Two Years Of Our Lives
By Bobby Blakey on March 13, 2022
Two Years Of Our Lives
By Bobby Blakey on March 13, 2022
This is the Word of God. It is living and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, and it will judge the thoughts and intents of your heart. This, right here, will show you who God is. And every week I wait till this hour when you and I will draw out our swords together. And so, I invite you to open the Bible and turn with me to Acts 24, and we're going to hear what God has to say to us together here tonight as we go through this entire chapter of Scripture together. Anybody ready to study the Bible here tonight? We're in Acts 24. We're going through all 27 verses. I want to invite everybody watching online, everybody outside in the courtyard, open up your Bible to Acts 24, and I want to invite you to stand for the public reading of Scripture. We are with Paul in Caesarea, where he was rescued by Roman soldiers and brought there for a trial. And we will start in verse 1, please follow along, as I go to the end of the chapter, and let's see what God has to teach us about himself tonight. This is Acts 24:1-27:
“And after five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and a spokesman, one Tertullus. They laid before the governor their case against Paul. And when he had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying: ‘Since through you we enjoy much peace, and since by your foresight, most excellent Felix, reforms are being made for this nation, in every way and everywhere we accept this with all gratitude. But, to detain you no further, I beg you in your kindness to hear us briefly. For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. He even tried to profane the temple, but we seized him. By examining him yourself you will be able to find out from him about everything of which we accuse him.’ The Jews also joined in the charge, affirming that all these things were so. And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied: ‘Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia— they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’ But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, ‘When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.’ Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs. After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, ‘Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.’ At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.”
That's the reading of God's word, please go ahead and have your seat. And so, what we have here is the trial in Caesarea. And if you want to pull out your handout, there's a map there where you can see that we started in Jerusalem, and Jesus told us we are going to Rome. And that's how far we've made it up to this point. We were delivered by four hundred and seventy Roman soldiers and seventy horsemen, specifically, took us up to Caesarea, where we are now before Felix, the Governor, at this formal trial that we just read together. So, if we're going to break down our chapter, our chapter breaks down into three parts. Verses 1-9 is the accusation of the Jews. And they've got now a spokesperson. In Greek it is a rhetoras, which you can see how the word orator would come from this Greek word. Rhetoras, it means someone who's a good speaker. So, it's like, we have a lawyer here on behalf of the Jews, this guy Tertullus is now coming. And you can see by the language that he uses, he knows how to speak a certain way to Felix, to speak, hey, I want to tell you how great you are, and I don't want to waste a lot of your time, so, let's get right down to it. This man is plague. And now based on what we've just all been through in the world, calling somebody pestilence, or calling somebody a disease, that feels especially edgy for us here tonight. And that is what they call Paul. They accuse him – you can see there in verse 5, when we get past the flowery language of the spokesman, and we get to the downright accusation. This guy is a plague, which is the word for pestilence or disease. And this word is used one other time, and I want to take you there.
Go with me back to Luke 21, just a few pages over to the left. Here, Luke is the guy who wrote Acts as the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. And here in Luke 21, this passage is so appropriate to our text in Acts 24, because it talks about what's going to happen kind of at the end of all things, kind of in the time that you and I are living in the last days, the end times, the time where there will be wars and rumors of wars. And you can see here, if you pick it up with me in verse 10, he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” This is Luke 21:11: “There will be great earthquakes and in various places famines and pestilences.” Plagues, that's what they're called,. This guy is trouble. Wherever he goes, he spreads trouble. He's like a plague. That's what they're trying to say about Paul. And so, here's the other time this idea of plague is used. Now keep reading here with me. It says, “there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name's sake.” That's literally where we're at right now. We're before the governor this week. If you decide to come back next week, we will make it in front of the king next week, everybody. We’re just working our way up the government food chain here. So, it’s interesting you would call him a plague because Jesus said something about that, there's going to be plagues, and they're going to deliver people up to governors. Exactly what's happening. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends. And some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake, but not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. So, they want to call Paul a plague. That's their accusation. Well, guess what he's going to speak now in with words given to him by God that no one can withstand or contradict.
So go back to Acts 24, and we'll get to the defense we have against the accusation of the Jews. Now we have the defense of Paul, starting here in verse 10, and going all the way to verse 21. And he basically says that all of this has happened in the last twelve days. So, it's taken us more than twelve days to study this here at the church. It's been a few different weeks we've been following Paul to Jerusalem. We saw him get mobbed in the temple, we saw the Roman Tribune Claudius Lysias trying to figure out what was going on and then we saw him get rescued out of Jerusalem when forty men made a plot to kill him. He got rescued up here to Caesarea. That all happened in the last twelve days since he was in the temple to this trial right here. And so, he's saying, hey, if there was some great disturbance in the last twelve days, like if I was really up to all that they're saying, you would know about it. This is all recent history; you can go back and find out about this. I'm not doing what they're saying that I did. They can't prove anything against me. But then look at verse 14, this is where he makes his real defense: “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way,” which is what Christianity was referred to here in the book of Acts. This is the way and they're trying to call it a sect of the Nazarene. They're trying to downplay what Paul is preaching and what many are believing? And Paul is saying, no, no, Felix, the governor, you know about the Way and you know that I worship the God of our fathers. And then he says, this, look at verse 14, right there in the middle, what do you believe here, he says, I believe “everything laid down by the law and written in the prophets, having a hope in God.” He says, I have a hope, “which these men themselves accept.” They even know about this, “that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.” And then he goes on to say that his conscience is clear, which is also a defense that he gave back in Acts 23:1.
