Rethinking Your Life | Week 3: Learning to Think Like Jesus

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In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah asked the question…

“Who understands the mind of the Lord?” Isaiah 40:13

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul answers that question… 

“We can understand these things because now we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16 NLT


What does it mean to have the mind of Christ?

It means that you can learn to think like Jesus. You can have the same thoughts, attitudes, and reactions as Jesus has. In fact, this is God’s goal for your life and my life.

“In your lives, you must think and act like Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5 NCV

What does it look like when you have the mind of Christ? Let’s look at 10 characteristics of a person who thinks like Jesus.

1.  I KNOW EXACTLY WHO I AM.

I am not confused about my identity because Jesus had no doubt about His identity. He knew exactly who He was.

In John 6:35, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life.”

In John 8:12, He says, “I am the light of the world.

In John 10:11, He says, “I am the good shepherd.”

John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life.

John 14:6, “I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life.

John 15:1, “I am the true vine.

Mark 10:61-62, “I am the Son of God.

Those are just a few of the times where Christ defines who He is. And, God wants you to know your true identity too.

Why is this important? Because if you don’t know who God made you to be then other people will decide for you and force you into their mold. You will be manipulated by the expectations of others. Then you’ll end up living a phony life because you don’t really know who you are. That leads to a stressful life. Stress happens when you try to be someone you are not.

2. I KNOW GOD’S PURPOSE FOR MY LIFE.

I know where I came from, and I know where I’m going.” John 8:14

Jesus settled His purpose very early in life. At age 12 He was teaching the elders in the Temple. Mary and Joseph come to the Temple and ask Him what He’s doing. He asks, Don’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?”

Young children can understand this at a lot earlier age than we think. Parents, are you preparing your kids for God’s purpose for their lives even at an early age?

As Jesus matured and His ministry expanded He became more and more specific about the purposes for His life. In John 10:10, Jesus says…

“My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”

That’s knowing not only who He was, but knowing His purpose. Right up to Christ’s death on the cross His purpose was very clear. The night before He was executed Jesus said,

“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? No, it is for this purpose that I have come to this hour.” John 12:27

Jesus knew who He was and He knew His purpose. He wants you to know who you are and He wants you to know your purpose.

3. I’M ALWAYS AWARE THAT GOD IS WITH ME.

I’m not alone because the Father is always with me.” John 16:32

Jesus lived His life in the presence of God. He stayed connected to God no matter how busy He was. The greatest antidote to loneliness is thinking like Jesus. How can you stay aware of God’s constant care? 

Jesus often slipped away to be alone so He could pray.” Luke 5:16

This is not an occasional occurrence, this is a habit. That’s why He was always aware of God’s presence. How often do you slip away to pray during your day? If Jesus needed to pray during His day, how much do we need it?

You miss the gifts of God when you fail to get with God.

On the other hand, you get more done here, there, and everywhere if you pause for prayer. We need times to reflect, renew, and recharge.

4. I LET GOD HELP ME CHOOSE MY WORDS.

Jesus didn’t speak without thinking. He wasn’t just running off at the mouth. He asked God to help Him say the right words.

I have not spoken on My own. Instead, the Father who sent Me tells Me what I should say and how I should say it.” John 12:49

Jesus says that God tells Him what to say and how to say it. Would you have happier relationships if you let God tell you what to say and how to say it? Would you have less conflict in your life if you let God tell you what to say and how to say it?

If your mouth frequently gets you into trouble, the antidote is to learn to think like Jesus.

5.  I DON’T WORRY ABOUT PLEASING EVERYONE.

Are you a people pleaser? Are you always worried about what other people will think? If so, you can’t be what God wants you to be. But if you put on the mind of Christ you won’t worry about pleasing everybody, you will only focus on pleasing God.

Jesus was never manipulated by the response of a crowd. Jesus didn’t seek the approval or the disapproval of anybody else. He lived for an audience of One.

