At Gateway Church in Austin, I shared the concluding message in our four part series Fast and Furious: Overcoming Anger and Impatience.
Frustrated with 2020 yet? This year seems to be piling it on. And, in our impatience, we want it all to end now. Imagine if you learned to trust that God had better things planned instead of getting caught up in what’s happening in our world? It is possible to navigate this Fast and Furious world with God as our guide.
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
The Fast and Furious franchise includes 9 films including a spin off Hobbs & Shaw, and a 10th one coming in 2021 which is 20 years after the first one. It started off being about Street Racing and turned into more like heists and spies with over the top and unbelievable scenes that include cars and trucks and helicopters and skyscrapers and so much more! There is even an animated spin off called Fast and Furious: Spy Racers!
It’s the 10th highest grossing film series ever with a combined gross of over $5.8 billion!
What has made it so popular?
- Maybe because of the stunts and the visuals and the action, but I also think at its core, it’s about family.
- It’s not your typical family. It’s more like what most of us might experience. They are friends that have become closer than family. It’s also a unique multicultural family who share a passion for cars.
Life has been coming at us fast and furious, and now many of us have been forced to slow down.
- We are facing a pandemic which has killed over 130,000 Americans which is 1 out of every 4 people who have died from this disease in our world plus the infections are rising faster than ever in our own city.
- We are facing economic uncertainty.
- We are experiencing a reckoning with racial injustice.
- We are spending more time with our families or our roommates than would have ever wanted.
And to top that off, we are feeling the stress, and the strain with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts plaguing Americans more than ever before.
If we are honest, almost all of us are finding ourselves more easily angered and triggered and more impatient.
But we don’t want to miss what God is wanting to do in our lives and through our lives because we lose our temper, become impatient, or go about life in the wrong way.
Instead of righteous anger followed by wise actions that lead to justice, we can slip into bitterness, rage, and even revenge.
This is important because the good that God wants us to do can be undermined by the way we go about trying to bring change.
We’re taking a look at some case studies in 1 & 2 Samuel to highlight a few characters who gave us a few examples (some good/some not so good) of how to deal with anger and impatience.
Today we are going back to the beginning of this story to Hannah, the mother of Samuel. Samuel is the judge and prophet that God used to guide His people before there was a king in Israel.
Consider today a prequel to the last 3 weeks when we saw how 3 different kings demonstrated how important it is that we:
- See from God’s Perspective (unlike Saul)
- Love with God’s Heart (like David who made terrible mistakes but who came back to God with a repentant heart)
- And Wait on God’s Timing (unlike Absalom who saw what he wanted and tried to take it in his own power).
What do you do when you are impatient?
Impatience is an unwillingness to wait for something or someone.
When people and things don’t act as quickly as we’d like, we can turn reactive. Frustration leads to anger, and anger can lead to broken relationships.
Anger and impatience are interrelated – Proverbs 14:29 – “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.
Now some of us may be angry with God because of unanswered prayers.
- If God was so powerful, why doesn’t He just end this pandemic?!
- Why doesn’t He just help me get a job?!
- Why doesn’t He just bring the changes needed so that we might experience a safer, more just, and more equitable world?!
We can become impatient and want God to work now! And it affects our faith!
Today we are going to look at a story that addresses those very issues.
If you don’t know the story of Hannah, let me share it with you before we break it down into specific applications to our lives.
- Hannah was unable to have a child. She took her pain to God.
- Eventually and miraculously, she becomes pregnant giving birth to Samuel.
- Samuel becomes the prophet of the people of Israel guiding them from a time of chaos and evil into a time of one of the greatest seasons in their history.
So let’s look more at her story.
3 Year after year [Elkanah] went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty…. 4 Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. 5 But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her…. 6 Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. 8 Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” 1 Samuel 1:3-8
Ok, so if you are new to reading the Scriptures, you may not know how to navigate odd moments like we have in this passage.
Sometimes we read the Bible and think it has no relevance because things have changed, but in reality it is God’s Word to us.
Understanding the cultural context can help us apply this to our own life because these are real stories of the human condition.
Remember the Hebrew Scriptures are documenting what was happening
If you ever read something that sounds odd, more than likely there is something cultural going on in the story.
Here’s what is amazing about God: he can move among us and even use us even in the midst of what may be a cultural issue that goes against His character.
For example, it is hard for us to wrap our head around the violence in the Hebrew Scriptures like we saw in the last three weeks, but it’s important to know a few things:
- This is from over 3000 years ago – a time very different than our own when all the tribes were brutal – all were more like ISIS.
