Tuesday, November 8, 2016
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Florida has many beautiful things about it – great beaches, great theme parks, and great weather. But to be perfectly honest, it's not one of the most exciting states just to drive across. I mean, it's like terminal flatness sort of. You know, like Illinois where I grew up. There's nothing wrong with the South Florida landscape that a nice mountain or a hill wouldn't help. Well, in West Palm Beach there is one. A hill, that is. It actually rises to the breathtaking height of 55' above sea level.
My assistant at the time had a sister in that area who loved to go hiking on and around that beautiful hill. It's wonderfully landscaped. There's some water there, some biking, hiking, jogging trails, and recreational areas. Now anyone who knows the topography of South Florida would wisely ask, "Where did this hill come from?" Garbage. Yep. This lovely spot used to be an ugly, old landfill. But someone had the brilliant idea of making something useful, something even beautiful out of what had just been a lot of garbage.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "Recycling the Garbage of Your Life."
It's amazing how they, out of garbage, made something they could never have had otherwise. Actually, that's the kind of miracle God loves to do with some of the foulest experiences of our lives.
In our word for today from the Word of God beginning in Isaiah 61:1, we read this description of Jesus. "The Lord has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion." Now, Jesus comes to do something with the things in our life that, well, we would see only as trash – a broken heart, a physical or emotional prison, a season of darkness, things that make us mourn and grieve. But listen to the amazing beauty He can create from this ugly garbage.
He says He will "bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be (now, remember, the "they" here is broken, damaged, hurting people)...they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of His splendor." Out of the garbage, something glorious!
Now you may be looking at your pain and all you can see is a mountain of stinking, useless trash. But Jesus is looking at it like some engineers and landscapers must have looked at that landfill in Florida, seeing some beautiful things that He can make from it, things you could never have on the landscape of your life if it weren't for the garbage.
Your Savior wants to take the pain that could make you a bitter person and use it to make you a compassionate person. Because you know what hurt or slavery is like, you know how it feels and you have the credentials and you have the sensitivity to be one of God's wounded healers. Jesus wants to use these hard things that could make you move farther from Him to drive you deeper into His love and His power than you ever thought possible.
There's an intimacy and there's a power with God experienced by the hurting people that the whole people will never touch. Through his almost unbearable suffering, Job said this to God, "My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You" (Job 42:5). Jesus can use the pain to deeply bond you, not only to Him, but to other people if you'll reach out instead of going in. Some of life's closest relationships are forged in the furnace of suffering. And your Lord can use the things you have hated in your life to get people to listen to you. They'll consider your Savior because they heard about Him from someone who knows what it means to really, really need one.
Beauty from ashes, praise from despair, something very special from something very ugly. If you will let Jesus Christ be the Lord of your life's pile of garbage, He can make of it a mountain from which many will be able to see Him.