daily Broadcast

Don’t Ask Why, Ask What?

From the series Rebuilding Your Broken World

We live in a fallen world. And in a fallen world, bad things happen to good people. When those bad things happen to you, what do you do? Chip begins this series by asking and answering three key questions that will allow you to grow through your pain, rather than be crushed by it.

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When I was a little boy, my mom had this book of bedtime stories and fairy tales.  It was real slick.  And it was used so much that it got kind of brown on the edges.  I can still remember the old scotch tape that, after a while, would turn yellow.  She would read me these bedtime stories.

One of my favorites – and I can still, in my mind, see this picture of this brick wall, and this funny looking thing, like an egg, on top of the wall.  It went something like this, “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.  Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.  And all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

That is such a cute little story when you’re, like, three, four, or five, and you see all the pieces – and  I’m not sure who made that up, and, personally, I don’t even know what it means.  These bedtime stories – I mean, what do they do for you?  I don’t know.  But I remember I liked that one.

And that’s a cute story, until you are the Humpty Dumpty, or someone you love is the Humpty Dumpty, and a doctor can’t put it back together, and your money can’t put it back together, and a friend can’t put it back together .  And you get a broken world experience.  We talked earlier, and you told me.

I  have been through one of my closest friends in the world discovering that, in a time of weakness and a transition in his family, one of his kids got involved in a homosexual relationship.  I cannot tell you the number of people who have called in the middle of the night, and have been in ICU with their teenager, who was in a car wreck.

I can vividly remember watching a woman walk in when her daughter had mono.  It was not such a big deal, and it rarely ever happens.  The girl’s spleen split.  She died on her floor, in her bedroom, and her dad found her.  And they couldn’t find her mother.  Three hours later, finally, all these people were gathered, and the mom walked through those double doors, through the ICU, and she took one look at us, and she became hysterical.

I could tell you about looking into the eyes of men who have told me, “Chip, I don’t get it.  We’ve been married 32 years, and she just said she doesn’t love me anymore.”

I’ve talked to women who said, “How could this be?  He’s a leader in the church.  He’s been a great father.  And now, behind my back, he’s been logging on to these pornographic sites.  Everything I’ve believed about him now is in question.”

Do you understand what it’s like?  Cancer, a wayward child, a nasty church split, kids, whom you’ve given your life for, who grow up and never call, and  don’t care . . .  Everybody gets some broken world experiences.  If you haven’t had yours yet, just fasten your chinstrap.  Right?

I remember, vividly, my first one.  I did not grow up as a Christian.  So, I never read the Bible.  I was probably less than a year old in the Lord, and I had read through at least the New Testament, once.  And I had this naïve thinking: Oh, now I know Jesus.  My sins are forgiven.  I’m on my way to heaven.  He really loves me.  Isn’t life great?  Life is fair.  Life is wonderful.  And if you do good and wonderful things, and obey God, life will be good to you.  I was about 19 years old, in a Bible study with two other close friends.  We got serious about our faith, and we were growing.

This one fellow came from a rural area.  So he rode, instead of the 10-speed type bike – remember the old kind of bike where you would push down on the pedal to stop?  In fact, they’re coming back.  Well, he got with a buddy – and they were both on the wrestling team in college.  West Virginia has real high, winding roads, with hairpin turns, and they would go down very fast.

Sunday afternoon, they decided, “Hey, let’s take a bike ride.”  My buddies, Frank and Bob, are out riding on their bikes and they get going very fast – they’re athletes, having fun – and a hairpin turn comes up.  So, Frank instinctively pushes down on the pedals to slow down . . . except the bike has hand brakes.  By the time he reaches up, he’s got such speed going – it’s a hairpin turn, going around like that.

He misses the turn.  The bike goes over the embankment, about 30 or 40 feet in the air.  He goes headlong into a house.  It severs his spinal cord.  By the time my friend, Bob, gets there, he’s not breathing.  Bob pounds on his chest, gives him mouth to mouth.

A couple hours later, 30 of us are listening between that little thin curtain that they have in the emergency room, and hearing our buddy scream, just scream bloody murder.  The doctor says, “I’m sorry.  We can’t give you anything right now.  We’ve got to figure out what works and what doesn’t work.”  Frank kept screaming, “I can’t feel my legs!  I can’t feel my legs!”  After three or four hours, the doctor comes out.  He says, “We’re really sorry.  The internal bleeding is so severe.  There’s no hope for your friend.”

