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April 4, 2014

Finding God's Purpose In Your Pain

“A time to tear down and a time to build up.”

Ecclesiastes 3:3b (NLT)

Amos is one of my favorite characters in the Old Testament. He wasn’t a prophet or the son of a prophet. He wasn’t a priest. Without any special preparation, education or upbringing, Amos was a simple shepherd and fig picker. Yet, God called Amos to deliver a powerful message to His people. Why Amos? It was a time when the religious and political leaders had so departed from God that they were no longer communicating His Word or representing His character. As go the leaders, so go the people. Both were drifting farther away from God. They had a religious system that continued to operate but only with ritual, tradition and formality. They were going through the motions of worship, but it had long since lost its meaning. They used their veneer of worship to cover a life of sin and immorality in order to make themselves look good. But God saw what was happening and sent Amos with a message to call His people back and to warn them of imminent danger if they continued in a charade of faith. Failing to heed his warning, Amos delivered one final message of painful, yet redemptive, consequences. He said God would destroy their Temple and judge their nation. No one could hide. But with that severe judgment, God promised restoration. One day He would restore all that was destroyed. In Amos 9:11b God assured them, “From the ruins I will rebuild it and restore its former glory.” I couldn’t read this story without thinking of what a previous King of Israel wrote. In Ecclesiastes 3, King Solomon observed, “There is a time to tear down and a time to build up.” Sometimes God has to tear down before He can build up. In Amos’ day, God would tear down their religious system and nation to awaken their hearts in order to build a relationship. Sin had separated them from God. If they would not tear down that which was separating them, He would but not because He hated them. He loved them but hated what created the separation and would remove it. When we experience pain and loss, sometimes the purpose in that pain is God’s divine design to rebuild a relationship with Him that somehow was lost or derailed by sin. God destroyed Israel’s base of security, their Temple and their nation, in order to bring them back to Himself. Then in grace, He promised to restore His renewed people and their broken world. When you attend church this weekend, be careful not to substitute a “religious system” for a heart of worship. Focus on building up your relationship with God, and enjoy the blessing of His presence.