Truths to Consider in Times of Trouble
O Lord God, my Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter—as I enter into Your presence this day help me to grow in wisdom and understanding, so that I am able to meet the challenges of this life. Help me to do so with greater hope and confidence as I look to You and learn from You. I ask this in my precious Savior’s name. Amen.
Paul was taking a collection for the famine-stricken people of Jerusalem. The people of Macedonia had responded generously in spite of their impoverished condition. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to respond generously as well, recognizing that Jesus had become poor so that they might become rich! This Jesus did for us also!
Jairus’ little girl was deathly ill. He came seeking Jesus’ help. On the way to Jairus’ home word reached them that the little girl had already died. Jesus urged Jairus not to despair, but to believe. He then went to Jairus’ home and raised the little girl from the dead! We, too, can trust in Jesus as we face the grave challenges of this life!
Text: Lamentations 3:22-33
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I hope in Him!” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and keep silent, because God has laid it on him; let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope. Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, and be full of reproach. For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.
In Christ Jesus, our Source of help in times of trouble, dear fellow Redeemed:
Terrorist attacks in Oslo, Norway; tornado devastation in Joplin, Missouri; a deadly automobile accident on Highway 14 in Nicollet County…one does not have to go back too far in time or go too far away in distance to hear or read about trouble. Last Sunday I shared with you a remarkable message from St. Paul—that we who are “in Christ” are “new creations” and that “all things have become new” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). The life that we live as God’s “new creations,” however, is lived in this same old world—a world filled with troubles due to sin. How can we live in newness of life, when we are confronted by so many troubles? The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah answers that question for us in our text as we examine TRUTHS TO CONSIDER IN TIMES OF TROUBLE!Jeremiah informs us, first of all, that no matter what trouble we are facing we have not gotten what we deserve, because of the LORD’s mercy! He informs us, secondly, that we have reason to hope, because of the LORD’s salvation! And, finally, he assures us that we can be confident that we can endure every trouble, because of the LORD’s faithfulness!
When the Holy Spirit moved Jeremiah to pen these words of his Lamentations, he was experiencing a trouble that few if any of us have ever experienced. Those people who experienced 9/11 in New York City might begin to understand the situation facing Jeremiah in his day. Just as New Yorkers after 9/11 gazed upon the total devastation of the Twin Towers, so Jeremiah was gazing at total devastation. He was looking, however, not at the devastation of several square blocks of Jerusalem, but rather the entire city together with Solomon’s temple lay in ruins. Nebuchadnezzar’s armies had besieged Jerusalem for months and had finally breached its walls. The city was first looted and then burned, its citizens either slain or enslaved. The temple had been plundered of its riches and its walls had been razed. Jeremiah explained the situation graphically in this way as he opened his book: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow is she, who was great among the nations! The princess among the provinces has become a slave” (Lam. 1:1). He then goes on to say: “The Lord has swallowed up and has not pitied all the dwelling places of Jacob. He has thrown down in His wrath the strongholds of the daughter of Judah; He has brought them down to the ground…. He has cut off in fierce anger every horn of Israel; He has drawn back His right hand from before the enemy. He has blazed against Jacob like a flaming fire devouring all around” (Lam. 2:2-3).
What brought on God’s wrath and destruction? Let God speak for Himself. In the final chapter of 2 Chronicles, God moved His holy writer to explain His reasons for Jerusalem’s destruction: “The LORD God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, on the aged or the weak; He gave them all into his hand. And all the articles from the house of God, great and small, the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king and of his leaders, all these he took to Babylon. Then they burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious possessions. And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years” (2 Chron. 36:15-21). The reason for Jerusalem’s destruction was Israel’s unfaithfulness. In unbelief they had rejected the LORD and His Word. The prophets were sent in an effort to lead the people back to God in repentance, but they refused to listen. Their sins brought upon them the just judgment of God. Jeremiah recognized that fact when he opened our text by admitting: “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning.” Note the admission. Jeremiah says, “We deserved worse! We should not have been spared at all! Because of our rejection of God’s promised Savior, we deserve eternal judgment, but through the LORD’s mercies we were spared!”
