Sermon titles:
Paradise Message
I thought I would start off with a little joke this morning.
It seems a cowboy from Colorado skipped church one Sunday to go bear hunting in the mountains. As he turned the corner along the path, he and a bear collided. The cowboy stumbled backwards, slipped off the trail and began tumbling down the mountain with the bear in hot pursuit. Finally the cowboy crashed into a boulder, sending his rifle in one direction and breaking both legs. As the bear closed in, the cowboy cried out in desperation, "Lord, I'm sorry for what I have done. Please forgive me and save me! Lord, please make that bear a Christian." Suddenly, the clouds parted and a beam of light shown down on the bear. The bear skidded to a halt at the cowboy's feet, fell to its knees, clasped its paws together and said, "God, bless this food which I am about to receive."

Of course that was a Joke.   Would you agree that that guy was having a bad day?  We have all had points in our lives when we have suffered.  And one question that I have heard several times is if God is loving, why do people suffer? Or why is there cancer or disease, or why do children die?  And the list goes on.  But the questions are basically the same.  How can a wise, all knowing and loving creator let his creation experience those situations?

Lets take Wedgwood Baptist Church for an example.  

Wedgwood Baptist Church is often remembered for the event that occurred on the evening of September 15, 1999. Just before 7:00pm that evening a crazed gunman entered the building and interrupted a youth activity, a "Saw You at the Pole" prayer rally. He fired over 100 rounds from two different handguns, and exploded a homemade pipe bomb. Seven young persons were killed, and seven others were wounded before the gunman ended his own life.

In the event's aftermath the victims' families, friends, the church, and other people around the world have had to deal with their grief, struggle to recover from the terror, and have agonized again and again over the unanswerable question. "Where was God while all this happened?"

I’m going to discuss a few reasons, about why we suffer, with you today.  
First of all I want to say that we all know that God is all knowing.
It’s my personal belief that there are no accidents.  
Proverbs 16:9 says
9 In his heart a man plans his course,
   but the LORD determines his steps.

And 16:33 says
33 The lot is cast into the lap,
   but its every decision is from the LORD.
The Amplified Bible also says [even the events that seem accidental are really ordered by Him].

Nothing has happened or will happed that God doesn’t already know about.
God has a plan.  There is no “plan B”.  and God never has to say “Sorry! I didn’t se that one coming.”

Romans 8:28 says
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
This Verse tells us that ALL things work to the good for those that love God.
So, God, Who is in control has a good reason for every thing that we go through.

Pastor Mike shared last week about God using adversity to refine us and build our faith.

Another reason God allows difficulties in our life is to keep us from becoming spiritually lazy.

Judges 2:18-19 says
18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.

If you read the book of Judges this seems like an endless cycle.  God would deliver Israel.  Israel would turn away from God.  Trouble would come and Israel would cry out to God.  God would deliver them and the cycle would start again.

If we are honest with ourselves, we do the same thing.  When things are going good we have a tendency to get spiritually lazy.  So out of mercy do you know what God does?  That’s right, he orchestrates a few difficulties and that spiritual laziness goes out the window.

Joni Erickson Tada talks about God’s wisdom in allowing this to
occur. ( For those of you who don’t know, Joni is a Christian author who broke her neck a young age and has been a Quadriplegic for most of her life.)
“In God’s wisdom and love, every trial in a Christian’s life is ordained from
eternity past, custom made for that believer’s eternal good, even when it
doesn’t seem like it. Nothing happens by accident…not even tragedy…not
even sins committed against us.
Our pain, poverty, and broken hearts are not His ultimate focus. He cares
about them, but they are merely symptoms of the real problem. God cares
most – not about making us comfortable – but about teaching us to hate our
sins, grow up spiritually, and love Him.
Every sorrow we taste will one day prove to be the best possible thing that
could have happened. We will thank God endlessly in heaven for the trials
He sent us here. This is not Disneyland – it is truth.”

Whether we like it or not or whether we want to admit it or
not, many times our difficult circumstances are God’s loving way to shake
us out of our spiritual laziness and get us back on track seeking Him. So is
God being a big ol’ meany for allowing us to go through difficult times? No,
not at all. God is so Wise that He can even use unpleasant circumstances to
get us on our knees to start seeking Him. Therefore, the challenge is to seek
God at all times, not just when things are difficult. And people, this is the
great news. Once we’re back on track, we find that we’ve actually grown
closer in our walk with God. And isn’t that what we all pray for? Of course
it is. And it’s all because God Is Wise.

Another reason why God allows difficulties to occur is To Cause Us To Be A Blessing to Others.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

“There was a boy who had lost his right hand and he felt so badly about it
that he did not want to see anyone. His father said, ‘I’m going to bring the
minister in to see you.’ The boy said, ‘I don’t want to see him.’  
But out of his concern for his son, the father brought the minister anyway.
When the minister had arrived, the boy looked up and noticed that the man
had no right arm; there was an empty sleeve.  
The minister came over to the boy and said, ‘I haven’t any hand, either. I
lost mine when I was a boy, and I know how it feels.’ And because of this, it
wasn’t hard for the boy to get acquainted with the minister who knew how it

Every single one of us has the ability to be a tremendous blessing to another person in distress that the rest of us may not be able to.  Why?  Because every single one of us has our own unique set of difficulties which means that every single one of us can uniquely comfort others with the same comfort God has extended to us.

