In the distance music softly fills the air as two teenage boys are walking down the street. They hear music and cannot figure where it is coming from. They continue to walk toward where the music seemingly is coming from when they see a church as they round the corner.
One boy approaches the front door. “I’m going to peak in,” he states and puts his hand on the door knob.
“You don’t want to do that! It’s just a bunch of old people singing those religious songs.” The other boy announces.
The boy tries to turn the door knob but it doesn’t turn.
“Come on. Let’s get outta here.” The other boy states while tugging on his friend’s arm.
A Man walks up to them and the boys turn in fear that they have done something wrong. The Man smiles and says, “It’s okay. I’m glad to see you want to enter My church.”
The boy removes his hand from the door knob and asks, “Are you the preacher?”
“You could say that. I am the head of the church, or I’m supposed to be.” The Man replies.
The other boy tugs on his friend’s arm and snarls, “Let’s go!”
“Why can’t I get in?” The boy asks, jerking his arm away from his friend.
The Man looks at the boy intently and states, “In order to be a part of the body of Christ you must have a key. Do you want the key?”
The boy looks to his friend, then back at the Man. “Yeah, I think so.”
The Man hands the boy a large key. The boy looks at it and printed in large letters across the key is “Faith.”
Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God.”
There are many that fill the pews of a church and listen to the Word, mouth the songs, and glance at their watches wondering when it will be over. God has given us grace to journey through this life. He assures us He is always with us yet many do not cling to that promise. It is by faith that we can walk with Him. If we do not believe His promises, if we do not receive the grace He offers, we have become our own gods. To trust Him is to believe He is the Creator, the Lord and Savior, and that He died for our sins. He states that His grace is sufficient and it is through faith that we learn it is.
The desert is hot and humid. The sun beats down on a lone tree with its arms reaching out as though seeking the moisture that kisses its leaves.
The heat is oppressing but the dew from the night still lingers. The strong gnarled trunk stands majestically holding up the arms of time.
Beneath the shade of the old tree, at an old rock, a Man kneels. His head bowed and drops of sweat drip down His cheeks. His silent prayer becomes agonizing as His sweat turns to blood and drips down forever staining the rock.
“Take this cup” His anguished voice pleads to His Father.
Men, that He has called friends, slouch a few yards away, asleep. They hear not the anguished cry of their friend, the Man they called a friend.
Tears stream, blood-red sweat pours as the Man kneels with His head hanging low. “Not My will but Thine,” He finally whispers as His friends snore.
After some time, He slowly and painfully rises. He walks toward His friends and sees they are sound asleep. He stands silently looking down at them.
Slowly the closed eyes of His friends begin to open and they look up at the Man and make no apology as they rub their calloused hands across their eyes and beards.
“So you could not watch with Me an hour?” The Man states.
His friends say nothing.
The Man waits a moment.
The Man finally turns and walks slowly away leaving his friends, slouched and yawning.
Matthew 26:38 “Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
In this story the disciples seem to ignore the plea of Jesus and place their own needs ahead of His. Do we do the same when we have a special day planned and the phone rings with a plea for help from a friend? The Word says that love is sacrificial and as the body of Christ, unlike Christ’s disciples in this story, we are to lay aside unimportant tasks to reach out to others in need. We possibly could be the only face of Christ that the person will see. I thank God that Jesus did not turn and walk away from the cross because of His own plans for the day.
Have you ever really thought about the statement, “God never gives us more than we can handle?”
This statement sounds so encouraging and so comforting when we’re facing a difficult trial, but…
I don’t believe it’s true.
My living with ALS is more than Mary, and I can handle. I look around me and see others, even family and friends, trying to cope with difficult trials that they don’t seem to be handling very well. Others are trying to battle temptations like drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, and so many other “lures” that they don’t seem to have the power to conquer. Still, others are trying to fight what appear to be oppressive spirits that we call Depression, Bi–polarDisorder, PTSD, and too many other names to list in this short blog post.
It’s all too much to handle!
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
The above verse is where the “God never gives us more than we can handle” saying comes from. The Greek origin of the word “temptation” (peirasmos), used in this verse, can also mean “test” and “trial.”