Now these are the two main themes that we have seen in the book of Acts, if everybody could underline or if you're taking notes, write down: If you want to defend your Faith, if you want to speak what you really believe in the name of Jesus, one is you refer to the Law and the Prophets. That's what everybody in Acts has been preaching from. They've been using the prophecies about Jesus to prove their point. So, whenever they're preaching Jesus in the book of Acts, they are preaching him from prophecies in the Hebrew Bible, the law, the prophets, and the Psalms. He says, I believe everything that was written about Jesus, and it was written back in Hebrew, by Moses in the law, by many of the prophets. And I'm telling you that what the Prophets said, has now happened in Jesus. The other thing that they always refer to in their defense is right there at the end of verse 15, which is a resurrection. And here he's saying that everyone is going to experience resurrection after they die, whether you are right with God, or whether you're on the wrong side of history, everyone, the just and the unjust, will have life after death, and will be there before God. That's why I make sure my conscience is clear because there is a day of judgment coming. And Paul would claim that he was a witness to the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus. On the third day he saw Jesus alive. Risen Lord. He saw him on the road to Damascus, he saw him other times. He would testify, I have seen the risen Lord Jesus, the Christ. So, these are the two main themes that we've seen throughout Acts. And so, this is really a review. His defense here is a review of what you have hopefully now seen many different times, on many occasions when people confess what they believe. They refer to what the prophets say about Jesus, and they refer to the resurrection of Jesus.
Turn with me to Romans chapter 1. Because soon and very soon, if Jesus doesn't come back, we're going to start the book of Romans here at Compass Bible Church. In fact, we're going to start the book of Romans on Palm Sunday, everybody. We're starting the book of Romans before we even finish Acts. And I know that sounds confusing, and it will be. Well let's go all right. So well, we can't wait to get to this. But I just want to show you when we get to Romans, and he introduces it, you're going to see how great of a segue this is really going to be, because we're going to get to Rome, and Paul is going to be there in Rome, and he's expecting people who read the book of Romans, the church, in Rome, the believers, he's expecting that they believe in these two things. This is the whole theme of Acts. This is the foundation of the book of Romans. If you claim to believe in Jesus, that means you believe in the prophecies that said what he was going to do before he was even born. And you believe in the resurrection, that he was born again to a new life. He rose from the dead, and everyone who puts their faith in him is born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These are two things that are expected to be known for everyone who is living according to the Way. Look what it says here in Romans 1:1: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand, through his” who was he going to talk about there, everybody? See, he can't even say the gospel, he can't even give the message, the good news of Jesus, without immediately going to the authoritative source for the message of Jesus, which is the prophets. The reason that every single person in this room, and the reason there is compelling evidence for you to believe that Jesus is the holy and anointed one of God is all of the prophets have said so and all of their prophecies have been fulfilled in Jesus. He is the Christ. And so he says, I'm an apostle, and I've been sent with the gospel, and the gospel is based on the prophets.
If we go through the book of Acts, and we don't understand where the gospel really comes from, it’s not from Matthew, Mark, and Luke and John, and it's not from Peter and Paul preaching on the streets of the cities. The Gospel comes from the prophecies of the Hebrew Bible. If we don't get that we've missed the whole point. And so, he's making that point right here, hey, I'm here with the gospel, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. And these prophecies really all culminate in the son, “who was descended from David.” There's one of the most famous prophecies that Jesus would be born in the kingly line of David, “according to the flesh, and was declared to be the Son of God in power, according to the spirit of holiness, by his” – what does it say there, everybody? “Resurrection from the dead?” Are you sensing a pattern here, a theme? Give this man an opportunity, give this man a platform, and he's going to tell you that you should believe in Jesus, you should live according to the Way. And there are two reasons that you should believe, one is based on all the prophets have said, and two is based on the resurrection. So that's what we're going to do this year on Palm Sunday, we're going to talk about all that the prophets have spoken in the holy Scriptures. And on Easter, I figured we'd preach his resurrection from the dead right here from Romans chapter 1. So that's a great time to make sure that we're all on the same page, that we all believe in Jesus based on these two certain realities, the prophecies and the resurrection. That's what gives the Way credibility even with Felix, the governor in Acts 24.
