Scriptures: Rom 8:28, 1 Peter 4:12, John 13:7, Gen 37 onward
Pastor Lorne welcomed the guest speaker, Anita Pearce from Margo, Sask. She travels all over the world speaking and he said it was a pleasure for her to be here today.
Anita brought an assortment of her CD’s and books which were set up in the foyer. She said she’s had a new book out since she was here last. She went on to say her upcoming schedule was taking her to Alberta, Belgium, and Switzerland for the next 3 months but she was thankful she could make it down to see us. She then delighted us by singing a couple songs: And I know, Yes, I know, The Best Friend We Can Ever Know, and then she invited us to join her singing What a Friend We have in Jesus and Oh, How I Love Jesus.
Please turn with me to the Rom 8:28. I don’t have anything new and earth-shattering for you this morning, but I do have something that I believe will encourage you and help you in whatever you may be experiencing. If you have the King James version, read together with me. ‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose ‘ Amen, that’s a wonderful scripture and I know some of you know that off by heart.
I want to bring you something that is very real to me personally. As some of you may know, I just lost one of my brothers 2 ½ wks ago. (This is posted on the prayer list) There’s lots of talk about life and God’s promises and these questions in life. And so, I have to speak from my heart, as some of these things are very precious to me at this moment, and I know they can be precious to you.
Now, you have a couple magnificent tapestries here, and I don’t know exactly how these tapestries are made, and I don’t know how some of the great wall hangings I’ve seen in Europe and other places are made. Nowadays, it’s all in factories, but there was a time, when it was like my mother used to make – needlework. My mother used to take a piece of cloth on which a design would’ve been ironed or printed, then she would put it in a small circular kind of a clamp, and she had a whole bunch of colored silk threads. Beautiful threads. And, she’d follow the pattern pulling these colors through, following the design on the cloth and in a little pattern book on how it was supposed to have been done. But while she worked, she always worked on the bad side. You know the one where you made the knots and the tangles and or the extra long stitches...how many of you know what I’m talking about? How many don’t have a clue? (laughter) So, it’s as though you could only see the good side when it was finished.
Now those huge tapestries and maybe even some of these, (Anita peeked behind the one hanging behind her) were as big as a wall, and it was framed and they worked on them for years. When it was finished, it was turned and then you’d see all the beauty of the finished product. But you didn’t get to see the good side until it was all done.
As a little girl, I can remember getting down as my mother sat working on this needlework. I’d be down on my knees and I would try to peek underneath to see the good side. And it was beautiful. No knots, no straggly threads. There was no long stitches crossing. Everything was perfect. It was the finished picture.
And Corrie Ten boon said that’s what life is like: ‘While on earth, we’re only seeing earth’s side of things. We only get to see things in the light of human reality. We don’t get to see the end. Therefore, we often have puzzles and questions about the knots and the tangles of life. Those ugly patches by which we pass through. It doesn’t make sense. Why? How come? Don’t you ask questions like that? About stuff that happens in life?
I just want to take this Scripture and apply it as God’s promise that this world’s not spinning out of control, and that God has a design, a method, a pattern and a plan for every detail of our lives. If that were not true, then this Scripture could not be true. If this Scripture is not true, then the Word of God is not true.
But, because God is who He is - with the pattern and design for even the difficult scars, knots and tangles of life - that means that out of the darkest tangles, He is able to bring something that will bring glory to Himself.
And ultimately, the greatest human purpose...even above the working God and knowing God...the greatest human purpose...I am convinced...is to bring glory to God. If He is glorified, then everything makes sense. And that means that God is able to make something beautiful out of the most difficult circumstances and tragedies by which we pass. No, they’re not beautiful or good in themselves any more than one puzzle piece has very much value or very much beauty, but when you put it all together, it makes a very beautiful picture.
I’ve worked on a few puzzles and there’s nothing so annoying as to get that picture finished except for one measly piece. (laughter) A beautiful picture right there and then there’s one piece missing. That one piece...when it is found, it makes all the difference and turns something ugly into something beautiful.
There is no place where God has offered total explanations for all of our questions. That’s not His purpose. Yes, he give us explanations now and then when we can take it. He gives us promises. And like a child, we must have trust in His promises.
Now, I don’t know what knots or tangles, or questions of confusion are the black scars in your life. But I know enough about myself to know that every one of you has some. If you haven’t, you’ll get some soon. Get ready. (laughter) It’s just a fact of life. If you’re going to weave a tapestry, you’re going to have knots. If you’re going to paint a picture...if you’re going to do anything...there’s going to be corners that need to be fixed. There’s going to be questions. There’s going to be puzzles in life. But, I don’t know, maybe you have family difficulties, maybe it’s rained on your crop. (laughter due to all the rain on our crops). Maybe you got your combine all ready to go and it started raining, again. Maybe it’s a difficult circumstance. Just as the weather turns nice, and just as you’re ready to put the combine into gear, it breaks down.
