Drawing Near to the Throne of Grace (Joe Trofemuk)
June 26, 2018 Pastor: Joe Trofemuk
Topic: Midweek Sermons Scripture: Hebrews 4:14-16
I am thankful again to the Lord for the opportunity I have tonight to be here to open God's word with you. Debbie and I have had a wonderful time in our visit to this area and we've gotten to visit with some old friends, people we knew from our time in California, and we've made some new friends for which we are very thankful. We've enjoyed some of the local restaurants and attractions and thanks to Dr. Snelling we were able to visit the Ark and the Creation Museum. So thank you, Dr. Snelling, for that.
It's been a great time for us but tomorrow morning we're going to get on a plane and we're going to head home and in a couple of hours, we will return to our normal lives and the vacation-like atmosphere of this trip will quickly fade away. We're looking forward to seeing our children but as we go back to the real world, so to speak, we encounter all the challenges that we left behind when we came here. We'll go back to deal with our challenges and our struggles on a personal level, the things that we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. I'll go back to work at the church where I serve on Thursday and I've got a full slate of meetings and an elder's meeting on Thursday night and it's going to be back into the nature of pastoral ministry which I love, but also carries its own burdens as you deal with the effects of the fall on the people in your congregation who are dealing with illness and struggling with sin, and by tomorrow afternoon probably, I'll be focused on those things and all of the joy we've had here will quickly dissipate, not because it's not wonderful and good but this isn't real for Debbie and I, this is a visit.
And I've talked to a few of you and I've loved to get to know some of you and I've talked to some who I've known before, but I don't know most of you, not in the sense of do I know your struggles and the trials that you face and the things that you're going to endure, but I know the people of Truth Community Church are not different than the people at Lakeside Community Chapel. We live in a fallen world. For our best efforts, and we praise the Lord for our salvation, we still struggle against our own flesh, we struggle against sin, we struggle against the fact that our bodies break down, and I know just as it is in our church, that many of you here are hurting in various degrees. For some, you may be on the mountaintop right now where you feel that close to God and you're so thankful, but for others, you may be going through some trials that are hurting you to your core. I think you would agree with me that we would rejoice if God would just come down tonight and take us all to heaven immediately. That would be the greatest way to be reunited with my family, it would be the greatest way to deal with all the issues that we have if they just went away because the Lord came and took us. But the Lord may not do that and that means that as Debbie and I get ready to get on a plane and go back to our lives, even tonight when you leave this place, you're dealing with life, the hardships, the struggles, the trials, and so as I thought about the last time that I would have the opportunity to open the word with you and I went back and forth on what I thought might be appropriate, I thought I would leave you with a word of encouragement.
Again I'm going to teach tonight from the book of Hebrews so if you want to open your Bibles, it's going to be tonight in Hebrews 4. We're specifically going to be spending our time in verses 14 through 16 because I think in those verses are some of the great encouragements given in Scripture to God's children. Now some of the background is going to be very similar if you were here on Sunday. It's going to be very similar because it's the same book, written by the same author to the same people, so I'm going to give a little of the background that may seem repetitive if you heard Sunday but I don't assume everybody was here.
The overall purpose of the book of Hebrews was to convince people from a Jewish background that Jesus was enough. The believers that were being addressed in this book were going through some serious hardships. We see elsewhere in the book that many of them had endured persecution and suffering for the faith. They had lost property. Some of them had been imprisoned. They knew what it was to suffer for the Lord but in all likelihood, they also knew what it was to have to struggle with being ostracized by their own community because they were turning away from Judaism and going to the Messiah. Many of them would have been scorned by their families, by their friends, and there was a temptation of some of the individuals in this church based on the proliferation of warnings throughout the book, there was the temptation of some to turn away from Christ and to go back to what they used to have. Perhaps because of the pressures of the fact that life is hard. Perhaps because of some of the persecution. We don't fully know every detail of every heart that was being addressed by this letter originally, but some were tempted to go back and there was a consistent warning throughout the book, "You cannot do that."
For example in Hebrews 2:1, we read this and I'll read the first three verses, the first part of verse 3, "For this reason," and it's culminating the greatness of Christ,
1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
And of course, that wasn't an actual question, the reality is you won't escape. There is salvation in no one else.