We didn’t know better.  We were brand new Christians.  And so, we went up to the little chapel at church, one of those interfaith chapels on a state campus.  Thirty of us got together and said, “You know what?  We’re not going to eat, and we’re going to pray until God does something.”  For the next three days, thirty of us rotated shifts, and all we did was pray, fast, and ask God to save Frank’s life.  About a day and a half or two days into it, we got a call that said, “We don’t understand.  The internal bleeding has stopped, and Frank’s going to live.”

I’ve gotta tell you that – you weren’t supposed to go in the hospital, and I wasn’t next of kin, even though we were brothers.  So, I would wait until the nurse would go that direction, and then I would sneak in the hospital.  They had those circular beds, and Frank was upside down.  I would go and I’d lay underneath the bed, and talk to Frank.  I was so mad, and so angry at God.  What kind of God lets this happen?  Man, this is my buddy; he’s in my Bible study.  He’s loving people.  He’s growing.  You do good things, good things happen.  Right?  Life’s fair.  Right?  I’m young.  I’m zealous.  I’m naïve.  I was biblically illiterate.

I’m telling you, if you think life is fair – number one, you’re theologically inaccurate, and you’re pragmatically in for a very hard, difficult life.  But the thing is, if you don’t think clearly, when bad things happen you start blaming God for things.  And you get where you can never deal well with things, because you don’t understand that it is a fallen world.  In a fallen world, bad things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people.  When you do good and obey God, there is no free pass, no collecting $200.00, no passing go.

Jesus lived in a fallen world.  Paul lived in a fallen world.  Peter lived in a fallen world.  And they exemplified what it meant to honor God, and walk in righteousness, and the suffering they went through.

So, we’re going to talk about how Jesus can rebuild our broken world.  But we’re going to learn about what our part is, and how that really works.  Open up your notes.  I want to give you three observations about life.  And if you don’t get these three observations down clearly, I will tell you, your life will be very painful, for a very, very long time.

Observation number one is that trials are inevitable.  In a fallen world, bad times are not a possibility.  They are a promise.  Listen to what the Scripture says.  The apostle Peter said, in 1 Peter 4:12, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial that you’re suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”  I mean, why are you surprised when difficult things happen?

Or hear the very words of Jesus, His last night on the earth, in John 16:33: “These things I’ve spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.”  What is His expectation of His most faithful followers?  “In the world you will have tribulation” – or problems – “but be of good cheer.  [I’ve] overcome the world.”

Or Paul, in 2 Timothy 3:12, 13, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life” – or union – “with Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”  Now, that’s a promise we don’t need to claim, right?  Do you ever find those great promises in the Bible?  “I need to claim this promise!”  Well, guess what?  This is a promise: “Everyone who wants to live [in union, fully following Christ] . . . will be persecuted, and evil persons and imposters will keep going on from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived themselves.”  So, first of all, let’s learn to think correctly.  Trials are inevitable.

The second observation is that trials tend to make us, or break us.  Bad times are like a double-edged sword.  They make some people, and they break other people.  Read the story of Helen Keller.  Read the story of Churchill.  Read the story of Abe Lincoln.  We could go on and on.

Some of the greatest people, who’ve made the greatest impact, Christian and non, have been through horrendous times: people in concentration camps, such as Corey ten Boom, or Joni Eareckson Tada, who suffered terrible, unjust, and unfair things.  It’s like a piece of coal that gets turned into a diamond where people see and reflect the very nature of Jesus.

And yet, I could take you to churches, and a few places I’ve had the chance to pastor, and I could find you a lady who’s been divorced for 30 years, and she’s as bitter today as she was 30 years ago.  And the sourness has soured her soul.  Did she get a raw deal?  Yes.  Was it unfair?  Yes.  Her attitude has made her one of the most unpleasant people to be around, in the world.  Trials are inevitable, number one.

Secondly, trials will either make you, or break you.  In fact, I love what the Chinese do.  They write those little pictographs, and they have two very interesting pictures that they put together for the word crisis, two caricatures.  They’re the words tragedy, and opportunity.   Isn’t that great?  See, when you’re in a crisis, when you have a broken world experience, the Chinese realize, Here’s a crisis.  It’s either a tragedy, or it’s an opportunity, depending on what?  How you respond.  Trials are inevitable.  Trials either make us, or break us.

Thirdly, victims fail to move beyond asking “why,” and remain stuck in their pain.    You’ve met victims.  You’re in a Bible study, the first time you ever meet them – “Oh, hi Mary.  How are you doing?”  “Oh, pretty good, considering.”  “Oh, considering what?”  And it’s like a tape.  And if you know Mary, she plays this tape for everyone she meets: “Well . . .”  And then, she tells you this long story.

