"God's Got It In For Me"#84-30
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on March 26, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2017 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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This week on Action in Ministry Q&A MP3
Text: John 9:1-41
As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3 Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! These words of resurrection victory are the Lord's ultimate proof of His love and the blessed assurance which is ours because of the risen Redeemer. God grant such grace be given to us all. Amen.
Over the years I have noticed the number of people who say they don't believe in God has been growing. For example, this year, for the first time in many centuries, the percentage of people in England and Wales who claim to have no religion significantly outnumbers those who say they are Christians. That being said, I have also noticed this lack of belief does not touch on every aspect of life. For example, let the carpenter hit his thumb with a hammer and he is not likely to say, 'Goodness gracious that stings." Nor is the homeowner who has stubbed his toe on the coffee table likely to hop around exclaiming, "How foolish of me; how foolish of me." No, at such times even the unbeliever is likely to call on the Name of the Deity in Whom he doesn't believe and ask Him to consign the pain-causing object to the fires of a hell he doesn't accept.
Now people can say what they want about not believing in a god, but I have to say, I'm just a tad skeptical. Not so long ago I was at the Dallas airport waiting for a flight. Entertainment was provided by a television carrying non-stop news. The show was interrupted by a commercial for ChildFund International. You've seen the ads. They feature a fellow who, with a butter-smooth voice, describes a child in desperate need. The child in this commercial was scooping water out of a stagnant pool. The man then told us for a few pennies a day we could transform this young one's life.
A fellow, two seats down from mine, commented, "If God was doing His duty, we wouldn't have to watch commercials like that." The man's companion, surprised at the intensity of what he had just heard said, "I didn't think you believed in God." That question opened the critic's venomous floodgates. "How can anyone believe in a god?" he ranted. "God, if He really is there, could fix every problem with just a word. But He doesn't. So I don't believe in Him."
Normally I might not say much to such a fellow but that day I had some prep time. As we stood in line, I introduced myself and, among other things, said, "It occurs to me that it's not so much you don't believe in God, it's that you don't like the god you believe in. You think of him as being apathetic, cruel, and unpredictable. You also think God's got it in for some people." Before we ended I suggested he might want to take a second look at Jesus.
That story is shared because many folks, like this man, are sure "God is out to get the world and, more importantly, God is out to get them." Now I can comprehend why folks feel this way. It is hard for someone who is suffering to understand why God would allow tragedies of life to upset their apple carts. They reason, "I can't understand how Christians believe God is loving when He seems so pitiless and vindictive." Judging God, they mistakenly decide: actively or passively, intentionally or unintentionally, God is out to get them.
You should know this generation is not the first to feel this way. Scripture records others who would agree; others, including the Lord's own disciples, who wondered if the Lord wasn't out to get certain people. That was the topic of discussion the day they, and the Savior, came upon a man who had been blind since birth. Bluntly they asked, "Jesus, tell us, who sinned, this man or his parents." You see, the disciples believed God was punishing this fellow for some super-sin he or a parent had committed.
Now I can tell you, the Bible does speak of God sending a specific punishment upon a specific sin. When Adam and Eve ruined the perfection God had given them in Eden, their banishment was a direct punishment for their transgression. When, during the conquest of the Promised Land, the Children of Israel lost a battle to a little, no-account city, it was because of one man's sin. The death of David's son was a specific punishment for adultery and murder and the New Testament's Ananias and Sapphira were struck down because they lied to the Lord. To be sure, the Lord does send certain punishments upon certain sins; but you can be sure the people who were being punished knew why.
But such direct punishment is the exception and not the rule. The vast majority of bad things which come our way are not sent to point out a specific sin. No, troubles come because sinners who are living in a sinful world are going to have bad things happen to them. Why do bad things happen to good people? It's because those good people are sinners who live in a sinful world. Period.
To which doubters no doubt will say, "That is all fine and well, but does God have it in for certain people; certain people like me?" Jesus answered that question in His twofold reply to the disciples. First, Jesus categorically stated: "neither this (blind) man, nor his parents sinned." Now Jesus was not saying these folks were not sinners. Every day this man, along with his parents, committed a multitude of sins. Jesus was simply letting His disciples know that they could search as long as they wanted but they would never uncover a sin which demanded this man be born blind.
The second part of Jesus' answer was this: "The man was born blind so the works of God might be displayed in him." Having heard the second part of the Savior's reply I can almost hear your reaction: "Say what? Can you give me that again? Did Jesus really say 'this man has suffered all these years so the Lord could deliver a message?'" Then you'd add: "What point could possibly be so important? I wouldn't do that; you wouldn't do that, but you're saying God allowed a man to stay blind for years so he could be an example? I guess I was right: God does have it in for some people."
