This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
I want to say very emphatically right from the beginning that I cannot give you all the answers. Even when this little series of talks is over, you will have some questions to which you haven’t found an answer. We’re all like that, none of us can fully understand God and His dealings. If we could, He wouldn’t be God.
Let me give you just two scriptures that will help you, or at any rate, state the problem. Romans 11:33, Paul says of God:
“How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!”
So if you want to search the judgments of God, you’ll never get to the bottom. And, if you want to know all the ways of God, they’re past finding out.
Now, that can help you to no end just to come to that recognition, that things will happen in your life that you don’t understand, you don’t know the reason and you may never know the reason.
The other scripture is Proverbs 3:5:
“We trust in the Lord with all our heart and do not lean on our own understanding.”
Now, some little while ago God dealt with Ruth—she’s here, so I’m free to say this—about the problem that she’s had with her neck. God showed her from that verse that she was disobeying scripture because instead of trusting the Lord she was trying to understand. Have you ever done that? See, it’s contrary to scripture. Scripture says trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. Do not try to work it out with your own understanding.
I’m going to try to deal this morning with one basic problem which every one of us has, and if you don’t come to grips with this problem then you will not be able to resolve a whole lot of other problems and you won’t understand a whole lot of things that happen in your life. Tonight and tomorrow night, if God wills and we live, I’ll be dealing with some lessons from the book of Job. I announced it in advance and one or two people have made it known to me that they really had never read the book of Job! It wasn’t on their list of reading. I’m amazed at that. I thought all Christians read all the Bible. Is that true?
You see, the Bible says all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God might be made perfect or complete, lacking nothing. There’s another verse that promises you to be lacking nothing but you have to apply it. If you only read half the Bible you’re never going to be a complete believer because all scripture is given by inspiration of God—even the genealogies. I listened to Loren Cunningham once speak in South Africa some years ago and he started with the genealogy from I forget which book. I wondered where he was going and he said he had met a man, an Indian, in India and he asked him how he came to the Lord. He said through the genealogies. Loren said why. He said, “In our culture our gods have no background, they just appear. We never know what’s the background of anybody. I was so interested to find out that you could know somebody’s background.” So you see, don’t write off the genealogies because it might be they’ll be the answer to your problem.
I’m going to go back to the beginning of the history of the human race, our first parents, Adam and Eve, and I’m going to try to draw out of that a basic truth which concerns every one of us.
You see, we’re all descended from Adam, I believe. I know a lot of people don’t believe that but I do. I had studied as a philosopher many theories about the origin of man and the origin of the universe and so on. But when I turned to the Bible and read it with faith, I discovered it did something no other theory had ever done, it explained me to myself. I discovered what kind of a preacher I was, the different elements in my personality, why I behaved the way I did, why I had the pressures that I did. That all came to me from the book of Genesis from the description of the creation of Adam and Eve. So, don’t write that off as some old-fashioned fairy tale because it’s a very exact, accurate description of the origin of our race, man.
The Bible talks about the sons of Adam many times. It doesn’t come out that way in the English translations. You need to bear in mind that the Bible and salvation are all directed towards Adam and his descendants. There may have been many other beings on earth before Adam, we don’t know. But the Bible is not talking to them. For some amazing, incredible reason God has a special concern for Adam and his descendants. It’s the most amazing thing. Sometimes I say to myself it’s incredible that God should bother Himself about this particular area of His creation. Then I say it’s not incredible because the Bible reveals it and I believe it. So, there it is.
I want to read the description of the creation—not so much the creation, but the fall of Adam and Eve. It’s very brief. The remarkable thing about the Bible is it can say so much in so few words. So, what I’m going to do is read the first seven verses of Genesis 3.
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God has made. He said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”’”
Now, a friend of mine, Ern Baxter, commented on this. All the problems of humanity would have been resolved if Eve had only said to the serpent, “I never talk to strange serpents without my husband.” Which would have been the right answer, you see! But she didn’t so here we are today.
“The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it nor shall you touch it, lest you die.”
How did Eve know that? Who told her? Adam, that’s right. It was his job to do that, you see.
And you see how unwilling she was to admit that there was something they couldn’t do. She said, “We may eat of all the trees of the garden but there’s just one exception.” How reluctant we are to acknowledge our own limitations, have you ever noticed that?
“The serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that is was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.”
