Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Each of our stories usually contains tragic chapters. Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds us that God is weaving those chapters into a grand story.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: When it seems that everything around you is crumbling or falling apart, God gives you wisdom, God gives you grace to walk through that. That’s when we need to remember and tether our hearts to the truth that God created it good.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh, for September 11, 2019.

Dannah: Nancy’s continuing in our September series “You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.” If you’ve missed any of it, you can always look back in your podcast feed or go to ReviveOurHearts.com. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy: I received a letter not long ago from a friend that I’ve known since college. We were piano majors together at Philadelphia College of Bible, then I went to school in southern California and she went to grad school in southern California. We’ve stayed connected, not real closely, but we’ve followed each others’ stories over the years.

She’s a woman who loves the Word of God. She’s a Bible teacher, a gifted student of God’s Word, and just a sweet friend. She’s had many different chapters, as have I, over these (mumble, mumble) number of years. (laughter) There have been some hard things, but I’ve watched her go through those and weather those with grace, trusting God to write her story.

You know, good theology really helps when you’re going through hard times! It’s not enough to have pat answers, but to really know who God says He is, and to believe who He says He is, and to believe what He says is true.

That’s something that really can anchor your heart when you’re going through times that are unexplainable, that catch you off-guard, that are miserable. Just to be able to have that anchor for your soul, to tether your heart to the truth of God’s Word, to counsel your heart with the truth of God’s Word. 

Here’s a woman who has loved the Scripture, has memorized huge chunks of it (as you’ll see as I read you some portions of her letter) and how that has stood her in good stead in a trial she’s been going through in recent months.

I’m condensing a long letter and just giving you some key points of it. She was diagnosed a year or so ago with a brain bleed. She said there was a puddle of blood the size of a man’s hand, an inch-and-a-half deep, between her skull and her brain. 

So she went through surgery. There were all kinds of symptoms before they realized what was happening. She was actually over in Japan with her husband and started having these awful headaches. She came back and found out that she had this brain bleed. She went through surgery to remove the blood which was causing pressure on her brain. She said in her letter, 

I need to tell the tracing of God’s hand throughout, for while it appears to be my story, it is really His story. 

That’s something we need to remember. What we’re going through, yes, it is our story, but it’s more than that. It’s God’s story (we’re going to talk about that more today). She’s been through this long surgery and recovery process that’s still going

At the time this happened, she had just finished memorizing Psalm 119. Now, in case you don’t know, that is the longest chapter in the Bible—176 verses! She had spent months, I’m guessing, memorizing that, reviewing it over and over again. At the end of her surgery, the doctor said to her, “You need to go home, and you are not allowed to think!” 

Now, my friend is a woman who thinks a lot. She said, “How am I going to do this?” 

He said, “You can’t think. No cell phone, no computer time, no more than thirty minutes a day reading.” (Here’s a woman who loves to read the Scripture and other books.)

She found out true enough when she got home that she couldn’t do simple math, her handwriting was affected. Early in this recovery process there were just a lot of effects. Looking back on it, she says, 

Horrifying as all this seems, those were wonderfully blessed weeks to very literally have my mind fixed on the Lord! I got to the place where I told the Lord I was okay with it if I didn’t ever get completely better (whatever than means), if that was for His glory. 

You see, God is calibrating her thinking according to truth while she’s going through this horribly disruptive part of her story! She says, 

I only knew it was for God’s glory alone, but I had no idea what it meant. I knew that my life is in His hands, that He’s in charge, that I’m grateful to be here with my family and that I accept whatever He brings . . . even if it is not totally healing. Being able to each my Bible study again and recite Psalm 119 still remains unknown, and that’s fine. Nothing is wasted!

Nothing is wasted if you’re a child of God. Now, more recently, she said she’s begun to review Psalm 119. For a while her husband would just read it to her, and if it would make her brain hurt too badly she would tell him to stop. But now she’s begun to be able to review it herself, and she said so far she’s been able to make it through the first 120 verses. So it was still in there! 

She’s found herself more empathetic. She talks about how there were some recent disasters, terrorist shootings in the news, and she’s found herself just weeping at hearing these things. Before, she was more a mind sort of person. Well, her mind has been changed. And now God’s given her more tenderness and compassion. Here’s how she kind of summed it up: 

So, while this has been a very different year, I wouldn’t have changed a thing! Suffering certainly does draw us closer to the Lord, to the point where it saddens me to see this chapter fade . . . and now I find myself reprioritizing for the next season. This is much too long, but God’s hand was at each step of the way, and I wanted to share this much with you.

Love, Joan 

I was so touched by that letter, and to think how suffering does change us, but how it can change us in really good ways—even through really hard things!