So the book over and over is warning people, "Don't turn away," and we're at the end of chapter 4 tonight in the text that we're going to study but what you see picking up in the middle of chapter 3 continuing up to the point where we are is a long warning based on the history of Israel. The writer was warning them, "Look, you know the history. You know what happened with the generation that came out of Israel with Moses. They saw great miracles. They followed Moses out despite all their grumbling. They passed through the Red Sea. They saw all of that and when the law was first given, Moses was first relaying things to them, they said, 'Whatever you say, we'll do.'" But if you know your Old Testament, they said one thing and did another, such that God left them to die in the wilderness and in the verses immediately preceding our text tonight, the writer is recounting all of that. He's warning them again beginning in verse 11,
11 Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience [the example of the Israelites]. 12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
So the writer has given a strong warning because he seems to understand that there are some who are in danger of becoming apostates, turning away from the faith. So the parable of the sowers, they respond with joy and then they fall away, and he's warning them, "Don't do that." The word of God will tell you where your heart is. God will peel back the layers. Don't think even if you fool all of us, that you're fooling God.
So this is a strong warning and the writer, though, at the end of chapter 4 in the verses we're going to study tonight, stops for a moment. It's almost that he knows what he's saying could be jarring to people and he wants to reassure genuine believers of the hope and security they have. If you harden yourself, God's not mocked. There's a strong call to repentance prior to this. "Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts," the writer is quoting but the writer here slows down and it's in these verses after the strong warnings that I think he gives encouragement to all of us in our daily struggles. The writer really is at a transition point in the whole book. He's getting ready to deal for chapters with Jesus and his uniqueness and his all-sufficient sacrifice, but he sort of gives a gift to the church with the words that we find here. In the midst of persecution, in the midst of hardship, he's making it clear there's hope for you now. I long for heaven but I praise the Lord that if it takes heaven a lot of years to get here, I have hope now. You have hope now.
So I'm going to read verses 14 to 16 and then we're going to look at some encouragements that come from Jesus Christ.
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
If your life is going wonderfully, praise the Lord, tuck this away for when you're going through struggles, but if you're facing challenges, I pray from this text that we'll see three encouragements from our great high priest in the midst of our struggles. Three encouragements from our great high priest in the midst of our struggles.
The first encouragement is this: we have hope to stand firm in the faith. We have hope to stand firm in the faith. As he often does, the writer uses the word "therefore." He's constantly making arguments. I think part of the reason I've been attracted to the book of Hebrews is how orderly and logical things are. He lays out truths and then he brings it into focus as to why it matters.
1 Therefore, since we have a great high priest
The writer has already mentioned Jesus as high priest. That's a focus that's going to occupy multiple chapters coming up in this book but in this context, he wants to establish something that's different than any high priest they've ever known. In Hebrews 2:17, he's already introduced this concept. He said,
17 Therefore, He [Jesus] had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
That's the crux of his role. When the writer here is talking about a great high priest, he has in mind what he's already introduced: the propitiation of our sins was accomplished by the sacrifice of our great high priest. There can't be a salvation without that propitiation.
So in light of all of these truths, he wants us to consider Jesus, to think about Jesus. This book is a constant reference back to Jesus. Look at Jesus. The beginning of chapter 3, verse 1,
1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;
Everything is coming back to Jesus. Remember these were Jewish individuals who were tempted to look away from Jesus or to try and add things to Jesus, and over and over the writer keeps trying to bring them back to who Jesus is and what he's done and his sufficiency in all things.
Here he's making it clear, he says, "since we have a great high priest," he adds in a descriptive term. Every Jewish person knew about a high priest. We know about a high priest because of the New Testament. It's a person that had a specific role, always from the tribe of Levi, that was the tribe of the priest, and one man from this line of Aaron, a human agent, was appointed the role of high priest and his primary role once a year was to participate on the day of atonement and to make sacrifices for the Jewish nation by going into ultimately the Holy of Holies through a series of steps. Some of the Jewish people to whom this letter was written who had professed Jesus Christ as Messiah were looking at that and thinking, "We need that," and the writer is trying to put a new high priest in front of them and saying, "You don't need that at all, you've got Jesus. This is it. He's the great High Priest. No other human high priest was ever called a great High Priest. This is is. This is the pinnacle. This is the culmination of everything, it's Jesus."
