Good morning everyone! What a day to be together at Hope City! Who is excited? Summer’s coming, School’s almost over, but there are some exciting things happening here at our church too! I don’t want you to miss out on them.
My name is Peter, I have the privilege of being the pastor here at Hope City. Do me a favor, don’t leave today without meeting someone. Relationships are critical, and God didn’t intend for you to live life alone! It’s just one of the reasons why I love our church so much, there are so many great people here!
Today we are wrapping up our series called Survey Says, where we’ve been answering some of your toughest Questions about God, Faith, and so much more. I hope that you’ll jump on YouTube, or subscribe to the podcast, to go back and listen to this series and anything that you may have missed.
So here is one of your questions… Survey Says… “I thought life was supposed to be easier. Why is it so hard?” Man isn’t this the truth though? Life is not easy. We know this, but somehow, we get disillusioned in our life when we become Christians. We think that it is going to all be a piece of cake. I don’t know why we would think that, seeing as how Jesus didn’t have an easy life… what makes us think that we would have an easy life?
There is something that I have learned a long time ago, and it has remained true. It looks like this… (upside down bell curve) Chances are pretty good that you’re either about to go into a difficult season in your life or you’re in the middle of a difficult season in your life or you’re just now coming out of a difficult season in your life. Not very encouraging but how many of you would say, “That kind of seems like it’s pretty close to the truth. I mean, it feels like every time you turn around either for you or for somebody you love that’s close to you, life can get kind of complicated rather quickly.”
Whenever that happens to me, like whenever life starts spiraling down, it’s amazing how fast it seems like there’s more than I can handle. It can start with family issues, where there are some heavy stuff going on… and then you add on the stress of leading a growing church, and throw a couple of sleepless nights in there, and then just about anything sets you over the edge! I went out to our grill the other day after a string of these type of moments and there was no gas in the grill. I about had a melt down! Are you kidding me right now?
Some of you are going through a lot. It could be financial burden; it could be you got a bad report from the doctor for you or someone you love. It could be that relationships are blowing up. Maybe your job is not stable as it once was. It could be you’re battling with depression, any number of different things. Then the weight just gets heavier and heavier and heavier and heavier and finally you think, “I just can’t take any more of this.”
It never fails. When you get to that place where you just feel like “I cannot take anymore,” And you say, “I thought life was supposed to be easier. Why is it so hard?” along comes some well-meaning Christian with annoying Christian advice. I don’t know if this ever happens to you, but it seems like I see it all the time. You’re about to pull your hair out because you can’t take it and someone comes up and says, “Oh, don’t worry, don’t worry. Whenever God closes a door, he always opens a window.” What the heck does that mean anyway? Opens a window? I mean, if you’re on the 12th floor, that sounds like bad news to me, right? I don’t even know what that means, but they say it.
Or how about this one, “Don’t worry, It’s all going to be okay. Remember, God will never give you more than you can handle. It’s all going to be okay.” We need to embrace the reality that God never said that. In fact, the truth is often the opposite of that misbelief.
Why do so many of us believe people who say “The Bible says God will never give you more than you could handle”? I think that this belief system comes from a misunderstanding or a misquote of a very powerful verse of Scripture in 1 Corinthians 10:13.
Paul was talking to the Corinthians about temptation, here’s what Paul said.
13No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
He said God is faithful … This is good news … Scripture never says that God will not let you endure more than you can handle. It does say he won’t let you be tempted beyond what you can bear but it never says that he won’t give you more than what you can handle. In fact, when you just survey the entirety of the Bible, you will see story after story of people who had more than they can handle.
You look in the book of Judges, there’s Gideon who says, “I’m the weakest in my clan, I’m the least in my family. God, I don’t have what it takes to do what you want me to do.” Moses: “Now, I’m slow of speech, I’m not a good speaker, I’m not a good leader. These people are wearing me out. I can’t do it all. I don’t have what it takes.” Esther: “I’m very, very afraid. King David: When the weight of his sin caught up to him he said this in Psalm 38 verses 4 and 8. He said,
“My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.” Psalm 38:4
“I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.” Psalm 38:8
Even Jesus in the New Testament. Mark’s gospel tells us this. Mark 14:32 and 33 that when Jesus was looking ahead to what he would endure on the cross, Mark said Jesus began to be deeply distressed and troubled and Jesus said this,
Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”33He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,”
God never said that he wouldn’t give you more than you can handle. So, the question “Why is life so hard”, may be the wrong question. In fact, today for those of you that are under weight and pressure in your life right now and you feel like you don’t have what it takes, maybe the better question is “Why will God allow us to have more than we can handle?”
