Gary Habermas – The Worst Suffering We Will Ever Face or When God does not heal you (Essential Reading)

Dr. Gary Habermas – chairman of the Dept. of  philosophy and theology at Liberty University.

Gary Habermas (b. 1950) is an American Christian apologist, theologian, and philosopher of religion. He is Distinguished Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy and chairman of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Habermas is noted for his work defending the resurrection and is often cited in the area of Christian apologetics. He has also specialized in cataloging and communicating trends among scholars in the field of historical Jesus and New Testament studies.

In 1985, Habermas and Antony Flew debated the question of Jesus’ resurrection as a literal and historical/physical event, before a crowd of three thousand people. The debate was judged by professional debate judges and was published as a book under the title Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate (Harper & Row, 1987). (source http://www.theopedia.com/Gary_Habermas)

For apologetics resources in video and written form visit Dr. Habermas’s personal website at http://www.garyhabermas.com and here is the direct link to his video page- http://www.garyhabermas.com/video.

The Worst Suffering We Will Ever Face

This message was given at Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg (February 2013) – Where is God when I’m suffering? Is God ignoring me? Does God break promises? Does God even care about my situation? Why does God let me down so many times? Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Is God abandoning me? Gary Habermas explores the reality of pain and suffering and doubt in the Christian life. Dr. Habermas also recounts his wife’s stomach cancer and death and the comfort he felt in learning that we are to share in Christ’s suffering.

„While physical suffering can be, and sometimes is the worst, many experts agree, that generally, the worst kind of suffering is emotional suffering. It’s the worst kind of anxiety, depression, anger, and emotional states in which we really work ourselves up. How are we going to handle these from a counseling perspective, from a pain perspective and from a biblical perspective?

I went through a time of 10 years of doubt. And, because of that (I have written 3 books on doubt), I have had about 500 discussions with doubters. So, I would listen, and over the years (30 yrs), the question has changed a little bit. Today, the question I-m hearing from believers is: How come my prayers don’t get past the ceiling? We all say this: How come God treats me this way? Maybe we even dare to think that God breaks His promises.

Now, if you tell yourself this, and your faith is important to you, you’re beginning down a path of a lot of pain….because it’s sort of like saying your spouse is not true to you, if you have a good marriage. Because you are saying that God is untrue to you. First of all, a lesson in theology. God cannot be anything other than what He is. God cannot be unGod. You can only act according to your nature, and God can only act according to His nature, and His nature is a lot more grandiose than ours. Scriptures teaches that there a lot of things that God can’t do. Because of His nature, God can’t lie. God can’t cheat, God can’t be unfair. God can’t trick you, He can’t tempt you with evil. He can’t die, He can’t lie and He can’t break His promises. So, right off the bat, there’s something wrong with these statements: God doesn’t care about me… (It’s a) lie. He breaks His promises… He couldn’t, (even) if he wanted to. And those are the things we should be glad about. (7:00)

The #1 problem with this kind of pain, where you think God is not answering your prayers, so you make God fade in the background, is the world, God, our friends, they are to each of us as we perceive them. My friend to me is the way I think of my friend. Here’s the scary thing: If we lie to ourselves about God – saying He’s breaking promises, letting us down, He’s there for other people, He’s not there for me. The Scriptures say dozens of times that God is fair, just, will do the right thing. Must not the God of all the world do rightly? We all lie, we lie to ourselves. And lies cause pain. But, here’s the issue: If I think God breaks promises, then in my mind, (not in reality), God is a promise breaking God. That’s who I perceive Him to be. And if I think He’s a promise breaker, I’ll treat Him a certain way. And from that treatment pain starts growing. Anger. From anger, often depression. Anger is one of the chief building blocks. Anger and lack of forgiveness are the chief building blocks of depression. And chief building blocks of anxiety are – „the worst thing is about to happen, and it’s about to happen now”. That’s the flint and steel of an anxiety attack.

Sometimes it’s said that depression is living in your past, anxiety is living in your future.They are both very painful, but, these are realities only in my mind. Now, some things I think are true, but, the extent to which I lie to myself determines the extent to which I will experience a lot of pain.(13:00) You can’t control what people do to you (to an extent), but, you can control what you say about it.

