“THERE IS THE OTHER SIDE”                             By Pastor YAU

Text: Ephesians 3:1-10                                              September 17, 2006.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)      The prayer of a pastor: A story was told of the Scottish pastor Alexander Whyte, who was able to look at the bleakest situation and find something to be thankful for. One Sunday morning when the weather was freezing, wet and stormy and there were only a handful of the few-and-faithful at the church for worship, one deacon of the church whispered, “I am sure the preacher won’t be able to thank God for anything on a day like this. It’s absolutely horrible outside.” The pastor opened the service by praying, “We thank Thee O God that the weather is not always like this.”

2)      The words of an apostle: In writing to the church at Ephesus when he was in the Roman prison, the apostle Paul was also able to see the best of his bleak situation. While most people would have concluded that he was a prisoner of the Roman Empire waiting for trial and execution, Paul saw himself as a prisoner of Christ and his prison life was the key to open the door through which “the unsearchable riches of Christ, the gospel, may be preached to the Gentiles and to make plain to everyone the manifestation of this mystery which for ages past was kept hidden in God.” (3:8-9)

 

LIFE IS NEVER A SMOOTH RIDE:

1)   They lived happily ever after”: Many of the Cinderella kind of stories end with a rosy line like this: “Then they lived happily ever after.” To give readers, mostly children, a good feeling about a story is nothing wrong. The only problem is that in real life no one has ever lived his life “happily ever after.” We all understand that this is only a wish, a well wish that has not yet come true. People from all walks, from princes and princesses to common folks everywhere experienced hardships and problems in their lives everyday. Problems with people, relationship or jobs, marriage, parenting, making a living, health, just to list a few. That is why we need stories like Cinderella to give us hope and comfort to sooth our spirit once in a while.

2)   This is not our Father’s world: No one knows how the first world was like right after God had created it. But all of us know it is not the same after Eve and Adam had sinned. Since man is the product of the environment, he suffers by what the environment has to offer and often times it is not that friendly. Evil, greed, selfishness, pride, hatred, malice, natural disasters, diseases, betrayal, wars and man-made suffering and the list goes on and on.  The children song “This is my Father’s World” is a good song but it tells only one side of the story. The real world and real life as we know it is never as rosy as we want it to be.

3)   Wrong time or wrong place: This message was written on August 16, Wednesday, 2 days after the peace agreement approved by the UN Security Council. Seeing refugees, both Israelis and Lebanese came back from hideouts to their one time home just to find out there is no home any more. Seeing innocent people, many are elderly and children died and buried without a good reason is heartbreaking. Good people lost their lives, homes, possession and dreams just because they are at the wrong place and the wrong time. Many more suffer untold pain at home, at work or in unjust societies or systems or in hands of wrong people.

4)   We bring it on ourselves: Some of the human sufferings are results of their own fault. There are many stories of this kind in the Bible as well as in our society. People, some of them were endowed with high IQ and good fortune, made bad, real bad choices and end up get hurt beyond measure. They destroy what they have built at home, at work, in society and to themselves. Mistakes, big and small, bring on them heartache and shattered dreams. Not all those who suffer pain are innocent. Some of them ask for it and got it.

 

LESSONS FROM PAUL’S LIFE: Although we all know that no man is without sin, but the life of Paul, especially after his conversion, sets high standard for Christian living. His dedication and persistence in fulfilling the call of God and the contribution of his life and work put him above most of all who were called to serve. Yet, his life was full of suffering, betrayal, hardship and injustice. His narration of experience in 2 Corinth 11:23-29 gives us a glimpse on the price he paid for being faithful. Why are all these happened to the most faithful?

1)   No one is immune:  Pain and suffering are part of human life and no one is immune of them regardless of background, education, riches, power or status. Just as sickness and death are blind and we all are subjected to their attack, being faithful is great but is not a license of immunity. No one may “buy out” or “pay off” from hardship and pain. This is the fairness of God’s justice.

