Monday, April 30, 2012

God Will Allow People More than They Can Handle and He will Allow Them to be Broken

A common saying is “God will not give you more than you can handle.”  The song, “He Said” with all its good also returns to this idea:

You may be knocked down now
but don't forget what He said, He said

I won't give you more, more than you can take
and I might let you bend, but I won't let you break
and No-o-o-o-o, I'll never ever let you go-o-o-o-o
Don't you forget what He said

Jesus did say He would be with us, but as for more than you or I can take that is a different matter.  The idea flows from the passage in 1 Corinthians where Paul is dealing with the temptation to sin.  Here it is:

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.  1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

Temptation to sin is not sin but it can lead to a transgression so God works to get us out of its way so we that we don’t break and give in to sin.  That battle is real and I need that assurance even when I choose sin’s way rather than the way out.  This passage in Hebrews is far too real for me:

In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Hebrews 12:4 HCSB

But temptation to sin is different from the pressure of the world on me or the shaping of my character or my destiny by God.  God allows a broken world to continue to run and as I live in it I run into the brokenness and sometimes it breaks me.  God hasn’t abandoned me by allowing it.  He will instead use it for my ultimate good.  (Remember God’s ultimate good includes the uncountable ages to come not just my comfort in the years on earth.) 

Here are some examples of tough times for good people. 

  • ·        Job suffered the loss of his children, his business, his health, his good standing among his friends.  That is a list that is more than I could take, how about you?  God used it for His good and the good of others. 
  • ·         John the Baptist came to announce the Kingdom of God and the Messiah.  He was imprisoned.  He was beheaded.  That is more than bent.  That is broken.  That is more than I could take. 
  • ·         Jesus’ friend Lazarus was sick, but he let him die.  That is broken not bent; although the Lord did bring him back to life because there was more to his story on earth. 
  • ·         Jesus sat at a table for a meal with His friends and announced that the bread He was breaking symbolized His body broken for them. 
  • ·         Stephen was helping people and telling them about new life in Christ and he was crushed by stones hurled at him. 
  • ·         Paul was rejected, beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned and eventually beheaded. 

A.W. Tozer has said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”  And Alan Redpath has said, “When God wants to do an impossible task, he takes an impossible person and crushes him.”  And the Scripture says of those broken for the Lord:

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.  Hebrews 11:35-38 NLT

These who were broken were too good for this world.  God was with them.  He loved them and loves them still as they are with Him.  And He loves His people.  You and I.  Nothing can separate us from His love.  Look at Romans 8:

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:35-39 NLT

How wonderful is His love that is greater than all that may break me. 

Negative outcomes of the idea that God doesn't give me more than I can take

I can be tempted to imagine that I am able with the smarts, strength and sweetness that is me to handle it. “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” –Invictus, William Ernest Henley.  I may imagine that the “seeds of greatness are in me.”   Where is humility beyond the nod to God? Oh, no, it is all about me.  If God doesn’t give me more than I can take and I have overcome.  And if I have somehow made it “good” by this world’s standards I am all the more convinced of my own greatness and of my special place in God’s order of things because He did not give me more than I can take. 

But for some the pressures of life and the pain is too much and they break.  What then?  Then there is the possibility of intense guilt.  Guilt over failing when they believed God doesn’t give more than I can take.  So if I can’t take it I must be weak and worthless and abandoned.  And then I can be washed over with guilt. 

Another outcome for those who may buckle beneath what they experience as too much.  They may have a feeling of being justified in their anger and disappointment with God when things don't go as they intended.  Satan sneers at God. And the blood boiling in me if I expected God to keep more-than-I-can-take far from me leads me to join him. 

Bless You God for My Brokenness

God can allow exactly what He desires at any time.  In any amount as it is measured by His perfect standard for His purposes and for my ultimate good.  At times things come, and they have, which have broken my heart.  Things surprised me with outcomes that seemed unfair and I wondered where God was.  I have not endured by any measure those things which were too much for me to handle.  I have under the hand of God been crushed and broken.  And if it were not for Him I would have been destroyed.  But as Lazarus was brought back from the dead so the Lord has pieced me together in new ways according to His design.  And for me to consider not being broken is the worst thing.  It is there in the flames that I saw one walking with me who was like the Son of God.  I remember these helpful words on brokenness by Solzhenitsyn who was imprisoned for criticizing Josef Stalin and share them here:

In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts.... That is why I turn back to the years of my imprisonment and say, sometimes to the astonishment of those about me: “Bless you, prison!” I...have served enough time there. I nourished my soul there, and I say without hesitation: “Bless you, prison, for having been in my life.”  -The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn

 And I say, “Thank you, my God, my friend, for having placed the heaviness of life upon me so that I could take no more.  I have learned to lean on You.  I have learned to better listen to You. Bless you, Lord, for having been my life.”

God allows more than you or I can handle so you and I will hand ourselves and our burdens to God who can truly handle all things.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Right Thinking God’s Way Returns Good Results

Bring it on! (I like good results.) 

Imagine 26,732 years from now.  You are standing with Jesus conversing while eating some fruit from the Tree of Life.  You hear the sound of trumpets and then the voices of masses of God’s people and other of God’s creatures all beautiful and radiant and joyous.  The sounds go up as God the Father sits on the throne and Jesus goes to join Him at His right hand.  There is a scene of gratitude and grandeur.  There is appreciation and praise. 

