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Sermon 4/9/06 - Why?
Proverbs 16:9

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A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9)

The Book of Acts is very interesting. It touches on some of the “Why?” questions there are in life. We don’t always know “Why?” but we discover in Acts, Proverbs and other places that the surprising things in our lives are not unusual. For example, it’s a problem when we try to do some good thing for the Lord or some other person, and it seems like our “good thing” is not received. In Acts 16:6-7, we find that the Apostle Paul had just that problem: he wanted to do a good thing, but was PREVENTED by the Lord from doing it! – Here’s the way it reads: “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were FORBIDDEN by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but THE SPIRIT DID NOT PERMIT THEM.” Paul wanted to “Go into ALL the world and preach the gospel to every creature” as the Lord had commanded (Mark 16:15), but he was told “No,” and was “forbidden” by the Lord from doing what we are called to do. To his credit, Paul simply “bounced” away from his original intention (going to the east), and turned to the west, to Macedonia, in Europe, where he led many to Christ in the power of God. You have your ideas; God has His – It's hard for us to learn, but the best in life is when we do things HIS way!

Isaiah 53 and its context is a direct prophesy of the advent, crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, written hundreds of years before His arrival on earth. Isaiah 53:5 contains the words, “by His (“Christ’s”) stripes we are healed,” and the word for “healed” in that verse is a form of the Hebrew word, “raphah,” which refers to not only physical, but also spiritual healing. The Apostle Paul was well-acquainted with that section of Isaiah, but when he called out to the Lord “three times” for the “thorn in the flesh” that troubled him to be taken away, he was told “NO!” – “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Paul’s response should be of great interest to every one of us. He said, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon mefor when I am weak (in myself) I am strong” (in the Lord). God’s definition of “healed” (“raphah”) was different than Paul expected, but he trusted in the Lord and received something better than he requested.

The Lord Jesus, on the night He was to be crucified, reasonably called out in His distress, “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me,” and then He continued, “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). The “cup” He referred to was the agony He was about to experience, where He would not only suffer pain, humiliation and death, but even more horrifying, He was to bear your sins and mine on that thing called the “cross.” The Father loved the Son, but answered “No” to His request because God’s love also extends to you and me. The will of God was that the Son must die so we may live. Jesus, responding to the will of the Father, went with His captors and died for our sins.

You may have a distinct PLAN for your life. Or you may be as I was for so many years, not knowing WHAT you are doing or WHERE you are going. Many just want to LIVE! and do it in such a way that life will bring you and yours – happiness! But our Scripture for today is compelling. Whether or not you have a program for your future, and you probably do, even if it’s just that you want to have a good time - the Lord also has a plan that is likely quite different than yours. As it states in today’s verse, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

At the convalescent home where I teach on Thursday mornings, we have been privileged to meet many wonderful and heroic people. Society may not always consider them heroes, but they are. We’ve met Yvonne and John, who work as volunteers in the Plum Blossom Café on the first floor. Yvonne has cancer and even though her bouts with chemotherapy have been awful, she says of God: “He will heal me.” John, who works with Yvonne at the Plum Blossom, has some kind of physical disorder that’s never been diagnosed. It’s debilitating, and both Yvonne and John have been weakened by their conditions. Yet they reach out and comfort as many as possible. They encourage Grace, Tom, Richard and many others, modeling faith to the ill and elderly by continuing to trust in the Lord, even though their own situations are very bad.

John and Yvonne have a deep concern for those who live there. John said, “I have just a glimmer of understanding about what happens to them,” continuing, “I miss them terribly when I am in the hospital and am not with them.” He spoke with concern about a “relatively young man - his wife has cancer.” We already had become acquainted with Tom, a man in his 40's, a former truck driver who fell asleep while driving a few years ago, and hit a brick wall with his big rig. John and Yvonne care deeply for Tom. You’ll be interested that Tom accepted Christ a short time ago and is trying to read his Bible.

Our friend, Grace, is 91, and she has lost a lot. Her vision is mostly gone and her husband passed on several years ago. I asked Grace what she thinks about all this and here is her response: “So WHAT if I can’t see? So WHAT if I can’t read anymore? So WHAT if I can’t write or drive a car? So WHAT? They’re not necessary. I don’t even miss those things because God has provided so much more. Look at how many people come and read to me. Look at my daughter, who does my books...” And she continues with great passion about the many “blessings” God has indeed given to her. You should note that Grace operates a motorized wheelchair and visits thirty people in the facility every day, comforting them with words that come from the love of God expressed to us in Christ Jesus.

Tom and Grace are in wheelchairs, like most who live in that facility, and their counterparts are in the millions throughout the world. None of us would choose to be incapacitated; and note that Yvonne, John and the rest would really like to be healed right now! But they are willing to follow God and help others who are in need, no matter what life brings.

God the Son gave everything, dying on the cross for your sins. He has saved us from sin and death – forever. Your life is HIS. And whether we see it or not, “the Lord (IS directing our) steps.” Most feel that they have certain “rights” in life, and if they are not handsome, beautiful, rich, talented, well-accepted by others, intelligent, creative and famous, they’ve been short-changed! “A man’s heart plans his way,” feeling that his (or her) rights were violated if life isn’t “his way.” But right now – Let’s give “our way” to Him who has a better plan than we do; trusting in His love for you and me:

Father, “my way” isn’t working out. I trust in Your Way. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
First Church On The Net
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

Donations to this ministry are greatly appreciated and may be sent to:
Friday Study Ministries
P.O. Box 92131
Long Beach, CA 90809-2131 USA

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