And the writer is pointing out something very specific. You may recognize themes from my earlier teaching on Hebrews because the book of Hebrews is repetitious in some respects, certain themes keep creeping up, but the writer says, "Therefore," he's getting their attention, "since we have a great high priest," this perfect Son of God who made propitiation for our sins, and he describes Jesus this way,
who has passed through the heavens
This book is steeped in Old Testament imagery and this, again, goes back to what was the role of the high priest. On the day of atonement there were certain steps that happened. Leviticus 16, on your own you could go back and read it and it lays out the order of events. The priest had to take certain steps. If he violated those, he dropped dead, Leviticus 16:2. And there was a progression of events. He first went into the tabernacle, then he went inside further and finally he went inside the Holy of Holies, and to do that, he went through the veil. This is once a year, for a limited time, for just a brief moment. One man as a representative of the people got to go into the presence of God in the Holy of Holies and the writer when he says, "has passed through the heavens," is pointing out how utterly different Jesus is. Jesus didn't take steps through the progression of going through the earthly tabernacle or earthly temple, the temple that they still had in their mind because it was still standing in Jerusalem at the time this book was written, he says Jesus has passed through the heavens, in other words, when Jesus died and rose again and ascended into heaven everything is different. Jesus has permanent access to God the Father. It's not merely in a Holy of Holies on earth for a limited time, he now is in the very presence of God the Father and it's having made propitiation for our sins, he intercedes for us. He's our Advocate and the writer is making it clear Jesus isn't some hired gun, he's the very Son of God.
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God,
You see these pictures stacked up on top of pictures of who the people are dealing with, who we are dealing with, who our Savior is. Is he a high priest? Yes, but he's more than that, he's a great High Priest named Jesus, the very Son of God.
The early parts of the book of Hebrews were establishing the superiority of God's Son. Chapter 1, the point is made very clearly that God's Son is superior to any angel. Chapter 3, he makes clear that God's Son Jesus is even superior to Moses, one of the heavyweights of Judaism. Hebrews 3:5-6 makes this clear and makes this contrast. In no way is it saying anything negative about Moses, it's building Moses up, but it's making it clear that Jesus is on a different plane even than Moses.
5 Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house--whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
The Son is superior over any other servant. The Son has a unique place in the Father's eye and the writer is saying that this is the person who made access for us, this great High Priest who passed through the heavens, Jesus the very Son of God; the one who is superior to Moses; the one who's greater than any angel; the one who has made propitiation for our sins. Therefore, since that's who Jesus is, since that's who your Savior is, the end of verse 14,
let us hold fast our confession.
That's the hope. It's clinging to the truth, the confession of our faith in Christ, that we believe that he came to die on the cross for sinners like us; that we believe that his death was sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins. Hold fast to that. Don't let go. Be fully committed to him.
Again, these individuals were tempted to drift back to Judaism and he's saying, "There is nothing there for you. It's all in Jesus." But lest we think that's just some ancient thing, you see that happen all the time today. Sadly in my time at Lakeside, we've had to take church discipline publicly against more than one person who's become an apostate. They profess faith, they were baptized, for years they participated and then they walk away completely and say, "I don't want anything to do with it. I don't believe." That's not what God's children do.
Hold fast our confession. It's a common theme for the writer and my sermon on Sunday from a different chapter, something very similar was said. There are multiple places that I haven't taught on that say the same thing. Hold fast. Hold first. He's writing to genuine believers and telling them, "You have hope because of who saved you, who redeemed you, who you've placed your faith in. Don't waver. Be confident. Hold on."
It's becoming more and more challenging in our society when you see people who profess to believe what we do walk away not just from the faith but walk away from the truth. "Well, maybe we'll just stop believing that doctrine. Well, I believe Jesus but I'm gonna stop believing this part of the Bible. Well, I love Jesus but that part of the book, let's just put it aside." No, you hold firm. Hold fast your entire confession. We're rooted in Christ.
Again, there's such a thing as a religious unbeliever. I was one for years, professing one thing, living another. The writer over and over warns against that. It's a continuing call, a continuing theme, "Believers, you don't be that way. You be strong. You be firm." And the encouragement is that we can do it. We can do it regardless of our struggles. We can do it no matter how difficult our life becomes because of who saved us, the great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God who passed through the heavens and even now is interceding and advocating for us.
