Keeping/Remembering God’s Perspective

[To go along with the theme of the sermon, the special music for this service was “Mended” by Matthew West]

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
When you see too far gone
I see one step away from home

How many times can one heart break?
It was never supposed to be this way
Look in the mirror, but you find someone you never thought you’d be

Oh, but I can still recognize
The one I love in your tear stained eyes
I know you might not see him now, so lift your eyes to me

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
When you see too far gone
I see one step away from home

When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended

You see your worst mistake
But I see the price I paid
And there’s nothing you could ever do, to lose what grace has won

So hold on, it’s not the end
No, this is where love’s work begins
I’m making all things new
And I will make a miracle of you

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
When you see too far gone
I see one step away from home

When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended

I see my child, my beloved
The new creation you’re becoming
You see the scars from when you fell
But I see the stories they will tell

You see worthless, I see priceless
You see pain, but I see a purpose
You see unworthy, undeserving
But I see you through eyes of mercy

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
You’re not too far gone
You’re one step away from home

When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet, no
When you see wounded, I see mended

Ooh, I see mended
Woah, oh I see mended
I’m not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended

Scriptures: Jeremiah 29:11-13; Romans 5:1-8

Romans 5:3-4 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope.” Be honest – how many of you hate those verses when you’re the one going through it?

They’re so easy to say to somebody else. But when it comes to us and our sufferings, how many times do we say, “Look, Lord, if you want to teach me patience then do it now.” Or “Lord, I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve persevered this far. Just get it over with.”

Sometimes we just hurt so much, we don’t even think about these verses. We don’t think about character. And it’s understandable. We struggle with seeing things from God’s perspective.

We’re going through this sermon series where we’re looking at different aspects of when we go through these times of trial, how to see God or where to see God when the world is just … wrong. We’re working it through the vehicle of the Psalms of lament (even though again there were no psalms in the Scripture readings today), as a tool, as a way of reaching out and achieving this goal of seeing God.

The psalmist follow a practice in which, first of all, they are not afraid to declare the problem. If you’re suffering, it’s OK to tell God, “I’m hurting. I’m hurting really bad right now. Where are you? I don’t feel your presence. When are you going to show up?” Then they recount what God has done, and they recognize His sovereignty and His power and His might, and they say, “You’ve done it before. You’ve been here then.”

Finally they go through a third step, where they give God praise, or declare their trust in Him and His hope and His plans, His promises. “Because of what you’ve done before, because of who You are, I choose to trust in You, even in the midst of this time of trial.” That is what produces the patience or perseverance. That is what produces the character that we look at.

Last week we looked at God’s plan and trusting in God’s plan, recognizing there was a plan for us even if we can’t see the end of it. Sometimes it takes a long time for it to come to fruition. It can be difficult to see things from God’s perspective, to be able to take a step back, in the midst of our pain, and try to look and see what God sees.

Today I want to look a little bit at God’s perspective on things, again using a modern song, a modern psalm of lament. As part of the lesson for today, we are looking at God’s perspective. I thought, as I listened to this song from Matthew West called “Mended,” it pretty much gives such a contrast, between God’s view and our view.

Look in the mirror, but you find someone
You never thought you’d be
Oh, but I can still recognize
The one I love in your tear-stained eyes
I know you might not see him now
So lift your eyes to me

And of course, the chorus:

When you see broken beyond repair
I see healing beyond belief
When you see too far gone
I see one step away from home
When you see nothing but damaged goods
I see something good in the making
I’m not finished yet
When you see wounded, I see mended

Elsewhere he speaks of the fact that “you see the scars from when you fell, but I see the stories they will tell.” Scars are signs of healing that has occurred. And they tell stories. I bet you don’t have a scar on your body that you don’t have a story to tell about – some of them funnier than others, others not so funny. It’s a message that really, in its own way, is hard to hear, because when you’re wounded, you’re wounded. When you’re hurting, you’re hurting.

