From Pastor Johnny

4 Victorious Responses to Desperate Times

             From 2004-2012 a show ran on the ABC Network titled Desperate Housewives. It has been designated as a comedy, drama, mystery (who knew there was even such a designation).  Though I never watched it, it was a popular show – as evidenced by its long running record.  It followed the subdivision lives of several women and the desperate, often dysfunctional, experiences they faced.  These women used deception, revenge, sensuality, envy, and greed to seek to help their desperate lives.  This is how they faced desperate situations.

            Given the fact that the show lasted nine seasons, many millions of people watched it and were entertained.  I do not think that most people build their moral compasses from weekly television or internet series, but this series most certainly reflected the inner motivation of at least a few of its viewers.  Which leads me to the question.

            What about you?

       How do you face and respond to a desperate situation in life?  Many people respond to desperate life situations in ways that they were taught or modeled – whether that is good or bad.  Scripture offers much needed truth and examples of how God’s people can respond to desperate times.  True born-again followers of Christ respond to  desperate times by a show of faith rather than fear.

      There are four separate stories in two Old Testament passages that show the effective and victorious response of followers to desperate situations.  In 1Kings 17:8-24 and 2Kings 4:1-37 the response to desperation of three ladies sets a pattern and example for all of God’s people when we face drastic and trying times.

 Four Victorious Responses to Desperate Times:

  1. Completely Trust God’s Provision (1Kings 17:8-16)

       In this story the prophet Elijah is sent to Zarephath to stay with a God-appointed widow during a severe drought.  When arriving at the city, the widow informs Elijah that she has almost no food left.  She is preparing her last meal for her and her son.  She believes they will starve to death after the final meal.

            Elijah not only asks her to get him something to drink and some food (that she does not really have to give), but he explains that she should make his first before the meal is made for she and her son.   As astounding as the request is by Elijah to the widow, her response may be more incredible.

            In 1Kings 17:14-15 we read,

       “For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’  And she went and did as Elijah said.”

            Note that the widow’s response to God’s Word through Elijah is simple obedience.  Her response reflected her complete faith and trust in the provision of God.

       The trust of a child of God is not powerful because of his or her ability to trust. The trust is powerful because of God and His power.  Your complete trust in God’s power, and not in your ability to trust, is what makes your faith great. Victory in desperate times can often depend on whether your trust is in you – or in God.

           2.  Completely Seek God’s Care (1Kings 17:17-24)

          Some time after God fed Elijah, the widow, and her son, the son became ill. His sickness was fatal, and he died.  What was this lady’s response?  It was similar to her actions during the famine.

            Her response is recorded in 1Kings 17:8, “ And she said to Elijah, ‘What have you against me, O man of God?  You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!’”

            Once again, when the situation in her life became desperate, she knew that God was the source of her hope.  Yes, she thought that the death of her son was punishment for past sins.  Yes, her basic theological construct was inaccurate.  Yet, despite her skewed theology, the focus of her trust was spot on! This was not a matter for anyone but the God of the universe.  She brought her petition to the man of God.

       She availed upon the prophet of God, but her trust was in the God of the prophet.  Her son appeared unhealable, but if there was hope she knew it was in God Almighty.

            I do not know what your desperate situation might be, and it may seem to be beyond hope.  Yet, God’s care for you goes beyond your current situation.   Facing desperation victoriously will depend on completely seeking the care of God.  You must know that He ultimately wants the very best for you, despite how things may appear.

           3.  Completely Call Upon God: 2Kgs 4:1-7

        When a prophet from the school of prophets passes, his wife and children are left in a difficult and desperate situation.  There was no money or means of support for the widow.   In addition to grieving her godly husband’s death, helping her boys to grieve the death of their father, and still running the household, she was also faced with bankruptcy and the inability to pay her bills.

            The creditor who the widow’s family owed was preparing to come take her boys and make them his servants to pay her debt.  Under the most narrow definition of desperate that one can find, this situation fell into that category.

            What would be her response?  The lead prophet of God on the scene at that time was Elisha. In 2Kings 4:1 it explains,

      Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the Lord, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.’”

