Promises Over Problems, Pt. 2
Study Guide , June 2, 2019
Pastor Clay Olsen
So, what surprises you? Maybe something like when you are asked a question about ‘what surprises you’? No, but we are usually surprised by things like, a loud noise or a flash of light or a slithery creature in your yard. Or, we can be surprised even by good things, like an unexpected present or a friend you haven’t seen in a long time, and so on, right? But here’s something that we are told that is not to surprise us, even though it’s kind of surprising to find out what it is. Here it is:1 Peter 4:12- “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” NLT
So one thing that shouldn’t surprise us is trials, or problems; especially when we are trying to do good things. Remember, we live in an oppositional world. Sometimes you hear some people described as having an ‘oppositional disorder’. And they mean that these people seem to have a strong bent to taking the opposite side or opposing point or opposite action against anything, even against good things. So whether they are children or adults, they just tend to be oppositional; they just tend to be quite contrary about nearly everything.
Guess what? We live in a world that has a serious ‘oppositional disorder’, especially against everything that is godly and everything that is of God; like truth and righteousness and holiness and godly authority and God’s commandments. We live in a contrary world that opposes what it true and right and godly, including God’s people. In fact, the Apostle John even said: 1 John 3:13- “Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.” NASU
So we are not to be surprised by the trials and problems of this world, nor even be surprised that some people of this world who have not surrendered their lives to Christ hate those that have. Instead, we are to get ready for all of this and be ready for all of this, just like the world is at war or something. And speaking of war; in the research done on this, it was discovered that in the 3,440 years of world history that were examined only 268 of those years could be described at years of peacetime in the world. That is quite a commentary on the nature of mankind. But actually, it’s even worse than that, because ever since the entrance of the toxin of sin, the poison of sin in the hearts of man and into the environment of the world, and especially with the presence of the evil spirits as well, this world has been ‘at war’ ever since the Fall of Man! Outside of Adam and Eve, before they sinned, no one has ever lived in a world at peace…no, everyone has lived their entire lives in a world at war…at war spiritually and physically. And so the basic answer to one of the most common questions asked, about ‘why bad things happen in this world?’ is because bad things happen in war; and that is what this world is in; a war. This world is in a constant state of war…war between the animal kingdom, war between the human kingdom, and war between the spirit kingdom. That’s why we have Eph 6:10-14- “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” NASU
Now, we’ve examined the details of this passage in other studies, so we’re not going to expound on each of these. The point is, one thing that the Scriptures particularly inform us about and warn us about is that this present world is basically a war zone. And therefore, we dare not forget that we live in a world at war, nor neglect to remember that we live in a world at war, otherwise we will begin to mistakenly expect peace from this world. Now, praise God, one day there will be peace in the world, but it is not this world! It is the world that is coming, when our King returns and imposes His peace upon His world.
But the point is, since we live in a war zone it means that hardship, trials, sufferings, and just everyday problems are not to surprise us. Rather, we are to expect them and thus, prepare for them, but also be assured, that we will overcome them through the grace and power of God.
And this is all very important to both remember and to regularly remind ourselves about, because when these inevitable trials and struggles and problems hit us, even faithful and noble believers can get knocked off balance a bit in their faith. And they start thinking that something is wrong with either them or with their faith, and they just sort of get thrown for a loop. You know what we’re saying here, right? Remember, even John the Baptist got thrown a bit by the trials that hit him and he then needed some reaffirming by Jesus. So each of us needs to be careful not to add to whatever struggle or problem that you are dealing with by beating yourself up on top of it all. Instead, make sure that you grab hold of the right tool to deal with it all. Listen to how King David handled his afflictions. Ps 119:92- “If I had not found joy in Your teachings, my suffering would have destroyed me.” ERV
Not only for King David, but for each of us, our hope in the midst of hardship is the joy that is found in the promises of God’s Word. And this joy, that has it’s source in the Scriptures, then becomes the strength that we need to strive against our struggles. Like with John the Baptist, Jesus’ words assured him that his sufferings were not in vain, but rather, they were because he was doing exactly what he was commissioned to do as he fought the good fight for his Messiah and King. You see, God’s promises are what supply us with the power to prevail over the problems of this world, whether they come from people or from pain or from whatever the trial is.
Again, that is what the Psalmist went on to point out in Ps 119:143- “As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in Your commands.” NLT Problems create pressure, don’t they? And unless you have a relief valve for the pressure, something’s going to blow! God’s promises are the relief valve.
