Why do you stand far away? | Jun 13-14, 2020
Series: Tough Questions
Welcome: Colby Taylor – 0:00-1:49
Intro: Darris Sneed – 19:25-19:45
Video: Trisha Graves – 19:46-20:51
Sermon: Kenton Beshore – 20:53-51:08
Closing: Kenton Beshore – 56:12-57:01
Welcome to Mariners Church Online. If you’re tuning in with your small group or your Life Group in your home, thank you so much for joining us in that way. Or if you’re joining us with your family, or with your loved ones, or on your own, thank you for worshiping with us. Psalm 34, it’s one of my favorite passages. In verse 3, it says this, “Come magnify the LORD with me. Let us exalt His name together.”
When we magnify God, it’s not that He gets bigger, but our vision, our perspective, our understanding of Him does. When you magnify something, you see new facets and new features, new dimensions, and new distinctions that were once invisible but are now visible.
I think we can all agree that we need to see God in a bigger perspective right now. Because when we look at the world and all of its brokenness, and all the chaos, and all the injustice, and all of the lawlessness, and the pandemic, and all the joblessness, we say, “Jesus, we need You.” And we need Him.
Sometimes when I ride my bike, I get tired and I look down. My focus can shift from here to I’m looking down and I start looking at my wheel, and the spokes, and the handlebars, and I can get all out of sorts. But when I lift my head up, I see the parks, and the nature, and the ocean, and the mountains, and the beauty that is before me.
That’s what we need to do, we need to look up and see the beauty that is Jesus, and all of His love, and all of His mercy, and all of His grace. Look up. Fix your focus on Jesus. Bring the pain, bring the hurt, bring the sorrow, but look up. Come, magnify the Lord with me. Let us exalt His name together. Let’s worship.
Our God is a way-maker. He’s a miracle-worker. He’s a promise-keeper. He will never go back on His Word. He is the light of the world, and I am so glad what we’ve been called to walk in that same image to be the light in this world, to be the salt in the earth. Here is how our church is doing that, being the light in dark places.
There’s never been a time where our community is more in need of hope, and that’s what I love about working with the next generation. Ministering to children and their parents, I am constantly reminded of the joy and promises of the Lord. In the last few months, we know that the strain on expecting parents and new parents, in particular, has been challenging. They’ve been unable to be surrounded by their loved ones due to the impact of COVID. Yet as a church, we’ve been able to come around them, to celebrate them, and to pray for them. This is just one of the things that we’ve been able to do to care for the families in our church. If you would like to be a part of blessing and encouraging the families in Mariners, just text “Family” to the number below, and we’d love to get you connected.
Text “Family” to 949-267-3131
I love the creative ways that we, as a church, have found to serve our community and people in need. And we need you, we need your presence. I love how you’ve gotten involved. I love your generosity during these times, these unprecedented times. That word, I know gets used so much, but it really is.
Historically, this is an unprecedented time. There are businesses in our economy that might never come back and have been destroyed. And there are other businesses that have absolutely thrived. For Lowes and Home Depot, DIY stores. They have all-time record sales. And we know why, because we’ve been locked in our homes, so all of us decided to do a project. Laurie and I decided to redo our backyard, we went into the project, then went to Home Depot with courage. I’m buying plants, sprinklers, I’m buying the control unit that works on the sprinklers that works with my smartphone. And I think I’ve got this. I sit down to read the instructions, and I have a graduate degree and I can’t even understand these things. I got to get my son over.
I start digging ditches and it’s too hard for me, I’ve got blisters in my hands. I’m too old to do this so I get one of my sons to come over and help me and I’m working with him and it’s hard work. It is just hard. It’s hot. I’m digging trenches. I’m an office guy, I’ve got office hands. I’m getting blisters. I’m frustrated. I’m giving orders. And pretty soon as my son and I are working, I notice that he’s standing way over in the corner of the yard and I look at him and I go, “What are you doing over there? You’re no good to be over there. You’re not helping.” And he looks at me and he says, “Dad, you’re crazy. You’re impatient. You’re barking orders. You’re just no fun.”
