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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. David Jeremiah » David Jeremiah - Why Do Christians Have So Many Problems?

David Jeremiah - Why Do Christians Have So Many Problems?

TOPICS: Hard times

10 Questions Christians Are Asking

01. How can I be sure of my salvation?
02. How can I overcome temptation?
03. How can I get victory over worry?
04. How can I find forgiveness?
05. Is there only one way to God?
06. Why do Christians have so many problems?
07. Why don't my prayers get answered?
08. Is there a sin God cannot forgive?
09. What is faith?
10. What is the greatest commandment?

Why do Christians have so many problems? Hello, I'm David Jeremiah, agreeing with you that problems are a problem. We wish we didn't have them, but we do. And there are two answers to why we have problems. The first answer is because we live in a fallen world. We can't change that at the moment, so we need to focus on the second answer. We have problems so God can use them to change our lives into the image of his Son. Today's message is entitled, "Why Do Christians Have So Many Problems"? And I'm going to give you five good reasons. We're in a series called "10 Questions Christians Are Asking," and today's question is an important one. The Bible's answer will completely change how you view the problems in your life. So join me for the answer to this important question on today's edition of Turning Point.

On November 27th, 1965, Howard Rutledge parachuted into the hands of the North Vietnamese when his fighter plane exploded under heavy anti-aircraft fire. The story of his subsequent 7-year captivity was popularized a few years after, when it was put in a book called "In the Presence of Mine Enemies". I remember getting that book and reading it from cover to cover. On December 1st, just a few days after his capture, Rutledge was placed in cell two in Heartbreak Hotel, the name given to one of the prisons in Hanoi. He tells in vivid language in his book of the pain of his imprisonment.

He wrote, "When the door slammed and the key turned in that rusty iron lock, a feeling of utter loneliness swept over me. I laid down on the cold cement slab in my six-by-six prison. The smell of human excrement burned my nostrils. A rat as large as a small cat scampered across the slab beside me. The walls and the floors and ceilings were caked with filth. Bars covered a tiny window high above the door. I was cold and hungry. My body ached with swollen joints and sprained muscles. It's hard to describe what solitary confinement can do to a nerve and defeat a man. You quickly tire of standing or sitting down, sleeping or being awake. There are no books, no papers, no pencils, no magazines. The only colors that you see are drab grey and dirty brown. Months or years may go by when you don't see the sunrise or the moon, green grass or flowers. You are locked in, alone and silent in your filthy little cell, breathing stale, rotten air, and trying somehow to keep your sanity intact".

A question that comes into our minds whenever we read something like that about a believer is, why would God allow something like this to happen in someone's life? Why would something as evil ever take place in anyone's life, the life of a Howard Rutledge, or anyone for that matter? Why would God allow problems and prisons and excruciating circumstances to hurt a person, and bring them to the very edge of their lives? Before he was finished writing his book, Howard Rutledge would tell of the things that God did in his life while he was in prison. He would help us understand that never does a problem come into our life that there isn't some purpose behind it that we may not know. And it was that way with Joseph, whose life we find in the 40th chapter of Genesis. Eleven years have passed in Joseph's life since he was sold into Egypt by his brothers.

As we look in on his life now, he's probably 27, 28 years old, and he is serving as the attache to Potiphar, the captain of the guard in Pharaoh's court. It was a very important and prestigious position for a Jewish man to hold in the Egyptian government. Genesis chapter 39, the chapter previous to the one to which we've opened today, tells the story of Joseph being thrown into prison. Potiphar's wife had tried to seduce Joseph. And in spite of the fact that he did not yield to her temptation, and expressed his faithfulness to Potiphar and to God, Potiphar's wife falsely accused Joseph and had him thrown into the royal prison by Potiphar himself. And from this story of Joseph and all the circumstances that surround it, I would like to suggest five reasons why God allows problems in our lives.

First of all, reason number one, problems often provide greater opportunities for us. Joseph is about to learn that in his prison experience, he has not been forgotten by God. And that God, in his mercy, sees him. And it is while he is in prison that God brings him into a relationship with the one man who would ultimately be able to link Joseph to his boyhood dreams, and to his place in the palace, and to his freedom from prison. So, sometimes when you're in the midst of a problem, if you're not careful, you miss the fact that God is up to something. He's got you in a place where you don't want to be so that he can prepare you for something greater.

Number two, problems promote spiritual maturity. As you rewind Joseph's life, it's not hard to realize that he probably had a very soft life as a child. I mean, you read about him as a young boy, he's not out in the field with his brothers. He's at home with his father. He's the pampered favorite son of the family, wearing that colored coat that was given to him. And if God was going to use Joseph, he would have to toughen him up. He would have to make him ready to be prime minister of Egypt during a worldwide famine. And the psalmist alludes to the hardening process in Psalm 105, verses 17 and 18, where Joseph is mentioned by name. "He sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters, and he was laid in irons". Joseph went to prison, and iron entered into his soul. When he came out of prison, he was an iron-souled man. He was a man of wisdom, and courage, and determination, and he acts every bit like a born leader in Egypt.

