The Lies we tell ourselves Part 3
January 17, 2021
We are part way into titled “The Lies we tell ourselves.” Last week we looked at the lie that says God blesses me when I am good and punishes me when I am bad, so if something is wrong in my life God must be punishing me.”
Today we are going to look at a related lie that says God is not entirely trustworthy. Or let me put a finer point on this lie by paraphrasing an Augustine quote that I used last week.
We do not understand why God allows good things to happen to bad people and bad things to happen to good people. But that is not entirely consistent either. Good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. And we have found that it is really unprofitable to ask why these things happen, because we are not often given the answer to the question why.
So, to put a finer point on the lie, if bad things happen to people who are following Jesus, if I am not safe, how can God be trustworthy?
There have been times that I have prayed for miracles and God has answered. But too often I have prayed for miracles and God hasn’t brought about the miracle that I was praying for. If He is not going to answer all my prayers then how can he be trustworthy?
I don’t know how many people I have sat with who pour out their story of being disappointed with God. For too many of those people, that disappointment has created a wedge between them and God. They question his power. They question his goodness. In some cases, they wonder if they should keep on following Jesus. Why should I follow Jesus if I asked him to keep me safe, and he didn’t keep me safe?
Those are good questions. Those are hard questions. I have been there. It is not wrong to ask the questions, but during those times it is very easy for the lie that says, “God is not entirely trustworthy,” to slip in.
Today I want to take you to the life of Jesus. Jesus is the true revelation of God. The God that Jesus shows us has no malice or evil intentions towards you. He is completely good.
Let me start by taking you to the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus knows that the next day he is going to be crucified. He is facing torture and death. His anguish is so great that we are told he sweat drops of blood. But listen to a part of his prayer.
Mark 14:36 (NIV)
36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
In his final hours Jesus prays, “Abba Father.” This is important because it reveals the God that Jesus knew. He could have prayed dear father – But neither of those words necessarily mean that the father is good. But “Abba” is an intimate term that conveys the deepest most trustful reverence. Knowing what he was going to go through, Jesus still knew that God is a good and loving, trustworthy father. So no matter what, he can be obeyed. In his moment of great doubt – Jesus trusted his heavenly father.
I think it is helpful to note that in spite of the fact that Jesus lived a perfect sinless life, he was severely tempted by Satan, he was hassled by religious leaders, he was almost stoned by his hometown, he had crowds love him and leave him, he was betrayed by a friend, he was villainized by a crowd, he was beaten and then crucified. Talk about bad things happening to good people! Yet, having all this happen to him he still prayed, “Abba Father.”
Thomas Smail wrote this of Jesus prayer in the Garden.
The father that Jesus addresses in the garden is the one that he has known all his life and found to be bountiful in his provision, reliable in his promises and utterly faithful in his love. He can obey the will that sends him to the cross, with hope and expectation because it is the will of Abba whose love has been so proved that it can now be trusted so fully by being obeyed so completely. This is not legal obedience driven by commandment, but trusting response to known love.
. So, when I encounter a world full of pandemics, and political upheaval, and child molesters, and drug addicted moms, and alcohol addicted dads, I don’t try to pretend all is well. But rather I can say, Jesus trusted his Abba – I will also trust the God that I know to be good.
Remember the Apostle Paul. Here is a man that has served God with all his heart. This is what he records about his life.
2 Corinthians 11:23–27 (NIV)
23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
Yet near the end of his life, he was writing to his friend Timothy, one whom he calls a son in the faith, and this is what he says.
2 Timothy 1:12 (NLT)
12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.
Paul’s life was anything but safe. It was right down difficult. Yet, he knew that God is still good. He is still trustworthy.
One more set of verses until I try to pull this together. Jesus is talking to his disciples prophesying about the fall of Jerusalem. Some would say he is also talking about the end of time before he comes back. Needless to say, there was going to be a lot of turmoil: wars, famine, plagues, persecution.
Listen to what Jesus says is going to happen.
Luke 21:16–19 (NIV)
16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.
Did you catch that. Verse 16 says they will put some of you to death. Verse 18 says, not a hair on your head will perish. How does that work?
