The Severe Mercy Of God

How Can God’s Mercy Change My Life In Difficult Times?

Tim Lundy
Mar 22, 2020    35m
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In this message, we will study the story of King Nebuchadnezzar who humbled himself before God and through God's mercy, he was restored. Through our faith and trust in God, God can use any circumstance for our good. Video recorded at Los Gatos, California.

Transcription
messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Tim Lundy (00:00):
Well, hello Venture. As we continue on in this new form of worship that we have, it is a little surreal. I've got to be honest. I'm thankful that I had a reason to get out of the house, that we were able to come film here. But otherwise, we're going a little stir crazy in our household. We've got seven of us there. And so thankful how God's blessed us. We're healthy at this time. So we've got much to be thankful for. And we're trying to make the most of it as we're in this order here in the state of California to shelter in place and I think the rest of the country is about to join us in that, we're looking for the good in it. It has been good to be able to have some family time together, play a few more board games or watch some movies.

Tim Lundy (00:44):
I've got to say our dogs are thrilled that we're home. They are so thankful with the new arrangement. But I saw a few stories online about cat owners are having the opposite experience. Apparently, the cats have reached a point that they're tired of the owners being there all day and they're ready for them to leave. And so it's a good indicator for you. Dogs know that they're the pet. Cats think that they're the owners. But for all of us in this time, we are thankful for how God keeps showing up. And as His church, we want to be a part of that. And one of the key ways that He's shown up in my life during this time is through His Word. I've just found, and maybe it's just this season with so much going on, how relevant it is, how much it speaks to me firstly. And I'd encourage you.

Tim Lundy (01:30):
Make sure you're taking time personally in it. You know, we're in a series right now in the book of Daniel. And I said it last week and it stands out to me again, a book that was written 2,600 years ago, the events of it during that time period, and yet it's relevant today as these miracles of the past are needed today. And the chapter that we're in, Daniel 4, I think it may be my favorite miracle in the book. Now it's not the most outstanding. When you read through Daniel, there's the fiery furnace and the lion's den and all the stories we know. But I love this story because it involves one person, one person that God literally changes their lives completely through His grace. I'm talking about King Nebuchadnezzar. If you turn to Daniel 4, you'll see in it, King Nebuchadnezzar who's this ruler of Babylon. He's literally the most powerful man on the planet, has the most powerful kingdom. He's been in place for decades. Now he's continued to expand the borders of his kingdom. He's built up one of the most magnificent cities in the ancient world, the city of Babylon. In fact, two of the wonders of the ancient world were in Babylon.

Tim Lundy (02:45):
One was the hanging gardens that Nebuchadnezzar had created. Apparently this beautiful garden that he created that was unrivaled in all the world. The other were the walls around Babylon. They were so thick, the outer wall went about 17 miles long and it was wide enough that it said that four chariots could go along the top of it. So this guy has been successful in everything he's done. Now we've seen he's a pagan. He worships false gods. He's narcissistic. We know from the culture, it was very sexually and morally corrupt at that time. He's caught up in all of that. Out of every person you'd pick on the planet and say, this is the person that God's going to totally change their hearts, Nebuchadnezzar I think would be the last person you would think. Listen to a story and we'll look at it in three parts. The first part is his proclamation. This is kind of his summary. If you were watching a movie, it's like you're hearing the end of the movie first. He makes the proclamation and then he'll tell us how he got there. Listen to what he says. King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, languages that dwell on the earth. So he's making this a proclamation across his kingdom. Peace be multiplied to you. It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the most high God. Now he's not talking about his gods anymore.

Tim Lundy (04:13):
He's talking about Daniel's God. He's talking about our God. He said, I want to show the most high God has done for me. Now notice it's personal as well. Earlier, we've seen he's praised Daniel's God. He's praised what God has done for Daniel and for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. But now it's become personal for him. He said, I want all the world to know what the most high God has done for me. How great are His signs? How mighty His wonders. His kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom. His dominion endures from generation to generation. Now, when you read that proclamation, you'd go, how does a guy like Nebuchadnezzar become someone who would declare that the most high God is his God, that he wants all the world to know what God's done for him? Well, Daniel 4 is quite the story of how he got there. He's going to go from the highs to the lows to the high again based on what God was doing in his life. I'll walk you through the next section. I call it the king's humiliation. And it's a long section. I'd encourage you. You've got plenty of time this week, while you're home, read through this story again. Read through it with the detail.

