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The Long and Winding Road
August 24th, 2014
In the spring of 1970, the Beatles released their final studio album called “Let it Be.”
– And on it was my favorite McCartney songs called “The Long and Winding Road.”
– It ended up being the Beatle’s last #1 song in the US… and the final for the breakup of the band.
Because Paul, John, Ringo, and George weren’t getting along, especially in the studio,
– their manager gave all their rough recordings to producer, Phil Spector…
– hoping that he could somehow turn what he considered a mess into a cohesive album.
But unlike Lennon, who didn’t really care one way or another, McCartney hated not only the arrangement to “Long and Winding Road,” but the entire “Let it Be” album.
– And so, 23 years later, in 2003, Paul McCartney released what’s called the “Naked Version” of Let it Be,
– which takes out all the orchestral layers that Phil Spector added.
On one level, Paul wrote the song with a particular 31-mile stretch of country road in mind… A road that led to his Scottish farmhouse where the song was written.
– But underneath that, he was writing about the tensions and constant disagreements that filled the band…
– For McCartney, the road that began in the US in 1964 with “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” had proven, just six years later, to be a very long and winding one.
Well, over the past few weeks, we’ve been walking through a series on HOPE.
– Unlike “wishful thinking,” real hope… Biblical hope is rooted in what the Word of God says is true.
– According to Hebrews 11, it’s the conviction of things not seen.
The conviction, for example that He will never leave us or forsake us… that His love will never fail us.
– It’s that confident expectation that connects us to the future the way our memories connect us to the past.
– It’s as important to the soul as food & water are to the body. Without it, Scripture says, people will perish.
Well, last week, we focused on “Waiting”. You see, waiting will always be the hardest work of hope…
– Especially when we’re walking through the kind “long and winding roads” that can make like so difficult.
– Whether it’s sickness, a break-up, loss of a job, marital struggles, financial stress, or just about anything else that stirs anxiety & fear.
Whatever it might be… as that difficult road we’re on gets longer and longer, we’ll often to ask the same kind of questions…
– “God, are you here? Are you listening? Can you see what’s happening?” Do you care?
– King David certainly landed there a number of times in his life.
– In Psalm 23he writes, ““The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want… he guides me… I will fear no evil… goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.”
– And yet, just one chapter back, we see him crying out, “My God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me? I cry out by day, but you do not answer…”
You see, oftentimes, as those storms stretch out over weeks, months, and even years, at some very basic and perhaps unconscious level,
– we may wonder if God can even make a difference in the problems we’re facing…
– That somewhere, well beneath the surface of faith& trust in our lives, we begin to question God’s intentions for us…
– Wondering, at times, whether He has the interest, or even power, to answer the cry of our heart.
– That was certainly true of Job.
In the Book of Job, we’re invited into the life of a godly man who, through a series of tragedies, over which he had no control,
– looses not only his possessions & livelihood & family but became so sick himself that he almost died.
– But then, on top of all that, Job’s three friends, who came to him with the hope of offering him comfort,
– end up telling him that the reason all this was happening in his life must have been because of some unforgivable thing he had done wrong to make God so angry.
So Job answers his three friends. And, the first thing he tells them was right on the money…
– Basically reminding them that oftentimes in life, these kinds painful seasons simply “happen”…
– even to those who love and walk with God… “This isn’t about my sin!”
And yet, even though he got that one right… what he said after that reflected the heart of a man who’s hope was waning… a man in a lot of pain…
– He begins sharing how much easier it would’ve been if God had never brought him into this world.
– A little later, he wished that God would just take him out of this life… that he could just fall asleep one night and never wake up.
Of course, Job isn’t alone in this. Along with Job… Moses, Jeremiah, and Elijah get so discouraged at different parts of their lives that they each ask God to take their lives.
– But, in every case God says, “No!” Don’t you think when their dark seasons had passed, they were glad God had said no?
– Thank God that God sometimes says no!
Though his relationship with God had always been so strong, Job suddenly finds himself doubting God’s love & promises…
– That God must be an uncaring God and, if not uncaring, than unable to make things better when things come crashing down in our lives.