When he ascends to the high place of government by himself, he carries a nation that is foreign to him through a terrible famine without one single sign of any revolt. He was prepared for the hardship of famine because he experienced the hardship of prison. And God wants and needs today, men and women, some iron-souled saints. And the only way iron ever gets into our souls is when we go through the pressure cooker. Romans 5:3, "We also glory in tribulation," or problems, "knowing that problems produce perseverance, and perseverance produces character". And Hebrews 12:11 says, "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but it's painful. Nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it".

All of these passages say the same thing, that when you're under pressure, when you're in the pressure cooker, whether it's persecutions, or trials, or problems, or whatever you want to call them, when you're in the midst of that, one of the reasons God allows that is to bring you greater inward strength, to toughen you up, to make you ready to face the challenges that are yet ahead in your life. I often think that sometimes, when we're out trying to help people, we need to be careful that we don't rescue them from this process. I mean, I'm a rescuer, I don't know about the rest of you. I mean, I got children and grandchildren. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure, if there's some way I can make their life easier and better, I want to do it. I'm not sure that's the right thing to do. It's just who I am and how I function. But suppose for a moment that Reuben, the oldest son in Joseph's family, had been able to do what he wanted to do.

Remember, when Joseph was thrown into the pit by his brothers, Reuben wanted to get him out and get him home because he knew this was going to break his dad's heart, but he didn't do it. If Reuben had been allowed to rescue Joseph, we would never be reading the story of Joseph today because Joseph had to be in the pit on his way to the palace, and Reuben was kept by the hand of God from rescuing him. I've always thought that when Potiphar threw Joseph into prison because of the alleged sexual advances supposedly Joseph made on his wife, we all know that didn't happen, I think Potiphar knew it didn't happen either. I think he knew his wife. He knew what she was doing, but he had to respond, so he threw Joseph in prison. Suppose he had let him stay there for a couple of days, and then gotten him out and rescued him. Joseph would never had met the butler, and the butler would never have introduced him to Pharaoh. You see what I'm saying? Sometimes, problems are there for God's purposes. They're avenues that God uses to bring us from where we are to where we need to be. And in the process, God fired Joseph's soul with steel so he could face the challenges that were ahead. Problems promote our maturity. Here's the third thing that problems do: they prove our integrity.

Now, one thing about Joseph that's interesting is that no matter what happened to him, he never changed. He was just Joseph. He was Joseph in the pit, he was Joseph in the palace, he was Joseph in the prison. Everywhere Joseph went, he maintained his integrity. Because Joseph understood that circumstances don't make us what we are, they reveal what we are. And when we go through problems, we give everyone around us a window on our reality. I can't help but remember that when I was going through cancer, I would tell my wife when I got home, "Honey, I just feel like everybody's watching me to see what I'm going to do". Some of you know that when you are in the midst of some trials, that's when who you are really becomes visible. Somebody says that people see you through the cracks in your soul. And Joseph proves to us that sometimes, the reason we have problems is so that we can bear testimony to the world to the redeeming and powerful grace of God. People never know you as well as they know you when they watch you go through a difficult time in your life.

And number four, problems produce a sense of dependency. Look back in your Bibles to the 39th chapter, and verses 20 and 21, where we have a little descriptive verse about Joseph's initiation to the prison experience. It says, "Then Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king's prisoners were confined. And he was there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison". If you read the book of Genesis and the life of Joseph, you'll discover that wherever Joseph went, God went with him. When Joseph was in the pit, God was with him. When Joseph was in the palace, God was with him. And when he was in the prison, God was with him. And ladies and gentlemen, I need to tell you that what Joseph found out while he was in prison was that God loved him a whole lot, that God was there with him. He found out how much God loved him.

And I can't tell you how many times people have told me that when they've gone through family problems, or marital problems, or financial problems, or physical problems, that the testimony has been, "Pastor, I knew that God loved me. I've always felt close to him, but never in all of my days have I ever felt the love that I experienced when I was going through this difficult situation". He's enough. He's enough. Can you say that? He's enough. No matter what the problem is, he's enough. And finally, problems prepare our hearts for ministry. They provide greater opportunities, they promote spiritual maturity, they prove our integrity, they produce a sense of dependency, and they prepare our hearts for ministry. In chapter 40 of Genesis verses 6 and 7, Joseph wakes up one morning, and the Bible says, "Joseph came in to them in the morning and looked at them," he's talking here about the butler and the baker, "and he saw that they were sad. And so he asked Pharaoh's officers who were with him in the custody of his lord's house, saying, 'Why do you look so sad today?'"

