It is a fact that every day of our life contains many challenges. How we face those challenges determines whether they are destroyers or developers .In the book of Numbers twelve spies were sent out to view the land that God promised to give them. We all know the outcome of that mission. Ten viewed what they saw as obstacles. Two saw the potential for victory. Because the people decided to believe the majority report, they wandered for forty years in a desert only eleven days journey from the Promised Land.
This story from the Bible serves as a continuous lesson on the importance of trusting God alone for success. When things seem impossible, God has a way out of that wilderness of failure.
I wish to share three hurdles in life that all of us must face if we are to be overcomers in lifeís challenges.
I. GUILT: THE GREAT MOTIVATOR
I recall the story of Lady Macbeth with the blood stains on her hands that could never be removed. That is a true picture of guilt. It keeps me from thinking objectively; It follows me wherever I go; it keeps me awake at night; it threatens my job and hinders me from doing my best; it destroys my relationships with others. Oh what can I do to get rid of this awful pressure that continually dogs my every step?
Most people do not see guilt as a gift from God. When Adam and his wife took of that tree something happened that made them conscious that something was not right. They immediately set out to find a way to correct that problem. They discovered that they were naked and made fig leaves to cover themselves. Being naked was the way that God created them. They decided that Godís work was not good enough so they made a covering of fig leaves. The point is, that what they were facing was guilt, and they found themselves driven to get rid of it. Guilt always motivates even the most passive of humanís. Guilt is Godís way of getting us to act.
Only God can take away our guilt. He has made a covering that is all sufficient, but we, like Adam, try to cover our own and like lady Macbeth, it still remains. Proverbs 28:13 tells us ďHe that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall find mercyĒ. Some of the Ways that we cover our sins is by excusing them. Another way is by ignoring them. Yet another way is to blame someone else for them. Adam used all of these excuses to justify his disobedience. We are indeed true sons of Adam and do the same things as Adam, but guilt despite all of our efforts still remains. We may for a time find a way to forget them but God has them written down and doesnít forget them.
It is my conviction that guilt is what God uses to convict us of our sin, Pity the man who never has guilt about his wrongdoing. Think of it like being part of a football game. The Holy Spirit is like the umpire that blows the whistle when a foul has been committed. The foul is acknowledged, the penalty assessed and the game of life continues.
Only God can remove guilt. If we do not turn to God when guilt is present then it will stay with us. God promises to completely eradicate our sin, but we must face up to it, admit failure and ask for pardon. There must also be the determination for God to effect His change in you. Thatís what we call repentance.
In the book of I john chapter one, this portion of scripture deals more perfectly with this subject. It tells us that when we are walking in the light Godís continuous cleansing is taking place.. There is something about walking in fellowship with God that makes us sensitive to things that most people donít see as wrong. I recall an incident at work that the Holy Spirit spoke to me about. We have certain areas to park in at the hospital and most of us have tags to identify us as employees. I drive my wifeís car to work and doing so allows me to park in the visitors section. God reminded me that I am an employee and it I not a good testimony to my fellow workers. .Even though legally, I can do it, I am violating an important spiritual principle by my liberty.
That brings us to this. Godís purpose in guilt is to drive us to the only one who can free us from it. Adam eventually fessed up. And received Godís covering. The coats of skins represented Godís forgiveness and the removal of his guilt.
Guilt is truly the great motivator but it is great when it drives us to the savour of our souls,
II. FAILURE: THE GREAT TEACHER
Since early childhood there had been injected into my mind that I was destined to be a failure all of my life. Of course my father meant well by saying this to me because he thought to would drive me to succeed .I think that it worked because fear of failure has been a motivating force in my life. Failure sometimes causes negative feelings in most of us. People turn to suicide because they canít face failure. Failure like guilt either becomes a destroyer or a developer.
Years ago (1967), I went through a program called Missionary Internship and they kept telling us ĒItís Safe To Fail.Ē. After all these years Iím beginning to understand. It is true and it is scriptural. Romans 8:28 is the classic verse ďand we know that all things work together for good to them who are the called according to His purposeĒ. Throughout the bible we see this as true. Consider the book of Psalms where there is crying out to God in face of failure and trouble, and the other Psalms that express praise to God for His deliverance. Again, in the book of Revelation we see seven churches addressed. They are the bride of Christ yet unprepared for the wedding. In the intervening chapter up until chapter 19 we see the bride going through a purifying process and in chapter 19 we find her ready to meet the bridegroom. These seven churches experienced failure (they are mentioned in Chapter two and three.)
