The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Responding to Bad News’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 8/2/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1KTMXHc
This is the 2nd Sunday in a 3-part series titled, “The Bible Cure for Stress and Anxiety.” Last week (7/26) we looked at how to overcome anxiety. Next week, we’ll deal with conquering crisis. This week, we’re diving head-first into the ways we should deal with bad news.
Bad News Is Inevitable
At some point in your life, you will receive bad news. I’m constantly asked by people who are skeptical of Christianity, “If God is real, why do bad things happen to good people?”
The answer is that we live in a fallen world. In the Creation Story, God gave authority over the world to man:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” – Gen 1:25
It was our job to be good stewards over everything God had given into our hand. But we failed. Through one act of infinite disobedience, sin entered the world. Adam and Eve ceded control of the world to Satan. It is now our job, as Christians, to go out and re-take territory that rightfully belongs to God, in the Name of Jesus.
Suffering comes from Satan. In Job 1:11, Satan asked for Job. Because there was no mediator under the Old Covenant, God gave Job to Satan. However, Jesus Christ is now our Mediator. He sits at the right hand of the Father. So, whenever Satan asks for us under the New Covenant, Jesus Christ is there to intercede: to say no way!
However, Satan will still do his worst to derail God’s best for your life. We are called to higher places in Christ, and the world continues to descend around us. That creates friction. Bad news will come from time to time as we forget to pray, or lose sight of the fact that God has already given us complete victory. But no matter what happens, we are meant to keep Jesus’ victory on the Cross in full view. Because He Is victorious, we are victorious in Him:
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? – 1 John 5:4-5: 4
Bad news is inevitable. Whether or not you will receive bad news at some point in your life is not a choice we get to make. However, how we respond to bad news is our choice; and that choice makes all the difference in the world!
Leaning on Man
When you receive bad news, to whom do you turn? Do you look to your parents to calm your nerves? Do you go to your therapist to walk you back off a cliff? Do you go out with your friends and try to forget the bad news?
When we get bad news, our typical response is to run to man instead of God. Scripture is filled with examples of men and women who forget that, whenever the stuff hits the fan, God always wants us to turn to Him first.
Asa was a good king. He, “…did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God” (2 Chron 14:2). However, he wasn’t perfect. When Israel came to fight Judah, Asa forgot about God’s testimony over his people. Instead of turning to God and asking for deliverance, he turned to man and asked for help:
In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa brought silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king’s house, and sent to Ben-Hadad king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying, “Let there be a treaty between you and me, as there was between my father and your father. See, I have sent you silver and gold; come, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel, so that he will withdraw from me.” – 2 Chron 16:1-3
By turning to the king of Syria for help, Asa tried to buy deliverance from his enemies. He learned the hard way that other men and women can help us, but only God can deliver us. After all, if we know only God can save our souls, how much more should we know that He is the only One capable of delivering us whenever we become stuck?
Asa’s decision to lean on man, instead of God, only dug him into a deeper hole:
And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.” – 2 Chron 16:7-9
God was willing to deliver Asa from Israel. In fact, He was even willing to deliver the massive army of Syria into Asa’s hand! But Asa’s insistence on earthly means of salvation interfered with God’s plans for salvation.
God’s heart aches to show Himself strong on behalf of those who are loyal to Him. His eyes search the whole earth for men and women who are willing to remain faithful to Him: to trust in Him, no matter the cost. So, are you willing to trust God with everything you have?
Asa knew God’s testimony. He had seen Him faithfully deliver the army of Judah on many occasions before. But when Asa came up against an enemy who was bigger than he had ever encountered before, He lost sight of God’s sovereignty. He turned to man instead of God, and the result was war.
Turning to God
Whenever we receive bad news, or are faced with an insurmountable situation, our response should be to turn to God! Ten generations after Asa, Hezekiah took the throne of Judah. We see him encounter similar trials, yet his response is completely different. Instead of leaning on man, he turned to God. His insistent obedience made all the difference in the world!
In 2 Kings 18, King Sennacherib of Assyria mounted an attack on Jersualem. He sent messengers to Hezekiah’s servants, and tried to scare Judah into surrendering. Hezekiah could have gotten scared and rushed to make a treaty with a strong, neighboring nation. But instead, he turned to God:
And so it was, when King Hezekiah heard it, that he tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. Then he sent Eliakim, who was over the household, Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz. – 2 Kings 19:1-2
The entire kingdom of Judah was about to be overthrown. But Hezekiah didn’t panic. His first reaction was to take his concern to God. He went to God, and then he sought a word from the Lord. Because Hezekiah sought Him, God was faithful to deliver the word Hezekiah needed:
So the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah. And Isaiah said to them, “Thus you shall say to your master, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me. Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own land.”’” 2 Kings 19:5-7
The word of the Lord gave Hezekiah the strength to trust in God unconditionally. Romans 10:17 says that, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” We build our trust in God by making time to listen to Him! Without God’s word through Isaiah the prophet, Hezekiah would have lacked the strength to maintain his conviction that God would deliver His people.