So go back to Acts 24 with me, and you'll see that Paul, his defense here is very credible. After his defense, it is obvious that Felix knows that he is innocent. And this is where we get to the third section of our chapter, which is Felix’s procrastination. That's Acts 24:22-27. We have the accusation of the Jews in verse 1-9, we have the defense of Paul in verses 10-21. And then starting here in verse 22-27, Felix clearly knows what the right thing is, that Paul is innocent. All he's doing out there is preaching the good news of Jesus in the prophecies and the resurrection. This guy is not a plague like causing trouble like they're accusing him of, and you know that he thinks that because of what he says here in verse 23, after he says, well, let's wait for the Roman Tribune Claudius Lysias is to show up, and he kind of puts off making a decision in the case. Look what he says in verse 23: “he gave orders to the centurion, that he should be kept in custody, but have some liberty.” So, we're not going to let him go. We're not going to set him free, but at the same time, give the guy some freedom. In fact, if his friends want to come and attend to his needs, let him have visitors, let anybody come and give him whatever they want. Like, we're going to keep this guy here in Caesarea; we're not going to send him out like he's free and innocent, but because he's free and innocent, let's cut the guy some slack. That's basically what Felix does. So, Felix does what a lot of people do, maybe what some people here have done, is when you hear that there are prophecies saying Jesus was going to be born, and there's a resurrection that proves he defeated sin and death and has eternal life. Or what a lot of people do is what Felix does here. You put off any kind of response. So, Felix here, he is the definition of procrastination. He is the definition of wasting your time when it's being presented to you. In fact, he and his wife, Drusilla, if you look at verse 24, they heard Paul speak about faith in Christ Jesus. Look at verse 25. Here were the three points of Paul's sermon about faith in Jesus Christ. Point number one, righteousness. Point number two, self-control. Point number three, and this will bring it home every time, the coming judgment. And Felix, he got the message. Felix was what does it say there? He was what? He's alarmed. He's afraid. He understands. Felix is not righteous, Felix does not have self-control, and Felix is going to be judged. It is appointed for a man to die, and after that comes judgment. And Felix, he's concerned about it. So, what does he say? He says go away for the present. That's so many people's response to the gospel. So many people hear about Jesus and they're not, yes, I'm going to repent and believe. They're not, no, I completely reject it. They're just like, go away for the present. And that's what Felix does. When I get an opportunity, I will summon you. In fact, he keeps summoning Paul, not because he's interested in hearing more about who Jesus really is, hearing this good news that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who died for his sins on the cross, who rose and has appeared to Paul and proven his resurrection. No, he wants Paul to bribe him. He's like, hey, maybe this guy will give me some money. Maybe one of his friends coming in to meet his needs, will slip him a little something and he'll pass that on to me. He's hoping for a bribe, and then he'll let Paul go. This guy's crooked. He's not trying to do what's right. He knows that Paul is right, but he doesn't respond to what is right. And this line, when I read this line, and meditated on this chapter, this cut me to the heart when two years had elapsed. You ever lose two years of your life in a sentence? Pretty sure that just happened to all of us. Exactly two years ago from exactly this weekend, March 2020. I was like, wow, we just got rescued. I mean, these forty guys wanted to kill him, and four hundred and seventy soldiers rescued him out of town. We're going to Rome. We're going for the gospel. We're going to bear witness of Jesus. Then he gets in Caesarea, he bears the faithful witness, no one can prove that he's wrong. He's not even just defending himself. He's talking about faith in Christ Jesus, righteousness, self-control, judgment, like, yeah, the preaching tour to Rome has begun two years later. I think we get so used to watching TV shows and movies where there's like these times that just go by with like a screen telling you and now we're going to fast-forward two years, but all of us, we just lived two years. Two years is a long time. Two years. I mean, I would imagine if we went back to March 12, 2020, every single person in this room probably thought we were headed somewhere that didn't happen exactly like we thought in the last two years. That's Paul in this chapter. He's ready to go to Rome. Jesus told him he's going to Rome. He's already on his way there. What a rescue he got out of Jerusalem. And now he sits in Caesarea for two years because Felix won't make a response. And in the end, Felix actually turns on him and leaves him there as a favor to the Jews. So, you are stuck in prison for two years when you didn't do anything wrong.
I'll tell you we had last Sunday after church. Church finished last Sunday and people started walking in, and they're like, where's the Palm Sunday choir rehearsal. And I heard some people say that, and it caught me it was like a moment of deja vu because I remember two years ago, when we had the Palm Sunday choir rehearsal, we had this big idea we're going to do the choir on Palm Sunday, the week before, and we had this whole plan. And I kicked off that rehearsal with Ryan Pierce, and we were like, let's get the choir together. We knew what we were going to do on Good Friday and Easter and Palm Sunday. And here's the plan and the choir was like, yes, this is going to be the greatest Easter ever. None of it happened. None of it happened. We did Easter like out in the parking lot, as like a drive thru experience. There was no choir. All the songs that we had handpicked were not sung at the sermons. The texts that we had prepared were not preached. It was Palm Sunday choir last Sunday, and it took me back to two years ago. I remember how I was so excited for what was going to happen here on Palm Sunday. And then I saw what actually happened here on Palm Sunday. I got to thinking, why is this guy sitting in prison for two years when God is so good at jailbreaks? That's one of the things we've learned in the book of Acts is like one of the great miracles that God can do is jailbreaks. And every time I say that, people are like, I haven't heard about that miracle before, but we've seen that over and over again. So, like, we know that God is able to break his people out of jail anytime that he wants to.
