Where is God When We Face Opposition?

Examining The Question, "Where Is God When We Are Facing Opposition?".

Dan Franklin
Feb 26, 2023    40m
In this message, we examine the question, "Where is God when we are facing opposition?". We learn that he isn't allowing this to happen just to hurt us, he is actually working things out for His divine purpose, and He is using His opponents as His tools to shape us to be more like Christ. Video recorded at Upland, California.

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Dan Franklin: [00:00:18] Amen. Good morning. Good morning. All right, I want to ask you a question this morning. Imagine that you are part of a basketball team, I want you to decide if you would rather be the kind of player who is double-teamed, or if you'd rather be the kind of player who is left unguarded. Now, just to pause real quick, some of you might be thinking, all right, this is a trick question, being unguarded, it sounds pretty good. If you're out on the basketball court and nobody is guarding you, easy to score, easy to roam about, not a lot of opposition to deal with, so that sounds pretty good to some of you. But if you know something about sports and you know something about basketball, you know there's only a certain kind of player that is left unguarded, and the player who is left unguarded is the player who poses no threat, who poses no danger, and who the other team is not really worried about doing anything to them. I say this as a player who is frequently left unguarded when I used to play basketball with my friends, so I know from experience. On the other hand, the players who do pose a threat, the players who are potentially going to do something to help their team are not only guarded but some of them are double-teamed. There's a lot more opposition, there's a lot more difficulty, and there's a lot more in your way. But in the end, I think most of us would look at it and say, well, I'd rather be, if I was on a basketball team, I'd rather be somebody who was actually a threat. I'd rather be somebody who's dealing with some opposition because I actually might do something of some significance.

Dan Franklin: [00:02:01] And, you know, it's been said by a lot of people that if you're facing opposition in your life, you're probably doing something right. Not always, sometimes we're masters at getting ourselves into jams just because we've made bad decisions. But still, in general, we could say, yeah, if you're facing opposition or if you're facing resistance in your life, that probably means that you're doing something right, that you're facing that opposition. If you're facing no opposition, no challenge in your life at all, that probably means that you're avoiding doing anything that truly matters.

Dan Franklin: [00:02:34] And, you know, Andy talked about it during the worship time earlier, but one of the things we were praying about coming into this morning is that there's some of you who are coming this morning and you just feel worn out and discouraged. Some of you'd come in this morning, and you feel like you have been and are being double-teamed. I'll take it a step further, some of you feel like you are being triple teamed because if you're familiar with scripture, you might know there is sort of a triple team that we face. We refer to it as the world, the flesh, and the devil. If you're looking to walk with Jesus, you're dealing with the opposition of the distractions of the world, you're dealing with the opposition of just your own flesh and your own temptations that you're carrying around with you, and you're dealing with opposition from our enemy, the devil, you are being triple teamed on that. Some of you come in and you're like, yeah, I'm facing opposition. I just feel discouraged. I feel right now like I'm never going to get where I'm supposed to be because of this opposition.

Dan Franklin: [00:03:37] And I have to pause here, and I have to just take in the fact that I'm taking a little bit of a risk in the way that I'm talking about this right now because I'm making a big assumption. And here's the big assumption, the assumption is what we're talking about right now is not that you are facing resistance to fulfilling all of your personal goals that you have made up for yourself, but that we're talking about resistance for us, fulfilling God's divine purpose for us. If right now you're listening to what I'm saying and you're like, yeah, yeah, I'm right now facing a boss, and my boss is making my job very difficult. I'm facing a lot of resistance to me getting the promotions that I want and just living a harmonious life. Or you're looking at it and saying, I'm facing a teacher right now and the teacher right now is giving me a lot of resistance to me getting the kind of grades that I want to get or even to having a happy time at school.

Dan Franklin: [00:04:33] If you're listening to some of those things, I'm not going to say that God is not in that. What I'm going to say is we're talking about the wrong thing there. We're talking about our quest to live a carefree life where we succeed in every way that we want to. What I'm talking about instead is the idea that God has a purpose for you. God is conforming you, if you're a believer in Jesus, God is conforming us to the image of his son, and we're looking to walk with him into that. And sometimes we just feel like I'm being triple-teamed, I'm never going to get there, I'm facing that much opposition. And so the question for us to ask this morning is where is God when we face this opposition? How is God involved when we are looking to follow him, when we're looking to grow in grace when we're looking to push past hurdles, but we're facing all kinds of oppositions. What happens when the powerful forces of this world and the powerful spiritual forces face off against God? That's what we get to see happen in the passage that you just heard Bobby read a few minutes ago.

