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About this series
Finding God When You Need Him Most
In Finding God When You Need Him Most, Chip Ingram reveals how you can meet God in the midst of your most difficult moments. Through Chip's teaching from some of the most comforting and encouraging Psalms, you will move from "knowing about God" to profoundly experiencing His presence and power in your life. Whether you're struggling with a rocky relationship, an unexpected crisis, depression, or injustice, this series will remind you that the Lord is faithful to hear your heart's cry and will be there for you, time and again.More from this series
I don’t know about you but there have been times in my life where I didn’t think God was so good. In fact, some of you may have some circumstances where, you know, your theology, the Scripture, your teaching, what you intellectually know, “God is good.”
But then when you look at your circumstances you may be saying, “Uhhh, this doesn’t add up.”
I was walking across my college campus and I had the strongest feelings of anger toward God I had ever experienced in my life. I had been a Christian a little over three years.
I had only months before made the biggest lordship decision I had ever made. I mean, it was one of those where I knew with all my heart this is what God wanted me to do and every fiber in my emotional and intellectual being wanted to do the opposite. And, by faith, I decided, “I’ll do it God’s way.”
And I thought, “You know, if God is ever going to bless me, it’s got to be now.” And instead, life didn’t get better; it got worse.
As I was walking across the campus, I irreverently, and I would add, unwisely, told God He had better speak to me very clearly tonight when I get back to my dorm room, or I am checking out of this Christian life forever. And I was dead serious.
Now, you need a little background to understand what is going on. I had been dating for two years a gal that I was certain would be my wife, she was certain I would be her husband, she had gone home to meet my family, the whole nine yards.
And she was a believer, she was charming, she was beautiful, she was talented, I was in love up to my eyeballs.
Only little problem was I was convinced God wanted to do something significant with my life and, as a believer, being sold out to Christ was the only option. It was a real struggle, but I came to that.
Her view was, “I know I’m in God’s family, I know I’m forgiven, and as long as God’s plan fits with what I want to do, that sounds good.” And so, she was an only child, her family was very close, and there was a little home with a white picket fence across the street from her mom and dad and that’s where, in her mind, we were going to live happily ever after.
And I realized, “I can’t go there.” But I loved her and yet I knew her life was going this way, mine this way, and we broke up and my mind said, “This is the right thing to do,” and my heart said, “Ingram, this is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done in your life.”
I used to go out on a hill and I remember I could see the light of her dorm room and just cry and say, “God, change her heart, turn it all around, I know You’ll make it. I know You’ll make it okay.”
On this particular night, it was a home basketball game and after home basketball games, for two years, I came up from the locker room and she was always at the top of the stairs waiting for me. It was one of those really neat things. We’d go out and get a coke and talk.
And it had been three months since that had happened. And I came up through the locker room and there she was and my heart skipped a beat. “Yes! God has worked! This is awesome! Her heart has turned around! We’re going to, oh man, oh God, you are so good! You’re so, this is so wonderful!”
And I said hi to her and I noticed it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t cold at all, but it wasn’t like, “I’m here for you.” And as I was sitting there thinking how wonderful this was going to be and it was a little awkward moment, one of the other members of the team, another guy who played guard, walked right by me, she had a sheepish smile, said, “Hi,” and he put his arm out and she stuck her arm in his, and they walked out.
I was dangerous at that point. I have never been, now, you say, “Well, that’s childish and that’s puppy love and you were only twenty.” Yeah! I was only twenty! It was real to me! I thought it was really real and I think it was. I was so angry and I was so livid.
And so, I walked out of there and I just said, “God, this stinks. You know what? I’m more committed to You than I have ever been and I get this? I make the biggest sacrifice of my life and I get this?” And, then, oh, I know this guy. And you guys out there or gals who have played on teams, you know what it’s like to be in a van for six or eight hours. You know what it’s like in locker rooms. You know what everybody talks about in locker rooms. You know where a guy is coming from, you know where his values are, you know what he thinks about girls. That guy with my girl? Aggghhhh! You know?
I wanted to say, “Stop! Stop! You need to know about this guy!” And I walked across that campus and I just said, I felt like an animal, I was so angry. In fact, that came to my mind. The phrase went through, “I felt like a beast inside,” and I thought, you know, “He is arrogant, he is proud, and he has mocked my faith in the locker room, and he has made fun of me, and he has made fun of You, God. How in the world?”
