When Your Way Out Isn't What You Had Hoped For
When Your Way Out Isn't What You Had Hoped For
Series: Which Way Out
Every test that you’ve experienced is the kind that normally comes to people. But God keeps his promise, and he will not allow you to be tested beyond your power to remain firm; at the time you are put to the test, he will give you the strength to endure it, and so provide you with a way out. 1 Cor. 10:13 (GNT)
… I do not have time to tell about …33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength….. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Hebrews 11:32-35a (NIV)
… There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeer and flogging… even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated– 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Heb. 11:35b-39. 40
ANDREW PETERSON “I AM A FAMILY MAN”
I am a family man – I traded in my mustang for a minivan
This is not what I was headed for when I began
This was not my plan – I am a family man
But everything I had to lose – Came back a thousand times in you
And you fill me up with love – Fill me up with love –
And you help me stand – ’cause I am a family man
And life is good – That’s something I always knew – But I just never understood
If you’d asked me then you know I’d say I never would
Settle down in a neighborhood I never – thought I could
But I don’t remember anymore – Who I even was before
You filled me up with love – Filled me up with love – And you help me stand
I’m saving my vacation time – For Disneyland
This is not what I was headed for when I began his was not my plan
IT’S SO MUCH BETTER THAN
- The people described in Hebrews 11:35-40 are to the Old Testament what a guy named Stephen is to the New Testament; Followers of God who left a legacy of faithfulness and impact whose way out was not what they had expected or hoped for.
- A little history on Stephen
STEPHENS COUNSEL TO EXPERIENCE A BETTER THAN HOPED FOR WAY OUT
- I BUILD AND INTERNALIZE YOUR FAITH.
Stephen …was a man full of faith… Acts 6:8a (GW)
The person who is right with me will live by trusting in me. But I will not be pleased with the one who turns back in fear.” 39But we are not those who turn back and are lost. No, we are the people who have faith and are saved. Hebrews 10:38, 39 (ERV)
- The forming , building, and internalizing of your faith will involve 4 P’s
#1. Pages (Stephen the apologist Acts 7:2-50)
…all that is recorded here is so that you will fully believe that Jesus is the Anointed One, the Son of God, and that through your faith in him you will experience eternal life. John 20:31
- Stephen was full of faith in 6: 8 and that faith was displayed in acts 7:
- Build your faith now, while you are young, don’t wait for a bad situation!
#2. People (Heb 13:7, Romans 10:17 “Faith comes from hearing…”)
#4. Pain (Don’t discuss until the next point.)
LET GOD’S SPIRIT CONTROL AND COMFORT YOU.
Stephen …was a man full of … the Holy Spirit… Acts 6:8b (GW)
- While Stephen was able to do miracles by the power of the Holy Spriit, the greatest power that the Spirit imparted was the power to be like Christ.
- A look into the N.T. will reveal that the temporary gifts of the Spirit, while valuable, were not the greatest or most important measure of the Holy Spirit. Living a Christ-like life guided by the Spirit was.
Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died. Acts 7:57-60 (NLT)
- Sound familiar?
- In Acts 7 Stephen did not perform one single miracle but no where in his life was the presence or power of the Holy Spirit more obvious!
Don’t live under the control of your sinful nature. If you do, you will think about what your sinful nature wants. Live under the control of the Holy Spirit. If you do, you will think about what the Spirit wants. 6 The way a sinful person thinks leads to death. But the mind controlled by the Spirit brings life and peace. Romans 8:5, 6 (NIrV)
- DON’T EXPECT TO BE TREATED BETTER THAN JESUS.
Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia–who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.” 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. Acts 6:8-12
Just remember, when the unbelieving world hates you, they first hated me. If you were to give your allegiance to the world, they would love and welcome you as one of their own. But because you won’t align yourself with the values of this world, they will hate you…. 20 So remember what I taught you, that a servant isn’t superior to his master. And since they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. John 15:18-20a
- We forget that being like Jesus means being disliked. In John 15:18 Jesus said that the world hated him and that we should expect the same treatment. Because we forget this, we are in danger of supposing that cultural disapproval equates to God’s disapproval, when the very opposite may well be true.
- Two things often occur when we are surprised by harsh treatment: FIRST (as just mentioned), we begin to doubt and are easily discouraged thinking that we must be doing something wrong for God to have allowed such treatment. Second, we are prone to compromise, living our faith is such a way that is so personal and passive that we do not have to worry about persecution. We bow to the pressure, and we live… but the life giving, life changing truth of the Gospel dies along with all those who will never hear because of our silence
I’ve told you this so that my peace will be with you. In the world you’ll have trouble. But cheer up! I have overcome the world. John 16:33 (GW)
- Jesus does not provide a way to avoid hardship, persecution or difficult situations. He provides a way to overcome them!
My friends, do not be surprised at the painful things you are now suffering. These things are testing your faith. So do not think that something strange is happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12 (ICB)
- MAINTAIN YOUR FOCUS ON JESUS NO MATTER WHAT
Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked to heaven and saw God’s glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God. 56 “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!” Acts 7:55, 56 (GNB)
Stephen found comfort as he kept his focus of Jesus. He saw…
- His future home. “I see heaven opened…”
- Jesus’ approval. “I see …the Son of Man standing…”
FROM Paul: 90 Days on His Journey of Faith, I wanted to share it with you because it perfectly describes what Jesus may have felt as He watched Stephen and Saul that day:
Remember, Christ was up on His feet at the time (see vs 56). Can you imagine the alloy of emotions He must have experienced as He looked on the two key players in the Kingdom that day? One FOR Him (Stephen) ; one AGAINST Him (Saul of Tarsus). One covered in blood; the other covered in prayer shawls. One who could not save himself from men; the other who could not save himself from sin. One dead in body but alive in spirit; one alive in body but dead in spirit. One loved by God; the other loved by God. Grace, grace, God’s grace.
Just a day in the life of Stephen. A shooting star. He had one brief performance. One chance on stage. But it was absolutely unforgettable. As the curtain fell on his life, he received a standing ovation from the only One who really mattered. I have a feeling that seconds later the two of them hadn’t changed positions much. Christ was still on His feet. Stephen was still crumpled to his knees. How sweet to imagine the first heavenly words that day: “Welcome, Stephan’s, My joy and My crown.”
- Jesus’ authority. “I see… Jesus at the right side of God.”
[God] raised [Christ] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places… . He put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:20–23