– You know, just as in Job’s life, when you’re in the middle of something painful… when the scaffolding of life gets stripped away…
– Where some or all of what you’ve been working so hard for falls apart– reputation, health, a relationship, security, a strong family, your career…
When you still aren’t pregnant after months of trying; when you still can’t find the “right” job after searching and searching…
– When you still haven’t met that special someone; when you just can’t seem to get ahead financially no matter how much you try.
– When you’re in the midst of all that… than what do you do?
After praying to God and questioning why you’re prayers seem to be falling on deaf ears,
– maybe you begin to wonder yourself whether God really does care… or if He really can help you.
– We may not share those feelings with everyone around us, but at times we’ll find ourselves whispering it in our subconscious; “God, do you really understand my sorrow? Do you really know? Do you really care?”
Well, what I’d like to do for the rest of our time this morning is to focus in on three truths that I believe can help us face the challenge of trusting God through those difficult seasons of life when hope seems to be waning… when hope seems so far away.
1. Our deepest comfort will not come from having answers but from knowing God.
We saw a few minutes ago how Job accuses God of two things. He says to him, “You don’t really care for me. And even if you do, you are not able to help me.”
– Well, apparently, that got God’s attention; because it was just after this that God chose to speak to Job…
– Not in a “still small voice” like He spoke to Elijah, but, as chapter 38 says, “From the whirlwind”.
– So, what did God say? A lot! In fact, without any interruption, He speaks to Job straight through chapters 38 and 39.
He starts off saying, “Who is it that questions my wisdom? Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Do you know how its dimensions were determined? Do you know what supports its foundations and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”
For all of Job’s complaints… for all of his questions directed toward God…
– What you’ll soon notice as you read this section of Scripture is that God doesn’t offer a single answer to a single question.
– Instead, God goes ahead and raises seventy questions for Job… asked right after another.
– Imagine God asking you as He did to Job, “Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Can you hold back the movement of the stars?
You read in chapter 39, “Do you know the time the mountain goats give birth? Have you given the horse its strength or clothed its neck with a flowing mane? Are you the one who makes the hawk soar and spread its wings to the south? Is it at your command that the eagle rises to the heights to make its nest?”
For two chapters, 38-39, God continues to fire these questions off at Job. And then, in verses 3-5 in chapter 40, Job is given an opportunity to reply.
– “Then Job answered the Lord and said, ‘Behold, I am nothing. What can I say back to you?’”
– Job is saying, “I have no right to accuse you of not caring, because you have created it all. You control nature and tenderly provide for all of its animals. If you provide for them, how much more must you care for and love me.”
– From there, God continues again with another discourse of questions… from verse 6 of chapter 40 all through chapter 41.
But then, in verses 2-6 of chapter 42, Job again replies. He says, “I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about; things far too wonderful for me.”
– Now, keep in mind, that after the first discourse, Job was broken as he realized who he was… up against the backdrop of who God really is.
– And now Job cries out to God saying, “I am sorry… I’m so sorry for saying that you don’t care, because I know you care. I am sorry for saying that You can’t help me… because I know now that You can… that you are in control.”
What I want you to see from all of this is that what changed Job wasn’t some fresh revelation of why bad things happen to good people… or why our prayers can go unanswered…
– The truth is, God didn’t answer any of Job’s objections or questions.
– Instead, it was through a deepened revelation of who God is that Job found true solace and comfort in his pain.
What satisfied the cry in Job’s heart was a renewed understanding of God’s love and mercy and power and provision.
– In fact, even though we know that Job had walked with God for many years before all of this, he writes in 42:5,
– “I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”
Is there any comfort when there are no answers? Guys… a lot of life is spent in that sphere… of not understanding why.
– Why does it hurt so much? Why is it happening to us? Why isn’t it getting any easier? Why does God seem so silent?
– And yet, even when there are no answers, there is comfort… and that comfort comes from a reliance on the revealed character of our God.
– Is there any comfort where there are no answers? There was for Job.