I did what any reasonable person would do, I said, “Fine, I’ll do it myself.” I just double down. I start working harder. And after about three hours, I’ve broken most of the pipes, the sprinklers. It’s a mess and I have to go in and I say, “Aren’t you going to help me? You’re just going to stand over there? Won’t you help me?”
I think all of us have had moments in our lives where we’ve looked at the people that we love and we count on, and we see them standing there at a distance and we say, “Why are you over there? Aren’t you going to help me? Can’t you come to my rescue? Can’t you save me?” And we know sometimes it’s because of our own toxic behaviors, or we’re broken, or sometimes it’s just because we’re crazy, sometimes it’s just because we haven’t helped. But we ask them the question, “Why are you standing over there?” We think, “You’re no help. You’re not helping me.” And even worse, there are times when we need help the most, and the people that we count on are hiding from us. Have you ever had that?
There are times I’m working, and my kids when they were growing up, they actually hid because they didn’t want to help me. That’s even more painful. It doesn’t just happen with people, it also happens with God. There are times in our life that are so confusing, and it’s troublesome, and it’s painful, and we cry out to God.
In Psalm 10 … which we’re in a series on these tough questions that we ask, and David models asking two questions. Look at how Psalm 10:1 begins, “ LORD, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide in times of trouble?“
All of us have asked these questions, especially in the last few months. When you look at what we face, there’s people, there’s the pandemic, we stay at home, schools have closed, we have to work from home, people are losing their jobs, careers. There’s a crisis in families, in marriages. Worse than that, now there’s fires in Southern California, there’s flooding in the Gulf Coast, there’s marches, injustice, and protests, you have locusts in Africa, and it is easy to say, “Lord, why are You standing over there? You’re not doing any good over there, why don’t You come here? Why aren’t You helping?”
And we begin to ask and say, “God, is it because we’ve been bad? Or is it just because we’ve messed up our lives so much that You don’t want to help us? Are You standing away because we’ve hit the limits? You’re a forgiving God, but You’re not that forgiving, so You just say, ‘That’s as close as I can come.'”
And even more painful is, in the moments, where we feel like God is hiding, and we think, “God, are You just ashamed of me? I’ve done so many things that are wrong, You don’t even want to be around me.” And we ask God, “Where are You?” like David asked. And we begin to say, “What’s wrong with me?” But then even worse, we say, “God, what is wrong with You?” And we hit that philosophical question that basically says that the God of the Bible can’t exist because a God that is all-powerful, and good, and loving just can’t exist.
Because either He is all-powerful and if He’s all-powerful, well there’s evil in the world so He couldn’t be good because, look at all the pain and the sadness in this world. And if He is good, then He just simply can’t be all-powerful because He’s not doing anything to stop the pain and the suffering. But for most of us, it’s not a philosophical question, it’s a personal question. “God, how can I trust You with my life? How can I follow You when You refuse to help? You refuse to stop the injustice in the world. You refuse to help me in the most broken moments in my life. Why do You stand so far away? Why do You hide in times of trouble?”
And the reason that we ask these questions isn’t because our life is good, we ask it in the most painful and the sad moments of our life. Look at what David says in Psalms 10:2,4,6-8,11, these are the reasons why he asked the question, “…the wicked relentlessly pursue their victims…arrogantly thinks…“I will never be moved…” Cursing, deceit, and violence fill his mouth…His eyes are on the lookout for the helpless…He says to himself, “God has forgotten; he hides his face and will never see.””
David is saying and his complaint to God is saying, “God, where are You? If You would show up, the wicked wouldn’t dare steal and rob, they wouldn’t do violence, they wouldn’t treat the vulnerable this way, there wouldn’t be injustice if You would just show up.” They wouldn’t say, “God has forgotten. God doesn’t care, I can do whatever I want.”
