Facing Life’s Challenges

Sun am 19 August 2018 – Johan Esterhuizen

John 13:13; (Is. 55:8-9); (Matt. 20:26); (Matt. 26:14-16, 47-49); (Job 1:8-2:10); John 16:33; Rev. 12:11; (1 Cor. 15:1-4); (Rom. 3:23); (Rom. 6:23); Phil. 4:4-5; 1 Thess. 5:18; Matt. 24:35; Is. 40:8; Deut. 8:3; Ps. 119:89; (Rom. 12:19)

When life goes wrong, when things happen, do not give up! Life is sometimes cruel. Bad things happen to good people, but I have discovered one thing: never give up! God has got something good in store.

Jesus said, “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am”(John 13:13). The question today is: Is Jesus our Teacher and our Lord? In those days: they had sandals and it was dusty and, because they took their shoes off when they came into the home, it was a great honour to wash and clean somebody’s feet. Jesus is setting an example of how we should imitate Him as our Teacher and our Lord by being a servant (John 13:12-17). I believe there is a deeper issue than just going around washing one another’s feet. To be great in God’s kingdom you have to be a servant (Matt. 20:26). I always believe the greater the ministry, the greater the servant, but today we are seeing massive churches with men that are removed from the people. We have to be a servant, we have to be touchable. Notice our Lord as He walked amongst the crowd and He taught them, He stopped and spoke to the individual. He is the God of the masses and the God of the individual. The setting here is so important. Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. He is in fellowship with them. He is about to be betrayed. At the meal, He reveals His betrayer, Judas Iscariot. John chapter 6 is very interesting because, from the first chapter of John to about midway in chapter six, it describes the popularity of Christ. From John 6 onward it is kind of His decline. From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more(John 6:66). He had just fed them with bread and the fish and they wanted to take Him. “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me”(John 14:1) “I am the vine, you are the branches”(John 15:5). John 16 describes how Jesus taught about the Holy Spirit. John 17 is Christ’s prayer of unity. Deep truths are shared with the disciples. Judas was amongst the chosen and he betrayed Christ with a kiss for 30 pieces of silver (Matt. 26:14-16, Matt. 26:47-49). Sometimes that happens in life.

In Psalm 55 David shares his heartache from betrayal. He shares how he was betrayed and he cries out to God, and he says, “Father you have forgotten me. You have blessed my betrayers. They are carrying on and I have been betrayed” (Ps. 55:14). There is one thing to be betrayed by people or colleagues, but to be betrayed by family and your best friend is hard. It was a deep betrayal that David experienced. Have you been betrayed by a brother, a sister, by a family member? Betrayal is a deep thing and David cries out to God to heal him.

Job was a wealthy man, a man of great integrity, an accepted figure, a leader in the community. He was well loved and well respected. The devil went to God and said, “Job serves You because You blessed him”. He challenged God that if God were to take away all the blessings, Job would turn on God. So the Lord allowed Satan to attack Job. Job, in a short space of time, lost everything. He found himself with boils on his body, mourning and crying and being defeated. His wife looked at this miserable specimen and said, “Curse God and die. Why do you hold onto your integrity?” Throughout this Job never cursed God – he held onto his integrity (Job 1:8-2:10). Then his three friends continuously debated with him. Their thesis was that Job must have done something wrong to be in that position. His wife turned on him. Through all this turmoil, God answered Job. You can read in Job 38 that the Lord asked Job forty-two scientific questions, questions that still baffle scientists today. Job could not answer them. In Job 39 He asks thirty questions about creation, about animals, and Job could not answer. So the Lord said to him that he cannot even answer these questions and that he doubts His integrity and willingness to help him – he is rebuked. I have seen over and over again within the body of Christ that successful businessmen, successful pastors, successful people, go through a betrayal or go through something that is terribly wrong. What happens? They give up. Job was restored to more than he ever had before.

