PRACTICE #1: ALLOW FOR TROUBLE
SERIES: "EARNING OUR WINGS"
MARCH 30, 2008
The first practice we need to learn if we want to become Eagle Flyers is to allow for trouble. Problems, difficulties, and adversity are a part of life. Jesus alluded to this when he concluded the Sermon on the Mount. Remember his concluding words? He told a story about two builders, one who built on sand and the other who built on rock. When adversity struck, when the rain came, when the streams rose, when the winds blew, the house on the rock did not fall, but the house built on the sand did fall, and great was its fall! Note the difference between the two builders. One allowed for trouble by making sure his house had a firm foundation, while the other man did not.
Another biblical example of the importance of allowing for trouble comes from Mark 6:45-52.
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
This story could easily be titled, "How to Make Problems Worse." That is to say, the disciples are not flying with eagles because they are not employing some important "allow for trouble" strategies. They are making matters worse by their behavior. Now what are some important "allowing for trouble" strategies? Let me highlight some of them.
Strategy Number One: Remember when trouble strikes, we are not alone. The disciples made matters worse for themselves, they wallowed in the mud, because they thought Jesus was not aware of their situation. Picture the scene. The disciples are dealing with a storm. As far as they know, Jesus is still back with the crowd doing his thing, and totally unaware of what is happening to them. But thatís not the case. According to Mark, "When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind he came towards them."
Christ is aware of every place and everything through which we go.
Not too long ago an acquaintance of mine received a letter from a girl who had been through a terribly tragic situation of a family suicide. In part she wrote,
I am so lonely. Iím getting to the point where Iím almost panicky with depression. I feel alone, alone, alone. And grief is about the only emotion I possess apart from an unexplainable anger. I feel hateful and hatred. Last night my mother told me if she had to do it all over again she would not have any kids. She was serious. And I donít blame her. I wish she hadnít too.
My friend wisely told here that when your parents kick you out, God takes you in. He told her that even though she did not sense it, Jesus Christ was aware of everything through which she was going.
Strategy Number Two: Remember most problems are not as bad as they seem. Again the disciples made matters worse because they thought their problem was worse than it really was. In fact, according to Mark, Jesus intended to pass them by. Jesus knew they were having trouble rowing, but they were in no danger of going down. They storm was not as bad as the disciples made it out to be.
In this regard I think about the man who was walking across a railroad trestle during a very dark night, and horror of horrors, he heard a train coming and he had no place to go. So the man jumped to the side of the bridge and held on to the edge of the trestle. When the train finally passed over him, the man found he did not have the strength to pull himself back up. He knew he would just have to hang there as long as he could fearing he wold fall into the dark abyss thousands of feet below. That morning, in the light of day, the man discovered he was only hanging twelve inches from the ground. He made his problem worst than what it was.
Jesus said if we have a little faith we can move mountains. Thatís difficult to do, but let me tell you what is not. Itís not hard to build mountains. In fact, itís very easy to build them. I build mountains all the time. If a get a stomach ache, Iím sure its an appendicitis. If itís a headache, could it be the beginning of a brain tumor? I need to learn not to make problems worse than they really are if I want to fly with eagles.
Strategy Number Three: Look for the good in bad situations. Jesus was going to pass them by knowing that the difficulty in rowing was good for them. It built endurance and confidence.
My grandson is named Edison after Thomas Alva Edison, a great creative mind. Edison was also someone who could turn adversity into an advantage. In December of 1914 the Edison laboratories in West Orange, New Jersey were almost entirely destroyed by fire. In one night Edison lost two million dollars worth of equipment and the record of much of his lifeís work.
During the fire Edisonís son Charles ran frantically about looking for his father. Finally, he came upon his dad standing near the fire, his face ruddy in the glow, his hair blown by the winter winds. Charles Edison said of his father, "My heart ached for him. he was no longer young, and everything was being destroyed. He spotted me. ĎWhereís your mother?í he shouted. ĎFind her. Bring her here. Sheíll never see anything like this again as long as she lives.í"
The next morning walking about the charred embers of so many of his hopes and dreams, the sixty-seven year old Edison said, "There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew."
Edison looked for the good in the midst of a terrible situation.
Then finally, Strategy Number Four: Let past victories inform present circumstances. Look with me at the end of the story. We read in the last two verses, "And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened." Our hearts harden too when we forget about past circumstances and past victories.
Can you believe it? The disciples had just watched Jesus feed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. He just kept breaking bread and passing it around and twelve baskets of food were leftover, and this took place on the very same day the disciples were so frightened about the storm. Here is a classic example of a short memory. Their lack of allowing a past victory to inform a present circumstance clipped their wings.
An event from the Book of Joshua comes to mind. In the 4th chapter of Joshua we see God telling the people of Israel to take twelve stones out of the middle of the Jordan River, one for each tribe of Israel, and place them on the river bank. Why? Because when children in future generations ask, "What do these stones mean?" the adults could tell them, " Remember the time when God dried up this river bed as dry as a bone so the Godís people could walk across?" Thatís what we need to do in order to fly with eagles. We need to allow past victories to inform present panic.
The point is this. Life is like an ocean and we are sailors. Sometimes there are storms. Sometimes the boat leaks. Sometimes there seems to be no way out. But there is. Remember that we are not alone. Remember to let past victories inform present circumstances. Remember to look for the good in the bad, and remember not to overestimate the problem.
Awhile ago a couple of Sunday School teachers did a great thing with their Sunday School class. They gave each kid in the class a little plant to take home. Every day the kids were to read their Bibles and pray. Then, and only then, after reading and praying could they water their plant. Think about it. If the kids did not read the Bible and did not pray, the plants would not get water and would eventually wither and die. As the children saw what happened to the plants, the kids also saw what happened to their souls and lives.
Friends, learning to fly with eagles is all recorded in the Bible. If we harken to what is in the Bible, if we put into practice what we read in the Bible, we will become strong and resilient. We will not wither and die. It will be as if we built our house on a rock.