Christ And Your Problems - Jay E. Adams
Excuse Me, Please
"But if you had to live with a wife like mine. . . . " " Listen, pastor -- no one has ever had to face anything comparable to this at work before." "But the other kids' parents don't make rules like mine do." Well, you'd have done it too, if he had said that to you!"
These, and a hundred and one similar protests are heard daily by Christian counselors. Boiled down, they all say one thing: "Please excuse me from my responsibility to live like a Christian on the grounds that my problem is unique."
But is it? Does God ever allow a Christian to face a test that is unique? Even if He does, would that be an adequate excuse?
In an unmistakably clear reply, Paul says, "No! You cannot evade your responsibility to think and act like a Christian by pleading that your case is unique." As a matter of fact, he shows that no case is unique. Listen to his words in I Corinthians 10:13: "There is no trial that has overtaken you but such as is common to man."
To begin with, let's nail down one thing: I Corinthians 10:13 allows for no exceptions of the sort that many of us are inclined to make for ourselves. Our sin simply cannot be excused.
The reason why Paul declares that there are no exceptions is that at bottom all men in all times face the same basic problems. There are no special cases. That is why in this chapter Paul can appeal to the history of God's dealings with the Jews in the days of Moses when writing to a gentile church in Corinth that, outwardly at least, seemed to be facing quite different cultural problems. Looking beneath the surface of time, geography, language and culture, Paul said, "These things happened" to the Jews, but they are "examples to you upon whom the ends of the ages have come." Of course, he says the same to you and me today.
To be sure, there are unique features to each problem. No two situations are ever exactly alike. But what Paul insists upon is that beneath these features you will find that the problems of the Jews in the wilderness, the temptations of the Corinthians in the Roman Empire, and the frustrations of modern day Americans are not significantly different. God has not changed; His commandments have not been altered; and sinful man below his modern sophisticated exterior is still the same. Men today stand in the same relationship to God and to one another as they did in biblical times. Therefore, the message of the Bible is as fresh today as when Paul's scroll was first unrolled and read in Corinth. Sinful men, who disobey the law of God, still find that God's message of forgiveness in Scripture is the only answer to this life's most fundamental problem.
That message tells of Jesus Christ, who became man in order to live and die in the place of His elect people. He too faced the hunger, misunderstandings, hatred, discouragements, and excruciating pain that we endure. He also knew the difficulty of making agonizing decisions, stark loneliness in the midst of a superficial and fickle crowd, the bitterness of betrayal by companions and denial by those with whom He had openly shared His love. Yes, He was "tested in all points . . . yet without sin." If ever a man might have pleaded for exemption on the grounds that His case was unique, He might have done so. Yet He never shirked His responsibility to God or His neighbor. Now, God's truly unique Son became one of us, not only to save His own from the wrath to come by dying for their sins on the cross, but also to live a holy life fully satisfying all of God's requirements on their behalf, so that His righteousness might be counted to them when they trust in Him as Savior.
Since He, without sin, experienced all that we must experience today, He knows that by His grace His redeemed children can follow in His steps. That is why He who knows our problems through and through from personal experience says: "There is no trial that has overtaken you but such as is common to man." If He says so, you may count on it! And you may also count on the fact that He will hold you responsible to meet each problem as God commands.
Christian, there are no special cases. Christ Himself has demonstrated that by His life and death, and He expects you to do the same. In a day in which the Freudian ethic of irresponsibility permeates every aspect of society, and men find it stylish to blame their sinful behavior upon someone else, Jesus Christ calls you to live a life of responsibility.
There is no ground for failing to "turn the other cheek" or to "do good to those who despitefully use you." Christ prayed for you and died for you although you have been His enemy. He took the responsible course to Calvary.
When He took upon Himself the common lot of men, Jesus showed once and for all how God expects His children to live and die. So, Christian, throw off excuses, stop shifting blame to others, and instead, by the power of God's Spirit, "walk in a manner worthy of the calling wherewith you have been called."
We're All In It Together
When the doctor says, "I'm afraid it will have to come out, but don't worry, it'll only be a minor operation," perhaps you think of the words of the man who said, "Any operation on me is a major surgery."
All right - - so he's given you the report. The diagnosis is unfavorable and an operation is indicated; what do you do now? Stunned, you go home, tell your wife, and hope she'll say something that will bring hope out of despair. Sure enough, she comes through:
"Phil," she says, "it can't be too bad. Uncle Fred had that same operation 18 years ago, and you know that he's been the picture of health ever since."
