************ Sermon on Genesis 42:36b; Romans 8:31b ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 2, 2005
Genesis 42:29-36; Romans 8:28-39
Genesis 42:36b; Romans 8:31b
"Everything is Against Me?"
Funeral Sermon for Gerrit Anker Sr.
[The idea for putting these two texts side-by-side comes from a meditation written by the Rev. H. Hoeksema.]
A "Everything is against me!" That's what Jacob said in a moment of grief and mourning.
"Everything is against me!" Doesn't the Anker family have a right to make a similar cry, a similar complaint? Doesn't it seem like everything is against them? Haven't they just lost a father, just one week before a wedding? A couple of years ago they lost their mother after a lingering illness. A brother and a sister both lost their lives. And then there were some other problems and trials too.
"Everything is against me!" In this sad hour I know the Anker family is NOT saying anything like this. But I do know many people feel this way when they face death, tragedy, loss, heart-ache, disappointment, and trials of various kinds.
"Everything is against me!" Aren't these awful words, heart-rending words? Don't you hear the depth of Jacob's misery in this heartrending cry?
"Everything is against me!" Those who think and talk this way are swallowed up in the depths of despair.
"Everything is against me!" Things are against me. People are against me. Even God is against me – after all we claim to be under His providence. They all are conspiring to destroy me. They have all united their forces to extinguish the light of my life, to fill my cup to the very brim with bitterness, to leave me in dark despair.
"Everything is against me!" I am alone, helpless, defenseless. I am without power, without friends, without support.
"Everything is against me!" How many times haven't we felt the same way? How many times haven't we had the same outburst of lonely grief? How many times haven't we been filled with the same dark despair? How many times haven't the circumstances of our life appeared to justify this complaint?
"Everything is against me!" When Jacob said these words he was thinking of Joseph, his favorite son, the son of Rachel his first true love. Remember how Jacob sent Joseph to see if all was well with his brothers as they grazed the sheep near Shechem? Remember how the brothers sold him into slavery and then brought a blood-soaked robe to their father as proof that Joseph was killed by some ferocious animal? Remember how Jacob refused to be comforted by his other sons and daughters? Remember how he cried out, "in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son"? Though it was now years later, time had not completely healed that wound.
"Everything is against me!" When Jacob said these words his sons had just come back from Egypt with food. There had been a famine in the Promised Land so Jacob sent his sons to Egypt for food. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph's brother and Rachel's second son, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. The brothers were gone much longer than seemed reasonable. And, when they finally returned, they came without Simeon who was left behind as a hostage. The brothers told the story of the strange treatment they received in Egypt, of the harsh and hostile words spoken to them by its ruler, of the demand that Benjamin be taken with them the next time. So Jacob cried out:
(Gen 42:36) "You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!"
"Everything is against me!" Joseph is no more! Simeon is no more! And now Benjamin must also go?!
"Everything is against me!" Aren't Jacob's words justified by the circumstances? Have not the days of his life been few and evil and filled with unbelievable sadness? Weren't his children being taken from him, one by one? Wasn't he helpless to do anything about this?
"Everything is against me!" Aren't we all tempted to say the same thing at times? Sometimes it seems that men, times, and circumstances are against us. Sometimes it seems that nothing goes right. Our family needs support but no matter how hard we look we cannot find work. Or, we have a good position and a good name but others conspire to take away both. Or, we try our best to save up money for the future but just like that the car tires go bald, the roof begins to leak, the clothes-dryer stops drying, the air-conditioner breaks down, and our kids need braces. Or, we are forced to file for bankruptcy and lose our home and our business. No matter how long we stay awake at night, no matter how we worry about this, no solution presents itself.
"Everything is against me!" My brothers and sisters, this cry, this wail of despair, if it is heard from a child of God, is born of unbelief! It is a wrong viewpoint. It is an unbelieving viewpoint. It is a viewpoint that does not trust in God and His mercies. If I was there I would say, "No, Jacob. You are wrong. Everything is not against you."
You see, my brothers and sisters, there is another voice, another cry, another statement that rings true for God's children. This voice, this cry, this statement rings true no matter how dark the way, no matter how miserable the circumstances, no matter how difficult the times. And, that is the statement of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:31b: "If God is for us, who can be against us?"
You know, we need to put these two statements side-by-side. "Everything is against me!" "If God is for us, who can be against us?" When we do that, nothing is so dark that we cannot see the light, no circumstances are so miserable that we cannot experience joy, and no time is so difficult that we give up in despair.