Pretty much every challenge we’re trying to cope with falls under the category of a temptation, test or trial. But, nowhere in the above verse does it say that “Godgivesus” these horrible tests, trials, and temptations.
The suicide rate in America has risen 30% since 1999, and deaths from drug overdoses are at an all-time high. Drug overdoses are the leading cause of death in America for those under 55 years of age. So many people are dying from suicides and drug overdoses that the overall life expectancy rate has dropped for the last three years. This three-year decline is the most since World War 1 and the flu pandemic a hundred years ago.
Apparently, many people are going through difficulties that are more than they can handle. In this life, we will undoubtedly face tests, trials, and temptations that are “more than we can handle.” God doesn’t “giveus” difficult trials, but, for reasons we can’t fully understand in this life, He does allow them to come against even the most faithful followers of Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote the above verse, and also the passage below. The passage below gives us the biggest reason that God does allow tests, trials, and temptations to invade our lives. This passage also gives context to the “God never gives us more than we can handle”saying:
“For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)
“Affliction,” “burdened excessively, beyond our strength,” “despaired even of life…”
Can you relate to this? Mary and I sure can.
Paul concluded that all of this happened to him (and to us) “so that we would (learn) not trust in ourselves, but in God…”
We will definitely face tests, trials, and temptations that are “more than we can handle,” but they are not more than God can handle – if we seek His help. Part of the grace that God gives in our tests, trials, and temptations comes in the form of people that He prompts to help us. I want to be one of these people, not only because so many people have helped us, but helping others when they’re overwhelmed by things too great for them to handle, keeps me from being “self-focused.”
Since becoming a follower of Christ, I’ve wondered why the non-Christian alcoholic, drug addict, and the suicidal didn’t give Christ a chance to help them overcome whatever their demons might be. “Do they think that becoming a follower of Christ is a fate worse than death?” I wondered.
It’s so ironic to me that many followers of Christ, people who were perfectly happy with the life they were living, chose to be martyred for refusing to renounce their faith in Christ.
The suicidal person ends his life because he has no hope, peace, and joy, while Christian martyr chooses death by refusing to renounce his hope, peace, and joy.
“Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)
If it were true that ‘God never gives us more than we can handle,’ Christ suffered and died for nothing.
Picture from Amazingfacts.org
About Bill Sweeney
In 1996, Bill was diagnosed with ALS (“Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) and the doctors told him he had 3-5 years to live. He is now completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but by God’s grace, he’s still alive and through his blog shares a message of hope in Christ – Unshakable Hope!
The night has been long and sleep has evaded the woman. She has tossed and turned, kicked the blankets, and stuffed the pillow over her head. It was a long day and even though she enjoyed the time with her friend, her actions have haunted her. There were no hurting words, or complaining, or condemnation. Her heart was right but her actions got out of control.
Tossing the blankets back she slowly leaves her bed and flipping on the light, she goes into the kitchen and starts a pot of coffee. A silent prayer is lifted to heaven as tears stream down her face. Grabbing a tissue she swipes at them, takes a deep breath and plops down on a kitchen chair. Head in hands she prays, “Lord forgive me. I think I moved in like a drill sergeant and I ask for your forgiveness. I repent, Lord, help me to ask for my friend’s forgiveness.”
There’s a knock on the door and surprised, she quickly dries her tears and opens the door. A Man is standing there in long white robes and sandals strapped to His feet. He smiles and asks if He may come in.
Stepping back to allow His entrance she is in awe and yet very surprised. She recognizes this Man but never thought He would appear at her door. She finally finds her voice and asks if He’d like some coffee, and He accepts.
Lingering over the hot coffee at the kitchen table, she isn’t sure what to say and suddenly bursts out crying. His love fills the room. “I know for what your tears are,” He states. “You think you have hurt your friend.”
She nods, while blowing her nose.
“Oh My child, your heart was right. So many times people want to help others in ways that are not necessarily the right way. Bulldozing someone is not the way. Commanding they do this or that only accomplishes heartache. It is the love in one’s heart that speaks louder than any words. It is the life you live, the testimony of what I have done in your life that rings out to others. Shed no more tears for you are forgiven. You’ve learned a valuable lesson. Go in My peace, child, and sin no more.”