The very first time you hear it, “Oh, Mary, that’s terrible!  When did that happen?  I’m so sorry.  Do you want to come over for lunch?  I really want to help you.”  And she comes over for lunch.  “Well, Mary, how’s it going today?”  “Well, not bad actually, considering.”  “Well, considering what?”  And then, she plays this tape, and you’re thinking, I’ve already heard this story!  And what you realize is, Mary is a victim.  It was her childhood, and her lack of education, and what so-and-so did, and then this happened, and that happened, and this happened – she’s a victim.

We all meet them.  Victims never get beyond, “Why me?  Why me?  Why did I marry him?  Why did I go to work at that time?  Why did I drive my car at just that time?  Why this?  Why that?  If I wouldn’t have said that . . .  Why? Why?  Why?  Why?”  Now, intellectually, we all have to start by saying, “Okay, why?”  But victims never get beyond the “why.”

Conquerors and survivors stop asking, “Why?  Why?  Why?” and they start asking, “What?  What?  What?”  Not, “Why did it happen?” but, “What can I grow from this?”  Not, “Why did it happen?” but, “What can God do in me to help others through this?”  Not, “Why are things so terrible?” but, “What would a good, sovereign, all-knowing God, who allowed this, want to do to bring glory to Himself?  Of course I don’t like it.  Of course It’s difficult.  But I refuse to stay stuck here.”  To ask “why,” briefly, is okay.  To stay there is lethal.

There are three reasons, I think, that you need to move beyond asking “why.”  There’s a theological reason, an emotional reason, and a pragmatic reason.  If you’re looking for where those are in your notes, they’re your pencil writing them in right now.

The theological reason why asking, “Why?  Why?  Why?” is fruitless is because there are some questions that, this side of heaven, you’re never going to know.  I mean, we have gotten to the point that we have gotten so big in our thinking, and reduced our God to be so small, we think He’s on trial: “God, now, tell me, why did this happen?  Why did this happen?  Why did this happen?”

I’ve got news for you: The answer is, as long as you’re living, breathing, this side of heaven . . . I don’t know.  I don’t understand.  It doesn’t make sense.

Now, are there great theological answers, and great passages, to help us understand a lot?  Yes.  But there are certain things you don’t know.  There are certain people who keep bumping into something, when the answer is, check with God when you get to heaven on this one.  You’re not going to figure it out on this side.

Emotionally, what you find is, some people who ask, “Why?  Why?  Why?” – they pound on guilt that’s unfounded.  They have anger that’s never resolved.  They have questions where there are no answers.  And they keep rehearsing options about, “If I wouldn’t have left in my car that day . . .  If I would have made the phone call . . .  If I would have done this . . .  If I would have done that . . .”  It’s fruitless.  And so, they get emotionally paralyzed.

Finally, the pragmatic reason to stop asking “why” all the time is, it just doesn’t do any good.  It just doesn’t do any good.  Three observations about life: Trials are inevitable, trials tend to make us, or break us, and victims fail to move beyond asking “why, ” and remain stuck in their pain.

What I want to suggest is, the key to moving through your broken world experience is to ask a pivotal question.  That question is, ask “what,” instead of “why.”  “What do You want me to learn?   What do You want to do in me?  What do You want to do through me?”

Did you ever wonder what God would say if you asked Him that?  “Dear God, I don’t like this divorce.  We were a happily married couple.  I don’t know what happened.  I don’t know where it went south.”  “Dear God, what’s happening to my grandchild is breaking my heart.”  Dear God, cancer, I thought, was for other people, not me.”  “Dear God, how in the world could all my retirement be gone?”  “Dear God . . .”  “Dear God . . .”

Once you get through the emotional grieving, and the pain of “why,” did you ever wonder what God would say if you asked, “God, what would You like to say to me, in the midst of my broken world experience, that would help me be more like Your Son, and that would help me fulfill Your purposes?  I’m just going to go out in a limb, Father, and guess that You weren’t sleeping in heaven when this happened.  So, this didn’t take You by surprise.  Your Word tells me that You’re all knowing.  Your Word tells me that You’re all wise.  That means You bring about the best possible ends, for the most possible people, by the best possible means, for the longest possible time.

So, if there was a gentler, kinder, easier, more righteous way to do in me, and through, me what You would want to do in and through me, then circumstances would be different.  You have sovereignly either decreed this circumstance, or You have allowed it.

