by Alan Allegra
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When someone yells, “Heads up!” it usually means that something is coming at you.
When I was in school, being a dashing non-athlete, I would usually duck when I heard “Heads up!” I didn’t want to get bonked by any baseball, softball, soccer ball, dodge ball, volley ball, Nerf ball, or meatball. We laugh about people who see a sign that says, “Wet paint” and have to go touch the wall to see if it really is wet. For some reason, when I hear “Duck!” I look up to see what’s coming. I don’t imagine I’m the only one who reacts opposite from the way that is expected. We’ve all had our share of bonks.
A well-known preacher said that we don’t have to look for trouble. We have probably either just passed through a trial, are in the midst of one, or have one heading toward us. One danger with being a teacher is that one is expected to live what one teaches. I learned that the hard way recently.
I had just finished a class on the book of Job. This man, the greatest man of his time, endured the loss of all things: his health, wealth, servants, properties, children, the respect of his wife, and the comfort of friends. I saw something in that book that I had never seen before: although Job questioned God, he never turned his back on Him. His faith wavered, but he knew Whom to look to when he had doubts and trials. And, believe me, doubts and trials go together like mosquitoes and big, itchy bites.
Right after I taught that class with such conviction and aplomb, my wife and I hit trials that were financially and emotionally itchy. We’re still scratching. Now what?
For me, the temptation to scream and stop serving God was strong. Why serve Him when He keeps taking my toys away? Could I trust Him? Poor me; no one understands. I didn’t even get a “Heads up!”
I now realize that my “Heads up!” was that Sunday school lesson. The words that I taught were the warning that the Lord provided to prepare me for the speeding curveball aimed at my “helmet of salvation” (Ephesians 6:17). But, instead of looking up, I put my head down and stared at my problems.
Does that sound like anyone we know from the gospels? What about Peter, who was bidden by Jesus to walk on the water. The Bible tells us, “Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” (Matthew 14:29, 30). Peter looked at the wind instead of the Lord of the wind and began to sink.
When trials come into our life, God is saying, “Heads up!” Instead of ducking or looking at the problem, He wants us to look at Him. Although the winds were blowing and the waves were swirling all around him, had Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he would have had peace about the situation and confidence in the One Who was calmly walking over the waves.
Why do we lack peace? It’s because we are not keeping our heads up. This verse has taken on its intended meaning for us during our trials: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3, KJV). THAT’S the secret! In order to have perfect peace, we must keep our minds focused on God, not on the problems!
We have become a problem-focused society. We whine, we want our rights, we have to have our felt needs met, everyone else is nuts. New emotional and mental diseases are being “discovered” and catalogued every day. Some psychiatrists say that all families are dysfunctional (God already has that covered—“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23].). Christian counselors are springing up all over the place, many bringing psychology into the mix with Scripture, focusing on problems instead of the Power.
The Bible calls us to focus on the Problem Solver, not the problem. As trite as the bumper sticker sounds, “Jesus is the Answer!” The writer of Hebrews exhorts us to run the difficult race of life by “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Runners don’t watch their feet or look for pennies on the track; they keep their eyes on the finish line. They keep their head up.
God also warns us to “Duck!” at times. He doesn’t want us to peek over the fence or touch the wet paint to see what we’re missing or to see if the sign is correct. When the temptation to sin arrives, we are not to check it out. We are to “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22, cf. 1 Corinthians 6:18, 10:14; 1 Timothy 6:11; James 4:7).
When the storms of life assail us, look up—there’s Jesus! When the temptations of sin assault us, duck! Don’t get bonked by Satan’s curve balls.
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