Sermon Options: October 14, 2018

August 2nd, 2018

LIFE’S HARD QUESTIONS

JOB 23:1-9, 16-17

It is easier for us to reflect on the story line of Job without entering into the pain of his conversations with his friends. In these conversations we see a Job who is human. He is a man of integrity, yet he is also a man of questions and a man who struggles with his agony. We are not only told of Job’s incredible faith and great feats; we are also told of his weaknesses and shortcomings.

Here, Job is wrestling with his questions by giving a response to Eliphaz’s rebuke in chapter 22. Eliphaz has just admonished Job to turn to God in repentance so that he may be restored—he assumes Job’s calamity is based on sin in his life.

I. The Questions of Agony (vv. 1-2)

Job begins his response to Eliphaz by describing his emotional and attitudinal condition. He has a “complaint” against God. As he perceives God putting him through his ordeal, Job is asking the wrenching question, “Why?” God’s hand remained heavy despite his pleas. Within the cycle of grieving all humans enter into a time of asking why. We cannot forbid this questioning nor can we give answer for God. This is a stage in which the human heart simply cries out, “I do not like what I am feeling!”

II. The Futility of Arguing One’s Righteousness (vv. 3-9)

If he could speak to God face-to-face, Job believes that he could state his case. In reality he wants to rationalize his questions and find answers for his calamity. However, even Job is theologian enough to know that God would not use supernatural power to destroy him. He is convinced that he would be acquitted of the wrongdoing of which Eliphaz is accusing him.

Yet God is not a human who can be found and met face-to-face to discuss the issues. Job argues that he is practically defenseless because God cannot be found and bring to rest the accusation of sin, which supposedly has brought Job disaster. The process of rationalization of our righteousness or our circumstances is truly futile. God’s ways and thoughts are beyond human capacity. In all, Job is left with frustration, which is shared by many people who are struggling in the face of helplessness.

III. Reverent Questions (vv. 16-17)

Job responds by noting the true awesomeness of God and his power to make the human heart faint. Even in his questioning, Job still has the wisdom to “fear God.” Verse 17 points out, though, that it does not silence his questions. He does not understand his dilemma and still has agonizing and self-searching questions that remain unanswered. It’s a little messy when you do not have black and white answers to difficult situations.

Our text seems to indicate there is a way to question and yet fear God. Perhaps that is what faith is. Maybe we must believe and reverence God without all of our questions being answered. Life is messy, but faith is holding onto God, even when it doesn’t feel like God is there. Because the promise of Scripture is that God is always with his children, even when they are struggling. Trust him—he is there. (Joseph Byrd)

AN AUDIENCE WITH THE KING

HEBREWS 4:12-16

Most of us have never had the need or opportunity to seek an audience with a king. Nigeria is a country, however, in which kings are still very real social powers. Although the country holds elections, traditional kings are still acknowledged. Every village, town, and city have a king. Anyone who wants to promote an event has to visit the king to get permission to do so. A king may be very rich or very poor, but he is still king and must be consulted about events in his domain.

An audience with the king can be a challenging experience. Approaching the throne requires courage and humility, and frequently a previously scheduled appointment. To speak to the king, one needs an advocate, someone who can introduce you to the king and explain your cause.

In the Old and New Testaments, God is described as Israel’s king despite the presence of earthly rulers. The priest was the intermediary or advocate between the people and God. The book of Hebrews announces that the most superior of intermediaries is now available, God’s own Son. He is the high priest who intercedes for us and answers us.

I. Awareness of the Need for Grace

Verses 12 and 13 describe for us what the word of God does in our lives. It strips us of pretense and lays us bare before God. There is no room for denial of guilt or projection of fault. The word of God is so precise that it separates us joint from marrow—distinguishing between the soul, that which Greek thought defined as a living being, and the spirit, which is the center of thought. Only God could so separate our selves and scrutinize our very being.

