Last week, we learned about the power of praise and were challenged to praise God no matter what circumstances we may find ourselves in.
You may have heard that you need to be careful what you pray or ask for because you just might get it. The saying also seems to ring true to be careful what you preach because you just might get to live it.
Well, I thought that our basement flooding and getting that cleaned up a few days before that message was challenging enough. After preaching it, our AC broke, and septic backed up. Not a good combination! I’ll be honest and say that I did a little more repenting than I did praising through it.
As Jesus said, in this life we will have troubles. We live in a fallen world and none of us have to look far for the evidence of this truth. There are some situations, however, that are more challenging for us than others.
I may be partial to this opinion due to my own recent circumstances, but I believe that one of the most difficult situations for us in life is that of loss. Many of us share in that mourning as we’ve lost loved ones close to us in death recently. It’s a harsh reality as we feel that no only have we suffered loss, but that a part of us has been lost as well.
It’s challenging, but possible, for our grief to be coupled with hope and to even find reason for praise in the midst of our season of mourning. We find such an example in Job. Within a short period of time, Job lost his livestock, income, and on top of it all, he lost his children to death.
20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Job was able to worship and give praise in response to tremendous loss in his life. We easily praise Him when He gives and we learn to praise Him even when He takes away.
This morning, we turn to a time in the life of Jesus when He was preparing for His own death. As if though this was not grim enough, His death was going to happen through one of the worst types of losses: betrayal. Losing someone close to us in death is challenging, but losing someone close to us by their own choosing… Well, there aren’t even words to describe the emotional roller coaster that results from that type of loss!
It’s heart-wrenching to face the reality that you will never have the opportunity to be with your loved one again on this side of Heaven. However, it’s even more difficult to encounter people who have that opportunity, but either deny it altogether or maintain enough of a relationship with us just to use us for their own advantage.
We expect it from those who don’t care for us, we shouldn’t be surprised when those who don’t follow Jesus betray us, but how do we handle it when a brother or sister in Christ does so?
David encountered such a situation. In fact, when Jesus warns of His coming betrayal, He even quotes from:
Even my close friend,
someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned against me.
David also wrote:
12 If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
I could hide.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God,
as we walked about
among the worshipers.
David had plenty of enemies being in the position that he was in. For years, he lived on the run from Saul attempting to take his life and even entire nations hated him. However, he seemed to be blindsided and affected by the betrayal of a close, supposedly Godly, friend in a way that none of his enemies could have impacted his life.
How did he respond to such betrayal from a friend and fellow believer?
16 As for me, I call to God,
and the Lord saves me.
17 Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
18 He rescues me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.
19 God, who is enthroned from of old,
who does not change—
he will hear them and humble them,
because they have no fear of God.
20 My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.
21 His talk is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.
22 Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.
David acknowledges the wrong that was done to him by a friend and acknowledges the deep hurt and pain inflicted by it. However, he chooses not to focus on them, but to cast all those cares on the Lord and to focus on Him. What an honor and affirmation that Jesus would quote how David responded to this situation when He, Himself faced that very same situation!
Watching how Jesus chose to respond to betrayal can teach us and encourage us greatly! Hang in there because we’re beginning a little grim, but we’re going to end this morning with hope! All four gospel accounts record this event:
17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”
20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today – yes, tonight – before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”
31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.
Of course, we know that by the very next morning, every single one of them who vowed even to die with Jesus before leaving Him were gone.
We begin by acknowledging our own weakness in this area. Whether with selfish intent or with the best of intentions, we will all betray those we care about at some point in our relationships with them. Although it hurts so bad when we are let down by others in this way, we acknowledge that we, too, have been guilty.
Jesus was betrayed by Judas in exchange for money for his own selfish gain. However, what we don’t often consider is that He was also betrayed by the other eleven disciples out of fear. It was not premeditated nor even their will or intent like Judas, but they said still promised one thing and did another. In the end, they all abandoned Jesus.
Although we are often taken by surprise when we are betrayed, Jesus was aware that all of this was going to take place. Although our losses are often unexpected, Jesus knew they were coming.
Judas was chosen and entrusted as the treasurer for the earthly ministry of Jesus. He was entrusted with this even though he was a thief and liked to help himself to the money from time to time for himself (John 12:6). Betraying Jesus for money wasn’t a one-time occurrence, it had become a habit over a period of time.
The other eleven had been there with Jesus through so many life experiences. They were firsthand eyewitnesses to so many miracles and signs and wonders. They also were there with Him when people challenged and opposed Him. Though they intended to follow Jesus even to their death, they abandoned Him when the threat became real.
How did Jesus respond knowing all of this?
Together with Judas and the other betrayers, He gave thanks. He reclined with them and ate dinner with them; the last dinner that He was going to eat this side of Heaven. They ironically celebrated Passover together as Jesus knew that He was going to soon become that sacrificial lamb. Together, He sang a hymn with them and gave praise to the Father.
To those who He knew were about to abandon Him, He said:
28 You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30 so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Jesus knew that He was about to have His body broken and blood poured out, He knew that his closest friends would all leave Him in his darkest time of need. He gave thanks and ate with them and praised with them. He focused on their potential with hope in them. He lived out the reminder of Paul to:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.
Jesus totally and completely trusted His life into the Father’s hands. He remained Spirit-lead even though He knew that this path lead to and through pain and suffering, even death.
Jesus chose those twelve men according to His Father’s will, even though they weren’t exactly who you would anticipate a Rabbi to choose as His disciples. He trusted God even knowing that suffering and loss was a part of His plan. He trusted God knowing that any loss would be nothing in comparison to what would be gained in the end; that all loss was temporary and all gain was eternal.
Jesus knew that on the other side of betrayal and loss awaited great gain. He knew His Heavenly Father in whom He trusted His life to. Not only was He restored to His position as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but He knew that He was paying the price far more valuable to Him than His own life and position of authority.
Like David, like Job, like Jesus, we, too can trust our Heavenly Father. Though the sting of loss and betrayal is real, they are not our destiny. Jesus conferred onto His disciples a kingdom and it was His joy to pay the price to make it possible. Now, through our faith in Jesus, we also have conferred to us citizenship to the Kingdom of God.
If Jesus can take a handful of betrayers and build His Kingdom through them, what can He do through our lives? If Jesus can turn the earthly kingship of David into an eternal one that never ends, how can He transform our suffering and pain into good? If Jesus can restore double to Job what was stolen from him, surely He can somehow restore to us what has been lost!
We can have hope and respond with praise to God not because our circumstances are good, not because our lives are absent of pain and grief, but because God is good. Though people may betray us, God never will. Though we may suffer loss, God is able to bring beauty from ashes and even life from death!
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Your story is not finished yet. Your life has many pages and even whole chapters yet to be written. There may be pain and sorrow now, but joy is on its way! Don’t give up on the God who has not given up on you yet! Trust in His guidance and His plan for your life. He has plans not to harm you, but to prosper you; to give you hope and a future!
Sure, there may be pain along the journey, but it is nothing compared to the glory that awaits you!
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Whatever loss you have suffered, whatever betrayal you have endured, God has seen it all. He is right there with you and for you. He is able to heal and restore. He is able to redeem and reconcile. He is able to carry you through this season into one of glory; into one of eternal value that will outweigh every trouble that we have ever suffered through.
Today, give God some praise and begin to hope again. Trust your life into His hands and allow Him to begin healing your pain. Allow His comfort to give you peace in the place of bitterness. God is good and He will prove His goodness if you only give Him the chance to.