God uses really hard things to do a really good work—in us and in others—and to bring about His kingdom purposes. You see, as we’ve been saying through this series: Perspective makes all the difference! 

We have to trust that God works in unexpected, unexplainable way to accomplish His purposes. We have to trust that He is sovereignly and purposely ordering and ordaining and orchestrating the circumstances of this world and of our lives. What we see now is not the whole story, and it’s not the end of the story. 

If we can trust that He knows the whole story and He knows the end of the story—and the end of the story is good for those who trust Him—then our hearts will be at peace and rest, even while we’re going through really unsettling, difficult circumstances. 

And I know that by saying that, I risk someone in this room or somebody listening to this program (who is going through something far more horrific than anything I’ve mentioned) thinking, If she knew about this, she wouldn’t say that!

And I don’t know about “this” in your life, but I know Someone who does. I know that whatever you’re experiencing—painful as it is, impossible as it seems—is not beyond the reach of God’s providence. We’re going to talk a lot more about that in the days ahead.

But in the meantime, before you can see and understand—as one day you will—you can trust God to write your story! You can’t tell what a novel or a play is about and where it’s heading or how it ends by randomly opening it to a page somewhere in the middle. 

To get the whole story, what do you have to do? Start at the beginning and read the whole story or the whole script. It’s that way with God’s story. The Bible is about a story that God is writing for His glory. It’s not primarily my story. Our individual stories are a part of a much bigger story. It’s God’s story. Ultimately, this story is not about us, it’s about Him.

At times we will experience heartache, loss, disappointment, and unfulfilled longings. But He is weaving all of that into a story, His story. At the end, when we get to the end, it will have us lost in wonder and worship and praise! Keep that in mind. With each of their twists and turns, highs and lows, joys and sorrows, our stories are part of a greater, grander story that God is writing to display His goodness, His love, and His redeeming grace in our world. 

The story is not about us, ultimately; it’s about Him. We’re bit players in this story; we’re not the stars; we’re not the main character—God is! He’s the Center of the story. It’s all about Him!

And this Book, this Bible that I’m holding in my hand, this is God’s story. He’s revealed it to us . . . not all of it, but enough of it for us to trust Him with what we don’t know! Now, you see, the Bible has a beginning, a middle, and an end. This storyline makes sense of our world and explains how we fit into God’s eternal plan. It gives us a context, a grid, through which we can process the hard things that come into our lives. 

I want to take a few moments today to just step out and look at the big picture of God’s story, God’s grand story, God’s redemptive story—the story of the Bible.

I did this not too long ago in a little bit longer way. I was speaking to a group of millennial women in northern California—about sixty of them—who had just finished a two-year journey through the Bible. They’ve been reading through the Bible with some older women mentors, so there’s life-to-life relationship going on. 

My guess is many, maybe most, of those women had never read through the whole Bible before. I won’t ask for a show of hands, but have you? Some of you have, some of you have meant to, some of you have done it several times. If you haven’t, can I just encourage you that there is a lot of blessing to be had, and a better sense of God’s whole story, if you read it from cover to cover.

Now there are different ways to read it. You don’t have to read it fast, you don’t have to read the whole thing in total sequence, but you want to be familiar with God’s story. He gave it to us to reveal Himself and His ways to us, and if we don’t read this story, how are we supposed to know how we can trust Him with writing our story?

Anyway, with these millennial women, I didn’t have notes. I just walked into the room. We had just landed in California and went to where they were. These women were fabulous! They were just so excited about God’s Word! The night we were there was the last night of their study; they had just gotten to the last part of Revelation. 

It was a great accomplishment, and they were thrilled with what they had been reading about God’s story. I took about a half-hour or so that night just to walk through the big scope because they had spent two years reading this from cover to cover. I said, “I want you to have the big picture.”

I want to do that in just a shortened way for us over these next few moments. This is familiar to many of us, maybe most, but not to all. And even if it’s familiar to you, it helps me to go back and review and rehearse the major pieces of God’s story.

It’s a little bit like a play or a drama, you have acts: Act I, Act II, Act III. Sometimes you get a program, when you walk in, that tells you a synopsis of these different Acts. This story, the way I’m going to break it down, has four Acts—God’s Grand Story of the Bible. I’m going to give you just a little synopsis of each of those four acts.

The first Act is: let’s call it Creation. It’s found in Genesis chapters 1 and 2. Scripture tells us that God made this world: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). He made all of it, including the human race, to glorify and enjoy Him forever. God declared that everything He had made was good, and He blessed all that He had created.