        The newly widowed woman was desperate, and heart broken, but she knew that any hope to remedy her situation would be found in calling upon God.  She called on Elisha because the lady knew that only his conversation with God would be any help to her.

       Completely seeking God is a powerful step in responding to desperate times.  Seeking God completely does not mean He may not direct you to other means of support – medical, financial, vocational, psychological, or relational – but it means that God is your first stop.  So often, when we have tried many other things, we then seek God.   A child of God, faced with desperate times, will ultimately be successful when Jesus our Savior is our first place to go in seeking help.

  1. Confidently Searches out God’s Mind: 2Kings 4:8-37

       Elisha meets a wealthy couple who provides him a room and lodging when he is in their town.  They are especially generous to him, so he desires to help them.  The woman has not been able to have children, so Elisha calls upon God for her.   She bears a son, much to her delight.

            One day, after the son is a young boy, he develops a severe condition in his head and dies.  The woman lays his body on Elisha’s bed, saddles up the donkey and rides straight to Mount Carmel where she first encounters Elisha’s servant Gehazi.  After telling him that things are great, the woman proceeds to Elisha, and this is the scene in 2Kings 4:27,

      “And when she came to the mountain to the man of God, she caught hold of his feet. And Gehazi came to push her away.  But the man of God said, ‘Leave her alone, for she is in bitter distress, and the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.’”

             Despite her grief and desperation, this woman knew that any hope of her son recovering was going to be found in searching out the mind of God through the man of God.  In those days, calling out to God was accomplished through the prophet.  When approached by Gehazi, she knew that she must by-pass him and get to where she could seek God.

            Child of God, your desperate situation may be overwhelming, and your heart may be broken.  Seek out the mind of God! Seek out the heart of God! His answer to you may, or may not, be exactly what you want but know that the mind of God is where your answers lie!

            Desperate situations call for desperate measures.  Look up child of God!  The Savior of the world died for you, how much more will he offer hope in desperate times.

           

 

DAVID, GOLIATH AND COVID-19

“What could God possibly teach us or offer us as a lesson in the COVID-19 ‘shelter-at-home’ pandemic experience?”

            I have heard this question many, many times in the last two months phrased in a variety of ways.  I have also heard some decent answers. I cannot fully answer this question, but God will – maybe not now - but some day.  I would pose an opportunity for each of you who feel left behind, lonely, or dismissed during the COVID-19 pandemic shelter-at-home experience.

            This is an opportunity recommended to you straight from the experience of one of the great heroes and great stories of the Old Testament.  David defeating Goliath might teach us a lot about opportunities during the pandemic.

           In 1Samuel 17, David the shepherd stepped into Goliath’s arena in the Valley of Elah.  From all outward perspectives, David’s chances of defeating Goliath appeared quite slim.  Yet, David knew that God had built him for “such a time as this” (to borrow from Mordecai in Esther). 

         Years prior to the Goliath fight…

        When many may have thought that God had left David in the backside of nowhere tending sheep, David practiced his sling.

        When many may have felt hurt and offended that they were left by themselves to tend sheep, David killed bears with his growing expertise with his sling and stone.

        When many may have viewed their poor state as a sheep herder as being disrespected by their father, David learned to kill lions with the precision and power of his sling.

        When many would have sulked and complained at the lack of respect and opportunity in the lonely fields with sheep, David used his time to develop a level and skill with the sling that would allow him to possess unparalleled abilities. 

        David spent years honing his craft with a sling in the pastures and forests where he watched over the sheep. Not only could David sling a stone with great velocity and accuracy, he could do it well under pressure (after all, when a bear is attacking one’s sheep, there is little time to panic or miss). 

        While many thought David was going on a suicide mission against Goliath in the Valley of Elah, it was the event for which the shepherd boy was built. Almighty God had given David the opportunity, equipment, skill, and motivation to become a preeminent marksman with a sling.  If there had been a National Israeli Professional Sling League, David would have most likely been a perennial all-star and a future hall of famer. 

