Connecting Points

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Today’s Topic: Hind Sight

Today’s Text: Isaiah 38:17 Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back.

If only our foresight was as good as our hindsight. Maybe we would make better decisions. Maybe we wouldn’t worry so much. Maybe we wouldn’t whine so much.

We tend to be pessimistic in the midst of our problems. We project the greatest harm as the likeliest possibility. We can hardly wait for the future so we can look back with regret. It is in our fleshly nature to expect the worst.

In his book Too Soon To Quit, George Sweeting, former President of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, told this story.

“After the stock market crashed in 1929, Dad could no longer find work in his bricklaying trade. In desperation, he took a job as night watchman for $28 a week. The Depression taught my family many life-building lessons:

  • We learned the importance of each family member as we struggled to meet the monthly mortgage payment. Mother took in washing and ironing. Brother Bill and I sold magazines door-to-door. The three boys helped deliver milk. We all made hat bands for a nearby factory, made and sold paper flowers.
  • The Depression days also taught us thrift and frugality. When we used tea bags, we did so again and again. The phone was used only for emergencies. One electric light was allowed on per room. Usually, we all studied and worked in a single room.
  • We also learned the value of money and the importance of avoiding credit. Mother used to say, “If your outgo is greater than your income, then your upkeep is headed for a downfall.”

The Great Depression strengthened our faith. A few years of poverty can do more for spiritual maturity than 10 years of prosperity. I look back with gratitude for the lessons we learned.

To hear some people talk today you would think that we are on the verge of another crash. Whether we are or not should not be our focus. Our faith in Almighty and Sovereign God is our focus. With proper foresight we will see God’s hand providing us with strength, perseverance, and hope that will allow us to praise Him in hindsight.

That was the prayer of praise from the lips and pen of Hezekiah after he was rescued from death. He saw God’s hand directing every step and action so that he was made stronger and more faithful than ever. Proper foresight will give us that kind of hindsight. Oh if we would only learn to praise Him in foresight because we truly trust His character and His promises.

Chuck Colson’s hindsight put it this way – When the frustration of my helplessness seemed greatest, I discovered God’s grace was more than sufficient. And after my imprisonment, I could look back and see how God used my powerlessness for his purpose. What he has chosen for my most significant witness was not my triumphs or victories, but my defeat.

When this crisis is over, there are two things I want to be true of my life:

  1. That I can look back in hindsight and say that I trusted God throughout it;
  2. That I will look back in hindsight and see how God used my faith and hope in Him alone to bring encouragement to others.

To quote the words of the worship band Casting Crowns, I will praise Him in the storm.

Pastor John



Responding to a Blessing

Connecting Points

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Today’s Topic: What To Do With A Blessing?

Today’s Text: Isaiah 38:1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

How would it make you feel if at the moment of being told by a doctor that you had 30 days to live, God came to you and clearly stated that you had 15 more years to live?

That’s kind of what happened to Hezekiah. He was very ill. He was told by the prophet Isaiah that he was going to die from his illness. Hezekiah prayed earnestly and declared his faithfulness to the Lord. God showed grace and granted his request for an extended life and gave him 15 more years. God confirmed the promise with a miracle by making the sun go backwards for a brief time. Hezekiah was incredibly blessed.

So what do you do with a blessing? There are two choices really. One is to use the opportunity to bring honor to the One who gave it to you. The other is to use the blessing to serve your own desires. It all depends upon how you feel about the following two statements:

  • God is gracious and merciful.
  • God is righteous and just.

Of those two statements, we tend to relate to the first one better than the second. It’s our human nature to be want grace and mercy when we have been wrong, but to resist the consequences of our actions. We want what we decide is right for ourselves and we want no fear of justice if we are wrong. We want God to constantly forgive us and overlook our rebelliousness while we continue to pursue our own selfish goals.

Let’s analyze why we do that. Here’s what I think. Ultimately, we love ourselves more than we love God. Sounds overly simple, but it is the true heart of the issue. If we truly loved God, and recognized what it cost Him to provide the grace He extends, than we would never mock His grace by taking advantage of it for our own benefit.

Hezekiah chose to love himself more than God. He has been given a chance to father an heir to the throne. He had no son prior to his illness. He has been given a chance to continue the reforms he has been making in the spiritual condition of the nation. He has an opportunity to show the people the reflection of God’s glory and grace, and to show them how to trust everything to their Father in heaven, including their status in the world.

Instead, Hezekiah chose to use the gift of fifteen years to exalt himself. Eventually it cost the freedom of his nation and the spiritual rebellion of the people. His own son who inherited the throne was wicked and reversed every reform that Hezekiah had made. God’s justice resulted in the capture of the land and the people by the Babylonians.

So what happened? Well, after receiving the gift of God’s grace, Hezekiah had some visitors from Babylon. As they took a tour of the palace, Hezekiah decided to show off and try to impress the delegation with his riches and power. Nothing is said about Hezekiah giving credit to God. Rather than being an ambassador of God, he sought the approval of Babylon’s ambassadors.

When confronted with what he had done, Hezekiah admitted his sin and God once again forgave him, but this time enforced the consequences. The nation would eventually be taken captive by the very people that he had tried to impress.

Read these words from the spiritual leaders of his day as they wrote about the story in 2 Chronicles 32.

In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. He prayed to the LORD, who answered him and gave him a miraculous sign. But Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness shown him; therefore the LORD’S wrath was on him and on Judah and Jerusalem. Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the LORD’S wrath did not come upon them during the days of Hezekiah…But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.

Hezekiah was more in love with himself than he was with God. He proved it when left alone. Even after receiving an indescribable blessing, he turned it around on himself instead of using it to honor the one who gave it to him.  The envoys of Babylon had come seeking to know about God and the sign they had seen of the sun moving backwards. Instead they got an earful and eyeful of Hezekiah. How sad.

Be careful what you do with blessings – your actions determine who you really love.

Pastor John