Facing Life’s Challenges
As we go through life, there are many challenges we must face. When we are walking in God’s plan for our life, we present ourselves to God as vessels of Christ’s light to shine onto this lost and dying world. When we walk in Christ, God uses our lives as a witness of His grace and glory, and of His righteousness and justice.
Our witness comes in many ways. It comes in what we say; it comes in what we do. It comes in how we respond to life’s challenging situations; it comes through our response to the temptations we face.
But one thing is clear for the believer who is walking in God’s plan. The challenges and temptations we face will not be greater than what we are capable of handling at any time in our spiritual walk with God.
I want to contrast for you two temptations that Jesus Christ faced at two very different times in His ministry here on earth.
The first was when He began His ministry and is recorded in Matthew chapters 3 & 4.
Mat 3:16-17; 4:1, “After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” 4:1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”
In this passage, we see Jesus Christ prepared for a challenge. He has purpose, He has drive, and He has vigor. He is ready for the fight. We see His Father acclaim Him, and more importantly, empower Him with the Holy Spirit. He is ready for the fight. At the same time, we also see this is His first challenge of many challenges, as recorded in the Bible.
As we know this story, Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days and nights without food and was tempted. He then left the wilderness, and on His departure had one more round of temptation challenges thrown at Him by Satan.
So, this, a first challenge for our Lord, has a distinctive flavor and feel. It is a challenge of His will and of His mind. It is a challenge that strips Him of His physical attributes and then challenges Him mentally to see if He would crack.
- It was a difficult challenge but nothing compared to what He would face later on.
- It was a challenge that was right for where He was at that time in His walk with God.
- It was a challenge that tells us how to endure the challenges we face in life.
Sometimes we head into the wilderness of life with vigor and gusto. We prepare ourselves with the Word of God, make sure we have all the supplies we need, and then say, “I am ready.” We know that God is with us. We have a mission to accomplish, and we are ready to concur with it. At those times, God allows the challenges to come and we stand or fall based on our application of His Word and Spirit. These challenges are great lessons in life for us. We see where we were successful and learn from the areas we failed. Yet if we keep ourselves in God’s Plan, we ultimately will grow spiritually and become greater vessels of honor for God.
Those are the challenges of Cognizant Preparedness. Those are the challenges we look for in order to glorify God.
As we continue to learn and grow in God’s grace plan, we will see these challenges getting greater and greater, while at the same time we see ourselves growing spiritually and conquering more and more of the temptations.
Then there is the other kind of challenge that comes into our lives. In these challenges, we don’t have all of the gusto. We are not so bold to face them. Many times, we do not think we are ready to face them. Many times, we don’t want to face them. But still the challenge is before us.
Christ too had this type of challenge, the challenge of Apprehensive Preparedness.
Our Lord Jesus Christ with all of His knowledge of God’s Word, giving Him tremendous spiritual power, He too had a challenge that He did not want to face.
Mark 14:32-36, “They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” 35And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; …”
This last phrase is emphasized even more so in Luke 22:42
Luke 22:42, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me.”
God knows we don’t always want to face the challenges of life. As we see here, Jesus Christ did NOT WANT to face this challenge of His life.
The pressure on His soul was great, as indicated in Luke 22:44, “And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.”
In times like these, we are apprehensive and don’t feel we are ready for the challenge. But in times like these, God knows we are ready for the challenge.
We know this because of the promise found in 1 Cor 10:13a, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, …”
The last phase “what you are able” is stated much stronger in the Greek.
The Greek word for this phrase is DUNAMAI – δύναμαι.
DUNAMAI is a primary verb in the Present tense, Middle/Passive Deponent voice, Indicative mood, Second Person, Plural.
This is where we get the English word dynamite.
So, DUNAMAI comes to mean, “to be able, to be able to do something, to be capable, to be strong and powerful, and to have power,”
The Present tense tells us that regardless of what stage of spiritual growth we are in, this principle applies. In other words, there is a measure of God’s power for us at every stage of spiritual growth.
The Middle/Passive Deponent voice is interesting here.
The Passive alone says you receive the action of the verb.
The Middle voice alone says the action you produce has a benefit back to you.
But this is also a Deponent, which gives this voice an Active meaning. It kind of combines all three of the voices into one. So, there is an action that you perform in order to receive something in return.
As we will see, the action you perform is the intake of the Word of God. What you receive in return is God’s power, through that Word and the Spirit. God’s power in your soul equates to your preparedness.
Then the Indicative mood here linked to the Present tense indicates the reality of the situation. It is a simple assertion of certainty. It is a statement of fact. The fact is, when you take in the Word of God, you will receive Divine Power.
So, this verb is more than just a “do” verb or what you are capable of. It is a “power” verb speaking of the power that is inside of you; the power of God from His Word in your soul and Spirit.
So, this phrase should read, “who will not allow you to be tempted beyond the power of God that is inside of you, …”
And note the promise part, “who will not allow you to be tempted beyond the power of God that is inside of you, …”
That phrase uses the Greek words OUK and EAO.
OUK is the stronger negative in the Greek language. Meaning “will not.”
EAO means, “allow,” but it also can mean, “to leave alone.” So, in other words God will not leave you alone when the challenges come.
So, we could say, “who will not leave you alone to be tempted beyond the power of God that is inside of you, …”
You may leave Him, but He will never leave you alone!
