Sermon November 7, 2010: Doing God's will and (still) suffering

Posted in Sermons
[Roberto Miranda]
  • Presenter: Roberto Miranda
  • Date: November 7, 2010
  • Location: Congregación León de Judá, Boston MA

I have something to say in all of this, with so much conviction in my heart, I believe that the things that God has in store for this church, we have not begun to see the fulfillment of those promises. I believe we are on the edge of a tremendous explosion, numerically but more than anything in terms of spiritual significance. And I believe that God has spoken to me prophetically about a visitation of the Lord, not just for this congregation but a general move of the Kingdom of God throughout the earth that we are one small part of.

And God has something for us to do in this, he has a purpose for these people, that’s why our commitment needs to be up to the level of our calling and vision that God has. I just want to say that in my time of recovery in home from the illness, and as I had to step back and let things go on without me for a few weeks, it’s given me tremendous gratification to se the work continue so strongly, so well even in some ways even better than when I’m in actually in the church.

And I don’t say this in false modesty, I really do believe that it’s time for us as a church maturing and becoming a congregation that feels more mature and able to step up to our own callings and responsibilities. And I see role as a senior pastor as keeping the space open so that the people of God can step up and do the ministry that God has given them to do through this church.

God is going to raise up hundreds and hundreds of you to greater levels of ministry as preachers, as evangelists, as pastors, as counselors and teachers, and servants. Prepare yourselves the harvest is great. God is looking for men and women who are radically committed to the Kingdom of God. I’m already preaching, here we go. Men and women who have died to this world, and live exclusively for the Kingdom of God to come in this land.

Youth who are preparing themselves to be great men and women of God to be used by the Lord. People who have turned their back even their own personal fulfillment and goals and say, I will live exclusively for the Kingdom of God to come through my life.

I want my mind, my heart, my energy, my profession, my resources, all to be the fuel for the fire of God’s Kingdom coming on this earth. God is calling us, you, me, us as a congregation, to be sanctified. God is calling us to a new level of consecration that everything we have belongs to him. That we be purified within an exterior so that we can be useful instruments in the hands of God.

God’s been speaking to me over the years from the book of Zachariah, chapter 3, about the vision of Joshua, which by the way, I was going to preach on in English. I know that it’s important that we remain here, brothers and sisters, this morning as one body because we’ll just let the spirit lead us in various ways.

In the Book of Zachariah, chapter 3 in verse 7 it says:

“…This is what the Lord almighty says, if you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts and I will give you a place among these standing here…”

And there’s another verse in Zachariah that talks about, if you will separate out that which is holy from that which is vile, then you will be mouthpiece and I’ll give you authority over my church, my people.

I believe, we’re being called to a greater level of commitment, of consecration, of saying, God, everything I have belongs to you because I want to be used by you in this season. And even though, of course, I’m speaking in plural, but I’m going to ask you to put your particular name into that place, if you would feel that personal particular calling to give everything you have, and everything you are to the purposes of the Kingdom of God.

So, coming back to the building of the temple that we’re talking about, because all of this is related to that particular project that God has called us to do. I believe that that building has a very particular and specific purpose in God fulfilling his purpose in the Kingdom of God in the region. So this is the most immediate and specific task that God has assigned as a people, build me that building because I’m going to use it for my glory.

And we, as a very disciplined and willing army of God, we say, yes, Lord, we will build that sanctuary, we will do what’s necessary to make that happen. And I believe we will be blessed spiritually and materially as we’re faithful to this assignment that God has given us. So, I will speak to you individually, do not lose this privilege, this opportunity to be blessed and honored by doing your part in this holy calling that God has given us as a church.

Thank you so much and we turn to the book of Acts, chapter 6. Ironically, I was looking to preach on this particular text about a month ago before life got a little busy. But I believe that God had this particular text reserved for this particular moment for me to share. And actually a whole section that goes from Acts chapter 6 through Acts chapter 8, because starting with verse 8 of chapter 6, we have here the martyring of Stephen, the first martyr of the church. And we have in chapter 7 of the book of Acts, we have the defense of Stephen, his extended discourse that he’s giving to the council that has found him guilty of breaking Hebrew law, for preaching about Jesus Christ and so he gives and extended discourse on this chapter. And in this discourse he begins with the Old Testament and walks through the entire history of the Bible and the Old Testament up to the place where the Jews executed Jesus on the cross.