David’s frustration in this psalm, first of all, is that the evil people, they’re doing evil things. They’re cheating, stealing, they’re robbing, they’re hurting the most vulnerable and marginalized. There’s injustice. And if that isn’t bad enough, David says in this psalm, he says, “And they’re getting away with it, God, because You don’t stop it. You don’t step up,” and he says, “God, don’t You see? Don’t You care?”
And these are our questions in times of trouble. We say, “God, in this pandemic, why is it that You didn’t stop? Why did I have to lose my graduation? Why did I have to lose my wedding? Why did I have to lose my job? My career? My plans? God, don’t You see? God, don’t You care?”
And then others will say, “God, I follow You and I do what You say, and still my life is hard and it’s breaking apart and You don’t seem to be answering my prayers. And there are other people who don’t even follow You, they don’t believe, and yet they seem to prosper. Don’t You care? Don’t You see?”
And then others say, “God, I’ve heard the stories. I’ve heard the stories about people who had a tough marriage and they prayed, and God, You came in and You rescued, You saved and You delivered that marriage, and it’s beautiful.”
And in my own marriage, I’ve prayed and I said, “God, would You save? Would You rescue? Would You help? And yet it is still as hard as it’s ever been. God, don’t You see? Don’t You care?” And in those moments, we feel like God is standing far off like David writes, and we feel like He’s hiding from us. David says in this psalm, in these times of trouble, there is one thing that you just cannot do, you just cannot do. And this is what he says, “Do not walk away from God. Do not give up your faith.”
Look at what he says in this Psalm 10:12,16, “Rise up, LORD God! Lift up your hand…The LORD is King forever and ever…”
What he’s saying there is you don’t want to abandon your faith. He says … David, I love he encourages us to ask these tough questions, but what he says in this is he says, you just don’t want to say, “Fine God. If You don’t care, You’re going to stand at a distance, I’m going to walk away.” Because he says, “The Lord is King forever and ever.”
The Lord is King forever and ever.
David says, “I know that evil has an expiration date. I know that the days of injustice are numbered.” And he says, “I know that the Lord is King forever and ever.” We are just fools when we live like there is no God, or that He doesn’t care, or He’s not paying attention. John Paul Sartre said, “Without a belief in God, there is no possibility of good or evil.”
What he’s saying is when you don’t believe that God exists, or that He doesn’t care, that He’s not involved, ultimately, everything is permitted and you’re left with natural selection. What you’re saying is “might makes right”. You’re saying that the strong can consume the weak. Basically, what you’re saying is Hitler had it right, and we have the right to define whatever is right and wrong.
And ultimately, we know this leads to our own destruction. But David says the truth is that the Lord God is King and He rules forever and ever. One day, King Jesus will return and He is going to make everything right and we know that. He is going to restore justice, and He is going to bring heaven to this earth. The Lord is King forever and ever.
You don’t want to walk away from Him in times when you’re disappointed because He is the only One who has the resources that you need when you face these kinds of questions in your life. David then shows us the resources that we have from God in these times of trouble. The first one that he shows us is that God loves us and He’s with us.
Look at what it says in Psalm 10:14,17,18, “But you yourself have seen trouble and grief…you are a helper of the fatherless …LORD, you have heard the desire of the humble; you will strengthen their hearts. You will listen carefully…doing justice for the
fatherless and the oppressed…”
Here David says “God listens, He listens to everything. He listens to the cries of our heart. He bows low and He bends down. He listens to the cries of our hearts. He’s paying attention, and then He acts. He helps. Sometimes He saves and He delivers,” David says. “And then other times when He doesn’t save or deliver, He strengthens us and gives us the ability to carry through or to move through the difficult times. But He always brings justice to the vulnerable.”
We know this because the most amazing truth in all of the Bible is that God, He didn’t stay distant. It is just a shocking truth that the God of Creation didn’t stay distant even when we ran from God, when we hid from God, we stayed as far away from God as we could. We didn’t want to do what He said, and yet God in the Person of Jesus Christ came into this world and He became like us to love us, to be near to us, to say, “I’m not going to leave you. I’m not going to run away from you. I’m not embarrassed by you.” And He came to be with us in this broken world.
