…Lamenting, hopefully!

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This week I’ve received the some of the most encouraging sermon feedback I’ve ever had! People have sent messages directly to me, or via mutual friends, to express their thanks and to explain how God has been speaking to them through His word. I feel deeply grateful. Firstly, that I get to preach God’s word to His people; and secondly, that His people have taken time to encourage me. These are both precious to me!

In response to what’s happening around the world I’d been led to consider the biblical practice of lamenting. I’m afraid that it is a practice that has been lost within much of  our westernised, materialistic, consumer-driven Christianity. The ‘prosperity gospel’ teachers, with their relentless positive attitude, self-help sermons and ‘name-it and claim-it’ theology have left many Christians impoverished in this area.

Lamenting is a practise that we should embrace at this time – the saints of old were well acquainted with it – with lives that were marked out by suffering, they knew how to allow trials and tribulations to turn them outward, towards God; rather than inward on themselves.

Self-pity is cheap & shallow…

Often our response to any form of trial, from the minor inconvenience of a stubbed toe to the catastrophe of a viral pandemic, can be an expression of self-pity. While it may be true that this inward looking perspective is encouraged by the individualistic character of our western society, it finds it’s origin in our own hearts.

The bible record shows that the parents of the human race, Adam & Eve, fell into this pattern after they first rebelled against God. When confronted with the true nature and scope of their sinful rebellion they both shift into self-preservation mode and look for someone else to blame. ‘It’s not my fault’ is their cry, and it becomes the cry of every toddler, teenager and wayward soul since.

This is the very model of self-pity that we’re all inclined towards – ‘I’m not guilty of any wrong doing, I’m an innocent bystander, caught up in the mess’. Can’t you just hear the begrudging ‘sorry’ uttered by a toddler who has been caught disobeying a parent?

In his second letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul tells us what this kind of sorrow leads to;

10 …But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.
(2 Corinthians 7:10b NLT)

When faced with reality of our brokenness and the brokenness of the world, it’s tempting to go for the ‘cheap fix’. To stay comfortable in the short term, we tell ourselves that this has nothing to do with us and so therefore requires no soul-searching, no difficult questions, no uncomfortable truths, and certainly no change on our part.

That’s exactly what Paul is pointing out when he says that ‘worldly sorrow…lacks repentance‘. To ‘repent’ means ‘to change your mind’ and then as a consequence, to change your direction. He tells us that self-pity or ‘worldly sorrow’ leaves us running headlong away from God, with our ultimate destination being spiritual death!

Self-pity puts us at the centre of everything. We deny God his rightful place and we expect to find comfort in ourselves…

…Godly-sorrow is costly & deep

So how is lamenting different? Well, as I said on Sunday, as we truly lament we are revealing our conviction that there is a higher authority than us – we’re turning to God. We’re bringing our sorrow and sadness before Him and acknowledging that we aren’t in control – He is!

Our lament could be generated by all kinds of experiences – but the root cause of all of our laments is our rebellion against God – our sin.

Now I need you to know what I’m not saying here. I am not suggesting that the trials, sickness, pain and heartache that you experience in life are all a direct consequence of your personal sin. What I am saying is that ‘all of us have turned to our own way and done what is right in our own eyes’ and that there will be terrible casualties and far reaching consequences when every one of us is seeking to ‘live our own truth‘.
God is quite clear in the bible that we’ve all contributed to this mess!

Paul was encouraged by the Corinthian believers because they showed Godly sorrow;

10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow.
(2 Corinthians 7:10a NLT)

Their lament had turned them away from sin and towards God where they found the embrace of His steadfast love – #NoRegrets #SeriouslyNone

Questions for Connect Groups/Personal study:

  1. Who do you call when everything’s going wrong?
    (We all know the answer should be ‘Jesus’…be honest!)
  2. “We take our grief and sorrow to our highest authorities.”
    – Do you think this statement is true?
    – If it is true, what is your ‘highest authority’?
  3. What things are you experiencing sadness over right now? Why?
    – Take a moment to express all this to God in prayer.
    Be honest – He knows your heart anyway!
  4.  We read how Paul describes worldly sorrow…

    …worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance…
    (2 Corinthians 7:10b NLT)

    – Can you think of a time that you have shown ‘worldly sorrow‘?
    – Looking back, did it bring about God’s glory and your good? Why? 

  5. In 1 Peter 4:17 we read that ‘judgement must begin with God’s household‘.
    With that in mind, this week we should seek to humbly come before God in prayer, asking that Holy Spirit will reveal where we need to repent of wrong thoughts, words or actions so that we can experience His steadfast love afresh and share it with a hurting world.

    Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
    (2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT) 

Ideas for engaging kids:

Sunday with ‘Up and Adam’ was all about the bible being the word of God. Here are some activities that help us think about the perfect nature of God’s word.

  1. Colour in this picture of Jeremiah and Baruch.
    Jeremiah and Baruch
    (Try to learn the memory verse too – you could post a video to our Facebook page.)
  2. Have a go at playing this game with your family – Telestrations
    It’s a hybrid of ‘consequences’ and ‘Chinese whispers’.
    Each of you will need a stack of squares of paper and a pen – Enjoy!

Kids, if you do either of these activities, get a grown-up to snap a picture and send it to me – I’ll post any I do receive to our Facebook page.

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