen says “so be it”.  The word speaks of constancy or reliability. It was a unique characteristic of the Lord.
 
Contrary to the way neighboring peoples viewed their gods, the Jews now understood their God to be faithful to them, and there is no greater hope than knowing that God is totally reliable.
 
God had always been faithful.
 
Exodus 34:6-7
 
The point here is that the people finally realized it. Often in life people do not realize the faithfulness of God until the “bottom has fallen out” of their lives. In Lamentations 3 the “faithfulness” of God is to be interpreted in light of his promise to destroy, which he has done, and his promise to restore, which he would do. The poet realized that restoration was on its way, both nationally and individually.
 
God is full of mercy and compassion and God is faithful.
 
 
The Lord is all about hope and love and forgiveness.  It is not a maybe so, might be, most of the time will be, but this hope has the solid confidence and the highest degree of certainty because it is well grounded in the God of all grace, mercy, and faithfulness. His love and mercy to us are unending. He is a good God!
 
So why is there a tendency for us to sometimes doubt God’s goodness?  There are a couple of things that impact that.
 
One reason is circumstances.  We get to looking at the circumstances around us and maybe involving us and wonder how a good God could allow it to happen.
 
But I want to remind you of something:  No one will conclude that God is good by studying life! We don’t need life to reveal to us the goodness of God.  We have a Bible to do that! And the testimony of the Word of God is God is good!  Whenever the circumstances of your life or the world around you would tempt you to believe otherwise, get in the Bible and there you will find a good and faithful God.
 
Sometimes we doubt God’s goodness because we have a very high opinion of what we deserve. We believe that we deserve good health. And so when the biopsy comes back positive we conclude that God is treating us unfairly.
 
We have a "right" to financial security and prosperity. So when we get handed a financial downturn, we think God has turned His back on us.  In our estimation, we deserve a trouble-free life.
 
After all, we’re a Christian; we’re trying to do right; we’re not like the heathens at work.  We’re honest and dependable and loyal.
 
And because our theology is skewed regarding trials and difficulties, when the storms of life blow through, we are tempted to grumble against God and His oversight of our lives and doubt His goodness.
But the Bible says that God always does what is right. So if there’s a discrepancy between my expectations and the reality, then the problem isn’t with the quality of God’s justice. The problem is with my expectations, my inflated idea of what God owes me. God is good all the time.
 
But I’ll be honest with you.  There are times when it’s not enough to know that God is inherently righteous, that’s He’s "good" in a purely objective sense.  Sometimes that doesn’t satisfy; that doesn’t comfort.  What we really want to know is that God’s Goodness includes us!
 
 
Lamentations 3:24
 
Notice how personal things get there.  In verse 22, it is plural in application; “we are not consumed”.  But now it’s close to home.
 
The Lord is “my” portion”.  “I” hope in Him! Listen: He’s kind, and compassionate, and merciful, and gracious to us, His children.
 
Then notice the next three verses.
 
Lamentations 3:25-27
 
They all begin with or include the word “good”.  The word is the same word God used in the first two chapters of Genesis 1-2, when he speaks about what God has done in creation.
 
Genesis 1:3-4
 
Now think about that:  Jeremiah is talking to Jews who have witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem and when Jeremiah uses this word “good”, it’s as if he is lifting these Jews up to see that just as God created the world and it was good, there is coming a day when they too will be recreated and it will be glorious.  Now they’re going to have to wait a while, but when it comes, it will be good because God is good.
 
Now here’s the idea:  Christians who suffer do more than suffer. They also wait. This is not the passive waiting of stoic endurance. It is rather an active resting in the goodness of God, with the hopeful expectation that someday one’s trials will come to an end. There are times when the only thing a sufferer can do is wait for God. But waiting is good because God is worth waiting for.
 
See why it is so important to be filled with the knowledge of His will and firmly rooted in your understanding of His character?  Without those two things, waiting is awfully difficult!
 
In fact, most of the struggles we have with doing God’s will root back to a suspicion that God is not good or can’t be trusted.  Now if you can be tempted to believe that God looks bad, then you can be tempted to believe that sin looks good.
 
The key to knowing and doing God’s will begins with believing that God is good no matter what happens.  Doing God’s will means to rest in his goodness through poverty, blindness, crop failures, and plane crashes. It means I will face all of life, both good and bad, with a spirit of trust.
 
Remember what we learned last week.  I must be filled with, under the control of, dominated by the knowledge of His will.  That control begins with trust, and the first step of trust is salvation.
 
Salvation is simply responding to God’s goodness and grace.  I take Him at His Word.  I believe His promises.  I do what He tells me to do.
 