- It was a time when women were seen as property and children were often sacrificed to the gods.
- By the way, in the New Testament, we are told that “our battle is not against flesh and blood.” People are not our enemies. In fact, Jesus says we need to “love our enemies.”
Always consider the character of God and His Word to us through the prism of Jesus as Jesus revealed the fullness of God and His character.
In this passage, there are lots of cultural details that are important to understand so we can apply this story to our lives.
For one, Elkanah had two wives.
- Two wives does not mean that is what God wanted but that is where humanity was at the time.
- Years ago I gained insight on this from Ted Beasley who pointed out:
- “Do you know what the punishment for having two wives was in the Bible? Having two wives.”
Seriously though, countries informed by Christianity moved away from having multiple wives because the Bible actually lifts up the rights and dignity of women. Rape and abuse are seen as evil. The Bible calls men to be the husband of one wife. This is a beautiful reminder of how God works with us as we are rather than requiring us to meet some standard before He will relate with us or hear our prayers.
Another would be the phrase: “The Lord closed her womb.”
- In that culture, to survive a woman needed a husband and a son to take care of her when her husband died.
- They considered every child as proof of God’s blessing, and they considered every child a miracle so anytime a woman could not get pregnant it was because God did not allow her to have children.
- Now if you have children or have tried to have a child, you know how miraculous having a baby really is.
Now what we discover about God’s character through the rest of the Scriptures and through the person of Jesus is this:
- You are loved.
- You are blessed.
- God’s love and blessings are not contingent on anything you have done or not done.
- God offers you new life and purpose.
When you surrender your life to follow Jesus, God offers to be Your Father, closer than a brother, your spouse, your closest friend.
See 3000 years ago a woman’s entire worth was wrapped up in her family. If we aren’t careful, we can slip into that kind of thinking even today.
Our identity needs to come as who we are in Christ first and foremost.
Remember, Jesus made remaining single and not having children an acceptable option for a life well lived.
For those of you who are single and wanting to be married or those of who have struggled with infertility or had a miscarriage,
- You are not being punished by God.
- You are not less than others if you do not have a child.
- And God can do the miraculous! He can meet your needs more than any person could. He can show you ways to experience His unconditional love and share that love with others in ways that may surprise you. And He still may answer those prayers one day.
In this story, Hannah is facing disappointment and heartbreak. I mean her rival Peninah pushes out kids like a pez dispenser and mocks her for being unable to have a child!
So here is how we can make this ancient story entirely relevant to our lives.
1. Pursue God in Your Pain
What do you do when you are hurting?
What do you do when you are angry?
Whether you are oppressed by others or disillusioned by unanswered prayers, what do you do?
If this were part of the Fast and Furious saga, the story would have featured Peninnah’s evil oppression of Hannah. The scenes would include moments when Elkanah left the tent and Peninnah spat on Hannah or Peninnah’s kids mocked her for being childless. But what Peninnah didn’t know is that Hannah was putting together a crew. Then one day when Peninnah and her children least expected it, Hannah brings her crew and they’ve got stones and clubs to take them all out!
“How dare you mock me, Peninnah! Who’s laughing now, Peninnah!”
Elkanah comes into the tent to see everyone dead except Hannah, and he hugs her and they begin a new life together in a far off land! As they walk away, you see Hannah wink at the camera and you discover, she’s pregnant!
That is nothing like what happened.
In our culture, we think revenge is what we want. We not only want an end to the oppression, we want the victims to destroy their enemies! That’s what all of our films, shows, and songs seem to suggest.
Revenge is not the answer.
God’s restorative justice is what we need.
God’s justice is explained really well in the Bible Project video on “Justice”.
- Justice starts with connecting with God’s heart, and then it means making things right according to God’s ways.
- It means other people’s problems become your problem so that you might be part of the solution.
- Justice begins with understanding God’s heart for the hurting.
In this instance, we learn from Hannah the importance and power of prayer.
We don’t want to be people who just respond to tragedies with our thoughts and prayers and then do nothing. Instead, our prayers should fuel the actions God guides us to take.
Some of the positive changes we are seeing right now when it comes to awareness and racial justice are the direct results of the prayers of those who have been mistreated for so many years!
Where do you go when annoyed or provoked? How do you respond?
Hannah took her pain to God.
10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life…”
12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”
15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”
18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. – 1 Samuel 1:10-18
Notice the very end of this passage. After taking her pain to God through prayer “her face was no longer downcast.” She knew she could trust God – no matter how He answered her prayer.
Taking our pain to God can bring peace – whether He answers our prayers the way we want Him to or not.