And, I mean, I’m livid. And I said, “God, if You don’t speak to me tonight, if this is the way it works, I’m out. I’m checking out.” And I went home and I didn’t, I thought I was an old enough Christian to know that probably just opening my Bible and saying, “God, speak to me,” would not be a good way to go, although He had done that some in the past.
And so, I picked up my Bible where I was reading normally and I was in the Psalms and I read Psalm 70 and, eh, was alright; Psalm 71, eh, was okay; Psalm 72, didn’t make much progress. And then I read Psalm 73. I want you to imagine, if you will, where I’m at emotionally, what I’m thinking, and follow along as I read. In fact, better than follow along, enter in the experience with me.
I’ve told you how I felt like, “I am getting a raw deal.” But before we read this, I’m going to tell you how God spoke to me like never before, I had no understanding that the God of the universe could cause the Holy Spirit to make His Word so alive, to interact in one little guy’s life like mine.
But before we do that I want you to think of when you’ve received the raw deal that bothers you the most. So, when we read this, I want you to read with the same kind of feelings and emotions and thoughts and questions that I had that night.
When is the last time you received a raw deal? When is the last time someone betrayed you after you did good to them? When is the last time someone else got a promotion because they had a special relationship with the boss, not because they were better than you? When is the last time you sat down, those of us that are parents, and said to your little son or your little daughter, “The reason you don’t get to play and you try…you see…that other kid is the coach’s son, even though you’re a lot better.”
For some of you it was a mate who walked out on you.
For others, you invested the entire life in your kids and you cared and you loved and, you know what? Something happened and they took some course somewhere and all their problems are your fault.
For others, you’ve cared and loved and your parents and they got near the end of their life and they just wrote you out of an inheritance. For other people, you were involved in a business relationship and they did you in. You know, you trusted them, and they just did you in.
For others, you were involved in the marketplace and, you know? People moving right ahead and they’re lying! I mean, they’re not telling the truth, you’re playing by the rules, and they keep going upward and you are stuck and you’re stuck because you’re doing it “God’s way.”
Now, I want you to think about when that was because then you’ll read this passage with the kind of emotion that Asaph did. He’s the choir director for David’s choir and he’s a godly man, he’s a worship leader. But he’s having a bad day.
He writes in verse 1, “Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are the pure in heart.” I mean, to those who are totally committed. That’s the idea, that word. Yeah, that’s true, right?
Verse 2, “But as for me, my feet almost slipped; I nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” I thought about that that night. I watched that guy going with my girl and I thought, “That stinks.”
“They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.” Literally, it’s they’re sleek. “They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; and they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.”
As I read this, little pictures were coming to my mind about sitting around and talking in the locker room and this guy mocking God and his arrogance.
“They scoff,” and I thought, “Boy, I’ve heard that.” “They speak with malice; and their arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.” They think they’ve got it all together. They think they’ve got the world by the tail.
Therefore people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.” You know, it’s kind of like the life of the rich and the famous. They’re cheating people and doing stuff then doing stuff that’s immoral but, you know, people just lining up. Just lining up around the street to get around them.
Therefore, people turn to them and they drink up these waters of knowledge but only that, “They say, ‘How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?’” No regard for God.
“This is what the wicked are like – always carefree. They increase in wealth.” Then a little low moment, “Surely, in vain I have kept my heart pure; I have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been plagued, I have been punished every morning.”
That’s exactly how I felt. I thought, “Here I am, I’m twenty years old, twenty and a half, something like that. I’ve got a pure relationship with this girl, there are four girls on this campus to every guy. We’re in the midst of the sexual revolution. I’ve become a Christian right before I go to college and I just thought I’m going to do it God’s way and every basketball trip I hear all these guys talking about all the pleasures of the world and it’s killing me to live a pure life.
And then what’s God do? He takes my Christian girl and some guy who, I know where his heart and mind and everything else is, is with her, in vain. Basically, “What am I getting out of this, God?” And my answer is, “Not much.” You ever felt like that?
And then he goes on to say, “I’ve been plagued.” I don’t know, you know, I experienced God but I have a lot more struggles as a Christian than before I was a Christian. I didn’t struggle with temptation, I did lots of stuff, I didn’t even know it was sin!
Then there’s a little shift in verse 15. He begins to think a little harder, a little deeper. The emotions now are beginning to calm down out of this flame, “If I had said,” hypothetically, he’s thinking out loud to himself, “If I had said, ‘I will speak thus,’” I’m going to talk like this, this is the direction I’m going to go, this is how I’m going to view life, “I would have betrayed Your children.” Very tender idea here.