What we know is that God loves us, He’s with us. In times of trouble, He sees. He listens to every cry of our heart and He helps. Sometimes He delivers and rescues. And even when He doesn’t do that, He gives us strength. But He always works for justice and righteousness especially for the marginalized.
I’m enjoying this truth. In this season of COVID, one of the things that Laurie and I have done is we’re trying to put together a COVID book. Pictures that remind of this season. What would you put in your COVID book? All of us would have pictures of us all with masks on when we’re out in public, or you might have a picture of yourself at your desk both trying to work and also trying to help your kids do schoolwork. You might have a picture of yourself doing a Zoom meeting, or maybe you sit out front. One guy I talked to, every day at 4:00-5:00, they sit out front on their front patio and they have iced tea, or maybe something stronger to drink, and they just watch their neighborhood go by. That would be a picture that they would take and put in their book. Or maybe you’ve got a puppy or something.
You just would have all these pictures of what is this season of COVID for you. But even more importantly, one of the things that we’re doing is we’re trying to remind ourselves of this truth, that God is with us. He’s with us in this season. In our COVID book we’re writing, how do we see God in this season?
Three pictures or three ways, in just that part of God’s faithfulness is, one, I’ve been planting trees in my backyard. I’m reminded that my life is rooted in Jesus. And as I’m planting that, I want my life and the roots of my life to grow into Jesus and I want to be fruitful. It’s one of the things that I’ve been writing about.
The second picture that I have is I have, in a world where all of the finances of the world are going up and down, I have all the riches that I need in Christ. He gives me people to live with, people to love, He gives me community, He gives me the truth of His Word, He gives me power through His Holy Spirit. I’m making a list of the riches that I have in Christ and reminding myself of what He gives me.
The third thing that I’m focusing on is God’s forgiveness. He forgives everything that I do that is wrong because guilt and shame come in and they’re so strong, but God’s forgiveness overwhelms guilt and shame. It reminds me that God loves me and He’s with me, that’s a resource that we have in troubling and difficult times.
The second resource is hope. The hope that we have to be transcendent, meaning it’s got to be bigger than the problem that we face. And we face unprecedented problems, we have to have a hope that’s bigger than these, and it’s got to be realistic. It’s got to deal with the sadness of this world.
Peter talks about that kind of hope and he wrote to people who were facing terrible injustice, they were losing their homes. It was just a very sad time, and look at how he talks about the hope that we have in Jesus, (1Peter 1:3-4) “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
He says that we have this living hope, and the living hope is because Jesus died on the cross destroying sin, but more importantly, He rose from the dead. This is a powerful hope that we have. Even in the most challenging moments when we ask the most difficult questions, we can always take the most challenging questions that we have and we can take them to the cross. Because when you ask these tough questions, you can know when you come to the cross, the answer can’t be that God doesn’t care.
Jesus came to this earth, and then He went to the cross and He was a victim of injustice, unrighteousness, and the pain of our broken world. We can’t say that God is responsible for evil because He does on the cross as a victim of evil, but then He breaks the power of evil. And most importantly, He rises from the dead.
We have a living hope because of the resurrection, and that hope is more powerful than anything that the world gives. The best hope that the world has is sort of captured in the Lion King, in the circle of life where it is we die, and then we’re fertilizer for the grass that grows and the next generation eats the grass and they grow and we’re part of the soul of the universe.
But there’s no hope in that, because for all of us, we know that the best times in our life is when we are connected relationally to the people that we love. And the worst times in our life are when we lose the people that we love. And if death is the last word that is spoken over your life, and ultimately, you are separated eternally from every person that you love, there is no hope in that.