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Consider this: You cannot state the Gospel of Jesus Christ without talking about the reality of suffering. Contrary to what many of us have heard, contrary certainly to what many of us hope, the Bible does not teach that it is about avoiding pain. There are dozens of verses that teach the reality of suffering, and we largely ignore them. It doesn’t preach, but it’s the truth.

What is the Gospel. There’s two sides that define the Gospel: Who Jesus was and what He did, and our response. Jesus’s side is the deity, death and resurrection. But, I can’t talk about the cross without talking about suffering. God watched His Son die. And how about this? Jesus was rejected by His family. That alone is enough to kill any one of us emotionally. Jesus’s brothers tried to take Him aside when He came into town. They thought He was nuts. That’s what the Greek says. „They thought He was besides Himself- two minds, and they tried to get Him out of the public eye. (It was like, „Come on, I have to live here, and You’re embarrassing  my friends. Come on… let’s move over here”) How about the garden of Ghetsemane? He knew why He came, and yet, the pain was so great. Although He wanted the Lord’s will, He asked, could He forego this somehow? Sweating blood is a well known medical phenomenon. But, it is caused by severe stress, which by the way, since Jesus didn’t sin, it points out that severe emotions are not always sinful. Paul says, „Be angry and sin not.” There’s a righteous kind of concern, there’s a righteous kind of anger. There’s an unrighteous kind in the sense of hurting yourself and others.

On the cross, Jesus knew God has not forsaken Him. Of course he is quoting Psalm 22:1 here. He felt abandoned. That was His human experience. Consider these verses. Sometimes we don’t think Jesus had to learn anything. There are several verses that say He did. Here’s one of them: He learned obedience from His suffering. The next one: He was completed by suffering. In John 14-16 there are 3 promises: Pray whatever you want in My name and you got it. In the exact same context there are 3 other comments that say: You’re going to have problems in this life. The last one says: People are going to kill you and think they’re doing God a favor. God, I thought you said that whatever I pray for will come true. Oh, I get it, whenever that persecution comes that will kill me, I’ll just pray that you take it away, right? No. Next chapter, John 17, Jesus is praying to God and He says, „I don’t pray that you take them out of the world, I pray that you preserve them in the world.

Where do we get this idea that being healed means being removed from things? What if it means not being taken from, what if it means God’s gonna take our hand through? We don’t wanna hear that, but, we grow that way. (21:00)

God can mend broken hearts. And God starts, in many verses, God starts in our being careful what we tell ourselves, because we multiply our own pain. We are told in Scripture that we will share in Christ’s suffering. Here’s one you probably one you don’t wanna hear. 1 Peter chapter 2 „We should walk in Jesus’s steps,” and that includes His suffering.

In the last 25 minutes Dr. Habermas recounts his wife’s dying of stomach cancer, and the comfort in the the midst of suffering through the loss of his wife.

Tony Evans at Moody Founder’s Week – There is no more important place to know Christ than the struggles of life

Dr. Tony Evans begins by recounting that Moody Bible Institute was the first radio station to open it’s doors to his African American ministry. Moody also published Dr. Evans’ first book (he has published 60 books to date).

Dr. Evans: Far too many of us are addressing the wrong problem. We’re addressing the thing that the five senses grasp: What we see, and feel, and touch, and taste, the things that are the obvious. But, Paul says in Ephesians 6 that we are struggling, not against flesh and blood. That our battles, our struggles, our fight, our war is not fundamentally physical- „We do not struggle against flesh and blood, but, against the rulers and powers, against world forces … against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

He says, „Your primary problem is what you do not see”. It does not come form flesh and blood; it comes from an invisible influence in our world and in our lives, creating our struggle and our pain- a wrestling match. He says it emanates from a location he calls- heavenly places. This explanation, or use of verbage by Paul is unique to him. He says, for example, in Ephesians 1:3 „Your blessings are in heavenly places.” He says in chapter 1:20 „Jesus Christ is risen and is seated in a heavenly place.”He says in chapter 2:6 „We are seated with Him in heavenly places.” It says in chapter 3:10 that the angels operate out of heavenly places. He says in chapter 6:12 the demons operate in heavenly places.