He’s a worship leader, people look to him for guidance, he’s a guy that’s really walked with God. He said, “If I bail out on the faith, there’s going to be, like, a big rock in the pond of impact and I am going to impact multitudes of people who have placed their faith in God because of what You’ve done in me and if I bail out, this isn’t just about my personal faith. This is going to impact them and not only that but what about all the deep relationships I have with them?
“When I tried to understand all this,” he says, “it was oppressive to me.” In other words, the word means, “I was in turmoil; my gut was turning. Life’s not working and it’s not fair but if I bail out, think of the implications! What do I do? Where do I go?” And that’s how I felt.
Verse 17 begins a very important shift where he gets perspective. It says, “Until,” or, “then I entered the sanctuary of God.” He gets out of his human reasoning, he gets out his passionate emotions, he gets out of, “Life isn’t fair, life stinks, why do bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people,” mindset, and he says, “Then I entered the sanctuary of God; and then,” ah, the lights came on, “then I understood their final destiny. Literally, the word means, “Their afterwards.” What’s going to happen later.
“Surely, You place them,” the wicked, “on slippery ground; You cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed,” it comes like a surprise, “completely swept away by terrors! As a dream when one awakens,” in other words, the wicked prosper but it’s only a dream, it’s only a fantasy, it’s only a phantom, it’s only short lived.
“So when You arise, O Lord, You will despise them as fantasies.” You know, people sell porn on the internet and people do all kinds of lurid things but there’s a day of reckoning and there’s a day of judgment, and He doesn’t put up with it forever. See, he’s getting perspective.
And as he gets perspective, now, he moves from getting perspective on the wicked who are prospering and now he’s going to get a little perspective on his own life.
Verse 21, “When my heart was grieved,” literally, “When it was pierced,” “and my spirit was embittered,” literally, it means when he was depressed, when he was struggling, when he was filled with self-pity, he said, “I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You.”
He said, “I got so hot emotionally that I got irrational; I lost sight of the big picture. I lost sight of who You are. I lost sight of what You’ve done. I lost sight of the relationships You’ve given me. And I got so mad, so angry that I lost it.”
And now he’s going to move out of that into some very clear perspective. Verse 23, “Yet I am always with You.” Huh, that’s true. “You hold me by my right hand.” In other words, “You’ve been a counselor to me, You’ve helped me, You’ve sustained me.”
“You guide me with Your counsel,” and here’s that same word, “and afterward You take me into glory.”
Notice those three things: Hold me, guide me, take me. He says, “I’m protected, I’m secure, I’m loved.” He’s beginning to get the lights. And then he raises this rhetorical question, when he really thinks about it, when he really ponders, he says, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.”
In a final analysis, who will never let me down? Who will be my security? Who is taking care of me? Who gives me joy no matter what? He says, “It’s You. Whom have I in heaven but You?”
And then he admits his humanness, “My flesh and my heart may fail,” I may blow it – I’m going to have ups, I’m going to have downs – “but You are the strength of my heart and You are my portion forever.”
And I’ll never forget that word “portion,” it was like it grew this big on the page and jumped out of the page and landed on my shoulders. And I realized all of life is like a big pie and every person in the world gets a slice. That’s your portion, your slice.
And in my heart of hearts I thought what would really make me happy in my slice is the right girl, the right job, success, and on and on and on. And I looked around the world and I realized, “There’s only really a portion or a slice that will ever, ever fulfill me. And my portion is God Himself.”
That night, this passage became my dating verse, my future verse whether God ever gave me a mate, is that He would be enough plus nothing, He would be enough plus not anything else or no one else. He would be my portion; He’d be my slice of pie.
And, see, what that does is that gives you incredible freedom because people come and people go and jobs go and jobs come and money goes and money comes and houses go and markets come and markets go. And we don’t control it. But He says He will be there forever. “You’re my portion forever.”
Then, notice the conclusion. He says, “Those who are far from You,” he takes the lens and he goes, “Wait a second,” he says, “Those who are far from You,” people who mock You, people who are arrogant, people who don’t want to live life Your way,
people who stiff-arm God and reject Christ, they perish. “You destroy all those who are unfaithful to You.”
Then notice the contrast, “But as for me,” notice that was verse 2. Verse 1 was, “Surely God is good to Israel, to the pure in heart, but as for me, my foot almost slipped.” “I almost bailed out of the faith,” is what he said. And now he’s come full circle and he says, “You know, in the final analysis, the wicked are going to really, they’re going to go through some very desperate times when you look at the big picture.”