And once I become a Christian, all I have to do is keep repeating that process.  Salvation is simply the first step of obedience and the walk of a Christian who is knowing and doing the will of God is just to take one step after the other.
 
The psalmist said, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!”
 
 In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote:  "Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life? Well suppose you could really have brought them to life. Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man. It would involve turning the tin into flesh. And suppose the tin soldier did not like it. He is not interested in flesh; all he sees is that the tin is being spoiled. He thinks you are killing him. He will do everything he can to prevent you. He will not be made into a man if he can help it."
We see the same thing with the birth of a child.  From the perspective of the child it would be a much more pleasant experience to just stay in the womb.  It’s private and comfortable.  Everything needed is provided.
 
But if that baby stays there, things get extremely crowded, and besides that there is an entire world of color and sound and emotion to be experienced.
 
And besides that, the mother needs that baby to move on as well. So they both go through a temporary trauma to experience the blessing of a new birth.
 
So it is with doing God’s will.  God desires us to grow and develop and experience all He has in store for us, and if it takes a little difficulty or pain or trauma to accomplish it, so be it because the end result is worth it all.  But to get in on it, I must understand God’s Goodness.  Then I need to apply that understanding to my life.
 
2. Applying God’s Goodness
 
What does it mean to believe in God’s goodness? It means that when things happen to us that are painful, unhappy, confusing, when unwelcome events disrupt our lives, we receive them as coming from a good God, a God who loves us and cares for us, a Father who has our best interests in view.
 
Regardless of how our circumstances may appear, we maintain our faith and confidence in God. We trust Him, no matter what.  We don’t give in to fear, or panic, or despair. We don’t try to take back the reins, to take back control of our life from God.
We don’t even demand an explanation. We just stay on course, trusting, following, praying, obeying, confident that God will bring everything to a conclusion that blesses us and glorifies Himself.
 
What difference does this attitude make? What difference does it make if we truly believe and trust in God’s goodness toward us? It gives us peace and joy in our present circumstances and gives me hope for the future.
 
The walls may be collapsing around me, but if I’m confident that my circumstances come from the hand of a good God who loves me, I don’t have to worry.
 
I can be at peace and trust Him to work it all out. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I can trust that whatever it is, He will guide me through it. He will take care of me.
 
You may not recognize the name of Thomas Obadiah  Chisholm.  He was born in Franklin, Kentucky on July 29, 1866 in a log cabin and became a teacher at age sixteen. He became a Christian when he was 27 during a revival in his home town and actually served a s Methodist pastor for one year.  But his health was poor and he had to resign.
 
He served as the editor of a Christian publication in Louisville for a while, and finally settled in on a career as a life insurance agent in New Jersey until his retirement.  He finished out his life in a Methodist retirement home and died at the age of 94 in 1960.
 
 
 
 
By all accounts, his was an uneventful life marked by poor health and financial struggles. His health was so fragile that there were periods of time when he was confined to bed, unable to work. Between bouts of illness he would have to push himself to put in extra hours at various jobs in order to make ends meet.
 
But Chisholm was a poet.  In fact, over his lifetime, he wrote over 1,200 sacred poems, and had many of them published. After his conversion, he found great comfort in the Scriptures, and in the fact that God was faithful to be his strength in time of illness and provide his needs and many of his songs such as “O to be Like Thee” and Living for Jesus” reflect his trust in God.
 
One of his favorite scriptures was Lamentations 3:22-23: “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”
 
And in 1923, during one of those bouts with illness, at the age of 57, Chisholm wrote the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness.
 
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
 
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
 
 
 
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
 
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
 
I find it interesting that this great hymn was not written as the result of some tragic event in Thomas Chisholm’s life but as a powerful witness to his daily walk with Jesus as he experienced “morning by morning” new mercies from His Everlasting Father.
 
Pastor Chisholm always trusted his Everlasting Father to take care of Him, sustain him, and provide for his daily needs. Just before his death in 1960 he wrote this power, personal witness:
 
My income has never been large at any time due to
impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. But I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”
 
Now listen closely:  For all of us there comes a time when we really need the Lord, and it is not in the middle of the crisis when we need to be deciding whether or not we trust God.
 
That trust is established in the day to day walk of your life.
 
And as you learn to trust him daily in the routines and everyday needs, you will then have the confidence you need when the crisis comes.
 
God doesn’t ask us to understand. He only asks us to believe that He is good, and to trust, and follow, and obey. He asks us to believe that the end result is worth the pain and struggle, to believe that He knows what He’s doing, to be willing to place our confidence in Him rather than in ourselves or our own understanding.
 
Will you do that today?
 
Let’s pray.
 
 
 
 
 

 

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