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Description: God brings difficulties and trials to draw us closer to Himself and out of ourselves.
Difficulties are Part of God’s Plan
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
I’ve drawn this little illustration and that’s it there in the little tray and you know it so well
and that’s the fact, and that’s the faith, and that’s the feeling, and really I think, that’s the
heart of what I’d like you to go away with today, that while this is the locomotive you’re going up
the hill and you get there into Jesus. But once the feeling begins to be the locomotive, and the
smoke comes out there, it goes right down, you know, everything goes down. So that’s really the
heart of it.
We could start it loved ones, at the verse that we’re studying there in Ephesians. It’s Ephesians
3, and you remember last Sunday we read verse 3, or studied verse 3 a little, “How the mystery was
made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.” And we said that that was probably in
Colossians 1:27 that Paul is referring to where he mentioned it briefly. Colossians 1:27 and 1:26
is, “The mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints.” And then he
briefly explains what it is, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the
riches of the glory of this mystery, which is,” and then he defines the mystery, “Christ in you, the
hope of glory.”
So that’s what he’s talking about in Ephesians 3:3, and then in Ephesians 3:4 today he says, “When
you read this,” when you read those words Christ in you the hope of glory, “When you read this you
can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ.” And it is undoubtedly Paul that explains to us
that it’s a very shallow interpretation of Jesus to concentrate on the man who lived from 6 BC to 29
AD and make everything just stand on that. And I do think that that’s part of the reason why Jesus
is often, I hate to say despised, but certainly not respected even by Christians. We look upon him
as, “Oh yes, he’s God come to earth, you know, in the first century and that’s how we know about
God, and he came to us in his Son Jesus, and Jesus this and Jesus that.” And we miss completely the
fact that at this moment it is Jesus’ life that is keeping us alive and enabling us to be conscious
at this moment and that Jesus is not just this person that appeared for 33 or 35 years in the first
century, but he was when nothing else was.
He existed from before the foundation of the world. He was with God as his only begotten Son before
there were any human beings, before there was any earth, before there was any – presumably before
there was any of the universe that we can see with our eyes. Jesus is far more than just the person
who appeared as a human being in our first century. Jesus is the one who is eternally with God and
Jesus was the first-born of all creation. And I think often you know, however often I’ve quoted
that to you, often we kind of get that into a box somewhere and we say, “Oh yeah, he’s the
first-born of all creation. He was born like a man, you know.” No, he was the first-born of all
creation. He was the beginning of creation.
God begot Jesus and inside Jesus as he begot him, he begot the whole creation, the stars, the
planets, the spaces, the skies, Joe Selzler. See that’s where we – that’s where we falter and we
fall back and we think, “No, no it can’t be that. No, not Joe, he wouldn’t know about Joe” but see
that’s the mystery of it, and that’s the miracle of it, and that’s the depth of it. See, this wee
girl here, this wee Catholic girl did not start her existence with her mum. See, that’s a great
mystery that God has seen all of humanity, born, and living, and died, and raised with him. He has
seen them all inside his Son Jesus.
Now, we would see that if we could begin to grasp the eight sideways that we all know to write
that’s not a very good version of it, but its infinity. But if we could grasp infinity we would see
of course God can do that, of course God sees everything at once, of course God doesn’t see things
sequentially as we do in time. Of course, he sees everything at once. Of course, he must have seen
Joe Selzler back there when he begot his own Son. And so we gradually we can kind of begin to grasp
a little that it’s possible, but that’s the mystery of Christ you see. And of course, you don’t
need me to tell you that Christendom doesn’t talk about that at all. We don’t. We don’t talk about
We join actually, the unbelievers in our attitude to Jesus, “Oh yes, Jesus was God come to earth and
he was a human being and then he went back up somewhere to be with God.” But the mystery is that
Christ is eternally humanity. We have eternal life because we are inside Jesus. We were created in
him. We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus. The reality is that God foresaw what would
happen to us and he determined that he would bear that. That’s what the whole sin bearing thing is
that we’ve talked about so often and I think you know this. God was faced with creating people who
would have free will and therefore could hurt him and could hurt each other, and God did not make
them out there somewhere where they could make their noise, and do their murders and not bother him.
God made them inside himself and that’s the meaning of God bearing our sin in Jesus.
We are made inside Jesus so that God experiences everything that the worst one of us has ever done
and he bears us inside Jesus and bears all that, and puts up with it, and endures it, and then
changes us in his Son so that each one of us have received a free change and we have been changed in
Jesus. And that’s why the Bible says, “You have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
You, what you’re experiencing here on this earth is what you would have been if you hadn’t been in
Jesus. But that life is dead now, it has died because God bore all that and despite it all he
raised you up and made you new in Jesus so you have actually died and your life now is hid with
Christ in God. That’s the fact.
That’s the fact. You have died and your life is hid with Christ in God and the way to live in this
world is with your eyes on that fact every moment of every day, to live by faith and not by feeling.