Notice the wording in 2 Kings 19:6. God doesn’t just accuse the king of Assyria of blaspheming Hezekiah, His servant; God accuses the king of Assyria of blaspheming Him. We are God’s trusted representatives. When someone comes to challenge the word of God and His destiny for our lives, God takes it personally. He is willing to defend and deliver us; not just for our sakes, but also for His!
God caused the king of Assyria to flee. Hezekiah was faithful, and God reciprocated. He took Hezekiah’s bad report and turned it into a good testimony.
A short time later, Sennacherib came back to Judah. He again sent messengers to blaspheme God, and bully Judah into submission. However, Hezekiah knew how to respond:
And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord… – 2 Kings 19:14
Hezekiah had a terrible report on his hands again! The king of Assyria was back with even more troops. So how would he respond to this bad news?
Hezekiah had a choice to make. He could whine and question God, asking why God’s deliverance had failed and questioning God’s promise over his life. Or, he could continue to trust in God.
Hezekiah immediately brought his bad report before the Lord. He trusted in God instead of man. Hezekiah knew the value of a covenant relationship with God, because he had called all of Judah back under God’s Covenant. He knew that, because Assyria threatened Judah, they were really threatening God Himself! Hezekiah knew that this bad news wasn’t his problem to deal with alone: it was God’s problem to solve through him.
We are invited to experience a covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The covenant is the most powerful, intimate, and binding form of relationship that can exist. Our human equivalent is marriage between a man and a woman. When we enter into covenant with God, our problems become His problems. Any word spoken against us becomes a word spoken against Him; and just as He always defends Himself, He will always defend us.
The end result of Hezekiah’s insistence on turning to the Lord was effortless victory:
And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. – 2 Kings 19:35
Hezekiah didn’t even have to fight! God promised him complete deliverance, and God delivered.
Whenever you receive a bad report, don’t face it alone. Don’t fear the outcome of what lies ahead; have faith that God determines the end result. Bring your concerns to the Lord, and ask what He would have you do! God desires partnership with us! He wants to co-labor with us to bring about His desires on this earth!
Healing Case Study
We see the same two kings, Asa and Hezekiah, demonstrate the extent to which they were willing to bring their bad reports to God at the end of their lives. Both men were afflicted with disease at the end of their reign. Both men responded differently. One lived to continue ruling; the other did not.
At the end of his life, Asa found out he was sick:
And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign (we see the mercy of God here), Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians. So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign. – 2 Chron 16:12-13
Because he relied on man instead of turning to God, he died!
Even the best physicians in the world cannot extend our lives forever. I remember the story of a pastor walking into a hospital to counsel a dying member of his church. He got into the elevator, and rode up to the floor of the patient he was visiting. As he stepped out of the elevator, the attending physician met him face to face. The physician wondered aloud if there was any point to the visit, knowing that his patient was close to death. He continued to challenge the pastor, and was clearly of the opinion that any prayers the pastor could offer were pointless. The pastor replied that even the best physicians eventually lose all their patients; but the God who saves our souls never loses a single person from His care.
Hezekiah was also struck with sickness late in is life:
In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’” Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord, saying, “Remember now, O Lord, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the Lord. And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.”’” – He responded by prayer and weeping; the word of the Lord changed! – 2 Kings 20:1-6
Instead of leaning on man, Hezekiah trusted in God. Instead of running to his doctors, Hezekiah hit his knees and prayed. He cried out to the Lord, and God heard his prayers. He continued to live on, and walk out the calling God had put on his life!
God’s word didn’t change; it was perfected. Because Hezekiah turned his heart to God, God granted him a new lease on life. When we turn to God in the same way, with reckless abandon, His word will be perfected in us!
God Is Faithful
The enemy will use bad news to deter us in our pursuit of God. Yet God’s desire is that we would know the depths of His faithfulness. When you meet Him face to face, You will see His faithfulness unfold in front of your eyes. But we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to see how good God is. We can know Him for who He is here and now. Our intimate relationship with God starts when we learn to trust Him unconditionally. Our intimate relationship with God increases as we bring every bad report to Him, knowing that He is faithful to deliver us from anything we could ever encounter!
When we turn to God instead of leaning on man, everything changes. Bad news will come; but we can take joy in knowing that faith is built in times of tribulation. We can have faith that deliverance is coming.
At the end of his life, Joshua looked back on everything God had done for His people Israel:
So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass. – Josh 21:43-45
The people of Israel learned by experience that God was faithful to every single one of His promises. We should learn from their testimony, and believe the same thing. As we have faith in Him to deliver us from any situation, our problems will simply melt away in His presence.
– by Pastor Mike White
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