Difficult Good, Part 2
From the series Purpose FULL
Where do we turn when we experience pain, hardship, or even disappointment with God? In this program, our guest teacher Ryan Ingram wraps up his series “Purpose FULL – Discovering God’s Calling on Your Life" by answers that tough question. Don’t miss the one thing that can sustain us through all the ups and downs of life.
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About this series
Discovering God's Calling on Your Life
The word purpose is defined as 'the reason for which something is done.' So what is your life's purpose? The fact is we all long to know why am I here? Join guest teacher Ryan Ingram for this new series “Purpose FULL – Discovering God’s Calling on Your Life.” Ryan unpacks how we can not only discover our God-given purpose, but live it out even when difficulty, hardship, and conflict come. You’re not gonna wanna miss a single message!More from this series
I like how Gail Hyatt said it. She said, “People lose their way when they lose their ‘why’.” Like, have you lost your “why” over the last year? Have you lost your “why” over your marriage? Have you lost your “why” with your work? Or why God has placed you there? Or with that friendship? Have you lost your “why”? And he says people lose their way when they lose their why. Get clear on your purpose.
Have you lost your “why”? Have you lost your purpose? See, when you’re traveling through the difficulties of life, get clear on your purpose. Get back to your “why”.
The second thing the apostle Paul is going to say is recognize suffering has a purpose; it’s not pointless. When life is difficult, recognize that suffering has a purpose. God is actually at work in the difficult seasons of life. He may not, He’s not the cause of the pain or the difficulty, but He will not waste your pain.
Listen to what he says to the church in Rome. He says, “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” Period. And I’d wish you’d just stop there, by the way. Because isn’t that great? Like, yes and amen. We boast in the hope of the glory of God. Awesome. Thank you very much.
But he goes on to something that is so foreign for us as the Western Church, as Americans. “Not only so, but we also glory in our,” help me out, [audience: sufferings] …sufferings.” We glory in our sufferings. Why? Because we know that suffering produces something. “It produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
That there are some things in your life, listen, there are some things in your life that can only be reshaped through the crucible of pain. There’s some of the character things that God wants to help form the life of Christ, of who you were called to be. And suffering plays a part in that. Suffering produces perseverance. That’s that word hupomeno. Remaining under. Picture almost of like a weightlifter that just remains under that weight and through remaining under is strengthened. And as you endure, as you endure, then it produces the character, the Christlikeness, the godly life. That suffering has a purpose in your life. It’s not pointless.
And Jesus is going, “No, if you will surrender it to Me, I want to produce something in you through this.”
I remember when we lived in Atlanta, and it was an incredibly hard time for us, as a family. My job wasn’t going well. It just was a rough season there. And then, and then we just had our desire, like, Georgia was great, Atlanta was great, but we love California, love here, we grew up here, we wanted to be back. We want to be by the ocean.
And then my son, he was born, and from the get-go, the doctors told us he’s failing to thrive. A couple months after his birth, he was actually under his birth weight still. And we are pumping him on protein shakes and everything and praying.
You ever have one of those? I’m in my mid-twenties at this point. Just crying out to God. Never really gone through this much pain at this point in my life, so didn’t really know what to do or how to do it. I’m just, it’s just hard.
I’m going, Man, my job sucks, we don’t like where we live, my son, I can’t even do anything about it! I can’t change anything. I’ve just got to hold this little being and pray. We were driving as a family down downtown in the Buckhead area next to the mall. This was one of those days that it was just pouring down the rain, it basically felt – looked how I felt. Just like, it’s just dreary, it’s just gloomy, it’s awful.
And then I see on the scrolling marquee and literally, I don’t know if I just saw this, if God put that up there for me, or if this was really on a scrolling marquee in downtown Buckhead. But on the scrolling marquee at this mall, here’s what it said. It said, “God does not bring a man into deep waters to drown him, but to purify him.” Oh my gosh!
Because there’s a purpose and You’re going to work and this sucks. Let’s just call it what it is. But You have not left me. And He has not left you. And He’s in the middle of the difficulty with you.
When life is difficult, we’ve got to get clear on our purpose. Recognize that suffering has a purpose. Next, the apostle Paul is going to say your God-given calling is not limited by your circumstances. Your God-given calling, your purpose on this planet is not limited, it’s not hindered by your circumstances, by the problems, by the obstacles, by a pandemic. It is not limited.
Notice what he says to the church in Philippi. Now, remember the church in Philippi? The church in Philippi is where he was flogged and imprisoned. And then now he’s actually in Rome. And he’s in prison again and he’s writing back to the church. And notice what he says.
“Now, I want you to know brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me,” house arrest, imprisoned, “has actually served,” not hindered, “served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.” It served to advance the gospel. Paul got to preach to the most elite soldiers of his day, the Praetorian Guard, who had an incredible influence in Rome.