        David would have been the Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, and Usain Bolt of the stone slinging world of the Old Testament age.  Only the sovereign God could have the power, foresight, and perfection to prepare a young man so well for a feat that seemed impossible.

        While others saw David stepping into the valley of his death, David knew he was climbing to the peak of his greatest victory!

        As David moved into the valley to face Goliath, we read in 1Samuel 17:45-46, “Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel,”

             David had been prepared by God in his skill and in his spirit.  God had put David in a place that seemed forgotten that his skill might rise to a level to destroy a giant.  And, while in that forgotten field with those “few sheep”, David also came to know his God in a way that made him a man after God’s own heart.

            I cannot know what God is doing to prepare you during this seemingly disheartening pandemic. Yet, in Christ, the sovereign God of the universe can take a “shelter at home” and make it a victory in the Valley of Elah for you. 

            Most likely, when the great victory over Goliath was complete, David could thank God for smelly sheep, green meadows, big bears, ferocious lions, hours of lonely solitude, and plenty of practicing stones.

NOTE:  More ideas like this insight on David and Goliath can be considered from Malcolm Gladwell's book "David and Goliath".

 

Constructive Destruction: God's Great Work Through our Trials

             Some years ago, someone completely and thoroughly damaged and destroyed the outside of the church sanctuary that I pastored!

            They ripped up the pavement.  They knocked down coverings over sidewalks.  They ripped up the concrete walkways.  They even ripped out pews, ripped up carpet, tore down lights, ripped sheetrock off the ceiling, pulled insulation out of the ceiling, and tore off a couple of the front doors.

            You may be asking, “Shouldn’t you have called the police, the sheriff, the FBI, or at least the local security guard employment agency?”  That might be true any other time, but this was different.  The culprits of all that destruction on that church’s campus were concrete companies, electricians, demolition experts, and builders.  You see, after eighteen months, in the place of all that destruction, a beautiful new church sanctuary and campus front emerged.  And yet, for a while, it was a mess!

            I guess I am a little surprised at just how much destruction must take place for beautiful construction to result.  All the beauty of that new sanctuary and campus at that church would never have happened if we were not first willing to endure the mess and ugliness of demolition and destruction.

            Is that not how God works?  So much of what God does in our lives for His glory and our good happens from some of the most destructive experiences.    Once upon a time there was a church in its infancy all gathering in a city called Jerusalem.  God’s power was evident, and thousands of people were joining.

            The church grew and additional administrators had to be chosen in order to handle ministry tasks and funds.  Seven men were chosen, and one of those men was named Stephen.  He was a powerful preacher, and leader in the church.  Some of the religious leaders of the time hated Stephen so much that they decided to stone him to death.  It was an awful sight as Stephen – being pelted with large rocks and stones – called upon God and died a horrible, brutal death out in the street.

            As Stephen died, the Bible makes a footnote about a young man named Saul, as he held the coats of the stone throwers.  Saul also launched a persecution against Christians that was concentrated in Jerusalem.  Up to that point, the Christians had been primarily positioned in Jerusalem.  In Jerusalem the church gathered regularly.  Fellowship was so sweet in this new church that most of these Christians had no intent of going outside of Jerusalem.  After all, why would they leave when things were so good in Jerusalem?

            Jesus had guaranteed that the Gospel would be carried into the world – outside of Jerusalem.  If Christians stayed in Jerusalem, how would the message of Christ be spread?  This is where Stephen’s death, and the persecution came in.  Because persecution was so heavy, many Christians ran out of Jerusalem and scattered like seed.  In part, the persecution was how God began carrying the message of salvation into the world beyond Jerusalem.

            So…as it was then…it is now.  God may bring what seems to be destruction in order to construct someone for His will.  That thing that appears destructive – job loss, loss of loved one, COVID-19 crisis, or financial crisis – may be an avenue for God’s work in your life.

I have a question for you:  What destruction is happening in your life right now that God may be using to bring you to Himself?  What destructive construction may be going on in your life right now? 

Look up child of God! God’s work will never be wasted!

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