“I only try to please the One who sent Me.” John 5:30

Wouldn’t that simplify your life? If God likes what I’m doing… I’m doing the right thing. Obviously, Jesus did a good job because in Matthew 3:17 God says, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

The truth is you can’t please everybody. Even God can’t please everybody. Right now somebody’s praying for it to be sunny, somebody else is praying for it to rain, and somebody’s praying for it to snow!

Whose approval are you depending on? What if your answer to that question was God and God alone?

That doesn’t mean you make everyone else mad at you. Don’t get confused about that. To make God happy doesn’t mean you have to make everyone else mad. You just make God happy first.

6. I DEPEND ON GOD’S POWER INSTEAD OF MY OWN.

All the verses we’re reading today are direct quotes of Jesus Christ, powerful words coming from our Savior Himself.

“I assure you that the Son can do nothing by Himself. He can only do what He sees His father doing…” John 5:19

Now if Jesus Christ is that dependent on God the Father’s power, what about you and I?How do you know if you’re trying to do life on your own human power alone? It’s real simple – you’re tired all the time.

You’re tired all the time because you’re living on your own power instead of living on God’s power. Human energy runs out.

7. I FORGIVE MY ENEMIES AND THOSE WHO HURT ME.

Jesus is hanging on the cross in agony and pain, His blood is draining out of Him, the people who nailed Him to the cross are mocking Him and Jesus says,

“Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” Luke 23:34

That’s the mind of Christ… to be willing to forgive the people who have hurt you.

When you hold onto hurt you are only hurting yourself. You need to forgive the person not because they deserve it, you forgive that person because being unforgiving is like drinking poison and hoping it kills them.

But Jesus doesn’t stop with just forgiveness. He goes even further in Matthew 5:44,

“Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those which despitefully use you and persecute you.”

Look at the verbs in that verse:

Love – I have to love my enemies.

Bless – I am to bless those who curse me.

I’ve got to do good to those who hate me and pray for those who despitefully use me or persecute me.

Love. Bless. Do Good. Pray.

8. I’M WILLING TO SACRIFICE FOR OTHERS.

“I am the Good Shepherd and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15

I sacrifice myself for the benefit of other people. A lot of people sacrifice for themselves, but if you’re going to be like Christ you must be willing to sacrifice for the benefit of others.

“I came here not to be served, but to serve others and to give My life as a ransom for many.”  Mark 10:45

To serve and to give. Those two words summarize the heart of Christianity. Following Jesus is about serving others and giving our lives away. Jesus said, “It is only in giving your life away that you’ll ever really know what it means to fully live.”

You probably know the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

God so loved the world that He gave. That’s John 3:16. Do you know 1 John 3:16? 1 John is a little book toward the end of the New Testament written by the same guy who wrote the Gospel of John. 1 John 3:16 talks about our responsibility.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for each other.”

That’s a whole new understanding of what it means to follow Christ. Just as God so loved the world that He gave, we ought to lay down our lives for each other.

9. I WANT TO DO GOD’S WILL, NOT MINE.

“I came to do what God wants Me to do, not to do what I want to do.” John 6:38

Do you realize what a radical counter culture statement that is? Almost no one today says, “I’m alive to do what God wants me to do, not what I want to do.” Instead, we all say, “I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it, where I want to do it, and whomever I want to do it with.”

In John 14:31, Jesus says, I want the world to know that I love the Father.”

Obedience is an evidence of love.  Now, it’s easy to do what God tells you to do when it’s fun or pleasurable, but what about when God asks you to do something painful?

The Bible is very clear that God did not spare His own Son from pain. He let Jesus go to the cross. If God didn’t spare His own Son from pain, why would I assume that God would spare me from pain?

Pain is part of the plan. To think like Jesus means that I want to do God’s will even when it’s painful or difficult or seems impossible. The supreme example of doing what God asks me to do even when it’s painful is Jesus on the night before He goes to the cross. He is in the Garden of Gethsemane praying in agony and thinking about the emotional, physical, spiritual pain that He is going to face the next day.