Failure must be viewed as part of the process of perfection. The lessons learned from failure are usually the most permanent and productive. Happy is the man who can view failure as a friend and not an enemy. We may ask how many do I have to face before that happens? My relationship to Christ is my helper in this matter. When I see failures as closed doors to Godís will then I can move in another direction without giving up, knowing that God is still working in spite of my failure. We then look for Godís next step.
I have a friend who recently received a bad report on his work. He claimed that he did the best he could and they were trying to frame him. I have noticed that since that time he has been careful about details and has tried to keep them from finding anything else. He denies that God is in this and is in the process of perfecting him. At present he does not want to see Godís hand in this and is trying to overcome the problem on his own. I told him that I noticed the improvement but he is not convinced.
I learned at a Bill Gothard conference that we often experience ďthe Birth of a VisionĒ. I know all about that. My wife says I am an idealist or dreamer. I also get discouraged when I face ďThe Death of a VisionĒ. That makes me discouraged but I donít give up. Now I say "O.K. Lord what is next on your agenda?"
If we look back on our lives we must admit that some of the greatest lessons learned came through ďThe Death of a VisionĒ (or failure).
We have examined two potential obstacles we may see now as challenges. Perhaps our final point will tie it altogether.
III. FAITH: THE GREAT HEALER
What is this thing called faith? There is a lot of misinformation on this subject. To some it is nothing more than sanctified wishful thinking (that means I can support it with verses from the Bible). I met a man recently who claimed that the bible has to be taken by faith. That means, to him, that I must commit intellectual suicide, When there is no sound reason to believe it; just take a leap of faith and that will solve the problem. That is what true believers are accused of by those who do not understand.
The Basis of our faith is based on the fact that God has spoken and He has given to us in writing everything we need to know about Him. Faith is not how much of it that I have, like you donít have enough faith for anything to happen. The fact that God has spoken and faithfully keeps His promise is the hope on which my faith lies. Everyone has faith. Even the atheist has faith. The problem is the object which his faith is attached to. ďGod does not existĒ is his personal opinion counteracted by many proofs that show him to be wrong.
Faith is only as reliable on its object. When Jesus said that if His disciples had faith the mountains would be removed, He didnít mean that their faith would remove the mountain, their faith would be in the only one who could remove mountains; God alone. I can confidently rest my body in a chair, but if the chair was broken in one leg, I would come crashing to the ground .There was no problem with my faith, its object was faulty,
God has given us every reason to have faith. When it comes to guilt God says that He will, forgive, forget. Remove, blot out, remember no more among many other promises that He keeps. When God says they are gone we can rest comfortably that is so. Sometimes something has to be done like mending a relationship or taking care of a past transgression like restoring something stolen. Sometimes I have to utter those hard words ďPlease forgive me; I was wrong. I can make a tape to play on that one. Satan has a way of bringing up the things that God has already forgiven. The problem is that He doesnít forget and doesnít want you to.
A wonderful verse that speaks to this is Revelation 12:!!.
And they overcame him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony and they loved not their lives unto the death.Ē
The blood of the lamb is the basis of our faith. Jesus said they are covered under the blood .Our testimony is; Satan be gone. Your word is of none effect. My God has declared them Gone and I will live my life without guilt. The word of their testimony speaks of the proclamation of our faith. Itís not enough to be forgiven we are called to proclaim the message of forgiveness. Christians who are unconcerned for their unsaved friends bother me. The great evangelist Gypsy Smith said ďIf you are not fishing for men, you are not following Jesus.Ē God has not called us to be information receptacles.
Faith operates inside the perimeters of Godís revealed will. Some times we ask but we donít get it when we think we should. Godís methods, Godís timing and Godís provision are always perfect. Our part is to be patient until He answers. Sometimes it is difficult. Someone once said that faith is praying as though everything depended on God (and it does) and working as though everything depended upon us (that is also true).
To sum all of this up: There is a God who has our best interest at heart. He is called our Heavenly father. We need always to strive to be faithful in everything we do. Live as though Jesus was coming today. It means that while we pray we also need to watch and wait. God has taken care of our guilt and He will use our failures to remove the impurities from our lives to make us more effective servants for His glory.