06-29-2015 message by Pastor Rich Doebler

Read Lamentations 3:22-26

Over the past couple weeks we’ve been looking at the “Building Blocks of Faith”—central, essential truths—“What you need to know about God.”

We’ve already seen how God is… real, holy, just and fair, Spirit…

Today we’re going to talk about how God is faithful—how he is totally dependable, completely trustworthy, absolutely reliable. In other words, he is everything we are not.

God is the one steady constant in an uncertain and unreliable world. Because we’ve all had those moments when something in this world failed us.

You get in your car, turn the key…and nothing happens. You call your brother-in-law to give you a jump, but he’s busy. Playing golf or fishing. Can’t rely on him.

Or maybe it’s something else, like when you sit in a chair, and you expect it to hold you up. But every once in a while you might sit on a chair with a cracked leg—or the joints have come unglued or something else has happened. It looks solid enough, but when you sit on it, it lets you down.

Or maybe it’s when you flip a light switch—and the bulb flashes and burns out, leaving you in the dark.

You buy an Eveready battery, use it, and discover it’s not always ready.

In life, things wear out or wear down. When I was a kid, one day my brother, some friends, and I found an old wooden row boat abandoned in the weeds along the creek where we were playing. It had been there a long time. The wind and the sun had stripped off all the paint. It had a few loose boards, but we were pumped! One man’s junk became our treasure. So we grabbed some poles and paddles and took it out for a cruise “on the high seas.” We didn’t take any life jackets—because in those days there were no laws protecting us from our own stupidity. But we weren’t so stupid. We also took along some tin cans—in case we had to bail any water. It turns out those cans were the most important tool we had.

We live in a world that’s like a leaky boat. There are holes in the world. And if you trust in a leaky world, you’ll be disappointed. The things of this world will eventually let you down.

Did you ever have a friend let you down? A co-worker? A boss? Maybe it was a husband or a wife who let you down—who was unfaithful. Some of you may have been abandoned by a mother or a father.

Human beings—flesh and blood—human institutions, no matter how reliable and trustworthy, are not perfect. They are all flawed.

You may have been disappointed by a pastor or maybe by a church. Perhaps you were counting on a labor union or insurance company to do something for you. But even the Supreme Court can let you down.

Human beings and human institutions are all imperfect. Inevitably they will all disappoint. In extreme cases, that disappointment can be devastating.

In his book The Road to Character, David Brooks, NY Times columnist and PBS commentator, says that over the past 40 years there has been a huge decline in our openness to trust other people. A recurring survey asks people, “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people?” In the early 1960s, significant majorities said that people can generally be trusted. But by the 1990s the distrusters had a 20-percentage-point margin over the trusters, and those margins have increased in the years since. Adapted from David Brooks, The Road to Character (Random House, 2015), page 257

I think this trend comes because more and more, people have felt betrayed or abandoned by people they counted on. As divorce and neglect and abuse has increased, trust has decreased.

Someone has said: “The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.”

David in the Psalms (41:9) says: “Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me.”

Another said: “Better an enemy who slaps you in the face than a friend who stabs you in the back.”

These days social media has hurt a lot of people. Some can’t handle the back-stabbing and the rejection. And a number of young, vulnerable teens have taken their own lives rather than suffer through the pain.

Our society has invented new ways to express betrayal. Have you ever been “thrown under the bus”? Have you ever “been kicked off the island”? Our culture has become more mean-spirited. If you disagree with popular opinion (what is deemed to be politically correct), no matter how charitably you might voice your opinion, you are labeled the enemy.

It’s not that friends deliberately set out to stab you in the back. Betrayal may come more through neglect than deliberate intention. Friends may “drift” away more than turn on you—like an anchor you trusted to hold solid and firm, only to let loose when the wind and the waves come.

No matter. Whether from negligence or forgetfulness or difficult circumstances a friend could not handle, the result is that you depended on someone who wasn’t there for you when the chips were down.

In broken and unstable world, we will inevitably be disappointed or abandoned by the things and the people we want to trust. So it’s good to know there is One who will never leave us nor forsake us!

God is always faithful. He is always with us. He is trustworthy. We can depend upon God who will never leave us nor forsake us.

David said (Ps 27:10, NLT): “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.”

GNT says: “My father and mother may abandon me, but the Lord will take care of me.”

But before we go any further, I think we should stop for a moment for a reality check. Because some of you may be thinking: “Hold on! There’ve been times I’ve felt abandoned by the Lord. I prayed…but got nothing. I searched for him…and found nothing. I needed help, but he wasn’t there when I needed him.”

Some of you might even be thinking of examples from the Bible where people—even godly, righteous people—felt that God had let them down.

Gideon: The Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian. (Jud 6:13)

Isaiah: You, Lord, have abandoned your people, the descendants of Jacob. (Isa 2:6)

Jeremiah: The Lord has rejected and abandoned this generation. (Jer 7:29)

David: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Ps 22:1)

Jerusalem: The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me. (Isa 49:14)

Sons of Korah: I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me?” (Ps 42:9)

In view of all these negative feelings, here is what you need to know about God’s faithfulness…

  1. When you feel abandoned, you’re not.

All those times when God seemed far away, all those times when people in the Bible comlained because God had “left them,” God was really still there. He was still God, and he still cared about his people.

