When God is absent, we experience anxiety, division and joyless living. We need to be guarded in Christ.
In: “You can’t pray this prayer!”
1. God gone. Phil 4:4-5 & Psalm 103:13-19
2. Joy gone. Phil 4:6
3. Peace gone. Phil 4:7 & Matthew 6:25-34
Out: Guarded by Christ
Thanks for preaching a great sermon on Sun Stew! Lots of great stuff – we worry and lack joy because we think we’re God. We think we’ve got to do everything (as if God doesn’t exist, or he doesn’t intervene in our lives). Many of us try to cram too much into our lives, and/or the lives of our kids, not leaving time for loving God and others as well, as well as allowing for things in life to go wrong.
We feel stressed, worried and anxious about life. Sometimes we’re stress by life’s hardships, like sickness. As you pointed out Sun Stew, this can lead to a lack of joy in life, and even angry towards God for letting hardships happen to us or our loved ones.
It seems in the Bible, there are 2 types of complaining you can do:
1. Sinful complaining, like Israelites who complained about God. In Numbers 16 Korah and 250 other Israelites complained against Moses because they also wanted to be priests. Numbers 16:11 (NIV) “It is against the LORD that you and all your followers have banded together.” God’s judgement upon them showed that they “treated the Lord with contempt” (Numbers 16:30).
2. There is a way of complaining to God that is pouring out your heart that is done in the context of still believing that God will ultimately one day save you & redeem you. That God will sustain you, be your rock, the one in whom you can put your hope in, even though “he slays you” (Job 13:15). The following people all complained to God, yet did so in the context of a faith that was commended:
King David (“a man after God’s own heart”) complains:
Psalms 55:1-5 (CSB)
1 God, listen to my prayer
and do not hide from my plea for help.
2 Pay attention to me and answer me.
I am restless and in turmoil with my complaint,
3 because of the enemy’s words,
because of the pressure of the wicked.
For they bring down disaster on me
and harass me in anger.
4 My heart shudders within me;
terrors of death sweep over me.
5 Fear and trembling grip me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
Then later in the Psalm, David declares his faith that God will save him, and tells us to cast our burdens upon God:
Psalms 55:16-18 (CSB)
16 But I call to God,
and the LORD will save me.
17 I complain and groan morning, noon, and night,
and he hears my voice.
18 Though many are against me,
he will redeem me from my battle unharmed.
Psalms 55:22 (CSB)
22 Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you;
he will never allow the righteous to be shaken.
Job complained about the suffering God had allowed to happen to him, but he still put his hope in God as his redeemer:
Job 7:11-16 (CSB)
11 Therefore I will not restrain my mouth.
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
12 Am I the sea or a sea monster,
that you keep me under guard?
13 When I say, “My bed will comfort me,
and my couch will ease my complaint,”
14 then you frighten me with dreams,
and terrify me with visions,
15 so that I prefer strangling —
death rather than life in this body.
16 I give up! I will not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.
Job 13:15 (NIV)
15 Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
Job 19:25 (NIV)
25 I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
Even Jesus cried out in anguish to God, yet did not sin:
Matthew 27:45-46 (NIV)
45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
I have found using the complaints/prayers of Job and David particularly helpful. They help me draw near to God in the midst of pain, grief and suffering. It has helped me tremendously in being angry, and not sinning (Eph 4:26). Once I’ve poured out my complaint to God (even using verses like Job 9:16-18 below), I can then move on to say what I know in my head to be true – That God’s is in control, so I can be content in all things and give thanks for all things, know he’s using all things for my ultimate good. It is hard to do though, and every day the challenge is to confess my innermost feelings of bitterness, anger, anxiety etc to God, and then dwell upon and trust in his promises.
Job 9:16-18 (CSB)
16 If I summoned him and he answered me,
I do not believe he would pay attention to what I said.
17 He batters me with a whirlwind
and multiplies my wounds without cause.
18 He doesn’t let me catch my breath
but fills me with bitter experiences.
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