Tim Lundy (05:31):
In this section though, Nebuchadnezzar goes back in the story and he said, I had another dream. Now we've seen, he has these amazing dreams. And so he said, I had this dream. And in the dream I saw this massive tree. It was a beautiful tree. There's fruit on the tree. The birds would land in the tree. Everyone loved it. But then as he describes it in the dream, a holy one comes, someone kind of mysterious. And he chops down the tree and all this left is a stump and a band of iron around it. And then it shifts from a tree and a stump to a person. It says, and he'll lose his mind and he'll live like an animal and he'll be outdoor and the dew of the ground will cover him. Now Nebuchadnezzar calls all his wise men. He asks if anyone can interpret it. And of course, he brings in his number one guy, Daniel. And he knows Daniel can. And he tells Daniel the dream. And when Daniel hears it, Daniel even says these words. He says, I wish this was true about your enemy and not you because this dream's about you, Nebuchadnezzar. You're the tree. You're the mighty one. And you've done all this greatness, but in your pride, God's going to cut you down. And you're going to become like an animal. You'll lose your mind. You'll live out in the field. You'll be covered by the dew.

Tim Lundy (06:56):
Daniel looks at him and he gives him one last kind of plea or warning. But this doesn't have to be of you if you'll practice righteousness, if you'll believe and follow my God. Nebuchadnezzar takes it all in, doesn't do anything about it and about a year later, it says that he's walking along the rooftop of his palace. And as he looks out over this magnificent city that he's built, he says in his mind, look at the greatness that I have done for my glory and for my greatness. And in that moment, the dream comes true. He literally loses his mind. He becomes like an animal. It set in the dream that it would be for a period of seven periods of time. We don't know if that was seven years, seven seasons. It's not specific in it. But it's a long enough period of time that it said that he lived that way, that his hair became like feathers. It was so matted with dirt. His fingernails were like claws as they grew out, as he lost his mind.

Tim Lundy (08:08):
Now that was the dream, but that's not the end of the story. And here's what I love about God in His graciousness. Even when He's declared a judgment like this, what He offers a person like Nebuchadnezzar. Look at the end of the story with Nebuchadnezzar's restoration. And at the end of days, I, Nebuchadnezzar lifted my eyes to Heaven. And I like how this says, my reason returned to me. In my brain, I could think again clearly. And what does he do when he can think clearly? What's the first thing that comes out of his mouth? And I blessed the most high. I praised and honored Him who lives forever for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, His Kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are counted as nothing. And He does according to His will among the host of Heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. And none can stay His hand or say to Him, what have you done? I mean, he has a reckoning here in his life that he goes, I realized who's in control. I realized who is the true God.

Tim Lundy (09:22):
Look how he finishes this chapter. At the same time my reason returned to me and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. He was promoted back to his position again. During this time, we don't know if a regent or someone ruled over the kingdom in his stead. Maybe it was Daniel in that time. But now that his reason is back, he's back again. And my counselors, my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom and still more greatness was added to me. God even added to the kingdom of Babylon. But notice the change. Instead of him thinking it was all about him, look what he says. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of Heaven for all His works are right and His ways are just. Wow, what a powerful statement. Everything He does is right. He says, all of His ways are just. I mean you can look at it and go Nebuchadnezzar, you just spent seven years under judgment. And he says, no, God is King. There's one God and He's the most high and everything He does is just. Everything He does is right.

Tim Lundy (10:41):
And then for this final emphasis. And those who walk in pride, he's able to humble. He's experienced that firsthand. This is an amazing story. I mean it's an amazing story. We love stories of the highs and the lows. I personally as a pastor, I love stories of life change. I love the way that God changes lives in so many different ways. And I love the truth of this story because with what we're going through right now with coronavirus, with what we're experiencing in our society, what we're experiencing as a country, what we're experiencing here in the Bay Area, there's so many different truths of this that I look at this and I go, yeah, I can hold onto that. And I can learn from that as well. Here's the first thing that stands out. It's in this story and every one of these stories we've been reading in Daniel. God is in control no matter what. God is sovereign. He is in control. Week after week as we look at each of these, we keep coming back to that.

