God will stop at nothing to redeem you, including preventing evil for some and allowing it for others.
I enjoy the privilege of spending time with many of you, getting to hear where you’ve been and considering with you what your next steps with God might be. Recently I had about a two hour conversation with one of the brothers here in church and he shared with me one of the turning points in his life. He had a drinking problem you see, once he got started he just couldn’t stop until the bar shut him down in the wee hours of the morning. That’s the kind of night it was, driving on the highway skunk drunk in the dead of winter. It happened pretty fast, the car skipped over the roadside, skid hundreds of feet, and skated to a stop just before a small lake. I understand the embankment was a 30 to 40-degree slope, almost impossible to walk up in the snow, which is part of what made this so miraculous. The car he was driving was an Isuzu Trooper, it’s sort of a Jeep-looking vehicle, probably the most narrow the manufacturer ever produced. But it didn’t roll. It stopped just short of the ice. Someone just happened to be behind him and saw the whole thing, so he was able to be rescued from the cold. The wrecker had to attach 400ft of extra cable to bring the truck out and once it was in the shop, it took three days to thaw out the engine as snow was packed so tightly throughout the body. Of course he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, yet walked away with no injuries. Sometimes you see, God steps in and prevents harm or evil in our lives. I’m thankful that this man responded to God’s wake-up call and is now a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
But I need to tell you another story this morning. My cousin Sara struggled with her self-identity and some family issues until she was in her early twenties. It was at that time she found Christ and became an absolute, red-hot evangelist for Jesus. I don’t mean Sara went overseas or started a TV program, what I mean is Sara worked at Denso, a large auto parts manufacturing factory in Battle Creek, MI—and told everyone she could about Jesus, co-workers, family, and friends. I know this to be true because I was at her funeral and heard testimony after testimony after testimony of those whose lives and eternities were changed because of her. Sara was 26 years old, in the middle seat of a minivan heading to a Women’s Bible Conference in Indiana. She unbuckled her seatbelt for about five seconds to pick up a CD off the floor and within that five seconds a drunk driver estimated to have been travelling at 90mph rear ended the van. The vehicle rolled and Sara was ejected through a window and died on impact. Everyone else survived the accident.
It’s a difficult thing, isn’t it—That our brother I shared about earlier was protected in a hundred unseen ways, while God did not have the drunk driver take his foot off the gas for just five seconds so a women-of-God like Sara could be saved?
Today I want to explore this very tension in our series’ final message, Christmas Accomplished: Supernatural Protection. Throughout the series we’ve continued to uphold the thesis that GOD WILL STOP AT NOTHING TO REDEEM YOU—And that includes preventing evil and harm for some and allowing it for others.
If you read through the text of Matthew 2, you’ll see two words repeated more than any other—dream and fulfilled. There were four dreams mentioned and three fulfillments of prophecy. God spoke through the dreams of the wise men and Joseph so they could escape Herod’s grasp. In a second dream, Joseph was instructed to return to Israel. And finally he was given more specificity through a third dream to go dwell in the city of Nazareth in the district of Galilee.
God stepped in, revealed His will, and visibly guided them, and this led to the fulfillment of prophecy.
But while God stepped in for the Wise Men and the Messiah, what happened to the male children of Bethlehem and the surrounding region under two-years old? They were murdered by the rage of a tyrant king. My friend survived the accident, my cousin died on impact.
And if you are thinking right now, “What kind of God would allow evil and harm to come to the innocent and the righteous?” you are in good company—we’ve all asked that question. And the answer to that question would haunt you if it were not for one thing. Hear me on this, because it is the entire point and crux of this sermon today—The kind of God that would allow evil and harm to come to the innocent and righteous is the kind of God that is not unwilling to allow evil and harm to come to Himself to save us. You see, our God allowed and prevented all of this in an orchestration leading to the ultimate fulfillment of prophecy—the death of God on the Cross, the perfect spotless lamb slaughtered for the sins of the world.
Bible Scholar R. Jamieson put it like this
O ye mothers of Bethlehem! methinks I hear you asking why your innocent babes should be the ram caught in the thicket, while Isaac escapes. I cannot tell you, but one thing I know, that ye shall, some of you, live to see a day when that Babe of Bethlehem shall be Himself the Ram, caught in another sort of thicket, in order that your babes may escape a worse doom than they now endure. And if these babes of yours be now in glory, through the dear might of that blessed Babe, will they not deem it their honor that the tyrant’s rage was exhausted upon themselves instead of their infant Lord?
What is he talking about? Abraham had a son Isaac miraculously born to him. Abraham loved the Isaac so deeply, but God asked him to sacrifice him atop a hill. When Abraham was about to strike his son, God got his attention and said “Stop. Your faith and trust in me has been proven true—see there is a ram caught in the thicket. Take and sacrifice the ram and not the boy.”
In this world, there are things more important than life, more important than suffering. There is a war for the souls of mankind! If only we would open our eyes to see past our pettiness and grasp the full picture!
But you know what it takes to get there? The faith of Abraham. The faith to believe that God’s purpose is bigger and wider in scope than I could ever imagine—and ultimately, that God is good. And we know that He is good, because He, though being perfect, righteous, and innocent did not spare Himself, but gave His life as a ransom for many (Philippians 2:6-8, Matthew 20:28).
A survey was conducted a few years ago in our local church which helped to show where we lined up on a number of beliefs and personal practices as Christians. There were four pillars on a continuum which included Exploring Christ, Growing in Christ, Close to Christ, and Christ-Centered. Most of the respondents landed in the realm of Growing in Christ and Close to Christ, but only a handful were found to be what the survey called “Christ-Centered” And as I studied the the properties of a Christ-Centered Christian and the results of the survey, I realized that the most prominent dividing line between Close to Christ and Christ-Centered was the willingness to die. And I don’t mean that metaphorically. I mean literally willing to allow your life to end for the cause of Christ. I might extrapolate that to also include allowing your preferences, finances, future, and maybe even loved ones dying—if that is what was asked of you.
Jesus said it simply, “The road is narrow, and only a few find it.”
Band, you can come up at this time.
We each come to this very cross-road at some point in our Christian journey—one that bids us surrender all or turn and walk the other way. You may feel right now that this is unfair. After all, isn’t He is asking too much? —To utterly and absolutely trust in His benevolence while you endure the searing pain of loss?
But I would ask you, “Can He who gave His everything to save you, ever be asking too much from you?” The answer is “no”
In a moment we are going to sing Great I Am—which focuses upon God’s might and our desire to be close to Him. As we sing, I encourage you to consider any disappointments, any time you asked “God, where were you?” through the lens of the Cross. Romans 8:32 ESV He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Yes, we may have temporary hardship and pain, which we have been taught to expect—but as James said Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Please stand and join me in responding to God’s Word together.