(1 Corinthians 10:13)
Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. This morning we are in part two of the four-part message series called “The Bible Doesn’t Say That”. We're going to look at what possibly may be one of the biggest misconceptions about God. And you know what’s really amazing is the fact that so many people are impacted by this, because so many times we find that life is spinning out of control, it’s more than we can handle. Maybe some of you are dealing with a lot right now. And whether it’s a financial problem, a bad report from the doctor, a relationship blowing up, a job that is not as secure as it once was, or any number of different things, the weight just seems to be getting heavier and heavier and heavier, until one day you say, “I just can’t take this anymore.”
Maybe that describes where you are today, maybe that’s a summary of your week, and yet without fail, when we get to that place where we just can’t take any more, someone comes along and tells you with all the best intentions in the world, “Don’t worry. God will never give you more than you can handle.” And yet, the truth is often the exact opposite of that because “The Bible Never Said That.” So, I want to share with you a very powerful verse of Scripture from where I believe people get this misunderstanding. It’s recorded in first Corinthians, chapter 10, where Paul was talking to the church about temptation and he said in verse 13,
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Now notice, that the Bible never said that God won’t give you more than you can handle. The Bible says he won't let you be “tempted beyond what you can bear” and yet as you read through the Bible, you find story after story of people who had more than they could bear. Consider Job, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, David, Daniel, the prophets and the disciples. All of them experienced suffering, they were persecuted, destitute, and mistreated. With one voice they cried out, “God, I don’t have what it takes; to do what you want me to do. I just can’t take it.”
We see this illustrated even with Jesus in the New Testament. Maybe you saw Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ? Gibson said, that the idea for the movie developed during a time in which he was trapped with feelings of terrible isolated emptiness. And I know, it’s hard to imagine that Mel Gibson, one of the most respected actors and filmmakers in the world, wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, once named as People magazines’ “Sexiest Man Alive” could be overcome by feelings of emptiness; but it was during this time of his life that he meditated on the life of Christ, specifically the final 12 hours of the life of Jesus, and Gibson said that he went to the wounds of Christ in order to cure his wounds. It was through this time, as he identified with Christ’s sufferings, that he experienced his presence, his comfort, and his power in his life. It was just as Isaiah said,
“By his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
But Jesus, even Jesus, experienced more than he could bear. Let’s read the account of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. Reading from the Gospel of Mark in the 14th chapter,
“They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch" (Mark 14:32-34).
Verse 35, “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. "Abba, Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:35-36).
Dr. Luke adds in his gospel account a detail which emphasizes the anguish that our Lord Jesus was feeling at that moment. A true medical fact, expressing the very detail of his body’s response as he was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death”. Luke chapter 22, verse 44 says,
“And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
The Bible never said that God wouldn’t give you more than you can handle. And today we’re going to look at some reasons why, when you’re under the weight and the pressure of this world, and you feel like you don’t have what it takes, that God will occasionally allow you to have more than you can handle. First, sometimes God wants to teach us to pray.
If you saw the movie, The Passion of Christ, you may remember that there was some dialogue in this scene where Peter says to James and John, “I’ve never seen him like this before.” And it’s a believable dialogue, but it’s not from the Bible, the script writer imagined it. But the reality is that Peter, James, and John were seeing a side of Jesus that they had not previously seen. You see, the disciples had seen Jesus meet every situation with confidence. There wasn’t a problem that he didn’t approach calmly and with power.
When they were faced with the horrendous task of feeding the 5000, Jesus didn’t hesitate. When they were on the sea in the middle of a ferocious storm, Jesus wasn’t overcome with distress. When his friend Lazarus had died, Jesus wasn’t filled with grief. But in each of these situations he responded with faith and power, and in each of these situations a powerful miracle occurred.
They had seen him walking on water. They had seen him still the waves and calm a raging storm. They had seen him heal the sick and give sight to the blind. They had seen him raise the dead. But now they saw him deeply distressed and troubled saying, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” They had never seen him like this before.
But Jesus knew what was about to happen. You see, Jesus knew who he was. He knew the Scriptures. He knew what he had to do. He had been telling his disciples this, but they didn’t understand. He’d told them as plainly as he could what was going to happen. The disciples heard him, but I guess they’d hoped that somehow it wouldn’t take place that way, or maybe he was speaking allegorically, or maybe this was some kind of parable, just maybe things would turn out differently. But now in that olive grove called Gethsemane, in the darkness of the night, they saw Jesus experiencing deep distress and great sorrow.
He asked his disciples to pray for him and to pray for themselves, because he knew that soon they would abandon him, that he would be apprehended, beaten, tortured and murdered, and he knew that he was going to face it alone. And yet, Mark tells us in verse 37, as he’s writing this story dictated to him by the eyewitness Peter,
“He returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation" (Mark 14:37-38).
You see, Jesus wants to teach us to pray, because prayer removes the obstacles to obedience. Sometimes those obstacles are external, but oftentimes the obstacles are internal, and it’s through prayer that God changes us. Through prayer he gives us the will to obey, the courage to obey, and the power to obey. When we submit to God with a Gethsemane type of prayer, pouring out our souls to him, he meets us in the hour of desperation and gives us strength to go on. And then number two, he wants to teach us to depend on his presence.
2. TO TEACH US TO DEPEND ON HIS PRESENCE
You see, his followers let him down, but he will never let you down. His disciples abandoned him, but he will never abandon you. As a matter of fact, the very reason that he was in the garden that night is so that you won’t have to face life on your own.