But when Jesus died and He rose from the dead, and He appeared in a body, what He’s showing us is our hope is that one day even when we die, we will rise from the dead, we will be resurrected, and we will have a body, and we will be known, and we will be connected relationally with everyone that we love. We will have all of the relationships restored. Everything that we’ve lost in this life will be given back. Everything that is sad will become untrue. Everything that we have lost, God will restore to us and He will bring heaven to earth. That is a living hope that is transcended and realistic, and that’s something that God gives us in the most difficult moment in life.
Then another resource that God gives us is life-changing love. You’ve got to capture this, don’t go to the kitchen right now, don’t leave. Pay attention, stay right here because this is powerful in these difficult moments in our life.
Look at what it says in 1Peter 1:6-7, “You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Here’s what he’s saying, Peter is saying to people in that day that were suffering all sorts of pain and grief just like we are in these unprecedented times, he’s saying the heat of life, the pain, the sadness, the suffering, the trials, the injustice, all these things in life that are heat in life, God takes and uses. It doesn’t destroy us, but He uses it as heat refines gold, so it takes the impurities of our life so that He can take them out and it gives us character.
What it’s saying here is that it does not mean that God orchestrates events so that we grow. For instance, God doesn’t cause a drunk driver to hit a family so you lose a loved one, and you say, “God let me or cause me to lose that loved so that I can learn how to trust Him.” That’s not true. And it’s not true that God gives you cancer so that you can trust Him. That is a cruel view of God. God is not responsible for evil and God does not give us bad things. But what it does say is that God promises not to waste the difficult moments of life, but that God uses them to develop the character that we want in our life.
I wish so much that I would have embraced this truth earlier in life. I knew it in my head, but I just didn’t live it. For instance, I have four sons and when they were growing up, we tried to eat five nights of dinner together. Five nights every week. And every time we sat down for dinner, I tried to get my sons to talk.
And one of the ways to get them to speak is I would try to say, “What was the best part of your day? What’s the peak? What was the pit? What was the worst part of your day?” Now, we did it every night, five nights a week. And you would think after doing that after a year or two, that my sons would concede and they’d go, “Okay, we’ll do this with you.” But they wouldn’t.
Every night it was a pain and a struggle. Typically, what would happen is one son would start messing around and hit a plate, he’d knock over the candle, the table would start on fire. One son falls back over, cracks his head and he’s bleeding. And I would just lose it. In those moments, instead of seeing that these were the moments that God would use the pain, and the trials, and the difficulty of life to forge my character. He was developing kindness, and patience, tolerance, things that I needed. Instead, I would be exasperated, and I wouldn’t enjoy the process.
Today, I have grandkids and you know what? We go through the same thing. They sit at the table, I enjoy it because I know that God is developing. And they’re messing around, and they’re not doing it, and you got to force it and it’s difficult. But in it, now I enjoy the process because I know that God is developing character in my life. The last three months of all of our lives have been the most stressful months that we’ve ever lived through.
There is stress we’ve been locked in our homes. There’s stress because of what’s going on in the economy. There’s stress of what’s going on in our community. There is just massive amounts of stress. Here’s what the good news is, God is using these moments to make you a more beautiful person. He is forging character and love. These are not wasted, and it is not destroying you. God is rebuilding the broken parts of your life as it heats up and there’s stress. He’s just using that to tear away selfishness in your life, to build in forgiveness so that we can restore and rebuild other relationships.
That is good news.
You go, “What would it look like for you to embrace it?” And I know for some of you go, “I just can’t see it. There’s so much stress and I feel so much anger, and there’s so much pain, I can’t see it. It’s just too crazy.” Well, look at what God gives us, He gives us the gift of faith.
In 1 Peter 1:8-9, he goes on and he says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
What he’s saying is even when you can’t see what God is doing in your life, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. When I look back in those days as I was raising my sons, I couldn’t see what God was doing. Now I see it. But the opposite of faith is sight. When you can’t see it, God gives us this incredible gift of faith.
And here’s what we do, we hold on and say, “God, I can’t see it and I feel there’s a lot of angst and there’s a lot of stress. I’m going to believe that You’re creating beauty in my life. You’re creating beauty in my spouse’s life. You’re creating beauty in my children’s life even when I can’t see it. Even when I don’t understand it, God, You are that great. You can create beauty in my life.”