I am the object of Your love.  So, what I want to say is, what do I do?  What do I say?  What do I think, in order to cooperate with Your work in my life?”

Here’s the neat part: You don’t have to guess what God would say.  There was a group of people who had a broken world experience.  In fact, one of the people was Jesus’ own half brother, James.  It was the very first book written in the New Testament, written, probably, between A.D. 46 and A.D. 49.  If you read through the Book of Acts, you find – remember  in Acts chapter 8, there’s a great persecution?  The early Christians were primarily all Jewish Christians.  And so, these 12 tribes, these believers, these Christians were still thinking like Jews.  They were spread out because of the persecution.  They believed Jesus is the Messiah.  Because they believe Jesus is the Messiah, they’ve been kicked out of the synagogues, disinherited, and lost their jobs.  They’re running for their lives.

And James is going to write a letter to them.  You know what?  Their finances, their health, their families, their struggles – their world is falling apart, a lot like some of yours.  And we don’t have to guess what God would say.  In James chapter 1 – notice what he says.  Open your Bibles there, if you would.  I always give people a little hint where the books are.  It’s a pretty thick book.  Find Romans.  Keep going right.  If you hit Hebrews – it’s a little bit longer book – James is really close.

Notice what he says – James chapter 1, beginning in verse 1: “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord, Jesus Christ, to the 12 tribes who are disbursed abroad: Greetings.”  He becomes a leader in the church.  These are his brothers and sisters.  He loves and cares for them.  Their networks are breaking down.  Their families are breaking down.  Their finances are breaking down. So, what do you say to people who are having a broken world experience?

Look at verse two.  There’s a command: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.”  Well, why?  “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”  Okay . . .  Boy, thanks, James.  Man, that’s just encouragement, just coming – you know . . .  “Let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

So, James, instead of going, “Oh, I’m so sorry for you.  Oh, it’s so bad; it’s so terrible.  I can’t believe it.  You know, you took that big step of faith.  You believe in Jesus as the Messiah.  I just can’t imagine how terrible it is.  You know what?  Why don’t you come on over and cry on my shoulder.”

That’s not exactly what they get, is it?  “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.”  And, by the way, it’s a command.

And then, he gives the reason, in verse three: “Knowing that” – and we’ll see, in a minute, it’s a knowledge that comes from experience.  “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”  By the way, another command: Allow, or cooperate with, this endurance in such a way that God really ends up doing in you, and through you what He really wants to do in you, and through you.

As I look at those verses – two, three, and four – I think it makes it very clear: There are three key questions that survivors, spiritual conquerors, ask.  I put it in the form of a question, because I want you to ask yourself these questions.

The first question comes out of verse two.  The first question is, “What can I control when my world falls apart?”  Now, here’s what I want you to do –  Do not give me one of those, “Oh, he’s teaching the Bible now.  We’re in James, chapter one.  Oh, goody, goody, goody.”

That was not a rhetorical question.  I want you to think of your broken world experience.  I want you to bring close to your heart and your mind, right now, what it is that, down deep, you feel like, “God, this is not fair.  God, this bothers me.  God – mmm!  I’m struggling with this.”  I want you to go there, and I want you to hear these verses through that lens, not through this intellectual, “now we’re teaching the Bible” lens.  What is it that you, right now, where you live, in your world, with your struggles, can control?

The answer is eight little letters: your attitude.  What you can control is your attitude.

Notice the word consider.  It’s an interesting Greek word.  It means “to evaluate; to calculate.” It’s not an emotional word.  It doesn’t say “feel joyful.”  It’s like an accountant looking at the books.  It’s looking at all different things, and, systematically, analytically, calculating and considering something.

I love the quote by Viktor Frankl, who was a prisoner in the Nazi war camps.  He later became a psychiatrist.  And, speaking from his experience, he wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

You know something?  I can’t control what happens in the stock market, and neither can you.  I can’t control how my children turn, out or the decisions they make.  I can’t control what my boss does, or what your boss does.  I can’t control whether someone was on drugs, or drinking, and went left of center and hit one of my kids, or one of my friends.  I can’t control whether someone decides that they’re a little frustrated in their marriage, and they end up in pornography.  I can’t control about 99 percent of what happens in the world, and neither can you.  But I have 100 percent control of how Chip Ingram’s going to think about it.  And so do you, for you.