In spite of deep pain, Job is comforted… not because he’s suddenly become a great philosopher or theologian writing about the nature of suffering…
– But because he came to understand, in a whole new way, the Father’s Heart…
– the heart of a God who is infinite in His mercies, love, and goodness.
So, if these have been challenging days for you… know that you really can find rest…
– Not in a set of answers, but in renewed understanding of the goodness & nearness of God.
– It’s what made all the difference in David’s life when he wrote, in Psalm 27:13 that he would have “despaired if it had not been for the goodness of the Lord.”
The second truth we need to remember as we face those challenging seasons of life is this… that…
2. God doesn’t purpose to make our lives easier… but better.
You see, guys… the good news of the Gospel is not that God will always provide a way to make life easier.
– The Good News of the Gospel, for this life, is that He will make our lives better.
– And, by “better,” I’m talking about a life that is rooted in His purposes and will…
– which, at times will include what Paul describes in Philippians as “the fellowship of His sufferings.”
I really believe that all of us, consciously or unconsciously, to some degree, have this belief…
– that God is here to simply make our lives easier or more comfortable.
– I think it comes from a struggle we, particularly as American (Western) believers have regarding our journey through life.
– We somehow have come to believe that things should always go well and that we deserve to always feel good…
– That our feeling good is always God’s greatest priority for us.
Even though we understand how so many believers around the world are suffering,
– as American believers, we still have an expectation that things will… and should always go well…
– and, by “going well,” I’m referring to a life where we always have at least a little “more than enough…”
– and where we’re comfortable and reasonably entertained.
– God has the power to make it happen… so then, why wouldn’t He use that power? He loves us, right?
But then, when dreams shatter and prayers go unanswered, we find often find ourselves drifting further and further away from God.
– Not that we just turn away from Him… but rather, over time, our disappointments turn into anger or indifference. And why?
– B/c on some level, we assume that the nature of our spiritual journey is such that God’s glory will always be revealed in our prosperity… whether financial, relational, physical, or emotional.
You see, guys… to the degree that we believe that God’s agenda is to make our lives easy…
– to that degree will we struggle trusting God through those difficult times when hope seems so far away.
– I’ll never forget going to the hospital in order to tell someone that he had, at best, three or four months to live.
Even though he had walked with the Lord for most of his life… how could this not be painful?
– After hearing the news, he sat quietly for about 30 seconds before looking up me and a few family members, saying, “Well, God has always been good to me.”
– He didn’t have the assurance that things were going to get easier… but, at the end of the day, He knew his life was in God’s hands… a God He knew to be faithful and good.
In those few minutes, I was reminded of the difference “hope” makes… as the reality of God’s essential nature…
– His goodness and His power… served to not only anchor Him… but to remind him how His best days really were ahead of him.
– It’s what the writer of Hebrews meant when writing in 6:18-19… “Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.”
It is so natural for us to think at times that our relationship with Jesus has no greater purpose than to improve the quality of our journey through life…
– And, by quality, I mean a pleasurable life where things don’t go wrong (or at least too wrong)…
– and when they do, they correct themselves in 30 minutes like a Brady Bunch episode.
– Marriages should be perfect, we should always succeed in ministry, we should always have more than we need, and so on.
Truth is, if our dreams were never shattered, we would continue to walk thru life believing that lie… valuing only what God can do for us now.
– God is not committed to making our lives easier… but through the difficult times He allows from time to time, He is always working to make our lives better.
– He loves us too much release comfort and safety over and against significance and God-sized purpose in our lives.
– And yet, in the midst of the Long and Winding Road, there’s a third point we really need to hold on to…
3. God Will Always Rescue us… but not always how and when we’d like.
In the first three chapters of Daniel, we read about how three godly men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego…
– had been thrown into Nebuchadnezzar’s fires as punishment for not bowing down and worshipping him.
– The fires should have engulfed them in a moment… but in 3:24 we read how King Nebuchadnezzar “leapt to his feet in amazement.”
He asked his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the fire?’ They said, “Yes!”
– He then said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods!”
– Well… he almost got it right! Right there in that fire was the Son of God.
– Jesus was there to protect them from the flames… to take off the ropes that bound their hands.
