November 17, 2015

When in trouble . . .

2 Kings 1:1–2:5, Mark 13:24–14:21, Proverbs 6:1–5, Proverbs 3:5–8

My granddaughter called early this morning with a frustrating problem. She was angry and felt helpless. I told her that I could pray for the situation. She said, “You can pray, but I won’t.”

At least she was willing to have someone else talk to God about her problem, not like Ahaziah, a king in Israel. He fell and was injured, so sent messengers to “inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron” to find out if he would recover. Because he did this, an angel told the prophet Elijah to tell those messengers: “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Now therefore thus says the Lord, You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.” (2 Kings 1:2–4)

The king heard this bad news and sent soldiers to fetch Elijah. However, Elijah told their captain, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. (2 Kings 1:10)

The king sent fifty more, twice more, but on the third time, their captain pleaded for his life. At that, God told Elijah to go with him and see the king. He went and repeated God’s message: “Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron — is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word? —therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.”

And this king did die. He refused to call on God to rescue him, and because he had no son, the throne went to another. (2 Kings 1:13–17)

Solomon writes about a different situation where someone is in trouble. Usually others may want to help, but if it involves vouching for someone borrowing money, those who want to help must not put up security, even for a neighbor. Solomon said, “if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor.” (Proverbs 6:1–3)

He does not advise people to withhold help or generosity, but suggests that when others need help, it is wiser to seek the will of God first, not jump right in to take care of them. Experience has taught me that God works in people’s lives through the challenges of life. To bail someone out without His counsel can interfere with His plans. As in all situations, I should seek God’s will, not assume that I know what it is.

Another troublesome topic for some is the future, particularly the return of Christ. Countless people make predictions, set dates, and assert that Jesus will arrive according to their calculations. However, if they would go to God with their questions about this problem, they would discover that: “Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Instead of date-setting, Jesus says we are supposed to: “Be on guard, keep awake.” I do not know when Jesus will return, and God will not tell me. He wants me to be alert and ready at all times. (Mark 13:32–37)

I can think of dozens of troubling situations where I am tempted to figure out my own solutions, but I’m learning this reveals prideful thinking, as if I know better than God! Yes, it takes work and diligence to daily seek His will, and a great deal of patience and faith to wait until He shows it to me. However, if I go the route of most of Israel’s kings, taking matters into my own hands might even be deadly. At the very least, ignoring God’s way and going my own way means that my plans will not work out as I hoped.

Solomon is right. He also gives wise counsel in Proverbs 3:5-8: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

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