I don’t know what it’s like in your life. I don’t know your problems. Maybe it’s problems with your home, children, parents, school, your job or lack of a job, maybe its problems with the big truck. Maybe it’s problems with conflicts in the past – things that have happened a long time ago that you’ve never been able to resolve. Situations that come again and again like a black knot or an angry scar in your past and every time it comes up, you say, ‘How can anything good come out of this?’ What is the purpose of this? God, where were you? Why has this happened?
I would just like to remind you of a couple of little things. Turn to 1 Peter 4:12 ‘Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.’ It’s a beautiful Scripture – Don’t be surprised if there’s problems in life, but rejoice. Even the apostle Peter said don’t be surprised – there are going to be knots and tangles in life.
Then I’d like you to turn to John 13:7 – a magnificent Scripture. Jesus was washing the disciples’ feet in John 13 and He came to Peter. And Peter said, ‘You’re not gonna wash my feet.’ I don’t know why he said that. Did you ever wonder why he said that? Jesus was washing the others’ feet. Jesus had previously explained very clearly that He was going to be crucified, that he was going to be resurrected. And all these disciples sitting there didn’t hear a thing. Dead as a doorknob, didn’t understand a word He said, they didn’t hear a thing He said. And now, as He’s going to wash Peter’s feet, Peter says, you can’t wash my feet. Then Jesus says, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." Then Peter says, ‘Well then, I’ll just crawl right in the basin’. (laughter)In v7, Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
I wonder how many times I’m just like Peter. I want an explanation of how this happened, why is it happening, and how is it going to turn out. I really want to understand what’s going. And the Lord says, ‘Anita, there’s really no point in explaining it now...you’re so thick you wouldn’t get it anyway...just trust me and some day, you’ll catch it.’ Now, in that context, I just want to remind you that problems are going to happen in life.
When I was in high school a couple years ago (laughter) I remember in chemistry them telling us where diamonds come from. In Europe, there is coal but the movement of the earth with the heat and pressure rubbing against the coal creates pure elemental carbon and it begins to crystallize and it is this which becomes diamonds. Isn’t that fantastic? That’s why up north near our way, they’re finding huge places full of diamonds. You know, you could be sitting on a diamond mine down here. Under this beautiful prairie, they say it’s full of coal. A diamond is just a chunk of coal that made good under pressure. (laughter)....God’s in the business of making diamonds out of you.
I just want to take the story of Joseph. In Genesis, there are 11 chapters devoted to Joseph. This story is amazing. Let’s review the story starting in chap 37: He’s having these dreams and his brothers were filled with envy and jealousy and they made a plan to kill him then they planned to sell him. So they sold him to Egypt where he became a servant to Potiphar, was falsely accused by that wicked woman, was thrown into prison and forgotten.
Finally, Joseph was brought out to translate the dream of the king and as he stands before Pharoah, Pharoah is so impressed with the gift God has given Joseph, that he says to Joseph, ‘I want you to be the prime minister of Egypt’. So suddenly, from the dungeon to the throne, Joseph becomes the 2nd most powerful man in Egypt in that society.
So, here is Joseph, the years have gone by...20 yrs at least, full of questions. On the backside of the tapestry of Joseph’s life, all he sees are the knots and the tangles. It doesn’t even make sense: Why did I even have those dreams? What do the dreams mean? Why do my brothers hate me enough to kill me? They sold me. And then I tried to live a life with integrity and I’m falsely accused of rape. Then I’m thrown in a dungeon and they forget me. Then why have I become the 2nd most powerful man in the world. Why?
If Joseph could look at the tapestry of his life from the wrong side, there would be so many knots, scars, wonderings, and so much confusion, don’t you think?
But why? How come? Just like the little kids aged 2-4: But why? But why? And after you give them the very best explanation – but how come? (laughter) And I’m sure, that’s how it was for Joseph. If he’d argued, he could’ve become so disheartened simply because of all the knots, tangles and questions in his life. But he just kept on walking with the Lord.
Then one day in Gen 45, Joseph finally got all 11 of his brothers bowing on their knees in front of him and it’s exactly like his dream of 20 yrs ago. As they are bowing, he tells the Egyptians to go away and probably for the first in 20 yrs, he speaks Hebrew in v3: ‘Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph!’ It was an earth-shattering moment. Then Joseph goes on to ask, ‘“Is my father still living?" But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.’
They were terrified. This powerful prince is their little brother who they sold and took the money and bought goodies with it...this powerful person standing if front on them... and they know their very lives hang in his fingertips. Just one word from Joseph and they could all lose their heads or dangle from ropes for weeks. It was a terrifying moment.
And look what it says in v7 & 8: ‘But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.’ Just for a picture’s sake, could it be at that moment, that God has turned the tapestry and Joseph can see what God sees.
