The Mount of Disappointment

Posted: March 12, 2015 by boydmonster in The Christian Life, Trinity Sermons

On the Friday before I preached this sermon, I learned that my dad would likely need to be taken off of life support soon.  I had already begun preparing this sermon in the midst of my dad’s illness, not knowing that he would’t survive.  Although my associate was ready to preach, I decided to go ahead and preach this sermon.  My hope was that as I brought this message of hope in the midst of sorrow other strugglers might believe the wonderful truths of the gospel.  If it is helpful to you, I thank God.  If it can be helpful to others, please pass it along.

In Him,

Iain

http://www.trinitymyrtlebeach.org/sermon/february-15th-2015/

I preach to you today with a heavy heart. Thursday after work, Shelly and I drove up to Charlotte to check on my Dad and my family. For those of you who do not know, Dad went in to the hospital 3 and a half weeks ago with the flu and has been largely unconscious for most of the time since then. He had been showing some signs of progress with improved lung and kidney function. He had even opened his eyes and responded to some pain tests. When we went to go see Dad on Friday, we were told that there was no reason for him to not be awake and so they were going to do an MRI to see if they could find a reason. On the way home, I got a phone call from my brother. The MRI showed that Dad has had a number of strokes. They are on both sides of his brain and up the middle of his brain as well. At this point, his chances of survival are negligible. Even if he does survive, his quality of life will likely be dismal

That news came on the wake of a lot of ups and downs. At several points the medical professionals and we thought Dad was going to pull through, only to have our hopes dashed by another new development in his case. I stand before you today on a Mountain of Disappointment. Not the least point of disappointment is that on Friday when we heard they were going to do an MRI, I had a bad feeling and so I asked you all to pray. After sending that out, I had a sense of hopefulness that God’s people were praying to their loving heavenly father. That prayer was not answered the way I had hoped it would be.

I tell you all that today not for your sympathy. I cannot say how much I appreciate it and how much I need your prayers. I have been encouraged a hundred fold in the way that this church has carried me and my family through this time. Were I to live a hundred lifetimes, I could not pay you back. I tell you this today because I want to take the gravity of this situation and appeal to you to turn your eyes to some wonderful truths.

I know, that you too have stood, are standing, and will stand on the Mount of Disappointment. You have seen the all too early demise of loved ones. You have seen marriages not turn out the way you thought they would. You have lost your jobs and struggled to support your families. You have seen your children walk into pains that you would have given your life to keep them from.

You have stood there and you have wondered where God is. You have wondered if He cares. You have wondered why it has to be this way. You have wondered if you’ll ever be able to be the same again.

I want you to come with me this morning on a trip to some other Mountains of Disappointment. Stand with me if you will on Mount Nebo, the highest point in the Pisgah mountain range just east of the Jordan River. Stand there and see the man Moses.

If ever there was a man who had reason to hope in God, it was Moses. Imagine him thinking back through the years when he climbed Mt Sinai to meet with the Lord. He and the people of Israel had seen God do wondrous and powerful things in Egypt. Imagine as he speaks face to face with God and dreams of entering into the Promised Land as the people of God.

As he speaks with God, the people below have begun to ask the question “Who is this man Moses and who is his God? Make us gods to lead us into the Promised Land.” For forty hard years Moses would bear with the people of Israel in all their waywardness. He would see them faithlessly turn from the promise of God at the border of the Promised Land. And then finally after years of exasperation, Moses would sin in anger and himself be banned from the Promised Land.

In Deuteronomy 34:1-8 we read this:

Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the Valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. And the LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day.

We don’t know what Moses’ reaction to this, but you can but infer that Mt Nebo was for him the Mount of Disappointment. Almost none of the adults he had led from Egypt would ever step across the Jordan. What consolation was it to him to see all the land stretched before him and know that he would be buried on this side? Perhaps he felt that it wasn’t fair? Perhaps he wondered what use any of it had been? Perhaps he looked at the new generation of Israelites and doubted that they would be anything but unfaithful like their fathers.

Now come with me to Mt Carmel and see the man Elijah. In a time when the king of Israel, Ahab, had not only married the idolatrous Jezebel but had built temples to her god. He had not only abandoned YHWH, but had brought in the prophets of Baal and persecuted all of those who refused to abandon the Lord in favor of this new god.

