As I post this, I recognize there are people doing their best against other people and circumstances whose best seem a little better than theirs. That is not just discouraging; it can be debilitating.
There is nothing more humbling than the realization that your best is simply not good enough – not good enough to obtain what you want. Perhaps not even good enough to hold on to what you have. It is even more sobering when what once “got the job done” now can’t even apply for the job.
This is not just about the person who lost a good-paying job to the current economy and all their skills, experiences, and references can’t even secure an interview. There is also the young person who, if they showed up on the first day of any class, then an “A” was guaranteed…but now high school is over and a butt-kicking awaits them in every class. There may be a young mother who figured she had the hang parenting and was eager to have the next child…and now multiple children in diapers and pull-ups has her sleepless and eating strained peas because she’s too tired to cook.
Whether these, or some other, circumstance leaves someone overwhelmed, a word that comes to mind is John 15:4-6.
It does not matter how someone, who once did great things, comes to find themselves doing next to nothing apart from God – whether the rug was pulled out from under them, or they ran so fast that they could not stay on the rug. What matters is, when their best became ineffective, when they found that they could do nothing, whether they realized they were no longer abiding in Christ.
At issue is often a human perspective on progress versus a spiritual journey of progress. A common understanding is this: people grow, mature, and gain and develop skills. As a result, they get more things, hold more influence, and have an increasing cycle of gain, material and otherwise. Indeed, that is the pattern by which many people, in or out of the body of Christ come to lead productive and prosperous lives. However, for anyone believing that is the way things should always occur, I offer a name: Job.
Some may say the rug was pulled out from under Job. I disagree, after considering Job 1:20-22. The rug was pulled out from under Job’s belongings, not the man himself. Job clung to his rug – the name of the Lord.
Which is my point in part: abiding in Christ requires a man hold on to Christ. Had Job abandoned faith because his belongings abandoned him, no help would have come from the throne. Job would have experienced what Matthew later observed when Christ held back good deeds, And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:58 KJV)
Abiding in Christ requires tenacity. The branch that loses, for whatever reason, its connection to the vine does not survive. Similarly, the man who does not cling to Christ will find himself separated from the only help that can truly benefit him. With that thought in mind, consider Romans 8:35-39 carefully.
My first thought is to note all that seeks to separate a man from Christ’s love. A man’s troubles seek to come between a man and the love of God by creating fear, debasement, or pain. They do not relent, nor do they change purpose. Problems do not come to strengthen any man; they come to destroy him. Whether they succeed depends on the divine help a man obtains to withstand the attack. God is eager and willing to help any who call on Him. However, obtaining God’s help is no passive activity:
Psalms 34:4-6 KJV I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. (5) They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. (6) This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
The “waiting whipping boy” will not get help from the Lord. Instead of cowering under the blows of his circumstance, he must venture out and seek God. The “silent sufferer” will not get help from God; when a man is not certain he is hearing from God, he must make sure God hears from him – CRY OUT. God’s man is not some great stone that quietly resists adversity. Rather, The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. (Psalms 34:17 KJV)
Moreover, he will need to seek and cry again, for Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. (Psalms 34:19 KJV) The Lord continues to deliver, because the “hits” will “keep on comin’.”
This brings me to Paul’s thorn in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9.
God’s help, even God’s deliverance, does not necessarily end of the struggle. Rather, it is the beginning of His power, countering what troubles His child. As troubles mount, the power resting on a person increases.
We remember with difficulty that, despite how it looked, Christ’s time on the cross was no moment of despair, but one of power. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 KJV) Power met Christ on the cross, to counter and overcome His trouble. Can any more trouble can mount, upon any man, than to be nailed to a tree and left to die for another’s sin? …But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. (Romans 5:20) God did not remove the sins from Christ; He helped His Son bear them so they would be abolished upon His death. In the same way, God will not remove trouble from His people; He will help them bear up under troubles until they, like Christ, come home.
This is what to do with help obtained from God: Acts 26:19-22. Continue on the path God has set, no matter the obstacles, no matter the opposition. God’s help overcomes obstacles that a man might continue in the way God chooses for him. It does not come so that a man or woman might turn to the right or left to avoid either this trouble or even the next one. Consider what Paul was able to do with the help obtained of God:
2 Corinthians 11:24-28 KJV (24) Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. (25) Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; (26) In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; (27) In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (28) Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
Whether Paul survived these troubles was less important than the fact that God, by these troubles, heaped the power of Christ upon Paul, and let it rest there, because Paul would not turn from what God had told him to do.
The question often becomes whether a man wants God’s power upon His life, or whether he wants a comfortable life, with or without God’s power. This matters because the power of God is no show horse, abiding upon a man or woman simply to display God’s greatness. God’s power, and the help obtained by it, is a workhorse, transforming those upon whom it rests from people who take comfort in the world into people who take comfort in God.
Having obtained help of God, I continue…despite everything that seeks for me to stop. I continue, moving beyond many things over which I have neither power nor control. I continue, having not seen Christ, but increasing my love for Him. I continue, persuaded that in the Father’s house with many mansions, one waits for me.
I continue, because I have many problems, about which I cry out. Fortunately for me, there is so much God, of Whom I obtain so much help. So also is there help for you.
May God Bless and Help You All.