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How to Face the Future in Times of Confusion, Part 2

From the series Facing The Future with Confidence

What do you do when you’re confused? Do you get frustrated or angry? Do you feel like throwing your hands in the air and yelling, “I give up!”? In this message, Chip shares six questions you can ask yourself in order to bring clarity and wisdom during times of confusion.

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Message Transcript

Now, ask yourself, Well why is life so short? He tells us in the very next section: It’s because sin is serious. Verse 7, “We’re consumed by Your anger and terrified by Your indignation,” Moses writes. “You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence. All our days pass away under Your wrath; we finish our years with a moan.” This is a guy who’s been around the block. “The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, and they quickly pass, and we fly away.” Well, where? What’s Moses talking about? They fly away to judgment. Moses looks back on life, and he says, “Since the Fall, since sin entered the world…”

It was never God’s plan. God wanted to live with Adam and Eve, forever, in a perfect environment – no death, no sin, no relational conflict, no fallout. But Genesis 3 happened. And since Genesis 3 happened, some terrible things have occurred. The world isn’t the way God wants it to be. But we’re called to live out a very different kind of life in this world.

Do you have that pen handy? Let me give a little, quick Bible study lesson. Would you circle the word consumed – out of verse 7 – circle the word terrified, circle the word moan, circle the word trouble, circle the word sorrow, and circle the words quickly pass. Does that sound like happy news to you? Does that sound like life is just one big party and everything’s going to go your way? That’s a fallen world.

And if you want to get more revealing, put a box around the word anger in verse 7. Put a box around the word indignation at the end of verse 7. Put a box around wrath. And what you’ll understand is that it’s not only a fallen world, but God is a just God. He is great, life is short, but sin violates His holy character. And what we have Moses saying is, “Sin is serious.” It’s so serious, one hundred percent of the time, God judges it. He judges it in this world, and He judges it in the next.

“God will not be mocked. As a man or a woman sows, so will you reap.” Right? You know, you diss people, you use your money in unrighteous ways, you act like a jerk, and what are you going to experience in this life? What you sow, you reap. Or, in the vernacular, what goes around comes around. It’s the way God set up life.

But it’s beyond just this life. Hebrews 9:27 says, “It’s appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment.” See, sin is serious. Question number three, when you’re confused, and wondering what’s going on, ask yourself: Am I taking sin seriously? God’s holiness demands that He judge it. He’s serious with sin.

Now, notice carefully. Follow with me here. Sin clouds our minds and hardens our hearts. Jot down in the corner Hebrews 3:13. The reason we’re gathered in worship, the reason you need to sit around the table at home and talk about what God’s doing in your life, the reason you have to be in community, the reason you have to be in a small group, the reason you have to have authentic relationships is Hebrews 3:13 says, “Encourage one another day after day lest anyone of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

See, my problem is is I get sucked into this world’s culture. I don’t wake up one day, and say, “Hey, I think I’d like to be a Christian who’s materialistic.” I don’t know anybody who says, “You know what? Let’s see, it’s Tuesday. Sounds like a good day for an affair. I think I’ll throw away my marriage, throw away my kids, go against everything I’ve always believed.”

It never happens that way. The deceitfulness of sin – it’s an advertisement here. It’s a flashing thought here. It’s kidding around here. It’s a little flirting here. It’s a little, small decision with your money here.

And it’s like wading out into the water, and then, it gets faster, and faster – and you don’t think anything’s happening – and pretty soon, like when you go to the beach. Remember when you swim at the beach? What always happens? You look back at the shore, and you can’t find anybody, and you realize you were sure you were swimming right in front of where your family or friends were. And now, you look up, and they’re about ninety yards, or three hundred yards, back that way.

That’s what sin does in your life and mine. It’s deceitful. And so, Moses says, the only way to be clear, you’ve got to ask: Am I taking sin seriously?

I had a guy come to me, after a service had a big decision to make. And he prayed, and he said, “I’ve tried, and I’m searching, and I’m pulled. I just don’t – God won’t speak to me!”