When I read that passage, I can’t help but wonder what they were saying to each other while in the fiery furnace.
– I can imagine Jesus telling them how proud He was of them… that He loved them so much.
– In a very real way, that furnace, turned out to be the greatest experience of growth in their lives…
– and it all took place in the midst of what must have been the most difficult, more fearful moment in their lives…
– At least until the moment they realized that God was with them!
You see, just like it was for Job, the furnace turned out to be the place where they met God in a whole new way.
– And… God wants to meet us in the furnace, too.
– Isn’t that where the disciples really understood who Jesus was out there in the middle of the Sea of Galilee during that terrible storm?
– Most of those guys spent their lives fishing those waters. They know that a storm like that could easily take their lives.
And man… they were afraid… at least until Jesus shows up. Of course, they would have preferred it if Jesus wouldn’t come sooner…
– But, instead, as Scripture says, “He came in the darkest part of the night”… when things were at their worst.
– But when He came… everything changed. They may have thought it before… but now they knew it…
– They looked at Him and said, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
But what I want you to see here is that as much as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego must had cried out to be delivered from the furnace,
– the reality is that God decided to deliver them while in the furnace.
– In other words, it’s in the middle of those storms… those places in life that seem so terrifying and painful… that we find Jesus right there with us.
– And just as it’s in the eye of the storm, those places, then, turn out to be the safest places of all.
Jesus is telling us, “I’ll meet you in the furnace. Follow me. It’s going to look dark, it’s going to look dangerous, it’s going to scare you, but you keep following me. The road may seem long and winding… but I will meet you in the furnace.”
You see, it’s in the midst of those painful and challenging seasons of life that we can really express Job’s heart to God in Job 42:5…
– “I’ve heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes!”
– Guys, let me ask you, how many heroes of our faith had it easy?
– How many of those people written down in that great Hall of Faith in the Hebrews 11 had their prayers answered when and how they wanted?
– Out of a lifetime of experience, David wrote in Psalm 81:16 that out of the rock will come forth the honey…
– that out of the hardest of times, we’ll experience the sweetest of all God has for us.
But sometimes we just have to wait for the honey. It rarely comes just when “we” think we need it.
– And yet, if we remember these three biblical truths…
- That our deepest comfort will not come from having answers but from knowing God.
- That God doesn’t purpose to make our lives easier, but better.
- And that, while God will always rescue us, He won’t always do so how and when we think…
– If we remember these three truths, then, through the long and winding road of life, we’ll find ourselves more grounded and secure…
– Knowing that, in His time, we will see honey coming from the rock.
Guys… we know that along with all the wonderful times life brings our way, there will always be those seasons where we’re stretched perhaps further than we’ve each been stretched before.
– Perhaps that’s where you are right now. It’s not been easy… and you’re wondering how much longer you can keep it together.
– Whatever’s behind it, remember that what will anchor us in the midst of those challenging seasons isn’t set of answers…
– But an understanding of God’s essential character… His love & goodness.
Knowing His goodness & love… Knowing that He not only cares for us… but has the authority and power to intervene…
– Knowing that He’s already made the ultimate sacrifice for us… knowing His promise to never ever leave us or forsake us…
– Knowing these things will be the compass & rutter that will help us navigate through the difficult storms that will inevitably make their way into our lives from time to time.
If you’re struggling right now… then hear God telling you, “I’ll meet you in the furnace. I might not deliver you from it, but I’ll deliver you in it.”
– I don’t know what furnace you’re facing; I don’t know what this means for you. I just know who will meet you there.
– He says in Isaiah, “Fear not, though you pass through the flames they will not burn you, they will not destroy you.”
– He says, “I’ll be there in the storm. I will never leave you… I will never forsake you… In My time I will rescue you with all the fury and power of heaven… in the meantime… know that you don’t have to wait alone. There is another one in the furnace with you.
– You may not be able to see Him right now, but there’s another One… the Son of God… there in the furnace with you.”
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name. You are mine. When you go through the deep waters and the great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through the rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up and the flames will not consume you.” Why? “Because I am the Lord your God.”Isaiah 43