Go back to Acts chapter 5, I just want to take you to some of the greatest hits of jailbreaks that we've seen in the book of Acts. I don't know if you've ever praised God for his miraculous breaking people out of jail, but one of them is here in Acts 5:18. And this is with Peter and John, when they told them, stop preaching Jesus in Jerusalem, and they prayed for boldness, and kept preaching Jesus there in Jerusalem. Well, here in Acts, chapter 5, pick it up with me in verse 17. Here it says. “But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.’ And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.” Hey, what are the guys that we put in prison doing preaching Jesus, again, in the middle of the temple? Did you know that angels are very skilled when it comes to breaking people out of jail? So, if the angel can just come in and get Paul out of there any time, why is he sitting there for two years? So, these are like the real questions of life that we're starting to get into right here. If God could just stop COVID, if God could just heal everyone who's sick, if God is able to do anything that he wants to do more than all that we could ask or think that he could do, why does God not always do what he is able to do? Why would it be God's will for Paul to go to Rome and then to sit somewhere for two years of his life, when it's already been said, you're going to Rome? Why would God want him to sit in prison for two years?
Go over two Acts, chapter 12. Maybe you remember when they threw James into prison? James, Peter, and John, they were the three closest disciples to Jesus, and here it says in Acts 12:1. “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword.” Wow. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, the sons of thunder, the fisherman, I mean, this guy, James, he was right there with Jesus through all the miracles, through all the teachings. I mean, he was one of the three who went up on the Mount of Transfiguration, and he saw Jesus glorified right in front of his eyes. He saw Moses and Elijah and he saw Jesus unveiled in all of his glory. And he's dead by chapter 12? We don't even get to know the guy? Why does God allow people to be right there, and then to be killed? Why does God allow people to be right there, and then be put in prison? And when they killed James, they liked it. Verse 3, “and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.” We’ve got Peter in prison. We've already killed James, now we're going to kill Peter. But then people start praying and they start praying that real kind of earnest prayer, like God, we need you to do something. God, we need a rescue. God, please don't let them kill Peter. You’ve got to save his life. Acts 12:6-11: “Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, ‘Dress yourself and put on your sandals.’ And he did so. And he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’”
Can we praise God for being good at jailbreaks, everybody? If God wants to save somebody's life, can he save somebody's life? I mean, Paul has even personally experienced this. Go to Act 16:25. Maybe you remember Paul and Silas having a little hymn singing in the jail in Philippi at midnight. Acts 16:25, maybe you remember this story? “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened.” Most skilled earthquake in history right there. You ever seen your front door get opened by an earthquake? Wow. Earthquake jailbreak. That's a whole new kind of miracle right there. Paul has personally experienced this, and it wasn't just that it wasn't even to get them out of jail. That wasn't the point here. Because verse 27, “When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, ‘Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.’ And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” And they were all baptized. Jailbreak revival is what happened there in Philippi. So, we've seen jailbreak after jailbreak, after jailbreak, and then Acts 24:27, is just going to drop us with “when two years had elapsed,” Felix decided to keep Paul into prison. And now he's going to have to make his defense. Two years of his life later, he's going to have to do the same thing in chapters 25 and 26. We're going to go through this all over again, next week, except two years are going to go by. Why does God break him out of there and get him going to Rome? Why does God want Paul to wait in prison for two years? That is a good question. Because I guarantee you, everybody here is going to experience delays in your life. You're going to think this is my next step. This is the will of God for my life. This is what God's doing in me right now. I can tell God is leading me here. This is exciting. And you're going to hurry up and then you're just going to wait. Am I preaching to anybody right now? For two years. That's exactly how I felt about Easter 2020. I was more prepared for that Easter at this church than I had ever been for anything in my entire life. I was ready for the revival of the Holy Spirit to break out here among us. And we didn't even meet on Easter. And it's like, why, why is this happening? Why would we go through a time period like we all just went through over the last two years where so many things that we were praying for, and hoping for, and wishing for, where they got delayed for two years? Why does God do things like this where you have to wait on his timing. This is something we really want to think about. God doesn't always give you the miracle. He doesn't always heal from that disease. He doesn't always give you that next step. He doesn't always save that person, right when you know they need to be saved. And you're praying for him. Though this is a common thing that happens in life where you can tell that God is taking you somewhere, but he doesn't take you there on the timetable that you were expecting.