Tim Lundy (11:42):
Now part of it, God is trying to emphasize that to His people during this time because you got to remember, the nation of Israel, they're in exile. They're no longer in the land. Their captives to other countries, to other leaders, to other rulers. And it would be very easy during this time period for them to go, where is God? Has God lost control? And so through these stories and through these circumstances and through each of these events, God's showing them no, I'm still on the throne. I'm still in control of world events. I'm still in control of world leaders. I can move in amazing ways and you can trust me in that. Guys, I keep coming back to this every day when I get up and I see the news again. And I have to tell myself, God is sovereign. He's in control. And you need to tell yourself He's in control. And a lot of times, if we're followers of Christ, we know this at a head level, but it's through circumstances like this that it reveals it at a heart level, that you realize and I've been realizing in my own life the things that maybe I've been trusting more than God and how quickly they change, that if you find your security in money and literally over the course of a couple of weeks, you watch billions if not trillions of dollars disappear from the economies of the world. You watch your own account and retirement accounts go down. There's nothing pleasant about that.

Tim Lundy (13:11):
It can be very scary. But it's also a good reminder to me that money can't be my God. Money can't be my source of security. I got to trust God's in control. A lot of times we're tempted to trust leaders or governments or world powers. And yet, as we've seen in this crisis all these different countries scrambling, we have to step back and go, no, I've got to trust that God is in control. I think one of the things that maybe we trust the most is our advancement and our technology. When we think we've just arrived at an age where we're immune to so many of the problems in the past, you know, it's really humbling for us to realize we're dealing with the same crisis they did a hundred years ago when they had a flu epidemic go through and devastate our planet. And here we are a hundred years later with all the advancement and we're still struggling in the same way. Guys, I say all that not because any of those things are bad. I'm thankful for all the things God's given us. But we can't find our security in it.

Tim Lundy (14:19):
We have to step back as the people of God, especially during these times and remind ourselves again, no, God's on His throne. God is in control. And maybe you need to tell yourself that today. Maybe you need to recognize that from His Word today and recognize what He's doing. Now, as He's in control, another truth that we need to face in this is at times, God uses severe mercy to get our attention. He uses severe mercy. That's a term. It's actually from a book, Sheldon Vanauken who's a friend of CS Lewis. He wrote a book, A Severe Mercy, and he talked about his relationship with his wife and ultimately his loss of her. And as he saw the mercy of God show up in ways, maybe ways he wouldn't have chosen but ways that were His mercy nonetheless. As you look in Scripture and you look in life, there's times when God is acting and He's moving and He's merciful in it, but it doesn't feel that.

Tim Lundy (15:18):
And we don't feel it, and we can struggle with it. Sometimes God even shows mercy through his judgment. That's what Nebuchadnezzar faced here. It was through the judgment of God that God was showing him mercy in order to change his heart. Now, one of the key questions that comes up anytime we face a crisis like this, especially one that's a pandemic or a worldwide disease, people will ask is the coronavirus a judgment from God? Sometimes you'll hear a preacher say that it is or televangelists, different people speak into it. And if I'm asked and I always want to be very careful because anytime you're speaking for what God is doing, you've got to make sure you hold it loosely and look to Him in it. I would say, no, I don't believe it's a judgment from God. And this is why I would say that.

Tim Lundy (16:08):
When you look in Scripture where God judges and there's times where He does broad judgments, He always gives clear warning before, He gives a clear declaration of what He's doing and you know why He is doing it. And so if you look through Scripture, look at the judgment of the flood. Before the flood ever came on the planet, Noah preached for hundreds of years and warned people why God was doing this and offers them the opportunity to be saved from it. And they didn't heed the warning. You look at the plagues in Egypt. When Moses went in with each of the plagues, Moses would tell them clearly, this is what God's doing. Here's what He's asking you to do. You need to release His people. And with each of them, they knew exactly what God was doing and why He was doing it.