One might get the impression ‘heavenly places’ is where all the action is. Heavenly places is a euphemism is for the spiritual realm. What he is saying is that the struggle you are dealing with in the earthly realm is emanating from the spiritual realm. It goes something like this: If all you see is what you see, you do not see all that is to be seen. And, that goes on to say that unless you and I learn to operate from that realm, we will be defeated in this realm. Because (Paul) says, your struggle, the thing causing your day to day angst and anguish does not emanate from the physical realm in which you’re feeling it throb. It emanates from a whole ‘nother sphere called heavenly places. And heavenly places has good stuff- Christ, we seated with Him, our blessing, angels, and bad stuff- he says, the demonic realm. And all that’s taking place in the unseen realm, working itself out in the realm that we see every single day.

Moody’s Founder’s Week Theme this year is „Knowing Christ”. And, there is no more important place to know Christ than the struggles of life. To know Christ in the beautiful music (that we heard tonight) and the great fellowship that we experience is wonderful. But, the reality is many have come here tonight dragging something behind them. And while they will be distracted for an hour or two, they will drag it back out that door, and they’re going to be in anguish and pain. And, the Christ I wanna know is the Christ, who not only gives me a great anticipation for heaven, but, who meets me in history. It is a Christ who has covered my eternity, but, doesn’t skip me in time.

Instructing these Christians in Ephesus, who are living in a pagan society, with a pagan goddess Diana, with a pagan orientation, they have to deal with the reality of a secular world, Paul writes his most comprehensive statement  on spiritual victory in all of the New Testament, because he introduces us to the armor of God. (From the first 12 minutes of a 48 min. message).

At Moody Bible Institute Founder’s Week February 7, 2013-

Armor of God – Truth is God’s view of any subject matter

1. Belt of Truth. Truth is reality in it’s original form, and since God is the originator of all reality- if truth is reality in it’s original form, and origination starts with God, then truth must be whatever God says on any subject you’re discussing.

Why do you need a truth belt? Because the person you’re fighting is a liar. He, not only is a liar, he is the father of lies. So truth must be used in your battle.

  • Truth transcends how you feel. Please do not misunderstand. You do not deny how you feel. If you’re happy, you’re happy. If you’re sad, you’re sad. That’s just how you feel. But, how you feel should never determine what you declare to be true. No matter what you’re battling today, you are to speak what God says about it, not speak merely how you feel about it.  If what you feel about it is not what God says about it, you have invited Satan to control the arena of your battle. You must speak the truth, you must declare what God says it is. (20:00)

armor-of-god-sword-of-spirit2. Breastplate of Righteousness – Righteousness is that standard that is acceptable to God. The reason that other world wants you in unrighteousness, in sin, is because once they have you in an unrighteous state, they can now occupy the environment. Demons are attracted to unrighteousness. The problem with sin is not just sin. The problem with sin is what sin attracts. So, you not only have the problem of the sin itself. If you’ve ever had occasion to have trash laying around your house, for any extra amount of time, you may wind up with some unwanted guests. Some ants, or some roaches, you may wind up with some folk you never formally invited. You just created an atmosphere that made them think they  were invited. So, by virtue of the trash, that is the unrighteousness, they have been allowed to come in, so that now you have a double problem. You have the problem of the trash, and the problem of the demons that have exacerbated the the trash. And, it is unfortunate today that New Testament Christians have lost the theology of demonology, to understand that the reasons why addictions exist is because the person who is addicted is not just addicted to the thing they are addicted to; they are addicted to the thing they are addicted to that has been exacerbated by demonic invitation. And, since demons have been invited to participate, because unrighteousness is a breeding ground for them, to invite themselves. The battle is deep.

So, the draw or motivation for righteousness of the heart is to make sure that we do not exacerbate the problem of sin with the unwanted guest- the demons, with whom we area actually wrestling.

3. Shoes of Peace. There is nothing that will confirm that you are in the place you ought to be, and doing what you ought to do than the practical confirming of the peace of God. But, look: Peace is number 3. Because you’ll never have peace, if you don’t have truth. And you’ll never have peace if you aren’t right with the Lord. But, if you have truth and you are right it gets confirmed with peace. Why peace, and why your feet? Because that’s what you’re moving with, and go in the direction you’re going. God confirms truth and righteousness with peace.

But, what is peace? It is not just calm, because people can have calm in any number of circumstances. The Bible refers to peace that surpasses understanding because I don’t understand why I have it in what I’m dealing with. The way God confirms that you’re right where you’re supposed to be, even though you struggle in life is He gives you calm in the midst of a storm. There is peace in the will of God, even if it’s raining. God confirms where you are based on truth and righteousness and confirmed peace.

