Promises Over Problems, Pt. 3
Study Guide , June 9 2019
Pastor Clay Olsen
Some of you have probably gone through some obstacle courses, especially if you were in the military you no doubt did the obstacle course training. One interesting thing is that we are all in the military.
2 Tim 2:3-4- “Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.” NASU So every Christian is also a Christian soldier. And even though every Christian soldier will face hardship, hardship is not to be our priority focus. Rather our priority focus is to be on pleasing our Lord who enlisted us…redeemed us. And we’ll focus more about that in a moment. But the other interesting thing about all of this is that all of life actually is an obstacle course. Really, if we could look at life all at once, we would see it as one long obstacle course from end to end. We usually refer to obstacles as ‘problems’. Or, life has been described as a long series of problems; and as one gets solved the next one in line steps up. Usually though, several seem to step up at a time…or they cut in line, you know what I mean?
But before you get too bummed out about what we’re saying here we need to say this: Just remember: Our problems are not permanent, but God’s promises are! And we’ll talk more about that in a bit, too. But lets go back to the focus point now. Although life is one long obstacle course, where we will face one problem after the next, we have been given the key to enduring it all and to overcoming it all. And it has to do with this ‘priority focus’. Here it is: Heb 12:1-2- “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” NASU
There are several powerful points we could unpack from this passage, but what we are going to point out here is this priority focus for our lives. Again, problems are not permanent, however, problems tend to have a strange effect on us. Meaning, problems tend to create a problem within the problem…and this problem within the problem is the problem of ‘fixation’. Again, problems are not permanent, but we tend to fixate on them as though they were. But they’re not. It’s like the guy who went to the Doctor and said, “Doc, whenever I do this my leg hurts.” And so the Doctor said, “Well, don’t do that!” Now, this is not as simple as that, but what we are getting at is whenever we face a problem, we definitely do have a choice to make; because every problem triggers a choice – a choice to fixate on the problem or to fixate on something else. And here is where the Christian has this amazing provision for dealing with problems, especially this push from problems to fixate on something, because as Christians, in all things we are called to fixate on Christ. We are counseled to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’, the author and perfecter of faith.
Think about that a moment; ‘the author and perfecter of faith’. We know that Jesus is Himself the ‘way’ to life eternal, as in: John 14:6- “…I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” NASU So Jesus is ‘the way’ to having a relationship with God and eternal life. But in addition, we learn from this passage in Hebrews that Jesus is also ‘the way’ to ‘live life’. Jesus is both the beginning of our new eternal life, and He is also the perfecter or the provision for our life in the present. Remember, in our first study on this topic we pointed out that as those who are Christians, those who are ‘In Christ’, our life is now a shared life, or Christ shares in whatever we have to endure or experience in life. And therefore what this also means is that we now get to share in what Christ can provide us with in whatever it is that we have to deal with in this life. Remember: Phil 4:13- “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” NKJV
Now then, in order to do all things through Christ we first have to look ‘to Christ’. And not just look to Christ now and again, but we are to ‘fix our eyes on Christ’, who is the way to have eternal life and the way to live life in the present…even the way to handle the inevitable obstacles and hardships and problems that are all part of life in this present world. Again, thank the Lord they are not permanent, but they are persistent. And that’s why, when these problems arise, and as they demand that we choose to fixate on them, we take our stand and say: “NO! I am choosing to fix my eyes on Jesus, who strengthens me, and through whom I can do all things, such as dealing with this problem!” Again, don’t let trying to fix the problem turn into another problem; a fixation on the problem, a fixation and a continual dwelling on the problem, or surrendering to the problem…No, rather, we are to choose to have our fixation be upon our Lord and Savior, who has overcome all things and will share His victories of overcoming all things with us. But we have to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’.
So the question that arises from this is: So just how do we ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’? We sort of imagine us walking around looking up, but then running into things or tripping over things and such. But it’s not where you are looking, but to Whom you are looking…to Whom you are looking to lead you and guide you in all things. To ‘fix your eyes on Jesus’ is to develop the habit of focusing first on Jesus and the promises of Jesus over and above everything else, including those pesky problems that try to demand all of our attention. Don’t give in to the demands of your daily problems. Problems want to be served like they are the master of your life. But they are not! Yes, seek to solve problems, but don’t serve them. We have a Master who we serve, the Lord Jesus Christ. And Jesus knows how to solve problems. Jesus knows how to deal with problems. And as we choose to serve Him, He will guide us in solving problems. Why, Jesus will even make our problems serve us!
You mean we can make our problems serve us rather than us serving our problems? Yes, and that’s just another feature of our amazing relationship with Jesus, who strengthens us, and through whom we can do all things. Even with the problems of life that seek to demand that we serve their agenda, we can make them submit to our agenda, or rather, submit to Christ’s agenda for our lives, and make our problems serve us.