In Gethsemane, Jesus prays the Gethsemane Prayer, “Father, everything is possible for You. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

In your life, you will often have a Gethsemane experience. There will be times when you’re in pain and you’re praying for some relief. But we need to remember that God’s will was for Jesus to go to the cross. God’s will was not to relieve His pain, but to let Jesus go through that pain for the good of other people and for the glory of God.

Sometimes you suffer for the benefit of others. That’s called redemptive suffering. Anytime you’re in major pain it is appropriate to pray the Gethsemane Prayer. The first part is the prayer of faith. Jesus says, “Father, I know you have the power to change this situation.”

You can pray that too, whatever situation you’re going through: a financial, relational or health problem. You start out with a statement of faith.

Then Jesus asked for help and deliverance from the situation. It’s appropriate for you to do the same, asking in faith. But the third part of the Gethsemane Prayer is surrender. In His hour of greatest need Jesus prayed, “Not my will but Your will.” That takes an enormous amount of spiritual maturity. That’s the mind of Christ.

“Jesus humbled Himself (His choice) and was fully obedient to God, even when that caused His death on a cross. So, God exalted Him and raised Him to the highest place, and made His name greater than every other name.” Philippians 2:8-9

The name of Jesus is the greatest name all around the world and it will be the greatest name forever and ever in heaven. Why? Because He humbled Himself and God raised Him up.

10.  I THINK WITH AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE.

When you get the mind of Christ you begin to think the way Jesus does about your past, your present, your future, about life and death, about sin and salvation, about your friends, about rewards in Heaven – when you get the mind of Christ you think with an eternal perspective.

You realize that there’s more to life than just the here and now. This is how Jesus was able to handle pain. This is how you will be able to handle pain.

What is unbearable is pain without purpose, pain that is senseless. But human beings can stand an enormous amount of pain if they can see a purpose in the pain and see a reward past the pain.

That’s exactly what Jesus did when He went to the cross. He looked past the pain of the cross to the reward in heaven. He had an eternal perspective. He wasn’t just looking at the here and now. If you just look at the here and now you’ll get discouraged and give up.

“Jesus was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterwards. Now He is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven.” Hebrews 12:2

So whatever pain you are experiencing you need to view it through an eternal perspective.


How Can I Learn To Think Like Jesus?

  • Study His life and words in the Bible.

“Keep your eyes on Jesus who both began and finished the race we’re in. Study how He did it.” Hebrews 12:2 MSG

Study how Jesus ran the race of life. The more you study the Bible, the more you’ll get the mind of Christ and think like Jesus.

  • Ask God to show me the meaning and application.

“God, open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in Your word.” Psalm 119:18

If you will study God’s word and begin to apply it to your life, you’ll begin to develop these 10 character qualities in your life. It’s time to rethink your life.


Check Back

Briefly check back on your discussion from the last week, “Choosing To Manage My Mind” and the three daily choices for a healthy mind… one, I must feed my mind truth, I must free my mind from destructive thoughts, I must focus my mind on the right things.

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Big Idea

In 1 Corinthians 2:16, Paul assures us that we can learn to think like Jesus because he says that “we have the mind of Christ.”  Here we’ll consider exactly what it looks like to have the mind of Christ, and what actions we need to take every day.

1) I know exactly who I am.

2) I know God’s purpose for my life.

3) I’m always aware that God is with me.

4) I let god help me choose my words.

5) I don’t worry about pleasing everyone.

6) I depend on God’s power instead of my own.

7) I forgive my enemies & those who hurt me.

8) I am willing to sacrifice for others.

9) I want to do God’s will not mine.

10) I think with an eternal perspective.

Discussion & Application

  1. Which of the ten characteristics stand out to you the most?
  2. “The Father who sent me tells me what I should say and how I should say it.” (John 12:49)  — We must let God help us choose our words, but how can we let God help us do this? What are examples of situations where God’s help choosing our words could be important?
  3. “(Jesus said) I only try to please the One who sent me.” (John 5:30)  — What problems in my life can be caused by trying to please everyone? What is wrong with that kind of life goal?
  4. “No one can serve two masters…” Luke 16:13 — Whose approval are you depending on for your happiness?
  5. “I came . . . to do what God wants me to do, not what I want to do.” (John 6:38)  — We must do God’s will instead of our own will, but what is an example of doing what God wants instead of what I want?
  6. “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me.
    Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (
    Mark 14:36) — In the “Gethsemane Prayer” (Mark 14:36 above), identify these three key parts: (1) Faith; (2) Ask for God’s help; (3) Surrender.