Dan Franklin: [00:05:40] If you have a Bible, open up to Matthew chapter 2. If you're not already there Matthew chapter 2, verses 13 through 23, as we continue our series through the Gospel of Matthew. And we are going to get to see what happens when the powerful forces of this world face off against King Jesus. And just to kind of prepare you for this, we'll walk through this story, all 11 verses of this story. It sort of unfolds in three scenes that we'll walk through, and each of the scenes ends with some reference to a way that Jesus is fulfilling something from the Old Testament, so keep your eyes open for that.

Dan Franklin: [00:06:17] But let's jump in and read this passage together. So this passage starts in Matthew 2:13 with four words, "When they had gone." So let's back up and make sure we know what we're talking about here because they that's being talked about is the Magi. And if you were here last week, we encountered them in verses 1 through 12 of Matthew 2. These are foreign dignitaries that saw a star, and it indicated to them that there was a new King of the Jews who was going to be born. So they go to Jerusalem, and they go to the palace and they ask Herod, where is this new king going to be born? And Herod sends them off to Bethlehem and says, go find him and then let me know because I want to worship him, too. Well, that's not what he wanted at all, he just wanted them to identify this newborn king so that he could snuff out any threat to his throne. So the Magi go, they find Jesus, they give him gifts, they worship him, and then God warns them in a dream not to go back to Herod, and so they return to their country another way. And that brings us up to verse 13, "When they had gone." when the Magi had gone. "When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”.

Dan Franklin: [00:07:41] We move on to verses 14 and 15, it says, "So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15where he stayed until the death of Herod." And one of the things that you might notice just about these couple verses here, everything is sort of rushed and frantic as this story begins. The first words that the angel speaks to Joseph are "Get up." And do you notice if you're looking up in verse 14, how's verse 14 begin? "So he got up." He acts immediately, everything is frantic. Get up, Herod is going to look to kill Jesus. so he gets up and you can sort of imagine Joseph waking up from this dream and just frantically barking out orders, pack that up, get that, get the kid, get the camel ready, we're going right now to Egypt. And you can kind of imagine Mary groggily waking up and being like, what? Did you have a nightmare? What's going on? And then you can imagine Joseph saying back, hey, just as a reminder, the last time I had a dream like this, I didn't break off our engagement and I married you, so maybe follow my lead on this one and let's just go with it. They're rushing to get everything ready. They're leaving during the night, which is not when you typically traveled. It is dangerous to travel during the night because not only might you get lost, or not only might you get hurt because you can't see all of where you're going, but on top of that, you are vulnerable to wild animals and dangerous people. But they're moving at night because time is of the essence, everything is rushed. God says, get up, and Joseph gets up.

Dan Franklin: [00:09:09] And this isn't the main point of this message. But I wanted to just take a quick moment to look at the wisdom of quick obedience that we see Joseph play out in this passage. There is a deep wisdom to the fast way that Joseph responds with obedience. He doesn't pause and journal about it, he doesn't sort of take it in and go and make a pros and cons list, God speaks and He acts. And we are wise if we follow this example of when God speaks, obeying quickly. Now, to be fair, I think for all of us who've looked to walk with Jesus for a while, it's not always crystal clear when God is speaking to us. We're not always totally clear on it. Sometimes you get a sense, I think God is telling me to do this, but I don't know for sure.

Dan Franklin: [00:10:03] And in times like that, it's really wise for us to, first of all, read the Bible to make sure it's not something that contradicts the Bible. And to ask wise, godly friends what they think about it? And to spend a little bit of time praying to discern if that's what God is calling us to do. But there are other times that God's calling us to do something, and we don't have to wonder, we can just act.

Dan Franklin: [00:10:23] I'll give you a few examples of times where you don't have to wonder if God is speaking to you. If you are ever doing anything and you suddenly feel like God might be telling you to stop what you're doing and pray, he is. That's not the devil, that's not your flesh, that's not the world, that is God. And you can just stop right there and be like, I know this is God, nobody else is trying to get me to stop what I'm doing to pray. Nobody else is trying to talk me into shutting down Netflix and reading my Bible. That's God, you can just act with confidence that it's God.