I’m not going to go any further. But in there we have the essence of what we need to know about ourselves, about our problems and how to avoid them.
The serpent who was an incarnation of Satan had one supreme objective, to remove Adam and Eve from their foundation in the Word of God. Once he could do that they were at his mercy. I want to say to you, whoever you are as a believer, the supreme objective of Satan in your life is to undermine and discredit the scripture. And when he’s got you to the place where you no longer believe and accept the authority of scripture, you’re sunk, you’re a casualty. That’s all he needs to do.
He proceeded in a very subtle way. The Bible says he was more subtle than any of the beasts of the field. He did two things. First of all he questioned the Word of God. Has God said? And when Eve entertained the question she was sunk. When she once entertained the question then he followed up with a denial. God, you will not surely die.
Now, he hasn’t changed his tactics. Today in 1993 the devil operates precisely the same way. You know why? Because it works. It’s brought him endless success. So I want to warn you. Whatever you do, don’t be moved away from your faith in the scripture as the Word of God.
He won’t necessarily start by attacking it, he’ll start by questioning it. He did that specifically maybe in Germany and maybe in Norway and then in Britain at the end of the last century. He questioned it and today we have professing churches and ministers who are total unbelievers.
But he didn’t start by denying, he started by questioning. And if you entertain the question you’ll have just the same kind of problems as Eve.
Now Eve’s response can be summed up in three words, all of which happen to begin in English with D. First of all, she doubted the Word of God. Having doubted it she disbelieved it. And, having disbelieved it she disobeyed it. Those were the three downward steps: to doubt, to disbelieve and to disobey. And when she did that she was lost, she was defeated.
I want to emphasize again it will be exactly the same with you. No matter who you are and where you come from, if you take those three downward steps: to doubt, to disbelieve and to disobey, you will be just as lost as Eve was. Satan will have won a major victory in your life.
Satan used a kind of motivation to persuade Eve. His motivation was, first of all, to cause her to distrust God’s goodness and then the suggestion that she and Adam could be like God. And the final clincher was that they could be like God without depending on God.
That’s the emphasis that I want to bring you this morning. The problem was not that they wanted to be like God, that’s not a bad motive. But, they wanted to be like God without depending on God.
But Satan did what he always does, he began to discredit the character of God. He suggested God as a tyrant. “He’s put you in this beautiful garden. True, it’s a lovely garden and everything you have is needed and you’re doing wonderfully. But... think what it would be like if you were free, if you could just do whatever you want. If you could find your own answers, you didn’t have to depend on God. See, God is treating you like a second class citizen. He’s not treating you the way you deserve. You deserve something more than that.”
And so she responded. She was moved by the motivation to be like God but without depending on God. The root error of Adam and Eve was the desire to be good without depending on God. Notice their motivation was not bad, it was very good to be like God—but, without depending on God. And they entered into a relationship of independence of God. They are our first parents.
When the Bible talks about the old man it never talks about the old German man or the old Russian man or the old Jewish man or the old Gentile man because it goes back beyond all that to our first parents, the old man, the old Adam. Adam never had any children until he was a rebel. And every descendant of Adam from that day to this has been born with rebellion inside. The essence of the rebellion is the desire to be independent of God.
I want to suggest to you that that’s the root of all your problems.
In the course of ministry and counseling I’ve met people who’ve traveled halfway around the world to get away from some problem, or maybe their wife, or their children, or something else. I tell them you can’t do that because you take your basic problem with you wherever you go. Your basic problem is inside you. You can’t run away from it. You can travel right around the world but you take it with you.
This basic problem which the Bible calls the flesh or the carnal nature or the old man, the old Adam, is the desire to be independent of God. Some of you, I think, have probably never really been confronted with this issue. I pray that the Holy Spirit will enable me to do it.
You see, there are many different ways of being independent of God and one of the commonest ways is religion. Most religious people use their religion to make them independent of God. I think that’s totally true of Judaism today. It does lip service to the Law of Moses but in actual fact it uses the Law as a basis of not depending on God. The same is true of multitudes of Christians. Christians who’ve got a very legalistic religion, they have to keep so many different rules. Actually, they are not depending on God, they’re depending on their rules. Their heart is alienated from God. And, the more religious they become the worse their problem. So don’t imagine that religion is necessarily a solution. Actually, I think most of the major problems in the world have been caused by religion.