Elijah’s name sums up the entirety of his mission. “The Lord is God.” He was to remind the people of Israel that The Lord was their God, not the idols of the nations. Elijah had predicted a drought that lasted for years. This was the loving hand of God letting Israel know that the god they had turned to was powerless to save them. After long years of drought, Elijah is called to gather Israel together at Mt Carmel. He tells them “How long will you go limping between to gods? If the Lord is God, follow Him. If Baal, follow Him.”

He sets up a contest where Baal’s prophets and he are to each build an altar. They are both to pray. The God who answers with fire from heaven will have proved himself to be God. The prophets pray all day long to no avail. Elijah prays “Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Fire falls from heaven. The altar, the wood, the water, and the bull are all consumed. The people of Israel begin to sing “The Lord, He is God.” You can hear the rhythmic chant all the clearer in the original Hebrew “YHWH hu ha Elohim, YWHW hu ha elohim, YHWH hu ha elohim.” At once they round up those murderous prophets and have them killed. Elijah prays for rain and races back to the capital to see the nation overthrow Ahab and Jezebel and return to the Lord. When he gets there, Jezebel sends a messenger to tell him “So may the gods do to me and more also if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” No one comes to his aid. No one defends him. Ahab and Jezebel rule from their thrones unchallenged.

You can hear the disappointment in Elijah’s words as he laments 19:4 “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” The Lord is gracious and meets with Elijah and answers him. He tells him that the idolatrous rule of Ahab and Jezebel will not be overthrown in his lifetime, but under the ministry of his successor Elisha. Still, the prayer he had prayed 18:37 “Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back,” was not fulfilled. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the miracles they had seen, the people of Israel would continue “limping between two gods.” It might be even more frustrating that God had shown him such miraculous things in answer to his prayer. Isn’t one of the most disappointing things knowing that God can answer your prayer but not knowing why He doesn’t?

Now listen, not on a mountain this time, but on a journey to one. Jesus sits with His disciples. They have been trying to make sense of who He is. He is mighty and powerful and yet meek and humble. He is not the kingly warrior many expected. Jesus taps into this and asks the question, “Who do men say that I am?” “John the Baptist. Others say Elijah. Others say one of the prophets,” they answer. Then Jesus cuts to the chase with this question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers “you are the Christ.”

Immediately, Jesus begins to tell them that He will be betrayed, tortured, shamed, and crucified. Peter hears the words, and perhaps he thinks Jesus is depressed and needs to be encouraged, so he rebukes Him. “Jesus, you are the Messiah. God won’t let this happen to you. Have faith. Pray. Keep believing.” Imagine Peter’s shock when Jesus says to him “Get out of my way Satan. You have in mind the things of man, not the things of God.” Imagine his befuddlement that the one he has chosen to follow seems intent on letting Himself be killed. Imagine his confusion that the one he has come to believe is the Messiah is so easily giving up.

Now we’ve been to the Mountain of Disappointment. That is not the only mountain I want to take you to today. And I have not taken you there simply to share my grief with you. Rather, I have taken you there to let you know that the people in the Scriptures are well acquainted with your grief. But I also want to take you there so you will understand this mountain.

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

 

(Mark 9:2-9 ESV)

I hope you see what I have been driving at here, but let me say it plainly. The Mount of Disappointment leads to the Mount of Transfiguration. Don’t you see what is happening here? Here Moses stands and he sees the true Passover Lamb who will be sacrificed for the people of God. He sees the one who will save God’s Israel not out of slavery in Egypt, but slavery from sin. He sees the one who will lead them not into Canaan, but the promised land of repentance to God and faith in His promises.

Here Elijah stands and sees the one whose name is not “The Lord is God,” but whose name means “The Lord Saves.” He sees the one who will turn the hearts of God’s people back to Him not with fire from heaven, but by being nailed to a tree and lifted up into the sky. “And I, when I am lifted up,” Jesus would say “will draw all men to myself.” He sees the true King of Israel who will not only overthrow idolatrous Ahab, but the kingdom of satan himself.

Here Peter stands and has his doubts dispelled as he sees the one who said He’d be crucified in dazzling white. Here he stands and hears the voice, confirming the goodness of what Jesus had said “This is my Son. Listen to Him.”