My friend, in answer to your challenges, all I can say is this: "From our human perspective, what I've shared may sound cruel; but from the Lord's point of view this man's blindness served a higher purpose, a better purpose, a godly purpose. And, if you read the 9th chapter of John, you will conclude, as I have, that before the end of the day, the ex-blind man would agree. He would tell you, "God knew what He was doing. The gift of vision is a blessing which has changed my life; but knowing the Redeemer changes my eternity."
If you remain unconvinced; if you still demand to know, what cause could be so important to justify such apparent cruelty, I could try to give you an answer, but I think a better reply might come from Frances van Alstyne. You don't know Frances, so a bit of an introduction is in order. Frances was born in 1820 at Putnam County, New York. When she was six weeks old, Frances came down with a cold, a cold which created an infection in her eyes. Tragically, the family doctor was away and another fellow, a man claiming to be a certified doctor, treated her. He prescribed hot mustard poultices be applied to her eyes. I am pleased to share that Frances' infection passed. What didn't pass was the blindness which was caused by the quack's prescription. Frances spent the next 94 years in darkness.
But that's not the end of her story. Before she was a year old, the blind girl's father died. Her mother found work as a maid and her grandmother did most of the work of raising her. Together grandmother and mother helped the little girl learn of the Savior and His Scripture. At the age of five, Frances was examined by the best eye doctor in the country. He told her the blindness was inoperable and it was permanent. That had to have been a devastating blow. Still, Frances did not conclude God was out to get her. I can say that because, at the age of eight, Frances wrote, "Oh, what a happy soul I am, although I cannot see! I am resolved that in this world contented I will be. How many blessings I enjoy that other people don't, to weep and sigh because I'm blind I cannot, and I won't." Frances saw how the Lord had shaped her life in a way which would never have happened if she had been sighted. Today, more than 100 years after she died, Frances' story tells us when you trust the Lord; He can turn a terrible tragedy into an opportunity.
Now you might think that the little poem I read you is the immature opinion of a little girl and that, as she grew older, that opinion changed and Frances felt differently. That, my friend, is not the case. When she was an adult, a man said to her, "I think it is a great pity that the Master did not give you sight when He showered so many other gifts upon you." To that Frances disagreed saying, "... when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior."
The man in Scripture and Frances van Alstyne agree, when you have faith, the Lord can turn your cross into something which can touch others and glorify Him. The day the blind man met Jesus He not only received the ability to see the colors of the rainbow, he also saw the face of His Redeemer. Not only was his blindness lifted, with eyes of faith he could see the Christ lift his sins from his soul. Did God have it in for this man? Not hardly, but He certainly did love him. Even as I am sure, in spite of the crosses you carry, He loves you too. If you will allow your eyes to be opened, you will believe God can use your cross for a higher purpose, a better purpose, a purpose that we, with our limited view into the future, may not understand until we reach heaven.
Years ago our youngest daughter was learning to ride her two-wheeler. She had envied her older brother and sister as they tooled all around the neighborhood on their "big bikes" and she wanted to do what they were doing; that called for her giving up her tricycle and learning how to ride "the big bike." The problem was she wanted to ride a two-wheeler, but she had seen the inevitable crashes which had taken place when her brother and sister had learned to ride. That is why, as she mounted her new bike for the first time, she gave her mother and me strict instructions: "Don't let go! You won't let go, will you?" Our reply was, "We will do the best we can." With that less-than-reassuring reassurance she started off. Back and forth we went, huffing, and puffing, and doing our best to keep up. Then the time came when we stopped running and let her pedal on her own.
Pedaling on her own was the plan. And she did it well... for about 20 feet. At 17 feet she looked back over her shoulder and saw we weren't there. She stopped pedaling and ran into a big bush. She emerged from the bush, uninjured, but sputtering, "You said you would help me; you said you'd be there. You said I wouldn't crash." She thought what we were doing was cruel; but, in reality we did what we did because we loved her. The same is true with God. He doesn't hate us; He isn't being cruel toward us. Most certainly He doesn't have it in for us. On the contrary, He wants what is best for you and that may mean trials and tribulations are headed our way. How do I know? I know because He has said so; I know because He has shown me and everyone else who takes a good, honest look at Him.
Please, take a look. Look at the Bethlehem manger and see God's Son. Jesus had been in heaven where He rightly received creation's praise. But, so you and I could be saved, the Father sent Him to earth to become one of us. Look at Jesus as He did His ministry. He healed the sick, touched the leper, and returned the outcast to their lonely families. Listen to Him as He taught, as He spoke as no other man has ever done. When Jesus was done, you could never see a wandering son, a lost sheep, or a mustard seed again without remembering how much the Lord loves and wishes to save us. Observe Jesus in Gethsemane and watch as all of our sins are laid upon Him. He had been strong enough to resist every temptation to sin and was powerful enough to keep the Commandments, but the weight of those sins, our sins, crushed Him to the ground. Look at Him. Stand at the foot of the cross and hear Him forgive those who had put Him there. Watch as friends place His lifeless body into a borrowed grave. Look at Him. Go with the women to the tomb and be greeted by God's angel who informs an unbelieving world Jesus has defeated death. Yes, look at what Jesus has done, the sacrifices He has made, and you will know it is impossible for such a loving Lord to turn His back on us and have it in for us.
