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March 25, 2012 Sermon, by Pastor Ben Willis

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According to Luke 19:11-27 [NLTse]

11 The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said. And because He was nearing Jerusalem, He told them a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away. 12 He said, “A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return. 13 Before he left, he called together ten of his servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver, saying, ‘Invest this for me while I am gone.’ 14 But his people hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We do not want him to be our king.’

15 “After he was crowned king, he returned and called in the servants to whom he had given the money. He wanted to find out what their profits were. 16 The first servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made ten times the original amount!’

17 “‘Well done!’ the king exclaimed. ‘You are a good servant. You have been faithful with the little I entrusted to you, so you will be governor of ten cities as your reward.’

18 “The next servant reported, ‘Master, I invested your money and made five times the original amount.’

19 “‘Well done!’ the king said. ‘You will be governor over five cities.’

20 “But the third servant brought back only the original amount of money and said, ‘Master, I hid your money and kept it safe. 21 I was afraid because you are a hard man to deal with, taking what isn’t yours and harvesting crops you didn’t plant.’

22 “‘You wicked servant!’ the king roared. ‘Your own words condemn you. If you knew that I’m a hard man who takes what isn’t mine and harvests crops I didn’t plant, 23 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

24 “Then, turning to the others standing nearby, the king ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.’

25 “‘But, master,’ they said, ‘he already has ten pounds!’

26 “‘Yes,’ the king replied, ‘and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 27 And as for these enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be their king—bring them in and execute them right here in front of me.’”

At Wintercamp this year I heard the story of a dalit who lived in the highlands of Punjab, India. He was a hardworker, cheerfully performing all the “dirty jobs” around his modest village.

One day a messenger passed through bearing news that the Rajah – the ruler of all Punjab – was to be travelling through the larger town at the foot of their mountain home.

As you may know, India was ordered according to a strict caste system in that day. And, though not of the untouchables we hear stories about, this man’s opportunities were few, and he had little hope of his circumstances ever changing: Unless the Rajah showed him mercy! It was rare, but he’d heard stories of the monarch giving surprising gifts to surprising recipients as he traveled from town to town.

So early in the morning the dalit left his village in the hopes of being noticed by the Rajah and, perhaps, being shown mercy. The King wasn’t supposed to arrive in the lowland town until the next day, but the man knew it would take him several hours to make the journey down the mountainside, and he knew the importance of being in the very front when the crowds came to line the streets of the Rajah’s procession, so he left right away.

The dalit arrived at the outskirts of the town late in the afternoon, the journey had taken him longer than he’d expected. But he made his way through to the main road where the Rajah’s procession would be passing, and sat at the roadway’s edge.

There was no one along the way as he waited. The townspeople were busy wetting down the dirt street and preparing their wares in the hopes of catching the eye of the Rajah’s retainers. So the man sat and waited. And night came and he slept, looking like a pile of dirty flesh right in the middle of the street!

He awoke early the next morning to the sound of messengers coming through the town heralding the arrival of the Rajah. The town burst into activity, but the man merely stood up from where he’d slept, and waited. The morning passed with townspeople beginning to crowd the roadway that ran through the middle of the town: People crowded around the dalit and behind him, and more messengers came and more messengers came announcing that the Rajah’s arrival was imminent! And the street was lined to overflowing, people spreading out of the town in both directions as parents crowded to give their children a view and merchants crowded to get their wares within view and the dalit stood front and center and waited…

Midafternoon, as the crowds were getting restless and another series of messengers passed through announcing the “imminent arrival” of the Rajah, the dalit heard some commotion and yells from those standing a distance away. And sure enough, along the winding mountain paths leading into the town he could see the rising dustclouds of the Rajah’s caravan. And the sound of horns blowing could be heard. And after some time, mixed now with the sounds of the noise from the crowds, the tinkling of musical instruments and laughter and applause.

The first to appear were the guardsmen of the troop accompanying the Rajah. Intermingling among them were dancing ladies and girls with handbells, twirling scarves, and stirring up the onlookers and causing them to cheer. Then came the cavalry on horseback, dressed in their finery with their horses gilt in gold and sparkling gemstones. Then the Rajah’s bodyguard on their lumbering, terrifying elephants: Ivory tusks shining with gold and trunks lashing out at the crowds; fearsome warriors covered with tattoos, their faces covered with war paint, commanded the great beasts. And in their midst, reclining on a palanquin atop the greatest of the beasts: The Rajah himself!