God is the Great Provider so pursue Him for His provision.
2. Be fully honest with God.
Too often we think of prayer as our way of telling God what to do.
- Prayer involves talking to God and listening to God.
- You can be honest with God about what you want, what you feel you need, and what you feel.
- Take your impatience and anger to God. He is bigger than our circumstances. He can handle our emotions.
- If you want to learn how to pray, join our online class Sundays at 4pm called Prayer 101. More details on our Gateway Austin Facebook page.
Hannah shows us how to lament.
- In his book, Prophetic Lament, Dr. Soong Chan Rah mentions that the Bible falls into two broad categories – praise and lament.
- We like praise – that means thanking God for the good things we see and experience and for answering our prayers the way we wanted.
- Lament reminds us that life is not as it will be one day when God makes all things right.
- Laments are prayers and petitions arising out of need.
- Laments are our response to suffering in a world filled with pain, oppression, and trouble.
For some of us, our takeaway today needs to be learning to lament.
Be honest with the suffering of our world.
Be honest with your own pain and confusion and hurt.
So in this instance, why would God not answer Hannah’s prayers as quickly as she wanted? We cannot fully know because God’s ways are mysterious, but…
- Perhaps Hannah grew in her faith and trust in God.
- Perhaps God knew that her baby had a special mission – to lead the people of Israel and to anoint kings. God waited because it was not time for Samuel quite yet.
- Perhaps God waited to give her a baby knowing that the son she was to one day have would need to be raised in the Temple in order to grow into the man God had created him to be. Maybe she would not have considered such a selfless move if she had been able to get pregnant so easily.
Samuel was a miracle born as a result of desperate prayer and born of a woman of faith.
Now another important part of understanding and applying the Scriptures is realizing what is descriptive vs. what is prescriptive.
The author shared what happened without hiding anything – this is very true of the Bible and why it is not for the faint of heart.
- Just because Elkanah had two wives does not mean we should have two wives.
- Just because Penninah was mean to Hannah does not mean we should be mean to others.
- Just because Hannah made a deal with God (much like Kenny Green discussed last week) does not mean this is how we should relate to God.
We should be willing to trust God even if He does not answer our prayers when we want or how we want. Instead of “if.. then” prayers we should grow to be more of “even if” prayers. As Kenny shared last week, moving from “God, if you get me out of here… and then I’ll change” to “God, don’t let me out of here until you’ve changed me.”
We need to grow to the place where we pray things like:
- “God, I want this, but I will trust you ‘even if’ this is not for me”
- “God, I want this, but if this is not from you then change the desires of my heart.”
- “God, I feel like I need this, but if there is another way, show me.”
- “God, not my will but yours be done.”
She took all of her pain and anguish to God rather than taking out her pain on the one tormenting her.
3. Trust God and Do Your Part
Then notice what happened.
19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” – 1 Samuel 1:19-20
God answers prayers and can do the miraculous!
At the same time, we need to do our part. “Elkanah was with his wife Hannah.” and then she got pregnant. This miracle from God still needed both the husband and wife to do their part so that then God could do His part.
This is a very good example of prayer and action – both are important.
Let’s keep going before those of you with little ones starting asking questions.
Once the baby Samuel was about three years old, Hannah returned to Eli, the priest at the Temple and follows through with her promise.
“So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” – 1 Samuel 1:28
From that point on, Hannah probably saw her son just once a year as Eli raised Samuel up to be the priest, judge, and prophet God created him to be.
Think about that: Hannah had a son after years of wanting one only to then allow him to be raised by the priest. Why would anyone do that?
You see, Hannah saw herself as part of God’s bigger story. As a result, she prayed differently. She lived differently.
- Do we have open hands?
- Are we asking God to bless us for own sake or for the sake of others?
- Do we trust God even if He doesn’t answer our prayers?
Early in my walk with God, I felt like God was answering my prayers the way I wanted! Perhaps I was in tune with Him and asking for what He already had in mind for me, or perhaps he was preparing me for the days when it felt like He stopped saying “yes.”
I met, dated, and married Deborah just out of college. We met in the college group of our church in Dallas/Fort Worth. We married during spring break of her final semester at UT Arlington. Two months later we moved to Seattle. We had a remarkable time there, but it was incredibly difficult. We lost funding for my job as a student pastor. I tried raising funds to serve there, and my family and friends donated a grand total of $30 because they didn’t want us to go there. We faced opposition from our neighbors where we were planting a church. The people we were reaching were dealing with heavy issues. We were isolated from all our friends and extended family. We struggled to move forward with school. We wanted to leave soon after we got there, but we stayed. God refined our character and grew our relationship with each other in the midst of the challenges. Then we moved to Los Angeles where I failed to get a job for the longest time.