Turn with me to Ecclesiastes chapter 3, and let's talk about three points here that I can give us about how to think about God's timing. And Ecclesiastes chapter 3, which some of us just read recently, it explains to us this concept that God makes everything beautiful in his time, and that God's timetable and our timetable are not exactly the same. And here in Ecclesiastes chapter 3, I just want to read this profound portion of Scripture. If you'll follow along with me here, because clearly this is meant to get us thinking about the different times that we go through in our lives. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-13. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace. What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.”
See, for every single one of us the timing is not going to go according to your personal schedule. Does anybody want to say Amen here tonight? So, you can live the rest of your life frustrated by that. Well, we can learn here together tonight how to have faith that God is going to make everything beautiful in his time. And that he's going to take us through some times that we won't hope for, we won't put on our schedules, that you won't find them on your calendar. But God's going to take us through all kinds of different times in our life. So, God's not always going to work the way we want, but God is always working for good.
Let's get that down for point number one: God does not always do the work we want, but God always works for good. And so there will be many delays. Many what seemed to us like unexpected, troubling setbacks in the timeline of our lives, and we're saying God, how could this be what the next thing is for me? I thought the next step was this. This isn't what I wanted. This isn't what I was praying for. This isn't what I was hoping for. But God is not here always to do everything that God is able to do. Could God have broken Paul out of jail? Did God break Paul out of jail? No, at least not for two years. He's he stayed there in Caesarea. See, this is really something to think about that sometimes, God wants us to sit in jail for two years. In fact, sometimes it's God's will at that moment in time that people die. They reach the end of their days, they reach their limit of the time that God has given them. Well, did James when he got killed by hair there and Acts 12, was that out of God's perfect timing? When Paul sits in prison for two years is that out of God's perfect timing,? See, this is something that we're going to have to wrestle with, something that we're going to have to think about, something that might test our theological understanding of who God is, and how God works. God does not always do what God is able to do. God does not always work in the way that it would seem best to us for God to work, but God is always working, and he's always working for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. But it may not always seem like that to us. So, you could go into our bookstore after this service, and you could get Fox’s Book of martyrs, one of the classics of the Christian faith that you will always find in that bookstore. And you could read that book, and you will find out that many brothers and sisters throughout church history, it was appointed for them a time to die. You remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel three, where they're going to get thrown into a fiery furnace, which is going to kill them. And they say, well, God is able to deliver us out of the fire. But even if he does not, we're not going to worship your idol, King, we're not going to bow down to your gods, we’re only going to worship our God, even if it kills us. Well, they got saved from the fire; many of our brothers and sisters got burned alive.
See, not every story ends with God's miraculous rescue from death, or imprisonment. Sometimes it's God's will for his people to stay in prison for years. And in fact, there's another great classic that you can get in our bookstore. I don't know if you've ever read this. Anybody ever read a Pilgrims Progress before by John Bunyan? One of the besides the Bible, the most bestselling, most widely read book in the history of the English language, written by John Bunyan. Anybody know where he wrote that book? We might not have that book, if it wasn't God's will for him to spend some time in prison. So, this is what is twisted in how you and I think; we think two years’ setbacks aren't supposed to happen. But I'm here to tell you that there is a time for two years of our life to go like that. There is a time that God is working. That may not be how you think it should work. Are you going to be okay with that? Or are you going to fight against that? I can honestly tell you that two years ago, when we weren't able to assemble as a church for a season, when we had to do outdoor services for a season, when we were going through all that we went through over the last two years, I'll just be honest, and maybe somebody else here can agree with me. There were some times during the last two years where I was not okay with what was going on. I don't know if anybody else ever felt like that. And I'm like, well, how could this be the next step? I'm like asking questions in my prayers. I'm like struggling in my own thoughts, in my soul. Like, why is this where we're at now? What are you doing? What are you doing with this time, that this isn't what we thought you would do? I've had some time to think about it. Now over these two years, I've had some time to think about this sermon, where Paul just happens to be delayed two years on the weekend, that it's been two years since our big delay. And I can tell you, as I look at my life, as I look at my heart for God, as I think about my marriage to my wife, as I think about being a dad over my kids, as I think about our fellowship here at the church, the elders we have here, the deacons we have here, the fellowship groups, in every way that I can try to track what God is doing in my life, I am so much stronger and better off than I was two years ago. How can that be when all my plans were not what I thought was good? What I thought was the timeline when that was so wrong, how could God be so good?
This is how God works. He makes everything beautiful in its time because God does not live in the present moment. God lives in eternity. That's a big concept for all of us here to get. Because we cannot escape the present. We are prisoners of the moment, and God, he set eternity in our hearts, but we can't perceive fully the beginning from the end. We can't fully understand what it is like for God to be everlasting, for God to be the eternal and living one, who created space and time by the word of his mouth, but himself dwells in eternity. God is not worried about what's going to happen in two years of your life here on planet Earth, but he wants your soul forever. That's what he cares about. He cares about your maturity in your faith. He cares about you growing in Christ’s likeness. And he cares about those things more than he cares about this particular moment that you're going through right here right now. So, we live where we evaluate life in time, and God evaluates life in eternity. And if we can't start to get an idea that God works on a different timetable than us, we're going to be frustrated rather than fueled in our faith.