You are not a victim.  The only victims in the world are people who choose to be victims, and who choose to get some unhealthy, bizarre strokes out of telling people how difficult, how miserable, how painful, what a raw deal they got.  And what they really end up doing, in a left-handed way, is saying, “Please feel sorry for me.  I don’t want help. I don’t want to grow.  I don’t want to face hard things.  But I really like attention, so feel sorry for me.”

Now, should we empathize, comfort, and care?  Absolutely.  But that’s other people’s responsibility.  Our responsibility is to have an attitude – and the attitude He asks us for, by the way, you can’t muster this one up.  This is supernatural.  “Consider it” – what? – “all joy.”

And the word all, there – literally, it means “pure; unmitigated.”  Consider, not just the specific, but all the things around it, joy.  Literally, "unmixed, or pure, joy.  It looks at the whole situation, the whole experience, as coming from the hand of, or at least allowed by, an all-loving, good, and sovereign God.  “Consider it all joy when you encounter trials.”

Notice the little word when.  In your notes, why don’t you underline it.  I noticed, in my Bible, it doesn’t say “if.”  You know, these are New Testament Christians.  They love God.  They’re following God.  They’re making great sacrifice.  They’re giving off the top.  They’re willing to give their lives.  God never promised you, as the old song says, a rose garden.

When you encounter various trials – literally, it’s when you’re surrounded by trials.  By the way, this word for trial is not an inward temptation.  These are external things coming into your life.  This word had to do with external things that you can’t control.  How do you respond when circumstances, and people, and relationships, and health – things that you can’t control occur in your life?  What he says is, number one, you ask, What can I control when my world falls apart?  My attitude.  “Consider it all joy.”

I remember lying underneath that circular bed of my buddy, Frank.  I’m just going to tell you, I didn’t know any better, and I wasn’t very reverent.  But I was going to punish God: I’m not reading the Bible anymore after what You did to my friend.  I remember lying under his bed – and I’m a macho young guy on the college basketball team, just bawling like a baby, saying, “Frank, why –  God, why couldn’t I have been on that bike?”  On bad days, saying, “Learn to use hand brakes, you idiot!  What’s wrong with you?”  I mean, I was just so angry!  How could something like this happen?  You all understand.  Don’t you?

I read this verse.  Actually, Frank read this verse – and this didn’t happen in weeks.  He ended up having seven major surgeries.  He had bedsores this big that got infected.  They took steel pins, and stuck them down his back.  And then, they had problems with them.  He was just like a revolving surgery.

I remember, he went to rehab, and I’d go visit him – and I’m still hacked off at God.  I start to read my Bible again, because I thought, He’s bigger than I am, and this is probably not a very good fight. One thing I’m really glad I learned: I grew up around Christians who taught me, and modeled for me, you know, don’t be plastic with God.  Be real.

You read some of these Psalms by David – it seems like he gets a little hacked off.  Doesn’t he?  You read Job – I mean, whoa, you know?  You ought to be reverent.  “Hey, God . . .”  I think God can take it.  Because the Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and He saves those who are crushed in spirit.  But you never get broken-hearted, and you never get crushed in spirit, as long as you stay in denial.  And a lot of us keep trying to pretend it doesn’t bother us, and everything is going to be okay, with a little plastic smile.

So, I was mad at God. I remember Frank coming back from rehab, and I was whining.  You know, here I am, supposed to encourage him, and I’m telling him how frustrated I am.

And I’ll never forget the day when he looked at me – he was in the wheelchair – and said, “Chip, don’t you ever feel sorry for me.  You should have seen where I just came from.  Most of the people were quads.  Man, I can use my arms.  I can talk.  I don’t even need a feeding tube.”  He said, “Look at this,” and he started doing these hand raises in his chair.  He said, “I’m getting some muscle back.”  He said, “Don’t ever feel sorry for me.”

“Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials.”  That will take a supernatural response.  And notice, it’s a choice.  It’s not a feeling.  And just because you choose to do it, do not confuse your lack of emotion that might not align right away.  Your emotions are like cabooses, and your choices are like the engines.

We get it backwards.  We have a whole world of Christians going, “I feel bad.  I feel depressed.  I feel really down.  I feel really down.  I just don’t feel like . . .”  You know what?  Then grow up.  If you wait to feel right, and good, about things before you do the right thing . . .

Remember the very first counseling in the Bible?  Early, about Genesis chapter four?  We have a situation where one of these two brothers is going to end up committing murder.  And God comes, as the Counselor, and looks at him and says, “Why is your countenance falling?”  He knew what was going on.  Do you remember what God told him to do?  “If you do well” – action – “will not your countenance be lifted up?”