Prayer Focus

Ask how you can pray for and support one another this week.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, Help us know who we are, what is your purpose for our lives and that you are always with us.  Jesus, give us strength to follow your example of doing God’s will and humbling ourselves to be fully obedient.  Bless us with your direction in choosing our words, forgiving our enemies and sacrificing for others.  Holy Spirit, put in our hearts the eternal perspective and the understanding to have the mind of Christ in our daily lives.  We ask all these blessings in your name, Jesus.  Amen.   

Next Steps

Make sure you’re on the same page about SERVE Day. July 18th. You can get ideas and/or register your project https://rockbrook.org/serve

 

More Than Conquerors :: Conquering Despair

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“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:35, 37-39

Below are six things that can lead us to feel hopeless and overcome by circumstances. Make a mental checklist of the things below you have experienced in your life.

  1. Traumatic Event
  2. Strained Relatoinship
  3. Serious Health Problems
  4. Crushing Disappointment
  5. Unchangeable Circumstance
  6. Painful Loss

Some people will face these things and be tanked by them and others are able to rise again. These perseverant, resilient people are still standing no matter what has happened.

Resilience and perseverance are a set of skills that can be learned. That means that we can all learn perseverance. When we live with perseverance, we bounce back and aren’t buried by life and by loss. We not only survive, but thrive. We live a hope-infused life, not a hopeless life.

“We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  Romans 5:3

This process is within the reach of every one of us to develop perseverance, character and hope.

The most hope-infused people are not those who haven’t been through anything. The most hope-infused people are those who have suffered and let this process work in their life.

Here are three things to consider about perseverance, resilience and endurance.

1. Life is harder than we ever expected.

We somehow have it in our heads that life is supposed to be easy or comfortable. That it’s supposed to be stress-free and pain-free. Then when the wheels fall off the bus in our life, we are shocked. From that shocked place, we become angry and from that angry place, we end up with confusion and disillusionment as though life was supposed to be easy and life was supposed to be relatively painless. When life isn’t easy, we don’t know what to do.

Jesus says: “In this world, you will have trouble.”  John 16:33

He doesn’t say some people are going to have some hard times. You are going to have problems. Sometimes people find life so hard, so overwhelming and so debilitating that they end up taking their lives.

Almost a million people in the next year will take their own life around the world, 44,000 people in the United States. It’s the number two cause of death for people between 10 and 34 years old in the United States. People who die by taking their own lives, are not wanting to die. Most of the time it’s just because things have gotten so hard that they can’t see a way out. They can’t see any other way for the pain to stop. 

The Bible is so real about this too. Job, this man who lost his family, his home, his crops, his livelihood, was covered with boils on his body from head to toe in terrible pain. He talks about being at that place of just not wanting to live.

“My days have passed; my plans have failed; my hope is gone. But my friends say night is daylight; they say that light is near, but I know I remain in darkness. My only hope is the world of the dead, where I will lie down to sleep in the dark.”  Job 17:11-13 GNT

That’s a man in despair. The first way to rebuild hope in your life, is to accept that life is harder than you ever thought it was going to be. Start setting more realistic expectations for your life.

2. God gives us resources to cope with life.

God is so good to us that he gives us resources to be able to cope with the fact that life is harder than we thought it was going to be.

He gives a Savior because that is what we need more than anything else.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 NIV

Take heart, be encouraged. You don’t have to overcome the world, carry the weight of the world or solve every problem. You can’t, but someone can. Someone has carried the weight of the world, his name is Jesus.

God has also given to us a new mind to cope with life. A mind that aligns with His. We can begin to think like God. Over time, we develop and transform.

