Put Your Problems in the Proper Perspective!
There’s an interesting phenomenon in the world. It’s a phenomenon that always seems to creep up at just the wrong time. We call it Murphy’s Law. Murphy’s Law states that if something can go wrong, it will. Maybe you are already running late to work and every light that you come across is a red light. Perhaps you go in to get an oil change and are told that your car requires $3000 of repairs before it can leave the lot. Or maybe there’s a long list of things that need to be done at the office but you get an important phone call before you can start tackling your daily tasks.
It’s probably not hard to think of situations or problems that can stand in the way of you accomplishing what you need to accomplish. As many problems that stand in the way of you doing your earthly tasks, I’m sure you can think of even more problems that stand are keeping your from having a clear relationship with your Lord. That’s what was going on in our lesson this morning – the devil was placing illnesses and demon possessions in people’s way of worshipping and listening to the Son of God. Through our lesson this morning, our Savior encourages you and me to “Put your problems in the proper perspective!” Our problems spur us to seek Christ’s help and His help spurs us to service.
1. Several days earlier, Jesus had called James and John, Peter and Andrew to be full-time disciples. Jesus and his followers started traveling and ended up in Capernaum. On the Sabbath day, Jesus taught in the synagogue and amazed those who were there. When he finished, a man possessed by an evil spirit cried out at Jesus. With six words – Be quiet! Come out of him! – Jesus drove the demon out. Suddenly those who heard Jesus were not just amazed at his ability to teach, but also at his authority over evil spirits. Those who had seen Jesus that day went out and told all their friends about the amazing things they had heard and seen. Mark tells us that news about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee (v 28).
When Jesus had finished teaching in the synagogue, he went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew (v 29). Peter and Andrew had invited their new Teacher over for dinner and a place to stay. When they arrived, they were greeted with some somber news – Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever. The disciples had just seen Jesus drive out a demon and they hoped he would heal Peter’s mother-in-law also so they told Jesus what was going on. Jesus stood at the bedside of Peter’s mother-in-law, grabbed her hand and helped her out of bed. Instantly her fever left her (30-31)!
As the news about this new Teacher and miracle-worker spread throughout Galilee crowds began to search for Jesus. The people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed (32). They came knocking on the door of Peter’s home; and it wasn’t just a handful but the whole town!
Jesus, the compassionate healer that he is, did not leave their requests unfulfilled. He healed many who had various diseases and drove out many demons (34). Jesus realized that these illnesses were standing in the way of these Galileans worshipping according to the Old Testament laws. That night, there may have been some who were like lepers – forbidden from public interaction. Others may have had illnesses or diseases that prevented them from making the regular trips to Jerusalem for festivals or sacrifices.
But Jesus realized that these illnesses and demon possessions weren’t just a physical burden but more importantly a spiritual burden. These illnesses may have caused them to begin to question why God would inflict them with such painful ailments. Perhaps they had begun to wonder what they had done to deserve punishment. Deep down, they may even have begun to doubt God on account of their illnesses.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, what stands in your way this morning? What problems may there be in your lives that prevent you from properly worshipping your loving Father in heaven? Perhaps it’s a schedule that begins to fill up with tasks and appointments until you wonder where you can squeeze God in. Are there unexpected problems that demand your attention at work? Maybe the problem in your life is struggling to find a balance between your work life and your family life. Illnesses creep up, problems in relationships arise, and things don’t go according to our plans.
The devil uses these various problems as opportunities to pry us away from hearing God’s Word. The devil’s no dummy! He knows that the easy road to our damnation isn’t in getting us to outright forsake God completely. He realizes that it’s easier to get us to think and focus on something else until God begins to slowly slip from our thoughts.
Instead of trying to get us to curse God from the get-go, the devil uses our problems to drive a wedge between us and our gracious God. Have you ever cut wood? That’s the picture I’m thinking of! In order to make sure the pieces of wood aren’t too thick or large, we pound a triangle-shaped metal object through the chunk of wood in order to split that piece into two smaller pieces. We are like that thick piece of wood – one with Christ. The devil uses our problems as that metal triangle in order to split us from God.
The story’s been told about a pastor counseling one of his members who was going through some tough times. This member, whose church attendance was a little on the low side, asked his pastor why all sorts of things were going wrong in his life. The pastor quickly responded by asking the member when he felt that he needed to attend church. The man thought about the question for a bit, and then responded this way: “Well, when things are headed south, I realize that I should be back in God’s house and turning to him for help.” With a slight smile, the pastor replied, “I think you just answered your own question.”
What about us here this morning – do we need that same reminder? Do we often look at our problems as something that is driving a wedge between us and God or causing us to question him? Or do we look at our problems in the proper perspective? Do we put the perspective on our problems that makes us realize we can’t do it on our own? I hope we have the perspective that says we need to turn to God for help in times of trouble.