Dan Franklin: [00:10:59] I'll give you a couple more that might not be 100% but are nearly 100%. If you're thinking about a relationship that you have with somebody, and you feel like God might be telling you to apologize to someone, you can pretty much take it to the bank, that's God. We don't usually conjure up humility from our flesh, it's probably God. You can pretty much take it to the bank, God is telling me to go and apologize to this person. If you're thinking about maybe serving in some way, like we've been talking about our summer go teams or we've been talking about life kids, and you suddenly feel like, man, I think maybe God is telling me to serve in that way. Man, almost every time that is God, we don't usually conjure up self-sacrifice from our flesh. There are times that we can just look at the situation and look at what we sense God is calling us to do and say, you know what? I'm going to act on this and I'm going to act quickly. Joseph acted quickly, and it turned out that that was their salvation, God was saving them from danger. And once again, who's to say that when you get the sense of God saying, hey, turn that off and pray, stop doing that and read your Bible, apologize to that person, delete that app, when God is moving in you in that way, who knows what danger he is looking to save us from? Quick obedience is wisdom, it's not only right, it is wise, and that's what Joseph practices here.

Dan Franklin: [00:12:21] And then at the end of verse 15, we get the first, I mentioned, the first of these three fulfillment passages. In each scene, in each of the three scenes in the story, we get fulfillment. And so it says in verse 15, "And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” So as we're here in 2023 as Americans reading this, here's what we think when we read a verse like this, we're like, well, this is really cool. I didn't realize it, but it turns out there's an Old Testament passage that predicted this was going to happen. It predicted that the Messiah would come, and then he would end up going into Egypt and then would end up coming back out of Egypt after Herod died. So this is really cool, this is a fulfillment of a prediction. Now, Matthew is quoting here from Hosea 11:1, if you want to look that up now or if you want to look that up later. But if you look it up, here's what you're going to discover, not only is Hosea in that passage not writing a prediction about the Messiah, he's not writing a prediction at all. He's not even writing about the future; he's writing about the past. When he says, out of Egypt, I called my son. He's referring to when God called his son, Israel, out of Egypt. He's talking about the exodus under Moses, he's referring to the past.

Dan Franklin: [00:13:46] And so this is really strange, we're like, did Matthew just think nobody was going to check? Is he pulling a fast one here, trying to be like it's a prediction, no, it's not, just kidding? But Matthew is not doing that, Matthew knows his Jewish audience, and he knows that they're going to know what this passage is about. So here's what Matthew is doing. What Matthew is doing is he's beginning a theme that is going to run all throughout the book, and especially through these next several chapters, where he is going to show that in Jesus, his life is paralleling the life of the nation of Israel. He's showing that Jesus has come in many ways to relive the events that Israel lived, only this time, instead of a disobedient son in Israel, God is going to experience an obedient son in Jesus. Jesus in some ways is going to redo what the nation of Israel did.

Dan Franklin: [00:14:39] In fact, if you're skeptical of what I'm talking about, I'll give you just one example of something we're going to get to in a couple of weeks. Matthew chapter 4 is the Temptation of Jesus. Anybody who's familiar with this, you remember how many days he spends in the wilderness getting tempted? 40 days. If you know the Old Testament, you know that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for how many years? 40 years. This is not an accident, Matthew is not writing this and being like, huh, okay. Matthew is writing this, knowing this is paralleling what happened. And while Israel went into the wilderness and was tempted through that time, they failed miserably. Jesus goes into the wilderness for 40 days to be tempted, and he comes out succeeding with flying colors. Matthew is pointing us to the idea that Jesus is going to succeed where Israel has failed. And here's why this matters for us, if we are going to be children of God, we not only need our sins to be forgiven, we need to live a righteous life before God, an obedient life before him. None of us has done it, Jesus did it for us. Jesus succeeded where Israel failed, he is living a righteous life that we then get. So when Matthew references this, he's pointing to the idea that Jesus came to be victorious where all of us had been disobedient.

Dan Franklin: [00:16:08] So they end up in Egypt, and it's a good thing they end up in Egypt because of what happens next in the second scene here. We move into verse 16 and we read, "When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi." So you may remember from last week when the Magi were with Herod, he said, when did you first see this star? And so he does some math in his head, and he says, you know what, on the safe side, I'm just going to wipe out every Hebrew boy, every Jewish boy, two years old and under to eliminate any potential threat to my throne. This is a horrific act of evil that ends up bringing great and deep suffering in the area of Bethlehem and its vicinities. It sometimes is referred to in art and in popular depictions as the slaughter of the innocents. The idea of these Hebrew boys, Jesus being spared just from that nighttime flight from the slaughter that ended up happening.