Next day at work you mention your problem to the boss. Tom assures you: "I had that operation myself and I was up and around in two days." Bill, who works beside you on the assembly line chimes in: "Yeah, and I have a neighbor who was back to work in less than two weeks." Again and again you get similar reports wherever you mention the coming operation. And -- it's not long before the fear and apprehension are greatly lessened.
I once drove through the "Garden of the Gods' outside Colorado Springs. In this beautiful natural wonder you can see rocks balanced on a pinpoint and vividly colored scenery on all sides. As you drive along slowly, viewing the marvels about you, suddenly you are confronted with a problem: directly ahead of you looms a wall of sheer rock, and the road on which you are traveling disappears into what seems to be a crack so narrow that it looks as though you'd have a hard time drivinga VW through it. Looking around for a place in which to turn and go back your eye falls upon a small whit sign. It reads:
NARROWS. YES YOU CAN
A MILLION OTHERS HAVE
And what do you know - a minute and a half later, a million and one have done it!
What makes us go confidently to the operating table? Why do we risk getting stuck in the Narrows? One answer surely is that we are helped to face such problems by the assurance that others have successfully done so before us. That is the second reason why Paul told the Corinthians: "No trial has overtaken you but such as is common to man."
In our first discussion of I Corinthians 10:13, we noticed that Pauls' statement places our responsibility to handle life's problems squarely before us. If at bottom our problems are the same as those faced by Christ and by other Christians, we can never plead that we must be excused from solving problems God's way because our problems are unique.
But Paul is not merely calling us to responsibility by these words; he also wnts to encourage us and give us hope. We think:
If others have successfully undergone the same operation with little or no ill effects, it is likely I shall too. If a million other automobiles can pass through the Narrows, so can mine. If hundreds of other Christians have endured misunderstandings, have learned to discipline their children, have lived with husbands and mothers-in-law like mine, have walked through the shadow of death secure with thei Shepherd at their side, so can I.
That is the spirit men need to go on in a world in which there is plainly much to suffer.
It is true that problems, though basically similar to those of men in other eras, may take on a new complexity in our time and tht they may multiply at a previously unknown rate. But Christian, you are not in this alone. We are all in it together. And God says you can solve these old problems though they may appear in new forms. Others have in the past, and by the help of God there are many others who in this ocmplex, rapidly moving age are doing so today.
Remember, too, that Jesus Christ faced problems of a complexity that would stagger the most sophisticated IBM computer - and solved them without sin. You do not have to face problems as intense, as complex, as momentous; but you too have the same resources that He had. Calling upon the Scriptures three times on the Mount of Temptation, Jesus successfullythwarted the attempt of the Devil to divert Him from the divinely charted course that was to lead Him to the cross, where He would shed His blood in the place of His people. Here He would have to suffer and die. Here He would have to endure the taunts of earth and the wrath of heaven. Here He would be treated as if He, the holy, spotless Son of God, had lied, blasphemed, committed fornication and adultery, hated, murdered. Here He would die for me. What love was exhibited in His steadfast refusal to gain the kingdoms of this world by taking a seemingly "easier" path!
And in that steadfastness - steadfastness after 40 days and 40 nights of fasting - we see the strength that came from the Word of God. Jesus did not act according to feelings (even the intense feelings of near starvation), but rather according to the Word of God. Truly when Jesus said, "Man does not live by bread alone, but by all the words that come from the mouth of God," He was giving us the key to solving the problems of life. Their solution lies in following the Bible which He quoted, which sustained and guided Him sucessfully through the deepest trials. That same Book can do the same for you. christian, no matter how serious your present problems may be, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem, take heart! You are not alone. You have a sympathetic high priest who can enter into all your problems, for they have been His problems too (Hebrews 4:15). He knows your heartache. He knows your sorrow. He knows your pain. He knows! And through Paul He says in effect:
Others - other Christians - are now facing the same problems successfully by my grace. I have done so before them, and you can too.
When others around you who do not know Christ cave in under life's load, you may stand. No, you must stand! For God has caused you to face the same problems that they face in order that He may demonstrate in you the wonder of His power and grace. When the trees outside are bent to the ground and the storm rages with ever increasing intensity and the hearts of men are failing for fear, your heart must be like the clock that never misses a beat, that, steady as ever, ticks away at the same pace. You must demonstrate that the Lord of the Word has kept His word.
Stop complaining, whining, worrying. Pick up the Bible again; feed upon its strengthening message and solve those problems God's way, to the glory of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Taken from Christ and Your Problems. You can order the booklet here for only $1.75.