Go with me to Psalm 31, a Psalm of David. And David's going to really wrestle with this. Because if you know the story of King David, and we're reading it now in Chronicles about King David, anybody who's reading Chronicles with us in our Scripture of the Day Bible reading, on the back of your handout, but it leaves out well, this long season in David's life, where he was anointed to be king, and then he was on the run from King Saul, his life on the line, hiding in caves and deserts and Oases, I mean, hiding in all these crazy places for years. I mean, it was years between when he was anointed king, and when Saul died, and he was actually made king. And so, this guy thought, hey, I'm singing psalms before the king, I just killed the Goliath, the giant, like Samuel just anointed me, I can't wait to be king. And it was years before he was actually king. And when you look on it now, those were maybe the best days of David's life, the days when he was on the run, singing songs, writing songs, praising God, just living by faith that someday he would be king. Somehow a lot, a good chunk of David's life, was lived in between knowing he would be king, and actually being king. I would imagine that most of our lives are here between where we are today and where we want to get to tomorrow. If we could hear the secret thoughts and intents of everybody's heart here tonight, like a lot of you have a specific next step that you’re thinking is about to happen, that your thinking is just waiting for you. And it's going to happen any moment and, see, many of us know that that next step you're hoping for, there's going to be many days between now and that. And you live in this kind of … like you have the promise already, but the promise is not yet here. That's where we live a lot of our life and that's where David is when he writes Psalm 31. And look what he says here: “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me!” This guy is praying for a rescue. This guy needs to be delivered from all the evil that's come against him and come around him. And he's seeking the Lord to rescue him. He's praying that God will deliver him. “Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Does that line sound familiar to anybody? Who else said, “into your hand I commit my spirit”? So, this sounds like exactly what all of us should do. We should be praying these kinds of earnest prayers, striving together for one another. We need a rescue. We need deliverance. You're the only one. You're our rock. You're our refuge. We need you to show up. We need you to do something today. I mean, this is a great example. And he is saying that he has entrusted his soul to his Redeemer. He believes that the Lord Yahweh is a faithful God, and that God is going to save his soul. He believes that. But see, here's what's interesting about a lot of us who would say, yes, I believe that God will save my soul. Yes, I've been trusting my soul up to God. Yes, I believe that when I die, I will go to heaven, and I will be with Jesus, and I will be swallowed up by life in the presence of glory. Many of us here believe that, and we're more ready to trust God with our soul than we are with to yours. And see that's what we find out here is that he had entrusted his soul to the Lord, and He entrusted his times to the Lord. Let's keep reading. Look at how bad it gets, how you can feel the evil creeping in around him. Psalm 31:6-14: “I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. For I hear the whispering of many—terror on every side!—as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!
Let's get this down for point number two: If you trust God with your soul, then trust God with your time. If you trust God with your soul, then trust God with your time. Obviously, it's not up to us what happens between here and heaven. God has the times of our life in his hands. And who here can honestly say, along with David here tonight, as he's got people coming to try to kill him? This sounds so similar to the situation Paul is in. He's getting rescued from forty men trying to kill him. “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’” And then verse 15: “My times are in your hand.” And here they come, my enemies, my persecutors. I got to have dinner the other night with a guy who persecuted my dad in my family, back when I was in high school, when I was a senior in high school. We lived in San Antonio, Texas at that time, and I went to this Christian School. And there was kind of this very weird division that happened at the Christian school where some people started just standing up at school and professing repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. And there was like a revival. It felt like God was going to my school and people were getting saved. And other people got so mad about this. And they hated it, that they started doing acts of rebellion on purpose to get expelled from the school. And one of the things they did was they drove around, and they egged all the teachers’ houses from the school. And because my dad was the pastor of the church, they egged our house one day, which, if you're going to get persecuted, that's like, you know, a very easy way to get persecuted. Right? They just throw eggs at you. Right? I mean, okay, you know, we'll clean up some eggs, not a very big deal. But it showed you like, what is happening, why there's a sense of like, Jesus is bringing that sword and like people are choosing sides, and some people are just like, radically choosing Jesus. And other people are like rejecting. And like, why, wow, God is really doing something at my school. And we had dinner this week, my dad and I with the guy who threw eggs at our house. And he ended up going to church on Easter. He ended up here, and when Pastor Bruce Blakey preached the gospel of Jesus Christ, he ended up getting saved, and now he's a pastor in Texas. And he's having dinner with us, and we're praising the Lord for his salvation. See, now, if you would have told us that that was going to happen at that time, we want to believe you sure, didn't seem like the guy throwing eggs at our house, was going to be breaking bread with, praise in Jesus Christ. See, but I've lived long enough now to know that life doesn't go the way that I think it should go. And then I could waste my life trying to seize control of my days, or I can say, my times are in your hand.