Tim Lundy (16:54):
You look at the children of Israel as they went into exile as one of the judgments of God. That's why they're in Babylon during these stories. And in it for hundreds of years, God had warned them and warned them and said, if you don't do that, this is what will happen. As a response of it, you even see it in this story of Nebuchadnezzar. God warned him in the dream. God gives him clear interpretation of the dream. God gives him the clear opportunity that you don't have to experience this, but he didn't listen during that. See, in every one of the cases when you look through Scripture, when God gives judgment, you're not confused about it. You don't have to figure out or try to wonder what He's doing. That's why I don't believe the current crisis, this pandemic is a direct judgment from God. Now, if it is, I think He'll make it very clear. I think He'll speak in ways that we will know. But I don't think we have to add conjecture. So, see, I think coronavirus and all sickness that we face, that's part of being in a fallen world. It's one of the reasons God hates sin so much. So one of the reasons Christ came and died. See, when sin came into the world, along with it came sickness and death.

Tim Lundy (18:09):
And so we experience that living in a fallen world. We experience it every year with flu season. Tens of thousands of people are killed every year by the flu. We experience it with loved ones and people that battle different sicknesses. Now, this one is scarier for us because it's new, because we don't have any immunity, because it moves so quickly through the population in ways. And so we need to take very seriously the warnings that are given. We need to do our part as believers, both in helping but also listening to our leaders, listening to the government as they fight this. We need to be involved in that. But as we do that, I look at that and I'm reminded again, this is why God hates sin. This is why God hates sickness. This is why God hates death. They're all enemies. And in His Kingdom, because of what Christ did, He's overcome.

Tim Lundy (19:07):
And you need to know in His Kingdom on His throne where He is, there's no sin, there's no sickness, there's no death. That's why He taught us to pray. When we pray, He said, pray, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done. Where? On earth as it is in Heaven. God, we want this place to be like that place down to the final details, down to the point that all sickness has been eradicated in your power and to your glory. But as we live on this side of eternity, we look to Him in it, we trust Him in it and we pray to Him in it. And I tell you, for me personally, it makes me long for Heaven that much more and long for the day when His Kingdom is fully revealed and long for the day when those enemies are finally defeated and fear is gone and sadness is gone and sickness is gone because of Christ. Now until that day, as God is using even these circumstances to get our attention. Here's what I'd encourage you as we learn from this as well. The reasonable response is humility before God and faith in God. The reasonable response.

Tim Lundy (20:27):
Nebuchadnezzar said when my reason returned, when I was thinking straight. It reminds me of the story of the prodigal son. Remember when he rebels and in it, he finally looks up and he's feeding pigs for a living and he's stealing the pig food from them because he has nothing else to eat. And there's a line in the story that Jesus tells. He literally uses these words. When he came to his senses, when his reason returned, he was like, this is crazy. Why am I living like this? And in the same way with Nebuchadnezzar, he goes, when my reason returned, what came with it? The very first thing that came was humility, that we recognize who God is and who we are. Guys, if this current crisis, this current situation, if it's not humbling us now, I don't know what will. And in humility, it's amazing what God can do when we humble ourselves. I like the statement of Martin Luther. He said, God creates out of nothing. Therefore until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him. That a good line. God created out of nothingness.

Tim Lundy (21:42):
So until we come to that place that we realize I'm nothing before Him, in our humility before Him, then He says, oh, then I can work in you. That's why James puts it so explicitly. Look at James 4. God gives more grace. Therefore it says, God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. God opposes the proud because when you're proud, you're like Nebuchadnezzar. You go, this is for my glory. This is according to my might. This is what I've done in my life. He says He opposes that, but He gives grace to the humble. Submit yourself therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. See, these two things, humility and faith go hand in hand. As I'm humbled before God and I realize I don't have the power to overcome this, then I've got to put my faith somewhere. And if I can't put my faith anymore in me and if I can't put my faith in the structures out there that I thought were going to deliver, in humility, it calls us to look to God and draw near to Him. And I would encourage you during this time, draw near to God,

