Promises Over Problems
Study Guide , May 26, 2019
Pastor Clay Olsen
You know how when you sit around a campfire and you take a stick and stir it up a bit? What happens? Right, when you stir it up or when the wind blows on it, the sparks fly up from it. Well, listen to this: “For man is born for trouble, As sparks fly upward.” Job 5:7 NASU
One of the most natural, normal, and common things that characterize this world in which we live is – trouble, or troubles. Troubles are to be as expected as the sparks that fly up from a fire whenever you stir it up or the wind blows onto it. Jesus especially pointed this out as something that we were to expect to deal with in this world: John 16:33- “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” NASU Essentially, Jesus said: ‘Expect tribulation…expect troubles.’ But, and praise God, He also said to expect something else: Expect overcoming them all!
In many industries they have what they basically call ‘Trouble Shooters’, from Electronic to Automotive to Financial industries: They employ ‘Trouble Shooters’. And these Trouble Shooters then look for the inevitable troubles in these industries and plan for and prepare for dealing with them as they arise. So how about this: Another identity of Christians is that we, too, are – ‘Trouble Shooters’. We are to plan for and to prepare for dealing with the inevitable tribulations, trials, and troubles that regularly fly up, as do sparks from a fire.
So now when people ask you what you do in life you can tell them: “Well, I am a Teacher and a Trouble Shooter”, or a “Mechanic and a Trouble Shooter”, or a Commercial Fisherman and a Trouble Shooter”…and so on. Of course, you will need to be prepared to explain that last part a bit, since they will have probably never heard anyone say that before.
But, again, the deal is that one particular thing about Trouble Shooters is this; they expect trouble! And not only do they expect trouble, but they are continually planning for ways to most effectively deal with these troubles that they are expecting. And thankfully, as those who have been redeemed by the Lord God, who has already overcome the world, we have the assurance that, as ‘overcomers’ with our Savior, we will also overcome all these troubles as well. And we’ll get into more about how we do that when we start describing the most effective tool God has given us to overcome troubles, and that is – the Promises of God. But we first need to clarify the reality of this world a bit more, and even more important – clarify our understanding of our Lord and God, who has overcome this world.
Actually, let’s start with a powerful promise from God before we examine this ‘problem’ aspect of it all. I know I’d feel better about talking about problems if we first laid a promise over the top of it all. How about you? And one of my favorite go-to promises is this: (And if you don’t mind I’m going to give it in three versions to get the impact of it)
Isa 41:10- “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” NASU
Isa 41:10- “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand.” NLT
Isa 41:10- “Don’t worry—I am with you. Don’t be afraid—I am your God. I will make you strong. I will help you. I will support you with My right hand that brings victory.” ERV How wonderful is that promise from God? God tells us we can have victory over our fear or fears through His presence, we can have victory over our weakness or weaknesses through His strength, and we can have victory over our foe or foes through the help of His victorious right hand.
So part of the point we are making is that because of God’s precious promises to us, such as this powerful one from Isaiah, we are never to let any trouble that comes our way go uncontested. In other words, whatever fights against us, we fight back in the good fight of faith and with the promises of God’s Word! What we mean here is that whenever a trouble, trial, or problem steps up we are to lay a promise on it…as in ‘lay one on it’…like a ‘whack a mole’ lay one on it! In other words, as God’s children, we are to let the problem know that it is going to have to deal with our God as well, since whatever touches us touches our God, and so our God is surely going to be in on this fight, or this battle, or whatever the trouble is that has come to us. So when trouble does come to us, it’s going to have to contend with God’s presence, God’s strength, and God’s working in us and for us.
And this is also a key reality that we are to understand about how we do all of life, ever since God united His life to us and us to Him through our forever union of salvation. Meaning, that whatever is happening to us is also happening to Christ, since we are united with Christ. For example: Remember when Paul was persecuting the followers of Christ before he became a follower of Christ himself? Do you remember what Jesus said to him about what he had actually been doing? Acts 22:6-8- “But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ “And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’” NASU You see, Jesus made it very clear that whatever is done to one of His people is as if it was actually being done to Him, since His people are His body…His church…His earthly temple in which He dwells.
Clearly understand this: Now that you are in union with Jesus Christ, from here on out, whatever is done to you by the world, the flesh, or the devil is also being done to Christ. Whether it is social persecution, or physical persecution…or whether it is physical illness or emotional trials or mental stresses…whatever it is, it is also being experienced by Jesus, since Jesus and you are living a shared life both now and forever. God has also revealed to us that even our physical body has become His temple in which God the Holy Spirit dwells. So, again, know that whatever you are experiencing becomes the experience of Christ, with whom you are forever united.
