Friday, July 26, 2013
"God won't give you more than you can handle"
It's a phrase we hear quite often. And I must confess I've even said it in hopes of encouraging others in times of trial. But honestly, this is not true. There is no scripture that supports this. At best it is a misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13 which says,
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it."
If we look throughout scripture we can find plenty of examples of Godly men who were in so much distress and anguish that without God holding them they would not have been able to survive.
I think that is the point I am trying to make here.
Often, especially in this region, we want to be able to do things on our own. Pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps so to say. But one of the glorious things we often miss about God is that He wants to be sure we KNOW that we can not do it without Him. Of course we will face more than we can handle! Many of us already have!
Take a look at Paul for example. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead"
Notice the phrases;
"beyond our ability to endure"
"we despaired of life"
"we felt the sentence of death"
"this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God"
I've become convinced that to tell someone that God will not give a person more than they can handle is to bear false witness...to lie. God does in fact give people more than they can handle on their own in order to draw them closer to Him, that they would rely on Him rather than themselves.
The other thing I've noticed is that people quote this phrase to others who have made a mess of their own lives. Rather than giving a life giving exhortation to the sinful soul who is reaping what they've sown they try to instead "encourage" the person with this falsehood. They ignore the truth as though there is no responsibility of repentance to be owned by the one who's life is in shambles. It would be more loving to say to this person something to this effect,
"I'm so sorry you are going through this and that things have turned out so badly. Can I pray with you?"
"I know you've been going through a time of dryness in your faith and that you've been struggling to walk with God. But He is very merciful. And when you seek Him you will find joy again, no matter what it is you are experiencing right now, because in His presence is fullness of joy."
"I can see that what you are going though is difficult. And I'm sorry. Let me help you bear this burden and overcome it. I will hold you accountable and help you to make wise choices if you let me. But unless you discontinue on the path you are on, you can only expect greater trials. God disciplines those He loves and will not allow you to live in opposition to Him."
I think it is important for us to be ready with encouraging words and yet truthful words rather than filling someone's head with nonsense or down playing the call to repentance. All we can do is offer our support and if the truth of our words is rejected by that person's pride we can not own that. And we must not fear the rejection. They do not reject us, but the truth of accountability. It is the body of Christ's responsibility to love each other enough to say the hard things in a loving way, without condemnation and in so doing "snatch from the flames" those who are faltering.
I encourage you to search the scriptures. Take note of how much men and women have been made to suffer for God throughout history. There are many instances where their suffering was so bad they died...or wished they could.
God will not allow us to be TEMPTED beyond our ability to resist. But we must not confuse that with situations other than temptation. If we do, we will give ourselves and others false hope and we'll be less ready to stand in the grace and mercy of God alone.
And for those who don't believe it "hurts anything" to give someone this false hope, consider the stumbling block you put in someone's way when you offer this empty encouragement to someone who is suffering for Christ or when you choose to ignore the sin that wrecked a person's life and instead give them a nonsensical false hope that leads them down a path of disillusionment and failed expectations. God wants everyone everywhere to repent and trust in Him. We can not omit either of those things because if we do we miss the point of mercy and grace.
Friday, July 19, 2013
What kind of picture did you just get in your head when you read that first sentence? Most of you probably pictured a heterosexual couple. But you were wrong. The couple I saw walking hand in hand in the mall was a lesbian couple.
What reaction did you just have?
It's the reaction of Christians to the picture that I just painted with my words that I want to address.
I came across a quote today.
"Being celibate is no joke and we can't knock the struggle."
The person who said this was reprimanding another Christian person who was being condescending toward people who struggle with homosexuality. She was telling this Christian that no matter what "orientation" a person has, the struggle for abstinence is real for everyone.
This is true. Many Christians fail to feel or show mercy to those who struggle with homosexuality. Instead they seem to feel as though they have license to despise gay people as though their sinfulness is MORE sinful than the heterosexual couple that gratifies their desire for intimacy before marriage.
Most people desire intimacy. Finding someone to share life with is a privilege that God grants to some. But for others who have not been blessed with a God given spouse there may be the desire for intimacy that can not be satisfied apart from living outside of God's will. But having desire does not mean we get to act on that desire. No matter if you are gay or straight.
The struggle for celibacy is just as real for a gay person as it is for a straight person. The only difference is, for a straight person there is always the hope of finding that special someone in God's timing. But for the gay person...there is no hope for this. There is only sadness in the realization that God will never allow them intimacy in a homosexual way...because it is against His will. And this is a temptation they must resist for their entire life or until God gives them victory over it.
So why am I bringing this subject up? Why risk offending someone? I risk the offense because as I passed this couple in the mall I was aware of the scornful looks of others around who also saw their brazen display of affection for one another and it made me a little sad. I wasn't sad for the couple (they actually seemed oblivious). I was sad about the lack of mercy for this couple. Why is it that mercy is readily afforded to some but not others? I think in our hearts we may have learned to empathize more with the promiscuous heterosexual couple because we can relate to their passion and we understand how hard it is to be alone or resist temptation. But not many of us make the same effort to empathize with a person who struggles with homosexual feelings. But when scripture says,
"The Lord is not slow about His promises as some would understand slowness, but He is patient with you not wishing for anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance"
it applies to everyone, even the lesbian couple walking in the mall. God does not wish them to perish but wants them to come to repentance the same as you or I.
I am not saying that we as a Church should embrace the homosexual lifestyle and condone it. I'm saying we must put a stop to our own personal indignation for this sin and love with Agape love those who are in bondage to it. And we need to remember that their struggle is just as real as our own, because they desire closeness too. Being celibate is no joke and we can't knock the struggle, no matter if the person who struggles is gay or straight. Rather than being hateful we should be compassionate and yet strongly hold to God's word, as we would for anyone else who is struggling with any other sin.