God is so Wise that He can actually recycle our tears and turn them around to be a tremendous blessing for others. And isn’t that what we all pray for? Of course it is. And it’s all because God Is Wise.

Then next reason God allows difficulties in our lives is to make us more humble.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9
7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Whether you like it or not, being humbled is one of the best things that could happen to us. Why? Because that’s when we receive God’s grace. And  that’s why Paul could rejoice through all his pain, because he saw the higher purpose through it all. He knew it was the grace of God that gives us the power of God. And how many of us want to be a more powerful Christian?

But herein lies our problem. We don’t like being humbled do we? No. So out of mercy do you know what God does? That’s right! He orchestrates a few difficulties.  Then all that pride and self-love goes right out the window and humility starts coming in like a flood! Why? Because folks, how do we react to difficulties most of the time? Not very loving, do we? No! Therefore, we’re humbled by having to see ourselves for who we really are.
So is God being a big ol’ meany? No! He’s allows difficulties not to
torture us but to humble us so that we’ll abandon ourselves to Him. Why?
Because that’s when we grow in God’s grace. And unless we grow in
God’s grace we won’t grow in His power. And if we don’t grow in His
power we’ll end up being weak and ineffective Christians all the days of our
lives. Therefore, whether we like it or not or whether we want to admit it or
not, our difficult circumstances are serving as an opportunity to humble us
and to make us more powerful Christians for the glory of God. And isn’t
that what we all pray for? Of course it is! And it’s all because God Is Wise.

The Next reason is to Teach us the Power Of Praise.
Hebrews 13:15-16
15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

According to this verse there are some practical ways that we can please God. One, we can do good things, two, we can share things, and three we can continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise. But notice the two things about this kind of praise that pleases God. One is it’s continual and two it’s a sacrifice.  But herein lies our problem. You see, we love to praise God when things are looking up but we don’t want to praise Him when things are looking down, do we? No! I mean, to praise God when things are looking creepy, why that would be a sacrifice. Uh huh. And that’s precisely the point. You see, God makes it very simple for us. There are only two times we should praise the Lord. When you’re alone, and when you’re with
somebody. But since we don’t want to do this, we miss out on the power of

So out of mercy do you know what God does? That’s right! He
orchestrates a few difficulties and we learn that we can either pout
because of our pain or offer up a sacrifice of praise in spite of our pain.
And once you learn to praise God at all times, not just in the good
times, you just discovered the power to overcome your pain in the bad

Psalms 42:5
5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
   Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
   for I will yet praise him,
   my Savior and 6 my God.

The power to make it through disturbing circumstances and
even a deep dark depression comes not by getting rid of your problems. No!
Sometimes you can’t. It comes when you praise God in spite of your

Take Horatio Spafford as an Example.

“Horatio Spafford and his family were members of the Fullerton Avenue
Presbyterian Church. And Spafford and his wife had learned what it meant
to completely trust God in every situation.

First, The Spaffords’ only son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four.
And a year later, Horatio had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of
Lake Michigan but every one of these holdings was wiped out by the great
Chicago Fire.

So aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on his family, Horatio
decided to take his wife and four daughters on a holiday to England and then travel throughout Europe.

Yet just before they set sail, a last-minute business issue forced Horatio to
delay. So not wanting to ruin the family holiday, he told his family to go on
ahead as planned. He’d catch up to them on the other side of the Atlantic.

However, their ship, never made it. It collided with an English sailing ship, and sank within twenty minutes. And even though Horatio’s wife, Anna, was able to cling to a piece of floating wreckage, all four of their daughters were killed. And the next thing you know, Horatio received the horrible telegram from his wife, only two words long, ‘saved alone.’

So Spafford immediately boarded the next available ship to be near his
grieving wife. And during the voyage, the captain of the ship had called him
and said, ‘I believe we are now passing the place where the ship was
wrecked.’ So Horatio then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his
great hymn of praise to God in the midst of his pain. Maybe you recognize it.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea-billows
roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with
my soul. Though Satan should buffet, tho’ trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul.”

So is God being mean? No. He’s trying to teach us a
powerful lesson. That true praise doesn’t depend on our feelings, but is in
spite of our feeling! True praise is not centered on ourselves, but on our
Savior. And Horatio’s hymn brings us back to the bottom line, that at the
end of the day it is our relationship with God that holds us fast in all our trials, nothing else!  

Therefore, whether we like it or not or whether we want to admit it or
not, our difficult circumstances are serving as an opportunity to show us the
uplifting power of praise so the problems of life won’t drag us down! And
isn’t that what we all pray for? Of course it is! And it’s all because God Is

Another reason that we experience difficulties is to produce a powerful testimony.
Genesis 50:15-21
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

Now according to our text, after having his brothers try to kill him and
over many, many years of suffering, Joseph learned one of the most powerful lessons in life. And that is this. God will use even the pain other people cause us, and turn it around for our highest good. And when all was said and done, Joseph testified to this truth and thus his words became a powerful testimony, even to this day, right? I mean, how many of us have benefited from reading this passage of Scripture? It’s very encouraging, isn’t it?  