As the crowd pushed its way forward for a better look the dalit found himself pushed forward with them, until he could have reached out and touched the great elephant’s hide as it came stalking toward him.

Until suddenly the line stopped.

Looking almost directly above him, the dalit saw the Rajah climb out from atop his comforts and dismount the beast to stand directly in front of him. Before the dalit could get his thoughts and words together to seek a gift, the Rajah stuck out his hand to the dalit and demanded, “Give me something!”

The poor man was dumbfounded. Standing nose to nose with the Rajah he was flustered and having trouble thinking. “Give me something!” the Rajah demanded again.

Quivering and ashamed, the poor man reached gently into the small pouch of rice – all the food he had – tied around his waist. He withdrew three grains of the rice, all he thought he could spare, and handed them to the Rajah. Quicker than the dalit thought possible, the Rajah slapped his hand on top of the peasant’s, taking the rice. And then turning he remounted his great elephant steed, and was gone.

The dalit continued to stand, hand out, stunned as the rest of the caravan passed by. As the sounds faded away from the town and the townspeople returned to their evening activities, the man looked down, opening his fingers to see that the rice was, indeed, gone. But there in his hand, where the three grains of rice had been, were now three grains of pure gold!

Pure gold! The Rajah had given him a gift after all: Three grains of gold for the three grains of rice he had offered.

“Why didn’t I give him more?” the dalit mumbled. “I gave him only what I thought I could spare. Why didn’t I give him more?” he cried. He was beside himself. “Why didn’t I give him everything I had! O, if I had only known I would have given him everything I had!”

And so for us: Many look to the Living God in hopes He will give us something: Mercy; a gift… But the Lord Jesus has not come simply to hand out gifts, but has come seeking to make the great exchange! The Lord has granted each of us much to invest for the Kingdom of Heaven while we await His return: Some of us have been given great beauty or made strikingly handsome; others have been gifted to knit or stitch or craft and build things with our hands; still others are great leaders or teachers or speakers, great thinkers, hardworkers or organizers; and still others been given great wealth or great influence over those around us; and there’s so much more…

What will we give Him? These talents, attributes, and positions can seem like nothing to us, compared to what others have. Or perhaps more than that, we can hope to keep these talents, attributes, and positions or power and influence to enjoy for our own benefit. But the centuries continue to reveal that the more we give to Jesus Christ – for His Kingdom’s sake and to draw other’s attention to Him with our lives – the more we receive in return. The parable we read this morning is clear: Whatever we invest – ten talents, five abilities, two parts of our influence – whatever we invest will prosper and be multiplied for His fame. Our giving – to this One Who asks for all we have and all we are, but Who will take whatever we’re willing to give Him – is not a sacrifice but, in truth, the greatest opportunity we’ll ever be given to receive true riches and true greatness, and in the world to come life beyond our imaginings!

What are you holding back? What ways could you be serving here at the church but you’re holding back thinking, “I’ve already done my share”, or “let others do it”? Let’s not fool ourselves, we’re the ones missing out if we hold back on Jesus Christ.

What relationships do you enjoy where you haven’t shared with your friends or loved ones your love for Almighty God and His great love for you? Let’s share Him with them all; maybe they’ll come to believe like you do and your joy in those relationships can be even greater!

Perhaps you’re thinking of some area or activity in the rice-pouch of your living right now that the Holy Spirit is wanting you to dig deeper into and give God more of, or to hand over to Him completely?!

… [Give a nice long pause, looking and praying over the faces of those in the congregation.]

We get so focused on our aches and our troubles when Jesus promises to provide for our every need if we’ll simply live for Him and not hold back. Let’s not hold back. No more holding back.

When Jesus returns in all His glory with the holy angels to make all things new, let’s not be among those crying, “Why didn’t I give Him everything I had! O, if I had only known I would have given Him everything I had!”

You know. We know. To Him Who gave us everything He had, even His Own life, let’s give Him all. Let’s give Him all.



