Great is His Faithfulness

Great is His Faithfulness

Pastor Russell Scoggins

Sermon Date: 12/30/2018

Bible Reference: Lamentations 3:19-26

Topics: New Year, Faithful, Steadfast, Well, Soul

Summary: Every day brings new highs and lows. Only Christ is our stabilizer.

Bible Reference: Lamentations 3:19-26

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,

the bitterness and the gall.

20 I well remember them,

and my soul is downcast within me.

21 Yet this I call to mind

and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

therefore I will wait for him.”

25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,

to the one who seeks him;

26 it is good to wait quietly

for the salvation of the Lord.

Sermon

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

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought, My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

That hymn by Horatio Spafford is one of my favorite hymns. (It’s found in Christian Worship Supplement - Hymn 760.) And the thought behind the hymn is a great thought to begin the year with…. No matter what happens to us in this life—no matter what befalls us in the coming year…. Our hope and our assurance is secure because our hope and assurance is found in Christ—not in the circumstances of our daily lives.

It happens every year… After Christmas, our whole nation sets its sights on New Year’s. And along with that comes all the talk about New Year’s resolutions—all the talk about how next year is going to be a better year. Whether you make New Year’s resolutions or not, I think it’s safe to say that, along with the rest of our culture, most of us at least do a little bit of reflecting when we get to the year’s end. And for those of us who aren’t great at reflection… let me just ask you point blank right now... How did things go for you this past year? The answer to that question is going to be different for every person in this room. Maybe as some of us look at the past year, we would consider it to be an especially difficult year. Some of us would consider it to be a great year in every way. And maybe some of us would chalk it up as just another mediocre year.

Lamentations is a great book to begin the New Year with. It’s a book of reflections. Our best guess is that Jeremiah wrote the book of Lamentations. In his book, Jeremiah isn’t only reflecting on the past year, he’s reflecting on a number of decades. And just like we might mentally rate how our last year has gone, Jeremiah is rating how the last many many years have gone. And how does he rate them? They’ve all been terrible. They’ve been absolutely horrible years—the whole lot of them.

Jeremiah had faithfully preached God’s Word for decades, and nobody had listened to it. He warned the Israelites that if they didn’t change their ways and turn back to God, God was going to bring punishment on them. Nobody listened. In fact, they did the opposite. Rather than put their trust in God, they put their trust in their nation. They put their trust in their military. They put their trust in their wealth. And so what happens? God lets the nation of Babylon overthrow them. They attack them 3 different times over the course of 20 years.

They leave Jerusalem crippled and barley functioning in comparison to what it once was. And after all of it, Jeremiah is reflecting. You almost get the idea that he’s sitting on a hillside looking at this damaged city. Or maybe he’s looking at the destroyed temple of God. Most of the book of Lamentations is Jeremiah reflecting and lamenting the sin of his people, that is, he passionately expresses his grief and sorrow.

But even in the midst of his grief and sorrow, Jeremiah writes down a beautiful refrain—the verses we have in front of us today: “19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

Once again verse 25: “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him...” It’s one thing to read and comprehend that verse, but living it out is far more difficult. As sinful humans, when we are met with failure and hardship, we begin to doubt God’s goodness. We begin to question his love for us. We essentially say to God, “Lord, I have faithfully put my trust in you… so why haven’t you done anything about this trial I’m facing?” On the other side… When things are going well for us, rather than keeping all of our trust and hope in the Lord, we begin to hope and trust in ourselves. We begin to tell ourselves that God must be especially pleased with us because of what a great job we’re doing...and that is why he is granting us success. Both of those are wrong ways of thinking.

Rudyard Kipling said this: “If you can meet success and failure and treat them both as impostors, then you are a balanced [person].” I don’t think Rudyard Kipling was a Christian, and yet, he still managed to hit the nail on the head regarding one of the struggles we have as Christians. So often when we are met with success or failure in our lives, we struggle to keep a level head. When we’re met with failure and trial, we start to feel the beginnings of despair. We maybe even think that God is punishing us for some reason. When we’re met with success, we begin to have feelings of pride. We begin to think that God is rewarding us for some reason.

