When The Problem You Face Isn't That of Your Own Making
Sunday, November 26, 2006 -
So far in this series we’ve seen studying how to solve problems that are the result of our own poor personal choices. We looked at how to get out of trouble (confession, belief and renewed obedience), and then, how to stay out of trouble (particularly the use of key Scriptural passages - the Ten Commandments, designed to guide our actions - the Beatitudes, designed to guide our attitudes and motives - and First Corinthians 13, designed to give instruction with regard to our relationships).
Then we studied the importance of absolute honesty in applying those Scriptural truths to our lives (remember, the lazy man in Proverbs who wouldn’t go outside the house because he said there was a lion in the street?). Even divine truth is powerless in a deceitful heart. Finally, we took three weeks studying the principles of conduct designed to give guidance in areas of culturally specific sins not actually named in the Bible. God’s Word will give liberating truth that is helpful and timeless as we memorize those principles and arm ourselves with them in this relativistic age. Today we’ll turn our attention to problems that are not directly of our own making. How do we begin to unfold spiritual progress in situations that are beyond the immediate scope of our personal control?
1) MAKE YOUR HEART PURE BEFORE YOU ACTUALLY GO TO WORK ON YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES
Here’s the rule: Before anything good can happen in my circumstances, something good must happen in my heart. I must take the time to make sure I am approaching my problem with a Christian motive and method. Not all possible solutions are options for the Christian.
Remember, God has promised His help and deliverance to those who are righteous:
Psalm 34:15-16 - “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.  The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.”
Psalm 34:19 - “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
All bets are off if I don’t approach my problem righteously. And note - It’s not that the righteous don’t have difficulties. They do. But the Lord uses the trials of the righteous either to point to the preciousness of Christ, deepen their faith, or reveal His delivering arm. This promise is repeated again in the New Testament. One clear example is Romans 8:28.
2) CHRISTIANS KEEP THEIR LIVES OPEN TO THE POWER AND PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BY AVOIDING WRONG REACTIONS TO CIRCUMSTANCES
God’s help is all of mercy and grace. I don’t have to earn it in any way. However, to receive God’s help, I do have to avoid doing anything really spiritually self-destructive. Here are some of the most common grace hindering responses to problems:
a) Anger - James 1:20 - “....for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.”
James says my anger will never link me up with the righteous plan and resource of God. In trying to release my own power through the expression of rage, I forfeit God’s power of grace and deliverance. That’s a very poor bargain. See also Ephesians 4:26-27 - “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,  and give no opportunity to the devil.”
See also Matthew 5:21-22. Notice the way Jesus commands obedience in the area of our emotions. This reveals our inability to save ourselves. It’s the inside of the cup He comes to transform. He extends His lordship to areas of life we don’t normally consider in the power of our own wills directly. (People don’t usually choose to get angry. Anger seems to happen to us.)
b) Retreat from the voice and will of God - Since Adam and Eve first hid from God in the garden in their sin, our natural fallen instinct when life goes sour is to hide from God. People shrink back from church, the advice and help of Christian friends, and the ministry of pastors and leadership in the Body of Christ. Usually he will immerse himself in work or some other pursuit. But retreat always fosters unbelief.
Satan will usually try to convince this person that he can maintain enough of a walk with the Lord simply living on the nourishment of past growth in Jesus, or by the continuance of his own personal devotional habit. But this is a lie. There is a corporate dimension to spiritual nourishment that can’t be replace by personal prayer and study. Satan knows this better than many Christians. He works to starve the soul by shutting down the corporate lines of spiritual nourishment.
See Ephesians 6:10-13 - “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
c) Unbelief and Despair - I put those two together because the first always leads to the second. The battle is with unbelief. The result of losing that battle is despair.
This goes back to addressing your problem with a Christian approach. The worldly approach comes to the problem thinking the battle is primarily with circumstances. The Christian approach recognizes that the outward circumstances are only the most obvious part of the battle, not the most important part (again, consider Ephesians 6:10-13). The real battle is between belief and unbelief in the goodness and faithfulness and truthfulness of God. Peter says it’s important to remember what is actually being tested when unjust trials come:
1 Peter 1:6-7 - “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
3) STOP - TAKE ENOUGH TIME TO EVALUATE YOUR PROBLEM IN THE LIGHT OF SCRIPTURE AND REGULATE YOUR APPROACH BY DIVINE REVELATION RATHER THAN HUMAN EMOTION
Proverbs 3:5-6 - “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Use the Scriptural passages we discussed earlier to map out your next step. Take the time to write down the responses that you know are not available options to the follower of Jesus Christ. Don’t let your own assessment of your rights and emotions decide the issue - “do not lean on your own understanding!”
4) MAINTAIN SPIRITUAL STRENGTH BY KEEPING A THANKFUL HEART AT ALL TIMES - 1 THESSALONIANS 5:16-18 - “Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Be thankful, not for everything, but in everything. There is nothing shallow about the expression of praise and thanksgiving. It’s not for a charismatic tickle. It drives a stake through the heart of unbelief.