A very interesting detail of the beginning of chapter 8 of the book of Acts, as they’re stoning Stephen, they’re killing him, they’re throwing stones at him, it says that there was a particular young man who is not named, at that moment, at first, but then later we find out who it is, who is taking care of the tunics of those that were throwing the stones and consenting in the execution of Stephen. And then it does say that this was man named Saul, who we find out later becomes the Apostle Paul.

So, Saul was there taking care of their coats so that they could throw stones and execute Stephen more comfortably and more freely. Before my illness happens, my time in the hospital, I felt the Lord leading me to meditate on the thought that we often pass through trials and difficulties, we bear our cross, a type of crucifixion, because of our faithfulness to the Lord and his call in our lives.

So, I don’t think it’s any accident, it’s very appropriate that as I get back into the groove of my pastoral duties, that I start by looking at the martyring of Stephen. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t see myself as a martyr, but it’s just a fact that in our Christian life, in the process of our calling we will pass through times of suffering and trial and persecution and adversity. And we need to be prepared to go through those seasons of trial and persecution in a way that glorifies God.

And I believe that we, as a church, often fail, churches in general, in preparing the people of God to pass through times of suffering and difficulties in ways that glorify the Lord, sometimes we fall short at that. I think that especially churches that are in the Pentecostal movement, where we emphasize God’s power in miracles, and over coming and victory, we sometimes don’t talk about the fact that sometimes part of that, is being called to pass through suffering in a way that glorifies the Lord.

How many times have you maybe passed through a time of difficulty in your life, some sort of illness, or loss, or difficulty in your profession or work place, so many different trials that come our way? Maybe dry times, emotional dry times, depression deserts, all kinds of difficulties we can go through, and you’ve prayed to the Lord that this cup would pass from you. You fasted, you’ve confessed every sin you can possibly think of, even ones that maybe you thought of doing, you’ve confessed everything… You’ve tried to get everything clear with people who might be upset with you, repairing relationships, confessing, you’ve rebuked the enemy, you’ve declared God’s victory, you’ve done everything written in your good Pentecostal manual about how to overcome a trial, but there it is, the problem continues, the difficulty, the illness. How many have been there?

And sometimes it’s our temptation to start doubting of God’s faithfulness and goodness to us. But it’s just a fact that sometimes in our lives trials and difficulties are going to come that we don’t have easy explanations for, and those are the moments that we need to accept that God is sovereign, he’s in control, God doesn’t make mistakes, by definition God does not do evil, that everything he does in the lives of his children is good, is for their blessing ultimately. Even though it doesn’t make sense to us at the time, we don’t have the answer, the explanation, that God knows what he’s doing and he has a purpose to bring good for us.

And sometimes our sufferings and problems do not happen because we’re outside of the will of God, on the contrary, it’s because we’re following the Lord, sometimes that we go through certain problems and trials. We look at someone like Stephen who was serving the Lord, he was an evangelist, he was preaching the Gospel and he’s martyred and his suffering didn’t come because of anything evil he did, on the contrary, it’s because he was being faithful that they persecuted him.

Now, just recently, a little bit before this we see Peter and John being rescued from jail and saved from being martyred, and yet we see here in the case of a man who was full of the Holy Spirit, who’s full of integrity and for some reason God doesn’t choose to deliver him from a very painful death.
Why two different ways of God dealing with his servants? The ways of God are not our ways. Sometimes when those trials come to our lives, we need to say, God, even though I don’t understand I commit myself, I submit myself to your designs and purposes in my life.

But here in this text we do see some hints as to the why behind God allowing this to happen to Stephen. Here we see Stephen dragged before the ruling authorities and he doesn’t overview of the Bible tracing through the hardness of heart throughout the Bible of many of God’s people towards the prophets that God has sent.

And step by step he shows God’s faithfulness in the life of his servants in Abraham, in Joseph, in Moses, these men of God who suffered because of the hardness of heart of God’s people against his prophets.

In the case of Moses he tells the story about how even when Moses was up on the mountain getting the 10 commandments on the tablets, during that time the people of Israel were down below building idols and engaging in all kinds of pagan ritual revelry down there.

And then as he wraps this up in verse 51 he can’t resist the final challenge when he rebukes these people for what they’re doing. Acts 7, verse 51 says:
“… You stiff neck people with uncircumcised hearts and ears, you’re just like your fathers, you always resist the Holy Spirit. Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the righteous one, and now you have betrayed and murdered him. You, who have received the law that was put into effect through angels, but did not obey it…”

And these men when hear this challenge, instead of feeling contrite and broken in their heart, they’re just filled with demonic rage and they mash their teeth and shout, and that’s when they grab him and they bring him to the place of execution.
Reading this sermon that Stephen gave and this overview of the history of the jews, something that I noticed that I really felt convicted of is the importance of not being pockets with wholes in them, the teaching of the Lord just goes right out, like a sieve where the teaching of the teaching of the Lord just comes in and out, in one ear and out the other, but listening with reverence and an open teachable heart so that the teaching of the word of God so that it changes us and doesn’t just pass through us.
And Stephen said that in spite of getting so much revelation, prophet after prophet, giving you the word of God, you just entrenched yourself in your rebellion and become even harder as a result of it.