You can face every day, every challenge, every crisis, every temptation, every moment of grief, with him right beside you. Jesus endured his suffering alone, but you don’t have to, because he’ll be with you. And yet, I wonder how many of you would admit that when things are going really well, when life is good, it’s actually easy to forget about God. You know, when life is going the way you want, when everything is working great, you just don’t feel the urgent need for God. But the moment that things start going downhill, the car breaks down, the kids get sick, and work just kind of dried up; it’s then that you start remembering God. It's amazing how when life gets difficult suddenly you're drawn to the presence of God.
And so sometimes, I believe that God allows us to go through something that’s more than we can handle to teach us to pray and to depend on his presence. Some of you right now are in the midst of a storm and you’re going to remember to call on Jesus, to seek him, because when you seek him, when you draw near to him, he will draw near to you and reveal himself to you. David said this in Psalm 145,
“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them” (Psalms 145:18-19).
You may have heard of Joni Eareckson Tada. As a teenager, she was injured in a diving accident and was paralyzed from the neck down. In the months following the accident, she prayed for deliverance, but deliverance didn't come. She prayed for healing, but healing didn't come. She even prayed for death, but death didn't come. She said that it was during this time that she heard a "dreadful silence" from heaven.
In her book, “The God I Love” she said, “Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves” (Joni Eareckson Tada).
And it was going through this situation that she learned to pray, to depend upon God’s presence, and to surrender herself completely to his will. In spite of the physical pain which was her constant companion, she kept moving forward, and she kept serving God. And there are times in life when suffering is inevitable and the only way out of it is the press through it. That was Jesus’ experience in Gethsemane and as I consider his suffering, as I think about his experience at the hands of the Roman soldiers or as I considered the challenges that Joni Eareckson Toda faced, I am reminded that sometimes God allows us to experience more than we can handle so that we’ll be drawn to his presence, so that we’ll remember his goodness, and that we’ll call upon his name.
I can recognize time and time again where God used a painful situation to draw me to himself, and it was because of that circumstance, that I never would’ve chosen, that I am who I am today. And I think that all of us sometimes need to get to that place where we have nowhere else to turn but to him. And I’ll just be honest, I would rather be in the valley with Jesus than on the highest mountaintop without him. I would rather be hurting his presence, with his goodness, then on a mountaintop totally unaware of who he is or what he’s doing.
And so, God allows us to experience more than we can handle to teach us to pray, to teach us to depend on his presence, and then number three to teach us to experience his power.
3. TO TEACH US TO EXPERIENCE HIS POWER
God wants us to experience his supernatural power, because too many of us are struggling through life on our own. We’re living each day relying upon our own strength, thinking that we can do this, we’ve got it, when suddenly life goes spiraling out of control. And so, God wants to teach us to experience his power, because we weren’t created to have the power to do it ourselves. You see, God said,
“I am the Lord, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:18).
We were created for God, created to need God, and to be desperate for him. When you recognize that you can’t handle everything, and that God doesn’t expect you to handle everything, that’s when you experience his power. Let’s read those words that Jesus spoke to Peter, James and John, in Mark chapter 14,
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." (Mark 14:38)
The key to what he’s saying here is that the lack of prayer makes us vulnerable to temptation but on the other hand, an abundance of prayer gives us power over it. Jesus is telling his disciples to pray so that they’ll have power over temptation, so that they’ll have strength in their weakness, and that’s exactly what he did, that’s what he modeled for us. As Jesus entered the garden that night filled with anxiety and deep distress, his soul crushed with grief, he found the power to obey, and the power to overcome temptation through prayer. We don’t know how long he stayed in the garden praying, but he prayed until the power came.
The apostle Paul practiced this and he tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians,
“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-8).
Whatever it was, this thorn in his flesh, it was overwhelming and he wanted it to go away. He says, “three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away,” and as we read that we naturally think that he prayed three times, maybe three days, but what this means in the original language is that there were three significant seasons of seeking, begging, and pleading with God. It was this ongoing process of purposeful prayer that probably included fasting. That’s what Paul said he was doing.
And today, some of you have your own thorn, or soon enough you’re going to find your own thorn that just doesn’t go away. And you’re going to ask God, “Please take this away.” You’re going to plead with him to heal you, to fix your marriage, to lead your children to repentance, and you’re just crying out, “God, can’t you just do this one thing?” And you know he can, but he doesn’t, and so you wonder “Why would God allow me to have more than I can handle?” And that’s exactly where Paul was when God actually spoke to him and said something so powerful. Paul asked, “Why didn’t you do this?” And God said in verse nine,
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
He says, “I delight in those tough times when I don’t have what it takes, when I have to tap into the supernatural power of God, because when I’m weak, then I’m strong. When I am weak, the same spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead rises up within me.”
And those of you today who are weak, burdened, and hurting, I pray that you may experience his power even more right now, because he is strong. And maybe you’ve been led to believe that he’d never give you more than you can handle. But I assure you, that when he calls you to do something, he will give you more than you can handle, because you were created for him, and you were created to need him. And I’ll tell you, when I’m exhausted, when I don’t have anything more to give, when I’m discouraged, that’s when God’s power works the best. It’s in those times when I’m feeling weak that he is strong.
I assure you, if you’re married, there will be more than you can handle. If you’re a parent, there will be more than you can handle. If you’re involved in the ministry of the church, if you are serving, there will be more than you can handle. But you weren’t created to do life on your own, you don’t have to handle it, you don’t have to be strong. What you need to do is acknowledge your weakness and learn to depend on him. What you need to do is admit that you can’t get it done by yourself, because when you come to him in weakness it’s then that his strength is made perfect in you.
You see, sometimes you just need to stop rowing and start sailing, you just need to let go and let God. “My grace is sufficient for you” God says, “because my power is made perfect in weakness.” Sometimes God may give you more than you can handle, because he wants you to seek him, he wants to teach you to pray, to depend upon his presence, and to experience his supernatural power, because his power is made perfect in your weakness.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
June 11, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.