March 11, 2012 AD, by Pastor Ben Willis

“Our Father Who art in Heaven…”

“YES?” [Off-stage with booming bass and reverb]
(Pause) “Our Father Who art in Heaven…”

“YES? WHAT DO YOU WANT, BEN?”

“Who is this?”

“WHO DO YOU THINK IT IS?”

“I don’t know, not too many people I know sound like this!”

“I SHOULD HOPE NOT.”

“Come on now, who is this really?”

“THIS IS YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN, BEN.”

“Right…”

“THIS IS GOD… DO YOU WANT ME TO PROVE IT?”

“No, no, no, that’s all right. I believe You! But why have started talking to me now? You’ve never done this before.”

“BUT YOU CALLED ME.”

“Called You? I was just leading us in prayer.”

“WELL, HERE I AM. WHY DID YOU CALL?”

“I was just, You know, praying.”

“GOOD, GO RIGHT ON.”

“Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”

“WHAT DID YOU MEAN BY THAT?”

“By what?”

“BY ‘HALLOWED BE THY NAME.’”

“It means… It means… I don’t know what it means. It’s just part of the prayer. What does it mean?”

“IT MEANS ‘HONORED, HOLY, WONDERFUL.’”

“Oh. Thank You, Lord. ‘Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.’”

“DO YOU REALLY MEAN THAT?”

“Sure. Why do You ask?”

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT?”

“Doing? Not much, I guess. That’s why I asked You. I just think it would be great if You got control of everything down here, like You have up there.”

“HAVE I GOT CONTROL OF YOU?”

“Well, I am the preacher here. I’m here at the church all the time. I visit people; I lead or am part of Bible studies several times a week…”

“THAT’S NOT WHAT I ASKED YOU. WHAT ABOUT THOSE BAD HABITS OF YOURS THAT YOU KNOW ARE IN DIRECT CONFLICT WITH MY WILL IN YOUR LIFE?”

“But Lord, I’m just as good as most of the people in the church!”

“EXCUSE ME. I THOUGHT YOU WERE PRAYING FOR MY WILL TO BE DONE. IF THAT IS TO HAPPEN, IT WILL HAVE TO START WITH THE ONES WHO ARE PRAYING FOR IT. LIKE YOU, FOR EXAMPLE.”

“Yeah… I guess I do have some hang-ups…

“GOOD. NOW WE’RE GETTING SOMEWHERE. WE’LL WORK TOGETHER, YOU AND I. SOME TREMENDOUS VICTORIES CAN BE WON. I’M PROUD OF YOU.”

“Umm, Lord? This is taking a lot longer than it usually does… Can You let me finish up here? (Pause.) ‘Give us this day our daily bread…’”

“YOU NEED TO CUT OUT THE BREAD. YOU’RE OVERWEIGHT AS IT IS.”

“Hey, what is this, gang up on the Pastor day?”

“AND YOUR DAILY BIBLE READING’S BEEN FALLING AWAY.”

“Lord?!”

“PRAYING IS A DANGEROUS THING. YOU COULD WIND UP CHANGED, YOU KNOW. THAT’S WHAT I’M TRYING TO GET ACROSS TO YOU. YOU CALLED ME, AND HERE I AM. IT’S TOO LATE TO STOP NOW, BEN. KEEP ON PRAYING. I’M REALLY INTERESTED IN THIS NEXT PART… (PAUSE) WELL, GO ON.”

“I don’t want to.”

“WHY NOT?”

“I know what You’ll say.”

“TRY ME AND SEE.”

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…”

“WHAT ABOUT…?”

“See, I knew it! I knew You would bring them up! But You know the lies they’ve told about me, and they continue until this very day. I have lost friends because of them, not to mention what has been done to my reputation…”

“FORGIVE THEM. THEN I WILL FORGIVE YOU. THEN THE HATE AND SIN WILL BE THEIR PROBLEM AND NOT YOURS. YOU WILL HAVE SETTLED THE MATTER IN YOUR HEART AND BEFORE MY THRONE.”

(Petulant) “But Lord, I can’t forgive them.”

“THEN, I CAN’T FORGIVE YOU.”