Finally, I want us to walk away from this mountain and learn a few things. I want you to hear them now on your own Mount of Disappointment. If you are not on that mountain yet, take these to heart for you will be some day and they will be balm for your soul.

The first thing we learn here, and this cannot be overemphasized, is that Christians must not expect to live lives free of trouble. There is nothing in all of what Jesus has told us that indicates anything but that we should encounter trouble. Becoming a Christian is not the silver bullet that solves all our problems. In fact, we may experience more trouble because we are Christians. We must not take this as a sign that God has forgotten us or that He is somehow displeased with us. As Ashley Null says, the Lord is a very good steward of our suffering. And it is His way to force us down paths we do not want to follow in order to bring us to pastures so beautiful we will not want to leave them.

Which leads me to my second point, that God’s solution to our troubles is not the consolation prize making up for them, but the fulfillment of them. God will not only make sense of our troubles, but He will so wonderfully work in the world that not one ounce of the suffering of His people will be wasted, but will become the bricks for the most glorious of futures as the New Jerusalem fills the earth.

He will turn our tears into jewels, our losses into crowns, and our wounds into badges of honor. In the end of the final book of the Lord of the Rings, the loyal hobbit Sam Gamgee awakes after he has been rescued and we read this “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?” Tim Keller commenting on this says, “The answer is yes. And the answer of the Bible is yes. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going to come untrue.”

But we are not there yet. So, the third thing I would have us learn is that even on the Mount of Disappointment, the presence of Jesus somehow makes it better. I received a text yesterday from a friend. It was kind and thoughtful and true and it brought me great comfort, but what brought me the most comfort was knowing how much this person cares for me and that she truly understands what I’m going through. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus

had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

What he is saying is that Jesus is the man of sorrows acquainted with all our grief. And because He is acquainted with all our grief, He is able to be sympathize with us in our grief. He may not give us answers. He may not take the pain away. But He does hold us in His loving arms. And because He is not only our brother, but our God as well, His love is effectual. As the great puritan John Owen says

Consider, hence, his eternal, free, unchangeable love. Were the love of Christ unto us but the love of a mere man, though never so excellent, innocent, and glorious, it must have a beginning, it must have an ending, and perhaps be fruitless. The love of Christ in his human nature towards his is exceeding, intense, tender, precious, compassionate, abundantly heightened by a sense of our miseries, feeling of our wants, experience of our temptations; all flowing from that rich stock of grace, pity, and compassion, which, on purpose for our good and supply, was bestowed on him… It is also fruitful: A man may love another as his own soul, yet perhaps that love of his cannot help him. He may thereby pity him in prison, but not relieve him; bemoan him in misery, but not help him; suffer with him in trouble, but not ease him. We cannot love grace into a child, nor mercy into a friend; we cannot love them into heaven, though it may be the great desire of our soul. It was love that made Abraham cry, “O that Ishmael might live before thee!” but it might not be. But now the love of Christ, being the love of God, is effectual and fruitful in producing all the good things which he willeth unto his beloved. He loves life, grace, and holiness into us; he loves us also into covenant, loves us into heaven. Love in him is properly to will good to any one: whatever good Christ by his love wills to any, that willing is operative of that good.”

Jesus’ love is not only deep and tender and compassionate, but it is powerful and it brings comfort that words cannot explain. It is my constant prayer that everyone of you knows that love above all other loves.

Finally, if you are living for anything other than Jesus, your story can only end on the Mount of Disappointment. It could not be any other way! Whatever you set your heart on will fail you whether it is your family, your money, your moral goodness, your country, your home, your health, anything. I love my wife more than my own soul, but if she is the one that I am living for then one day I will have to say goodbye to her and it will undo me.

Jesus, however, unlike every earthly good, never fails. Perhaps this is why He takes some good things away from us, isn’t it? That in His love He knows what will become of us if we don’t turn our hearts to Him and rest in Him. I ask you in the deepest love, what is it that you are living for? Ask God to search your heart out and give you the answer. What do you spend your time on? Your money? What do you worry over in the middle of the night? What can cause you to lash out in anger at others? Resolve it in your hearts today that nothing else than Jesus will command the affections of your hearts. For without Him, we cannot have joy. But with Him, we will find all our tears wiped away and everything bad not only made untrue, but worked into a glorious tapestry that will forever link our hearts to Him.

 

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