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Beyond Ourselves
Dr. Charles Stanley
Some experiences of life are beyond our control. When Jesus sent His disciples
across the Sea of Galilee with the promise of joining them later, they had no idea
what awaited them mid-voyage. But as the sea began to roll and lightning
paraded across the horizon, they realized they were in for a serious storm.
Suddenly and without warning, it hit.
West winds during the rainy seasons on Galilee are notoriously strong. And even
though seasoned fishermen were at the helm, their skills were no match for the
gale that was brewing. Should they turn back? It was out of the question; they
were too far out at sea.
Then in the fourth watch of the night, as the tiny fishing boat was being battered
by the waves, Jesus came to them. Matthew reports the fear that swept among
them. [The Lord] came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him
walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, It is a ghost!' And they cried out
in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Take courage, it is I; do not
be afraid' (Matthew 14:25-27).
There are times when each of us faces circumstances that can, suddenly and
without warning, become too much for us to handle alone. Jesus knew exactly
what He was doing by waiting until the fourth watch of the night, almost 3:00a.m.,
to come to the disciples. By this time they had wrestled with their thoughts,
struggled with their fears, and become exhausted in their human capability. They
were ready for a workable solution.
The apostle Paul found the solution he needed to face life's tribulations on the
Damascus Road. But he had no idea where his new commitment to Christ would
take him. By the time he wrote his letters to the Corinthians, he had faced severe
beatings, hunger, and near death by stoning. He writes in 2 Corinthians that he
had survived a shipwreck and tells of the daily pressure upon him concerning all
the churches he had helped to establish. With stresses like these, what kept Paul
from losing heart? Did he not struggle with thoughts of fear and
discouragement? Yes. However, Paul came to a point of contact with God.
We sense his unswaying determination as he explains his perspective: For
momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far
beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the
things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the
things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
Paul was not hung up on shadowy details and the “what if's?” of life. He had been
given a commission, and there was only one way to see it through, and that was
by placing his trust in Someone stronger and more powerful than he - the Lord
Jesus Christ. He writes: 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).
Paul was not writing about having a simple flu or cold. The Greek word for
affliction means crushing pressure. He was in a situation where he felt crushed
by the pressure of his circumstances. Burdened excessively is a term used of a
slow, sinking ship. Paul was weighted down beyond his ability to cope. He was
sinking in his hope.
You may have suffered some sort of abuse by another individual, someone you
loved and trusted. The thought of giving up may seem appealing because you no
longer have the strength to continue. Or you may work in an environment that is
anti-Christian. All you can think of doing is walking away. Situations like these
are not just confined to the home or the workplace. Many Christian young people
face them as well. In the classroom, professors bombard them with hedonistic
ethics based on their own world-view philosophies.
Your situation may be one of endurance with no way of escape. This is exactly
where the apostle Paul found himself. He battled frustration, feelings of hostility,
rejection - just as you do - sometimes on a daily, if not hourly, basis. We need to
ask God to make it perfectly clear what type of situation we are facing - one in
which we are called to endure or one in which He will make a way of escape. It is
always a matter of trusting Him.
Physical abuse, especially to the point of serious and continual danger, needs to
be dealt with either by a minister or someone who is trained and capable of
offering solid, confidential, and competent help. Though you feel you are alone
and there is no one to turn to, Jesus will not abandon you. He will help you find
your way through the storm. Just as He came to the disciples, He will come to
you. It was by His very presence that the winds ceased to blow and the sea
became calm. It is not so much what Jesus did that brought an end to the storm,
it was who He is - the Son of God.
When the pressure built and thoughts of quitting tried to captivate Paul's
thinking, the reality of God's presence sustained him. The Lord never gave Paul
six months off the endurance track; the more he learned, the stronger he became
spiritually. For the disciples and the early church, faith building exercises often
came through hardships and trials. However, in the midst of trouble they carried
with them the promises of Jesus. Victory and blessing ultimately came to those
who clung to their faith. Paul and Peter and the others who followed Jesus
understood that the source of their strength was not in being physically or
mentally strong; it was in living and abiding in Christ by faith. They learned that
when they awoke in the morning, Jesus was with them. When they laid down to
sleep at night, He stood guard over their lives.
God never sleeps; He watches over us to protect and steer us away from
heartache and trouble. He is perfectly plugged in to our lives. The problem
usually comes in our inability to abide in Him. When Christ is our central focus,
we want to live for Him, and He strengthens us for every good work. Paul
admonishes the Ephesians with these words: Be strong in the Lord, and in the
power of His might. (6:10).
God strengthens you to do anything that is in keeping with His will. Whatever He
calls you to do, He equips you to accomplish the task. This means you have to be
willing to step out beyond yourself in order for His plan to become a reality in
your life. None of us like feeling weak and out of control. But there is a greater
strength in weakness than what we can imagine. When we admit our weakness,
He takes up the slack and puts life in the right perspective.
Paul prayed that the Ephesians' hearts would be enlightened to the hope of God's
calling. (Ephesians 1:18) Many people live in hopelessness because they have
never come to the realization of all God has for them. They believe a lie and tell
themselves that because of their past or some habit or sin, God could not
possibly love them. The truth is God loves them with an everlasting love. His
compassion is tailored to meet each need completely. He never changes in His
love nor does He threaten to withhold His affections because of something you
did or did not do. If you come to Him, no matter where you are in life, God rushes
to meet you. Jesus told the story of the prodigal son for one reason, to portray
God's unconditional love. (Luke 15:11-32)
All the power, love, and encouragement you need to go beyond whatever you
face is available to you through Jesus Christ. It isn't something you have to beg
for or plead to receive. The moment you accept Him as your Savior, it is given to
you by God. When we declare our inability, God's strength is activated in our
You too can experience the joy and peace of God. Ask Him to reveal any area in
your life that is not yielded to Him. Then without compromise, give it to Him. You
will never regret this step of faith and obedience. Only as we move beyond
ourselves do we find His grace sufficient for every need.