Let me begin this sermon on God’s restoration with the following illustration.
One of the historical wonders of Sri Lanka is the complex rock fortress, Sigiriya, and the palace built on it by one of our former Kings, Kasyapa, many centuries ago. It is an amazing place to see & tourists flock there to view its beauty, grandeur and craftsmanship. One of the highlights of Sigiriya is the frescoes that are painted on the rock walls. These and the site itself are considered National treasures, with UNESCO listing Sigiriya as a world heritage site. (If ever you come over to Sri Lanka, you need to visit Sigiriya).
Many years ago, some of the frescoes were vandalized by an unknown group of people, with, (if I remember correctly), either ink or paint being thrown, to deface them. As a result, many experts had to be brought in (foreign and local), to work at restoring these frescoes back to their original state. Thankfully, they succeeded in most of their painstaking efforts.
The Lost Years:
We as God’s people, sometimes go through what could be termed the ‘lean years’. It’s a period where it looks like nothing much is happening and sometimes as if nothing at all is happening!! It can be a very trying period. We sometimes call them the ‘lost years’. However, If we walk close to God during such trying times, He is still in the business of restoring disappointed and damaged periods of our lives and He can bring restoration to our ‘lost years’! The ‘lost years’ need never be ‘wasted years’, if we allow God’s purposes to be accomplished in us.
PROPOSITION – God can restore all that seems lost during the ‘lost years’.
In our lives, we work hard and sometimes pray for years to maybe win our fiancée over, to earn a degree, to win an estranged partner back, to have the blessing of a child, to maybe get a promotion and to raise healthy, God -fearing children. But we never consider that time as wasted. In fact, I had to wait 4 years to marry my wife Regina, but it was sure worth the wait! Similarly, God will make the waiting period during the ‘lost years’ a blessed experience, as He brings restoration into our lives.
From Isaiah 54 and Joel 2, I would like to share 4 thoughts on God’s restoration.
1. GOD’S RESTORATION WILL RENEW YOUR JOY (Isaiah 54:1/Joel 2:23)
When we struggle with difficult periods in life (the lost years), it could well be a time of sadness, tears and questions. However Isaiah 54 :1 says “Sing, O barren woman, ….burst into song, shout for joy ….” When God’s restoration comes in, He will renew your joy as well as the song that may have been stifled in your life. Joel 2, which also speaks of restoration, says in verse 23 “Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, … for… He sends you abundant showers”. Psalm 126 :5 says,“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.”
Dear friend, has the joy been lost in your life? Have you been struggling to find a new song? Look to God for restoration and He will renew your joy and restore a song in your heart. The ‘lost years’ could well be part of God’s discipling process in your life and He will eventually make it to work out for good.
According to the information we have, the prolific hymn writer Fanny Crosby lost her sight in both eyes at a very young age, due to a medical mishap. She could have easily allowed the circumstances and the challenging years that followed to kill her joy and remove the song in her heart. However, she allowed God to work His plan through what seemed like a tragedy, with no bitterness in her heart, and today, the church is so much more richer due to the hundreds of songs she wrote. How often we have been inspired by hymns like ‘Blessed Assurance’! It is also said that although she was blind, Fanny spoke about vision and sight in most of her songs. For example, in ‘Blessed Assurance’, we find the lyrics,
‘VISIONS of Rapture now burst on my SIGHT’
‘WATCHING and waiting, LOOKING above’
As we look at 2020, we see the pain thousands have had to face due to the coronavirus. Let’s ask God to renew their joy and our joy!
2) GOD’S RESTORATION WILL EXPAND YOUR INFLUENCE (Isaiah 54:2-3)
Verse 2-3 carry the words ‘enlarge, stretch, wide, do not hold back, lengthen and strengthen‘. All these words carry a connotation of large expansion, which is what God’s restoration will accomplish.
Are you willing to trust God for such expansion and to spread out under His anointing? To see your ministry grow stronger than ever before? Can you enlarge your vision for the rest of 2020? Amos 9:13 says,“The days are coming”, declares the Lord, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes”. That’s harvesting at its best!
ILLUSTRATION – The life of Joseph is a classic example of how God can restore the ‘lost years’, and bring unprecedented influence into a person’s life. What seemed like around 12 ‘lost years’ eventually brought about the fulfillment of all his dreams. I can’t help but feel that Joseph was dreaming, even while being a slave and a prisoner. Eventually, when God’s restoration came in, Joseph’s influence extended not only to the Egyptian Empire, but to most of the then known world. (Genesis 41:57.)
Can you believe God for greater influence in 2020 once the lockdown is over?
3. WHEN GOD RESTORES HE WILL REMOVE YOUR SHAME (Isaiah 54:4-6)
Are you carrying any shame from your past or maybe from your youth? Is it about failure as a parent or as a Pastor? Does the recent past show many days you felt humiliated? Listen to what God says in verse 4. “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood”. Our God has the amazing ability to restore us from our shame and failures!
The passage in Joel 2 says, “….you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed (vs 26). For added emphasis, the Lord reiterates the same thought in the next verse too.
I have always loved music and singing. (This I believe led me into a career in Radio Broadcasting later on.) As a result, when Jesus gloriously saved me, one of the first things I wanted to do was to join the church choir. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that I couldn’t sing too well!!
When I joined the choir, I was singing off pitch and loud too and therefore disorienting the rest of the choir. As a result, after a while, it seemed like I would have to step down from the choir. It would have been a severe setback and a humiliation for me as a young boy. However, thanks to my Choir Director, 3 helpful members of the choir and most of all, God’s help, I managed to overcome this problem. I later became a Worship Leader in my church and even sang harmony in the choir!! Over the past 12 years, guess one of the ministries I have served most closely in …..? It’s worship!!!
God delights to remove our shame:
When Jesus suffered on the cross, He took all our shame upon Him and paid the price for all our sin and failures. If you are therefore battling with shame and humiliation and have never invited Jesus into your life, why not take that step now? He can bring forgiveness and wonderful restoration into your life!
4. HIS RESTORATION WILL PUSH BACK THE OPPOSING FORCES (Isaiah 54:11-17)
Right now it may look like those opposing you have overcome you and it may also look like the enemy has won the battle. For some, it may seem like the wagging tongues have done irreversible damage. A wise man said,
‘Plastic surgeons can do almost anything with a person’s nose today, except keep it out of other people’s business!!
But look at what Isaiah says. “I will build you, …. your foundations …. your battlements …your gates….and all your walls” (Verse 11 – 12). Verse 14 says, “…. you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you”. Verse 15 says,“Whoever attacks you will surrender to you.” Please also hold onto what verse 17 says,
“No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.”
Let me also share with you a verse from Psalm 18:48 NLT which says, “…. You hold me safe beyond the reach of my enemies …”
God’s restoration will bring the victory!! The power of our Lord is greater than anything that can come against us!
CLOSING – Dear friend, let’s not get weary of waiting. God will make it worth your wait!! Prepare yourself for the restoration that God is bringing. He will restore all that has been lost during what seems like the ‘lost years’ and bring in the “autumn and spring rains” (Joel 2:23).
God says, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25).
God’s restoration will surely,
1) Renew your joy
2) Expand your influence
3) Remove your shame and
4) Push back all opposing forces
Can you trust Him for this in the remainder of 2020?
May God bless you!