“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death, but letting the spirit control your mind leads to life in peace.”  Romans 8:6 NLT

Before we accept Jesus as our Savior, our minds are a scary place. The Bible says that the longer we are in a relationship with Jesus Christ, the more he can transform our minds.

The third thing that God has given to help us cope with the difficulties of life is God’s Word. He’s given us the Bible as a roadmap to navigate life’s troubles.

“By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path.”  Psalm 119:105 MSG

Sometimes the path in front of us looks so dark. The Bible is a light to our path and we can see where we’re supposed to go. When you read, study, memorize, meditate on the Bible, over time, you are transformed.

3. We get to choose our responses in life.

From the list of 6 things above, you probably didn’t have a lot of control over some of those things. You do get to choose your response though. It’s freeing to know you are not held captive to a disease, disappointment, disillusionment, depression or even death.

You are not held captive by what has happened to you. Take a look at some of the choices that can give you hope again. These choices will help you build perseverance, character and hope.

  • Choose to expand your connections

When hope starts to fade and we start going through those really hard moments, there’s a natural tendency in all of us to withdraw. The moment we want to isolate or disengage, from family, friends, small group and church, hope is fading. We must choose, in those moments, to press in to community, to relationships, to those people who are there for you, who love you and care about you.

“A friend is always a friend and relatives are born to share our troubles.”  Proverbs 17:17 CEV

  • Choose to believe that, in Christ, you are capable of handling anything

Last week’s post was about how you are in Christ, and you can take off the label of unqualified or weak and put on the label “capable.”

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13

  • Choose to avoid expecting the worst.

When you take a simple event in your life and go to the worst possible outcome. When you’ve already written the scenario, you’ve already written the bad scene in your head.

“Lord, when doubts fill my mind, when my heart is in turmoil, quiet me and give me renewed hope and cheer.”  Psalm 94:19 TLB

  • Choose to protect your heart.

“Above all else, guard your heart. For everything you do flows from it.”  Proverbs 4:23

Persevering people have come to understand that waves of hard times can eventually warp your perspective. They have learned how to take care of themselves in the middle of the hard times. People with perseverance are careful about their inner life.

“Do not give the devil a foothold.”   Ephesians 4:27

When the devil establishes a foothold in your life, he doesn’t try to take over your whole life, he starts by getting one little area of your life at a time. The more you depend on Jesus the more you know what it means to really live.

The way Satan gets a foothold in our life is through any negative emotion. Jealousy, envy, fear, resentment, lust, anger or boredom can all be a foothold. When you mix several of these heart conditions together they’re very potent. When you’re tired, frustrated, hurt and lonely, that combination is setting you up for a fall.

  • Choose to discover a truth about yourself.

In the middle of this mess you’re experiencing, it’s likely that there are some things about yourself that are hidden. Things that would be really important for you to learn.

One of the benefits of trouble, is that it exposes where we’re weaker than we thought we were. It exposes the holes and the gaps in our faith. 

Is there a part of the way you deal with conflict, is there something about the way that you relate to other people you need to work on? Trouble has the way of helping us if we will seek self-discovery. We can choose to learn and get better from it.

“We can also learn from insults and hard knocks.”  Lamentations 3:30

  • Choose to practice gratitude

If you’re going to be someone who turns suffering into hope, you need to practice gratitude. Not necessarily thankful for the wound itself, but when we think about Jesus and we think about what He did for us on the cross we know without His suffering we wouldn’t have salvation.

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”  Colossians 2:7 NLT

  • Decide today that nothing can destroy you.

You can make a decision that you will not let anything destroy you. No matter what comes your way, you don’t have to let them destroy you.

This problem, this pain, this agony is not going to win. If you are going to be a person of perseverance and character, rebuilding hope again, you too will have to make even if it’s a feeble declaration, a declaration that says, “No matter what comes, God will get me through it and in Christ I will not let it destroy me.”