And you in a flash think back to today.  You think of your accomplishments and awards.  You remember all you have and how hard you worked to attain it.  The sacrifices you made to make something of yourself.  You remember the feeling of having other people think well of you.  You remember the floating sensation that accompanied your recognition that you prevailed.  You have proven your greatness.  You showed them.  But standing by the Tree of Life observing the scene 26,732 years from now you know that the best you ever did, the highest you ever attained, and the most you ever collected is but dust in the rearview mirror of eternity. 

It would seem odd in the presence of God and of eternity to highly value things which have such importance to us now. They will be put in proper perspective.  Yet we often strive for those things we see as so important or we see others and wish we could have what they have.  For some right thinking take a look at this from the Bible:
19Don’t bother your head with braggarts
or wish you could succeed like the wicked.
20Those people have no future at all;
they’re headed down a dead-end street.
21Fear God, dear child…  Proverbs 24:19-21 The Message
Fearing God not self-promotion is vital to those who want good results.  Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom.  Electricity can do much good as you can attest.  It is generated at huge power plants with turbines spinning and energy harnessed.  It is wise for the workers to fear the electricity and not enter with fearlessness and stick a hand into the turbine or grab the wires coming from it.  The result is not good.  It is a dead-end street. 

Imagine the scene again 26,732 years from now.  This time imagine a life that was well-lived.  A life lived abiding in the Vine.  Jesus spoke of this life and it is recorded for us in John 15. 
1Jesus said to his disciples: I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts away every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit. But he trims clean every branch that does produce fruit, so that it will produce even more fruit. 3You are already clean because of what I have said to you.
4Stay joined to me, and I will stay joined to you. Just as a branch cannot produce fruit unless it stays joined to the vine, you cannot produce fruit unless you stay joined to me. 5I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me. 6If you don’t stay joined to me, you will be thrown away. You will be like dry branches that are gathered up and burned in a fire.  John 15:1-6 CEV
Jesus is the true vine.  His people who stayed joined to Him produce fruit.  The fruit He is talking about lasts.  It adds to the life of the person and it benefits others and it glorifies God.  The person who goes their own way even though they may say it is God’s way will be thrown away and the result is a pile of ashes. 

While observing the wonderful scene of worship 26,732 years from now the flash of memory for one who lived abiding in the vine would be so very different, wouldn’t it?  The focus would be on God.  The rivers of living water would rise up inside that person like a spring fresh and pure and overflowing in thankfulness and happiness.  The intimacy of conversation with Jesus around the Tree of Life for the one who had lived abiding in Him would be so sweet and refreshing. 

Right thinking God’s way returns good results.  Always has and always will.  Most of the world around us will disagree, and, sadly, so will we at times.  But we keep at it.  Reset the course.  Fear God.  Abide in the Vine.  Strive at it.  Seek Him.  Love Him with all we are and all we’ve got.  Let Him produce His fruit in us and through us. 

God’s people who live life God’s way will be seen as fools by this world’s standards.  They will be difficult to understand by the rules of self-aggrandizing society.  Those strange Vine-abiders will be awkwardly included in family and community gatherings.  Jesus said to His people the world would hate them if they loved Him so it is to be expected.  The awkwardness for Vine-abiders extends to those who operate in the name of the Lord but are not connected to the Vine.  They are the Namers.  Jesus refers to them in Matthew 7
21Not everyone who calls me their Lord will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only the ones who obey my Father in heaven will get in. 22On the Day of Judgment many will call me their Lord. They will say, “We preached in your name, and in your name we forced out demons and worked many miracles.” 23 But I will tell them, “I will have nothing to do with you! Get out of my sight, you evil people!” Matthew 7:21-23 CEV
There are many Namers in ministry.  There are movements of Namers creating more institutions, more groups, and more churches of Namers.  They have the approach, attitudes, value systems and goals of the broken world system Jesus came to defeat.  It is so easy to indulge in the tastes and pleasures of this world.  It is difficult to break away from the accolades and applause gained by success.  And, yet, Jesus says His followers in order to really be His disciples had to die.  They had to die to all of that.  Their life is in the true Vine.  Their fruit is produced by Him His way, in His time.  Their cheers come from the untold multitudes of witnesses cheering from across the ages.  Their rewards come from God (Hebrews 11:6). Their crowns of achievement come from the Righteous Judge.  Their works of “gold, silver, and precious stones” will bring joy to their Lord and honor to them.  Their hearts long for the familiar sound of their Shepherds voice in saying to them, “Well done.” 

Imagine being in the presence of God and lying.  No way.  Would you be in His presence and thinking why that other person got something you didn’t?  No.  The glory of God before you the angelic host around you and you think “I need some me time.”  Really?  Don't think so.  God upon His throne the 24 elders placing their crowns on the ground before them and worshipping Him while you think of how well you have done and what you have accomplished.  Imagining this is as far as it goes.  No one in the presence of God would have those things come to mind. 

So if that is how God’s people will be in His presence then why don’t we act that way now?  Jesus said, “I am with you always.”  God the Holy Spirit is here.  The witnesses are observing and cheering even now.  The Watchers (angel observers) are seeing how we are doing with all God has given us.  We are to ask for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Why not start with my life today?  If I live today considering what I will be living 26,732 years from now my life from now on might be considerably different.  Don’t you think? 

Fearing the Lord does sound wise.  Abiding in the Vine doesn’t sound like a chore but the very source of joy and life and fullness and fruitfulness and beauty and…

Thoughts for today