2)   God’s mysterious ways:  In today’s Scripture references, Paul laid out the results of his imprisonment: “The mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” (3:6) In Philippians 1:12-13, Paul testified again the results of his imprisonment opened the door for him to bring the gospel to the Roman palace guards. “Now I want you to know that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it ahs become clear throughout the whole guard and to everyone else that I am in chain for Christ.” God’s way of getting things done is often times beyond our imagination.

3)   It’s a process of purification: Even as good as Job in terms of faith and character, he admitted that he needed to be purified by God through the pain and suffering. He told his friends, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come out as gold.” (Job 23:10) We don’t have to go through what Job had gone through to realize that pain and suffering sometimes serve a good purpose to make us cleaner, better and more productive. Jesus gave us a clear lesson in his parable of the vine in John 15:2, “He cut off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes and cleans so that it will be even more fruitful.”

4)   Effective way to deal with pride:  Pride was the main motive Eve had when she decided to have the forbidden fruit because she believed that if she just ate that fruit she would be just like God as Satan had promised. (Genesis 3:5) After Paul had accomplished so much in the gospel ministry, built so many churches, written many books of the New Testament and had visited the third heaven and the paradise and had heard inexpressible things, God allowed him to have a thorn in his fresh and won’t remove it even after he had pleaded many times for its removal. (2 Corinth. 12:6-9) Paul saw the purpose of this was to “keep me from becoming conceited or too proud.”

 

WHY SEE THE OTHER SIDE?

1)    We see a better picture:  Just as we can’t see the whole coin if we see only one side of it, we can’t see the whole picture of pain and suffering if we see only one side, the bad side. Life is more complicated than on one side, the side we use to see or want to see. Until we can see both sides of the coin our understanding or judgment are imperfect or incomplete. Try to see life experience from a different angle, from the opposite side, you may see things differently and are more able to make better assessment. Being stubborn to see things only on your side may not be the best way to know the truth.

2)    All things work for good:  When Paul said, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,” (Romans 8:28) he was talking about the purpose or the outcome of things God had allowed to come on us, the good and the bad, they all work for our good. God will never allow bad things happen to us to hurt us but to bring out the best of us and His purpose on us. By not able or willing to see this side of your life experience is going to miss the best part of it. It is through the stormy days, we learn to grow deeper and taller in our character and get closer to our God.

3)    The sun will rise again:  Sometimes we don’t believe that the sun will rise again tomorrow if there is a tomorrow when we are in the depth of darkness. But the reality is the sun always rises after the stormy night is over. In fact, there are many more sunny days than stormy ones in a year in most parts of the planet earth. As King David said, “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) God will bring light to shine on us after the night is over. As the Golden Text of today says, “If we are faithless, God will remain faithful, (Because) He will not disown himself (or disregard His own words.)” (2 Timothy 2:13)

4)    Faith greater than gold:  The apostle Peter encouraged the early believers to stay firm in times of trial by saying, “You may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith (may become) greater worth than gold.” (1 Peter 1:6-7) How many more personal testimonies do you have to hear before you believe that through the tests of trial and suffering faith grows stronger and purer and more productive? All the saints in the Bible, plus the modern day believers have testified that their faith has grown stronger and deeper through trials and pain. Hard times in life are fires of purification to grow our faith in the almighty God.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)    Under the burden of trial?  If you are under the burden of hardship, trials and defeat don’t be panic, because all of us have been there before and will be there again as long as we live. You are in good company with King David, Prophet Elijah, Daniel, Peter and Paul and countless saints through history. God has a great purpose in you and wants to make you qualified and useful through the process of purification. Stay firm and remain faithful and strong.

2)    See the other side: Don’t just stare at the dark side of life to the point that you miss to see so many good things in your life. No cloud is dark enough or large enough to cover the beams of the sun forever. Remember, even when the clouds are thick, the sun still shines on top of the clouds never stops and never changes.

3)    God is there with you: Listen to the words of King David, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) Keep walking close to God and He will lead your way out sooner than you know.