God is faithful in every situation we face in life. His faithfulness never changes. His love for us never changes. In the most difficult of times, God is faithful to us. In the most wonderful of times, God is faithful to us. His faithfulness never changes. His love never changes. However, in the hands of Satan, success and failure become the same impostor. Satan tries to use both to take our eyes off of God’s faithfulness. Satan, in conjunction with our sinful nature constantly tries to convince us that God’s treatment of us is based on our performance. When we begin to buy into that thinking that God’s faithfulness to us is in some way performance based, we’re buying into a lie that Satan is feeding us.

Jeremiah had this figured out. Only someone who had this figured out could write down these words from Jeremiah chapter 3. Even as he recounts the depths of Israel’s suffering—the depths of his own suffering—he makes it clear that Satan has not managed to divert his eyes from his faithful Lord.

Looking at the circumstances of our daily lives is not the best place to look for assurance of God’s faithfulness. At times we might be able to see his faithfulness easily. Other times it may be more hidden. God gets to see the big picture and we don’t. For true assurance of God’s faithfulness, Jeremiah looked at God’s promises. And that’s the best place we can look as well—at God’s promises. When God makes a promise—it stands. It will come true. It will be carried out to completion. We can have every confidence that when God says he will take care of his children and bless them, he will. We can have every confidence that when God says he will work out both the bad situations and the good situations in our lives and use them to draw us closer to him, he will. We can have every confidence that when God says he will carry us through this life and bring us to his side in eternal life, he will.

As New Testament Christians, we get to see God’s faithfulness even more fully than Jeremiah did. Jeremiah was looking forward to the coming Savior that God had promised. But he didn’t get the chance to see how those promises from God unfolded. But as New Testament Christians, we get to see how God’s plan of salvation unfolded. Just this Christmas season we got to see how God sent his Son to earth to live as a human. As New Testament Christians, we get to see how the Son of God gave up his life to pay for our sins. And it is right there, on the cross, that we see the greatest display of God’s faithfulness. For thousands of years, God promised his people to send someone who would save them from their sin and he carried that promise to its completion as Christ died and rose again. On the cross, we see the greatest display of God’s faithfulness.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what 2019 holds for you. Maybe it will be a great year. Maybe it will be an especially difficult year. Whatever kind of year it is, God’s mercy and his compassion for you will never fail. It is new every morning. God will always remain faithful to you as his child.

I want to close today with the story of a man who recognized that success and failure are the same impostor. Rather than fix his eyes on his life’s successes or failures, he fixed his eyes on his faithful God. Some of you may have heard this story before… but it’s a good one to hear again—especially as a new year approaches.

The story is about a man named Gates. Gates was a lawyer. His life trials hit him hard and quick. His troubles started when his 4 year old son died from scarlet fever. Not only that, but Gates had invested a sizable amount of money in some property in Chicago; however, The Great Fire of Chicago wiped out most of his investments. Two years later, Gates decided that he, his wife, and his 4 remaining daughters needed a vacation. They were going to go to Europe. Gates sent his family ahead of him because he had to stay back and finish up a couple of work related things. Gates received a telegram from his wife. While crossing to Europe, their ship had been struck. 226 people died. All four of Gates’s daughters had died. Only his wife was left. Gates left to meet his wife in Europe. As he was sailing over the very waters that claimed the lives of his 4 daughters, Horatio Gates Spafford wrote these words:

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

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought, My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

May our prayer for 2019 be this: Lord, give us eyes like Jeremiah’s. Give us eyes like Horatio Spafford’s. If the year in front of us holds trials, may our eyes be fixed on the cross where we see your faithfulness. If the year in front of us is full of success and our lifelong dreams come true, may our eyes be fixed on the cross where we see your faithfulness. May we be reminded of your new mercy and compassion for us each and every day. Lord give us hearts that proclaim—in all situations—Great is your faithfulness! Amen? Amen.




The Light of the World is Revealed

The Word (Jesus) became flesh