It is said that a drowning man will clutch at a straw. I like the Collins Dictionary definition of this idiom:
Sometimes we find ourselves drowning in the sea of life and immediately we clutch at the first thing we see even though it is the proverbial straw. A straw is not stable. A straw is light and can be blown away easily. There are some people who are drowning in loneliness and they hold onto the first person that comes their way. They place their trust in the first person that shows any interest in their life. As time goes by that lonely person recognizes that they were actually holding a straw.
They are some who are drowning in debt and they hold onto the first sign of hope that comes their way of paying off that debt. Maybe it was a ‘get rich quick’ scheme or some new investment deal with a high payout. In the end they find themselves in the same place or in an even worse position because they placed their hope in something which could not give them deliverance.
I know what it feels like to be drowning in debt but I also know what it feels like to be delivered from debt. In those moments when the issues of life are strangling us and burying us we need to know where our hope lies. We need to know where our deliverance will come from. The Bible records that Peter found himself sinking in the water in the midst of a storm. Even though he was faithfully walking towards Jesus he allowed the circumstances around him to disrupt his faith and he began to sink. Even though he did not have the faith to continue walking on the water; even though he was sinking in the water, he did not clutch at a straw. In that moment of despair Peter knew where his hope lied:
But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. (Matthew 14:30 NLT)
Peter shouted three words “Save me, Lord”. Peter knew his hope did not lie in the boat with the other disciples. He knew his hope was in Jesus. Jesus is our hope. He is not only our hope of eternal life. He is our hope of salvation in this life. Jesus is our hope in the darkness. He is our hope in the storm. He is our hope when we are depressed. He is our hope when we are stressed. When there is nothing in our life that we can hold onto and receive salvation, Jesus is always standing there waiting for us to call on Him for help.
The Bible also records that as soon as Peter shouted for Jesus to save him, Jesus “immediately reached out and grabbed him…” (Matthew 14:31 NLT). Jesus did not hesitate. Jesus saved Peter as soon as the words left Peter’s mouth.
We have a Saviour that is “always ready to help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1 NLT).
We have a Saviour that has promised: “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NLT)
We have a Saviour who said “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)
OUR HOPE LIES IN JESUS CHRIST!
There is one thing that adversity, trouble, problems, negative circumstances and bad news do to us as human beings:
They cause us to lose hope
News of high levels of unemployment can cause us to lose hope of finding a job. Losing a job in the midst of a recession can cause us to lose hope of being able to take care of ourselves or our family. A bad report from the doctor can cause us to lose hope of having a long, healthy life. However, the Bible reminds us that we can overcome adversity, trouble, problems, negative circumstances and bad news if we know where our hope lies. If we know that the source of our hope is not in this world but in the Word of God then we can overcome adversity. If we know that the source of our hope is not in what men and women have said about tomorrow but in what God has said about tomorrow then we can overcome bad news. If we know that the source of our hope is not in the stability of our physical environment but in the stability of our spiritual environment then we can overcome trouble and problems.
Abram’s wife Sarai was barren. She could not have children. There was no in vitro fertilization available to help Abram and Sarai. All hope on earth that they could have children was gone. It did not help that they were old. However, one day Abram heard the voice of God and God told him something amazing:
“Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. (Genesis 12:1-2 NLT)
There was only one way for God to make Abram into a “great nation”. Abram needed a son. After Abram heard the Word of God and obeyed God spoke to him again:
Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” (Genesis 12:7 NLT)
A descendant is the biological offspring of someone. Abram and Sarai’s circumstances told them that they could not have children but God told Abram that his biological offspring would possess the land of Canaan.
Sometime after God spoke to Abram and Abram questioned God about not having any descendants. Abram looked at his situation and said that one of his servants will be his heir. However, God told Abram:
“No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” Then the LORD took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” (Genesis 15:4-5 NLT)
Abram and his wife were old and Sarai was barren. Now God was saying that not only will Abram have a son of his own but he will have so many descendants that they could not be counted. Abram’s response to the Word of God is a secret to living an overcoming life:
…Abram believed the LORD… (Genesis 15:6 NLT)
Abram believed the Word of God. Abram believed that what God said would actually happen. Abram’s hope of having a son of his own and having many descendants rested in the Word of God and not in his earthly circumstances. There is hope within the Word of God. Your entire world may be falling apart but if God says that you are on solid ground then you have the hope that you will overcome.
