If you consider yourself to be a Christian, I want to think with you this morning. I want to think with you about one of the most horrible experiences that can occur in a believer's life. I am talking about a spiritually devout person.

This believer in God is absolutely certain that he or she is right. He or she "knows that I am right!" He or she is so certain about being right that he or she vigorously opposes other believers who are "wrong." He or she is totally convinced, totally certain, and totally confident. He or she has no doubts about his or her convictions. "I know what is right! I know what is best! I know what must happen!"

Then, in an unavoidable moment and undeniable way, this person discovers unquestionably that he or she is wrong. Devastation! Crisis! This person always took pride in declaring, "I am a person of integrity." This believer who is a person of integrity has discovered that his or her whole spiritual focus is wrong. Now what will the person do? If this happened to you, how would you handle it? What would you do? I hope that the first thing you would do is pray, long and earnestly, with an open heart.

  1. That very situation happened to a man whose name was Saul (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-30).
    1. Saul was totally convinced that he knew God; understood God; understood God's plan, God's purposes, God's objectives; and knew the truth.
      1. He was so certain that he arrested and voted for the execution of Jewish Christians.
      2. Why?
      3. Because he knew and was right, and they did not know and were wrong.
    2. As he made a trip to find and arrest Christians, he had a person-to-person encounter with the resurrected Jesus.
      1. When that meeting was over he was blind, helpless, and knew that he was wrong.
      2. He was devastated.
      3. Acts 9:9 says that he did not eat or drink for three days, and Acts 9:11 says that he was praying.
      4. Wonder what he prayed about? Wonder what requests he made?

  2. Again, I am specifically talking to those of us who are Christians.
    1. Silently, in your minds and hearts, I want you to answer some questions. I am not trying to trick you; I am trying to challenge your perspective.
      1. Do you believe in God?
      2. Do you believe that God is wise, and His wisdom is superior to our wisdom?
      3. Do you believe that God has the power to make things happen?
      4. Do you believe that God sent Jesus Christ for the specific purpose of making our salvation possible?
      5. Do you believe that God has eternal purposes and objectives right now?
      6. Do you believe that God loves you and wants to save you?
      7. Do you believe that living eternally with God is the most important thing that can happen in your existence?
      8. Do you believe that if you do not go to live with God, every achievement of your earthly life will be meaningless?
    2. Would you dare pray this prayer?
      1. "Father, coming home to live with you is the most important thing in all my existence. If that does not happen, my life will fail You and me.
      2. "You proved how earnestly You want me to live with You.
        1. "For millennia you endured human failure and human wickedness.
        2. "You even sent us Your son and let him die for our wickedness and failure.
        3. "You made promises to us that You will always keep: promises of grace, mercy, and forgiveness, and love.
        4. "If I fail to live with You, it will be my failure, not Yours.
      3. "This is my request: whatever needs to happen to make certain that I live in eternity with You, please let it happen.
      4. "Whatever experiences that I need in my life:
        1. "To teach me how to trust You and not myself.
        2. "To lead me to totally depend on You.
        3. "To open my eyes and my heart to Your values and Your priorities.
        4. "To guide me to live and behave as Your son or daughter.
        5. "Whatever those experiences are, let them happen."
    3. If you are certain that you are right, do you dare pray that prayer?
      1. If your weak faith is in yourself instead of God, do you dare pray that prayer?
      2. If you are struggling in your life, do you dare pray that prayer?
      3. If you are wrestling with evil in your life, do you dare pray that prayer?
      4. If you know that God does not occupy the place in your life that should be His, do you dare pray that prayer?
      5. If you just go through the religious motions of religious habits, do you dare pray that prayer?
    4. Do you dare pray that prayer for:
      1. Your husband?
      2. Your wife?
      3. Your children?
      4. Your parents?
      5. Anyone you deeply care about?

  3. Making an educated guess, I suspect that most of us are afraid of that prayer.
    1. "O God, please let me eternally live with You. Please let me live in heaven.
      1. "Save me, but don't let me experience changes. I am afraid of change.
      2. "Save me, but don't let me face sacrifices. I don't want to give up anything.
      3. "Save me, but don't let me suffer. I never want to hurt.
      4. "Save me, but don't let me experience any form of physical need. I want fun now and heaven later."
    2. Why do we feel this way?
      1. If we are talking about ourselves, perhaps we feel this way because:
        1. We think that we are on our own.
        2. We think that God is far away from us.
        3. We are afraid.
        4. We struggle to trust the promises.
      2. 1 Peter 5:6,7 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. We have no confidence in the power of humility.
        2. We are not convinced that the humility gives us access to God's might.
        3. We do not understand how God exalts through humility.
        4. We do not understand how humility destroys anxiety.
        5. Even though we praise God for the crucifixion, we hesitate to totally trust the truth that God takes care of us.
      3. Matthew 6:31-34 Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
        1. We worry about the same things that people who do not believe in God worry about.
        2. We have little confidence in the fact that God understands our needs.
        3. We hesitate to trust God's assurance that the direct way to receive His care is to devote ourselves to the kingdom's work and purposes.
        4. We place more confidence in the power of worry than the power of God.
    3. If we are talking about the people we love, we feel this way because we are afraid that God will answer our prayer.
      1. We don't want the people we love to suffer.
      2. We don't want them to experience hardships.
      3. We realize that if we ask God to work in their lives and experiences in any way necessary to bring them to a saving faith, God likely will use suffering and hardship.

  4. I would like for you to pay close attention to two prayers Paul offered for some of his Christian friends.
    1. Ephesians 3:14-19 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      1. May we be strengthened in our inner person.
      2. May our faith let Christ live in our hearts every minute of our lives.
      3. May we be rooted and grounded so deeply in love that we are unshakable.
      4. May we become fully aware of the complete work of God in Christ and the kingdom.
      5. May our lives, our hearts, and our minds be filled with God's fullness.
    2. Philippians 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (The New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation, 1996.)
      1. May our growing love be the foundation of our knowledge and our ability to make wise decisions.
      2. May we approve of things that are spiritually excellent.
      3. May this make us genuine and without blame when Christ returns.
      4. May our lives be filled with the fruits of righteousness.
      5. May our existence give praise and glory to God every day that we live.

[Prayer to place our trust in God.]

I have never known a Christian who spiritually survived any tragedy in life who was not blessed. They have no desire to relive the tragedy. But they are profoundly grateful for the blessings.

Any experience in life that leads us closer to God, that deepens our ability to trust God, that causes us to rely on God brings blessings so unique, so powerful that is hard to express them with words.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 13 June 1999

This sermon is also available in French.

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