(Pause) “Okay. More than I want to hurt them back, I want to be right with You. So, alright: I forgive them. I am tired of always feeling miserable. And now that I think about it, I guess no one can cause me to feel miserable unless I let them. But, please help me, Lord. Help me to let my actions do the talking in showing forgiveness. I am really going to need Your help, and Your grace, and Your Spirit.”

“THERE, NOW! WONDERFUL! HOW DO YOU FEEL?”

“Hmmm. Not bad. Not bad at all! In fact, I feel pretty good! You know, I don’t think I’ll have to go to bed uptight tonight for the first time in a long time! Maybe I won’t be so tired from now on for not getting enough rest.”

“YOU’RE NOT FINISHED WITH YOUR PRAYER, BEN. GO ON.”

“Okay! ‘And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

“GOOD! GOOD! I’LL DO THAT. JUST DON’T PUT YOURSELF IN A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN BE TEMPTED.”

“I don’t understand.”

“SURE YOU DO. YOU HAVE DONE IT A LOT OF TIMES. YOU GET CAUGHT IN A BAD SITUATION, YOU GET INTO TROUBLE, AND THEN YOU COME RUNNING TO ME, ‘LORD, HELP ME OUT OF THIS MESS AND I PROMISE YOU I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN.’ YOU REMEMBER SOME OF THOSE BARGAINS YOU TRIED TO MAKE WITH ME, DON’T YOU?”

“Yes… I’m sorry… It’s embarrassing, Lord. I’m really sorry.”

“WHICH BARGAIN ARE YOU REMEMBERING?”

“Oh, come on, Lord… Give me a break! I’m sorry, Lord. I really am!”

“GO AHEAD AND FINISH YOUR PRAYER.”

“For Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and glory, forever and ever.”

“DO YOU KNOW WHAT WOULD BRING ME GLORY? WHAT WOULD REALLY MAKE ME HAPPY?”

“No, but I’d like to. You make me so happy, I’d really like to make You happy, Lord. I know I’ve made a real mess out of my life. And I can see how great it would really be if I truly followed You more obediently.”

“YOU JUST ANSWERED MY QUESTION.”

“I did?”

“YES. THE THING THAT WOULD REALLY BRING ME GLORY IS TO HAVE PEOPLE LIKE YOU TRULY LOVE ME. AND I SEE THAT HAPPENING BETWEEN US, NOW THAT SOME OF THOSE OLD SINFUL ATTITUDES ARE EXPOSED AND OUT OF THE WAY… THERE’S NO TELLING WHAT WE CAN DO TOGETHER!”

“Amen!”

Many Christians would love to have such a personal and conversational prayer life with God. And yet I know that many who love the Lord, and are walking closely and joyfully with Him, neglect such friendly conversation because they don’t think they have the flowery language or verbal skills to talk with Him rightly.

But the Bible tells us that it’s

boldness, and

asking for His will to be done (at least, as well as we know His will at the time), and

trusting that He’s listening when we pray,

that are the keys to faithful praying; not the words we use or how we speak them.

But we must pray. We must speak to and hear from our Father to be a part of the harvest-work He is doing in the world. And we must speak to and hear from Him in order to be the faithful royal-priesthood He’s set us in the world to be. So here are some helps, if you’re among the many struggling with prayer.

First, commit to a time and place for prayer each day. It doesn’t have to be the same time and the same place each day, though that often helps. But if your schedule is erratic then schedule your prayer times and places accordingly. But schedule it – put it on your calendar as you would any other important meeting or playdate or appointment – and commit to your schedule. The devil does not want us to pray, so we ought not expect “time for prayer” to mystically appear. We need to make the time, and treasure it…

Next, when you pray, believe that the Lord is present. When we were at the Wintercamp Youth Retreat last weekend I saw a girl who was sitting in a booth by herself. I invited her to join us at our table where we were playing UNO. But she told us she was sitting at the booth picturing God sitting across from her, and that she was praying, talking with Him.

In like ways, I often take walks with God: I go for a walk trusting that He is there walking alongside me. And I talk to Him, sometimes looking over in His direction, and as I speak sometimes I clearly hear Him respond to me. Other times there’s just silence.