And so, I started probing a little bit, and asking – because I always do – “So, how’s your time in the Scriptures? Because the only way to keep your mind clear, the only way to understand God’s will, is if the Spirit of God, through the Word of God, and through the community of believers, informs you.” He said, “I’m not reading the Bible much right now.” “Okay, so you’ve got a big decision, a life decision?” “Yeah.”

I said, “Well, tell me, is there any area in your life you’re struggling with?” “Well, yeah.” I said, “Well, what is it?” “This deal with my girlfriend.” “Well what’s the deal with your girlfriend?” “Well, we’re living together right now. And I know it’s wrong, but I just can’t make the break.” I said, “Okay. And you’re asking God, who is pure, and holy, to reveal His plan for you, His will for your life, right? Are you obeying what God has already shown you?” He said, “Well, yeah, I think – what do you mean?”

So, I opened my Bible. I said, “Well, let’s do a little research. God’s will is not a mystery.” I opened up to 1 Thessalonians 4, said, “‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from all sexual immorality.’ You know that’s for sure His will, right?” “Yeah.” “Are you obeying this one?” “No.” I said, “So, why do you think God would give you more information about the future, if you’re not obeying what you know?”

Now, that’s a drastic example, but I wonder about us. I wonder about us more “sanitized believers,” who know the Bible a little bit better. What if God is just not interested in whether you sleep together, or whether you’re still cussing? What if the kind of sins like the motives of your heart, and impressing people, and image casting, and projecting that you’re more holy, and acting in certain ways publicly, but acting in different ways privately?

What if there are some unresolved anger issues with some people? What if you have lack of forgiveness in your heart, and bitterness, and resentment toward your ex-mate, or your in-laws, or one of your kids, or your parents? What if you have a propensity in your mouth to speak evil of people, at work, or at church, and the Bible calls it “gossip”? And God says it’s one of the seven deadly sins.

Could it be – I’m just checking it out here. Is it possible that the reason that some of us are confused about God’s will is that we don’t take sin seriously?

See, Moses gets us really clear, pretty quickly, doesn’t he? He says: start with basic one: God is great. You get perspective. Basic two: Life is short. That’s about priorities. Basic three: It’s about purity versus pollution. You’re living in a polluted world. You, as a believer, must have a commitment to keep your mind, and your heart, your motives, and your behavior pure before God.

Well, then Moses goes on, and he’s going to say: well in light of this difficult life that we live in, in a fallen world, wisdom is essential. “Who knows the power of Your anger? For Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due You.”

Now, think about who wrote this!

Now, can you imagine being Moses, and watching people who stiff-arm God, and are rebellious, and then having one of those experiences, like, “Well, God told me to, Korah, bring the team together. And you light your censers, and Aaron and I will light ours, and if God happens to open the earth and swallow you, and close it down, we’ll know who’s really…” Tchoo! Tchoo!

When Moses is writing, here, “Who knows the power of Your anger? For Your wrath is as a great as the fear that is due You,” he is summarizing what he’s learned in the last, I think, one hundred and twenty years – that sin is serious, life is short, God is great, and though He be merciful and loving – which we’ll learn about – until we grasp, until we grasp that it is a serious, serious thing to live a righteous life, in a fallen world, then we’re not ready to pray the kind of prayers we need to pray.

Notice what he prays, in light of that. And I don’t know about you, but what Moses is really saying is, “You know what? This is hard! How do you live a pure life in an impure world? How do you keep your motives straight? I’m lured and pulled.” And so, his prayer is, “Teach us” – what? – “to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

What he’s saying is, “I don’t get it. It’s hard. The entire world is flowing this way, and to live a righteous life, you live this way. And it’s difficult, and I’m pulled, and I struggle, and I feel guilty, and I get confused. What do I do?” Wisdom is essential. That’s the basic. Wisdom is essential. Ask for it. Ask God to teach you to number your days.

