Message

February 28, 2021

English Worship Service


God Is Bigger Than Our Problems

Good morning.  My name is David Hostetler and I have been attending Suita Bible Gospel Church for about 25 years.  A ministry I am involved in usually keeps me occupied on Sundays, but I have always maintained a relationship with this church.  Recently I have had more opportunity to have time available on Sundays to participate in online activities here.  I was also married in this church almost 21 years ago to my translator, Shihoko.  Later in my message, I will be telling you a little more about myself, but first I would like to share with you some encouragement from the Bible about issues that are going on in all of our lives.

We are now living in especially troublesome times.  The Corona virus is a continuing storm casting a deep shadow over the whole earth.  Of course, problems are often a part of daily life, but now they seem magnified and are often worsened by this pandemic.  Those people with health issues become in greater danger.  For example, Japan was stunned by the death of the popular entertainer, Shimura Ken.  Such an energetic man cut down before his time.  Other people find the jobs that they felt were stable have suddenly become endangered.  Incomes are going down and savings are depleted.  Shops and businesses are facing bankruptcy.  Telework and lockdown are causing stress and tension in relationships.  Students struggle to adapt to unstable study environments, disrupted routines and cancelled activities.  Especially those students who entered new schools last year are having difficulty adjusting to unfamiliar and unexpected changes.  Most university students are unable to visit their campuses regularly and must do most of their study online.  Many of them do not feel that they have benefitted from a year of study or that they have been able to enjoy the special atmosphere that college life provides.  In addition, some of them are experiencing financial difficulties which endanger their future studies.

As Christians, what comfort and assurance can we receive from the Bible regarding God’s provision for our lives when we are facing crisis.  Let’s start out with an example in which reliance on Jesus overcame danger and fear.  Jesus and His disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a storm suddenly assailed them.  Let’s pick up the story in the book of Mark 4:35-41. 

That day when evening came, He (that is, Jesus) said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat.  There were also other boats with Him.  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet, be still.”  Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”

 

What does this story have to say to us?  Why did Jesus rebuke the disciples for their fear and lack of faith?  Many of them were fishermen by trade and knew very well that the storm could easily sink the boat and drown them all.  The first issue was that the disciples had forgotten who was in the boat with them.  When a believer is in the presence of God, problems can be dealt with in ways that would not be expected by simple human reasoning.  As Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:20, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  We can always be assured of His presence with us. 

The second issue with the disciples’ lack of faith is that Jesus had said to them, ”Let us go over to the other side.”  He did not say, “Let us go drown in the lake.”  The disciples did not trust the words of Jesus.  In the same way, God reassures us that He will take care of us because He knows how our story will end.  He knows we will get to the other side because He will take us there.  In spite of whatever storms might attack us during our life, we will arrive safely to be with God in our future.  We should never be afraid to commit an unknown future to a known God.

We can also rest in the knowledge that He know what is best for us in any situation.  God explains this to us in Isaiah 55:8-9.  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

The reason that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts is because He is all-knowing.  In other words, He already knows everything and does not have to think as we do.  We think to try to understand.  God already has full information on every aspect of our lives.  He knows our lives better than we do.  It seems to me that I would rather rely on God rather than on myself.

Now that we have looked at some Biblical perspectives on how God is able to deal with issues in our lives, I’d like to give you a few examples of how God has worked in my life.  Sometimes very dramatic events have changed my direction immediately.  At other times, slight shifts in my situation have taken place almost unnoticeably over a longer period, but their total effect has been profound and life-changing.  Often, we can only recognize these results by tracing them back to the past and becoming aware of the power and plans of God.

I grew up in the northern part of the central United States in one of the coldest areas.  My hometown has a climate similar to Asahikawa in Hokkaido.  In junior high school and most of high school, I was painfully shy and afraid to talk to people.  I usually felt isolated and insecure, especially during the cold, cloudy winter which seemed to last forever.  My hope, if I had any, was to get a job where I didn’t have to talk to people.  I had no concept to leave my hometown since I had no self-confidence to live on my own in unfamiliar surroundings.  You might have noticed that God had other plans for me.  My life, just as anyone else’s, has been a series of changes, with many storms, many sunny days and many rainbows of hope. And in the end, here I am now.  I’ve been to about 40 countries and as I mentioned previously have been in Japan for more than 25 years.  I’m an English teacher on weekdays and, until the Corona virus, was actively conducting Christian weddings on weekends.  I’m continually interacting with people.  God moved my life in directions that I had not even dreamed were possible.  Of course, like most people, the Corona virus has had some effect on our family and our situation, but there have been many times in my life where God has turned what appeared to be a negative issue into an opportunity.  God has taught me never to treat my current situation as my final destination since He has ways of dealing with things that I have no way of understanding by my own logic or planning.

We often worry about possible future problems, but those are frequently not the ones that come to us in life.  Many problems we face are unexpected.  Many things we worried about didn’t happen.  We walk every day with the all-knowing God, the perfect genius. 

For that reason, the solutions to our problems are often not the ones we were expecting.  God can accomplish His Will however He pleases, so it’s better to not complicate our thinking with needless worry. Of course, we can gather information, come up with ideas and make plans together with God’s guidance.  But most worry isn’t that.  It is unproductive thoughts repeating themselves in our minds, without helping to deal with the situation.