So, what is the solution? Before I was a preacher I was a logician. Sometimes it still shows. One thing I like about the Bible is it’s the most logical book I’ve ever encountered in my life. You do not have to feel intellectually inferior for believing the Bible. The most logical treatise that I’ve ever encountered is the epistle to the Romans. People think it’s illogical because they don’t start with the basic presupposition or fundamental facts.
See, logic is like a computer. It’s no more accurate than the things you feed into it. If you feed error into a computer you’ll get very computed error coming out of it! It’s very accurate but it’s wrong. People say the Bible isn’t logical because they don’t start from the Bible basics. What we’re dealing with this morning are the basics of the Bible, the nature of man, the root of his problems. When people start with the supposition that man is basically good, left to himself he’ll do all right, that’s contrary to the Bible, it’s a lie and any computed information that comes out of it is deception.
So what is the solution? The solution is reverse the process of the fall. The fall started when Eve and then Adam distrusted God’s goodness, tried to be independent of God and the third thing which I didn’t point out, they trusted their senses more than the Word of God. If you look in verse 6 of Genesis 3, it says:
“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food...”
What happened? She discarded her faith in the invisible Word of God and trusted her senses. That’s when she actually fell, when she saw that the tree was good.
So, the root problem was mistrusting the goodness of God, desiring to be independent of God and relying on the senses rather than on the Word of God.
The answer to the problem is just reverse the process. That’s all we have to do. We have to believe in God’s goodness. I’m amazed at the number of people I encounter who call themselves Christians but don’t trust God. They really don’t believe that God will do them good. If I surrender to God He’s going to ask something of me. Maybe He’ll send me as a missionary.
Ruth and I, we dealt with a young woman in Munich in Germany. She got into the meeting by a kind of subterfuge. She came there for deliverance. She was Scottish, she wasn’t German. She was a trained nurse and she had real serious demonic problems. Ruth and I and a brother, Terry Bysinger, ended up with this young woman about 10:00 o’clock at night in the pastor’s office. The pastor’s office wasn’t used to that kind of thing! She really wanted peace with God but she didn’t want to surrender. I mean, every time we got onto a demon she made a bolt for the door but Terry blocked the door and she couldn’t get out. We got her some way (or whey?) and then she lost the ability to speak and I said, “Now listen, there’s only one solution. You’ve got to surrender to the will of God without knowing what it is. If you surrender I want you to put your hands up.” It must have taken half an hour to get her hand from here to there. And I saw vividly what a fight people have to surrender.
Well, she surrendered, she got delivered and a little later she got happily married. We didn’t promise her a happy marriage but that’s the thing that God had for her. She didn’t trust God to do what was best for her.
And I would say probably at least twenty percent of the people here this morning, you don’t really trust God. You’re afraid that if you really surrender to God He’ll do something, He’ll do a trick on you, He’ll ask something of you you wouldn’t want to do.
So you see, your root problem is still the same as it was with Eve. Mistrust of the goodness of God. There’s no way back until you’re willing to trust God. That’s the only real solution. You have to trust God without knowing what He’s going to ask of you.
Lots of people say, “I’ll trust God if He does this or that.” That’s not trust. Trust is when you don’t know what He’ll do.
I have trusted God time and time again for more than fifty years. I want to tell you He does better for you than you’ll do for yourself. But because He did that for me, you’ve still got to believe for yourself.
So, you have to trust the goodness of God. God has demonstrated His love, as Paul says, in that He gave Christ to die for our sins. You need no other proof of God’s love than that fact.
Second, you have to lay down your independence. It’s a sin to desire to be independent of God. Did you know that? If you could only see it in the light of full truth it’s both ridiculous and terribly sinful to desire to be independent of God. Here’s the Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, the Lord of millions of angels, the One who controls the stars and the sea and the seasons and runs the universe. And here you are, a little ant somewhere on the floor. You say, “I want to be independent.” It’s ridiculous. If you could only see it, it’s absolutely absurd.
I want to tell you this, when God has finished what He’s doing right now there will be nobody left in heaven or earth that is independent of God. The people that will hold on to their independence will end up in outer darkness. There’s going to be no room in this created universe for anything or anybody that wants to be independent of God.