Don’t get me wrong, somehow God provided. God was there, but things were not working out the way I wanted them to work out. God was not answering so many of our prayers the way we wanted them to when we wanted Him to. And then we got pregnant.
We had been married for 5 years and were now ready to start our family. The pregnancy could not have gone any smoother. We went to LaMaze classes. Deborah started getting those cool pants with the giant elastic waists. We started eating for two. I know she was the one who was pregnant, but I decided to eat for two along with her in solidarity.
All was going so well – until the day our son was born.
We were in a birthing suite watching Sleepless in Seattle (I decided to let her choose the movie) when all of a sudden an alarm started going off. Suddenly nurses and our doctor came running in and tried to determine why our son’s heart rate was dropping while he was still in utero.
They rushed Deborah out of the room so they could take her to a room for an emergency c-section. When our son was born, there was no sound. I wanted to hear the sound of a baby crying, but he wasn’t crying. He wasn’t even breathing. One of the nurses began to perform CPR on his little body. With great relief, he started to breathe and cry, but it was the faintest cry I had ever heard. Something was not right.
The doctors assured us that it was probably just fluid on his lungs. They needed to send him to a different hospital that had a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to make sure, but all should be fine. I’ll never forget seeing our son who we named Caleb in the incubator as they brought him into Deborah’s room so she could see him and say goodbye. She would continue to recover at the first hospital while Caleb was being sent to the 2nd one.
A little later that day I drove to visit Caleb at the 2nd hospital. It was then that I found out our only son was in grave danger. The doctor explained to me that the issue was not fluid on the lungs, Caleb had a heart condition. Without surgery, he would not survive.
I was in shock. How could this be happening?!?! As I drove back to tell Deborah that our son may not survive much longer, I prayed a very angry prayer. I shouted at God. “How could you do this to us?!? We have given our lives to serve you! We moved across the country to serve you. We’ve tried to honor you in how we live! Why would you do this to us?!”
I could hardly see the road in front of me as bitter tears filled my eyes. Finally, pausing to catch my breath and wipe my tears, a Bible verse crashed into my mind.
“The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” – 1 Corinthians 4:20
The verse took me off guard at first. It was my favorite verse, but what did that have to do with anything? Once again: it came crashing into my mind:
“The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” – 1 Corinthians 4:20
It was then I realized, my faith was being tested. It is easy to trust in God when everything is going great! Very little faith is required! A deep faith is necessary to trust God when things are not going well. Shallow faith gives up.
I had a choice to make: will I just talk about trusting God or will I actually trust Him and experience His power?
Our faith is made real in the midst of suffering.
In the midst of suffering, we can feel God’s presence even more. He cares for us, and sometimes we will not know how much until we are in the midst of painful times.
After driving to the hospital to tell Deborah about Caleb’s heart condition, my mind was racing. What can I say to Deborah to help her through this? How do you tell a new mom her child may not live?
I held her hand and told her the situation. The calmness she exuded in the face of such adversity calmed me until I realized she was still heavily medicated.
Two weeks later it was time for Caleb’s heart surgery. Caleb looked so fragile as we held him for the last time before the surgery. He seemed barely alive with all of the tubes coming in and out of his little body. As we prayed for him, hugged him, and kissed him – we placed him on the little metal table that he was going to be laying on during the surgery. I felt like Abraham in the Old Testament who was about to sacrifice his son Isaac thinking that was what he was supposed to do. We prayed God would take care of our son, and if he would allow us to do so, we would be honored to raise him.
A few hours later we received word that he made it through the surgery and was responding well! He was going to make it!
Two weeks later I was talking with a doctor. Caleb’s heart was surgically repaired, but he still had to eat with a feeding tube. The doctor explained to me that if a newborn doesn’t eat within the first few weeks of life when it was instinctive then he would have to learn how to eat. Learn how to eat? How do you teach a baby how to eat? He explained: “To teach him how to eat, you are going to need an occupational therapist who understands sensory integration.”
My jaw dropped! Deborah had just graduated with a degree in occupational therapy and her concentration was in sensory integration. Tears came to my eyes. Suddenly the fog of the last few weeks had been blown away. It all made sense to me! This little baby needed this mommy. God wasn’t punishing us. He was blessing us with one of the greatest miracles of our lives! Not only did God prove He cared for us. He proved He cared for our helpless son.
Caleb had a long road to recovery. He finally learned to eat at 3 years of age (about the time our daughter Trevi was born).