So in the midst of your struggles, you have hope. Stand firm in the faith. One of the great testimonies of my life as I've watched other people, as I could point to you and I could name names and I'm sure many of you could do the same thing, of believers who endured unimaginable hardships. Standing with parents who've lost children, people whose spouses died unexpectedly, and to see them proclaim God's name in the midst of the hardship gives us hope. They're standing firm because of their faith, we can stand firm too.
So the first encouragement in the midst of our struggles is we have hope to stand firm in the faith. Second, we have sympathy in our bodily weakness. We have sympathy in our bodily weakness. It might sound a little unusual but it will become very clear, I believe. Verse 15,
15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
It's one of those times where when I stop and think about the text, it really is overwhelming to me because the great High Priest, Jesus the Son of God who has passed through the heavens, who is seated at the right hand of God, is not distant or aloof from us. At times it's easy to think of Jesus as so utterly over there as to forget the intimacy that he seeks with each one of us. It's also easy even as we're reading the stories in the Bible, to get so caught up in his majesty and holiness and greatness which are all wonderful things, to forget that his humanity was real. He really knows what it's like to walk on a sin-filled earth in flesh and blood and the writer is pointing out an aspect of the humanity of Christ that should encourage us as we're struggling sometimes with bodily issues, weaknesses, the breaking down of these temporary homes of our souls.
Jesus was not an illusion. One of the first heresies, someone denies that Jesus has come in the flesh, it's the antichrist. People have always denied that Jesus was real. Today you can read some so-called academics who would say, "Well, we don't even really know if he was a historical person." The reality is Jesus was real, he walked on the earth with a real body, and he was subjected to the same limitations physically as we are. We see in the Scriptures Jesus got tired, that he had to sleep; Jesus got hungry, he had to eat. We know from the Scriptures Jesus got thirsty, he needed something to drink.
It's interesting in so many respects the temptations against Jesus by Satan. For example in Luke 4:1-13, they all centered on the attacks in part of his physical body. Appeals to his hunger. Throwing himself off and trusting the Lord to protect his physical body. Even of bypassing the cross, being offered all the kingdoms of the world was really just saying, "You can bypass your own death and I'll take care of you." Of course, a lie from the pit of hell.
Jesus had human emotions. It's so touching to see that Jesus wept at a funeral. He knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, he still wept because he saw the pain that sin and death caused amongst the people. He understood tiredness. He understood rejection, including from his own family.
On and on it goes. It's wrong to think that Jesus can't identify with our struggles in the flesh because Jesus did walk in the flesh. There is a sympathy in our struggles and it comes from the God the universe. It comes from Jesus himself. "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things." When you're struggling against the flesh, understand Jesus can identify. He knows what it's like.
The phraseology is intentionally a double negative. It's almost as though the writer was anticipating that somebody might hear, "Hold on. Hold on to your confession even though you're going through serious hardship, some of them physical afflictions, some of them losing your material goods, some of them scorn and embarrassment and shame." And it's almost as though somebody might say in a moment of weakness, "Well, what does God know of my struggles? He's up there, I'm down here. Does he really know how bad I hurt?" The point is: absolutely he does. He sympathizes with you. He cares for you. He's not indifferent to your struggles. One of the reasons Jesus came to earth was to be made like his brethren.
Now, of course, there's one way that he was different from us: he never sinned. He never succumbed to the temptation. Hebrews 2:18 makes that clear, though, that his temptations were real. He experienced some of the things that we go through. Hebrews 2:18,
18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.
Now again, there was one way he was different, he was without sin, he didn't succumb, but even in facing temptations, Jesus understands the depth of temptation even more than we do. I'll be limited in my ability to articulate a thought that I read and I don't have who I read it from, but someone else came up with this idea that it would help prick my mind. It's not an original thought with me, but the idea was that Jesus understands temptation more because he always experienced temptation to its fullest. At some point if you've ever sinned, you gave in to temptation. It never got as bad as it could have been. The pain of the temptation never reached its pinnacle because you stopped and gave in. Jesus never did that. No matter what the temptation, he experienced it at its fullest in his human form and he never fell short.