There are only two kinds of creatures that I know of that have desired to be independent of God. One was some angels and the other was the human race. The whole of the rest of the universe is happily dependent on God. The stars don’t want to be independent of God. The animals don’t want to be independent of God. It’s just silly people like you and me. And the more you meditate on it the more ridiculous it is. It’s amazing that God just doesn’t put His foot on us and stamp us into the ground! Little insignificant insects that we are. But God—this is the most amazing—God has got a special love for the descendants of Adam. I mean, I spend time just thinking how could this be? It’s extraordinary. In a way we’re one of His unresolved problems. We’ve been a source of problems for thousands of years and we’ve got nothing to commend us. We’re not that beautiful, we’re not that strong, we’re not that intelligent. And yet God loves us.
I’ll tell you one thing the Bible never explains, it’s the love of God. You can look in vain from the first page to the last, it never explains why God loves people. But, He does. It’s the great unexplained mystery of the universe. But I want to assure you it is true. God loves you and me. He loves people like us. He loves people that have made an awful mess of our lives. We have nothing to commend us and we’ve been unthankful and unholy and rebellious and stupid. And amazingly He loves us. It’s amazing!
So we have to lay down our independence. That’s the issue I’m going to be dealing with this morning. I’m warning you in advance.
And then we have to believe the Word of God more than our senses. We have to reverse Eve’s mistake. She looked at the tree and thought, “Well, that looked good. No matter what God’s Word says about it, I’m going to partake of that tree.”
Let me just give those three steps again because their very important. First of all, we have to trust God’s goodness. Second, we have to lay down our independence. And third, we have to believe the scripture rather than our senses.
I want to focus on this issue of laying down our independence. I want to suggest to you that one of the central thrusts of God’s dealings with every person He ever deals with is to bring us out of our independence and back into a joyful dependence on God. Because after all, God is the only dependable factor in our lives. It’s absurd that we’ll trust anything else but not trust God.
There are two ways—I mean, there are more than two but there are two main ways I want to point out to you that God uses to get us out of our independence. The first one is waiting. A kind of stillness descends from that word waiting. Nobody enjoys waiting, least of all contemporary Americans. As I think Billy Graham said once years ago, an American feels frustrated if he misses the swing on the swing door and has to wait for the door to revolve the second time. So it’s totally contrary to our present cultural slant to wait. But nothing will come to you in your Christian walk sooner or later until you learn to wait, because God insists on it.
I want to talk about just two great men of God who had to wait. They’re one of the patterns of scripture. The one is Abraham and the other is Moses. God had a destiny for both of them. He knew what they were going to do, He chose them, He set them apart. And the very center of God’s whole program for Abraham was that he was to have a special son by his wife Sarah. This was promised him early on when he was 75 years old. He had to wait 25 years for that son. Why? Why couldn’t God give it to him immediately? Because He had to bring Abraham to the place of total dependence upon God. You know the story, after 12 years he said, “I’ve waited long enough.” His dear wife Sarah gave him some bad advice, she said, “Go on, have a concubine, I’ll agree. My servant Hagar (which means a stone), I’ll let you have a child by her.”
It’s very interesting because Sarah gave him two pieces of advice. The first time she said, “Go on, have a child.” The second one was, “Cast out the son you have had.” When you get carnal advice it contradicts itself.
What was the result? Ishmael. I don’t want to go into a lot of what could be controversial, political issues, but I have to say basically one main problem of Isaac and his descendants for thousands of years has been Ishmael and his descendants. So that’s a warning against taking things into your own hands. Because, if you do, what you’ll produce will not be an Isaac but an Ishmael.
If I were to ask you, and I don’t want to, but how many of you have produced Ishmaels at some time in your life, a lot of you, if you were honest, would put your hands up. Why? You were not willing to wait.
So, Abraham had to learn to wait. What was the result of waiting? He came to the place where he was totally dependent on God. He had no alternatives, nothing. He’d exhausted every other possibility. When he was at that place God met him and he had the son that God had promised.
It’s interesting if you go on, God tested Abraham in a way that He wouldn’t test all of us. Here’s Abraham, he’s got the son and then God says, “Now, offer him as a sacrifice.” I mean, He tested Abraham in a way that He wouldn’t be able to test most of us.
So once again Abraham was totally dependent on God. He was prepared to kill the son and depend on God to raise him up, as the scripture indicates.
What was God aiming at? One thing, dependence, total dependence on God.