4. Take up the shield of faith. This is a misunderstood word: Faith. How do you know that you have it? Is it a feeling called faith, and what happens if I don’t feel faith-ish? What is this thing called faith? Faith is acting like God is telling truth. Faith is acting like it is so, even when it’s not so, in order that it might be so, simply because God said so. You measure faith by the movement of your feet. If your feet are not moving, you don’t have faith, no matter how faith-ish you feel. Faith is the action of the feet, that activates the provision of God. People sit in their pews week after week, and say ‘I have faith’. But, their feet haven’t moved. If your feet haven’t moved, you don’t have faith. That’s why it’s called ‘walking by faith’… keep moving.

Paul says, „Take up the shield of faith, which is able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the evil one. Take up the shield of faith… what are these fiery darts? The Greek word for dart is arrow. But, he doesn’t just say arrow, he says fiery arrow. That is arrows whose tips have been set aflame. A fiery arrow is designed to create distraction, as the Indians shot arrows at wagons knowing that the cowboys could not fight fire and fight Indians at the same time. Your enemy wants to distract you from the truth of God, the righteousness of God, and the peace of God. And if he can distract you from acting on what God says, and keep you acting on what everybody else says, and even what you say to yourself, it will distract you from the provision of God. One of the main reasons we live in defeat is we don’t have faith, even when we feel full of faith is because we’re not moving on what God says. We’re just discussing it, debating it, philosiphy-ing about it. But, until there is movement, faith has not been exercised.  It is the movement that demonstrates faith.

5. Helmet of salvation. He’s talking to believers here, so he’s talking about the helmet of justification. These folks are already saved. He’s called them saints already. He’s talking about God’s ability to deliver. The word salvation means ‘to be delivered’. Justification delivers you from hell. He’s talking to people who’ve already been justified, that need to be delivered on earth. And if you’re struggling, you need to be saved, that is delivered through or around your situation, whatever it might be. The helmet covers your head, your brain. Whatever you do is because your head tells your body to do it. Paul says you must think differently.

Every time you take communion, the Bible says that you are to remember the new covenant. The New Covenant is that relationship or covering that comes to every new believer who belongs to Jesus Christ. A covenant is like an umbrella, it covers. If you have an umbrella, but it’s closed, you’re not doing what the umbrella’s been designed to do. A covenant is a covering. Then Jesus says, „I want you to proclaim My death, until I come.” The question is proclaim it to who, about what? Who am I proclaiming His death to, by taking the wafer, and taking the juice and proclaiming His death? It is to the devil. Every time you take communion, you are declaring to the spiritual world, „I am under the covenant covering of Jesus Christ, and you don’t own me anymore.” That’s why communion is the most powerful action of the church. It is more powerful than singing, it’s more powerful than preaching, because it’s your direct access to Christ, to tell hell  that it no longer has authority in your life. Jesus wants you to understand that what you have gotten yourself into with this helmet (of salvation) of what it means to be delivered.It comes from Him.

6. Finally, take the sword of the Spirit of God. The only offensive weapon, a sword. And it’s the only offensive weapon because it’s the only thing the Spirit uses. The Spirit doesn’t use what you think. He doesn’t use just stuff; He uses His word. The Greek word for word is the word rhema. You have the word ‘graphe’, and that is the Book- the Bible is the graphs- it is the record. You have the ‘logos’, the logos is the content of the record. It’s what the record says, and what the record means. Then you have the ‘rhema’. The rhema is the utterance. It is the declaring, It’s what Jesus did in the wilderness. Satan says, „You’re hungry, you need to eat.” Jesus says, „Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” He takes the Old Testament word and He speaks it to the devil. Jesus used the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. The greek word for sword is dagger, the short kind for an up close battle. So when the devil is all up in your face, you use the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Now, there’s 6 pieces of armor, but your theme is knowing Jesus.

  1. Jesus says, „I am the truth, the way, and the life.”
  2. Jesus says, „I am your righteousness.”
  3. Jesus says, „My peace I leave with you.”
  4. Jesus says, „I am the author, and the finisher of your faith.”
  5. Jesus says, „I am the captain of your salvation.”
  6. Jesus says, „I am the living word.”

So, you see, all you need to do is put on Jesus. And, when you put on Jesus, you have on the armor. The armor does not mean you will not have battles, this context is a struggle. It means that the enemy won’t have the last word.

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