Do you get what I’m saying? It was not you guys, it was God. And in God’s big plan, he’s arranged this whole thing so I can be at this place at the right time in history at the right moment to save your lives.
God made a promise to Adam that He will send a Messiah...then God goes ahead 20 yrs and sends Joseph ahead to prepare the way, speaking the right language, the right culture at the right moment in history to prepare a way to save the promise He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob...a promise that affected the coming of Jesus Christ through the house of Judah, 1500 hrs later.
The promise is true. All things work together for the good – not only in that little moment in time that we see, but in the big scheme of things. Some of the knots in our life are downright ugly and painful but somehow, they can work together for good to them who love God.
Now, you can understand Joseph at this moment. I want to show you something now from the others side. I want to tell you the rest of the story (laughter)
Look in Gen 46 for Jacob’s story. Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son. Jacob has sent Joseph to check on his brothers. The brothers take Joseph, strip him and sell him. They take his coat of many colors, dip it in blood, bring it back to their father and say, ‘Well, it looks like an animal ate him’. Jacob is devastated. ‘Joseph, my son!’ And the years of questions begin. Why did I send him out to his brothers? I’m not sure of their story...I don’t trust them. Why did I let him out of my sight? All the introspection...
And the Bible says, Jacob refused to be comforted. He mourned and grieved for his son, Joseph. His hair turned gray and he cried buckets of tears every morning until sunset as he grieved for his son. Twenty years of mourning and grieving and praying. Then one day, the 11 brothers come trotting back from Egypt with these fancy wagons and say, ‘Guess what we found in Egypt? Joseph is alive in Egypt!’
Jacob can’t believe it! He just spent 20 yrs grieving the loss of his son and now they’re saying he’s alive in Egypt.
I don’t think the brothers went into any great detail explaining how Joseph ended up in Egypt. Jacob would not believe until he saw the wagons and then he said, "I'm convinced my son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die." V27 & 28. Then Jacob packed up the whole family and moved to Egypt because there would be 7 more years of famine.
And the first night of the trip God comes to Jacob with a dream/vision and says starting in Gen 46:3 ‘I am God, the God of your father," He said. "Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again...’ Oh, and by the way, you’ll get to see Joseph again, isn’t that neat. Now, my question is: Why didn’t God give that dream to Jacob 20 yrs previous ago? It would’ve saved 20 barrels of tears never mind the waste of Kleenex! (laughter) Why didn’t God explain it 20 yrs ago? Why? Why didn’t you tell me. I could’ve enjoyed 20 yrs of joys and blessings, sunsets and roses.
I believe this explains why Jesus said to Peter. ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." I think Jacob was enough like you and me that if he’d known his favorite son, Joseph, was alive and well in Egypt, he would’ve hopped onto the first camel, trotted right down there, got Joseph, and trotted them all back and got them all in a heaping mess.
But God couldn’t tell Jacob not one minute sooner. I think for the same reason Jesus couldn’t tell Peter. We’d like to get into Gods plan. We’d like to make the design of our own tapestry to our own will. But, God’s design is so far superior to ours. And we know we have God’s promise that all things work together for good.
How many of you have read the book, The Missing Piece by Lee Ezell? She became a Christian at 17 yrs at a gospel service and grew to love the Lord. One night walking home from work, she was attacked by a man and as a result, was going to have a baby. Huge questions: God, where were you? Why did you let this happen? With no means of support, she gave her baby up for adoption. When here baby was born, she held it for a while then gave it away. The years went by and she was married and had other children but she’d wake in the night, think of her missing child, and pray that her little girl would come to know Jesus. And the questions. Why? Ugly, dark nightmares and scars of her past. Then 20 yrs later she was reunited with her daughter – a mirror image of herself 20 yrs earlier. What do you say to each other? Finally Lee, the mother burst out, ‘Why did you try to find me?’ And her young 20 yr old daughter said, ‘Just a few yrs ago, somebody told me about a Friend who’d never leave me. I gave my life to Jesus and at that moment, something happened inside me. I just had to find my birth mother and tell her about Jesus.’
They gave testimony together that God can make something beautiful out of the ugliest tragedy of our life. And sometimes we get to see other tapestries - just little glimpses - while we’re still here. Sometimes we’re gonna have to wait til we see the other side of the picture. If you’ve every done any type of needlework, when you’ve made the finest stitches, the ugliest knots are made because of the finest stitches in the picture.
We don’t have explanations, but we have His promise. There is one condition to this promise: ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who are called according to his purpose.’ That’s the one condition – that we are loving God and following his path.
What about you this morning? Many of you follow Jesus, but what about the ones who’s faith have fallen by the way because of all the questions in your life? This morning, let’s make a commitment to hold His hand, even if we don’t have the explanations. Even if we don’t understand. Even though the knots and the tangles are so long, some day we’ll understand.
Can we make that engagement with Jesus today?