Dan Franklin: [00:17:20] And this is not the first time, and sadly, not the last time that an opponent of God causes an act of horrific evil and suffering. When we think about the idea of facing opposition, sometimes the opposition is ferocious. Sometimes those who are opposing God's purposes are especially violent and cause especially suffering. It's not the first time it happened, in fact, Matthew references that, it's not the first time it has happened. With the second fulfillment statement, he leads into this in verse 17 by saying, "Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: 18“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”.

Dan Franklin: [00:18:12] Now it's similar to before, the Jews as they read this would have known this wasn't a passage specifically predicting this event, this was a passage where Jeremiah was talking about the deep grief that happened in Israel when they were taken off into exile in Babylon of the deep tears. And he references Rachel here. and if you know the Old Testament, you know, Rachel was the wife of Jacob and Jacob was the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. And so Rachel is sort of depicted as a mother crying over the nation of Israel when they're taken into exile. And so Matthew references, yeah, that happened before it's happening again, that this deep grief happens, that this cloud of covering, that this shadow of darkness comes over Israel, comes over God's people because of the act of evil.

Dan Franklin: [00:19:00] Now, in many ways we could look at this and say, well, Matthew's just reminding us that sometimes there's grief and sadness. But I think more than likely, there's something more going on here, and here's why. Typically for the Jews when they would reference an Old Testament passage, the assumption is that they weren't just thinking about those exact words that they were quoting, but they were thinking about what was going on in the story as a whole. It's sort of like they were importing all of what's going on in that story.

Dan Franklin: [00:19:30] We do this sometimes in our culture now, I'll give you a quick reference that some of you will get because this is coming up in March. Has anybody ever heard anybody say, beware of the Ides of March? The middle of March, March 15th, this is a reference to Shakespeare. In Julius Caesar. Caesar is warned, beware of the Ides of March. And it has to do with his assassination. Sorry. Spoiler alert. Julius Caesar gets assassinated in the play. Julius Caesar. You're supposed to laugh at that. I don't know. I thought that was funny anyway. And so if somebody says that anyway, if somebody says that phrase, beware of the Ides of March, typically, if you know the context, you're thinking, oh, this is talking overall about the looming danger around Julius Caesar. There's something similar here when he quotes Jeremiah 31:15, which is what he's quoting here, it's very likely that the Jews would have been aware of what comes directly after this. Let me read you the next two verses right after this statement that's up on the screen from Jeremiah 31 verses 16 to 17. He says, “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord. “They will return from the land of the enemy. 17So there is hope for your descendants,” declares the Lord. “Your children will return to their own land."

Dan Franklin: [00:20:53] And so here's what's going on, this horrific, evil thing happens. Matthew references the grief over this horrific event, but it's in a context where they would have known in the grief there is hope. And we get to take this to bat, because we know that just as this was not the last time an opponent of God acted in an evil way that caused suffering, grief gets swallowed up by hope when we're talking about Jesus. Every time we are dealing with grief and sadness and suffering, we know that hope is on the horizon.

Dan Franklin: [00:21:28] In fact, many of you were here on Wednesday, as we had our Ash Wednesday service, and many of us right now in some way are observing the season of Lent as we lead up to Easter, not because we have to, but because we choose to enter into a time where we're dealing with sort of the reality of grief and longing, and we're anticipating the relief at the end of that at Easter when we celebrate victory. We're going through an experience right now of their suffering, but there's hope on the horizon. And Matthew gives us that reminder in this passage in a story of suffering, there's hope on the horizon.

Dan Franklin: [00:22:09] Well, for the final part of this story, we return to the family. We return to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, and here's what happens in verse 19. It says, "After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” So once again, similar thing, first word, "Get up." This time instead of get up because there's danger, get up because the danger is done, and you can go back to the land of Israel where Jesus is going to be brought up. So once again, the quick obedience of Joseph, "So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there." So you've got to love this, it's like the danger is over, we're coming back, not quite yet. Because in Judea, where Bethlehem was and Bethlehem was where they started this story, Archelaus, Herod's son, is now reigning. And Joseph knew something about him, he knew that he was just as brutal as his father, Herod. In fact, Archelaus later on during his reign ended up getting deposed by Rome because of his brutality. So, Joseph says, maybe not such a good idea to go back to Bethlehem, he pauses, and he's right to pause because look at what happens next. "Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth." And of course, as we know, Jesus ends up being raised in Nazareth.

