Text of a message presented at Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, April 14, 2013:
Each of us has gone through seasons or periods of life where things seem to be out of sorts. There is not necessarily an explanation as to why these situations occur–in fact, they can take place without warning or without anything that leads to their occurrence; nevertheless, we trudge through the unsettling events.
What events can cause us to feel discomfort in this way? Most often we view significant changes such as a death in the family, a loss of employment or even an unexpected move of your job or residence as having a definitive impact on us, but let’s not forget the things that take place in and around us that are far from monumental. While these things are not life-changing in themselves, they still create unsettling feelings–uncertainty, a lack of clarity and a desire for answers to what is going on. Take, for example, when your computer that you always rely upon to boot up and work suddenly stops working. Can you fix the computer’s issue or does it need to go to the Genius Bar at Apple to be looked at? This can be an extremely uncomfortable and unsettling moment, especially if you need to get some work done. What about your reliable car that has now become unreliable, and the resulting stress that comes from not knowing whether or not the car is going to start right up? How about when one of your pets–at one time a picture of health–gets sick? Of course, there is also the additional possibility that your computer, your car, and your pet may involve a significant financial contribution to make things right again. Money has a way, all by itself, of compounding your unsettling circumstances (especially if you don’t have any). Each of these are examples that are not life-changing by nature, but they are unsettling.
What are we talking about here? We’re talking about life. Life has an ebb and a flow within its series of events that we all must deal with in some way or another. Life can be exhilarating at times and exhausting at others. Life is sometimes uncomplicated and other times unbelievable. It can be full of happiness or fraught with humiliation. Even more unsettling about the unsettling events is that God allows each and every one of these things to occur, and often there is no rhyme or reason behind them.
Here are some realities about your unsettling moment experiences:
1.) Their occurrences may have nothing to do with whether or not you are in fellowship with Jesus Christ
2.) God does not play favorites; therefore, you’re not exempt from them (Galatians 2:6)
3.) They invariably are all learning experiences
How do you respond to life’s changes and unsettling moments? Do you allow these changes to bump you from your normal routine or to retreat to an area where you believe you can escape from trouble, or do you remain firm in your resolve to push through what is happening and learn from the experience?
The act of pushing through is not just about using psychology or positive thinking to move forward. In fact, unsettling moments require much more than being convinced that everything will get better. We need to come to grip with the reality that, as God is in control of everything that occurs in our life, He allows all events to take place in spite of how it affects us.
Matthew 5:44-45 (HCSB)
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Note that God is giving each of us the fact of life that He will allow things to happen to us for two very important reasons:
1.) To seek God in everything–if things are going well or not so well
2.) To learn and develop Christ-like responses with everyone in all circumstances
First, seeking God in everything is very important in your personal development as a believer. It is a change from what used to happen when you did not know Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:16-19
16 From now on, then, we do not know anyone in a purely human way. Even if we have known Christ in a purely human way, yet now we no longer know Him in this way. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 18 Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.
As Christ has given us the message of reconciliation, He is giving us the ability, through the Holy Spirit, to respond to life’s events in such a way where we are less likely to take offense or take things too hard, and in more of a way where we are humble and acknowledging God’s presence. He wants each of us to react not in our own flesh, but in the power of Christ. This in no way means that we won’t be hurt or upset or feel stress (pressure or tension experienced)–in fact, we certainly will experience all of these things when things are unsettling. We need to make a distinction between the word “stress” and the word “worry.” God knows that we tend to stress out when we experience unsettling events, but God does not want our stress to become worry. Worry is a concern to God because, according to scripture, it is the exact opposite of faith. Note how God’s Word encourages us that (a) there will be difficulty and even stress, but (b) there is a great alternative to worrying about the difficulty, and that is having faith in God through Jesus Christ.
The Cure for Anxiety
25 “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
In Hebrew, the word for worry is the exact opposite of faith. This is important in that we are all tested as to how we trust God in difficult situations. Some of us fail when we take matters into our own hands. Some of us will fall by the wayside when we allow life’s stresses to take the focus off of Jesus Christ. God wants us to seek Him first and He promises to provide a measure of what we need to overcome the unsettling events. He does not want us to worry, because you can’t worry and have faith at the same time.
Faith is necessary for salvation (Ephesians 2:8), and it is critical in the ongoing development of our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.
2 Corinthians 5:6-8
6 So, we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight, 8 and we are confident and satisfied to be out of the body and at home with the Lord.
Seeking God in everything is essential to overcoming unsettling events and in the growth and progression of our faith.
Finally, our development of interpersonal relationships also receives the benefit of our trust in Jesus Christ. We respond much more favorably to those persons who have hurt or betrayed us because we have a better response in Christ than those who are in the world. We also have a more humble approach because we know that without Jesus Christ we would be condemned on our own unrighteousness.
1 Peter 5:4-7
4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
5 In the same way, you younger men, be subject to the elders. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because
God resists the proud
but gives grace to the humble.
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.
We are more humble when we seek Christ; therefore, we are much more likely to be forgiving and merciful, because we are being Christ-like. Don’t miss the opportunity for ministry to others because of your behavioral responses of patience and forgiveness, especially during unsettling moments.
2 Corinthians 2:5-11
5 If anyone has caused pain, he has caused pain not so much to me but to some degree—not to exaggerate—to all of you. 6 The punishment inflicted by the majority is sufficient for that person. 7 As a result, you should instead forgive and comfort him. Otherwise, this one may be overwhelmed by excessive grief. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 9 I wrote for this purpose: to test your character to see if you are obedient in everything. 10 If you forgive anyone, I do too. For what I have forgiven—if I have forgiven anything—it is for you in the presence of Christ. 11 I have done this so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes.
Satan wants to ruin our testimony and fellowship with Jesus Christ. There’s only one successful way to avoid being manipulated by Satan:
7 Therefore, submit to God. But resist the Devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, double-minded people!
When we seek the Lord, we are stronger and more resilient in Him at all times, and especially those moments when things are not going our way. We are challenged to live a consistent life for Jesus, and not just when things are going well. When life events are unsettling to us, we are not to shrink back in fear. God calls us to draw near to Him, and He will draw near to us. We have so much to learn from our experiences, and He is ready and willing to teach us in order that we can be a witness and testimony to others. For all of this, He loves us in an amazing way!
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. All rights reserved.