Love God • Love People
Hope When It Hurts – Week 4
May 7, 2023
Good morning, church. I’ve been really getting great feedback from this current series and so we are going to extend it another week. We are in a series simply called, Love God · Love People. We are looking at what Jesus says is the greatest commandment of all.
Jesus says to love God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
I shared that the heart is where your commitment and your will is… it’s where you make a decision for or against God… the most important part of our faith is that our hearts have been changed. Our soul is our affections and emotions. I shared last week that the mind is our intelligence and our thoughts… so we have to learn not to just think affectionately about God but learn to think like Him… Today we were going to talk about strength, but I want to spend one more week on Loving God with our soul and then next week we are doing a worship Sunday for Mother’s Day which should be great, and then I’ll talk about strength two weeks from now…
But part of why I wanted to extend this series and talk about the soul for another week is our soul is our affections and our emotions… and one point I made was God wants to transform us in our pain and hurts.
As I’ve gone to different small groups and got to know several people in the church, I’ve noticed how many people are walking through a difficult season. Some people have health issues you are facing, children walking away from faith, family or relationship struggles, job loss and transitions, anxiety and stress and so on…
The truth is every one of us is either in a season of pain, walking into a season of pain, walking out of a season of pain… or all 3.
And most of us don’t have a great theology for pain, we have an underdeveloped capacity for healthy biblical grief.
So today I want to do part two of loving God with your soul titled: Hope When It Hurts.
This is also very relevant to many in the Brookwood family because if you have been a part of this community for a while, we suffered a tragic loss in our Brookwood family… Jerry Frye passed this week. Jerry was one of the founding members of the church. He’s been a vital part of the church. Brookwood has been deeply impacted because of him. I only really knew Jerry for 9 months and I can honestly say I can’t think of anyone who had such a positive effect on my life in such a short time… he was one of the greatest supports I had at this church. He has deeply impacted Perry’s life and I know many of yours in this room… Jerry had a passion for life at 84 that most people don’t… He had a passion for people… every time he would walk in, people would surround him… He made Brookwood feel like a home… But most important he had a passion for Jesus and a lot of people know Jesus because of that man… and I have no doubt that he is already probably one of heaven’s favorites. If they haven’t made him the mayor yet I’m sure they will in due time…
Today at 3 pm will be a service for him… You are very welcome to attend… but again today all of us are in a season of pain and I think this will be really helpful for you, or you will be, and if you’re not…enjoy this season and file away this sheet until that time comes and then come back to it.
But today, I want to get you some points on how to hope when it hurts, and to do that I want to look at arguably the most well-known section of Scripture in the Bible.
It’s a psalm that David writes when he’s fleeing for his life from Saul, and he doesn’t know if he’s going to be caught or if he’s going to starve to death… it’s from Psalm 23
Psalm 23:1 (NIV)
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
1. God is both powerful and personal.
The picture you have of God really does affect your future. If God is too small, you will never surrender your whole life to Him, but if He’s not personal, you won’t follow Him because you are certain He’s good, or that you can trust Him.
That’s why I find the two words in Psalm 23:1 so incredible…
The term Lord is Yahweh, it’s a name that means power, that He is big, sovereign, and yet notice the Big powerful God is a shepherd… He’s close… there is a nearness to Him…
Shepherds weren’t highly favored people. They were considered second class and their testimony wouldn’t hold up in a court of law. God, the Great King of Kings and Lord of Lords became personal in the person of Jesus. Remember most Jewish people couldn’t accept Jesus because He seemed too weak because He was with the people… and it’s true, He needed to come in human flesh to pay for our sins… but He could have done that in a few years or a teenager…. Why hang around for 33 years? Because He is our shepherd, He is personal.
The Bible often refers to us as sheep… and that’s not a compliment… see if you get close you find that sheep are dirty and dingy and gross and not bright…. And God goes, “Hmm, that reminds Me of some people I know…”
Sheep are the most mentioned animals in the Bible…
Over 200 mentions of sheep in the Bible.
160 mentions horses
Distant 3rd dogs at 40 mentions
And 0 mentions of cats in the Bible.
They are constantly wandering off or getting in trouble…. [Show video]
Philip Keller wrote a book (in A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23)
And in this book, he shares that sheep will put their heads in rushing waters and the problem is their wool gets wet they can’t see, and they get overwhelmed, and they literally will fall into the rushing water and drown… so notice what the shepherd has to do…
Psalm 23:2-3 (NIV)
He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
He refreshes my soul… did you know if a sheep flips over it can’t get back over… it’s like a beetle, it just gets stuck on its back… and if stays there for 24 hours it will die… but Philip Keller speaks about the fact that once a shepherd sees a sheep whose been flipped over… if it’s been there for a while, what the shepherd will do is flip it over… rub the sheep where the dead spots have started to set in and restore circulation in the places that are dull and dead…
And God comes along and restores your soul… there is no vacation that can restore your soul, no restaurant, no family time, no hobbies, no accomplishment… but there is a Good Shepherd who can…
Also, he says if the sheep are anxious about food, or if they are afraid, they won’t lie down… so literally the shepherd has to take care of the needs for this animal to eat and sleep…
The picture of the nearness to God is overwhelming… This big powerful God… is like a personal shepherd who meets you in your needs, pains, wants, fears, doubts… and that is why it says the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want… meaning I have everything I need…
2. We hope and grieve.
(Psalm 23:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:13)
David doesn’t pretend bad things aren’t happening… He’s running for his life from Saul… Food is scarce, and he could be killed at any moment… that’s why he says though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death… I will fear no evil… He models both grief and hope. We need both…
we must become people who grieve and hope…
Grief + Hope = Transformation in pain
1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NASB)
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.