So, there are people in this room that live like this, and you're white knuckling it, you're trying to hang on to something that you're never going to be able to control. You're trying to steer something that you never had, like, any kind of authority to steer. But there's this idea. And it's so real. And it's so right there in all of our lives, that we can take control of our own destiny, that we can control the number of our days, that we can actually determine what happens to us in this life. If we've learned something from the last two years of our lives, it should be that our times are not in our hands, and we should trust our time in the hands of the Lord. Like, let's really learn something. Let's learn something from study. And Paul is two years in prison. Let's learn something from the last two years, that if anybody here thinks you're in control of world events, let's just put that thought away for a while. And this would be a great verse for everybody here to memorize Psalm 31:14-15: “I trust in you, O Lord; I say ‘you are my God.’ My times are in your hand.” Not only do I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, not only do I believe in all the prophecies about him and that when I die, I will be swallowed up by life and my soul will be in the presence of the Lord, but I believe that I am held in the hand of the Father and the Son. In this moment of time until eternity, God has a hold of me, and he will not let me go. Anybody else here believe that. See, my times, I don't get to decide what happens in the rest of my life. I'd like to spend my days preaching here with all of you in Huntington Beach, see in the name of Jesus lifted high, I'd love to see people get saved at Easter, I'd love to see revival break out here among us. I'm praying for it. But I don't get to decide what happens. And neither do you. And we can be okay with that by faith, or we can be frustrated by that for the rest of our life. So, there's this idea that's so important in your soul, but it's not popular in Christianity in America, it's this idea of waiting on God. It's a key part of the Christian life. It's a key part. Every person who has faith, you believe that things are going to happen, but there's going to be time between when those things happen, and the present. See, people have this very bad idea about waiting. Nobody likes waiting, the only kind of waiting that we like is procrastinating kind of waiting. But when we want it to be here, and we want it to be now, we're like, oh, I want to do something to make it happen. Now see, and you can't do anything to make it happen now. There is only one who can make it happen. And so, you have to wait on him. That's where Psalm 31 ends up going, Look at how it ends in praise here in verse 21, where he's so confident that his soul is going to be saved, his times are in God's hands. So, he says in verse 21: “Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.’” I felt like, God, you're not seeing me. “But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help. Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” And I would like to be strong. I would like to let my heart take courage. I don't know what you want to do the rest of tonight and tomorrow, if you want to feel more and more encouraged, or if you want to feel more and more like you're losing heart, and you're fading away, but I would like to be uplifted in my soul. And it says that the key for everybody here, whether you're going to lose heart, or whether you're going to take heart is whether or not you wait on the Lord, because your times are in his hand.
See a lot of people they're not waiting on the Lord. They're waiting for their circumstances to change. And waiting for your circumstances to change is it's more than frustrating. It's maddening. Is anybody here waiting for the politics in America to change? Anybody here waiting for common sense to break out in America once again? You're going to be waiting a long time. See, a lot of people that are waiting, they don't. The reason we think about waiting is we think about what's going to happen. What am I waiting for? What circumstance do I want to see? What's the next event on the timeline of my life? And there are people right now I'm speaking to, people who are waiting for heavy things, you're waiting for somebody to get saved. There are people really waiting for pregnancy to happen wondering why isn't it happening. There are people who are like, how come I don't have that job? How come we're still barely making it, or not even making it financially? We’ve got people in the room waiting on some very heavy things in life and it's like you're thinking you're believing the lie that so many of us are so deceived by that when that thing happens then life will be okay. And see, it fools you once like it fools you once when you want to date so and so. It fools you twice when you want to marry so and so. It fools you the third time when you want to have a baby with so and so. But here we are getting fooled again and again and again. When that next thing happens, all will be happy. Keep telling yourself that one because pretty soon, the next thing that happens is we die. You can see the life stages that people are waiting for aren't often the life stages that people actually experience. I can't tell you how many people have been waiting for retirement and that's the moment when there's a crisis in their family when their health falls apart. How many people can't wait for that big move that they've been planning for years. And that's the moment when life goes completely upside down. People thinking that that thing is going to be the thing that will define me, that will change me, that will help me, and then that thing never even happens. See, waiting on your circumstances to change is very disheartening. But waiting for God to act is empowering. It's uplifting.
Let's get that down for point number three: If you're waiting on circumstances to change, expect disappointment. It is disheartening. But waiting on God to act is empowering. It is life in your soul. It is the ability to live in the not there yet, but fully believing that I will be there because God is able, and he will act. And I'm not waiting for things that will always let me down. I'm waiting for the one who promised to lift me up. And I'm humbling myself before him, and he will lift me up in his proper time, when it's beautiful, when he wants it to happen, according to the purpose of his perfect will. He will exalt me in his proper time. Oh, he's going to lift me up. But I'm not waiting on that circumstance to change. I'm waiting on the mighty hand of the Lord. See, now you want to live disappointed, keep waiting for something to happen. You want to live in courage, wait for the one who makes things happen. So big difference. It's a big difference in your heart. How you think about it, how you pray for I mean, just look at your prayers. Look at the things you ask God for? Are you asking God for this thing to happen? Or are you asking God to act according to his perfect will? Which one? Which one is it? If you're if you're asking God to do his will in your life, you will not live a life of disappointment. If you're asking for what you think his will is for your life, you will be redirected and delayed many times. And so it says, look at that verse. And this is a whole theme. You could do a great study on this verse 24, “be strong, and let your heart take courage all you who wait for the Lord.” Waiting for the Lord is not boring, waiting for the Lord is not wasting time. You can see there's a sense of empowerment, of uplifting.