Some of my proudest moments as a father were when one of my kids said, “You’re the worst Dad in the world!” Why would I feel proud? Because that let me know I wasn’t the worst Dad. I wasn’t ignoring them; I was disciplining them—by giving unpleasant consequences for their behavior. No discipline would have been ignoring or abandoning them. They felt like I was mistreating them—but pain, discipline, and consequences really showed that I loved and cared for them.

That’s what God did when his people abandoned him to go their own way and to chase after other gods. He allowed painful consequences of their own choices to help them rethink their decisions.

Our Bible text is from Lamentations. Most people believe Jeremiah, the OT prophet, wrote it. It’s an epic poem that expresses extreme pain and grief over what has happened to Jerusalem. Chapter 3, in particular, lists a number of ways Jeremiah feels that God has turned against him:

I am the man who has seen affliction… [The Lord] has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light… he has turned his hand against me… He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship… He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer [i.e. he refuses to listen]… I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long… My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.  (Lam 3:1-18)

But then—in the middle of the chapter in the middle of the poem, in the middle of his anguish and his sense of abandonment—Jeremiah declares his faith in God, that even in the worst of times, even when the evidence is missing, God is faithful!

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lam 3:22-26)

  1. When you feel abandoned, God is at work. (Present tense: God is doing something fresh, something new. God is preparing something that will be seen in the future.)

Some things can’t be seen or understood until you get further down the road. Last week I got a Fathers Day card, with a message in it: “Thank you so much for…all of life’s lessons you have taught me. Cause I know in the long run, you are right.”

So I guess I’m not the worst Dad in the world.

Ken Anderson was telling me about his daughter, Melissa, and her Facebook message on Fathers Day: “One of the most upsetting moments of my life was almost losing my dad this year, prayers go out to those who have lost their dads and prayers for those who continue life’s journey with their dads. Happy Father’s Day! I love you dad!”

That’s kind of how Jeremiah, the prophet felt. Jeremiah realized how much loved his heavenly Father. In the midst of all the affliction and trouble and bitterness and hardship, he realized that God’s mercies (his compassions) are “new every morning.”

Jeremiah recognized that God was at work. He was doing something new!

If by faith you can look past the trouble, if by faith you can anticipate something better that is coming, you just might come to the same conclusion that Jeremiah did: It’s worth waiting for!

“Therefore,” he said, “I will wait for him.” Despite all the trouble, Jeremiah had hope in God’s faithfulness. So he could wait “quietly”—patiently, with eager anticipation.

You might be in a battle right now. You might be going through all sorts of hassles. Maybe you’re dealing with the sting of rejection. You can still be confident in the midst of the battle because God is at work in you.

When the Israelites were poised on the edge of the land that had been promised to them, after spending 40 years in the desert, now facing hardships and struggles and battles with enemies far stronger and experienced than they were, Moses told them:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut 31:6)

  1. God’s faithfulness means God will provide. His faithfulness means his promises—his resources and provisions—are available. Even when circumstances look bleak. Even when you’ve exhausted your resources, God is still faithful.

Near the center of England in the village of Stanton-Harold, is an inscription in a small, old chapel: “In the year 1653, when all things sacred were throughout the nation either demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley, Baronet founded this church, whose singular praise it is to have done the best things in the worst of times, and hoped them in the most calamitous.” [Marice A. Fetty, The Feasts of the Kingdom… p 73-74]

One of the old Hebrew titles for God was Jehovah Jireh—The Lord Provider.

Jeremiah said, “The Lord is my portion,” which is an interesting way to put it. The NLT says, “The Lord is my inheritance.” The word has various shades of meaning: territory, a piece of land, a share of the estate.

Because God is faithful, he’s not going to squander the inheritance. He’s not going to sell the family farm and leave you high and dry. In fact, God himself is your inheritance. He is your portion!

Your portion is enough! God has enough to take care of you! His faithfulness puts his resources in your hands. What you need, he will provide!

Heb 13:5 says we don’t need to worry about money because God is going to be there and take care of us. We can depend on the Lord more than we can depend on Social Security! Medicare, Obamacare.

Yes, we should work. Yes, we should be diligent…and save…and not waste. But in everything we do, above all else, we should trust in God, because he is faithful and will take care of us.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb 13:5)

  1. “Faithful” is who God is! God’s faithfulness is more than a description. Faithfulness is his very nature!

People are unfaithful. People will let you down. Human nature is fickle. But God is faithful and true by his very nature. He cannot be unfaithful!

Recently I was studying things that God cannot do or be. (We say there is nothing God cannot do, but that’s not entirely true. Some things God cannot do because if he did, he would not be God.)

  • God cannot be mocked. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Gal 6:7)
  • God cannot change. I the Lord do not change… (Mal 3:6) Also Ps 55:19; Jas 1:17
  • God cannot be tempted. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone (Jas 1:13)
  • God cannot deny himself. If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (2 Tim 2:13, NASB) (that is, he cannot be unfaithful—he cannot be untrue to his own nature): …he can’t be anything else than what he is. (CEB)

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. (Rev 19:11)

  1. Because he is faithful, we should be faithful.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. (Heb 10:23)

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Pet 1:3-4)

God Is Faithful