Tim Lundy (22:58):
Draw near by faith. Draw near through His Word. Start reading His Bible, your Bible every day. Draw near through prayer. Draw near through just spending time with Him. It's amazing what it does to our faith. I heard even this week and I thought it was such a great line by Max Lucado. He said, in response to this, we've got to make a choice. Are we going to respond with faith or with fear? And then he said this line. He said, if you feed your faith, then you'll starve your fears. But if you feed your fear, then you're going to starve your faith. Here's what he's saying, and I think it's true. If you spend all your time feeding your fear, if all your time is just looking at this news story and that news story and looking at worst thing that's coming and the next thing that's coming out of that. And if that's all you consume all the time, you're going to feed your fear to the point that your faith starves. Now we have to stay informed. I'm not saying that we bury our heads.

Tim Lundy (24:00):
But I am saying this. You've got to feed your faith during this time. You've got to take in His Word. You've got to take in worship with Him. You've got to spend time with prayer. And as you do that, as you feed that faith in your life, here's what you'll find. Your fear starts starving. It starts to diminish. They always go hand in hand and you've got to trust Him with that. Couple of things to trust. The next point you see, trust that God can use any circumstance for our good. Trust that He can even use this time for our good. Trust that because He's in control, it doesn't mean that it's good. I'm not saying the circumstance is good. It's very devastating when people lose their jobs. It's devastating what is happening economically. It's devastating as people are struggling with health and with life itself. None of that is good, and God doesn't declare it's good.

Tim Lundy (24:58):
But here's what we declare and what we say by faith, that even in this circumstance, God can bring good, that I can trust Him with it. I see that in His sovereignty, He's working for my good despite what we face. I love the story that Steve Saint tells. Back in 1986, Steve Saint was a young Christian worker. He was driving through Molly and he was doing work there and his truck broke down. And in discouragement, he went into a village. He was looking for another truck. A lot of people warned him. They said, you'll never make it across the Sahara. You shouldn't even try. And he found himself just kind of in that place of discouragement, thinking about his own father. 30 years earlier, his father, Nate Saint was one of five who went to Ecuador to work with a tribe there. And while they were there, Nate and Jim Elliot and others were killed by these native Indians. Even though they had rifles, even though they could have protected themselves, they determined they weren't going to strike back. And so when the Indians attacked them with spears, they laid down their lives.

Tim Lundy (26:15):
It was a famous event. It was depicted in movies and books and really had a great impact on the world. But 30 years later, here is Steve, the son of one of those five, and as he started thinking about that event which was basically the worst event that had happened in his life, he started wondering, did it really matter? Was it just a capricious event? Just bad circumstances at the time? So he started asking around in the village for help. Finally, someone directed him to a church. He went into this little one-room church and there he saw some pictures on the wall and out came this African pastor that had long flowing robes. His name was Nouh Yatara. And he came and he greeted him in Christ. And he said, oh, how can I help you? And Steve described his situation to him. And as he was describing it, he and Nouh got to know each other a little bit. And he said, well, how did you become a pastor here? And he said, actually I was raised Muslim. And when I came to Christ as a young man, my family disowned me. In fact, my own mother tried to poison me, and several times they tried to take my life.

Tim Lundy (27:30):
And Steve looked at him. He said, how could you live like this? How could you step out like that? And Nouh just smiled at him. And he said, the living God has given me eternal life. I have nothing to fear. Steve said, yeah, but where did you get this courage? And finally, Nouh looked at him. He said, you know, when I was a young Christian, a missionary like you gave me a book about other missionaries who had impacted the planet. And he said, the one story in that book that impacted me the most as a young man was about these five missionaries that went to Ecuador and they were attacked. And even though they had guns, they had chosen to lay down their lives and they were killed for their faith. He said, when I read that story as a young man, it gave me a courage and a hope that I could make it too. Steve sat there stunned. And he looked at him and he said, Nouh, one of those five men was my dad. Nouh was stunned. And he looked at Steve and he said, you need to know your dad's legacy lives on. His life and his death has inspired so many like me, a young Muslim man to be able to stand up with courage for my faith.