Now we’ll take Moses. Moses had a very privileged upbringing. He was brought up in the court of Pharaoh, he was instructed in all the wisdom and the culture of the Egyptians who were the leading cultural empire of the day. Then he realized that he was really a Jew, an Israelite, and his brethren were suffering. He thought, I’m the one, I’ll go out and deliver them. Age 40. It ended up in a fiasco, he had to flee for his life and he spent the next 40 years in a rather barren wilderness, looking after a little flock of sheep belonging to his father-in-law. That’s not a very exalted position, is it?
Incidentally, have you ever looked after sheep? Some of you may have done it. I did for a little while. That takes patience, too.
So now Moses has reached the age of 80, retirement age, his life is gone, he has nothing to show. All his education, all his ability, all his strength have produced nothing. God says, “Now Moses, we can begin.” And for the next 40 years Moses was, in my opinion, the most powerful human being that history has ever recorded. I mean, if you consider what he did, it is astonishing. Shall I tell you one reason? Do you want to be a man of power? I’ll tell you one of the secrets. It’s in Numbers 12:3:
“Now the man Moses was the meekest man on all the earth [or the humblest].”
Can you see that God cannot trust power to anybody except the humble. How do you achieve humility? Just spend 40 years in the desert with a flock of sheep. Somebody asked Bob Mumford once why did Moses have to spend 40 years in the desert? Bob answered, “Because God couldn’t do it in 39.” So, God will keep you there till it’s done. You can struggle, you can complain, you can pray; but God is too merciful to answer your prayers. He’s going to leave you till the process is complete.
So that’s way number one to get independent people to become dependent. It’s by waiting.
There’s some other interesting scriptures on waiting which I’d just like to point out to you. Does anybody have a New International Version here near the front? Thank you. I want to read Isaiah 64:4. The reason I do that is because this translation is particularly vivid. Isaiah 64:4:
“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any god besides you...”
A totally unique being without parallel. And then it mentions one fact about this unique God:
“...no eye has seen any god besides you who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.”
So what is the distinctive feature of this unique God? Tell me. He acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. Do you want God to act on your behalf? So what do you have to do? Wait for him. What will happen while you’re waiting? You’ll become more and more dependent on God and less and less dependent on yourself. There’s nothing that will do it but waiting.
In 1Thessalonians 1, Paul speaks about his original contact with the Christians in Thessalonica and how other people reported the remarkable impact that he had. In 1Thessalonians 1:9–10, Paul says of these other people around:
“For them themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you [that’s the Thessalonians] and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven.”
So what were the two things they had to do? To serve and to wait, you see? That’s the Christian life. We’re all—some of us—excited about serving. How many of us are excited about waiting? But the Christian life is not just serving, it’s serving and waiting. Why? Well, one reason is because waiting deals with that independent spirit in you and brings you to the place of, “God, there’s nothing I can do. I’ve come to the end. If you don’t do it, it won’t happen.” And you know that God is waiting for many of you to come to that place.
Let me read you a passage from Isaiah 30 which I think is a message for some of you here this morning. Isaiah 30, just two verses, verses 18–19:
“Therefore, the Lord will wait that He may be gracious to you...”
Please not that it’s not only you who have to wait, God waits. Why does He wait? That He may be gracious. He’s waiting for you to meet the conditions for Him to show you His grace.
“...and therefore He will be exalted that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice, blessed are all those who wait for Him.”
All right, you want to be blessed? That’s one way.
Then it goes on in the next verse:
“For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem. You shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry. When He hears it He will answer you.”
What is God waiting for? The sound of your cry. He’s waiting till you are desperate, till you come to the place where nothing will suffice but God.
See, a lot of us are afraid of desperation. I think it’s very typical of the British character. We like to have things so we don’t get on too intense an emotional train. But, there’s a place where you can meet with God only if you cry. That Hebrew word to cry means to cry out for help. I think the modern translations translate it that way. But God is waiting to bring you to a place where you’ll cry out for help.
The other day—Ruth tells me not to put all her dirty linen in public but—the other day I did what I would usually do in the afternoon, if you want to know. Between 2:00 and 4:00 o’clock you probably won’t find me because I lie before the Lord. While I was doing that Ruth was seized with this intense pain which is quite serious. Having done everything she could she just lay on her back on the floor and cried out to the Lord to come to her help. And, He did. There was a definite change. I sometimes wonder, frankly, having lived with Ruth for 14 years how God could be so cruel to anybody as He is to her. Do you understand what I’m saying? I mean, God puts her through things that I wouldn’t put anybody through, let alone my wife. What is He after? I can’t tell you everything but I know one thing He’s after, desperation.