“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good,” and then notice here’s a choice he made. He reaffirms his relationship. “I have made,” that’s a choice, “the Sovereign Lord,” what an interesting view of God. He’s in control. “I have made,” personal choice, “the Sovereign Lord my refuge,” the place that I run.
And then he says, not only that, but I’m trusting, since God is good, even though my circumstances aren’t, and He’s in total control, that means He allowed it, and since He’s faithful, He’s going to take even the worst of my circumstances, turn it around for good, and someday, notice that last line, “I will tell of Your deeds.”
That night, I was crushed, that night I was angry, that night I lost the most important person in my life.
I’ve got news for you! She wasn’t a Theresa. You bet. She wasn’t a Theresa. And I know just enough about science to know that my DNA and Theresa’s DNA are unique and when our DNAs come together, there are unique people on this planet that would not be on this planet unless she and I got married. And I look at the kids that I have, and I can now step back and say, “Short-term pain, long-term gain.”
Now, let’s talk about you. This is a lot more than I share about my inner-struggles than normal. But I thought you could identify. Now, what I’d like to talk about is your inner-struggles. And I’d like you, on the whiteboard of your mind, to say, under the heading, “I got a raw deal,” and now underneath that I want you to say, “What is it?” What’s the one that pops up to the surface?
And, by the way, knowing that sometimes that’s so painful, instead of dealing with it, instead of facing it, a lot of us repress and are in denial, “Oh, I don’t want to talk about that. I don’t want to think about that. It’s way too painful.” I know that one out of four, according to statistics, one out of four or one out of five women have been sexually abused. That’s a raw deal.
We know that half of all Americans have been divorced. We know that infidelity is rampant in America. We know that people lie and cheat in business.
Now, I’m going to encourage you, as painful as it is, to let that come to the surface so God can deal with it. Have you got it? Trying to give you a little time. Where do you feel like you’ve gotten a raw deal? Where have you gotten injustice? And then I want to develop four life lessons or four principles to help you walk through how to deal with the raw deal that you appear to have. Okay?
Well, let’s look at that together. Principle number one or life lesson number one: If you want to overcome the raw deals in your life, and that’s God’s will, here’s the first thing you need to do – Asaph models it for us – pour out your heart. Face it. Share it. Get it on the table. Tell God about it.
I don’t know about you, this is so encouraging, even godly people struggle with doubts and confusion when God’s truth and their experience don’t mesh. It’s a fallen world! If you haven’t got it yet, life is not fair! Until Jesus comes back, it’s not going to be fair! You know what that means? That means bad things happen to good people and the converse, good things happen to bad people.
And when that happens, don’t stuff it, don’t repress it. What’s Asaph show us? Take it to God! It doesn’t mean you’re ungodly. It’s okay to be mad with God. Now, do it reverently. Don’t do it like I did it. I think I was such a young Christian, God kind of winked at how I talked to Him.
You be honest and you share it and you get it out on the table and let the full vent of your emotions say, “God, I am upset! This stinks! This is raw! This is terrible!” And if you never get it there, you will put it down inside and it’ll come out. I guarantee it’ll come out in very unhealthy ways.
What did Job do? I mean, this is Job’s whole life. Job does what’s right: Negative, negative, negative. So, he does more of what’s right: Negative, negative, negative.
And, you know, the book of Job is saying, “Hey, God! What is the deal? I’m up to here with this!” And when God finally reproves Job, does He ever reprove him for being angry and sharing his heart? Answer: No. He only reproves him for his arrogance, of defending himself.
I was as angry with God as I’ve ever been in my life and in response, God could not have manifested Himself in my dorm room in a physical appearance and spoken actual words and spoken more clearly than Psalm 73.
I had a sense, literally, of goose bumps on the back of my neck as I read that passage and as I would go through verse after verse, it was like a videotape in my mind was playing of pictures and things that were revealed right out of that passage. God was speaking to me.
What I’m trying to tell you is: pour out your heart, get it out there, share it. Verses 2 through 14 we have one of the most godly men in all of Israel telling it like it is to God, venting his emotions with at least a significant amount of reverence but he puts it out there. Have you ever done that? Or are you holding it in? You think it’s more “godly” to hold it in.
Now, by the way, don’t go pour it out to everyone else, pour it out to God. Tell Him. Let Him be your counselor.