Remember, we earlier pointed out that Paul made even his imprisonment turn out for the greater good of the gospel. Factor that concept into this whole concept of problems and tribulations. If problems are going to barge into your life, be sure to let them know they are going to have to serve your agenda, not theirs. If problems are going to be a pain for you, make them produce something of a greater good for you. If problems are going to make you go through the process of dealing with them, make problems go through your process of producing good for you. For example: We had Rom. 5:1 as our memory verse for the week, but notice what follows it: Rom 5:1-4- “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” NKJV
Yes, problems are a pain, but you can make them produce something productive for you! Yes, we would prefer that problems would just pass right on by our house, but if they do stop at your door, make them produce more PCH for you…Perseverance, Character, and Hope. Make problems serve your agenda of conforming more and more into the image of Christ. And by the grace of God, and through the power of God’s Spirit working in us, we can make struggles, sickness, sorrow, or suffering produce perseverance, character, and hope…PCH. And the result of producing more perseverance, character, and hope is both blessings for going through these problems and obstacles of this life, and also rewards in our coming experience of the joys of the Kingdom in our life that is yet ahead of us. So God has given us a way to make even the problems of this world produce greater blessings and greater rewards for His children; for us.
Here’s another concept in connection with this goal of making problems serve you and produce a greater good for you. And it’s this: By having this focus you will also learn how to turn the tables on Satan’s schemes against you. What do we mean? Well, there is something that Satan does understand about humans, and that is, he understands ‘human nature’. In other words, Satan knows what buttons to push. He knows that outside problems can be used to exacerbate our inside problems; and thus make things even worse in people’s lives. For example: Satan knows what tempts human nature. He knows that human nature has a bent toward self-pride and toward envy and toward immorality and toward ingratitude and toward grumbling and toward blame and anger and on and on.
But the point is that part of Satan’s schemes is to use the trials outside of us to trigger the troubles that are inside of us, and thus then make even more of a mess of us than the mess that is already in us. In other words, he attempts to make our problems even worse than they already are by tempting us to react to them according to our human nature rather than according to our new nature; the new nature that we now share with Jesus Christ. But, once again, praise God, God has already provided a way to have victory over any and all of the things that tempt us to react wrongly or to choose wrongly. Rather, God has already planned steps of victory over Satan’s schemes against us. Notice 1 Cor 10:13- “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” NASU
Talk about encouragement from God! And talk about promises from God! First, God promises His faithfulness in helping us overcome any and all temptations. Then God promises that He will make sure that there will be a limit placed upon whatever temptation it is. He promises that we will never be tempted beyond what we are able to bear. It reminds me though of what one Christian guy said about that. He put it this way: “Lord, I know You said You wouldn’t permit me to be tempted beyond what I was able to bear…but I just wish You wouldn’t think so highly of me.” But really though, that’s one thing we can know for sure, that not only is victory possible over any and all temptations, but through Christ victory is assured, if, and again, we will fix our eyes on Jesus and act on what Jesus instructs us to do about it.
And yet, there is still another promise and big time encouragement in this passage and it’s this: In every temptation there is also a way of escape. Praise God! You know, sometimes temptations come at you from many sides, like an ambush. But now we know that in every ambush God has already provided a way of escape, a way out of the mess. So as far as the problems that come with temptations we know that there is a promised way of escape in this immediate world. It’s like with what is said about Moses in Heb 11:24-26- “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.” NASU So Moses chose the way of escape in this immediate world from the passing pleasures of sin, even though he would endure some ill-treatment for the time being. Still, even from that, he knew that his reward in the eternal world would be greater than anything he had to endure from this present world.
Which points out that we are to understand that since we live in a world of tribulation, some trials and tribulations will dog us until we leave this temporary world. Now as far as temptations, we can have immediate escape from them in this world…if that’s what we are looking for. Yet for some, it’s like John Walvoord put it: He said the problem with temptations and some believers, like some of those Corinthians, is that they are not looking for endurance, they are looking for indulgence. But that’s another problem.
Now, it’s important to note that this passage differentiates between temptations and tribulations. It’s like with the tribulation of persecution of the followers of Christ over the years, like with John the Baptist and the Apostles for example. Their escape from persecution was an ultimate escape of this temporal world and into the eternal world. So we need to be clear about that: Since Christ died for us in this world, we need to be willing to die for Him in this world. We also need to be willing to die to this world, even while we live, and to die because of this world, if need be. But as far as temptations go, they escaped every temptation immediately in this temporal world, because God provided the way and they took it! But, again, be careful for what you expect God to do and in which world He has promised to do it. Remember, rewards for running the race of faith are given after the race has been run, not before you finish running. Yes, praise God, there are certainly blessings in this present world, and blessings of the fruit of the Spirit and the strength and joy of experiencing Christ’s power and His presence all throughout the race in this present world. But again, this present world is the time for running the race. The finish line is yet before us, along with rewards of running it faithfully.
And our example on how to run our race is our Lord Himself and how He ran it, as we saw in the last part of that passage of Heb 12:1-4- “…since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility He endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” NLT
Fight sin, run the race of faith faithfully, fix your eyes on Jesus, put God’s promises on top of your problems, and that will let you master your problems by making them serve your Master and produce reward for you.