Some of you can look back in your life and remember the point when you became desperate and God moved. God is not a luxury, God is essential. As long as anything else may be more important than God moving, He probably won’t move.
Again, God dealt with people all through the Bible to bring them to the place of desperation. One of the most obvious examples is Israel being delivered out of Egypt. They march out, they’ve had a wonderful Passover, they’ve all been healed, become strong, able to march. They march out in rank, they get to the Red Sea, they look over their shoulders and there is the whole Egyptian army pursuing them. I’ve heard people use the phrase “being between a rock and a hard place”. If anybody ever was between a rock and a hard place, it was Israel with the Red Sea in front and the Egyptian army behind. And what did they do? It says in Exodus 14:10:
“They cried out to the Lord...”
And there are things that God will not do in your life until you cry out. I don’t just mean say a prayer, I mean get desperate. He’s waiting for you to be desperate. He’s waiting to hear your cry. He’s ready to move, He has a plan but He’s not going to release that plan until you are in the condition where you can receive it.
So, what is God dealing with? The one simple, basic problem: our desire not to have to depend on God. There’s not one person here, myself included, who really desires to be totally dependent on God. It’s contrary to our own carnal nature, what was born into us from Adam and Eve. But, it’s the one thing that God is looking for, is to be totally dependent on God, to have no other answer, no other future, no other plans but God. That’s not arbitrary, it’s His way of dealing with the problem of your fleshly nature which is the desire to be independent of God.
God cannot fully work out His plan in the life of any one of us until that issue has been resolved.
Now I want to tell you just a little incident, some of you have heard it before but it’s a very good illustration. In 1990 Ruth was admitted to hospital for surgery and what she has now is a recurrence of that problem. That’s why it’s rather serious because having surgery once is bad enough, having it twice is a lot worse. She was in the hospital in bed waiting for all the final preparations for surgery. I don’t know how it could happen but she’d been so busy with tests all day that I hadn’t been able to read the Bible with her. So toward the end of the day the senior sister, it was in Holy Cross Hospital—incidentally, let me say a little thing. If I had to choose a hospital in America I’d go for a Catholic hospital because they have retained a little mercy. I can remember the days when nurses were wonderful, merciful, patient people. I’m not sure that it’s true today. But there is a certain teaching in the Catholic laity, or the Catholic orders, about showing mercy. And believe me, some of you know it, when you are really sick what you need is mercy—even more than efficiency. So that’s just by the way. But anyhow, the oldest nun, the senior sister in the hospital was going around talking to the patients. She came to Ruth’s bed and she saw Ruth’s Bible there so she became interested. She introduced herself and she said, “Is there anything I can do for you?” Ruth said, “Yes, would you please read my Bible to me because I can’t read it for myself.” This sister said, “What shall I read?” Ruth said, “Philippians 2.” The nun became excited and she said, “That was the passage that was read when I took my vows.” So they felt they were on the same wavelength. She read the Bible and then she shared something. This sister had been to a retreat somewhere where a Trappist monk gave a talk. Now, Trappists are not allowed to speak inside the monastery but every now and then they’re allowed out to share with people what they’ve learned in silence in the monastery. This Trappist monk gave this talk to these Catholic sisters.
I’m really impressed by God’s way of getting things done, this is by the way but I have a theory that a word spoken in the Holy Spirit never dies. I can remember things that were said to me more than 50 years ago, before I was a believer, but they’ve lived with me because the Holy Spirit was in them. I just think that God wanted these truths shared.
So here’s a Trappist monk, he’s not allowed to speak, but he’s let out and he’s allowed to speak and shares what I’m going to share with you. But, he only shares it to a group of Catholic nuns. How would most of us ever get to know what Catholic nuns have heard? But this Catholic nun comes and talks to my wife and shares it. And, she happens to be the wife of a preacher! She shared it with me and I share it and it’s going to get around the world! You see, God has a way of getting what He wants. I mean, to me I bow in worship when I see God—He’s so smart, if I can use the word. Let me tell you, nobody ever fools God. Don’t even try because it doesn’t work.