Heb 13:5, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”
Now God is all-powerful. But we only have the amount of His power equal to the proportion of the Word of God that is inside of our souls.
If we have a little of the Word of God in our souls, we only have a little bit of His power. Therefore, we will be challenged in little ways, bring a little glory to God, and receive a little bit of blessing and rewards.
But if we have a lot of the Word of God in our souls, we will have a lot of His power and will be challenged in great ways, bringing a tremendous amount of glory to God while receiving a lot of blessings and rewards.
Now remember, this is a challenge Jesus preferred not to face, as noted in the number of times He petitioned the Father.
Mark 14:39, “Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words.”
Mark 14:41, “And He came the third time… and said to them, …”
Also keep in mind, 1 Cor 10:13a, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, …”
In addition to that promise God has an even greater promise for us as we face the challenges of life.
1 Cor 10:13b, … “but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
Notice the last two words. It doesn’t say crush it, or conquer it, or defeat it, or beat it.
It says “endure it.”
This is similar to the language used in Eph 6:10-18, which tells us to “Stand Firm”
“Endure it” is the Greek word HUPOPHERO – ὑποφέρω, in the Aorist, Active, Infinitive.
The key here is the Infinitive mood, which generally states continuous or repetitive action.
HUPOPHERO is made up of two Greek words, HUPO which means, “under” and PHERO which means, to “bear, carry or bring forth.”
So, combined this means, “to bear by being under, bear up (a thing placed on one’s shoulders), to bear patiently, or to endure.”
So, the promise “that you will be able to endure it,” means just that, to endure, handle, bear through, etc. continually or as long as it lasts.
In other words, God will lead us to hold our ground in the challenge. We will stand strong throughout the challenge.
And our strength to endure comes from God, His Word, and Spirit.
The two Foundation Parables of Mat 7:24-27 tell us of the strength found in Christ Jesus.
Mat 7:24-27, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26“Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27“The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”
Now back in the Garden, Jesus said something very important in these prayers.
First, He said in Mark 14:36 and Luke 22:42, “Father, if you are willing.”
Even though Jesus wanted a way out of what was about to come, He left the matter in the hands of the sovereign Father.
Jesus had enough doctrine in His soul to recognize that sometimes we don’t want to face a challenge, and we don’t think we have what it takes. Yet, He understood that if God’s will is for us to face the challenge, then apparently, we must have what it takes to face it.
Then he said in Mark 14:36 and Luke 22:42, “Yet not what I will, but what You will.”
This is the appropriate attitude of the Christian soldier.
Jesus did not want to go through the upcoming challenge and difficulties, but He placed Himself whole heatedly in the hands of the Father.
“If this is your will Father then so be it.”
And as you know, the story never ends with the challenge, but it ends with the victory.
Jesus faced the challenge of the Cross. At this second temptation, He was tempted completely, physically, mentally, and spiritually. These three were part of the final challenge that He faced, because God knew He had all the right stuff.
As Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “He endured the Cross, despising the shame.”
As a result of “enduring the cross,” He won the strategic victory of the Angelic Conflict, by paying the price for our sins with the result of death being defeated.
He endured a challenge He’d rather not face, but yet He also had the happiness of God in Him at all times because it says, “who for the joy set before Him.”
This joy was inner peace and contentment through His relationship with the Father plus knowing that all of mankind would have that same opportunity for everlasting peace and happiness.
So as Christ did not want to face this challenge, having sorrow and heartache, He maintained the inner peace and happiness that comes, as a result of God’s Word being resident within His soul, and He endured the Cross.
If Christ was able to meet and endure the challenge set before Him, you and I are also able to endure the challenges set before us, 1 Cor 10:13.
As a result, Jesus Christ won the strategic victory of the Angelic Conflict and to the victor go the spoils, where He “has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Just as Christ endured and won the victory, through your endurance, you too will win victories on the battlefield of your soul.
But remember the victory is only won when we, “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.”
Partakers of His Sufferings, by Oswald Chambers
“… but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings …” (1 Peter 4:13).
If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a number of experiences that are not meant for you personally at all. They are designed to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what takes place in the lives of others. Because of this process, you will never be surprised by what comes your way. You say, “Oh, I can’t deal with that person.” Why can’t you? God gave you sufficient opportunities to learn from Him about that problem; but you turned away, not heeding the lesson, because it seemed foolish to spend your time that way.
The sufferings of Christ were not those of ordinary people. He suffered “according to the will of God” (1 Peter 4:19), having a different point of view of suffering from ours. It is only through our relationship with Jesus Christ that we can understand what God is after in His dealings with us. When it comes to suffering, it is part of our Christian culture to want to know God’s purpose beforehand. In the history of the Christian church, the tendency has been to avoid being identified with the sufferings of Jesus Christ. People have sought to carry out God’s orders through a shortcut of their own. God’s way is always the way of suffering—the way of the “long road home.”
Are we partakers of Christ’s sufferings? Are we prepared for God to stamp out our personal ambitions? Are we prepared for God to destroy our individual decisions by supernaturally transforming them? It will mean not knowing why God is taking us that way, because knowing would make us spiritually proud. We never realize at the time what God is putting us through—we go through it more or less without understanding. Then suddenly we come to a place of enlightenment, and realize—“God has strengthened me and I didn’t even know it!”