Dan Franklin: [00:23:44] And I just want to give another quick pause here before we go on to the fulfillment passage because you may have noticed a theme running through here, has anybody been doing a dream counter in this passage? If we're taking Joseph three times, three times God through an angel warns him in a dream of impending danger. Three times he pulls out the dream card, four, if you go back to chapter 1 and count the time that the angel came and told him, don't break off the engagement with Mary, go ahead and marry her. Five dreams, if you count the fact that the Magi had been warned in a dream right before they were going to go back to Herod. Now, here's the point in all of this, here's what we get to look at in all of this. God has every tool in his tool belt to accomplish his will. God is facing opposition to what he's looking to accomplish through Jesus, there are enemies, there's danger all around, and God's like, no problem, dream; no problem, angel; no problem, miracle. He has every tool at his disposal, there is never a time when God is overwhelmed with the opposition that he's facing. With a word from his mouth, he can take down any opponent and save from any enemy. So if you're in a situation right now where you're like, I don't know the things that I'm facing, I don't know if this can be overcome, I don't know if this obstacle can be defeated, this might be the end of me. When God has a purpose for us, he has every tool at his disposal to be able to accomplish that purpose, it doesn't make him sweat, it's not a problem for him.

Dan Franklin: [00:25:17] Now we end the passage with this one final fulfillment statement. And I'll tell you going into it, this is the weirdest one of all of them. It says, "So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he (speaking of Jesus) would be called a Nazarene." Now, here's why this is weird, the reason why this is weird is because there's no Old Testament passage that says this. People are looking around like what verse is he quoting? With the other two, we knew exactly what he was quoting. He was quoting from Hosea, then he was quoting from Jeremiah. We got to this, and we're like, what's he quoting here? And you might even notice the lead-up is a little different, it's almost as if he's acknowledging that he's not just quoting one prophet because he says this was fulfilled by what was said through the prophets. What Matthew seems to be doing here is speaking more generally, saying if you took the overall prophetic message, you would come to the conclusion that he would be called a Nazarene. But we're still confused, because Nazareth wasn't even in existence for much of the time of the Old Testament. So what does he mean? They never did say this, they never said he was going to be a Nazarene.

Dan Franklin: [00:26:22] Now, scholars debate exactly what Matthew is doing here. Some think that he's doing a word play because the word Nazareth kind of connects to the word branch, and there are some Old Testament prophecies that Jesus would be a branch of David. And so they think that he's sort of doing a play on words like he's Nazareth, he's branch man, just like that prophecy. It's possible that's what's going on, but I want to give you another theory of what I think he's doing here. And this is something that would be understood if you pay attention to how Nazareth is depicted in the Gospels, Nazareth is not where you want it to be from, it was not a famous city, and it was not a respected city. In fact, some of you know in John 1, when Nathaniel, who becomes one of Jesus' disciples, hears that he's going to meet up with somebody named Jesus of Nazareth, he says, can anything good come out of Nazareth? This was not where you wanted to be from, it was a despised and rejected city. And here's what I think Matthew is doing. Matthew is pointing toward the idea that even in his origin, Jesus was going to be despised and rejected. And if you read the prophets, in particular, Isaiah 53, you get the prophecy about Jesus being rejected for our sake.

Dan Franklin: [00:27:45] Now, just before moving on, let's just take this in for a minute. We get these three prophecies; we get these three fulfillments. First of all, we find out, you know what, Jesus is reliving the life that we failed to lead. He is living it righteously where we have lived it sinfully so that he can give that righteousness to us. And then we get the message, you know what, there are dark times, there's grief, there's a shadow of death over us, but grief is swallowed up in hope. And then finally we get a message that Jesus himself is willing to take on being despised so that he can be our savior and take our place. God is at work behind the scenes, despite all of the opposition that is coming against Jesus.

Dan Franklin: [00:28:27] So let me return to that question I asked at the beginning. I asked at the beginning, where is God when we face opposition? Because we're going to bring this into ourselves, and if we're starting with the story of Jesus, we really get two answers to this question. The first answer for where is God when we face opposition? Is that God is working out His divine purpose. Friends, is God absent from this passage? He is not, he is working through dreams and guidance, he is working through fulfilling prophecies, and he is working out his divine purpose all along. When we face opposition for us to fulfill God's purpose for us, we're not alone, God is always there working out His divine purpose. That's the first answer.