Did you know that God allows painful circumstances so that we too can testify to the Lord’s goodness? He really does. But herein lies our problem. We love to hear about other people’s testimonies but we don’t want to become one ourselves, do we? No! And so we miss out on being a powerful source of encouragement to others.
So out of mercy do you know what God does? yep, that’s right! He orchestrates a few difficulties and we learn that we can either pout because of our pain and throw a big pity party or we can be patient and wait for God to produce a powerful testimony.  Whether you like it or not or whether you believe it or not, going through rough times are some of the best things that could ever happen to us. Why? Because that’s where a powerful testimony comes in!

Remember the church shooting at the Wedgwood Baptist Church?  And there unanswerable question of “Where was God while all this happened?”.

Here is a testimony from a member of the Wedgwood Baptist Church demonstrating that God can redeem any tragedy and turn it to good.

"By now almost everyone has heard of the tragedy when a gunman entered Wedgwood Baptist Church and killed 7 people and injured 7 others before taking his own life.

That morning had been the day of "See You at the Pole," when students gather around their flagpole in the morning to pray for their school and nation.
What the media hasn't reported, however, is how God has been so evident, both during and after the shooting. He has done amazing works!

Our pastor had prayed that God would do whatever it took to expand the ministry of Wedgwood Baptist Church. Our church is one that is used as a model of how NOT to pick a location, because no one in the world can find it. Now almost everyone in the world knows exactly where it is.

To enter the church, the gunman walked past our children's playground, which should have been full of kids, but for some reason every single children's class was running late. No one had made it to the playground yet.
He fired over 100 bullets into a crowd of over 400, but only 14 people were hit.
He did not shoot over 60 bullets he still had with him.
The bottom fell off the pipe bomb he threw, and the bomb landed without ever exploding.
The first 911 call came in on a police radio, so emergency vehicles were dispatched without spending precious time verifying that the call was real.
There was a paramedic in the church at the time, and he was able to stop a lot of bleeding and stabilize injured people before the emergency crews arrived.
All 7 victims were not just Christians, but bold Christians who were passionate about their faith.

Many denominations have pulled together to offer help and support. One example is the United Methodist Church who sent 15 people the following Sunday to cover our childcare. They didn't want any church members to have to miss the service because they were taking care of the children.
A church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, drove over 5 hours just so they could march around our church and pray during our Sunday morning services. The Fort Worth Police Dept. planted flowers in the flower beds before we re-entered the sanctuary to worship.

We have received over 10,000 emails, 5000 cards, and $60,000 from all over the world Al Meredith, our pastor has had the microphone in his face continually and has always given an outstanding answer to the reason for our hope. He presented the gospel beautifully on Larry King Live when prompted by a question asked by Vice President Al Gore.

Because of the live news coverage and interviews, over 200 million people have heard the gospel because of this tragedy.
Fifteen thousand turned out for a community wide memorial service. Brother Al gave a very serious challenging message calling for a day of fasting and heart searching for America. CNN broadcast the memorial service live.

Amazingly, because one of the victim's families lives and works in Saudi Arabia, that country allowed the service to be broadcast there as well. In Saudi Arabia it is illegal to say the name of Jesus on the street. Because of that same CNN broadcast, 35 people in Japan gave their lives to Christ.
When President Clinton finally got through to him, Brother Al ended their conversation by praying, after gaining permission, for the Clinton family.
At several schools, students met around their flagpoles the next day. At one school 25 students accepted Christ, and 110 at another. A teacher led 22 students to Christ in her classroom. On the east-coast, where "See You at the Pole" was delayed because of the hurricane, record numbers of kids showed up to pray.

Governor Bush has visited with our pastor several times, and Brother Al has had an impact on him. Just think of the influence our pastor could have if Governor Bush is the next president!
We have had over 70,000 hits on our web page which displays the plan of salvation in multiple languages.

These are just a few of the miracles that are happening. God's grace is almost overwhelming. Every time the gunman fired a bullet, he intended to take a life. Yet God turned that around and saved several lives for each bullet fired. The faith of those who died has been multiplied many times over."

But you might be asking, “Come on. Does knowing something as
basic that God is Wise really make a difference in lives of people
worldwide?” Well, you tell me if it wouldn’t save us from a whole lot of
unnecessary pain.

“You are walking down the street, minding your own business, when you
are assaulted and forced to carry a huge and heavy basket on your back.
You’re ordered to walk three blocks, turn left, go two blocks, turn right, then
proceed straight on. Staggering under the weight, you stumble on bewildered and angry.

The weight of the basket is crushing. Your back is breaking. The whole
thing is meaningless and haphazard. You resent how the heavy burden
consumes you, becoming the focal point of your entire existence. When your halfway down the third block, reeling under the burden, you finally cry out, ‘What gives!’