And we get into trouble when we look at our feelings which are part of the life that we would have
lived if we hadn’t been in Jesus. That’s it. When a moment of anxiety comes into you, that moment
of anxiety is – well, you know without me saying it, it’s a lack of trust in God that’s why it’s
there. You’re anxious because you feel the thing depends on you, or on other people, but not on God
who is faithful and who will ensure that things go right. So it is really, for a moment, not having
faith in God.
Now, the moment you put your mind on that and begin to consider it, you’re looking at part of the
life that you would have lived if God had not put you in his Son and raised you up, and hid you with
himself. And so when you look at that, you’re looking at something that has passed something that
is gone, something that is unreal. You’re looking at a picture, a photograph that God has given you
of the past that has already been changed by him in Jesus. And so when you look at that with your –
or allow your feelings to dwell on that, then that’s why the whole thing starts collapsing upon you.
And there is only one way to live in constant joy and that is you have died and your life is hid
with Christ with God so yippee let’s go. But that is the only way.
In every situation that’s God’s answer to us, to live by faith in that and that’s what all the
mysticism and all the saints are about, they’re about living by simple faith in what has happened to
them in Jesus. And you can see, I mean, you can glimpse a little of it in your own mind, in that
situation where the buyer has just barked at you and implied that it’s just rubbish that you’re
trying to sell her, at that moment if you immediately say, “I have died and my life is hid with
Christ in God,” then who cares? Who cares, I’m up there looking down. Not laughing at her but
certainly looking down and thinking, “That silly little shop, what has that to do with anything?”
And it immediately, immediately puts you above the world. And it’s the same with virtually
everything you can think of.
When the tire goes flat, or when that terrible moment when you find that you’ve overspent the bank
account and you really don’t know what you’re going to do. At that moment, at that moment, look at
the fact. See our weakness is we dice around a little. We almost say, “Yes Lord, yes but give me
one more minute just to count the pennies. Give me just one more minute to think about this. I
just,” – if we would look at ourselves we’d say, “Let me sort it out first Lord and then I’ll trust
you.” And at that very moment there’s only one thing to do and that is set our mind upon the fact
that you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.
Why should you do that? So that it’ll get you out of trouble, so that it’ll help you in this life,
so that it’ll make you a good Christian, so that it’ll help you to witness? No, because it’s the
fact, because it’s stupid not to live by facts and the fact is we have died with Christ and our life
is hid with Christ in God and we are safe and secure in his arms. I suspect you are the same as me,
that you say, “Well, I’m not living by feeling. It’s my mind.” Yeah, well if you’re living by your
mind getting caught up with these things.
What we said last Sunday you remember, where Satan says, “Hath God said you shall not eat of any
tree of the garden?” He tackles first your mind and if he can get your thought going along the
lines that your life is not hid with Christ in God, then he knows that he’s got you. And I think
the error that we make is we let just a second go by. We let a second go by. That’s all he needs,
he just needs a second because he knows that if he gets you the first second he can hold onto you
the second second. And then it’s just a spiral, it just goes – well, you know how it goes. And
it’s the same – presumably it’s the same with our speaking, it’s the same with our speaking.
I’m ashamed of the times that I speak unwisely and the bad tone in my voice at times, to all of you
and certainly, to my wife, but certainly in my speaking and it seems to me it’s the same with that
because I don’t know how – when you find yourself saying something that is not kind, or not gentle,
or not patient, but when you do it, or when I do it it’s obviously because I feel I have to fix this
thing. I have to fix it. I have to get this person to do this one way or the other I have to do
it. I mean, I think I’m right in saying I don’t think it’s because I hate the person or dislike the
person, I think it’s because I want the best for them but I feel that I should do it. It’s my
God is not in his heaven and all is not right with the world, I have the responsibility. And it’s
the same therefore with speaking it deals with that whole – that whole temptation we have and
tendency to speak the wrong word in the wrong way at the wrong time. Immediately at that moment
look up, you have – you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God. So if you’re dead you
can’t do anything about this and if your life is hid with Christ in God you’re okay and God will
himself take care of it. But it’s that that we need to do.
Now, the only other thing I’d like to say is God has carefully arranged lots of little moments when
you can prove that you have faith. And that’s all it is, that’s all it is, and the sooner we get
hold of that wisdom of the old saints the better. These things, this world is not running wild, God
has redeemed it, and God has brought it under control. He is working all things according to the
counsel of his will. The things that appear to be going wrong are sent by a loving Father, to his
dear children asking them, “Do you trust me? Do you trust me? You’ve just tripped over that thing,
do you still trust me? Do you trust me?” And that’s what it is. And so the events that occur that
are unpleasant, the things that people say to us that aren’t kind, the errors that we make
ourselves, those are all lovingly sent by our Father simply to test us to see if we trust him
knowing that the only way that we can grow in faith is to exercise it and so he gives all these
opportunities for us to exercise it. And what we need to do therefore when the temptation or the
trial comes along is to look up and say, “Lord, I see. Thank you. I have died and my life is hid
with you in God.” And really that’s it.
That’s the wonderful life that God has called us to and I ask you to help me to live in that faith
and I feel that I should do everything to help you to live in that faith. But, that is it and this
little illustration is right. Let us pray.
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