The first response, if you’re taking notes, is this. There are times that he wants To teach us to depend on His presence. For example, how many of you have noticed that when things start going really well, it’s actually easy to forget about God. Be honest. When life’s going the way you want it to, you’re like, “Yeah God, I know you’re still there and I know that I kind of need you, but right now, not so much because everything’s working great and I hope you keep it working great.’ You just don’t feel the urgent need for God when things are going well.
But when things start going down, you start remembering God because, “Oh God, I need you, God, I need you.”
People meeting me // So what do you do for a living? Oh boy! Well, I’m a pastor. Now, I’m not embarrassed about being a pastor, it’s always interesting to see their response.
Holier than thou…
And dirty looks.
But the crazy thing is that those who gave the dirty looks frequently start buddying up with me when life gets a bit crazy. My one neighbor in PA said to me, “Pastor can I just shake your hand today, I need a little bit of God in my life.” WHAT?
It’s amazing when life gets difficult how suddenly you’re drawn to the presence of God. Now, why would God allow us to go through something that is more than we can handle? One of the reasons might be to teach us to depend on his presence. You can see the reality of this in the Old Testament story of Jonah. If you know his story, basically God said, “Hey, go preach to the Ninevites,” and Jonah was like, “Nah, not happening. Heck no, I won’t go, I don’t like them and I’m not doing it.”
He started to rebel, much like what some of you might be doing right now, and after time when you rebel, your life starts to spiral downward and that’s what was happening to Jonah. Through an odd series of events, he was thrown off of his ship into the water and a giant fish swallows him up. We pick up the story in Jonah 2 verse 2 and verse 7
“2In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. … 7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. Jonah 2:2&7
Notice what Jonah didn’t say. Jonah didn’t say in my success, I called on the Lord, but in my distress. It’s amazing how much more we crave God. Notice that we need him during our distress and often overlook him in our success. In my distress I call to the Lord.
He said, “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord.” I remember God. Oh yeah, I should call on God. I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you. In my distress, I called on the Lord.
Some people get in the middle of the storm and they start to wonder about God. Life isn’t going the way I thought it should, I wish this weren’t happening, why is this happening? If God were with me, this would not be happening. I don’t understand why God is allowing this. I prayed for one thing and I’m getting the opposite, so God must not be with me. If God were good, this wouldn’t be happening. If God were powerful, this wouldn’t be happening. I don’t believe God is with me.
Never let the presence of a storm cause you to doubt the presence of God. Because every now and then the winds will blow and the waves will crash and yet never let the presence of a storm cause you to doubt the presence of God because he will never leave you, he will never forsake you. I dedicated a whole message series to this, check out the series BIG FISH from last year if you want more on this. I’ve said this in the past, that the storm is not meant to pay you back, but to bring you back.
My freshman year of college; Almost failed out of school. Things had to change. If change didn’t happen, the rest of my life would not be the same. It hurt. I was ashamed. I was frustrated. And yet, God used it to redirect my life and I believe today that if I hadn’t responded the way I did I wouldn’t be standing here today.
God used that time to get me to the place where I had nowhere else to turn but to Him. Life can be like that. It’s like you can be in the valley and then you could be on the mountaintop, and then you can be in the valley and you can be on the mountaintop.
Do you know how you know when you’re on the mountaintop? (Upside down bell curve again) After you’ve spent time in a valley. When you know what a Valley looks like, you can better distinguish a mountaintop. I have found that we know deeper joy when we’ve experienced deep sorrow. Don’t despise the valley.
I know you can experience God on the mountaintop but I’m telling you what, I best experienced him in the valley. I’m most aware of my need for Him. Look at what King David writes in Psalm 23…
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
7 years ago, I passed out on a triage nurse in the Emergency Room. I went from walking in to the ER to collapsing on some lady. The next thing I know, I’m laid out on a hospital bed. I spent the next 7 days recovering from a bacterial infection. For 7 days I couldn’t move, or open my eyes. And while this was one of the most physically painful times of my life, there was no greater time to have been in prayer and in the presence of God. I needed God more than I needed Morphine. I had two little kids at home, and one more was due any day. I was so aware of God’s presence in my life. So aware of His goodness to me. I can tell you with all sincerity that I would rather be in the valley with Jesus than on the mountaintop without him. I would rather be hurting in his presence, with his goodness, than on the mountaintop and unaware of who he is and what he’s doing.
Let me tell you, if you’re hurting today, You are not alone. Never let the presence of a storm cause you to doubt the presence of God. Why would our God allow you to experience more than you can handle? Maybe to teach you to depend on his presence. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you.