He is saying disciples, you have the same God, but you will not always be treated the same. He knew that some of them would be martyred and others would be miraculously delivered. Both were fulfilling the plans of God. Jesus knew the truth about God, God knows what he is doing. God is still good.
Here is what you need to know, God has your best interests in mind. He is absolutely trustworthy, he is good, even when life isn’t.
His promise that he will never leave you or forsake you is trustworthy. When he said that when you confess your sin, that he would forgive you of your sin is something that you can trust in this life and the next. When he invites you into a relationship with him, when he invites you into his family – it is a genuine invitation. If you will receive him you become his and he becomes yours.
When he promises you peace that is on a whole different level than what the world gives, that promise is trustworthy. When he promises to make your internal life one of love and joy and peace and patience and kindness – he really does mean it. You can trust him. You will not have to face a single situation alone – because God is with you.
And let me remind you, we tend to get caught up on the immediate crisis. Some people can’t even imagine an end to the pandemic. We get focused on the difficulty of our life right now. But God sees our life from an eternal perspective. Life will not always be good, but God is always good – and even the unfairness of life will be compensated for when we move into eternity with God. God is good, and trustworthy – even when our eyes are blinded to that by the circumstances we find ourselves in.
So, let me speak to those of you who may be going through some of those difficult times right now. I want to urge you to beware and repel the lie that says that God is not good or trustworthy. But the question is, how do you sit in the middle of the pain.
Give pain an expression in your prayer. Give the unanswered questions and the doubt expression in your prayers. Here is one prayer that I thought expressed life well, was prayed for 2-year-old named Madeline as she was coming to the end of her life.
Our thoughts are not Your thoughts O Lord, and our ways are not Your ways. We confess to You that we cannot see Your divine hand in the suffering of Madeline. Help us, we beg You, to see that in this evil there is some purpose, beyond our grasp and comprehension. Our minds are confused. Our hearts are in distress. Our wills are lost and weak, and our strength is gone, as we see this innocent creature caught by the sins of the world and the power of the devil, a victim of senseless suffering and pain. Have mercy on this child, Lord, have mercy! Do not prolong the agony! Do not allow the pain and suffering to increase! We know not what to ask You; give us the grace only to say, “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Give us faith, for we believe, O Lord; help our unbelief. Be with Your child Madeline, and suffer with her; heal her and save her, according to Your own saving plan, established before the creation of the world. For You are our only hope, O God, and in You we take refuge: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Prayers like that don’t dimmish the horrible situation, they express the confusion, but ultimately, they lean into God. Prayers of lament are sometimes the only kind of prayers that we can genuinely pray.
If you find yourself in a distressing situation pray a prayer like that. The Manuscript for this sermon is up on the website. Or pray a prayer like that found in scripture. Psalms 13 is a prayer like that .
For those of you have been there and you know it has driven a wedge in your relationship with God, will you confess to God that you have bought into the lie that says He is not entirely trustworthy and good. Ask him to restore your heart and your relationship with him.
Some people will even have to go so far as to forgive God. Now theologically we know that God can only do no wrong. But sometime the grudge that we have held against God has to be released. God can handle it if you have to release the grudge through forgiveness.
For the rest of us the best way to defend ourselves from buying into the lie that God is not trustworthy is through gratitude. If you consistently look for something to thank God for it will reinforce in your heart that although there is a lot of bad in the world that God has given us so much good.
Remember to give thanks for something every day.
We started off this series talking about transformation. The way we are transformed and brought into the freedom that God wants for us is by bringing the story of our lives into conformity with the stories that Jesus told.
Some of you have been bound by this lie about God. You have written into your story that God cannot be trusted. I want to urge you write a new story with your life. – The story that Jesus told. Even when he faced the cross, he prayer Abba Father – In spite of what is going to happen I know I can trust my Abba Father.
 New Testament scholar F.D. Moule.
 Smith, James Bryan. The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows (The Apprentice Series Book 1) (p. 65). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition
 Smith, James Bryan. The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows (The Apprentice Series Book 1) (p. 66). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.