Does God have it in for you? Those who already believe can be renewed in their trust and belief that all things work together for good to those who are loved by the Lord. What good can come from your cross and trouble? I don't know, but I am sure that God doesn't have it in for you any more than He did for Frances van Alstyne. You remember Frances, don't you? I didn't share; she became one of America's greatest hymn writers. Using her maiden name, Frances Crosby, she wrote thousands of hymns. One of those hymns reads: "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine O what a foretaste of glory divine Heir of salvation, purchased of God Born of His Spirit, washed in His Blood Perfect submission, perfect delight Visions of rapture now burst on my sight Angels descending, bring from above Echoes of mercy, whispers of love This is my story, this is my song Praising my Savior all the day long."
If such a faith is yours, I give thanks; but if you need to know more about this loving Lord and the blessed assurance of forgiveness and salvation He wishes you to have, I invite you, please call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
Action in Ministry for March 26th, 2017
Guest: Paulo Warth and Flavio Knopp Brazil Ministry Center
ANNOUNCER: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour and this is the segment of our program we call Action In Ministry. Today we want to, once again, spotlight the international work that Lutheran Hour Ministries has been doing for many years. We have ministry centers in more than 30 different countries where dedicated volunteers and staff are sharing the Gospel in many different ways.
SELTZ: Yeah, and joining us today are Flavio and Paulo from Brazil. They're from our ministry center there in Brazil. In fact, I was really privileged to come down and be with you all...how long ago was that now?
WARTH: Two years ago, I think.
SELTZ: Two years ago.
ANNOUNCER: Already, yeah.
SELTZ: What an incredible journey to go all over Brazil to speak the Gospel! These are two wonderful men here. It's great to have you guys here with us today and to bring your perspective of the work in Brazil.
WARTH: Our pleasure to be here.
SELTZ: The pleasure is all ours. Okay. You serve Lutheran Hour Ministries in Brazil; give us a little background on the country, the culture, the attitudes in the region. Just kind of jump in and share with us so that it can broaden the horizon of a lot of our listeners.
WARTH: The population of Brazil is 200 million. 200 million inhabitants; so that's a very big country. One thing, I believe, is really a blessing for us is that in all this big country we speak only one language.
SELTZ: And that is a blessing. People talk about the different languages together today and all the issues and that kind of thing; but if you have one language that encompasses your country, that is a unifying thing, right?
SELTZ: And of course it makes the Gospel easier to proclaim to the whole country.
WARTH: Sure. Sure.
ANNOUNCER: What about some of the different religions and the attitudes toward religion? What do you find?
WARTH: Brazilians, they are Catholics. They are Christians. But they don't know Jesus.
WARTH: We have to tell them about Jesus. That's our biggest challenge.
SELTZ: It's amazing. We have a little bit of that in America. Not as much yet, but some of that is growing; where people... "Yeah, it's kind of...Yeah, it's a Christian place but I don't know anything about Jesus." How can you be a Christian?
KNOPP: They just talk about faith. Faith is important...
WARTH: Also that materialism is growing in Brazil. Very much. As economy is becoming better, then the materialism is growing...unfortunately. When the people, they don't...they don't need anything else, they think they are self-supporting. They don't want to know about going to church or to be believers in something.
SELTZ: Jesus said, "It's hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven," because of probably that same fact. We have the same challenge here.
ANNOUNCER: That's right.
SELTZ: As well...
ANNOUNCER: And could you tell us what the ministry center is doing in Brazil?
WARTH: Until now we still use a lot of radio... a lot of radio. But radio is not, anymore, the most important media for us; is not anymore. We still produce a program named The Lutheran Hour, which is only 5 minutes of length, and we have Five Minutes with Jesus, a daily program. We have every day a new radio program on the air; every day a new radio program.
SELTZ: So, you're coming alongside of churches, too, with resources and things like that...
SELTZ: ...kind of an undergirding and helping them in their outreach, right?
WARTH: Sure. That's right. That's right. We... we... we in Brazil, the Lutheran Hour in Brazil is considered the main evangelistic arm of the church...
WARTH: ...so we can say that we are helping the church in Brazil to grow, for sure. Most of the... most of the congregations from the... out of the south of Brazil, they had their beginning with Lutheran Hour listeners.
