God’s perspective on our past redeems us. His perspective on our present gives us hope and encouragement. And His perspective on our future gives us peace because we know He is in control.
Our guest speaker for this message is Margie Auman. She has attended Mosaic since 2010. She’s a clinical pharmacist and wellness consultant. She leads the Wednesday night Woman’s Bible Study at the Hallstrom Center and also serves on the leadership team. She is passionate about teaching the Word of God and applying it to the whole person to glorify God in every endeavor.
Mosaic Rockford – Margie Auman – May 21st, 2017
One Sunday a number of months ago, Tim my husband was sitting next to me during the church service. It was the end of the service & Dave was saying a prayer to close the service. I had gotten almost NO sleep the night before. Honestly I don’t remember what kept me from getting sleep but what I do know is that I had been struggling to stay awake throughout the entire service. I was dead tired. So I admit it, I dozed off during Dave’s ending prayer. At one point, I jumped as I awoke & ended up hitting Tim in the arm. He gave me an annoyed look. Needless to say I was pretty embarrassed. Let’s fast forward about 30 minutes. The service has been done, almost all the people are gone, and now Tim & I are walking out to the car. This is when we usually talk about what we want to do for lunch. So, I casually ask him, what did Morgan , our daughter, want for lunch? Tim looks at me, completely offended, and says, “How would I know? You hit my arm when I was texting her to ask her so I never sent the text .“ At this point I burst out laughing because I knew I hit his arm because I had fallen asleep. I wasn’t even aware that he had been texting. Now I don’t know which is worse, falling asleep during Dave’s prayer or texting during Dave’s prayer but that’s another sermon.
The point is from every angle that Tim could look at the situation, there was no other perspective to have except that I was annoyed that he couldn’t at least wait until the end of the service to send a text. However, there really was another perspective to have. This alternative perspective was actually the correct one even though initially it was hidden from Tim’s eyes.
After that happened, I thought about how often we all misjudge situations. We get angry because someone wasn’t friendly to us, not realizing they were just lost in their own thoughts, wondering how they were going to pay their bills because they just got let go. Or maybe I got offended at the dirty look that man just gave me, not realizing that he’s just received the worst diagnosis of his life & really he didn’t even see me.
Maybe I judged that girl who we all know sleeps around but have I ever bothered to consider what kind of abuse she’s suffered that may have led her to that lifestyle. And I could go on & on.
Today I want us to take a look at how we often see our lives – our past, present & future from what we think is clear vision until we put our “Jesus glasses” on & see that our vision was blurred the entire time. Sometimes our misperceptions lead us to get confused, disillusioned, or even angry with God. When we have God’s perspective, it changes the direction of our lives, the impact our lives can have, and the way we handle every situation we face. So we are going to look at how God’s perspective impacts our past present & future.
When you leave here today I want you to know that there is always another perspective, no matter how clearly you think you’re seeing things and it is God’s perspective. He will reveal it to you in His perfect timing. But ultimately it’s your choice to trust Him.
God’s perspective on our past redeems us.
Let’s start by taking a look at how God can impact our past. I want to take a brief look at 2 different people in the Bible & see what we can learn from them.
LUKE 8: 26-39.
26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes,[a] which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places. 30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. 32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission.33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. 34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left. 38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.
Because we are going to look at 2 different stories I’m not going to go into great detail on everything we can learn from each story. But I want you notice in this story that this man was clearly an outcast. He was naked. He did not live in a house but in the tombs which is an isolated burial grounds that would be avoided by most people. This text tells us this had been going on for a long time. So imagine his shame, his torment. He’s got no friends, no family, and no home. I’m pretty sure no one cared to be around him. He’s one of those people that most Americans would simply look the other way & pretend he doesn’t exist. But his pain is real because these demons torment him and have been tormenting him for apparently years.
The man refers to Jesus as Son of the Most High God. This is what Gentiles often called God so it indicates that the man was probably not a Jew. Jesus asks what his name is but the demons answer Legion showing that they are in control of the man. And then Jesus frees the man from these demons. Can you imagine his joy, shock, relief! Now, it’s not too surprising that because He was so overwhelmed with gratitude for what Jesus had done, in verse 38 he begged to travel with Jesus and stay by His side. Who wouldn’t want to be with the person who just saved you? But I love Jesus’ response in verse 39, “Return home & tell how much God has done for you.” And that is exactly what this man did. He went all over telling people what Jesus had done for him.