“And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord,” because of my circumstances and my boldness, God is using this to embolden other people, “and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”
Your God-given calling is not limited by your circumstances. Difficult circumstances can actually serve to advance God’s calling in your life. The unexpected problems, the detours, the stuff that you never wished to go through when you say, Okay, God, I don’t get it, I don’t understand it. But instead of throwing a pity party, which is our natural, let’s just be honest – woe is me.
See, I like how, I think how Ortberg said it. “There’s an important line and distinction between grief and self-pity.” When you’re going through those painful circumstances to grieve, that’s, yeah, absolutely. But then when we cross that line to self-pity and woe is me and we get stuck. He says, “No, no, no. Those circumstances will not hinder your calling or your purpose.”
It makes me think of someone that maybe some of you don’t know. I’d encourage you to look this person up, do a little bit of research. Some of you know a gal named Joni Eareckson Tada. I was first introduced to her at college in Chicago where she came and spoke.
Her story is an incredible story of circumstance that none of us would choose. That for most people you’d say, “Well, that’s it.” Quit, give up, eke through life. Joni, when she was a young woman was having some fun with some friends and dove into a lake head first and broke her neck.
From that day forward, she was a quadriplegic, only able to move her head and her mouth. She didn’t say, “Well, that’s the end.” Certainly struggled; certainly had challenging days. She decided to use her gift of art and painting and started to paint using her mouth. She would hold a brush in her mouth and begin to paint these paintings. And realized that even though she doesn’t have use of her limbs, she still has use by God.
It’s amazing. In 1974, she actually wrote the story of her life and it released and became an international, number one bestseller. Later a movie of her life was made. She started a ministry – Joni and Friends – for the ministry to the disabled. It has been an incredible ministry that has served thousands upon thousands of families all across the globe.
She started a radio ministry called Joni and Friends for radio. President Reagan appointed her to the National Council on Disability in 1988. She spoke at the Billy Graham Crusade, over a hundred thousand. And has continued to this day.
See, friends, if we would just expand our eyes and our scope, your God-given calling is not limited by your circumstances. In fact, this is how Paul saw suffering. This is not how I see it, so let’s be clear. I want to see it this way. Paul saw suffering and difficulty, not as a problem to be solved, but an opportunity to be stewarded. Let me say it again.
He saw suffering and difficulty, not as a problem to be solved. And here’s what I’m not saying. Don’t pray that you can’t, God, would You heal this? God, would You take this away? Absolutely. He had a thorn in his flesh; he prayed three times, “God, take it away.” But he said, “It’s an opportunity to be stewarded. You, heavenly Father, are going to use this. I don’t know how, but when it’s surrendered to You, You will work through me even in this.”
When life is difficult, get clear on your purpose. Recognize suffering has a purpose. Your calling is not limited by your circumstances. And finally, what is awaiting you. What is awaiting you in Jesus is worth whatever you are going through. When he writes back to the church in Corinth, if you have your Bible open, flip back a couple pages to
2nd Corinthians chapter 4, verse 7. He says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not us.” That we are just on display. Like, that our lives get to display, not anything about us, but the glory and the brilliance and the beauty of our Savior.
And so, he goes on. He says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be also revealed in our body. Therefore,” later on he says, “do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles,” like when we understand what is awaiting you and Jesus is worth whatever you’re going through, like, we get an internal perspective. That life is way more than just about now.
The troubles. They are light. You’re like, “No, it has been heavy, Ryan.” They are momentary. “It feels like it’s forever.” “…are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
See, I think moms understand this better than most of us. You moms, you understand that what is awaiting you through the process of childbirth is worth whatever you’re going through.
I remember when our first was born and Jenny is giving birth and I thought that was a good time to make jokes.
The worst time. The worst time. I remember, she was, like, in terrible, terrible pain. I’m like, “Yeah, you know, my back is really hurting too.” I about lost my head, and rightfully so.
See, there’s something about that, though. The pain of childbirth and how hard and how difficult and, yet, it is eclipsed in a moment when you see a mom hold their child for the very first time. That’s the picture here that Paul is painting for us. That what is awaiting you in Jesus Christ, what’s ahead of you is worth whatever you are going through.
And so, this is what he says, “Fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Fix your eyes on what is ahead so that you can endure what is now. Fight for an eternal perspective in the midst of trials and hardships. What is awaiting you in Jesus is worth whatever you are going through.
That line I wrote down in 2019 through a season where I just felt like that was God’s word to me. So, I had that eighteen-month depression, I had actually, many of you remember I had three concussions, broken nose, broken toe, and then the family stuff.
I was tired. And honestly, anybody remember being excited for 2020? Yeah, that was sweet. And, yet, the Word of God remains the same. What is awaiting you, friends, it’s not in this moment. In Christ Jesus, you are an eternal being with a grand destiny in God’s great universe.