For example: When enemies apply pressure against you, you can fight and relieve it with this:
Ps 27:1-3 – The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me. In spite of this I shall be confident.” 6 – “And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me, And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.” NASU
So our confidence is in God’s promises and in His working out His promises in the midst of our problems. And once we place our confidence in God’s promises then we can become committed in our actions. And once we become committed in our actions then we can become contented in our attitude. But you see, one problem with problems is that when problems arise we tend to relinquish control of our attitude to the problem. We let the problem have control of our attitude. And once we give up control of our attitude to anything or to anyone except to God the Holy Spirit, then our confidence in how its all going to work out then begins to crumble. And when our confidence in how its all going to work out begins to crumble, then our commitment to acting in faithfulness begins to flag. And when our commitment to acting in faithfulness begins to flag, then our contentment in our attitude becomes discontentment in everything. You see, It’s all about who or what you let control your attitude. Friends, Do not relinquish control of your attitude to anyone or anything, but to God the Holy Spirit and the Word of God’s Spirit; the Scriptures. Because God’s Word is the source of truth. And truth is what sets you free, but error binds you up; binds up your mind and spirit and emotions.
Here’s another example: When the pressure of confusion comes against you, you can take your seat with Job and relieve it with this: Job 42:1-6- “Then Job answered the Lord, “I know that You can do everything and that Your plans are unstoppable. You said, ‘Who is this that belittles My advice without having any knowledge about it?’ Yes, I have stated things I didn’t understand, things too mysterious for me to know. You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak. I will ask you, and you will teach Me. ‘I had heard about You with my own ears, but now I have seen You with my own eyes. That is why I take back what I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show that I am sorry.” God’s Word Version
As Job came to understand: There is no peace looking for ‘why’. There is only peace looking for ‘Who’, looking to ‘Who’…looking to the One who Himself is our peace. Job learned that peace is a Person, not an explanation. And unless we learn that as well, we will always have a restless soul. Even if we do find some reprieve now and again from the relentless problems of life, we will never experience true peace in our soul, peace in our mind, and peace in our emotions. But by putting God’s promises on top of our problems and in trusting in the Person of Peace, the Prince of Peace, we can have both relief from the pressures created by our problems and have that peace that passes all understanding.
Sometimes we wonder why God just didn’t explain all of Job’s ‘whys’ about his problems. Again, understanding could have provided some relief, but understanding can’t provide peace to your soul, because that is something that is beyond understanding.
Think about trying to explain what you feel when you fall in love. There are about
10,000 songs trying to explain love, but the reality of love is something that is beyond explanation, but not beyond experience. What’s required is trusting that the love will be reciprocated, or essentially, trusting that the love you are experiencing also exists in the one that you love. Well, rest assured, for what have we learned about God? 1 John 4:16-17- “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” NLT So God is love. And though we cannot explain it, we can experience the love of God when we receive God in Jesus Christ, who is Himself…the essence of ‘Love’, just as He is the essence of ‘Peace’.
Again, thankfully, God has already explained volumes of things to us; about His creation and about our great salvation, and even about His coming Kingdom. But in the things that are beyond understanding, like His peace and His love and even many of the confusing trials and problems of life…He has given us His promises to deal with those. And as we trust in His promises, and put His promises over our problems, we then experience His love and His peace. But we have to realize that God’s promises first lead us to God, lead us into communion with God, lead us to an experience of God, not just to an explanation about God or an explanation about problems. Point being, if you are only looking for explanations about God or explanation about problems without having the desire to commune with God and to experience God, you will still be left out in the cold, spiritually speaking.
For example: It’s good to intellectually understand something about why and how the Sun creates heat, but that’s not how you experience how it feels. It’s only when you step out into its presence that you then feel the warmth for yourself. If you want to experience the promises of God and the power of God and the peace of God you have to do more than just try to intellectually understand it; no, you have to step by faith into the very presence of God, with the intention of communing with the Person of God and with the intention of committing yourself to reciprocate this love of God; and commit yourself to trusting in His love for you. That’s when you experience the peace that passes understanding and the power of His promises over the pressures of your problems.
Now, thankfully, there are some really helpful works that have connected God’s promises with topics of many of the problems and trials that we deal with in life. And you will find that these various ‘Bible Promises’ books can be of great help. But again, the only way to get these promises off the pages of the books is by getting into the presence of Christ; seeking to walk with Christ and to then work with Christ in dealing with these problems. Remember, to activate the promises we have to activate our faith, or act in faith by looking to Christ as our Lord and looking at ourselves as His servants, ready and willing to do what He says to do, all the while trusting in what He tells us to trust, and then letting go of what He tells us to let go of, along with holding onto what He tells us to hold onto.
So our focus has to be on the Person of Christ in order to experience the promises of Christ. And when our focus is on Christ, when we put Christ in front of our problems, then we begin to see more of Jesus and less of our problems. And that’s just how the world should look to us…more of Jesus and less of everything else.