A lady last night, neat lady, she came up after the Saturday night service and we gave people some time to respond and to pray and she said, “This was one of the greatest nights of my life.” She had a horrendous, you talk about unjust life, raw deal, a horrendous childhood. And her mother did and said things to her that no human being should ever do to any other human being.
And she’s a mature Christian and she knows what’s right and she knows that it is God’s will to forgive her mother and she has never done it. And last night, after the service, she said, “I did it. I have never felt so – I feel like the world is finally off my shoulders, I finally got it, I poured out my heart, and I let it go. And I forgave my mom tonight.” And she was beaming.
That’s principle number one if you want to overcome, if you want to experience God in the midst of your raw deal.
Principle number two, life lesson number two is: Consider carefully your choices. When you get angry, when people do you in, I don’t know about you, but injustice, it’s like, everybody has a button. It’s one of mine. There are certain things I can endure and say, “Yeah, it’s a fallen world and we’ll work through it.” Injustice just makes me nuts!
And it makes me nuts when it happens anywhere but it makes me absolutely crazy when it happens to me! And so, I am tempted to do very stupid things when I get a raw deal, to say things, and to act in ways that will really, really be harmful to me and to others.
I was ready to quit the whole Christian life because my girlfriend walks out the door with another guy? Think that one through a little bit. “Yeah, ruin your whole life because of a twenty-year-old girl that you’ve known for two years, yeah, don’t go there, Chip.”
Asaph realized his quitting would do – what? Did you notice? Look at verse 15. He said, “If I would have spoken thus I would have betrayed Your children.” And I remember that night. I remember I was meeting with six guys in a Bible study, I had the privilege of leading about four or five of those guys to Christ. And as I sat there, what I realized, “If I jump out of the Christian faith, if I quit because of this, what do I tell them?”
And then I thought of the closest friends I’ve ever had, the most vulnerable, open, loving relationships I’ve ever had was with God’s people and if I jump out of the Christian life, I lose all that.
And all of a sudden, I realized, “Wait a second.” See, consider your choices carefully. When tempted to throw in the towel, we must weigh the impact it will have on others. When you get a raw deal, you can react and, boy, you can burn some bridges and hurt a lot of people.
One elder really had some great wisdom about making wise choices. He said, “You know, I was involved in business and we had six partners. And I was the principal partner, I owned thirty percent of the business.”
And he said, “Everything came to a standstill, cash flow came to a halt.” And he said, “I was the only one with the resources, I had a considerable amount of equity in my house. I pulled out all the equity of my house and got a loan based on that as well to float the business. And we all made a business agreement, signed, legal document, that, should this thing go in the tank, we would share, I was going to underwrite the business, but we would share the loss.”
He said, “Well, it went in the tank.” And he said, “It was like watching rats run off of a ship.” Tchoo, they’re gone. He said, “I lost the business, I lost my home, I lost everything that I owned. Everything.”
And then he said, “You know, I had to work through…” and he said, “I had walked with the Lord for some time and,” in fact, he was an elder in a church at the time, another church, another location many years ago. And he said, “I worked through the part where my goal wasn’t vengeance. And I had to make wise choices.”
And then here was the balance. He said, “I had one Christian partner and I had five non-Christian partners. The one Christian partner, on a handshake we agreed, that we would do what God wanted us to do, that we would model, that we would not fight, that we would assume losses together and whatever God would bring back we would assume gains together.”
And he said, “Then, under control, not out of malice, as I’ve worked it through in my heart, then, at the same time, while submitting to and saying, ‘God is sovereign and God is good and this is what has happened,’” he said, “I pursued justice through the legal system.”
And he ended up going to court with all five of those, won a judgment, and got sixty-five cents on the dollar.
See, here is what I want you to hear carefully. Two extremes happen. The extremes, when you get injustice, is to bury it or go irrational or to think, “Okay, God is sovereign, I’m a doormat. I guess life really stinks and God will make…” There are times when you’ve been abused, when you’ve been lied to, when you’ve been cheated – under control, not out of malice – to pursue justice is a very right course to bring about righteousness in the world. Do you get that?
So, the first step is what? Pour out your heart. Second step: really think through, carefully, your response. Third step is: Get the big picture. Verse 17 it says, “When he entered the sanctuary of the Lord,” bang! “then he understood their end.” He worshipped. He got an eternal perspective.