Dan Franklin: [00:29:13] But here's the second answer of where God is when we face opposition. God is using His opponents as His tools, they ended up down in Egypt because of the evil of Herod, and they ended up in Nazareth because of the evil of Archelaus. Over and over again, through the Bible, God's opponents are not thwarting his will, God's opponents are actually being used as His tools for God to accomplish His will. When we face opposition, far from it being something that's going to ruin us, it often ends up being the setup for God to do exactly what He intends to do.

Dan Franklin: [00:29:57] And so here's where I want you to go with me. God's ultimate purpose for you. I don't know if God's going to have you be successful in business, have a bunch of kids, end up growing old, I don't know any of those things. But here's what I do know about God's purpose for every single one of us, it is God's ultimate purpose that you would be conformed to the image of Jesus, that you would experience the joy and the togetherness with God that makes you new, that makes you less attached to all of the fading realities of this world and makes you more fit for heaven because you're given over to the purposes of God. Not grinding it out but living in the joy of abiding in Him. God's purpose for us is that we would be conformed to the image of his will. And we will face opposition for the world in the flesh and the devil, but God often uses our enemies to fulfill His purposes.

Dan Franklin: [00:30:57] In fact, there's a great story about this in Second Corinthians chapter 12, it has to do with the apostle Paul. And there's this strange thing the apostle talks about in chapter 12 of Second Corinthians, he refers to a thorn in his flesh. It is a famous passage, but nobody knows what it is, it's this strange idea. But I want you to listen to what Paul says when he describes this opposition, this extreme difficulty he faces. He says, "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." Now, I've talked about this before, but this is a baffling thing. Let me just read it again what Paul says, "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me." Now, we don't know what the thorn in the flesh was, except for what Paul says here, and what he says here is the thorn in the flesh was a messenger of whom? Of Satan. So we're looking at the thorn and we're like, this is a satanic attack on Paul. But think back to what he said at the beginning, why did he receive the thorn in the flesh? To keep him from becoming conceited, to keep him from becoming arrogant and self-sufficient and full of pride because he's seen these amazing visions and done these amazing miracles, and he's seen the risen Jesus to keep him from being conceited. Quick question, does Satan want to keep Paul from being conceited? No way. Satan would love to play that out. Paul, you're the man, you don't even need God, you don't even need the Holy Spirit, and you certainly don't need anybody else who's doubting you, you're better than all of them. Satan doesn't want Paul humble. Who wants Paul humble? God wants Paul humble because it's in our humility that we really get to receive the joy of God's grace. So in order to keep Paul humble, he got a messenger of Satan. Talk about God using his opponents for his purposes as his tools. Satan's like, I've got him, I got the green light, I get to go and torment Paul with, whether it was a physical injury or some kind of mental injury, whatever it was. I get to go, and I get to torment Paul, and God is just rubbing his hands together, working out his purposes in Paul's life, bringing him into conformity to Jesus. And what about you? What about the frustrations that you are facing right now that you are just praying for God to take away? And by the way, if you know the thorn in the flesh passage, you know how many times Paul prayed for that to be taken away? It says three times. And Paul was probably way better at praying than we are. But Paul was praying. Have you ever done this? You're like, we're facing this, I've got this person in my life, I've got this person that I have to work with, and they're just blocking me at every turn, they're just so frustrating. And so I'm just crying out to God. God, I'm not saying you need to kill them, but God, please, just like make it so that I no longer have to work with them, get me transferred to another class, get this person transferred somewhere else, just make it so that I no longer have to deal with this frustration. And who knows how many times that we're doing that, we are trying to pray away the tools of God shaping us into the image of Jesus. God uses His opponents as his tools to fulfill his purposes in our lives. And so right now, if you're facing some real frustration, if you're like, this is keeping me from being godly, that I have this trial. Who's to say that that trial isn't exactly what God is going to use in you to liberate you from being too comfortable in this world so that you can actually experience God's grace in your life? I'll give you a couple of pieces of advice on this.