And yet God calls on us, regularly, to take a moment, take a step back, and look at things from His perspective. How can we do that, when we’re in the midst of our pain? How can we do that, when we’re in the midst of our struggle?

How can we take that step back and look at things with God’s perspective, the longer perspective? God’s thoughts are beyond our thoughts. His plans are beyond what we can know entirely. How can we look at things from God’s perspective to see what He is seeing and therefore begin to see where He is moving and acting in our lives during this time?

I think that the secret is in the two Scriptures we had. One does speak of God’s plan, in Jeremiah. As the liturgist noted, just before the verses we read, he talks about the fact that they’re going to be exiled in Babylon. Things are going to happen. Bad things.

Now, it just so happens the Israelites deserved it. Often in our sin, we suffer consequences of our sins. Sometimes it’s not consequences, rather it’s just the world and its fallen ways, and sometimes it’s the evil of other men. But sometimes the consequences are of our own making.

The promise there, though, is that He will be with them, and He has plans to prosper them. That doesn’t mean prosperity like we’re all going to be millionaires. It would be really cool, because in this church we could just really do a lot. But He’s not promising that. What He’s promising is His blessings upon us. We will always be given everything we need. Not necessarily what we want, but everything that we need, and that He will be with us, every step of the way.

How do we trust that? How do we trust that He wants to bless us? How do we trust that He wants to prosper us and be with us? The first step in seeing things from God’s perspective is to remember how much He loves you, how much He loves me. We all know love to some degree, for a spouse, for a child, for a grandchild, for parents, maybe for siblings. But none of that holds a candle to the kind of love God has for us.

If you go back to Romans, it said that at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. That, by the way is you and me. We were ungodly. It doesn’t matter if you were raised in the church. It doesn’t matter if you feel like you’ve been a good person. Unless you’re perfect, you are still ungodly, because you don’t meet God’s standards. And if you’re perfect, I’d really like to get to know you, because I’m sure you have some things that you can teach me. (You probably have some things you can teach me anyway.)

Paul notes that very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though a good man sometimes might possibly dare to die. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And since we have now been justified by his blood how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him. For if when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life.”

This is why we can trust in God. This is how we can take that step back and see in God’s perspective. That is to remember who you are. And to remember whose you are. You are an adopted child of God. And you are loved.

You are loved beyond anything you have known in this world, even if you’re happily married, even if you have kids, even if you have grandkids. It is a love beyond what you have known. It is a love that is so great, that even while we were enemies of God. (It says “while we were sinners” here. Elsewhere it says “while we were enemies of God.”) The Son sacrificed himself for us, for you, for me. That’s how much he loved us.

It didn’t end there, with his blood being shed. Then God did something totally unimaginable, as Christ was raised again. Not for Christ’s sake, but for ours, so we could be new creatures, we could be adopted children of God. This is good news. We are not who we were. And we are not who we were because of Christ.

Occasionally you’ll have a hero, like that coach in the Fort Lauderdale shooting, who jumped in front of the bullets to save those kids. He was a good man, as described here and Romans. How rare is that? How much more often is it more like, well, the sheriff’s deputy, and we stand outside and watch.

There have been plenty of studies, where they set things up, where somebody is pretending to be getting beat up or something on the streets, and people just walk around it. They don’t want to get involved. They think, I might get hurt too. It’s not my problem. Just ignore it. Move on.

It’s so rare that someone will step in. There was a study actually, I think, done recently. Burger King had a commercial where they did a thing about bullying. They had two boys being bullied by someone else in the Burger King, on purpose.

They also had someone who was “bullying” their burgers. He was slapping them and he smooshed them and he mangled them. Then he gave them to the customers. Ninety-two percent of the customers complained about their burgers being bullied. And when they brought it up and complained about it, the employees said, “We were just kind of in a mood, so we were bullying your burgers, we were taking it out on them.” The customers wanted it replaced, they wanted to be recompensed.