Sometimes you’ve gotta choose your way out of depression and discouragement.  Many of us say, “God, I do not feel like going to work.  I do not feel like reading my Bible.  I do not feel like praying.  I do not feel like giving good for evil.  I do not feel like writing an encouraging letter to someone right now, because . . .  Oh, poor me!”

But it’s an amazing thing, about halfway through that letter, when you’re thinking of someone else. . .  And you stick it in the mail . . .  You get a little lift.  When you choose to do what’s right, and realize, yeah, your life is hard, so you swing by the hospital ward and pray with this person who has cancer, or this person who’s terminal . . .  You know, amazing things happen.  You start feeling a whole lot better about life.  It’s a choice.
What must I do to make it through today?  Single word.  Endure.  You know what?  This is so counter politically correct, isn’t it?  This is so counter to pop psychology.  Just do this and everything will be better.  God says, “Consider it all joy, a choice.”  And then he says, “And let endurance have its perfecting way in your life.”  Endure.  Hang tough.  Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  Don’t quit.  Don’t feel sorry for yourself.  Why?  Knowing, by experience, the testing of your faith produces this endurance.

There’s two words in the Greek language for know.  One means knowing by way of personal experience.  The other is knowing by way of intelligence or data.  This knowing by way of personal experience.  Knowing, as you look at how life works and personal experience, when you endure, through difficult times, something powerful happens in your life because you know the testing, the proving, the purifying.  It will work something in you that won’t happen any other way.  The test is for you to pass.  God is not down on you.  God is not punishing you.  He says, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, knowing by way of experience that the testing of your faith produces this endurance.  It is this endurance that’s going to bring about the long term good.”  Anybody here had kids that needed braces?  Paid thousands of dollars, right?  They were called metal mouth, right?

At night, if you had some of the old ones, remember they hooked the things on here and stuck them around.  What did they say at the time?  “I hate this.  I hate this.”  You almost had to threaten their life for them to keep the braces on.  Then after the braces came off, does anybody remember the big retainer scene.  The retainer has to be in there.  Tell those kids it’ll be worth it.  It’ll be worth it.  It’ll be worth it.  Then three to five years later and a few thousands too many thousands of dollars later, remember your kids looking in the mirror and going, “Wow.  Straight beautiful teeth.”

Do you realize that some of the things God brings in your life is just like braces.  They’re uncomfortable and they hurt.  There are certain things you have to do on a regular basis that you hate.  The whole goal is He’s creating something beautiful.  But instead of beautiful straight teeth, He’s creating a beautiful person on the inside.  The only way that you could ever get those teeth right, they had to actually pull some of them out.  Then they had to realign some of them.  They had to stick them in a situation that was very uncomfortable with constant pressure.  To get things aligned in such a way, to take them from a broken, unbeautiful to useful and beautiful.

I look around the room and I gotta figure there’s at least a pretty good percentage of athletes, men and women in the room, and musicians and maybe a handful of artists.  Everyone of us in athletics have done what?  How many stadium stairs have your run?  How many times, three times a week, have you been in the weight room?  To what?  Endure.  Endure.  Endure.  Why?  Because it is in the practice of enduring that you’ve learned by enduring over and over and over.  That’s how you get strengthened.  In fact, I love this word endure.  It’s a compound word.  Hupo.  Meno.  Hupo means to be under.  Meno means to be under stress or pressure that is almost unsustainable.

Imagine a bar with about 175 pounds on it for me.  Maybe 150 for some of you.  Maybe 500 for some of you big, strong, bulky guys.  You know what I can do?  I can do that a few times.  But after about 8 or 10 times I start to shake a little bit.  Hupo meno is, the weight of the crisis in your marriage, the weight of financial issue, the cancer biopsy report, the conflict with one of the people in your family; you’re to consider it all joy.  You’re to have an attitude about it that God, somehow in His sovereign goodness, is going to do something through this situation to do in you and through you what he couldn’t do in an easier, better way because he’s in control.

It  produces this pressure.  You have to struggle with your attitude day by day.  You have to get in the Bible and pray and seek His face and ask for forgiveness for the 38th time.  But do you know what that is?  It’s like hupo meno.  It’s like that barbell.  You know what happens when you do a barbell over and over and over and over.  A lot of times you shake, if you’ve ever done it.  But if you keep doing it three times a week or four times a week.  You actually tear the muscle fibers.  That’s why you do it every other day because it gives them time to heal.  That’s why you always want a spotter.  When you don’t think you can do it anymore, if you can get someone to help you to do the last few reps, that’s where you tear, just gently, the muscle fibers.