And yet any one of our physical problems isn’t our biggest problem, is it? The catechism students just learned on Wednesday that due to our sinful nature – before faith was worked in our hearts – we were spiritually dead. We were spiritual road-kill, completely unable to do anything to assist in our own salvation. And yet, how many times doesn’t our sinful nature encourage us to use that age-old motto “If at first you don’t succeed – try, try, and try again!” when it comes to our own salvation. Our sinful nature tells us to try to do it on our own instead of turning to the only one who can help – the Great Physician, our Savior Jesus Christ.
The same one who, in our lesson this morning, healed the sick and drove out demons is the same one who did what you and I could never do. He kept every aspect of the law, he even dotted the “i”s and crossed the “t”s! He died a completely innocent death – a death not for anything he deserved, but because of everything we had done wrong. And to put the exclamation point on it all, he defeated death by his resurrection Easter morning.
His life, death, and resurrection were not done for his own benefit. On the contrary! – It was done solely for your benefit and min. His life, death, and resurrection were done so that he might take care of our greatest problem – sin. Now we know that we can turn to him for help in every time of trouble (Psalm 50:15).
2. Do you recall what it was that Peter’s mother did immediately after she was healed? She didn’t go about reveling in or celebrating her good fortune. She immediately began to wait (31b) on Jesus and his disciples out of gratitude and joy.
Did you notice that Jesus kept his purpose in focus during this whole lesson? Jesus’ purpose on earth was to preach the good news that he was the Way to heaven, and yet the devil was trying to distract Jesus by placing people who needed earthly help in front of him. Yet Jesus never wavered from his work of salvation. In fact he didn’t even sleep in late after a hard day’s work! Instead, very early in the morning Jesus got up (35a). The Greek word which is translated as “very early” refers to the fourth watch of the night – that is between the hours of 3am to 6am! He got up in order that he might speak with his Father in heaven (35b).
When Peter and the other disciples finally found Jesus in this remote location, Jesus’ purpose was still in focus (36-37). Jesus didn’t return to the city where he had already, undoubtedly, made a name for himself. He said; Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so I can preach there also. That is why I have come (38). Jesus had a more important job on earth than just healing the sick and driving out demons. He had a job so important it was the greatest work that could ever be done. He wanted to share the good news of why he came to earth with as many people as possible. So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues (39).
What is your reaction when God helps you through the problems in your life? Is your reaction like that of Peter’s mother-in-law – serving God through serving others? Maybe you get down on your knees and pray to God out of thanks and love and ask him for help to do his will. I hope so! And yet, the reality is that too often this is hardly the case.
Shouldn’t those reactions be a bit more frequent in our lives? After all, when problems arise we have to admit to ourselves that we can’t do it on our own – that’s why we turned to God in the first place! But now, after the problem has been resolved, are we so bold as to think that we can take the world head-on, without God leading the way?!
I pray that I did not just describe your actions, my brothers and sisters. Instead, I pray that you follow the examples laid before us in this morning’s Gospel and Old Testament lessons! Be like Job and Jesus and turn to God in prayer, not just when problems rear their ugly head but also after those problems have been resolved. Turn to him for the strength to continue living according to his will; for the strength to serve him.
You know, a common excuse for individuals about their lack of communication with God is that there is no time for it! They may be speaking the truth – it’s no secret that our lives are busy and schedules are getting tighter every day. But is that really an excuse? God has commanded us to pray to him. Instead of claiming that there is no time, we should make time to talk with our heavenly Father! That may mean that we need to cut something out of our schedules. Perhaps its 15 minutes less sleep, less time spent browsing the ‘net or reading the paper. Perhaps we need to devote a portion of our lunch breaks to praying and Bible reading.
The help Christ has given to us sinners now gives us the strength to be faithful servants of our God. There are many ways to serve him – they are as varied as the number of talents present in our congregation! Find a way to serve God by using the talents that he has given you. Perhaps you can serve like Peter’s mother-in-law by doing behind-the-scenes work in God’s church. Maybe it will be like Job or Jesus – praying to God for his help and his guidance for others as they serve God publicly. Or even still, maybe you can serve on the front lines by publicly preaching or teaching Christ and him crucified – whether in your own neighborhood or in a neighborhood on the other side of the world!
For now that Christ has helped us, we have no other desire than to show our loving response by serving him!
Problems will always arise, it’s part of the sinful world in which we live. Physical ailments, personal struggles will always be part of the devil’s arsenal and attacks against our faith. But as we remember our Gospel lesson this morning may we continue to always put our problems in the proper perspective, knowing that they spur us to seek Christ’s help, whose help spurs us to service.