He gave them Adam and Eve a sense of purpose and mission, what they were to do here on this earth. That’s Genesis 1 and 2. If you read those two chapters and you never knew anything about this world or about the Bible (like you just dropped in from, I don’t know, outer space!) and it’s your first time reading the Bible and you’re a young believer, you go, “Wow! This is an amazing story! It’s beautiful!” 

The words “good” and “blessed,” these words are used over and over again in this Creation account in Genesis 1 and 2. That’s two chapters out of 1,189! So what happens after that?

Well, chapter 3 of Genesis, let’s call this Act 2: The Fall. Creation, Fall. Adam and Eve, the first created human beings—and through them, all of their descendants, including us—chose to rebel against this good God.

You get to Genesis chapter 3 and it’s like somebody just took this beautiful painting and went with this awful black paint, just all over it, just making a mess of the whole thing! You go, “Wait! What are you doing!?” What are we doing, right? Messing up this beautiful picture God created. The consequences of Adam and Eve’s declaration of independence were pervasive and they were tragic!

The first couple was banished from Eden, the garden that God had created for their pleasure. Their relationship with Him and with each other was fractured; the earth was placed under a curse, the curse of sin. 

Every form of injustice, hatred, violence, evil, strife, bigotry, abuse . . . and whatever else you want to add to that list . . . all of this is born out of sin in the heart, which ultimately leads to death. The brokenness caused by sin is seen everywhere in our world.

So, what’s Act 3? Creation, Fall . . . Redemption. Even before sin made its appearance, in eternity past God set in motion a plan to reconcile humans to Himself and to restore them to a place of blessing. In the Old Testament He gave us glimpses of that redemptive plan.

He sacrificed animals to make clothing to cover the nakedness and the shame and the guilt that Adam and Eve felt after they sinned. He chose a family: Abraham and Sarah and their children, and said, “Through you I’m going to bring a Redeemer, I’m going to bring a Savior. I’m going to redeem this world from destruction.”

God established a sacrificial system whereby people who wanted to worship Him would bring animals: bulls, goats, lambs—innocent lambs, lambs without blemish or flaw—and they would take them to the place that God had appointed, to the presence of God. And the priest would slay them; these innocent animals would shed their blood.

The people and the priests would touch their hands to these animals, identifying, “This animal is dying in my place, taking the guilt of my sin.” Now those animals couldn’t take away shame and sin and guilt, but they pointed to One who would—and could—take away the sin of the world: the Lamb of God.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to this earth to live the sinless life that we should have lived, and to pay the price for sin—our sin—with His own life . . . the perfect sinless Son of God. God had in mind this great redemptive story. You read about it all through the Old and New Testaments. If you want to read about it in a concentrated way, look at Ephesians chapters 1 and 2. 

It talks about how, “we were dead in our trespasses” and sins,” but God, who was “rich in mercy,” sent His Son to purchase forgiveness for our sins, to redeem us from the curse of sin, to bring about the plan and purpose for the ages that God had in mind from the beginning.

You see, Adam and Eve and their sin, you and me and our sin, could not thwart the plan of God to bless His creation! So we have Creation, we have Fall, we have Redemption. Most of the rest of the Bible is the redemptive story being unfolded. Keep that in mind as you’re reading those hard places: Leviticus and Judges and Micah and Amos and Nahum.

When you look at the big picture, ask: 

  • What does this have to do with Creation or Fall or Redemption? 
  • How is this pointing to Jesus? 
  • How is this telling us how fallen sinners can be restored and redeemed?

Well, I said there were four Acts, because Redemption is the means to the Fourth Act, which is the New Creation. Now, we’re going to do a whole program on this before the end of this series, but let me just summarize, give you the synopsis, here: All of history is moving toward a capstone, the consummation of His story, the story that God is writing, that He has written in this Book.

That’s when Christ will return to this earth—not this time in humiliation, but this time in exaltation! He will bring eternal judgment to His enemies and eternal salvation to those who belong to Him. He will create a new heaven and a new earth that is free from all sin and suffering. He will reign forever with no rivals! And we will reign with Him forever!

We’ll be blessed, without sin, without tears, without sorrow, without heartaches, without headaches—for all of eternity! Christina Fox is an author whose writings I like. She says, 

The story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation is one we need to read often. It’s the story of God’s faithfulness and goodness.

And because we know the Author of the story personally and we trust his will, we can watch the story of our lives unfold with wonder and awe. Even when we get to a scene that is confusing or seems out of place, we can remember, wait, and watch knowing that the storyline is moving forward to a beautiful and glorious end. 

Jesus made it so when he signed the manuscript with his own blood and said, “It is finished! 

It’s finished! Creation, Fall, Redemption, New Creation.

Another way of looking at that, perhaps you’ve heard these terms, is: Paradise (that’s Creation), Paradise Lost (that’s the Fall), and Paradise Restored (that’s Redemption and New Creation). Those are the big ideas of God’s story. 