What's wonderful, though, is that Jesus doesn't look down on us and say, "I can't believe you. I could do it, why couldn't you?" He's not disgusted with us. He has sympathy for us. Do I mean he doesn't care when we sin? Of course not. We need to repent of our sins. He is faithful and righteous when we confess our sins, to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Please don't misunderstand me and say that Jesus doesn't care about our sin. But the point is Jesus understands your struggles and he knows you're weak and he knows you're hurting and he knows what it is to struggle. He knows the limitations of the physical body.
He's got sympathy and one of the ways I believe that God shows sympathy for our weaknesses is he always provides us a way out even in the midst of the temptation. One of the earliest verses I memorized as a new believer was 1 Corinthians 10:13,
13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
God through his Son sympathizes with our weaknesses. He understands your struggles and he stands beside you, not mocking you for your weakness but helping you in your weakness. No matter the pain you're experiencing, no matter the trial, no matter the hardship, there is hope. Jesus' sympathy with our weakness leads to the final encouragement. We have hope and stand firm in the faith, we have sympathy in our bodily weakness, and we have help in our time of need. Coming off of the stern warnings, "Don't be like the Israelites who were judged by God," this is the culmination of the "therefore." The one who made a way for your redemption, the one who secured your salvation, this great High Priest who passed through the heavens, far superior to any earthly priest that anyone had ever known, Jesus the Son of God, this one who sympathizes with our weaknesses wants us even in the midst of our struggles to come close. Verse 16,
16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Again, that word "therefore." He's just building on top of things. This truth is both powerful and very very tender in a loving way. Powerful because of its implications and the boldness that it proclaims, and tender because of what it says about the love of God for his children despite their weaknesses and struggles. Because Jesus sympathizes with us, therefore, because of that, because he understands how hard it is to live this life, because he understands what it is to walk about amongst sinful people and a sinful creation that is tainted by the fall, because he understands temptation, because he understands the trials, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace."
Again, it's an exhortation for all of us. There is later imagery in chapter 12 that I think paints a beautiful picture of us all together trying to get to the finish line but here, the call to every one of God's children is in the midst of your struggles and trials, don't run from God, get close to God, and this really ties back into the intimacy that God, Jesus, God's Son, has with God the Father. He passed through the heavens into the presence of God. That's where he's inviting us to draw near to. That's where the throne of grace is.
Unlike an earthly high priest who, first, had to be elevated to that role amongst all of the Levites, that earthly high priest following certain prescribed rules, only once a year got to go into what would be considered the presence of God. Here the invitation to all of us who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is, "Come. Come right now into the presence of God. In the midst of your struggles, that's where you need to be. When you're hurting, when you're stumbling, when you're falling, come close." And what is astounding is that it says, "let us draw near with confidence," confidence that God wants us to be there; confidence that we have been saved from our sin; confidence that we've been washed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
We're being invited in the midst of our struggles at any time to come boldly into the presence of a holy God. That's astonishing to me. Even though I know that I've been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, far too often I just think about me and I see myself, as I see me not as God sees me. And sometimes we have to speak theology to ourselves that not only have we been cleansed by the blood of Christ, but we've been clothed in his righteousness. That's why we can come with confidence. It's not because of us, it's because of him and we're being told, "Come where Jesus is in your weaknesses, in your struggles." And you don't come there and get chastised for being weak, you don't come there and get chastised because you're struggling, you come there to receive help from the only one who can give it.
Again, the imagery is profound. When the veil of the temple was torn in two and Jesus died, it was signifying in a completely different way to have a relationship with God. It's interesting because on earth if you want to talk to somebody important, what do you do? You wait. We're not important. We're going to wait in line and eventually somebody might get to us. Who are we? And I apologize if you're somebody. I'm not, so I don't mean to insult you. But for the rest of us, we wait. Even for a lower level bureaucrat, you don't just walk in, you have to wait, and what we're being told is we have access to the King right now. Immediately. Never wondering, "Will he listen?" Come with confidence.