SELTZ: You're doing five minutes, we do the half-hour program. We have all kinds of other programs too; but it's because there is nobody like this Jesus and when He confronts people, He actually brings them back to life actually; to faith, to life, and then you've got a chance to be the vessel that delivered the good news. That's what kind of makes you go wow!
KNOPP: Literally, wow!
WARTH: Please pray for us.
WARTH: Continue supporting us. We need our support and your prayers. I am really so thankful to God that He's given us this opportunity in Brazil.
SELTZ: But again, with all these things, thank you for your effort. Thank you for your work. There are many people coming to faith just because you've shared Christ with them. God bless you. Thanks for being here.
WARTH: Thank you.
KNOPP: Thank you.
SELTZ: That's our Action In Ministry segment today; to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
ANNOUNCER: For more information on our ministry center in Sao Paulo, go to lutheranhour.org and click on Action In Ministry. Or call 1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for March 26th, 2017
ANNOUNCER: And now, questions from our listeners with our Speaker Emeritus, Pastor Ken Klaus. I'm Mark Eischer.
KLAUS: Hello, Mark. So, let's jump in. What's our subject for today?
KLAUS: Excuse me?
ANNOUNCER: Fasting... to abstain from food.
KLAUS: You're not talking about fasting for the purpose of losing weight, are you?
ANNOUNCER: No. I'm talking about fasting as a religious or spiritual exercise-and how it relates to prayer.
KLAUS: Got it.
ANNOUNCER: This question comes to us from a listener whose mother is quite ill and is having a difficult time of it. He's praying for his mom's recovery. A friend told him if you really want your prayers to "work," and be effective, you also should fast. This friend says he fasts all the time and God always responds positively to his prayers.
KLAUS: There're a lot of ramifications to this question, and I don't know if we can cover them all in the time we have, but we'll give it our best. First, we ought to recognize that our Savior did speak about fasting. We read about it in Matthew, chapter 6. He spoke about the danger of fasting the way the Pharisees did.
ANNOUNCER: What did the Pharisees do?
KLAUS: They made fasting into a big production. You know, Mark, it takes a while before an individual's fasting will become noticeable to others. Normally fasting is not like you're starving yourself down to nothing. In most cases, a single day's fast is never going to be noticed or recognized by others. But for the Pharisees, that just simply wouldn't do. So they put a sour, dour look on their faces and dragged themselves around as if death were right around the corner. Jesus said, "Those fellows just want to be applauded by men--they're getting what they want."
ANNOUNCER: And Jesus said we were not to follow that example.
KLAUS: That's right. If you're fasting, don't let others know. Keep it between you and the Lord, and the Lord Who sees in secret will reward you. There are other times Jesus talked about fasting. He referred to fasting before tackling certain evil spirits. After His ascension, fasting is, as far as I know, mentioned twice in the New Testament: once when the church was picking missionaries and then after St. Paul had been struck down on the road to Damascus.
ANNOUNCER: So there is nothing wrong with fasting in and of itself?
KLAUS: Absolutely nothing wrong with fasting. Indeed, many Christians say fasting helps them concentrate on their prayer and worship. For those who are physically able, fasting can be an intensely gratifying experience.
ANNOUNCER: What do you mean by physically able?
KLAUS: Well there are certain conditions, like diabetes, that could make fasting problematic and possibly even dangerous. Folks with such problems would do well to avoid the practice.
ANNOUNCER: All-in-all, there is no problem here with it. So, our listener with the sick mother is free to follow his friend's advice?
KLAUS: That conclusion might be a bit premature.
KLAUS: As I said, the Lord has no problem with fasting as long as it is done for the right purpose, attitude, spirit of devotion. My concern here is not in regard to the fast-it's with something else. The friend said, "If you really want your prayer to work, you should fast." Now where in heaven's name is that found in Scripture? It's not there. Fasting may improve your level of spiritual intensity or concentration, but God doesn't need to be motivated in that way.
ANNOUNCER: God is always more eager to receive our prayers than we are to give them.
KLAUS: Exactly, and He certainly doesn't need to be bribed in order to respond to someone's prayer.
ANNOUNCER: Does that cover it?
KLAUS: No, not yet. The friend implies the Lord can be forced to respond favorably to a prayer offered by a fasting individual. Mark, it doesn't work that way. God remains in control. He responds or He doesn't respond as He sees fit.
ANNOUNCER: God graciously hears our prayers on account of Christ--and not because we fast or have done anything to merit a response.
KLAUS: That's it. In this, as in everything, the Lord remains in control. He acts in His grace and love for us, in Christ Jesus. Believers can be sure that the same heavenly Father Who sent His Son into the world to save us is not going to withhold His blessings. We can be confident that the Lord is going to hear our prayers; that He will do what is right and He will do what is best for His praying people.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"I Trust, O Christ, in You Alone" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"Hear Us, Father, When We Pray" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)