See without grief, we rob ourselves of our humanity (Jesus was a man of sorrows, He grieved, wept at Lazarus’ funeral) … But without hope, we rob ourselves of divinity… (power, heaven, healing)
We should grieve the fact that for some people, there will be one less chair around the dinner table, we should grief the prodigal children who have pulled away from God, we should grieve the job transitions or cancer… or the senseless shootings that cause us to be afraid to drop off our kids… but we also hope that things will be different, that God will make this right one day…
I love what one pastor who lost his daughter said… he was sad one morning when he woke up because he had lost his young daughter about a year before… and he started thinking how sad he was… and he said, “You know, I’m 365 days from last seeing my daughter.” … and he said the holy spirit challenged him to say, “You know, I’m 365 days closer to seeing my daughter.” He was learning to grieve and hope.
Vision > Sacrifice/Grief > Celebration
In any process of growth… say you want to grow in your marriage, it’s not in a good space… first, you have to have a vision for marriage to improve and change, then you have to grieve what’s been going wrong and make any sacrifices needed to move forward. Then you move into a season of celebration where things are good.
The point I want to make is if you are in a difficult season, it’s not spiritual to try and live in a season of celebration. Sit and grieve, do the hard work, and let God meet you in those rough spaces and bring change.
But also, some of you are in a good season… and I often hear people say things like it’s just a matter of time before I’m back in this bad season… or because others are struggling, they don’t live In the goodness and celebration of those seasons. It’s not spiritual to try and live in a season of grief if God has blessed you…
We hope and grieve, we do both… but we live true to what season we are in.
3. The most central promise in the Bible is… I will be with you.
Is anybody a type A personality? … Type A people are the type of people who feel pressed for time always. This is the person who honks in traffic, barks at a sluggish salesclerk, and loves to multitask. It’s interesting that a cardiologist and not a psychologist coined this term. Dr. Meyer Friedman was the one who really made this term popular.
But why this became popular is because he noticed something unique. He noticed that the edge of the chairs in his doctor’s office had been worn down… so people, as they met with him were afraid and so they were literally sitting on the edge of their seats… and he found this was especially true in type A people…
Now the truth is all of us find ourselves in seasons on the edge of our seats in fear, all of us…
In fact, do you know what the most repeated command in the Bible is? Fear not.
But do you know what the most repeated promise in the Bible is? The most repeated promise isn’t, “I will forgive your sins,” or that you will be with God in heaven. The most repeated phrase is that “I am with you” …
Psalm 23:4 (NIV)
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[a]I will fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
In Psalm 23, there are 55 words … and do you know what is at the very center of these words “for You are with me…”. This has to be the central part of our lives. No matter what season you are in… no matter how you feel. God is with you!
4. Something better awaits.
I’ve been to a bunch of church events, and you know what I’ve noticed, we love to eat… there is always food at these events… (son)…
What does a mind that is focused on hope look like? I read recently about a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer and was given three months to live. Her doctor told her to make preparations to die, so she contacted her pastor and told him how she wanted things arranged for her funeral service – songs to be sung, Scriptures to read, words to be spoken, and that she wanted to be buried with her favorite Bible.
But before he left, she called out to him, ‘One more thing.’
‘This is important. I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.’
The pastor did not know what to say. No one had ever made such a request before. So, she explained.
‘In all my years attending church functions, whenever food was involved, my favorite part was when the person cleaning dishes would say, “You can keep your fork.” It was my favorite part because I knew that it meant something great was coming. It wasn’t Jell-O. It was something with substance – cake or pie – biblical food.
So, I just want people to see me there in my casket with a fork in my hand, and I want them to wonder, “What’s with the fork?” I want you to tell them, something better is coming. Keep your fork.’
The pastor hugged the woman goodbye. Soon after, she died. At the funeral service, people saw the dress she had chosen, saw the Bible she loved, and heard the songs she loved, but they all asked, ‘What’s with the fork?’
The pastor explained that this woman, their friend, wanted them to know that for her – or anyone who dies in Christ – this is not a day of defeat. It is a day of celebration. The real party is just starting. Something better is coming.”
Psalms 23:6 (NIV)
Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
The word follow is a way stronger word in Greek…. It means to chase after or pursue…
Goodness and mercy chase after me, they pursue me…
He will redeem everything in your life in your life… Goodness and mercy will take over your life… if you will let it…
In some ways, God is more active in the low points of our lives, when we are hurting, more than in the great mountaintop moments. Valleys will teach you lessons that mountaintops never will.
Sometimes God will knock you flat on your back so you are finally looking in the right direction… you will never realize God is all you need until He’s all you have…
On the night of January 27, 1956, Martin Luther King, Jr. received a phone call in the middle of the night. He was told that they were tired of his mess and that if he didn’t leave town, they would hurt his family and blow up his house. King was scared to death. He got up, got a cup of coffee, and weighed out his options. He thought about leaving town. Then he heard this inner voice, a whisper from God say…
Stand up for righteousness, Stand up for Justice. I will be with you. Even until the end of the world. I will never leave you. No, never alone. No, never alone.
God will sometimes allow pain in your life to allow a greater intimacy…