As they tear they grow and fill in like this.  What you experience is a bigger, stronger muscle.  Why?  Because of constant resistance that is tearing you down in the process.  Does anybody have a broken world experience right now that feels like it is a weight that you cannot stand, that is tearing you down in the process, and you feel like I just can’t make it beyond this moment?  God says that’s all you have to do.  All I want you to do is endure today.  Athletes know that you endure.  If you endure for a period of time you can run faster and jump higher and are stronger.

It’s wonderful to watch Lenny sit here with his eyes closed playing the piano, right?  I got news for you.  He did scales until his finger bled one time.  I have four kids in my house who are all musicians.  I’ve watched them.  Whether it’s piano or guitar or drums, it’s when over and over and over and over they are disciplined and they endure, then they develop a capacity that they didn’t have before.

Do you understand what God is doing in your broken world experience?  He’s not surprised.  He loves you.  He’s already forgiven you.  His spirit dwells in you.  You are on your way to heaven.  His goal through this experience is to make you more and more like Jesus, number one.  To demonstrate His grace to other people in the process.  Because he will have you respond in a way that’s so supernatural people will go, “How come you don’t hate your ex?  How can you have a good attitude toward that company after they stole your retirement?  How can you deal with that after what she did or he did?”  You’d like to give them this great spiritual answer about how wonderful you are.

But you made choices back here when you didn’t feel like it.  You chose to consider it joy.  By way of your experience you learned, there’s no hypothetical grace for next week.  I can’t take this one more minute.  Well, you don’t have to take it.  You just need to take it now.  I can’t go on single like this after being abandoned by him or by her.  I can never live this way.  You don’t have to live this way but all you have to do is obey God right now.  There’s no hypothetical grace.

You have grace today to be all you need to be and God will give you everything you need today, this moment.  Guess what?  An hour from now, fresh grace.  Tomorrow, fresh grace.  It’s just like the manna.  You couldn’t store it up and put it in the jars.  Every single day God will give you grace. If it’s a really, really bad day you get a lot, lot more grace. If it’s not too bad of a day, you don’t need so much grace.  [Laughter]  But what we do is we think, five years from now everything will be terrible.  You know what?  Jesus may be back in four years.  Don’t sweat five years from now.

What can you control is the first question to ask in a broken world experience.  Answer: my attitude.  How do I make it through today?  Answer: endure knowing that this process of endurance is going to do something powerful in my life.  Third question, what hope do I have for tomorrow?  What hope do I have for tomorrow?  Answer: God will take the worst and use it for my best.  My hope is God will take the worst that I’m experiencing now and he’ll use it for my best.  Verse four, “And let or allow or cooperate with endurance that it might have its perfect result.  That you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  Let perseverance, that same word, cooperate with.  Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  Hang in there for today.  Get up and hang in there for tomorrow.  If you put seven of those together you’ve hung in there for a whole week.  Oh, thank you Jesus.  If you do four weeks in a row you’ve hung in there for a month.  If you put 12 months in a row, you’ve hung in there for a year.            You’ll look in the rear view mirror and you’ll see the person you were a year ago and the person you are now, and you will be as shocked at the transformation as anybody else.  Because he will be taking that piece of spiritual coal, and all that pressure and all that endurance is going to turn little by little by little by little that piece of coal, spiritually, into a gem of a diamond.  The people that you admire most, the people who reflect Jesus the most, the people that you want to be like, go check into their history.  It wasn’t because they went to 49 years of Bible college.  You will find the people who reflect Jesus the most are people who have often suffered the most and the most deeply.

They didn’t give in and they didn’t give up.  They didn’t think they could make it through.  All they did was hang on for that one day.  They allowed endurance to have its perfecting result.  Notice, perfecting, the word means to be mature, to be ripe, to be fully grown.  The picture in God’s mind of an apple or a piece of fruit when its exactly right or where it just needs to be; that’s this word.  And He’s got a picture of that for you.  Of what he wants you to be through your personality, your circumstances, your background reflecting the image of Christ.  Complete.  All it’s part of being well rounded.

I remember years later and Frank ended up staying at the house of the ministry, and he finished college as a physics major.  I found out hanging out with smart people was a very wise move in college.  You borrow their notes and make it through, and Frank was a smart guy.  I ended up going to another college and doing a little graduate work and coaching and playing a little basketball around the world.  Then I was shocked God called me into vocational ministry.  Because I thought God used really holy, super smart people and not ordinary people.  I’m an ordinary person.  So I learned, the Bible is filled with ordinary people.  So I qualify.