The Psalmist David said:
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 NLT)
The Psalmist knew that God said that he would never leave him. Therefore, even in the “darkest valley” or the “valley of the shadow of death” he would not be afraid. Why? Because his hope was not in the path that he was walking on. His hope was in the Word of God. Some of us walk through paths of adversity and trouble that seem to be never ending but the Bible reminds us that all hope is not lost. If God says that there is light at the end of the darkest tunnel there is hope. And if there is hope then you must keep walking until you see the light.
Our hope does not lie in the circumstances we face. Our hope lies in what God has said about our circumstances. Our hope lies in the promises that God has given to us through His Son Jesus Christ. When we know where our hope lies (in the Word of God) then we can boldly move forward knowing that we will overcome.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT)
Is there anyone who would not like to be first in a race at the Olympics? Imagine a grueling marathon with many runners from many different countries. A marathon is not easy. You need determination and endurance to run a marathon. The person who crosses the finish line first is the winner. The person who crosses the finish line first is the ‘first overcomer’. Others who have crossed the line after are also overcomers but there will always be the ‘first overcomer’. The first overcomer is the one who was able to run through the rough terrain or brave the harsh weather conditions and still come out on top.
The Christian life is a race. In fact it is a spiritual marathon. Life on this earth is the race course. It is a race in which we can grow while running. But we must run correctly. We must run with the correct attitude. We must run with the correct fuel in our bodies. During the Christian race our endurance can grow. During the Christian race our faith can grow. During the Christian race our patience can grow. During the Christian race our love can grow. The Christian race is one in which the weak can become strong and the poor can become rich.
The Christian race is not designed to destroy us or discourage us. The Christian race is our place of victory. The race is our place of overcoming. How? Because we are following the First Overcomer. The First Overcomer is the leader of the pack. The First Overcomer knows the terrain. He knows the route. He finished the race before us. He won the race and wants us to win also. The First Overcomer obtained the prize and wants us to obtain the prize also. Even though He finished the race He has not left us alone. He joins us in the race. He sent the Holy Spirit to comfort us during the race. He has Angels ready to minister to us during the race. He commissioned Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers to equip, strengthen and encourage us to complete the race.
Jesus is the First Overcomer. He overcame Satan. He overcame death. He overcame the world. He is now seated at the right hand of God, His Father, interceding for us. Jesus wants all of His disciples to overcome. God’s plan was for Jesus to overcome. It is God’s plan for us to overcome also. Jesus told His disciples that they would have “trials and sorrows” in this world. That sounds like bad news but immediately after saying that Jesus told them to “take heart”. The King James Translation says “be of good cheer”. This seems paradoxical but really it isn’t.
Jesus did not tell them to “take heart” because of the trials and sorrows. He told them to “take heart” because “I have overcome the world”. All believers in Jesus Christ should “take heart” not because of the storms and temptations they are facing. They should “take heart” because they serve and are following the First Overcomer. Jesus Christ has “overcome the world”!
When we follow the First Overcomer we will overcome. When we learn from the First Overcomer we will be victorious. When we keep our eyes on the First Overcomer nothing will be able to prevent us from obtaining the prize.
It is impossible to know God without trusting Him. Sounds strange? It is impossible to know God as your Healer without trusting Him to heal your body. It is impossible to know God as your Financial Provider without trusting Him to provide you with finances. It is impossible to know God as a Deliverer without trusting Him to deliver you or your household. A very close look into the lives those men and women in the Bible who overcame obstacles, trouble and afflictions would reveal one thing:
THEY ALL TRUSTED GOD
Lets look into the life of Abram (later called Abraham). Abram lived with his family in Haran. The name ‘Abram’ meant “exalted father” but Abram had no children because his wife was barren. He had no land to call his own. He was not famous and he was not rich according to the standards of the world at the time. One day Abram heard the voice of God. God told him to leave his country, his family and his father’s house and go to another land. God said what He would do for Abram if he obeyed:
And I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.