Tim Lundy (28:54):
As Steve left the incident, he knew there was no capriciousness in his dad's death. It wasn't just bad circumstance. And even though it was the worst event in his life, God was able to bring good out of it and was still bringing good. Guys, we've got to trust that God can bring good out of this time. God can bring good out of what you're going through. God can bring good out of what He can do through His church and the ways that we show people the love of Christ during this time. But we have to trust that He's in control, and we have to look to Him in it. You know, there's one final thing that I hope you take away from this story. I hope that you believe that God will forgive anyone who accepts His gift of salvation. You know, the reason I said that I liked Daniel 4, it's my favorite miracle of the book is because I love the miracle of life change. I love when you look at a guy like Nebuchadnezzar who had been involved in every sin in the world, involved in pagan worship, involved in giving his life to other gods, involved in his narcissism and all that he's involved with. And you look at a guy like that, and God can still change his life. God has the power to save anyone. Some of you need to hear that. Some of you need to believe that.

Tim Lundy (30:27):
See, some of you, even as I'm talking about this and you're going through this, you'd love to have a relationship with God, but you feel like you're too far away or you feel like you've done too much. You feel like you've got to earn your way back. And even now, you tell yourself, oh, if everyone knew what I've really done, there's no way God would accept me and you think God is quick to judge when in reality, it's the opposite. God's not quick to judge. Look how Peter puts it in 2 Peter. He says, the Lord is not slow about keeping His promise. He's talking about God's going to come back one day. And before He comes back, He's going to have signs that impact this planet. And I'll be honest, one of those signs is pestilence, is disease. And maybe coronavirus is a sign of that. If we start seeing more of that, we need to really pay attention. He says, God's not slow about His promise. He's going to come back. Why hasn't He come back? Well, as some understand slowness, instead He's patient with you. He's patient with me. Not wanting anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance. Do you hear the truth of that? God doesn't want anyone to perish.

Tim Lundy (31:52):
God offers to everyone the offer of repentance. And guys, as if He can change a life like Nebuchadnezzar, I promise He can change yours. I promise He'll forgive you. But you have to humble yourself. You have to have faith. You have to believe that what Christ did on the cross, His death was sufficient to cover all our sins. It covered the sins of previous times it tells us in Romans, that all the sins up until that time, they were covered by the cross. And so that's how we know Nebuchadnezzar in his act of faith was covered by Christ. And it covers everyone since that time. But it takes faith to believe that. You know, maybe God is using this time, this circumstance. He's using His severe mercy in your life because He wants to have a relationship with you. What are you holding out for? Why not make today the day of salvation? Why not today humble yourself? Put faith in Him and receive His gift. In fact, I'm going to ask you wherever you are, wherever you're watching this, will you just bow your head? And if you'd like to take that step today, I can think of nothing better to come out of this than you coming into a real relationship with Him.

Tim Lundy (33:26):
And so if you want to take that step, it's not hard, but maybe you don't have the words. And so repeat these words after me. You tell the Father right now, say dear God, I want a relationship with you. But I know I don't deserve it. So in humility today, I'm asking for your forgiveness. I believe in you. I believe that Christ died on the cross, believe that you are a God who longs to forgive people who repent. I receive by faith this gift of salvation and I give you my heart and my life. Lord, I pray for any who prayed that today. I pray would you right now, move in their hearts, move in their minds, move in their lives in a way that they would know their eternity has been changed? No matter what happens, you've changed their lives. Lord, I pray for each of us who know you, that we would be people of faith that you would use this to humble us so that we would draw near to you. Lord, we pray that you would bring good out of these times. We don't know how to do it so we long for you to do it. Lord, we pray for your Kingdom to come. We want earth to be more like Heaven in every way. And so Lord, I'm praying now that you would heal this disease. I'm praying that you would stop this virus. I'm praying that you would move however you choose to move. Lord, we lay our lives before you. We thank you that we can turn to you because you are King, you are sovereign and we declare together how great our God is. And we pray this in Christ's name. Amen.

Recorded in Los Gatos, California.
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