Now I’d like to tell you two more stories about two completely different situations.  The first is about a baby boy who was born in Australia.  His parents were immigrants from Serbia and he was their first child.  They were excited by the new birth and wanted to hold their newborn baby, but the facial expressions of the doctor and nurses surprised and confused them.  Finally, they understood why.  When they were shown their baby, they saw that he was born with no arms and no legs.  When they saw him, they not only didn’t hold him, they rushed out of the hospital and became ill.  Later the mother and father tried their best to take care of him and encourage him.  He went to public school to receive an education, but there he suffered bullying from classmates.  At one point, at the age of 10, he tried to commit suicide by drowning himself in the bathtub.

Now, let’s move on from this sad story to a second one, which is far more positive.  This concerns a man living in the Los Angeles area of the United States.  He is an evangelist who has spoken at crusades, large gatherings, and countless churches.  He has been to over 70 countries and has spoken to audiences numbering in the hundreds of thousands.  He is also a motivational speaker who gives stimulating seminars and presentations to businesses and organizations.  He is married to a Japanese-American wife and has four children.  He is physically active in his free time and enjoys swimming, surfing, scuba diving, golf and sky-diving.

You might wonder why I am introducing two completely different stories that contrast a tragic physical handicap with a lifestyle that any of us could only dream about.  Probably the best way to explain would be to show some photos of the life of the Los Angeles man. 

First, a photo of his happy family.

Next, we see him as a speaker at a Christian crusade in Los Angeles attended by 100,000 people.

Now, speaking to prisoners at a prison in Texas

Finally, swimming, surfing and playing golf

As I am sure you are now aware, the first and second stories are both about the same person.  I have never heard of a more dramatic example of God changing someone’s life so completely.  The man, Nick Vujicic, who had attempted suicide as a child, trusted Jesus as his Lord and Savior when he was 15.  He then went on to graduate from an Australian university with a double major in accounting and financial planning.  Nick always give thanks to God for changing his perspective from despair to hope in Christ.  His guiding verse in the Bible is Jeremiah 29:11.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Earlier, Nick had been praying that God would miraculously give him arms and legs.  That did not happen. But now he knows that God’s plan was much better than his own plan.  He has met 18 presidents, spoken to 10 congresses and reached 8 million people in person, and 730 million on television and online.  He has shared the Gospel in 2000 prisons.  Nick says that even if he were offered millions of dollars plus he would be able to have arms and legs, he would refuse both the money as well as the arms and legs if that meant he wouldn’t be able to reach people with the Gospel.  Nick understands now that God used a man without arms and legs to be His hands and feet and to reach the world.  When such a person tells others that they can have hope in spite of difficulties, people will listen, because they think his condition is worse than their own.  Nick doesn’t feel that way though.  He feels fortunate and blessed now.  He wouldn’t trade his ministry for arms and legs now because he knows God has a better plan.  He doesn’t think he has a harder situation than anyone else.  He can do all things through Christ who gives him strength. (Philippians 4:13)

For me, Nick’s story is one of the most encouraging I have ever heard.  Every time we begin to worry, let’s look at our two arms and legs and realize that God could very easily have an unexpected plan for our lives that is beyond our understanding, but very possible for the Creator of the universe.  If God can use a man with no arms and legs, then He can use you too.  What’s impossible for man is no problem for God.

God is always with those who believe in Him.  We can always receive encouragement from Romans 8:28.  “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  This means that we know how our story will end.  Jesus can turn things around. He is full of surprises.  The future with Jesus is nothing, but bright.  When we focus on the presence of God, nothing can make us afraid.

As we have just seen from the Bible as well as from personal examples, God is always with those who believe in Him.  This is great news, but there may be some here today who have not yet given their lives to Christ.  They might be thinking that today’s message doesn’t apply to them.  Actually, the opposite is true.  God is always extending an invitation to become His child.  This is possible through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross which paid for our sins and removed every barrier between God and those who have faith in Jesus Christ. 

If you would like to join the family of God, who is greater than any problem we might ever face, please repeat after me the following prayer in your heart.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to accept Your invitation to become your child and to have forgiveness for my sins.  I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for me and will be with me to guide me through the many situations in my life.  I thank you and praise you in Jesus’ name.  Amen. 

Welcome to the family of God.  Now let us close with a final prayer as believers expressing our thanks and trust in God’s plan for our lives.

Let us pray.  Dear Heavenly Father.  We are living in a special time of great uncertainty.  There is a shadow over the whole earth because of the pandemic and the many problems it is causing and worsening.  We thank You that You are bigger than any problem that we might face.  We pray that You would help us to keep our eyes on You and expect Your perfect plan for our lives.  Protect us against unproductive worry and fill us with a confident faith that You have the best solution for the problems facing us.  We pray this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

Bible Verses

Mark 4:35-41

That day, when evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat.  There were also other boats with Him.  A furious squally came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.  The disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet, be still,” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.  He said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?”  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!”

 

Matthew 28:20

And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

 

Isaiah 55:8-9

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways”, declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” 

 

Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

 

Philippians 4:13

We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.

 

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

 

Nick Vujicic Information

Life Without Limbs Website/ App

Many videos on YouTube