And the implications of this reality are simply astounding. For example: Like whenever we are suffering through an illness, we sometimes wonder why it is happening to us. But since our body is now the temple of the Holy Spirit, the bigger question is; why is God permitting this illness to happen to Him, to happen to His temple…to happen to His body that we share with Him? Just like Jesus experienced the persecution of His people in the book of Acts, He experiences the persecution or the pain or the illness or the suffering in His people today, since He has united His spirit with His children. Again, that is simply astounding!
For one thing, this reveals to us that, yes, God does know exactly what we are going through in any trial or illness or whatever it is that we are enduring because He is actually going through it with us and enduring it with us as well. That’s what being in union, present and eternal union, with Christ actually means. Remember Jesus’ words: “Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done to Me”? That’s what Jesus said and that’s exactly what Jesus meant! He sensed what they were sensing! He experienced what they were experiencing. In fact, Jesus experiences whatever we have to experience as we suffer hardship, tribulation, afflictions, and suffering. God is revealing to us all that He really does feel our pain.
And once you get a grasp on that reality, it will change your thinking about all of your trials and troubles and sufferings, as from: “Lord, help me understand why I am suffering from this illness or disease or trial?” to “Lord, help me understand why ‘We’ are suffering from this illness or disease or trial?” Remember, God is going through it right along with you. Or even more, “Lord, help me understand why You are letting Yourself experience or suffer through this struggle?” Or, “Lord, how should ‘WE’ handle this trouble that has come to ‘us’? How are ‘WE’ going to deal with this struggle or conflict or pain?” The point again is that whatever you are going through, God is going through it with you. And therefore you and I are to think in terms of ‘WE’, not just ‘me’, whenever we face a trouble and then begin ‘shooting’ the trouble, or ‘trouble shooting’.
And, yes, sometimes we find out why…other times, we will have to wait to find out. But at all times we can trust in the fact that God is with us in it and is working on it and working through it. And we can rest in that. We can trust in that. And therefore we can also make sure that whatever problem it is does not get in the way of what brings honor to God and true joy and happiness to us; and that is, obedience to the Word of God. Remember, obedience to God’s Will and God’s Word is the key to both happiness in this world and to victory over this world…over the problems of this world. So as we trust in the working of God on our behalf we can get on with obeying everything else we have found out so far as to how we can best honor and serve the One who is also going through everything that we are going through in this world right alongside of us.
And remember, that’s one of the biggest troubles with ‘troubles’…is that ‘troubles’ tend to turn our attentions away from our main pursuit. Troubles tend to distract us from disciplines that define our life, like pursuing Christ-likeness. But once again, here is where we can turn the tables on troubles. And man is it satisfying turning the tables on troubles! Again, remember God can overcome anything this world throws at us to accomplish His ultimate purposes in us. Do you remember what Paul said about that? Phil 3:10- “All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him from death. I want to share in His sufferings and be like Him even in His death.” ERV
Paul’s ultimate purpose was to be more like Christ, which is the ultimate purpose for all Christians. And Paul understood that even the sufferings that the world and the enemy intends for evil could be used in his pursuit of producing more and more of the image of Christ in him. And with that goal and that pursuit, sufferings lose every time, and God’s people win every time; they gain every time. Again, that’s all part of the ‘overcoming’ that God is making sure that comes to us, since we have to walk in this world of tribulation.
Yes, tribulation affects what happens to us, but it does affect who we are and what will become of it all. Look at this: “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for Him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like His own, using the same power with which He will bring everything under His control.” Phil 3:20-21 NLT In fact, we are more of a citizen of heaven than we are a citizen of earth. We are actually pilgrims and strangers on earth and true citizens of heaven. And with that being the case, the way to walk through this world is with one foot in Heaven and one foot on Earth. In other words, connect the two…connect the purposes of the two…even remember that every step we take on earth is one step closer to heaven. Heaven is where we are heading, and therefore we can make everything that happens here on earth produce something of lasting value for heaven. Even the sufferings of this world can be turned into offerings to God, which God will then compensate us for in the world to come, and even sometimes in this present world. And certainly, we have to trust Him for how that all works out, but remember, it always works out because God’s promises always come to pass. Amen? Very early on God’s people learned about that great truth: Josh 21:45- “Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” NASU
So we are to clearly know that now, even what is bad in our lives can be transformed into a greater good that produces glory to God and gain in our lives, as well as for others! So as we go about as Trouble Shooters dealing with the continual troubles of this world, one thing we can be certain of is that these troubles are going to be turned into gain one way or another, especially, when like Paul, we make them submit to our overall pursuit of becoming more and more like Christ, even in the things we suffer.
We have great and precious promises from God to ensure this will be the case, so we can get on with pursuing what matters most…2 Cor 7:1- “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting (pursuing) holiness in the fear of God.” NASU