Go over to Isaiah a few pages over to the right. My favorite passage on waiting on the Lord is Isaiah 40:28-31. And this is all about beholding your God. This is all about the good news that God reigns. This is all about the one who's in charge of all things, the one who holds the waters of the earth in the hollow of his hand, the one who is beyond comprehension, and yet he cares for you. He knows the details of your life, and he cares for you. Just like the birds that fly overhead, or the flowers that bloom in the springtime, so God cares about the details of your life. The hairs of your head are all numbered. God has all power, authority, and control, he actually cares about your daily life. That's the message of Isaiah 40 and it ends with this Isaiah 40:28 And it's expecting you to get this. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God.” God dwells in eternity. He is never in a hurry. He is never rushed. He is never delayed. Everything happens according to his timing.
You're going to lose an hour of sleep tonight. There's nothing you can do about it. Absolutely nothing. An hour, an hour have our REM sleep, snatched away from you. Taken, never to be given back, until fall. Let tonight be a night that you learn once and for all. I cannot control time. It is completely outside of my control. And God, I mean, just let your mind wander. Don't let it wander too long because you need to get home and get to bed, but let your mind wander a little bit everybody. What is it like to exist outside of time? What is it like to not have the second hand constantly moving? What is it like to not feel like you’ve got to be here or there at this time or that that time? What is it like to dwell as an everlasting God, from before the beginning, eternity past, the one who was and is and is to come? That's hard for us to even fully get our minds around, because all we have ever known is time. Have you not heard? Do you not know that God exists outside of the time that we're living in? He is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. I mean, I grow faint and weary. Can I get an Amen from anybody? Like I need a recharge. I need food, I need sleep, I need some kind of exercise, I need something to help, otherwise I cannot stay at hundred percent, I cannot stay at maximum efficiency. Can you even imagine one who is always operating at maximum power and energy? That is our God. Everything that has ever happened in your life is all by the goodness, the undeserved favor of God; everything you ever have has all been given to you. By God, if you were to try to count all the blessings you ever received, you wouldn't even be able to add up all the things that God has given you. And he is not even one little bit weary after all that he's done for you. And then look how many of us there are here. And then think about how many people there are on the planet. And what he's done for all of those people, to give them life and breath and all things, and none of that has depleted any of his energy. Wow. That's who God is. I mean, he does not faint or grow weary. In fact, he gives power to the faint. There's a way to plug into this. There's a way to charge. To him who has no might, he increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted. But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Would you like to plug in to an eternal source of energy? Notice the key line right there at the beginning of verse 31. “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.” So, who here waits on God to act? Who here is confident that we are not off schedule? We have not been delayed. We are actually right here in the beautiful time that God wanted us to be in. And the Palm Sunday choir is starting to rehearse again. We got Palm Sunday coming up, we're going to start Romans, we got good Friday coming up, we got Easter. Here we are in God's perfect timing. Two years of our lives have gone by, but maybe we've learned something about the one who has the power, the energy. And if you wait on him, instead of losing, you will be gaining. You'll be able to run, you'll be able to not grow weary, you'll feel like you're flying on eagle's wings. Because you know an everlasting God, and your times are in his hands. Let me pray for us.
Father, please teach us what it means to wait on you. And I know that some of my brothers and sisters here know about this, but I pray that they will be encouraged to wait on you. I don't know what the next step is that everybody here is hoping for. I don't know what the next thing is that we think should happen in our lives. But I know that you make everything beautiful in your time. And I know that all of our times are in your hands. So, I pray that we'll consider Paul who was left in prison for two years. And we'll consider what's happened with us over the last two years of our lives. And we'll learn an eternal lesson that I'm going to spend my life waiting on the Lord. I'm going to look to what you're going to do. And I'm going to stop getting all my expectations up in the air, only to get disappointed again. I'm going to stop expecting people to change, and events to change. And I'm going to start asking you to change what's going on. Things will be done according to your will, according to your kingdom that is going to come, according to your name being hollowed and lifted high. So, Father, I pray that you will teach us what it means to wait on you and that that could be true of everybody here that I will wait for you through the storm, through the night, through the COVID, through the political fight, whatever it is that we're going to go through next. Whatever wicked this way comes, we pray that we will wait on you through all of our trials, through all of our hard dates. And then we will see you come through that we will see you lift us up renew our string They give us energy so God, please hear this prayer that we pray that we will be the people who wait on you here today.
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