Following Christ Through the Pain (Ezra 3 Sermon)

Here’s my sermon notes from “Following Christ Through the Pain” (Ezra 3), preached at Cross of Christ Fellowship.

Ezra 3:8-13 “Following Christ through the Pain”

INTRO: I have been wanting to preach for about 2 months when I read the text in my quiet time
      -It is from a fascinating scene from the book of Ezra, a scene of joy and pain, gladness and discouragement
                  -It reminds us that the Christian life involves pain, sorrow, and disappointment
                  -It also leads us to consider God’s wisdom as we walk through it.
                              -How do we follow Christ through the pain and disappointments of life?
M.S.: The Christian follows Christ through the pain and disappointments of life by practicing lament, remembering God’s presence, and seeing the glorious future God has for His people.

I. Believers will experience sorrow, pain, and disappointment in this life. A look at Ezra 3:8-13.
II. As we follow Christ through the sorrow, pain, and disappointment of life, we pursue 3 things:
      1. Lament; 2. Remembering God is with us; 3. Setting our hope on the future God will bring.
     

I. Believers will experience sorrow, pain, and disappointment in this life (A Look at Ezra 3:8-13)

Ezra 3 is a scene of joy but also deep pain and sadness.
*EZRA INTRO:
-God’s people have been in Exile for decades in Babylon, which is now Persia
-God promised a return after 70 years (Jere 29:10)
-God “stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” (Ezra 1:1)
      -A group of exiles return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (some young, some old)
                  -It looks like Jeremiah’s prophecy is going to be fulfilled and temple rebuilt!
                                          Ezra 3: Altar is rebuilt and Foundation of the temple is laid:
Ezra 3:8-9: Work is underway to rebuild the temple foundation
      -Solomon’s temple was destroyed, but now a 2nd temple is being raised up
                  -This is the place where God’s people come to bring their offerings and worship Him.-3:10-11: Foundation is built and the people worship God
                  -Here there is MUCH joy!
                              -It is a joy to see this work go ahead
3:12: Many of the older believers WEPT with sadness
                  -They had seen the former temple and this was nothing compared to it.
                              -Their 70 years of waiting and anticipation did not result in what they hoped.
                                          -The sorrow of disappointment and sadness.
3:13: JOY AND SADNESS Mixed
      -The Scene ends with MIX. JOY and SADNESS.
                  -God’s people experience both at the same time: some sad, some rejoicing.
                              -Following God will not lead to a painfree, sorrow-free, disappointment-free life.
*THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A MIX OF JOY AND SADNESS
-JOYFUL: Psalm 4:7; Psalm 63:3; Gal 5:22-23
      -My own experience of coming to Christ: the intense and sweet joy of knowing Christ
                  -Though honeymoon intensity passed, I still experience joy in Christ in different degrees and ways 20 years later
-SADNESS: Ps 22:1-2; Lamentations; Jesus: Luke 19:41-44; Paul: 2 Cor 1:8-10; 4:8-10

MANY REASONS FOR SORROW, PAIN, AND DISAPPOINTMENT TODAY:
     
-Devastation and destruction in this fallen World (Ukraine, Sex Trafficking, injustice)
      -Sin our hearts: we do what we do not want to do.
      -Sin of others: we feel the pain and hurt.
      -Sickness and death:
      -Disappointment in life:
      -Disappointment in ministry: (I have experienced this: joy and disappointment.)
                  How does a Christian follow Christ through life’s pain, sorrows, and disappointments?


                                          Mark Vroegop’s book: “Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy”:

TWO WRONG RESPONSES FOR THE CHRISTIAN
1. Pretend everything is ok and there is no pain. (can even over-spiritualize it)
2. Get angry with God and stop praying.
                                          *There is a BETTER way!

                                           II. We Follow Christ through the pain in 3 Ways:

1. Practicing LAMENT
2. RECOGNIZING THAT GOD IS WITH HIS PEOPLE, EVEN IN THE PAIN
3. LOOKING AT THE COMING FUTURE GLORY

1. PRACTICING LAMENT:

What is lament? (Vroegop’s)

Lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust” (28)
Lament is a path to praise as we are led through our brokenness and disappointment.” (28)
To lament is Christian. Lament is how those who know what God is like and believe in him address their pain. God is good, but life is hard.

      -OVER 40 PSALMS are Psalms of Lament!


4 ELEMENTS TO LAMENT (Vroegop):
1. Address to God (don’t stop praying)
2. A Complaint (not a right to be angry with God, but honest with our anger and pain)
3. A Request (ask for help for change or help to do what is right in this midst of it)
4. An expression of trust and or praise

APP: Through life’s pain, sorrow, and disappointment, practice lament. Bring your pain to God.
                  -God is tender and kind (tears in his bottle: Psalm 56:8).

2. RECOGNIZE that God with His People, EVEN IN THE PAIN, SORROW, & DISAPPOINTMENT
God knew it would be hard for His people in Ezra’s day. And He knows the pain, sorrow and disappointment we experience in life and ministry.
      -God encouraged his people in Ezra’s day through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah Haggai 2:1-5:

      -Recognition that temple is small (2:1-3)
      -Encouragement that God is with them (2:4-5)
                  -BE STRONG NOW.
                  -I AM WITH YOU.
                              -This was the encouragement they needed: God was with them. Work was NOT in vain.
ENCOURAGEMENT TODAY: GOD IS WITH US!
     
-Matt 28:18-20
                  -Jesus is with us as we carry out the Great Commission
                              -Called to faithfulness in our “little” (Luke 16:10)

APP: In the pain of life and ministry, take heart that Christ is WITH YOU.
      – As you teach your children the gospel
      -As you hold onto biblical teachings while the culture goes the opposite way
      -As you experience disappointment in life and ministry
      -As we labor hard to plant a church, make disciples, and reach out with the gospel in Naperville

3. LOOK AT THE COMING FUTURE GLORY:
Another encouragement God gives through his prophets is the hope of something FAR greater coming.
      -God knew that temple would not last, or be the ultimate final temple. Something better was coming:
Haggai 2:6-9
      -Latter glory will be far greater
Zechariah 4:10
     
-No more despising the day of small things.
                  -We feel disappointment now, but won’t in the future.

-Jesus is the greater glory and promised temple!
      -John 1:14-18, John 2

-Kingdom of Heaven is here now, even as it looks small: Matt 13:31-32

APP: Through the pain, sorrow, and disappointments of life and ministry, see that something FAR greater is coming for God’s people. The kingdom of God in all its fulness, the return of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead.
      -Romans 8:18: Suffering of present age CANNOT compare to the coming glory

                  -Path of wisdom today is to be faithful


CONCLUSION: Through the pain, sorrow, and disappointments of life and ministry, let us experience God’s grace through practicing lament, seeing God with us, and looking to the promised coming glory. God is with His people through the pain, sorrow, and disappointment. And He will wipe away every tear in the new heavens and new Earth.

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