The door slowly and quietly clicks closed as the woman’s tears drip onto the table.
Ephesians 4:32 – “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
We hear people use the phrase, “Beat them over the head with the Bible.” In so many ways we may do that to others without actually wielding a literal Bible. “You just don’t have enough faith!” That’s a blow. It is condemnation and judging where someone else is in their walk with the Lord. “You must have really sinned.” Or, “If you’d go to church more often…” All are beating the person up with the Bible in ways that only hurt, not help. As Christians we are to lift people up. We are to encourage them, not condemn them. Yes, if we see a brother or sister in Christ sinning we are to bring it to their attention but not in a way that beats them down. We do it out of love for them. Notice I didn’t say, “in love.” We sometimes get that messed up, too because we can use that as a means of gossip, condemnation and hurt. “I’m only telling you this because I love you” or “we really need to pray for …. he’s really messed up in the head.” Hurtful words are spilling out of our mouths. The Lord will convict us of those wrongful doings and it is up to us to ask for forgiveness and repent of whatever it was we said or did. He is always there to accept our plea and He will remember it no more.
The day is sunny and bright. People are gathered in celebration of the holiday. Flags rustle in the wind and cheers fill the air as the speaker on the platform completes his speech.
The aroma of barbecue fills the air. Ice tea is served up by the gallons, potato salad is chilled on ice, and the baked beans are hot and savory. People are heard laughing, talking, and sharing stories of times past. Families sit at long wooden tables or gather on blankets on the grass enjoying the day and celebrations.
As the evening light begins to fade the crowd begins to disperse. The roar of a motorcycle’s engine deafens the person standing nearby. Slamming his hands over his ears he yells at the rider, “You’ll be sorry for that, sucker!” The rider laughs and roars off down the street.
Night falls and the country road is dark. The beam from the single headlight reaches out in front to guide the way. The rider is engrossed in thoughts about the day and doesn’t hear the engine of a pickup truck speeding up behind him.
The crash can be heard for miles as the motorcycle rider is thrown several feet in the air as his crushed motorcycle slides haphazardly down the pavement. The pickup truck flips and rolls several times and lands off the side of the road.
An ambulance arrives and a Man steps out and looks around. The smell of spilled gasoline fills the air. He sees the overturned truck and sees the driver lying sprawled beneath the carnage. Kneeling down beside the crushed truck He reaches under the metal to try to pull the driver to safety, but the driver is dead.
He sees the motorcycle and finds the rider lying several feet away in the grass. He approaches and kneels down. The man groans and is barely alive.
“I’m here to help you,” the Man states.
The rider groans and asks in barely a whisper, “Am I going to die?”
The Man leans close so the rider can hear Him, “Yes, but you can live forever.”
“How?” The rider asks weakly.
“Ask Me to forgive you and be your Lord and Savior.”
The Man leans far down with His ear close to the riders mouth. The rider whispers so softly that the Man can barely hear him.
“I give you my life. Forgive me, Jesus.” His eyes slowly close and with one last breath he enters the Kingdom of God.
Romans 10:13 – “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
There is only One that was, or ever will be, perfect. We humans make choices every minute of every day. What will we wear to work, did I get the right salad dressing, will I go to church, do I want salt or pepper, should I pay that bill or this bill? Every decision we make has some sort of consequence whether it is right or wrong, good or bad, incidental or catastrophic. One of those choices, and it’s the most important decision we will ever make in this life, is where we will spend eternity.
We do not know when we will leave this earth and to assume we can wait to make such an important decision is pure foolishness. In the blink of an eye it could be our last breath. Choose wisely for the consequence is eternal.
The child stands at the edge of heaven. She’s curious about what goes on below and stands quietly while pondering all that she sees.
Waves of strife waffle up to her, streaks of stress zip past, anger thunders through the clouds, and as she is about to turn and walk away The Man appears beside her.
She looks up at His face and with furrowed brows and crinkle nose asks, “Is there no love there?” He kneels down beside her and places His arm around her small shoulders. She nuzzles up closer to Him.
“Listen with your heart,” He tells her. She cocks her head a little and scrunches up her face as though that helps her to tune into her heart.
“I don’t hear anything” she finally states.