Why would God allow you to experience more than you can handle? The second reason if you’re taking notes is this: To teach you to experience his power. Too many of us are doing life on our own.
You were created to need God, to be desperate for him. When you recognize that he didn’t expect you to handle everything, that’s when you experience his power. The apostle Paul, he lived this. In Corinthians, he talked about a thorn in his flesh and this thing, that plagued his life. He wanted it to go away. You might say, “What was the thorn?” It’s most likely a metaphor for something. We don’t know exactly what the thorn is. Scholars have speculated for centuries. Maybe it was his failing eyesight because we think he couldn’t see. We don’t know what it was, but he pleaded with God three different times: “Take this away.”
Now, when you read it, you may think he prayed for three days, three times. What this means is there were three significant seasons of seeking, begging, pleading, probably fasting, maybe having churches that he planted praying. It was an ongoing process.
When my dad was diagnosed with Lewey Bodies Disease, I prayed. Man did I ever pray. I prayed consistently, and with many people. We had prayer meetings, there were many churches praying for his healing. And that didn’t happen on this side of eternity.
“Please dear God, take this away.” That’s what Paul was asking.
Now, if I look at this from my perspective, I think to myself, “Okay, if God is going to heal somebody, I’m thinking Paul is a good candidate.” I mean, just based on what Paul did, I’m thinking if there is any scale that merits deserving it, I’m thinking Paul deserved it. I’m thinking if anybody had faith for it, Paul probably had faith for it.
There will come a time, I promise you, if you walk with God long enough and live in this sin-filled world long enough, when you’re going to find your own thorn that just doesn’t go away and you’re going to ask God, “Why don’t you remove this? Can’t you answer my prayer? Can’t you just help the depression go away? Can’t you just heal my child of their pain? I hate seeing someone I love suffer so much. Can’t you just fix this marriage? Can’t you just turn my teen back towards you? Can’t you just help me for one month not to be behind financially? God, can’t you just do this one thing?”
You know he can and he doesn’t and you think, “Why would God allow me to have more than I can handle? Why didn’t he just do it when he could?” This is exactly where Paul was. God actually spoke to Paul and said something that is so powerful, Paul’s like, “Why didn’t you do this?” God said to him,
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
My grace is what you need, Paul. My power is made perfect in what? Your weakness. Watch what Paul says next…
“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
Paul starts sounding crazy! He’s like, I’m WEAK! This guy… I don’t have what it takes. He continues…
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10
He says, I delight in this hard stuff because when I don’t have what it takes, I tap into a power that goes beyond my human ability to understand. I have a supernatural power of God. I have the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwelling within me. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Let me tell you, I understand this. Sunday mornings in a portable church are not the most conducive for preaching. I’m up early, out the door early sweating alongside the roadies getting church set up, thinking about cabling, lighting, tech issues, curtains, and everything else that goes along with turning an elementary school into a distraction free environment for you to experience God and others. By the time that this is finished, it becomes almost impossible for me to slow down and get breakfast. My mind may be racing thinking about 200 different things, But I’ll tell you what, on the Sunday’s when I feel emptied out, God reveals just how He’s going to fill the gaps. God steps in and speaks through my weakness.
I’ve learned that I need to stop rowing the boat, and instead start sailing. Some of you, you’re rowing right now. You get in a boat, you’re going to row. God won’t give me more than I can handle, so I can get there. You can do it for a while until one day you just can’t row anymore. How much better is it to put the sail up and let the wind of Spirit bring movement, instead of trying to do it myself? I serve a God that when I cannot get it done, He gets it done through me. For when I am weak, then he is strong.
I don’t know who’s hurting today, but I pray this comforts you today, that you may get to know him better in the valley than you ever do on the mountaintop. You may experience this power even more real right now because when you are weak, he is strong.
You are created to need him. He will give you more than you can handle. When he calls you to do something outside yourself, he will give you more than you can handle.
If you’re going to be a foster parent, there will be more than you can handle. If you’re going to raise teenagers, there will be more than you can handle. If you’re going to be invested in ministry, there will be more than you can handle. If you’re married there will be more than you can handle. You are not created to do life on your own. Instead of saying, “Oh, I’ve got to be strong. I’ve got to be strong because God will never give me more than I can handle.” We should say, “I have to be weak. I have to be broken. I have to be depending on him. I can’t get it all done myself. I was not created to do it myself for when I am weak, then his strength is made perfect through me.” My grace is sufficient for you,” God says, “Because my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Why would God allow you to have more than you can handle? Maybe it’s because he wants to draw you close and to reveal his presence to you and maybe he wants to give you his supernatural power because his power is made perfect in your weakness.