But you can sit at a table in your home with the Lord, or on your couch together. If it helps, close your eyes. When we keep our eyes open we can think He’s not there because we can’t see Him. But with our eyes closed we can know He’s there, as, by faith, we picture Him physically present with us.

Lastly, consider keeping a record of your prayers. Recording our prayers sets an expectation within us to be watching and listening for the Lord’s responses. And keeping track helps us, over time, edit what we’ve asked Him for as our understanding of His will changes and grows. And, of course, seeing the list of prayers He’s answered or responded to encourages us in our prayers during times it seems difficult to pray.

Most of all, don’t give up. Intimacy in any relationship takes time: Time together talking and listening; time together in quiet just enjoying each other’s company; time to grow in understanding the other’s ways, and habits, and patterns. It’s that way with our Father in Heaven, too.

(For those of you who want to try taking walks with God, I have some leaflets of guided “Prayer Walk” up-front here that focus on different aspects of our encounter with Jesus Christ. There’s seven or eight different ones, and they’re up here for the taking.)



March 4, 2012 by Pastor Ben Willis

James 1:1-8 [NLTse]

1 This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad.

Greetings!

2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

Last week we saw an angel-messenger from God telling the prophet Daniel that the Almighty had heard Daniel’s prayer and begun to act the very day Daniel had first prayed. And we asked, “Then why so often the delays to our prayers?” We talked about the need for persistence in our prayers – to never give up praying until we receive God’s response! And yet we acknowledged occasions where we’ve prayed and prayed and prayed and yet it seemed that nothing much happened.

So today we’re going to look at why, sometimes, our prayers go unanswered. And looking across the Scriptures there seems to be several basic reasons: uuu

  1. Sometimes it’s because we haven’t kept asking, kept seeking, and kept knocking as the Lord calls us to. Sin and the power of evil in this world is strong, and it takes more than quickie, half-hearted requests to stir the powers of Heaven to overwhelm the powers of Hell;
  2. Sometimes the Lord has responded to our prayers, but we haven’t liked His response, so we keep on praying;
  3. Sometimes we ask God for things He doesn’t want to give us;
  4. Sometimes God doesn’t respond to our prayers because we’ve separated ourselves from Him through hard-hearted sin or falling back into old sinful ways; and, lastly,
  5. Sometimes the answers to our prayers are delayed because what we’ve asked the Lord for simply takes much time.

uuu First we said that sometimes it’s because we haven’t kept asking, kept seeking, and kept knocking as the Lord calls us to. We talked about that last week, so let’s go on.

uuu Sometimes the Lord has responded to our prayers, but we haven’t liked His response, so we keep on praying hoping we’ll get a different answer this time. Like when we plug an address into our GPS? Directions to get where we’re going pop up, but maybe we don’t like that route – we wanna go another way – so we hit the button for an alternate plan.

But God’s not a GPS, letting us pray again and pray again until we get the answer we want to get from Him. No, He’s made us; He’s purchased us on the cross; and He knows what we need to live abundant lives of great meaning and purpose! Pretending the Lord hasn’t responded to our prayers in the hopes of getting a better, different answer is just fooling ourselves.

Arguing against God’s Way must have been a constant struggle for Moses, because we see it throughout his life, including this clear example from just before he died. The Lord told Moses he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. uuu And Moses writes, “At that time I pleaded with the LORD and said, ‘O Sovereign LORD, You have only begun to show Your greatness and the strength of Your hand to me, Your servant. Is there any god in Heaven or on Earth who can perform such great and mighty deeds as You do? Please let me cross the Jordan to see the wonderful land on the other side, the beautiful hill country and the Lebanon mountains.” uuu

“But the LORD was angry with me,” Moses went on, “and He would not listen to me. ‘That’s enough!’ [the Lord] declared. ‘Speak of it no more.’” (Deuteronomy 3:23-27)

It’s God’s version of what some people today call “tough love”. We human beings want to do what we want: What feels good and keeps us from too many difficulties, even if it means we remain stuck in habitual troubles. But God loves us too much for that: “That’s enough!” He says. And He gets us going, even when we don’t like it.