When we see life through an eternal perspective, we then begin to realize what’s important and what’s not. That happens when you meet with God. See, Asaph’s whole world turned around, my whole world turned around because I went back to my dorm room and I opened my Bible and I said, “God, speak to me! Speak to me! I’m mad, I’m hurt, it’s not fair. Speak to me!” And He did. And He’ll speak to you.
Verse 17, he enters the sanctuary. Notice then he gets eternal perspective. Verse 18 to 20 he says, “You know, in the final analysis, the wicked don’t prosper.” And then verse 21 he says, 22 he says, “Wait a second. I was thinking irrationally. I was depressed. I was into self-pity.”
And then he looks back and he gets the big picture, he says, “Wait a second. Big picture, whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I don’t desire anything else. You are my strength, You’re my portion, You have been faithful, You are my only real source of joy, You’re the only one I could ever count on. You are eternal, You are good, and You are sovereign.” You get it?
Now here’s the question: How do you get that? How can you get an eternal perspective? How do you get the big picture instead of getting your emotional radar locked into, “That person, that’s what they did! Here are the consequences. I’m not dealing with this in a negative way. I don’t have a problem. I’m not angry about this. I’ve dealt with it.” And all the rest of us are saying, “You know, have you thought of a good counselor?” “I don’t need any counseling! This isn’t a problem!” Been there and done that, huh?
Let me give you three ways to get God’s perspective. Number one, focus on God’s character. Read through the Psalms, buy A.W. Tozer’s book, a little, thin book, The Knowledge of the Holy, read or pray through the Ten Commandments and ask, “What attribute of God does each commandment reflect?” His justice, His goodness, His holiness? But the three attributes you have to focus on: God is good, God is sovereign, and God is faithful.
What you’re experiencing did not catch God off guard. “Oh my gosh! Look what happened to poor, little Chip! Gabriel! Did anybody know this was going to happen?”
“Oh my gosh! She ran out! He ran off! They cheated so-and-so!” I mean, God didn’t get surprised. He is sovereign. He is in control. That means not only does He know about it, but He will turn it around and use it for good if you don’t bail out of His plan. He is good. He has your best interest in mind.
People can try and do negative things to you, they can try and hurt you, He is bigger than they are, He is more powerful than they are.
And He is faithful. Every promise He has made to you, He is going to come through. In your timing? Probably not.
And in the process, as you struggle with it, it’ll probably make you a lot more like Christ, which is the big plan anyway.
So number one, focus on the attributes of God. Number two, get into the Bible. Scripture will give you perspective. In fact, that’s why I believe Joseph, I’m reading through the Old Testament right now, Joseph is the perfect example, isn’t he? I mean, here’s a righteous, young man and he does good, he gets bad; he does good, he gets more bad; he does more good, he does get more and more bad.
Open Genesis 37 and read it to chapter 50 and here’s a guy who does what’s right and so they sell him into slavery. Here’s a guy that, when he’s a slave, he does everything right so he rises to the head of Potiphar’s household and Potiphar’s wife says, “Hey, man, I want to sleep with you.” And he’s righteous and runs away, and she lies and he ends up in prison.
He’s in prison, he does what’s right, and two people forget him. Why? Because God had a bigger plan. For twelve to fourteen years, Joseph does right, Joseph does right, Joseph does right, circumstances go bad, bad, worse, really bad. But there’s a little phrase when you read through that.
Every time something bad happens, this little phrase is after Joseph: “And the Lord was with Joseph.” And the Lord is with you.
And when you focus on Scripture, you get perspective. So, by the end of his life, Joseph can see it through the eternal lens, he’s got the big picture. And his brothers are shaking in their boots and they’re thinking, “Oh, Dad’s died, now Joseph is going to take revenge.”
And I can see Joseph crossing his arms, in fact, it says, “He weeps.” And he turns to his brothers and says, “Guys, you still don’t get it, do you? You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive.” A la, “You guys did it for the wrong motives, the wrong reason,” but God had a plan and He was going to take the whole nation of Israel and put them in the incubator of Egypt, in this lush land, to multiply, to fulfill His promises, and He allowed this evil to happen to Joseph to fulfill that.
God has a Joseph plan for you. Don’t bail out. You want the big picture? Focus on God’s attributes, number one; two, focus on Scripture; and three, get around God’s people.