And it’s like today in churches, thank the Lord not here, but in maybe other churches, there are people who come and year after year, after year, they are hearing sermon after sermon, after sermon, but their heart just becomes harder and harder and harder and more sterile and lifeless, in spite of all the revelation that they are receiving.

God is saying, don’t be that kind of sieve where some things just come and go through your mind, retain the word of the Lord, put it into practice, be teachable, open your ears to hear what God is saying, interact with that living word of God, feel your particular personal call on your life. And ask God how you can embrace that word and put it into practice in your own life, because otherwise we can just hardened like the people that Stephen was talking to and actually become too hard to receive the word of God in our lives.

It’s like the calluses that can develop on your hands for much use, that you can touch things and you lose sensitivity, you don’t feel them any more.
There are people coming to church Sunday after Sunday who are so used to hearing the word of God that they don’t hear it really anymore. That is a side note here that we’re talking about.

But the point I really want to go to is the calling to martyrdom and suffering in the life of the believer. There are several lessons we can learn from the example of Stephen that we’ve been talking about.

And as we have said already, sometimes precisely because you are obeying the Lord you will suffer attacks and persecutions. And number 2, Second Timothy 3:12, it says:
“… In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”
Sometimes because we speak the truth, because we live in integrity there will be people who will want to come against us and persecute us. The enemy will try to destroy us and bring us to a point of renouncing and denying our faith in the Lord, will want to neutralize our testimony that should be a blessing to those around.

So, important to know, not always do we suffer because we’re in sin. Sometimes it’s exactly the opposite. Sometimes we really think that because we serve the Lord everything needs to go well for us. It’s just not always that way. And we need to be prepared for when the evil day comes, when persecution may come to our lives, illness, economic problems, losses of dear ones, family conflicts. Sometimes adversity will be the greatest sign that we are in the middle of God’s will for our lives, sometimes instead of the opposite.

And when those trials come a true believer counterattacks with the word and promises of God. The powerful Christian learns to use the weapons of the spirit, but many times in spite of that, the dryness or the trial difficulty goes longer than we expected to. And those are the cases where we need to stand firm on the word of God, exercise faith and stand firm until that evil day passes, and it will pass. Our greatest weapon of battle amidst is to stand firm and resist as we stand on the word of God.
Ephesians 6, verse 10 to 20, the word of God says:

“… finally be strong in the Lord and his mighty power, put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil schemes, for our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground and after you’ve done everything to stand…”
The Apostle Paul speaking to us to stand firm and to cover ourselves with the power of the word of God so as the evil day swirls by us, we’re standing when all is set and done. So those of you who’ve been there know that the hurricane is coming on soon, what do you do? You put up those thick 2 by 4 of plywood over the windows, you close the doors, you batten down the hatches, and then you just wait for the storm to exhaust itself. And then the storm has passed, and the sun is coming out, and the birds are singing, you open up those windows again, you clean up the mess and you just go on with your life in the Lord.

So what do you do? When the day of evil comes, the devils attacking, the hurricane is swirling, you get firm on your foundation, you pray more, you read the word of God more, you get more solid in the one you believe in and as that all swirls by, you know that you have resisted the evil one and he has fled from you.

And that solidity is really when all is said and done, what will make the difference, because the attacks will come, the problems will come, but we will stand firm on our foundation. As the word of God says, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

We preventatively arm ourselves with that attitude, that defying attitude almost that says, come what may I will honor and serve the living God. I’ll arm myself with the promises of God believing that God has good for me, and no matter what happens even when the evil day comes, I will continue to serve and honor the living God.

You know those immortal from the end of the book of Habakuk:

“… Though the fig tree does not bud and though there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop failed and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my savior, the sovereign Lord is my strength. He makes my feet like the feet of a dear, he enables me to go on the heights…”

It’s that attitude that the devil cannot overcome. Another principle that we observe in the martyrdom of Stephen is that when we suffer in Christ for the right reasons, there are often spiritual benefits and rewards that come that more than compensate for the physical or material suffering, or emotional that we went through.
In times of trial and difficulty, those are the times we come closer than ever to our God. We are more sensitive to the truths of the spirit. I’ll never forget as a small boy in the Dominican Republic a time of material need in my family, it came to a point when we didn’t have food for the table and my mother, who was a brand new believer at that time, my mother used to say that in those times when there was no food that she felt more free to pray and worship the Lord and read the word because she didn’t have to take so much time cooking. We viewed things a little differently, the kids.