Another reason God doesn’t seem to answer our prayers (that’s similar to this) is when sometimes we ask God for things He doesn’t want to give us. uuu Jesus said, “You can ask for anything in My name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it!” (John 14:13-14) So you might think, “If I want a fine car like the pastor drives, you just ask God for one in the name of Jesus.” (I used my car as a example so none of you would think I was picking on you. J) Do we truly think that tacking Jesus’ name onto the end of some self-serving prayer would make God have to do as we’ve asked?

But James (Jesus’ half-brother, and the leader of the church in Jerusalem in the First Century) wrote to his congregation, “You don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” We want to be healed, but not necessarily so we can get back out there doing good, caring for the poor and weak, and sharing Christ. We want to have money, but not necessarily to promote God’s purposes and set people free around the world. We want this or that relationship reconciled, but not necessarily for Jesus’ plans and Jesus’ sake. We want this or that or some other thing, but not necessarily because it’s going to serve God’s purposes in our lives.

Face it, many of our requests are vain and prideful and self-centered. And as the best, most loving Father, God is set to move Heaven and Earth just to keep us comfortable, so we can look good to others, and live our lives the way we want to live them.

But don’t be discouraged. Can you imagine that the apostle Paul was like this, and he tells the Corinthians, “I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) (Just an aside, notice Paul doesn’t assume God’s telling him that His grace will be sufficient; Paul doesn’t stop praying until God makes His response clear to him.)

So Paul wanted this “thorn in the flesh” removed. And that seems okay, doesn’t it? I mean, what problem could there be in asking God to keep Satan’s tormenting-messenger’s away from him, right? And yet, sometimes the physical ailments we have and the financial difficulties we go through and the relational breaks we experience and the gossip we have to endure are given to us by God to keep us from becoming vain, proud, and selfish. God gives them as a strange gift, an unasked for blessing. A blessing we don’t know is good for us, and the Lord doesn’t want to take them away…

uuu Another reason the Lord doesn’t answer our prayers, or delays for long periods of time, is because sometimes we’ve separated ourselves from Him through hard-heartedness and nurturing sin in our lives. For example, uuu Simon Peter writes, “You husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)

Jesus came to serve. So whether we’re a guy or a gal, when we misuse authority God has given us (in our various roles and relationships) we cut ourselves off from Him. uuu Proverbs says it this way, “Those who shut their ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in their own time of need.” (21:13)

uuu Isaiah cries, “Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is His ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, He has turned away and will not listen anymore.” (59:1-2)

Ever seen the bumper sticker, “If God seems far away, guess who moved?” Yeah. Sometimes God doesn’t answer our prayers because we’ve turned away from Him, and He wants us to turn back.

uuu Of course, sometimes God seems to not be responding to our prayers simply because what we’ve asked Him for takes a long time for Him to give us, especially since He wants to give us more and better than what we ever ask Him for. Look at Job.

Before all of his trials, Job was among the wealthiest and most influential men of his day, a vigorous man with a big happy family of seven sons and three daughters. The Book of Job describes how all of that was taken away from him by the Devil hoping he could get Job to curse God. Job wouldn’t however, but across the pages of that book we read Job asking God again and again to help him understand the reason for his trials, and asking the Lord to restore him to his place of righteous-influence in his community.

Would you open your Bibles to Job 30:20… Job is praying here, “I cry to You, O God, but You don’t answer. I stand before You, but You don’t even look.” It’s the prayer of many who have prayed and prayed and prayed but received no answer.

If you’ll keep your finger in that page, but now turn to Job 42:12… We read, “The LORD blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. [That’s twice as many as before.] He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters. He named his first daughter Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. In all the land no women were as lovely as the daughters of Job. And their father put them into his will along with their brothers.

“Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life.”

Sometimes there’s such a delay in our prayers being answered simply because

when we’re living for God rightly

and walking with God closely,

and asking the Lord to bless us so that we can be His blessing to others,

Sometimes it can just take a long time for God to give us all the good things He has for us in answer those kinds of prayers. J

Ascription of Praise

All glory to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, forever. Amen?

Traditional Worship: [“I Need Thee Every Hour” (Hymn #428, vv. 1, 2, 3, 4)]

Contemporary Worship: [Closing Worship]

Charge