Only twelve percent of the people came up to the guy who was bullying the boys and said anything to him, or to the manager at Burger King, about the bullying. We don’t get involved. God, however, God is different from us

Now if it’s that rare for someone to do that, for someone who deserves it, who deserves to be safe, how much more so must the love be for someone who is not deserving? That’s how much God loves you. So when you go through those times of trial, when you are hurting, when you feel broken, when you are wounded, you need to focus on whose you are. Remember that love, not just so that you feel good and all warm and tingly inside – because you probably won’t.

But you can then go to God and say, “Lord, I am hurting. I hurt really bad right now. Let’s face it, things suck. But I know how much you love me. I know how much you care. And so, I can remember what you’ve already done for me in Jesus Christ. I can remember those blessings that you’ve already given me into my life. And I’m going to trust you to take care of this one too.”

Or “I’m wounded and I’m hurting. I’m going to try to look beyond, on the other side of that darkness, on the other side of that valley of the shadow. And I’m going to try to see what you see. Why this might be occurring, even if it seems for no reason, and what can I learn from it, what can I gain from it through you.”

Sometimes it might be years. After all, it took 70 years for those Israelites in Babylon. Most of the people who heard that message of Jeremiah, as the liturgist said, didn’t even get to see it happen. But God fulfilled His promise. I’m sure that those who lived in Babylon testified to God, as they struggled with that darkness, testified to those around them to the next generation. Their scars told stories. Their wounds provided opportunities for healing.

I told you last week how I didn’t see God’s plan in my life for at least seven years until after it happened, when I moved to Muscatine. And it can be the same thing with pain. It can be the same thing with hurt.

When you see wounded, God sees mended. We need to see from God’s perspective, even during those times of trial and struggle. We remind ourselves sometimes about that, not just by remembering whose we are, but by following the steps of the psalm of lament, and reminding ourselves of what God has done for us.

It could just be blessings in this life, which are great to recount, great to remember. How does that song go? “Count your many blessings, count them one by one.” We also, though, can always fall back on, even if at this point in time things are just so dark, your mind is just so blank, you can’t think of anything that God has done recently, or even further back, you can always count on the one thing that God has done, the one thing that is testified to in Scripture and every life of faith, and that is that Christ died for you.

He didn’t have to. He could have just consigned us all to hell – that’s where we belong. But he didn’t. So you can testify to yourself what God has done, so you can begin to see from God’s perspective – to see beyond, to the end. Once you do that, then you can begin to praise. It can be hard. It can feel hollow. But it can be done. I think, personally, that when we do that, as Paul says, it builds character.

We’re not talking about character as being about acting like a good person. They say character is what you do when nobody is around to see you. I think that when he’s talking about character here, he’s talking about looking like God, reflecting God. You build character. You become more of a mirror, because you recognize God in yourself and His work through you, and it begins to show to others, as you go through it. And that character, that reflection of God, that builds hope. It’s a hope that can never be taken away. It’s a hope that never fails. It’s a hope that is already fulfilled, ultimately.

God has plans to bless us. God has plans for our good. And God sees all that, outside of time. He sees the beginning and the end all at once. He knows where you are. He’s right there with you. He’s still with us, having adopted us. How many of you would abandon your children? I dare say none of you – I know you all well enough. God won’t abandon you either. God knows where He wants you to be, and God can make it happen, if we trust in Him.

So when we’re wounded, when we’re looking at our mistakes, and we feel like we’re unworthy, when we feel like we’re so far apart from God, remember this passage from Romans. You’re not too far gone. You’re never too far from God. He can reach you anywhere. And He will love you, and He will care for you. and He will give you His blessings, if you will receive.

The challenge for us, as we each go through our individual times where we’re hurt, where we feel betrayed, where the world is just … wrong, is first of all to tell God about it, through prayer. Open your heart to Him, be vulnerable to Him. And then remember whose you are, that you might begin to see things from God’s perspective.

Proclaim what God has done for you. And move through that trial, to the hope that lies at the end, where you can praise God, even during the trials. May you have that faith, may you build that character, and may you never lose that hope.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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