Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Joy in Anxious Patience

Habakkuk 3:17 – 18
Joy in Anxious Patience.

B.T. Roberts (founder of the Free Methodist Church) wrote about “anxious patience.” The idea is a call for patience in anxious times and circumstances. We are good at “anxious” (experiencing worry or uneasy – Oxford) but struggle with “patience” (the capacity to tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without becoming angry or upset – Oxford).

I. Joy is demonstrated in “worst case” scenarios.

(Ill.) There is a series of books that have spun off to a punk rock group, a punk rock song, and a game show called “Worse case scenarios.” The series covers everything from life, to work, to golf. They include things like how to survive an elephant stampede, escape from a charging rhino, how to avoid a vampire attack, how to cross between buildings on a wire, and how to steer your bike down a rock face [The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Extreme Edition]

A. The experience of the “average” American has not been “worst case.”

1. In fact we live in relative prosperity.

a. According to the United Nations, the average annual income in Congo (largest FMC) is between about $600 and $1300 in 2006.

b. If you lived in Burundi (FMC is larger than the USA’s church), you would make between about $600 and $750 in 2006.

c. Or if you were fortunate, you might find yourself in Rwanda (another larger FMC than the USA’s church) and have earned around $1100 to $1500

2. We live in relative comfort. (Just take the issues of water and sanitation.)

a. Did you know that 1 million children die because of a lack of clean water and proper sanitation? []

b. World wide, 1.2 billion do not have access to safe water and 2.6 are without sanitation. []

B. Habakkuk is suggesting a “what if” worst case scenario.

1. If... * ... then would God be enough?

a. Maybe we have become too addicted/dependant on our prosperity and comfort to understand real joy.

b. Joy, like peace, is not the absence of difficult and sorrow. It is a core discipline of the Christian life that moves us past circumstances into the presence of God.

N 2. Case study: Paul.

“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. [8] Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. [9] But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. [10] That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
[2 Corinthians 12:7 – 10]

a. Paul had “everything.”

1.) He was converted on the road to Damascus when Jesus stopped him.

2.) He was appointed as an Apostle to Gentiles.

3.) He had a very strong influence on the church and on Christian theology.

4.) He had a special vision where he was taken up into heaven.

5.) He performed miracles including raising someone from the dead. (Who had fallen asleep in one of his sermons...)

b. Paul also had a “worst case scenario.”

1.) He may have been very sick.

2.) He may have been under demonic oppression or attack.

3.) He described it as “a messenger (literally “angel”) of Satan.”

4.) Whatever it was, it was “torment.” Paul was being harassed.

c. This “worse case” taught Paul some valuable lessons.

1.) It taught him humility.

2.) It taught him that God says “no, I love you to much” and “no, I have something better for you.”

3.) It taught him that his true strength came in weakness. It is under those times of stress, pain, and suffering that we learn to depend on God.

4.) He discovered the “ultimate” theological truth. God’s grace is sufficient.

a.) We “need” nothing more.

b.) We do not need prosperity or comfort.

c.) We do not need demonstrations of power or excellence of leadership.

d.) We need Jesus, we need the presence of God, we need God’s grace.

This drove Paul to his knees. Prayer is the time we are closest to God (not in an emotional high experienced in a worship service). Prayer is the thing the devil fears the most because its where and when the battle gets taken to him. Prayer is when we dig down to the bedrock of our souls and build to profound spiritual disciplines that shape us.

II. Real joy demonstrates profound spiritual discipline.

A. “Faith brings a living joy.” B. T. Roberts.

1. Once we realize circumstances are temporary, a whole new way of life opens up.

(Ill.) Mark Lowery’s favorite “verse.” “And it came to pass.”

a. The past does not hold power over us through regret.

b. The present does not hold power over us through bitterness.

c. The future does not hold power over us through wishful thinking.

2. B. T. Roberts noted this progression:

a. We forget the value of our salvation.

b. We become “deprived” an lose “much comfort by always looking at the dark side.”

c. As a result we begin to “anticipate (expect) the worst.”

B. What tools to we have to help us in this spiritual discipline?

1. We have “hope.” “For in this hope we were saved.” [Romans 8:24a]

The Greek word we translate “hope’ is “elpis” and literally means “confident expectation.” It is often translated “trust.” Romans 15:13 describes God as the “God of hope” meaning He is the origin of hope. [Vines]

2. We have “patience.”

“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” [Habakkuk 2:3]

a. Patience requires that we trust God’s appointed time.

b. Patience requires constructive waiting.

C. When you get to the bedrock of our soul, do you see Jesus? Are you building on Jesus, the immovable Rock of Ages? [The following comes from a song from “Heart of the City.”]

1. Jesus had no beginning and will have no end.

2. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

3. Jesus made everything.

4. Jesus left the glory of heaven because He loves us.

5. Jesus humbled Himself on the cross, knowing those He was dying for would turn away from Him.

6. Jesus died on the cross, but rose from the grave, just as He said.

7. Jesus will return, just like He said.

8. Jesus will judge the living and the dead.

9. At Jesus’ name, every knee will bow and every tongue confess [Isaiah 45:23, Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:10 – 11]

10. Jesus blood can cleanse everyone and anyone who turns to Him now.

11. Jesus is holy, Jesus is King, Jesus is LORD.

***** Now that is joy! Real joy is a demonstration of living faith. *****

III. Real joy is demonstrated through constant relationship.

A. It all starts with our relationship to God.

1. “No Jesus, no (joy). Know Jesus, know (joy).”

a. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. [3] Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” [Hebrews 12:2 – 3]

b. The joy of that relationship is what gets us through those hard times. It keeps us from growing weary. It keeps us from losing heart. It follow’s Jesus’ example.

2. As bedrock, that relationship naturally produces joy.

a. “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, [9] for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” [1 Peter 1:8 – 9]

b. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness and self-control.” [Galatians 5:22 – 23a]

B. How are we to practice all this? [Psalm 13 give us “CPR”]
1. Do you feel like COMPLAINING?

a. David did... He wrestled with his thoughts.

b. He had reason to say “every day (I) have sorrow in my heart”

2. Then PRAY.

a. David understood that God delights when we struggle with life in prayer.

b. David prayed. “Look on me and answer.”

As David struggles in prayer, he learns something.

2. Learn to REJOICE.

a. Despite his troubles, David acknowledges that God has been good to hin.

b. Even in troubles, David will not let go of trusting God and God’s unfailing love.

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