“I will not die; instead, I will live to tell what the Lord has done.”  Psalm 118:17 NLT


“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8:35, 37-39 NIV

Satan’s ultimate goal is to separate us from God. You have a relationship with God, you trust Him, you believe in Him, but then there trouble comes that causes you to take a step back from God. If that is your response to trouble or pain and it stays your response, then the enemy has won. 

God’s Word says that you are a conqueror when you say, “Yes this hurts, yes this has taken me down time and again, but I will not be separated from the love of God that I have through Jesus Christ.” That makes you a conqueror.

But Paul says, “We are MORE than conquerors”

To become MORE than a conqueror is to take the very thing that was meant to destroy you and separate you from God and make it serve you. 

The hard times that we go through are meant to make us more like Christ. Hold on. Yes you can, through the power of Jesus Christ.

You can still stand.

You’re still here.

You will not die.

You will live to tell what the Lord has done.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts, questions or conclusions about the message on 1 Peter 2:9-10, Conquering Labels?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

Read Romans 8 

In Romans 8, Paul lists several things that threaten to separate us from the love of God. The good news is that in Christ, we can be more than conquerors over those things.

Life is harder than we ever expected, but we can build resilience and find hope again when we rely on God’s resources and realize we have a choice in how we respond to life. Scripture tells us that in this world we will have trouble. but nothing can separate us from the love of God. By expanding our connections, believing we are capable through Christ rather than expecting the worst, protecting your heart and practicing gratitude, resilience is within our reach. Whether we experience traumatic events, strained relationships, serious health problems, crushing disappointments, unchangeable circumstances or painful losses, we can not only survive but also learn to thrive through Christ, who gives us strength and hope as we are transformed into his image.

Application

  1. Ice Breaker: Name things in life that often warm the heart or bring a smile to one’s face even when life gets tough.
  2. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly and is a skill to be developed. Why would this ability be important in this world and in what ways can it be established?
  3. What are some disadvantages of being isolated during a difficult time, instead of sharing your problems with someone else?
  4. Share how you became resilient and found hope during a time when suffering shook your confidence in Christ, and you didn’t felt like following God anymore.
  5. Psalm 119:105 tells us God’s word is like throwing “a beam of light on my dark path.” Share a time when a Bible verse gave you wisdom, hope, or insight to a dark problem in your life.
  6. How could deciding that nothing can destroy you change the outcome of an overwhelming circumstance?
  7. How could focusing on the promise of heaven change our daily perspective?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you encourage with hope as a result of this message? What scars do you carry that could give someone life and hope?

Pray: Father, you hear the cry of our hearts whenever we suffer and your heart hurts when we hurt. When life is hard, help us to keep our eyes on you. Holy Spirit, in every difficulty we face, teach us how to be resilient and find hope by relying on your resources. Lord, help us find power in our choices to respond to whatever life challenges we face. Above all, strengthen us when Satan attempts to destroy our faith and assault our confidence in you. Today, we say “no” to doubt and despair. Each day, we choose to conquer evil by declaring we will not let suffering cause us to turn away from you. Thank you, Jesus our Savior, that each scar in our life blends in with the scars you bore for us, and how our sufferings cause us to be transformed into the beauty of your image.

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Not So Far-Fetched: Is God Good?

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No matter who you are, everyone experiences difficulty. The degree of life’s severity differs from person to person. Right now, many people around the world are experiencing heartbreaking realities. In every season of our lives, in every place of our existence, there is this tension. The tension around our pain asks, “Is God good?”

Before we go any further, you need to know that this message may not be for everyone in this moment. If you’re right in the middle of personal pain, a post on good and evil and why we experience suffering and pain is not always the most helpful thing. When you’re in the middle of it, this kind of message can even be seen as offensive. The goal today is not to offend you. The heart behind this post is to offer help and to offer compassion in the midst of your pain.

People have wrestled with the question of pain and God’s goodness for centuries. The greek philosopher, Epicurus, in 300 BC posed the question this way:

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The problem of pain is very personal. It may have started at a young age through divorced parents or maybe you’ve lost someone. And you’re left asking, “Why is there pain?”

Today, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why we experience pain.