God is not finished with you. God is not finished with me. What do you do when life hands you a bad experience? Jesus said, I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble”(John 16:33a). Is that not good news? You will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world(John 16:33b). And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death(Rev. 12:11). I believe what is said there by ‘they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony’ is the fact that they realise and know the finished work of Christ. The Lord has accomplished and defeated the enemy and they are in Christ and that is the word of their testimony. So often we say, “I preach the gospel.” Paul says this is the gospel that He received from Christ: Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus rose again (1 Cor.15:1-4). And guess what? He is coming back. He ascended to heaven and poured out the Holy Spirit. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ: He came, He died, and He rose again. And that is the word of our testimony. That is the blood of the Lamb that we celebrate.

I have four things that are going to help you to face your life’s challenges. The first is: Know that Christ has overcome the enemy and you can celebrate the finished work of Christ! My wife and I got together and acknowledged that God is our judge. So we started to do research about the courts of heaven, about God’s judgement. The Lord says, “Vengeance is mine. Do not take vengeance” (Rom. 12:19). We said, “Father we present to you our situation in Jesus’ Name. You judge.” The book of Romans is presented in a judicial setting. God is the judge. Paul is the accusing attorney. God’s word is the article that he brings. He says all of these people have sinned and have come short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23), the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23) and “Father, because you are a just and right God, you have to judge them”. But then our advocate Jesus comes in on the scene. My wife and I experienced a tremendous release as our Advocate interceded for us. Out of that courtroom, we left that day released, and have experienced better things than before.

Secondly: Know that Christ can and that He will. Our heavenly Father wants to, and He can! You have to know that! You have to know that He has defeated the enemy and that He wants to and He can help you! I got up early one morning to dialogue with God and the Matthew 6 passage came to mind: Consider the birds of the air, consider the lilies of the field. I very arrogantly said to the Lord, “I know that Scripture. I know it.” The Holy Spirit said to my heart, “You do not know it. You do not know the scripture. You have not experienced it. I am going to show you.” A few weeks later I went to Namaqualand. I saw fields of flowers, such beauty. As I stood there, the Lord said to me, “My son, here is the meaning of Matthew 6. No multinational company, no billionaire, not even Donald Trump, no corporation can bloom the desert. I alone can do it, and I do it for three weeks of the year. And do you think I cannot take care of you? Do you think your pain and your heartache is so big that I cannot take care of it?” Then I went to my friend’s house. He lives in Port Owen where the Berg River goes into the Atlantic. He said he wanted to show me something. My wife and I stood there and we saw the cormorants fly about a meter off the ground in rows and rows and rows. I looked at my wife and said, “I think they are doing a circle, there is so many.” They tell me there are 480 000 birds that go out to sea every day. And what are they doing? They are going to collect the fish to feed the chick in the nest. Can you imagine the tonnage of fish that these birds are collecting? And the Lord said to me, “No multinational company, no billionaire, no organisation can feed these birds. Do you think I cannot take care of you?” Then the Lord showed me how He sustains. Those flowers have a purpose. Those birds flying out to sea have a purpose. Notice that God can, and God will!

The third thing is: We have to be thankful! There is a difference between joy and happiness. Joy is an inner quality – it is a fruit of the Spirit. Happiness depends upon circumstances. Neither joy nor thankfulness is depended upon circumstances. Consider how we would render Philippians 4:4-5 based on our everyday life: Complain in the Lord always. And again I say, complain. Let your stinginess be known to everybody for the Lord is far away. Let aggression be known to all men. That is the version we live by – we complain! I found the key is thankfulness! Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand(Phil. 4:4-5). In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you(1 Thess. 5:18).

Then the final point: Believe and know that the Word of God works. A professor that taught us theology shared four cornerstone Scriptures upon which he based his life. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away(Matt. 24:35). The grass withers, the flower fades (Is. 40:8a). At the end of October, there will be no more flowers in the Namaqualand, they would have faded and be gone. But the word of our God stands forever(Is. 40:8b). You have to believe that. Man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord(Deut. 8:3). Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven(Ps. 119:89).

Through the darkest moment of our lives, we have applied these four principles, and they have worked for us. So, when tomorrow you get up and feel sorry, get up and say that somewhere in the future, I will look much better than I look right now. Big victories come from big challenges. If right now you are going through an unfair and difficult time, know that God is not finished with you.