B "Everything is against me!" Everything? What things? Name them. Count them. One by one. And, then set them side by side with the things that are not against you. I've noticed something over the years. I've noticed that sometimes people concentrate all their attention on the things that seem evil; I've noticed that people tend to forget the things that are reason for joy; I've noticed that people tend to exaggerate the number and size of the things against them.
We count the evils ten times or even a hundred times. We worry and plan and calculate over them. And, we count the blessings only once!
"Everything is against me!" The sorrows and miseries crowd our soul, the darkness fills our heart, misfortune occupies our mind, to the point that we see nothing else. We forget about the good things of God, of the thousands of reasons to rejoice, of the abundant blessings, of the comfort and joy which is lavished upon us.
That was the case with Jacob. So, he cried out, "Everything is against me!" And he named them: "You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin."
Notice how exaggerated the evil is in Jacob's mind. Notice how dark he paints the picture. Notice how conveniently he forgets all the goodness of the Lord. Notice the hundreds of blessings he must ignore to make these statements!
"You have deprived me of my children." Really? Didn't God give him twelve sons? Weren't there ten sons standing in front of him as he said this? Didn't the Lord give him more children than given to Abraham or Isaac? And Simeon, was he dead? Wasn't he alive and waiting for them in Egypt? As for Benjamin, even if he was taken to Egypt this does not mean he was going to die!
Aren't we all guilty, like Jacob, of this sin of unbelief? Aren't we all guilty of focusing on the evil? Aren't we all guilty of forgetting the showers of blessing that comes from the hands of God? When a loved one is taken, for instance, we tend to concentrate all our heart and mind upon the deceased and forget the living. We worry about tomorrow even though today we have food and clothing and shelter and God promises to give us our daily bread.
"Everything is against me!" Of course not, Jacob! "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Isn't that a glorious thought?
C "Everything is against me!"
This assumes that this life and this world and this flesh is the total of reality. That there is nothing more. That there is no spiritual dimension to life. That there is no heaven and hell. That there is no God. That there is no eternity.
"Everything is against me!" How untrue. What a lack of faith to say something like this. What a lack of trust. Jacob lost sight of his God.
Sometimes in the darkness of despair we stop seeing God. We stop seeing God and forget that He reigns, that He is sovereign, that He controls all things. We concentrate solely on earthly things. And, we believe those earthly things conspire together against our destruction. But what are earthly things? They are nothing. What is man, for that matter? As James puts it, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes" (James 4:14).
The truth is that above all things stands the living God. The truth is that death and life, angels and demons, things present and things to come, principalities and powers, heights and depths are in God's hands and can do nothing against His will. In fact, they must accomplish what He calls them to do.
"Everything is against me!" Absolutely not! Never. If you are a child of God. The fact is that God is for us. And, "if God is for us, who can be against us?" When God is for us, what can things do to us? When God is for us, what reason do we have to fear? When God is for us, no charge can be laid against us. When God is for us, we cannot be condemned. When God is for us no trouble, no hardship, no persecution, no famine, no nakedness, no danger, and no sword – nothing in fact – can separate us from the love of Christ. When God is for us, we are more than conquerors. When God is for us, nothing can possibly prevail against us.
God is for us. Think about this. He is the God Who is almighty, the God Who is all-wise, the God Who never makes mistakes, the God Who knows and sees all things, the God Who governs all things, the God Who loves us in Christ, the God Who is faithful forever, the God whose lovingkindness is from everlasting to everlasting upon those who fear Him. If this God is for us – and He is – then all things must be for us too!
Things were not against Jacob but for him, though he – because of blind unbelief – could not see this. And, things are not against us either. Do we see this? Do we believe this?
"Everything is against me!" Absolutely not, Jacob! Never. If you are a child of God. The fact is that God is for us. And, "if God is for us, who can be against us?"
'Everything is against me!" I visited with Gerrit Anker last week and those were not his words. When I look back at that visit I realize the Lord was preparing him for death. We talked about Susie. We talked about his health and breathing problems. We talked about his readiness to die and meet our Maker. We talked about the children and grandchildren. We talked about milk prices and construction problems and the Lord's providence. I read Psalm 125 about trusting in the Lord. He agreed with my final comment that no matter what we need to trust in the Lord.
"Everything is against me!" "Everything is against Gerrit Anker!" Of course not. That is not what he said. And, that is not his experience right now. For right now, in the presence of God, he knows God is for him, and has always been for him, and will always be for him. Right now, in the presence of God, he knows nothing is against him, nothing was against him, and nothing ever will be against him. Right now, in the presence of God, he stands justified, he stands as a conqueror, he stands as one of the Lord's faithful saints.
"Everything is against me!" Of course not, Jacob. Of course not, Gerrit. Rather, "if God is for us, who can be against us?"
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