I remember going back a few years later.  They put a little elevator in that house for Frank.  Frank’s a physics teacher.  A few years later he got married.  He’s a wrestling coach.  He pops out of his wheelchair and still can probably beat most any kid there without his legs.  I remember talking to Frank and him saying, “You know, Chip?  I went to Bible study but most of my Christian life prior to the accident was pretty much a superficial sham.  I was all about me and a little bit about Jesus and what could he do for my life.”

But he said, “I would not change a single thing that has happened to my life.  Knowing God as I do and what He’s done in me and now what He’s done through me in this chair.  I wouldn’t trade that for being able to walk again.”  See, Frank considered it all joy.  Frank knew that the testing of his faith is what it boils down to.  Do you ever think about these trials you go through?  The testing of your faith.  Do you believe or not?  Or are we fair-weather Christians?

I believe in God and Jesus and all the benefits whenever it’s working for me.  But the testing of your faith produces this ability to hupo meno.  That means, you don’t give up and you don’t give in and you don’t quit.  You feel like it almost everyday.  Then you allow this endurance over time to have its perfecting maturing result.  That you end up complete from God’s eyes, lacking in nothing.  Frank’s life is an amazing story. But that’s God’s agenda for you and me and everybody.  Your broken world is different from His.

There are three questions you have to ask when you go through a broken world experience.  What can I control?  Answer: my attitude.  How do I make it through today?  Answer: endure.  What hope do I have for tomorrow?  God will take my worst and use it for my good.  In case you don’t believe that just casually read your Old Testament tonight.  Read Joseph’s life and Daniel’s life.  Then get the New Testament and read about Paul and Jesus.  Then read the biographies of church history.  You’ll find God’s greatest saints have endured the greatest pain, in order that they would reflect Him in ways beyond their wildest imaginations.

As we close there’s five blessings that I see grow out of going through a broken world experience, and I’ll touch on these.  Maybe these are something that you can share in your small groups a little bit later.  They’re not in your notes but I want you to lean back, put the old pencil down.  What I’d like you to do is ask yourself rather than, “Oh, did I get all these on the paper?”  Because usually, most of you won’t look at these notebooks later anyway.  I hope you do.  I’m going to read these five things that occur.  These are the results.  This is the fruit.  This is what actually happens and how God produces the good stuff.  As I read them, I want you just in your mind’s eye to say which one of these things you think He’s really teaching you the most.  Then when you get together in your small groups, I’d like you to share.

The thing that I think God is working in me is this one.  One, we are forced to depend on God at a new level.  Left to ourselves, we tend to be self sufficient, proud and insensitive.  We’re forced to depend on God at a new level.  Two, we are weaned from the temporal and the urgent and the worldly affairs of life.  Isn’t it amazing how unimportant new cars and football games and season tickets are and who does your hair when someone is in ICU?

Thirdly, trials allow us to witness firsthand the reality and the power of God.  You know, we read books and we hear about great Christians.  I’ll tell you what.  When you’re desperate and you cry out to God, He is near to the brokenhearted and He saves those who are crushed in spirit.  The greatest, most powerful times I’ve ever had with God is not when I feel all charged up.  It has been when I bring nothing to the table.  God, I can’t solve this and I’m afraid for one of my family, or it’s a situation that’s so overwhelming.  It’s those times that I’ve seen the powerful, supernatural hand of God.  That’s true for you.

Fourthly, trials serve as an awesome testimony to the unbelieving world.  See, we think we’re going to score so many touchdowns, raise perfect kids, make a bunch of money, live in a nice house and have these all together lives.  And say, “Oh, and it’s all because of Jesus.”  And the world is going to say, “Oh, wow.”  But how it really works is they watch you respond to a mate who walked out on you or a cancer or a grandchild in ICU or being unfairly treated at work.  They watch you with a Godly attitude.  They say, “You know what?  I think this Jesus stuff must be really true because I can’t imagine how that woman or that man made it through that situation with that attitude, apart from a real God who’s really alive.

Fifthly, we become sensitive, caring, and compassionate people.  Jesus said it, didn’t He?  “Those who have been forgiven much,” or I would say those who have hurt much love much.  Those who have suffered deeply.  Those who have been wounded deeply.  It produces something in you that you didn’t have.  It causes you to reach out and care in ways that you never did before.