His story and our response helped others find faith over the years – teenagers in our youth group where I was the youth pastor, a couple who we met whose son was with Caleb in the NICU, and so many others. We were able to help other parents over the years who have experienced heartache. We grew in faith and we developed meaningful relationships with people we met over the years because of his ongoing struggles. People showered us with love. We felt a peace we had never felt before.
4. Trust God to Bring Good When We Suffer
Somehow God can take tragedies and bring about good. What we feel as a trial now may later be one of the most meaningful moments of our lives.
- I know victims of abuse who have become counselors for abuse victims.
- I know military personnel who have suffered from PTSD help others who are suffering from it as well.
- I have seen families who lost a baby comfort a couple born with a sick baby.
- I have heard stories of men and women who died for their faith in countries that are now experiencing spiritual awakening.
- I know people who have experienced injustice counsel and pray for those suffering now.
Other times, we face struggles that don’t seem to make any sense. We don’t truly understand why God allows some things to happen. One thing is for sure – we also have no idea what tragedies He has prevented. For now, He allows us to experience pain in this fallen world. One day, He will bring all suffering to an end. One day, this broken world will be made right, but He is patient, wanting to give all of us a chance to discover His love for us – never forcing – us always pursuing us.
God’s ways are mysterious, but there is one thing that is certain – God loves us.
Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, not even the most tragic moments of our lives.
Let me encourage you: you can trust God.
- What we think we need, may not be best for us.
- What we think we want, may not be what God has in mind for us.
- What we think will make our life complete may actually be what makes it harder than it is now.
- What we think the world needs now, God may know of the good He can bring before He finally says “yes.”
Even still, we can trust Him.
It may not make sense to us until we are on the other side of eternity.
“God answers our prayers the way we would if we knew what He knows.”
– Tim Keller
Samuel becomes the prophet of the people of Israel guiding from a time of chaos and evil to a time of one of the greatest seasons in their history.
Samuel is one of the few heroes of the faith whose birth story is in the Bible like Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus.
So how do we get in line with God’s hope for us?
One of the most beautiful songs in the Bible is written by Hannah.
Just like so many other critical moments in the story of God and humanity, the main character is a woman. Hannah, Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene the first to see Jesus alive at the tomb. It’s as if when God wants to make sure things go just right, He chooses a woman to make sure we don’t mess it up.
In this passage of Scripture written by Hannah, she acknowledges in her song that God opposes the proud and raises up the humble. Her prayer reminds us that despite human evil, God is at work and He will raise up a Messianic King. She knows what you and I need to realize, God is our Rescuer.
“My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high…. 2 “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God…The Lord humbles and he exalts. 8 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. “For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s; on them he has set the world. 9 He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. “It is not by strength that one prevails; 10 those who oppose the Lord will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.” – 1 Samuel 2:1-10
When you read passages like this you may think of yourself as “the wicked” and the one about to be judged, but think of it this way:
What this means is that God is for us, but when we oppose Him we feel the negative effects of doing so.
Hannah is pointing out that our story is part of God’s story. The last verse I read above she mentions the coming Messiah – the One who was anointed by God.
We know the Messiah took upon Himself the sins of humanity and the evils of this world, and it killed Him.
But His power and His love brought Him back to life! Jesus is proof that one day God will make all things right!
You and I can have a relationship with God that is so close you can share everything with Him, know He is always with you, and trust Him even if some of your prayers are not answered the way you hope they will be.
5. Remember God is What You Need Most
There is a beautiful and helpful story in the New Testament about a man named Paul. He helped start diverse and multi-ethnic churches across the Roman world – churches where Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slave and free were all welcome, all treated equally, and all a valuable part of the church community. It was like nothing the world had ever seen up to that point.
Even with all that success, Paul was suffering. He never shared with us what it was, he just refers to it as “my thorn in the flesh.” Over and over he asked God to remove this thorn – to answer his prayer the way he wanted. Much like Hannah, he prayed and prayed and prayed, but unlike Hannah in this instance, God did not say “yes” to his prayer request.
Paul writes about a moment when God told Him why He would not heal him from this affliction. God said: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” -2 Corinthians 12:9
We need to hear that today.
God’s grace – His unconditional love for you is all you need.
The Creator of the Universe is with you!
You can trust Him!
And when you are feeling weak and hurt and in anguish, remember that is when you can feel His power and presence the most.
So what is your next step today? Everyone of us has a next step.
Every Sunday we need to come to the inspire service asking God: what do you have for me and what do you want from me?”
Take a moment to go www.gatewaychurch.com and choose your next step.