But right now we’re living in a transition between Paradise Lost and Paradise Restored. We still suffer from the effects of the Fall. So often it seems that evil prevails around us and in us, but thankfully, through Jesus, our faithful all-powerful God is in the process of redeeming and making all things new!

There are pages and chapters in our stories that don’t make much sense; they may even seem heartless and cruel. They certainly seem to be not the kind of story that a good God would write. But in God’s Word, in God’s story, we find a backstory that shows us what once was and how things got to be where they are today: Creation, Fall.

And there we discover a God who is faithful, whose story could not be thwarted and who was always working to accomplish His good eternal plan, using even twisted human actions and circumstances to bring glory to Himself in the end. And in this story, in this Word, we find promises of a bright and certain future that awaits us.

That’s what will give you courage. That’s what gives you the ability to get up in the morning and put your feet on the ground when your life is swamped or challenged by hard places of your story when it seems that everything around you is crumbling or falling apart, when it seems that that person is making your life miserable. 

God gives you wisdom. God gives you grace to walk through that. But sometimes there’s no fixing, no changing. You’ve got that brain bleed going on, and you can’t fix it or change it. You’ve got that son-in-law or that parent or that mate or that child who’s a prodigal, and your heart is broken.

That’s when we need to remember and tether our hearts to the truth that God created it good, but we sinned and blew it. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (see Rom. 3:23) But God is redeeming and making all things new, and He will bring a good end, completion, consummation to this story. 

We want to skip over the long, hard chapters with all their pain and problems. We want to get right to the end! But that’s not possible. It’s not even desirable, because God is using this process to change us, to prepare us, to fit us for that eternity with Him. 

In the meantime, He tells us just enough about the end of the story in His Word to give us courage, hope, wisdom to face what lies between now and then, here and there.

Dannah: Such an encouraging perspective! We’ve been listening to Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. She’s been inviting us to see how the tough chapters in our life fit into God’s grand story. She’ll be right back to make a final point. 

But if you’d like to go deeper into embracing the mysteries of God’s providence, I’d love to send you a copy of Nancy and Robert Wolgemuth’s newest book, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. This month we’ll send you a copy as our way of saying “thank you” when you contact us and make a donation of any size when you visit ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also make a gift by calling us at 1–800–569–5959. 

I want to ask you to maybe share what’s been encouraging to you as we’ve studied this topic this month. Go to your social media and share your story with us. Use #TrustGodToWriteYourStory. Now, if you’re single and you wish you weren’t, or you know someone who is, you’re going to want to join us tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

We’re going to hear from my dear friend, Charmaine Porter, who’s learning to trust God with her longings for a family. Now, here’s Nancy to close our program today.

Nancy: Robert and I live on the St. Joseph River, and there’s a golf club near our home. When the 4th of July, Independence Day, comes around, the golf club does fireworks at dusk. It’s a small town, small area, and we love to take a pontoon boat on the river and go and watch the fireworks display. And to us, it’s like the biggest and greatest and most beautiful!

We really think it’s amazing! But what I love about the fireworks, whether you’re watching them in Buchanan, Michigan or in the nation’s capital or somewhere else, is that you always know the grand finale’s coming. They save the best for last. They don’t start with the grand finale and then let it peter out from there (if things are working right).

They save the best for last, and then you hear the “oohs” and the “aahs” and you say, “Wow! That was worth waiting for!” God saves the best for last. The best really is yet to come! The Scripture says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (2 Cor. 2:9 NKJV).

So remember that you’re not in the last chapter yet . . . but it’s coming. At the moment you’re in the middle of a paragraph or the middle of a page, in the middle of a chapter, in the middle of a whole book. You can trust God not just for the paragraph you’re in, but for every paragraph and chapter to come.

So once again, as we’ve been doing through this series, I just want to ask you to think about a hard thing, a hard place, in your story or the story of someone you love—something that is confusing you, perplexing you, wearying you, distracting you, causing you tears. You can’t see how it could end well.

Can you see how it’s placed in the context of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and New Creation? God is redeeming us—body, soul, and spirit. He’s redeeming the lives of those we love. He’s redeeming our lives from destruction, and He’s going to give us new bodies, a new heaven, a new earth—all things new! 

We have that to look forward to. The best is yet to come! He’s saving the best for last. In the meantime, He’s preparing us to be able to enjoy it and Him forever! So would you just say to Him, “Lord, I trust You. I can’t see, I don’t understand, I wouldn’t haven’t written it this way, but I trust You to write my story, and the story of the one I love. Amen.”

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to keep pointing you to the Author and Finisher of your faith. This podcast is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.
 

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