I was dealing with some people recently who were trying to fool God and the result was disastrous for them.
So, this is what he said and he must have been dealing with the theme that I’m dealing with, though we don’t know exactly what it was. He said, “Pray to desire three things: not to be esteemed, not to be secure and not to be in control.” Well, when I hear those I shudder and think not to be esteemed, that doesn’t really matter much to me in this stage in my life. But not to be secure and then not to be in control, what’s your first reaction? Not for me, please! How could I pray that prayer?
But you see what it is? It’s just a way of dealing with our basic problem which is, tell me. Independence, that’s right. And you see, independence can be so cleverly cloaked with religiosity that it sounds respectable. A lot of people use their religion to avoid depending on God. God has two ways to deal with it, as I’ve said. He’ll keep us waiting. Can you say praise the Lord? That was a rather weak praise the Lord. And, He will bring us to a place of absolute desperation where if God doesn’t do it it’s not going to happen. “I can’t make it happen. I’ve tried everything, it didn’t work, I have no answers. God, I turn to you and I’m willing to let you do it your way. Whatever you want is all right by me.” And that’s the answer.
Now I’m going to try to give an application to this message. Many, many years ago, about 1962, I was teaching in various churches in Canada. The Lord said, “I don’t want you just to teach abstract truth, I want you to give my people a way to apply the truth that you teach.” So I tried to change and basically one way or another I try to make it possible for people to make some active response to what I’m teaching. I’m going to try to do that now. I’m going to talk to two kinds of people. Number one, those of you that really are afraid of losing your independence. You may not have much, life may be a struggle but at least you make your own decisions. They may be wrong decisions but they’re your decisions. Are you really prepared to let God into the decision making process? Are you willing to be like that girl in the pastor’s office, are you willing to put your hand right up and say, “I surrender. I lay down my independence. I don’t know what you’re going to ask of me but I’m prepared to accept it in faith. I trust you.”
Then the other kind of people, and you may be one and the same, are people who’ve reached the point of desperation. You’re here this morning and you have no answers. You’re facing situations and you just cannot handle it. There seems to be no way whatever that you can resolve it. What about letting God in? What about giving Him a chance? What does He ask of you? He asks of you what He asked of the Israelites at the Red Sea, “Cry out.” Call upon Him. Say, “Help!” Sometimes we’re too respectable to pray a cry of desperation. You read the psalms, they’re full of cries of desperation. No one uttered them more often than David, that great warrior, that man of God. Time and time again he said in effect, “God, if you don’t help me I’m finished. I have no other help. God, come to my help.”
Suppose you were drowning. How respectable would you be? There’s somebody on the bank who might be able to get to you in time. Are you going to formulate a carefully worded prayer? Are you going to speak in a polite whisper? Or, are you going to say, “Help! I need it now!”Some of you need that. Some of you are here not by accident but because God wants to help you. But He’s waiting for you to cry out and you might as well do it now. Don’t wait any longer.
So I want two kinds of people. If you want, you don’t have to. Those of you who say, “Brother Prince, I never really laid down my independence. I’ve been religious, I’ve tried to do good but I’ve always been in control of my own life. I’ve never let Jesus come in and make the decisions.” And then there are those, you’re here this morning and you’re desperate, you know you’re desperate. I want to offer help to both of you. I’m going to ask, first of all, that the altar team will come quickly and stand right here, make available yourselves right now before anything else happens. These are brothers and sisters who are trained to help you, to pray with you, to understand you. They’re here because they love you. Nobody is going to condemn you. Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. We haven’t got a ministry of condemnation, we’ve got a ministry of reconciliation. We want you to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ.
So now if you need help this morning just come and make it known. Come to these people here at the front, walk right out of your place wherever you are. If you’re in two categories: if you want to lay down your independence, “God, I’ve tried long enough. I realize it doesn’t work.”; and the other category is those who are desperate. I’m going to pray for all of you and then I want you to make a move. Don’t sit there and wish you could do something, do it.
“Lord Jesus, we thank you that you’re so available this morning, you’re so close to us. You really want to help us. You are trustworthy, we can trust you. Lord, I pray for those who need your help, those who need to lay down their independence and those who need to cry out to you in a desperate situation that you will release them to come to you in faith this morning. Let everything that would hinder them be bound, every alien force, all pride, all fear, let them be bound and let the people that you want to come be released right now in the name of Jesus.
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