My dear friends, this is an important TRUTH TO CONSIDER IN TIMES OF TROUBLE! Rather than asking, “What did I ever do to deserve this,” let us realize what we truly deserve because of our many sins, and what we have been spared because of the LORD’s mercy! In view of our rebellious nature, we deserve to be sentenced to everlasting destruction, but God in His mercy, which is still so evident in our lives each and every day, reaches out to us in our greatest needs providing that which is ultimately most necessary. In the aftermath of the golden calf incident in the wilderness of Sinai, God revealed Himself to Moses. The people had worshiped an idol rather than the living God. The LORD had brought judgment upon them, but now revealed Himself as their only real Source of help in their time of trouble. Why? Listen to the LORD’s description of Himself. He proclaimed to Moses: “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation” (Ex. 34:6b-7). Our God is a just God. He must punish sin, and He did when He placed our sins on Jesus. No matter what trouble we are facing, let us remember this truth: We have not gotten what we deserve, because of the LORD’s mercy!
Let us remember, as well, that no matter what trouble we are facing, we have reason to hope, because of the LORD’s salvation! Jeremiah goes on to say: “‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I hope in Him!’ The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”
The LORD’s mercy is not whimsical and changing based upon nothing at all, but rather it is based upon His very nature and the plans He ordained for us from eternity. The Bible tells us that “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8), and that in His great love for us—a love that is totally undeserved and, therefore, a matter of His grace, He determined to save us. The apostle Paul shares this precious truth with us when he writes: “He (God) chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:4-7).
My dear friends, our existence is not limited to this earth and this physical life. We have been given immortal souls, which are destined to live forever throughout eternity. As God’s children weall have reason to hope in the midst of any trouble, because of the LORD’s salvation! Any and all troubles we face here in this world are temporal. They will last only for a given amount of time. Even in Israel’s case in Jeremiah’s day, the LORD limited that judgment to seventy years. We have the promise of God that He will never forsake us (cf. Heb. 13:5). We have the promise that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able with His help to endure (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13). We have the further promise that “all things will work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). Let us, therefore, love God and place our hope and trust in Him! We have reason to hope, because of the LORD’s salvation! This is a vital TRUTH TO CONSIDER IN TIMES OF TROUBLE!
As is our final truth—we can be confident that we can endure every trouble, because of the LORD’s faithfulness! Early in our text Jeremiah proclaims of the LORD: “Great is Your faithfulness!” In view of that faithfulness Jeremiah goes on to explain some very important truths. He makes four observations worth noting. The first is: “It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth.” While no one likes to face trouble, it is important that we do. We live in a world filled with trouble. God uses trouble to teach us many valuable lessons, so that we are prepared to meet all of the challenges of life. The struggles we endure when we are young are used by God to help shape our character and make us men and women who are strong and competent. Secondly, Jeremiah states: “Let him sit alone and keep silent, because God has laid it on him.” It is important when we face troubles to do so with patience recognizing that our God has permitted it to happen in our lives. As in the case of Job, God is not always responsible for the troubles we face, Satan is, but God does at times permit them and certainly limits them. In Jeremiah’s situation, however, God was responsible. It was His judgment upon sin that led to Jerusalem’s destruction. In both cases, however, God intended to lead those involved to greater understanding and ultimately to benefit them. If we accept our troubles as both limited in time and intended by God ultimately to bring us some good and prepare us in some way, we can endure them with profit! Thirdly, Jeremiah says: “Let him put his mouth in the dust—there may yet be hope.” Jeremiah is here alluding to the need for each of us to examine our hearts in the midst of troubles, to repent of our sins, and thereby to humble ourselves before the LORD. A humble and repentant heart is a heart open to the instruction of the LORD! Finally, Jeremiah says: “Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him, and be full of reproach.” God is our heavenly Father. He is also our divine teacher. The writer to the Hebrews informs us: “Whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12:6). Let us accept the chastening of the LORD. We can do so with confidence for the very reason that He is faithful! As Jeremiah explains: “The Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.”
My dear friends, let us ponder these truths, for they will help us put a proper perspective on the troubles we encounter in life. They will provide us with the tools, so to speak, to deal with those troubles in ways that will not only enable us to endure them, but to profit from them, learning lessons that will enable us to honor God and be a blessing to our neighbors. Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!