Don't let your weaknesses and your struggles make you run and hide from God. Don't let your weaknesses and struggles think, "Well, I must be a second class citizen of the kingdom." Don't every think in the midst of your weaknesses and struggles, "God doesn't want to hear from me." That's Satan's ploy, to isolate you and attack you. That's one of the reasons we need to be gathered together with God's people, because if you're on your own, you're one of those that Satan like a roaring lion is seeking to devour.
The contrast with our access to the God of the universe who created all things and the world is unbelievable. I won't go there but if you went and looked at the story of Esther, if you're familiar with that book, it's a good illustration of access to an earthly king because Esther was married to the king and yet without an invitation if you walked into this Persian monarch's presence, unless he raised his scepter, you were going to be killed. We don't quite have that system in our society but if you had a big issue, do you think tomorrow you can call the President and just say, "Excuse me, this is Joe, can I talk to the President?"
Again, it's not going to happen and yet tonight, right now if you've got something on your heart, if you're struggling, if there's a weakness, if there's a concern, you have access to the God of the universe because of Jesus Christ. "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace," but it's not just to bask in God's presence, it's so that we can get help with our troubles right now, "so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
This is hard to fathom. If you're like me, you still remember your sins, if you're like me, you understand your struggle against sin today, and yet how compassionate that even in the midst of our struggles when we're hurting, when we're weak, when we're in need, God beckons us to come so that he can help us. He wants to shower more mercy on us. He's already given us the ultimate mercy, he's forgiven our sins, but he wants to help us now in our weakness. I praise the Lord that I don't receive what I deserve from God but rather I have an assurance from him, and so do you, that as his children, we have the mercy, we have been forgiven and we can come and he's going to help us. He's going to care for us.
I, myself, have been guilty of the fact that sometimes in the midst of my struggles, being a prideful man, I'll try and solve my own problems. God will take care of the big ones, I can take care of this one. I'll do that. That's foolishness. Do you have a need? Do you need help? Go to the throne of grace. Go with confidence. Jesus made it clear, you come to the Father and you ask in his name and the Father is listening. John 14:13-14,
13 "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it."
We understand that the will of God is paramount, not our will, but the promise is that God is listening. The book of James has a promise similar to the promise we're being given in the book of Hebrews. James begins and is telling the believers, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials," and one of the great hopes, as he says in verse 5 of James 1, "But if any of you lacks wisdom," meaning if you don't know how to navigate the details of your life, if you don't know how to deal with the issue,
5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach,
Meaning God's not saying, "Well, I already told you that. Well, you came last week. Stop it." No, he loves us and he has compassion for us and he has sympathy in our weaknesses and even when we're in the midst of our struggles he says, "Come to me. I love you. I haven't changed my mind. I'm faithful. Not only can no one snatch you out of my hands, I'll never cast you out. I'll never leave you nor forsake you." Again, God's timing might be different than our timing but he still says, "Come," so that you may receive mercy and in your time of need, you'll receive help from God the Father.
One of the challenges we always face is to stop seeing ourselves through our own eyes but see ourselves through God's eyes. We're not important people. We're not movers and shakers of the world. If we disappear tonight, the world won't stop turning. And it can be easy to convince yourself that, "God really doesn't care about my issues," but the word of God says otherwise. Regardless of how weak you are, regardless of your struggles, in the midst of it come confidently to the Lord because there is no other source of help for you that will surpass what your heavenly Father is waiting to give you. I don't know the challenges you're facing, I don't know the struggles in your homes, in your marriages, with your children, with your finances, with your own physical health, with the suffering and hurt of loved ones, but whatever those issues are, Jesus sympathizes with you and he says, "Bring them to me and I will meet your needs."
Please join me in a closing prayer.
Dear heavenly Father, your word contains so many promises. Lord, when we look in the mirror and we see ourselves and we see the sin we've committed over the years against you and we know the sins that we struggle with now, the promises seem too good to be true, and if we don't think rightly, Lord, we can lose our hope in the midst of our struggles. I pray for all of us, that that wouldn't be the case with us. I pray that because of what Jesus Christ has done in our lives, because of who he is, that we would hold fast our confession and that despite our weaknesses, we would boldly with confidence bring our struggles to you, the only true source of help for your children. I pray, Lord, these words would encourage each of us to live lives that are holy like you are holy, not for our sake but for your glory. We ask these things, Lord, in Jesus' name. Amen.