One of the reasons I shared with the elders, and the biggest areas I’ve struggled with with injustice, it has been my small group or the elders that I’ve been able to bounce that off of and get their perspective. And as they talked, it was really interesting, they’ve got all their ups and downs, like we do, but they’ve been around a while. That’s why we call them “elders.” The word means “older.” And they talked about some of the biggest hits they’ve taken but now, in the rearview mirror, is, “You know what? God has just used that. God has just used that. God has just used that.”
So, you’re struggling with a raw deal, and you want God to really help you. One, pour out your heart. Two, consider carefully the choices you make. It’s dangerous ground. Three, get the big picture. Get the eternal perspective. And four, reaffirm your relationship with God. Ultimately, God’s presence, Him. Ultimately, the final analysis, God’s presence is your only sure source of security and joy both now and forever.
There are a lot of good things in my life but none of them have the power to be consistent day in, day out and come through for me. And the moment I begin to trust in them, they become an idol.
And what he’s saying here is, reaffirm your relationship with God. Turn the raw deal over to God. Verse 27, realize, you know what? People who have done wicked, evil things, verse 27, you know what? God’s big, justice will happen, they’ll get their due. “But as for me…” let the nearness of God be your good.
Make cultivating a relationship with Him your good. Make a choice. He said, “I have made the Lord God my refuge.” Make a choice today before you leave to take the raw deal, give it to God, and then say, “God, I want You to work it for good, I’ll stay in the game plan, and I want to walk with You.”
And the day will come when you will tell of His deeds, when you will say, “This terrible thing happened in my life and lo and behold, what a marvelous thing God did through it.”
Well, I’ve got a couple that I want to introduce to you. It’s Jerry and Lori Deitz. And they’re going to come out and share, really, the testimony of the deeds that God has done in their life through some very, very difficult times.
And as they come out, let me give you a little background on them because I want you to hear more about how they’ve learned and how they’ve grown. Let me give you a little background on Jerry. An eighteen-year-old, he is quite an athlete, has a tremendous future in college and likely beyond in football.
And he decides to do a good deed. And his good deed is there is a fight and he breaks up the fight. And one of the people fighting pulls out a gun and a bullet goes through Jerry that paralyzes him and then the fellow gets closer and at point blank range, puts two more rounds in his stomach.
Jerry, since that time, at least since I’ve know him, has had three or four times of complications where he has almost lost his life, and since that time has had over thirty major surgeries.
Lori has been through a little bit different scenario of, talk about tough times, injustice. As a young woman in the military she was raped and beaten and came out of the military a very hardened woman, angry with life and especially with men.
She found herself in a relationship that was both physically and emotionally abusive to her over ten years. And then since that time, she found Christ and just to add, a little pain to what was already painful, you’ll notice she has a cane here. And I don’t know in the last five or six years that I’ve ever talked with Lori where she didn’t either have a cane, a crutch. She has had twenty-three major operations in the last eight years.
And so, I don’t know where you’ve been but I think they have something to say to us about trusting God in the midst of difficulty and adversity and what at least seems very unjust.
Let me ask you, Jerry and Lori, how has God used what you’ve been through to change your life? Why don’t you start first, Jerry?
Jerry: Well, I think that, who says we got a raw deal out of the deal? So, that’s my first thought on it. But God took me and when I first got hurt I tried to use my strength, my physical ability and my mental toughness to overcome the disability. As that went on, it got harder and it got harder because the reality of the disability got harder and harder.
So, Christ, when I accepted Christ, kind of jumped on the team with me so, you know, this thing that He carries you through the sand and He takes all those hard times away is true.
The hard times are still there but with Him, the hard times don’t seem so bad. So, I can still take the mental toughness and the physical ability I have, just transfer them into a different arena.
So, He’s given me the strength to know that no matter what happens, I know the end of the story. And so, we all win. So, no matter what happens in between, it’s okay.
Chip: Wow. How about you, Lori? How has God used all that you’ve been through to change your life?
Lori: Well, I started out after the military as a very bitter, angry person, ready to punch anybody that looked at me wrong. I was very, very deeply hurt. I was frightened, I was like a rabbit that would quickly go in a hole, very, very self-protective.
And God just had to take all that shell away and let me know that if I leaned on Him and looked to Him as the center of my life, He would take care of the other stuff and He would take care of the circumstances. So, I just need to fully trust and fully lean on His strength.
Chip: And that’s not always such an easy proposition. I mean, it’s good to say, I mean, the Bible is really clear, “Trust Me and I’ll be there and I’ll be your strength.” And let me follow with one more question because I know you guys pretty well and we’ve spent some time together and I know that when things get real tough I know Jerry is one of the toughest minded, highly focused guys I have ever met and he’s a marathoner. And when he starts to get discouraged he just says, “I’m not going there.”