“Close out the sounds of anger, hate, and dissension.” He whispers.
She tries again.
A sweet aroma engulfs her and she suddenly jumps away from Him and excitedly shouts, “I hear it. I feel it, I can smell love!”
“When we focus on God’s aroma we will escape the foul smell of sin.”
He leans over and gently kisses her on the cheek.
2 Cor.2:15- “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.”
To walk through a garden in the spring and breathe in the sweet aroma of roses, petunia’s, Azaleas, and so many other wonderful smells fills our hearts and brings a peace that we cherish. It is the same way with Christ. Only the sweet aroma He cherishes is the aroma of our prayers and thanksgiving. Our worship fills His heart. Those of us that are Christians know the peace that can come from spending time with our Lord and Savior, but what about those who do not believe? Many non-believers find Christianity a stench in their nostrils. They ridicule, make fun of, and try to convince others their faith is fantasy. God, through His Son, finds this as stench in His nostrils for the wages of sin is death and as we all know a dead corpse is not a pleasing aroma. Our prayers are sweet in God’s nostrils and our sins are stench. When we treat others as Christ would have us do and love one another as He loves us is the sweetest of His aromas. Through repentance and forgiveness our stench will turn to the sweet aroma that only Christ can give.
Four young men stand gaping up at the mountain. One is determined to climb while the others try to talk him out of it, telling him he is inexperienced and will never make it.
The young man takes a deep breath and states, “I’ll go alone if you aren’t coming!” and hikes up the heavy backpack onto his back and heads determinedly toward a narrow path that leads part way up the mountain. I can do this myself. I don’t need them! He thinks.
The others watch while shaking their heads. “He has a real death wish,” one boy states.
The young fellow climbs and climbs, and before long he looks to be a small speck on the side of the mountain to those watching below.
He grabs at the crags in the rocks. He slowly pulls himself up another inch or two. Sweat drips down his face. His hands are already bloody and blisters form on his fingers.
Another six inches and he stops, breathing hard. His backpack feels fifty pounds heavier.
He finds a narrow ledge just wide enough for him to sit down and rest. He slides the backpack off his back and it suddenly drops over the edge falling hundreds of feet until the lad can no longer see it or hear its crash.
Out of the corner of his eye he sees movement and quickly twists his head to see what it is. Much to his surprise a Man appears at the other end of the ledge.
Clinging to the ledge, breathing hard and scared out of his wits, he yells, “Can you help me, Mister?”
The Man slowly makes His way to the young fellow and sits down beside him. He offers him some water from His water bottle and the boy thanks Him, and then takes a long gulping drink.
The young fellow swipes his arm across his mouth and hands the now empty water bottle back to the Man. He scoots back a fraction of an inch to press closer to the rock wall.
“We all have mountains to climb,” the Man states. “But we don’t have to climb them alone.”
The boy looks at Him and asks, “Who are you, and how’d you get up here?”
“I am the I Am and mountains are my specialty.”
“Huh?” The boy replies.
“There are mountains and there are valleys. Lessons are learned in both. It’s how well you traverse both and how well those lessons are learned that will determine your journey.”
The young fellow slowly slides his back up the rocky wall and stands cautiously. “Well, I’ll climb this one!”
His foot slips sending loose rock over the ledge.
The Man grabs him.
“You have much to learn.” The Man states, and helps the young man to the next ledge.
Prov. 29:23 – “A man’s pride will bring him low, But the humble in spirit will retain honor.”
I remember an incident where I was talking to a friend and his reply to what I was telling him was, “You need to pray about that.” My mouth flew open and the words, “I don’t need to pray about that, I can do it!” spilled out of my mouth.
So many times we lean on our own strength, knowledge, or human wisdom when in fact the Lord says, “we can do nothing without Him.” Pride is an ugly thing and something the Lord detests. It hinders us from God’s help, wisdom, and guidance. We suddenly become our own god by rejecting His promises to lead us, guide us, to give us all we need to do whatever it is He calls us to do. In pride we cut Him out of the picture and He will let us. Our pride will stand as a wall between Him and us if we do not repent of it and ask for forgiveness. It’s easy to slip into our humanness and do things on our own but it becomes so much easier when we have the Lord helping us.