In today’s message, Pastor Leland Acker discusses how David depended on God’s deliverance through the worst times, and how we can draw strength, comfort and deliverance from God today. For more, listen to the message posted above, and check out “When Life’s Out to Crush You.”
… that He has not died, that He has not forgotten us, and that He has not turned against us.
Ezekiel was born to be a priest. He was in the right family, and was destined to minister in the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. However, a Babylonian invasion ended that dream, as he was one of thousands taken into captivity and led as slaves into a foreign land. There, Ezekiel dwelt with the captives by the Chebar river. Through no fault of his own, he had lost everything.
So it was, living in Israel’s twilight years prior to the Babylonian captivity. The nation slipped further and further into sin and idolatry, behaving so reprehensibly that even the heathen nations surrounding it were repulsed. As Israel rebelled and reveled, God withdrew His protection, allowing Babylon to continue to conquer the nation. The southern kingdom continued to lose province after province, and city after city, all the while continuing in the sin and idolatry that was bringing on their demise. This continued until the Babylonian troops had laid siege to the capital city of Jerusalem.
The tragedy of a lifestyle of sin is that you often don’t realize what it’s cost you until you are about to lose what little you have left. So it was that Israel was down to defending Jerusalem, and any hope of maintaining the kingdom rested in their ability to fend off the Babylonians.
Meanwhile, back in Babylon, the captives awaited news from back home. Was Jerusalem successfully defended, or did she fall. The anticipation touched off a firestorm of debate. Some believed that God could not allow Jerusalem to be conquered, for doing so would violate the promise He made to Abraham back in Genesis. False prophets had even gone among the people, promising that God would deliver them. Others had concluded that God’s providence was not needed, that the walls of Jerusalem would protect her from her enemies.
Jerusalem had to be saved, for anything else would represent God’s total abandonment of Israel. Some had even believed that God had divorced Himself from His chosen people, a belief that God Himself refuted in Isaiah 50:1. With those questions swirling, God began to speak to His people.
In Ezekiel 1, the former priest, soon to be prophet, Ezekiel, is by the Chebar River when God speaks to Him.
The prophecies recorded in Ezekiel show God’s plan for Israel. In the early part of the book, God tells the people that Jerusalem would fall. That prophecy caused many to reject the legitimacy of Ezekiel’s ministry, but once Jerusalem fell, the people listened.
Through Ezekiel’s prophecies, God told the people that Jerusalem would fall, and that they would spend their 70 years in captivity, but that God would use that time to transform them, and would bring them back into their homeland when the process was finished.
This concept goes right along with Jeremiah 29:11-12, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.”
In that prophecy, Jeremiah told the people that God was not allowing the captivity to come upon Israel out of wrath, or a desire to see them destroyed. Rather, the captivity was going to transform them to a point where they would trust in the Lord and call upon Him, and He would hear and respond.
Some in Israel may have felt that God abandoned them. The Babylonians might have thought they conquered the Israelites’ God. The question circulating may have been, “Is God dead? Why doesn’t He hear?”
However, the truth was that God was working through the situation the whole time.
So, when you are going through trials and tribulations, or when others mock your faith, do not fear. God is not dead. He did not abandon you. He hasn’t forgotten you. He is still with you, and is working through the situations you face to refine you into a glorious child of His. Trust the process, and thank God for the progress.
How are you doing?
No really, How are you doing?
Nearly 100 percent of the time, when asked the first question, we say, “Fine.” Or, some of our more spiritually inclined brethren say, “I’m blessed.”
All too often, when we give those answers, we are not being truthful.
You see, we have been conditioned to think that any sign of distress, any sign of worry or stress is an indication that our faith is faltering. Somehow, by expressing heartbreak over the loss of a loved one, concern over a wayward child, fear over a pending financial disaster, uncertainty over the loss of a job, or anger over being mistreated, we are expressing a character flaw. We’ve “taken our eyes off of Jesus and looked at the waves crashing all around us.” We’ve become Peter trying to walk on the water, but sinking because his faith failed.
Indeed, we don’t want to lose faith in the Lord, and we don’t want to be focused on our problems. However, in the real world, we do have problems. And those problems still exist when we enter the church doors. Therefore, there is no need for the church to become a fantasy world where problems don’t exist. They do. Therefore, one of the ministries of the church should be to help people through their problems.
This is not just a humanitarian position. It’s actually in scripture.
Galatians 6:2 says to “bear one another’s burdens.” While the greater context of that verse deals with restoring a brother who sins, it should be noted that sin is part of the lives of those who live in the real world. We all struggle. We all fail. We should be able to turn to our brothers and sisters in Christ for love, encouragement, and restoration as we repent from that sin.
The Bible also tells those who are afflicted to pray (James 5:13) and to confess our faults one to another (James 5:16). In fact, the church experience was designed so we could gain encouragement from each other while we walk this Christian life together. Hebrews 10:25 says that we should not forsake the assembly of ourselves together, but should exhort one another. That means to encourage each other to stay strong in the faith and to do great things for the Lord.
We cannot be encouraged if we are unwilling to address the things that burden our hearts. We cannot be encouraged if we are not willing to face our problems, and seek help. We cannot help each other with our struggles if we pretend they don’t exist.
The Lord knows we have problems. He knew beforehand that we would. Hence, He gave us the church to help us through those problems. The problem is, the church doesn’t do this because we fear being judged if we admit we have problems.
The Lord understands problems. He had a few of his own. Hebrews 4:15-16 says:
For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Do you know what that means? It means that the Lord was tempted… not only to sin by Satan after Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness, but also by the same struggles in life that we face: Not enough money, shortage of food, fatigue, being rejected and betrayed by others, being homesick and missing family, physical pain, emotional pain, bereavement, etc.
Yet, the Lord experienced all of this without sin. Therefore, He was uniquely qualified to pay for our sins on the cross, rise again to conquer the grave, open the gates of Heaven and plead our cases before God every single day.
Furthermore, these verses tell us He is sympathetic to our cause, because He has been through the same struggles we have.
Therefore, you are more than welcome to approach the Lord in prayer regarding the struggles you face. You should also be able to lean on your brothers and sisters in Christ for comfort and encouragement. If that’s not possible, maybe you need to find some other brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Lord understands our struggles, because He’s been here. We should understand each others’ struggles as well, because we’re still here. Love, help and encourage each other. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of God.