And by the way, wisdom isn’t like getting smarter. Wisdom is a skill. The Hebrew word for skill, “the ability to live life His way, according to His plan, even in a fallen world.” He’s saying, “Lord, the whole world’s doing relationships this way. Teach me to number and arrange my days, so I do relationships this way. The whole world thinks about money, and power, and prestige this way. Teach me wisdom, so I can learn to do it this way.” That’s what he’s asking for. The keyword here is the idea of purpose.

Let me do a quick math object lesson for you. If you are twenty-five years old, you have approximately sixteen thousand, two hundred days to live. If you’re thirty-five years old, you have approximately twelve thousand, seven hundred seventy-five days to live – if you make it to seventy.

If you’re fifty-five years old here – if you get to three score and ten – you have five thousand, five hundred fifty-seven days to live. If you’re sixty-five years old, you’ve got nineteen hundred and twenty-five days left – unless God gives extreme mercy and grace – two thousand days.

You know what Moses was saying? You understand God is great. You understand life is short. You understand sin is serious. You understand you really need wisdom to do it His way. You don’t keep living life – mentally, morally, and spiritually – like you’ve got your hands behind your head, floating in the Bahamas on your life raft, trying to get a good tan. Because that’s not why you’re here. There will be great time for refreshing enjoyment. But what he’s saying is, if you’re confused, you’ve got to get clear, and real, about what life’s all about.

I’d like to suggest that, until you accurately and clearly grasp the reality, and the bad news, of living in a fallen world, you’ll never appreciate the grace, and the mercy, and what we actually have as believers.

Basic one, for sure: God is great. Am I rightly related to Him? Number two: Life is short. Am I prepared to die? Sin is serious. Am I taking it seriously? Question four is: am I spending or investing my life?

How about you? See, you spend something, there’s not a return. If you’re made for eternity, living inside of time, in a fallen world, and God is great, and life is short, and sin is serious, and judgment is coming, and you need wisdom, are you investing your life in that which counts, or are you unconsciously just sort of floating downstream?

Then, Moses shifts gears, and it’s great, because we ought to feel a bit under it at this point. We ought to feel overwhelmed. We ought to feel, I don’t think I can make it. We ought to feel a deep sense of, Man, if this is the standard, I’m in big trouble.

But, basic number five is that mercy is available: “Relent, O Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on Your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love” – why? – “that we may sing for joy and be glad all of our days.” This isn’t bad news. “Make us glad for as many days as You have afflicted us, for as many years as we’ve seen trouble.” Mercy is available.

He has three specific requests. There are three verbs. One, “Relent,” have mercy. God, I need Your help! When’s the last time you prayed that? See, I think, unconsciously, we all think we’re doing pretty good. When is the last time you said, Oh God, when I look into my heart, when I look into my motives, when I look at what comes out of my mouth, when I look at where my money goes, and how I’m not aligning my thoughts…relent!

But it’s beyond just mercy: “Have compassion.” It’s the Hebrew word for, “out of the bowels.” God, I want You to feel about me, and hurt with me, and enter into my life the way a mom does with a small child who’s sick. And God says, “I’ll do that.”

And then, it moves from just getting relief and help: “Satisfy us.” “In the midst of a fallen world, satisfy me. Fill me to the brim with – what? – Your unfailing love. It never changes. Don’t satisfy me with stuff; it’s gone. Don’t satisfy me with circumstances that are aligned, for this brief moment of season, and then, the economy breaks it, or a war may take it away. Don’t satisfy me just with people, as wonderful as they are; they’re here today, and gone tomorrow. Satisfy me with that which does not change: Your unfailing love. And this is what it produces: “That we may sing for joy and be glad all of our days.”

The early Church had a marketing plan. The early Church’s marketing plan was to love one another, and when they loved one another, the market out there of a fallen world said, “Whoa!” And they all carried a business card. When you got up close to an early Church, New Testament believer, the marketing plan was their love for one another, and their business card had “joy” on it.