Now, try to get this into context. Here he is a prisoner, unjustly so. Notice that he sees their sad faces. He is sensitive, he's loving, he's sympathetic. He initiates the conversation. He ministers to the prisoners. And I've written down in my notes that there is no ministry to the sufferer like the sufferer's ministry to others. And that is true. Isn't that what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians and the first chapter, where he tells us that we comfort others, "With the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted"? In other words, when we have felt God's comfort and strength for us, it's out of that experience that we're able to help others who are going through trouble. Listen to me carefully. Even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had to go through suffering in order for him to be able to help us in our suffering, did you know that? That's what the book of Hebrews says. Let me read these verses to you from Hebrews 2 and 4.

Here they are, "Therefore, in all things he had to be made like his brethren," he had to be made like us, so that, "In that he himself has suffered, being tempted, he is able to aid those who are tempted. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tested as we are, yet without sin". Listen to me, ladies and gentlemen. If the sinless Son of the living God had to experience suffering so that he could identify with our suffering, then we should not be surprised that we have to do the very same thing. You can't counsel others about something you've never really experienced. Don't go and say to somebody, "I know what you've been through," if you've never been through it. But the Lord God lets us all have our share of experiences, doesn't he, so that we then can go to somebody and say, "I got it". People call me from all over the country to talk to me about cancer. And as much as I can, I try to talk with them and pray with them. But until I had cancer, nobody ever did that, nobody. People want to know what somebody who's been there and done that have to say about what it's all about.

Here's Joseph, he's in prison, suffering himself, not wanting to be there by any means. But in the midst of his suffering, he is serving. Before I finish my little talk today, I want to answer one more question. How do we deal with these things when they come? What should our attitude be? I'm very thankful for a little experience I had that will help me try to explain that to you. Some of you know that I am a beach bike bum. Take that any way you want. I love to ride the Strand in Coronado. I can tell you that from where I start, it's 8 and a half miles one-way, so it's a 17-mile round trip. I try to do it every day that I can if I'm down there. And I had an experience that will help me explain what you do when you face these problems. I've learned that certain times during the day in Coronado, the winds can be very fierce, and such was the case this last week. As I headed down on my ride, I knew I was in for some challenges.

You see, on the way down the beach, the wind was at my back. And I was flying so fast, I could hardly keep my feet on the pedals. Have you ever ridden a bike like that? I don't have a gear bike, I just have a beach cruiser. I can't gear down, I got to try to keep up. In fact, on one occasion, I stood up on my bike to rest my backside, which is one of the downsides of riding a bike, but anyway, I stood up to just get a little rest. And all of a sudden, I realized, "Hey, I'm not pedaling, and I'm still moving". My body became like a sail. And I went for about a quarter of a mile without ever making one pedal stroke. It was amazing. When I got to the end of my ride, I found my resting place down at the halfway point, went in and drank my tea, and began mentally preparing myself for what I knew would be a challenging ride home. I was not to be disappointed. The wind was so fierce in my face that every single stroke of the pedals was a challenge.

I had to promise myself that I would not look ahead or I would have become so discouraged, I would never continue. On one occasion, I decided to stand up again. And in that one moment, my bike almost came to a dead stop. I realized that I had only one way that I was going to make it all the way home without having to make several stops, and here's what I discovered. When the wind is in your face, keep your head down and pedal with all your strength. Don't think about how far you have to go. Don't think about quitting or resting. Keep your head down and keep pedaling. As you can see, I made it home. And I made careful note of that ride, and the time in which it occurred, and vowed never to ride my bike down there at that time again. And I was reminded of how much like life my riding experience really was. I've been riding against the wind in my life in recent days, and I must admit I'd much rather have the wind at my back. I like the wind pushing me ahead, not pushing me back. But I'm glad for the experience on the trail and in life. I know that I can keep moving forward if I keep my head down in submission to God and in prayer, and don't quit.

You see, that's what the enemy wants you to do when you have problems, he wants you to quit. He wants you to quit pedaling. He wants you to just give in and let the problem overwhelm you. But I want to tell you something, it's not just enough to keep your head down in submission and prayer. You've got to keep pedaling. Every stroke may be painful for a while, but I cannot yield to my puny human nature and quit. I will lean into the wind and keep moving forward, sometimes at a very slow pace, but never stopping and never standing up. And God gets me through those moments. God's allowed some of these things into our lives, some of them more bitter than others, some more difficult than others. But here's the good news. God is up to something. He will never, ever leave you alone. Wherever you are, whatever situation you're in, he's with you. He's promised never to leave you nor forsake you. And you will come out better if you don't come out bitter. Make God the Lord of your problems. Don't run from them, embrace them. And keep your head down, and keep pedaling, amen?
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