Dan Franklin: [00:34:53] And the first is this. Number one, we all need to reframe what our real purpose is here. Because if your purpose is to be as comfortable and prosperous as possible, I have no guarantee for you that God is interested in assisting you in that. He might, in His mercy sometimes assist you in that, he has made no guarantee that that is his agenda, that is your agenda. God is good, but God makes no guarantees that He is interested in our agenda. In fact, frequently he has to thwart our agenda to get to what he's really after. So we need to reframe. We need to say, you know what, I'm not on this earth to be famous and prosperous and comfortable. I am on this earth to be a shining light for Jesus, that people would see the gospel through me, and that I'd be conformed to the image of Jesus. We need to reframe it so that the trials aren't the enemy.

Dan Franklin: [00:35:51] Secondly, after we've reframed our main purpose, we need to keep an eye open for God's deliverance. Do you know how many times when we're in the heat of temptation, we feel like there's no way out? But God is giving us off-ramps? God has given us off-ramps through the people that he's put in our lives that we can call upon and ask to walk with us. He's given us sometimes more literal off-ramps where we get to just get out of the situation that's causing the temptation or causing the danger. Keep your eyes open for God's deliverance, not deliverance from being uncomfortable, but deliverance from the ways that these temptations would undo us.

Dan Franklin: [00:36:31] And then finally, number three, strive for victory in Hope. Well, one of my favorite verses, even though it's one that maybe some of us get tired of because we memorized it as a kid. Philippians 1:6, "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion." If you are a believer in Jesus and you're saying right now, I just don't think I'm ever going to get there. I just don't think I'm ever going to get past this impatience, past this lust, past this anger, past the tongue that I can't control, I don't think that I'm ever going to get where I'm supposed to be. God disagrees with you; you're going to get exactly where you're supposed to be because he will bring about final victory. We may be in the season of Lent right now, but Easter is coming. We may be in the season of grief right now but hope always swallows up grief when God is involved. And even the opponents, even the opposition, even Satan himself is often used by God as a tool for him accomplishing his purposes in us.

Dan Franklin: [00:37:38] And so here's what I'm going to do. In a moment, I'm going to pray for us, but I want to say something beforehand. Because every week when we gather here, we have pastors and elders, and prayer team members up front here afterward. I just want to share a couple of reasons why after this service, you might not just turn around and go to the doors and you might come up to have somebody pray with you. If you're at a point right now where you just feel so discouraged because you keep banging your head against the same wall, you keep running into the same issues, you keep falling into the same temptations, and right now you're just discouraged and you're feeling like, I don't think that there's any way past this. Then you need prayer with somebody who's going to help give you hope and intercede for God with you as you look to continue to strive in victory. If right now you just feel defeated because you feel like the grief that you're experiencing is going to swallow up any joy that you could ever have. I'm going to invite you afterward to come forward for prayer because you need the reminder that with God, victory is always right around the corner. We have lent, and we have Good Friday, but Easter is always coming because Jesus is risen, and he has bought the final victory. And I also just want to invite you to come up for prayer, if there's anything going on in your life that you're excited about or that you're overwhelmed by, and you just say, I need a partner in prayer. The people who are going to be up here to pray with you are going to be ready to partner with you in that.

Dan Franklin: [00:39:07] And so I'm going to ask us to pray. And as I'm praying, if you're a pastor, elder prayer team member, you go ahead and head to the front so that when we're done praying, you're right there ready to receive people.

Dan Franklin: [00:39:17] Father, we come to you, and we thank you that no power can stand against you. Herod conspired against Jesus. Later on, Pilate conspired against Jesus. Pharisees, Sadducees, Romans, Jews, we had all people conspiring against you, and all they ended up doing was fulfilling your ultimate plan. Father, we come to you, and we recognize there are times that we feel triple-teamed, we feel discouraged, we feel overwhelmed, and sometimes we feel like we're just never going to get to where you want us to be. And so, Father, I pray, first of all, for anybody who's experiencing shame and guilt, I pray that you bring the reminder that Jesus went to the cross for every bit of that shame and guilt. Use it as the grief that leads us to repentance, not the grief that leads us to despair. Father, I pray that you help us to see with new eyes, that we would see our trials not as the end of us, but as your tools for shaping us. And, Father, I pray that you lift up every discouraged head. I pray that you wipe away every discouraged tear. And I pray that you bring us the strength to walk forward with you in hope. I pray this all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Amen.

Dan Franklin: [00:40:41] God bless you and God be with you the rest of this Sunday. Please come up for prayer if you'd love to. God bless you the rest of this Sunday.

Recorded in Upland, California.
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Life Bible Fellowship Church
2426 N Euclid Ave
Upland, California 91786
(909) 981-4848