1. We experience pain because the world is broken.

What we’re seeing and experiencing is not the way it is supposed to be. This isn’t the way God wants it to be. Everything began with a Creator.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Genesis 1:1

That’s a big statement, we devoted an entire post to answer the question Is God Real? There, we talked about why we believe God exists. You don’t even need to read the Bible to know God is real. Just look around and you can learn a lot about God. Wherever there is creation, there’s evidence of creation. Wherever there is design, there’s evidence of a designer. Wherever there is moral law and obligation, there is a moral law giver.

Romans 1 says, look around and you’ll learn a lot about the goodness of God. So when God created the heaven and earth, it was perfect. But then, creation rejected the Creator and as a result, nothing is as it should be.

“Cursed is the ground because of you…”  Genesis 3:17

Life is made more difficult. We are all to blame for this brokenness because we have all rejected God and his goodness. God’s plan to restore the world to perfect includes us. The good news is, that God desires for us to join him now in making his plans for restoration, unity, and peace a reality. We find this in Colossians.

“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God   in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”  Colossians 1:15-20

So through the work of Christ, the creation that rejected the Creator can now be at peace with God. This is good news. Why, because verse 21:

“This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.”  Colossians 1:21-23

A lot of us are pinning our pain on God. It is not God’s Will that there be earthquakes, typhoons,  hurricanes, tornados and natural disasters. He doesn’t want cancer, disease or death for anyone.

Jesus suffered for this suffering world so that we would find renewal in Him, a renewal that will be completed when Jesus brings heaven and earth fully together in the end.

We’re just not there yet. God’s final plan is not simply that we all go to heaven and everything is fine. His plan is to come back to earth and fix everything. Ultimately, we don’t go up to heaven, heaven comes to earth. He’s going to kick out all sin, all rebellion, and that’s how we’ll live forever. God is rescuing all of creation. That’s what every story in scripture is telling us.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  Revelation 21:4

Life is hard because the world is broken, and we experience pain because the world is cursed, but Jesus is restoring all things from the brokenness of the world by his power and through his people. This is temporary. This is not what God has for you forever.

2. We experience pain because of ourselves.

Sometimes we experience pain because we are sinners. We make bad decisions — accidentally and willfully — and these choices make our lives a lot harder.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”  Romans 3:23

Often, life is hard because we not only do evil things, but we don’t respond well when the consequences come.

“People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.”  Proverbs 19:3 NLT

Life is hard because of us. Not all the time, but it is a lot more of the time than we care to admit. No matter the sin, it is vital that we do not simply say, “This is just who I am,” and fail to pursue renewal. In this case we must confess sin and repent. In Jesus we find true wisdom, righteousness, and redemption from our sin. We experience pain because of ourselves, but Jesus graciously forgives us when we confess that our sin has dishonored him and made life complicated and difficult.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  1 John 1:9

3. We experience pain because of someone else.

Sometimes life is hard and we experience pain and suffering because others sin against us. We see this throughout scripture in the parable of the good Samaritan where the man is left for dead, Joseph in the Old Testament who’s abandoned by his brothers and David who’s fleeing for his life. It’s also in Job’s story.

“So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.”  Job 2:7

We experience pain because of someone else, and many times that someone else is the great enemy. We don’t live in a playground, we live in a battleground. Where we’ve got to put on the armor of God. Every day there’s a battle for our heart, attention, focus and worship.

If you are experiencing pain because of someone in your life or even because of the enemy, you are not alone. Jesus didn’t stay far away from this battle. He came and experienced it. He came and received the brunt and the judgement that was sentenced. Jesus responded to the great need of humanity by allowing himself to take the position of a victim and bearing the sins and folly of the entire human race.

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:5

Therefore, when we are victimized, we should remember that Jesus not only can identify with us in our unjust treatment. He put shame to shame on the cross, we also find power and cleansing in Him.

When we cry out to Jesus, we’re crying out to someone thoroughly acquainted with our pain. 

“If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”  1 John 1:7

God can heal you from the harm that has been done to you. And through the power of the cross he can heal your pain.