His past mattered only because it revealed the power of God in his life. He was no longer bound by the demons or his past life of isolation. What had once been a burden to bear became a powerful story of holy transformation. This man’s past, and the healing he experienced, became the foundation of a purpose in life that he would have never imagined — living his life as proof of the life-changing power of Jesus and all because he now had Gods perspective.
JOHN 4:7-28, 39-42
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a]) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” 11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” 13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” 16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” 17 “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband.18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.” 19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” 27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” 28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. 42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
We have probably all heard sermons on this story before but I only want to focus on a couple nuggets of truth.
- God healing you or saving you etc. doesn’t mean that you have to all of a sudden become a preacher. Maybe you feel that people wouldn’t listen to what you have to say anyway. But look at this Samaritan woman. She doesn’t go and preach to anyone. She simply invites them to COME & SEE. It’s not your responsibility to save people. God just wants you to invite them. He’ll do the rest. As matter of fact, in this story that’s exactly what he did. In verse 39 it says, Many of the Samaritans from that townbelieved in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” Then it goes on to say in verse 42, They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” How easy is that? All you need to do is invite people. God will do the rest.
- This story shows us that God can call anyone to share his glory with others. I’m sure the disciples and many others had no idea why Jesus would be talking to this woman. She had so many strikes against her. She’s female. She’s a Samaritan & Jews hated Samaritans. She had 5 husbands & was currently living with her boyfriend. Now maybe that’s not a huge shocker in our current society but it was back then. Maybe you feel your past disqualifies you. After all you must have some strikes against you that have seemingly disqualified you?
Are you an addict or a recovering addict? Maybe you’ve had an affair. Maybe you slept around or still do sleep around. Maybe you’re addicted to porn. Maybe you use food or shopping to cope with your emotions. Maybe you’ve been sexually, verbally or physically abused. Maybe you’ve been in prison. I don’t know. But here’s what I do know. People can deny Christ, dispute Scripture and ignore prophecy, but they cannot deny, dispute or ignore God’s transformational power in someone’s life. Our stories of pain, adversity and overcoming in Christ are meant to serve as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and power, evidence that God really can take what the devil meant for evil and use it for good as it says in Genesis 50:20.
In my own life, most of you know that I went through an 8 year period of severe clinical depression for no apparent reason. I was terrified for many reasons that people would find out. To this day, people don’t understand depression & other mental disorders and are therefore ostracized, avoided, and basically rejected. I believed no one would desire to be around someone who was such a downer. I also believed people would question my faith since Jesus is supposed to make us joyful.
The turning point in this depression came after I read a devotion about the feeding of the 5000. You know the story where Jesus took a just few fish & loaves of bread and used it to miraculously feed 5000 people. The devotion was written by a missionary woman named Ruth Stull. She wrote a statement that forever impacted me. She wrote, “If my life is broken when given to Jesus, it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only a little lad.” It was at that point that I surrendered my years of suffering to God & said “If I have to go through this, fine. But please don’t let it be for nothing.”
God brought me to a place of wanting to make an impact more than wanting to be free. He showed me that my past could be used to minister to others who still to this day try to hide their feelings of desperate sadness. I’ve learned it is always God’s desire for us to go and share our stories, whether we want to or not. God never wastes our pain. Only we do that. God has a plan for great purpose and a beautiful future for all who believe in Him. Not despite our past, but because of it.
Our story becomes a testimony when we are willing to share it with others. How many people believed in Jesus and are now spending eternity with Him simply because a former demon-possessed man, a woman who had quite the promiscuous reputation and another woman who struggled with depression willingly allowed their past to become a story of redemption and purpose? So now when I think of the Bible stories we just read or of my own interactions with others who are struggling I am reminded that God’s perspective on our past redeems us.
God’s perspective on our present gives us hope and encouragement.
Ok, enough about the past, let’s take a look at God’s perspective on our present circumstances. Let me share a story with you about one of the sweetest people you could ever meet. Her name is Lisa Harbecke. I met her in college at Intervarsity which is a Christian group on college campuses. I’d never met anybody quite like Lisa. She was the most optimistic, calm person I have ever met. She seemingly never let anything bother her. She simply made a choice to trust God in every situation. Here are a few examples:
When Lisa’s car had been stolen for the 3rd time, (Yes I said 3rd!!!!) Her response was “Well I guess in even in this Jesus knows what he’s doing.” How could she respond that way? I would’ve been so angry, frustrated & honestly a little annoyed with God even though I know it’s not his fault.