But you’ve got a little bit different personality, emotional makeup. When you get to the point and you wake up in the morning and you just say, because there’s a lot of people here, I’m convinced, that are the point where they want to say, “I want to throw in the towel. You know, this is too hard. This isn’t fair. This stinks.” What do you do when you get right to the edge and you just say, “I can’t take this anymore. I want to quit.” Where do you go? What do you do?
Lori: Well, when the day, it’s a couple areas, I have a lot of physical pain and I have nightmares that I still have. And when I get full of anguish and anxiety, I have to remember that I have to go back to the source of my strength. So, the first thing I do is I pray. And I pray really, really hard. And it takes as long as it takes to get the peace in.
I also go into the Bible and I have two verses that are my promise from God. The first one is Jeremiah 29:11, sorry guys, and that’s, “‘I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘they are to prosper and not to harm you. They are to give you a hope and a future.’”
And I never thought there was hope for any kind of life after what I had been through but God proved it different and as long as we trust Him through it, we will succeed, that it can’t be our strength because I can’t do it on my own because I’ll drown in the circumstances if I look at them.
Chip: And so you go to prayer, you go to God’s Word, and then you shared with me too that this is when, this has really developed an intense relationship, you and Jerry talk very deeply. And you made a comment last night, is it okay to share since you did? Is that Jerry knows you in ways better than yourself and because when he sees you sinking, he can come in.
And, see, I want people to hear, there are times where we pray, we get in God’s Word, but God has special people in our lives to give us perspective that we just can’t get on our own. Well let me shift gears now because, you know, a lot of people are saying, “Yeah, Chip, thanks for the Joseph story, you know, Genesis 37, few thousand years ago, I’m glad it turned out better for him but you don’t know my deal.”
How has God used your situation for the good? What good has come out of all the stuff you have been through?
Jerry: Well, I think that’s the exciting part about it. You know, we see it going on and we don’t really see what’s going on but as I look back, I’ve been in wheelchair sports for thirty years. I’ve been a Christian for twenty-five years. And I’ve traveled all over the world and I’ve been able to share with people what Christ has done in my life. Not only have I been able to compete and continue in that avenue of life but I can take what God has done in my life, with a lot of disabled people, and a lot of able bodied people, and I have something that the able bodied people can see is, they think is a problem.
The disabled people realize, “Ah, it could be a problem, it could not be a problem because we’re all in the same boat.” So, what happens is I can share that Christ has come into my heart, come into my life, and taken what would appear to be a terrible situation and turn it around and made it a great situation.
And so, as we’ve talked before, I’ve traveled all over the world in sports and have been able to share the Lord. And so, it doesn’t get much better than that. It’s pretty exciting stuff.
Chip: Do you think you would have ever met Lori if this wouldn’t have happened?
Jerry: No way.
Chip: Do you think you would have ever become a Christian? I mean, we never know but, with the kind of makeup and personality that says, “I can do it myself,” do you think you would ever have found Christ on your own apart from where you have been?
Jerry: Um, I don’t think so. You know, I always knew who Christ was, I knew who God was but I didn’t have a personal relationship. And I think that’s the part that changed. When I accepted Him, Christ, into my life that it became a personal relationship. I don’t think that would have ever happened.
Chip: Well, Jerry probably wouldn’t tell you this but it’s a great testimony of God. He’s a world-class marathoner. He has a gold medal in the Olympics wheelchair basketball team. He was, in 1996, at the Atlanta games in a pentathlon, and for all the world to see, his picture and his name came up in the final, last race in the pentathlon, and that has opened doors for Jerry to travel the world and tell people about Christ. God can take what was meant for evil and use it for good. Thank you, guys, for your courage and thanks for just hanging in there because we know it’s a day by day tough deal. We love you and we appreciate you.
Jerry: Thank you!
Chip: We want to give you a chance not to simply hear and say, “That’s great.” You know where I’m going, right? See, the goal of Scripture is not that we become more intelligent about the truth. The goal of Scripture is we practice it.
I’d like to give you some time, if you’ve never poured out your heart, if you’ve never taken that raw area of injustice and the pain, just sit quietly, bow your head, and you and God, pour out your heart. Give Him the raw deal, turn it over to Him and, as a part of this, whoever hurt you, choose to forgive them.