4. We experience pain because it makes us more like Jesus.

Not everything bad in life is ultimately bad for you. Pain is not without purpose. You see, there is a built in assumption that in order for God to be good, He must never allow evil. But there’s fallout from that way of thinking. It means either God would create nothing or God would create beings with no possibility for moral free will. 

The great paradox of free will is that in order for God to create beings capable of love, He must also create a world where evil and suffering can exist.

He could create a universe with no pain. But also devoid of mercy, love, compassion, true peace, significance, forgiveness or happiness. This is where God stands alone and, amazingly, no other worldview deals with pain the way our God does.

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Through suffering we are more and more acquainted and formed into the image of God’s Son. As you embrace suffering you also grow in hope.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-11

Our perishable bodies are subject to sin and suffering, but God never abandons us. Paul would say the things that happened to him, the pain he experienced, was there to further the gospel.

Our weakest moment may be when we’re the strongest. 

“…Indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  Romans 8:17-18

You’re not suffering alone. We suffer with Him. We will be glorified with Him. To those who love God, the suffering doesn’t compare to the glory we have in Christ Jesus. When we look at the character of God and look at the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, it tells us what the answer is not. The answer cannot be because He doesn’t love us, that He isn’t for us or because He isn’t working all things together for good.

God is good. We experience pain. This changes our perspective on life. Have you ever looked at things in your life and said, “Why does this have to be so hard?” Things should be easier. This job should be easier. This education should be easier. This marriage should be easier. Walking with God should be easier. Faith should be easier. This perspective makes you miss so much of the goodness of God. Now, try flipping it around and say, “Life is hard, but God is good.”

Life is hard, but God is good.

When you start with life is hard, then you’ll find blessings along the way. Life is hard, but God is good. Life is hard, but look at God over here being faithful. Life is hard, but you’re going to make it anyway. You may be at the end of your rope, but you’re not at the end of your hope. You may be hard pressed on every side, but God is good – you’re not crushed. You may be perplexed or don’t understand it all, but you’re not in despair.


Check Back

Check back on what you discussed last week. Does anyone have any more thoughts on Noah and the flood? Did anyone have any exciting conversations or times studying God’s Word?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

This week we looked at the questions, “Is God Good?” We ask this questions because of the pain we see around us, and because of the pain we see in the world. It leaves us asking, “How could a good God allow pain?”

Spend some time in the word of God together as a group. Read Colossians 1:15-23. (If you have time consider reading the entire New Testament book of Colossians. It takes about 15 minutes.)

We learn from God’s Word that we experience pain because of four main reasons.

1. We experience pain because the world is broken.

Things are not the way God created them to be, because creation has rejected the Creator. (Genesis 1:1, Genesis 3:17, Revelation 21:4)

2. We experience pain because of ourselves.

Sometimes we experience pain because we are sinners. We make bad decisions – accidentally and willfully – and these choices make our lives a lot harder. (Romans 3:23, Proverbs 19:3, 1 John 1:9)

3. We experience pain because of someone else.

Other people cause us pain. The enemy, the devil, also causes us pain. (Job 2:7, Isaiah 53:3, 1 John 1:7)

4. We experience pain because it makes us more like Jesus.

Sometimes we experience pain because God is good. When we embrace suffering, we become more like Jesus, who suffered for a suffering world. (2 Corinthians 4:8-11, Romans 8:17-18)

Application

  1. What stood out to you in the message? What did you hear?
  2. What pain are you experiencing because the world is broken and the way life was supposed to operate is fractured?
  3. What pain are you experiencing that you brought on yourself?
  4. Are you carrying any pain because of another person? What pain do we see as a result of our great enemy, the devil?
  5. How can pain conform us more into the likeness of Christ?
  6. Based on the life, death and resurrection of Christ, does the existence of pain mean there is no God?

Tell Someone Else

The world says, ” God is hard, but life is good!” The reality is, “Life is hard, but God is good.” How can this change our perspective and attitude toward life for the better? Who needs to be reminded of God’s goodness through you?

 

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