Stephen saw the glory of God revealed to him. It says that as these men were getting ready to stone him the heavens were open before him. And Stephen saw the glory of God and Jesus seated at the right hand of God, he saw it.
Brothers and sisters, I’m ready to put up with a few stoning if I get to see that glorious vision that Stephen saw. Stephen was given that rare an exceptional of having revealed to him the history of God throughout the Bible and then seeing it before his eyes. It’s that we need to remember, the Lordship of God, of Christ when we go through situations that don’t make sense to us.

Like Job we learn to say, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord. In First Peter 4:12, it says:

“… Brothers, don’t be surprised by the trial that you’re experiencing as if something strange were happening to you, but rejoice that you participated in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glories revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed for the spirit of glory and of God rest upon you…”
Sometimes if we are going through times of physical suffering and discomfort or emotional pain, we can switch a channel, that tunes us in the spiritual reality of what God wants to reveal to us and prepare us to see his glory even greater than we do today.

In this time of recovery at home, when I’ve been trying to lay low and let my body heal, I’ve taking time to just tune into the Lord and say, God, what do you want to reveal to me? What do you want to do through this?
And I have no doubt, my brothers and sisters that God is digging deep into me so that there is greater space for his anointing… Even when body is being stoned my spirit is seeing the living God before me. I know that God has greater purposes in my life and in the life of this congregation.

In any crucifixion the devil is at work, but God is working in a way that is greater than his small purpose, fulfilling his purposes in our lives, preparing us for the greater things that he has for us.

And I can’t resist a third point here, so forgive me, that as Stephen was being stoned, as he was being killed, that young Pharisee who was helping, who was holding the coats, who was supporting this horrible thing that was happening. God had his purpose, as a result of this martyr, of this death, God was exploding a spiritual bomb that would impel the believers to go persecuted, but they would go throughout the area, the region, preaching the Gospel of Christ. And in the midst of that God was putting a seed in the heart of that young Pharisee who saw Stephen take his persecution, seeing the glory of God and forgiving those who were stoning him that Pharisee saw and it was a spiritual seed in his heart.

It wasn’t long after that that God knocked over Paul, Saul, on the ground and called him to become the great Apostle Paul. And Paul, years and years later, after he had already to countless thousands and started churches and become the great Apostle, he never forgot that moment and he said, I am not even worthy to be called an Apostle because of what I did, but by the grace of God I am what I am.

Saul’s conversion started here, as Stephen bled and let his spirituality, the beauty of what was inside him, was be manifested in that moment. Something of the beautiful anointing that was in Stephen rubbed off on that young Pharisee.

When you go through trials and difficulties, in a way that pleases God your sufferings will bless the lives of those around you. God will use your sufferings to bless others and turn you into a vessel for the purposes of God.

Your sufferings are never in vain, there’s always a purpose. God is always working in the lives of his children. Nothing that can happen to the life of a servant of the living God lacks meaning.

We live the Christian life knowing that nothing can separate me from the love of God, nor the death, nor life, can separate us from the love of Christ. That the Lord continue blessing you.

And talking about crucifixion we remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in this moment. Father, we bless these elements, we consecrate them to you, prepare our hearts, our spirits to discern the body of Christ and participate in this privilege as brothers and sisters in Christ, one body. We confess that we don’t deserve, we’re not worthy of this privilege but we participate with enthusiasm. Bless these people, pour out your grace upon them and raise up an exemplary church for the glory of your name.
Strengthen us today through these elements in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Sermon delivered by Roberto Miranda November 7, 2010 at Congregación León de Judá Oir | Ver (100K) | Ver (350K) | Ver (1200K)


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Comments

 
 

Thank you so much brother i have been blessed this morning 13th of November 2010 by the text Keep on focusing on Lord direction you never know who is being uplifted and blessed

 
 

I'm deeply felt by this sermon. It is ever so great to be able access the lectures wherever my work takes me to and still have the spiritual connection with this community. God is ever so faithful to and in my life with all of his presence all the time -- in the times when I may be drifting apart from Him, and times when danger lies alongside of my work. Thank you all Pastors and family for your kindness always allowing me sitting amongst you.
God Speed!!

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