Another time she was supposed to pick up an International student at the airport. She picked a student up and invited him to church and he accepted. However, it was the wrong student. So she went back to the airport, picked up the correct student & invited him to church too. You guessed it, they both got saved. But I know Me & I would’ve felt like a big idiot & would’ve beaten myself up for making such a dumb mistake that I would’ve missed the bigger plan that God had. I believe he intentionally allowed her to pick up the wrong student because it ended up having an eternal impact on 2 people’s lives. And probably more since these were international students who could bring the Gospel back to their home countries.
You see, we may find ourselves in circumstances that are confusing, frustrating, painful, and just downright horrible but what I want you to realize is that if we allow God to show us his perspective, we will see that there is so much more going on behind the scenes than what our mere human eyes can see.
Let’s take a look at a passage in chapter 6 of 2 Kings. First let me give you a little background info. The King of Aram was at war with Israel. Every time he’d set up camp in a secret place, God would warn the king of Israel through the prophet Elisha. This made the king of Aram mad and so he sends his troops to kill Elisha. Now let’s pick up the story from that point.
2 KINGS 6: 15-17
15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. 16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
The servant from a human perspective has every reason to be afraid. They are completely surrounded by people who want them dead. This had to be a terrifying, overwhelming & confusing time; terrifying, because they are faced with death and probably a painful one. Overwhelming because the servant saw no way out and they were certainly outnumbered in the visible realm; confusing, because why would God allow this to happen to his prophet & all those with the prophet. However, this is the very reason we must go into every day prepared for whatever we may face.
God’s people need two things if they are going to use God’s resources against the enemy and experience God’s deliverance. They need God’s perspective or eyes to see the mighty power and provision of God, but they must also believe God and put on their God-given armor that they might take a stand against Satan and his forces.
In this story we see examples of both a prepared person & an unprepared one. Elisha’s attendant went out seemingly oblivious to both the fact of the enemy and of God’s provision. Like a lot of Christians, the new day simply meant business as usual. He was going to take care of his chores and had no concern for the spiritual battle around him, which meant he was also completely unprepared for what he faced.
As Christians, we can be the same way. Too often we don’t take our spiritual warfare seriously. We act as though Satan and his kingdom were asleep or posed no problem to us. We go out unprepared spiritually. Consequently, when faced with some form of spiritual warfare, like Elisha’s attendant was, our response is fear, not knowing what to do. The attendant was wise enough though to seek the advice of the prophet Elisha. That is why it’s so important for us to surround ourselves with Godly people who will point us to Christ instead of away from him. In contrast to the servant, Elisha reveals that he is prepared to face the battle. He is not afraid because his eyes are open to the fact that God is mightier than any force and his god given armor is on.
What we also learn from Elisha is how we can help those struggling with fear or confusion. In verses 16-17 we learn three ways Elisha dealt with his servant’s fear:
First, he demonstrated personal concern through a word of encouragement, “Do not fear,” Second, he gave biblical instruction and reminded the servant why he shouldn’t fear, “for those who are with us are more than those who are with them,” and third, he prayed for the servant’s eyes to be opened to God’s perspective, “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’”
These lessons are so practical and powerful even for us today. We all have friends who are struggling to understand the circumstances of their lives. But we too can show personal concern, provide biblical reminders and instruction, and pray that God would open their eyes to the greater purpose behind what’s going on that they may not be able to see.
There are New Testament examples of this too.
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
I love this interaction between Jesus and Thomas. Thomas did not see Jesus the previous times he appeared to the disciples following his resurrection. So he refused to believe them. We all know people like this. They want proof. In general I think Thomas gets a bad rap for his doubting because if we are honest we all have areas where we struggle to believe as God calls us to. But Jesus doesn’t shame Thomas. He meets Thomas in his exact place of need. He gives Thomas what he needs so his spiritual eyes were opened to God’s perspective. This is what allowed Thomas the ability to exclaim “My Lord and my God!” Jesus, encouraged Thomas by allowing him the proof he needed & he opened his eyes to see the bigger picture.
Just like Elisha’s servant & Thomas our great need is to have our eyes opened which is why Paul wrote in Eph 1:18-19 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
Without God’s perspective I truly don’t know how anyone can have hope in this life. I have mentioned to some of you how the past 2 years have been quite challenging for me. I will not share all the details in order to protect some people. But I have faced numerous challenges from the death of loved ones, to evil that caused extreme pain & hurt, to being slandered at work, to health problems etc which have all caused me to question my ability to hear God’s guidance accurately, question my relationship with him, and doubt and question his love and what he’s doing. This really took me off guard since I’ve had a pretty strong relationship with Him for more than 30 years and I never dreamed that I would be questioning Him in this way at this point in my walk with him. I thought I looked at each of these various situations from ever possible perspective. But the truth is there is always another perspective – God’s perspective. But through these hard, frustrating, deeply hurtful situations here’s what God showed me.