It is the quality of God to so know us that we recognize we are being judged. Is it any wonder then that we become keenly aware of our need for God’s grace?

II. Assurance of Grace

Grace is that wonderful word for God’s favor and blessings. Verses 14 and 15 assure us that grace becomes available to us—we are not to despair. Our judge is not a distant king but one who has joined with us in the adventure so completely that he, as the Son of God, put on our flesh and thus knew every attack that we have known. He has experienced our limitations and been subjected to our weaknesses, liabilities, and infirmities. And he was triumphant. In contrast to us, he did not sin. He never allowed anything to separate him from God.

III. Abundance of Grace

Verse 16 urges us to make use of our audience with God the king to receive the abundant grace God desires to give us. We are to go to God fearlessly and confidently, with the assurance we shall receive God’s favor and earthly blessings—help that is appropriate and well-timed for every need. We can endure God’s intimate scrutiny because in Jesus Christ we see God’s great love for us. Therefore we come as we are.

God in his grace recognizes our human weaknesses but does not allow us to stay trapped by those conditions. Jesus Christ, the high priest, provides companionship with God, which produces the holiness intended in our lives.

The author of Hebrews encourages us to bring to the audience with the king our weakness and receive his strength. We bring our infirmity and receive health. We bring our trouble and receive help. Thanks to Jesus Christ the mediator, the priest, life is no longer a trap but an adventurous assignment from the king. (Carolyn Volentine)

TAKING THE LAST STEP

MARK 10:17-31

Sitting in a park one day, I saw a group of children playing on a slide. In the midst of all the energy and excitement there was one boy who held back. He was reluctant to go down the slide. The others were encouraging him to try. All of a sudden you could see the look of determination on his face as he boldly marched to the slide.

Step by step he climbed the ladder. But when he reached the top and his young eyes saw how far it was to the end of the slide, his resolve crumbled. You could see the fear and disappointment on his face and in his shaky knees as he slowly made his way back down the ladder. He stood on the brink of a momentous decision and was unable to take the last step.

I. Another Young Man Faced a Decision

This passage is about decision making, commitment, and separation from God. It’s wrapped around wealth and a rich man’s struggle. It calls into question the things, attitudes, and practices in our lives that keep us from total commitment. It’s about ending the separation and taking that last step. Like the young boy on the slide, the rich young man comes to Jesus and stands on the brink of a momentous decision.

The rich young man responded to the compelling nature of Jesus voice and message. He was good and faithful, but he realized something was missing. So he came seeking answers. Jesus loved him immediately. Jesus saw the boundless potential in him.

The Great Physician diagnosed the problem and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (v. 21). But the price was too high. With shaky knees, the rich man slowly backed down. He couldn’t take the last step and “went away grieving.”

II. God Will Not Take Second Place

Jesus wasn’t condemning money or wealth. Jesus was warning the disciples, the crowds, and us about decisions concerning money. Money and things cannot have first place in our lives. When they take first place we view everything in terms of price, not value. Money and things fix our heart on the world, not God. They can separate us from God.

It’s not just love of money that separates. A thousand things can separate us from God. An attitude. A prejudice. Jealousy, political positions, indifference, a hobby, an unforgiving spirit, even a theological position; all of these can separate us from God if they take first place in our lives. We’re called to fix our heart on God. God will not take second place in our lives.

III. It Is a Challenge Beyond All of Us, but Not Beyond God

The disciples were amazed at Jesus pronouncement concerning the rich. It was popular belief that riches were a sign of God’s favor. They asked, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible” (v. 27).

We can’t do it on our own. But God can do it for us. That’s grace. Salvation comes through faith in God through Christ. That’s the step the rich young man couldn’t take, giving up all and following Jesus. This passage confronts us in the one area we don’t like being confronted—our commitment. It challenges us to probe deeply and honestly into our faith relationship with God. It calls us to stand on the brink with shaky knees. It challenges us to take that last step. (Billy D. Strayhorn)

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