And they were living under unbelievably difficult times and persecution. And, in the midst of all that, you know what their life characteristic was? Joy. Not happiness, not things going their way, not a government that aligned with what they were trying to accomplish.

And where did that come from? Jot down in the corner, will you, Psalm 16:11: “In Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forever.” The question I ask myself when I’m confused – and this gets to the issue of prayer – is: Am I experiencing the joy of the Lord?

Do you notice, this mercy is available? It’s a prayer. You’re a prayer away from having your confusion gone, and your realignment.

“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” Joy. It doesn’t mean everything goes… “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”

Can I ask you – with no intent whatsoever of making anyone feel guilty: During your time with the Lord, is there any singing going on? During your time with the Lord, is there that sense of, Man the world is falling to pieces, and, honestly I’m scared to death, and I have concerns here, and I don’t know what to do about here, but You’re the infinite Reference Point. You are great. And I’m the object of Your love, and, despite all of the things that I’ve done – internally and externally – to mess up, You love me. You sent Your Son for me. And have you found yourself kind of breaking out into a little chorus, or a hymn, in the morning, as you start your day?

And you know what happens? What did Nehemiah say? “The joy of the Lord is my, it’s my strength!” Circumstances aren’t your strength. Other people aren’t your strength. Anything, and everyone, will let you down, except God.

Finally – I love the final part – success is possible. When you read the first two-thirds of this, you say to yourself, Moses, I’m glad you learned this, but I don’t think I can cut it. And he tells us basic number six: Success is possible.

Notice, his prayer continues: “May Your deeds be shown to Your servants.” Literally, he’s praying, Reveal Your deeds to Your servants, Your splendor to their children. Moses is saying, I want something great to happen here, in the midst of this conflict, and I want it to happen for my kids. “May the favor” – and the word, literally, is beauty – “of the Lord rest upon us.” And then, he repeats it twice: “Establish the work of our hands, yes, establish the work of our hands.”

If I wanted to translate that phrase, that little prayer, into today’s English, I would say Moses is praying, “Lord, number one, we want to see You work among us. We don’t want to do religion, we don’t want to do church, we don’t want to go through the motions.

We want to see Your splendor! We want to see what the early Church did! We want to see what we hear about happening around the world! We want to see You work here, like never before. And we want our kids to get it. We want them to look at us and say, ‘Mom, Dad, I’ve never seen you live like this.’” And you say, “Well something happened in my heart, honey.”

The second thing he prays is, “We want to leave a legacy to our children.” And the third thing he prays is, “We want to impact our world every day, in every way.” Moses knew it wasn’t a spiritual issue. He asked the question, and here’s the key: Am I impacting my world for good?

And, here, the keyword is productivity. You’re making a difference. And you know what? It’s as spiritual to change a baby as an act of worship, as it is to pray a prayer. It’s as spiritual to go into the marketplace and do a business deal right and with integrity as it is to be a pastor. It’s as spiritual to be at home with kids as it is to be making a difference in the marketplace. All of life – whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, right?

There is no sacred and secular. There is no clergy and laity. I’m a regular guy; you’re a regular guy. You’re a regular girl. We all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. The cross has accomplished it. He’s raised from the dead. We’re new in Him, and we’re a team together, living every day before the face of God. And he says, “Now, establish the work of our hands.” Every work, every thought, every prayer, done unto Him, has the permanence of eternity when it’s done as an act of worship.

Now, do you see how it happens? You realize He is great – the infinite Reference Point. You realize life is short, so the priorities need to get refocused. You realize sin is serious, and you better not just mess around with that anymore. And you realize, I need wisdom because I can’t do this. And, in the midst of it, you say, “Mercy is available.” And then, you say, “Success is possible.”

God wants to do – in you, and through you – exceedingly, abundantly beyond what you could ask, or think.

If you could just get a sneak peek into heaven – it’s so glorious, it would scare you. But it begins with you, and me, going back to the basics: getting clear, reducing complexity, increasing clarity.