God does not shame us in our honest doubts, fears, questions & confusion. He sees me, is not unaware of my need and gave me what I needed at just the right time for each scenario. There is always more going on than what my human eyes can see. I am thankful for the many Christians that God used to point me to Him & help see his perspective. Are you investing in friendships with wise Christians who will help you see God’s perspective?
Out of the ashes God brought beauty from some of these horrible situations. This has given me hope that He truly can redeem anything. And He sometimes does it in the most unexpected ways.
I learned that when I doubt things like whether I hear his guidance accurately, I must remind myself of the truth in his Word.
Truths like the fact that sheep know their master’s voice & will not follow any other voice. His truth will always overcome any lies the enemy will tell us. But are you in His Word so you can know His truth in order to battle against the lies?
The last thing I learned is that sometimes we simply need to make a choice to trust Him. I’m not saying this is easy because I know it isn’t. But I know it’s possible because I’ve seen it in my friend Lisa who I told you about earlier. There’s a reason God had our paths cross and I see now it was so I would have a deeper understanding of what it means to trust Him without fail in all situations. He has not shown me the entire picture yet for one of the situations I’m facing. However, He’s made it clear to me that I am not to question Him. I am to make a choice, no matter how hard, to simply trust him just like Lisa.
We will all face trials in our lives. Some of them will knock you on your butt and really shake you. However, you can face anything in life because having God’s perspective about your circumstances will give you hope and encouragement.
God’s perspective on our future gives us peace because we know He is in control.
We’ve looked at God’s perspective about our past & present. Now let’s take a look at His perspective about our future.
I used to worry about the future – especially with how crazy things are in this world. I was concerned about war, corrupt government, jobs or lack of jobs, the safety of my family, the health of my family, etc I think you get the picture and may even have some of the same concerns about the future. However, I don’t really worry about the future anymore because the more I learn about God, the more I know He is in control. Here are some of the truths that have been most helpful to me.
God’s word is accurate. There are many who try to discredit the Bible but it is the most historically proven ancient document. Bible.org has this to say about the New Testament, “The quantity of New Testament manuscripts is unparalleled in ancient literature. There are over 5,000 Greek manuscripts, about 8,000 Latin manuscripts, and another 1,000 manuscripts in other languages (Syriac, Coptic, etc.). In addition to this extraordinary number, there are tens of thousands of citations of New Testament passages by the early church fathers. In contrast, the typical number of existing manuscript copies for any of the works of the Greek and Latin authors, such as Plato, Aristotle, Caesar, or Tacitus, ranges from one to 20”
Furthermore, many Biblical prophecies are now history; as a matter of fact, of the 2500 or so prophecies in the Bible about 2000 have been fulfilled without error. There are so many more points I could make about the accuracy and reliability of the Bible, however there are other points to consider when looking for God’s perspective about the future.
We must remember His past faithfulness.
“4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”
We are to do all this so we will remember all he’s done for us. If we don’t tell our children of his faithfulness, how will they learn? I don’t typically worry about money and paying the bills because when Tim & I were first married and had no money God provided for us in miraculous ways. Because of that, I frequently tell myself & my kids, God has always provided in the past, I have no reason to believe he won’t always provide for me.
But not only are we to remember his past faithfulness but we are to remember his promises.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
Although there were times over the last 2 years that I had to tell myself to breathe, the fact of the matter is He never allowed any of the trials I faced to overcome me. Instead He’s overcome them.
But maybe the most important point to remember is that Jesus wins and He’s in control of the end.
“7 When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth—Gog and Magog—and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. 9 They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
And because He wins this is what we gain:
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
God’s perspective about our future gives us peace because we know God is in control. We know He’s in control because we can trust His word, because we can trust His past faithfulness and because we can trust His promises. Studying His word has prepared me to face the future without fear. What is God asking you to do so He can prepare you to face the future without fear? To live is Christ & to die is gain so really you have nothing to lose.
We have seen how important God’s perspective is in our lives. Without it our past, present & future are all negatively impacted. But when we see through Jesus’ eyes we know that our past is redeemed, we have hope & encouragement for our present circumstances and we can face the future with peace. God is willing to meet you wherever you are. But are you willing to trust Him?