I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you. (Gen.12:2-3 NLT)
Abram heard the voice of God but he did not know God until he decided to trust the Word of God. Abram obeyed God and left his family, his father’s house and started to travel towards the land that God would show him. Abram was on his own in a dangerous world but he trusted God with his life, family and possessions. Towards the end of his “sojourn” God had “blessed him in every way”. (Gen.24:1 NLT)
- A man who left his family without children was blessed with many children and became the “father of many nations” (Gen.17:4-5).
- A man who left his family with few possessions was blessed with an abundance of gold, silver and cattle (Gen.13:1).
- A man whose name was unknown to the world when he left his family was blessed to the point where his name was known by the Kings of Egypt, Babylon, Gerar and all of the wealthy men of the region. (Gen. 12, 14, 20, 23)
- A man who came from a heathen family inherited the Kingdom of God. (Matt.8:11)
Abraham knew God because he trusted God in everything. Anyone can live an overcoming life but they must learn to trust God in everything. David was a young shepherd but he overcame a lion and a bear because he trusted God with his life and his father’s sheep. When the giant, Goliath, showed up dressed in armor from head to toe with a spear, sword and a shield David knew that God would deliver the giant into his hands because he knew the God of Deliverance.
I join the writer of Hebrews:
How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death. (Heb.11:32-35 NLT)
Knowing God is our armor against the troubles of life. All of those men and women overcame obstacles, troubles and afflictions because they knew God and they knew God because they decided to trust God in the face of their obstacles, troubles and afflictions. We can decide to do the same because with God:
ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE IF A PERSON BELIEVES (Mark 9:23 NLT)
There are many secrets to living an overcoming life. One of those secrets is ‘knowing God’. Let me explain. A problem is not really a problem if you know someone who can fix it. A broken pipe in your home is frustrating but if you know a competent, reliable, trustworthy plumber, your frustrations will eventually disappear. The Bible is full of men and women who were afflicted and plagued with problems. Some were fearful because of their problems. Some were confused because of their problems. However, their fear and confusion eventually disappeared. They eventually disappeared because these men and women knew Someone Who could fix the source of their fear and confusion:
THEY KNEW GOD
King Jehoshaphat had a great problem. A large army was marching towards Jerusalem and they were coming to steal, kill and destroy. The armies of Moab, Ammon and others were coming to fight against Jerusalem. It seemed as though all hell had broken loose against Jehoshaphat. When Jehoshaphat heard the troubling news he was afraid but the Bible records something amazing. In the midst of his fear, Jehoshaphat:
“…set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (2 Chronicles 20:3 ESV)
Jehoshaphat knew God. Knowing God does not mean knowing that God exists. Knowing God means knowing:
- The Identity of God (Who God is: His character, His attributes…)
- The Ability of God (What God can do: His power, His authority…)
- The Word of God (What God has said: His promises, His covenants…)
Jehoshaphat’s knowledge of God is seen in his prayer to God in 2 Chronicles 20:5-9 :
Jehoshaphat stood before the community of Judah and Jerusalem in front of the new courtyard at the Temple of the LORD. He prayed, “O LORD, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. (The Identity of God)
You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people Israel arrived? (The Ability of God)
And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? Your people settled here and built this Temple to honor your name. They said, ‘Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war,plague, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’ (The Word of God)
Jehoshaphat knew God’s identity, His ability and His Word. He knew that God was all-powerful. He knew the promises God made to Abraham concerning the Promised Land. He knew that God promised to answer any prayer for help that was made in the Temple or towards the Temple that Solomon had built. Therefore, Jehoshaphat prayed and God heard him and helped him and all Judah.
God delivered Judah from that large army. God won a great victory for Judah because their king knew God. Jehoshaphat overcame fear because he knew God. Those who believe in Jesus Christ can be victorious even though there is a large problem coming to steal, kill and destroy. Jehoshaphat knew the problem. He knew the problem was big. He knew the problem was too big for him and his army to handle. But Jehoshaphat knew the problem was not too big for His God to handle.
Are you facing a problem that is too big for you to handle? No problem. There is no problem which is too big for God. Remember the Identity of God, the Ability of God and the Word of God. Learn Who God is. Learn what God can do. Learn what God has said. You will overcome!
The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. (John 10:10 NLT)