And then the last resource that I want to just show you that God gives us comes out of Corinthians, and it’s comfort. Look at what it says 2Corinthians 1:3,4,9,11 (NLT), Paul says, “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us…we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead…Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers…”
Four truths. First, we all need comfort, we know that. Second, all comfort comes from God. God’s specialty is to bring encouragement, affirmation, loving kindness, grace. God does not come to us pointing out our problems, criticizing, and in anger and frustration. He’s specialty is comfort. Then the third thing it says is that He comforts us, first to help us. He gives us affirmation and encouragement. But for the reason so that we can comfort others.
One of the things that I miss the most of us not being able to gather together as a church, is this truth. For us, there are people who have lost a job, they’ve gone through betrayal, they’ve gone through cancer, a broken relationship or a marriage, and they’ve experienced God’s encouragement and love, His kindness, and His grace, and they’ve been healed. And then as a result of that, they are the perfect people then to help us when we are going through that. That’s what I miss. But one of the great things is that we’re now able to meet in small groups.
Rooted is starting and if you haven’t done that, it is a great way for you to connect with God’s people and experience this comfort as we go through difficult times. God has comforted others and they’re ready to give you the comfort they’ve received, or you have been comforted by God and you are able then to help others. We can do that as we join Rooted groups or then as we restore and we get back into our small groups.
Then the last thing he says is that we learn, ultimately, as we go through hard times not to trust in ourself, but to give thanks. What I’ve learned as I’ve gone for a number of years, I’ve seen and gone through these rhythms of hard times. And even while this seems to be an unprecedented time and it causes us to ask really hard questions, there are three things that I have learned in my life. The first thing that I’ve learned as I’ve asked these questions, “God, why are You standing so far away? Why do You hide in times of trouble?”
First, I think that you have to know you will not get answers to all of your questions. I have not. And it shouldn’t surprise us because God is infinite and we are finite people. It shouldn’t surprise us that an infinite God cannot fit into the minds of finite people. And God doesn’t try to hide this from us.
Look at what He says in Isaiah 55:8, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.’ This is the LORD’s declaration.” God’s thoughts are greater than our thoughts. His ways are higher than our ways. I’ve not gotten answers to all of my questions, and there are many things I just don’t understand.
But the second thing that I know in difficult times is this, that I know that God is good all the time. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” This verse does not say everything is good. What it does say is that God is able to work in every situation for the good.
I can tell you, as a pastor for 40 years, I have been amazed as I have stood and been with people in hospitals and in the most difficult moments in life literally when their world was falling apart, they have been able to say, “In all of this, I see God’s goodness in my life. I see how God is working for good. That God is bringing about good even in this difficult, painful, even an evil situation.” I am amazed over the 40 years to see how good God is and how faithful He is.
The third thing that I know is that we are never alone. Look at what it says in Hebrews 13:5-6, “…I will never leave you or abandon you.” When we say, “God, why are You standing over there? Why does it seem like You hide in troubles?” God says, ” …I will never leave you or abandon you. Therefore, we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid…”
God, in these unprecedented times, would You make us more and more aware than ever that You are with us and that You love us, that You are working for our good, that You provide the comfort that we need, You’d never leave us alone? And even in these very challenging times, the pain of these times, they are not wasted. But You forge character and You make us into the very people that You want us to be. God, we are people who are not alone. We are not forgotten. You listen and You rescue, and we are so grateful for that. We pray in the Name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen.
We are so glad that you have joined us today in our online service. Would you hold out your hands and receive God’s blessing?
Father, look at Your children, they love You. Would You bless them and keep them. Would You cause Your face to shine upon them and be gracious to them. Would You lift up the light of Your countenance. Would You turn Your attention towards them so that they know they are not alone and You are not far, and You are not distant. Give them Your grace, give them Your peace. We ask in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Go in God’s grace. Have a great day.