Turning Setbacks into Springboards.
The title and theme of my sermon today is “turning setbacks into springboards” – using the irritations in life as launching pads into a new way of living, into a fresh dimension of faith and walking with God.
In 2 Corinthians chapter Six, Paul outlines a whole catalogue of events, mishaps or setbacks, …. afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labour, hunger and so on, but still being able to testify that although it seemed he was “always going through it” he was never “going under”! Sadly, this is not always the testimony of the Child of God, for more often that not the Christian knows defeat instead of victory, failure instead of success, and bondage instead of freedom! So in the moments left to me now, I want to explore the reason why so many believers are “going under” the pressures and problems of life, and why their faith is not working for them?
It is important at the outset to point out that there are irritations in life what can be easily removed and need not become a setback, while there are others that are unfortunately unavoidable and could set us back, but, if we apply our faith properly we shall use these setbacks as springboards or launching pads into a new and victorious way of living. Life will always have a variety of irritations, in the people we meet, the circumstances of our home and work-place, and in the very nature of self. There are solvable irritations like a smoking chimney or a squeaking door that are easily mended, but there are others that take time, thought and effort to change or remove. We should never allow the irritations of this life to deflect us or distract us from the purposes of God in our lives. So that is why I want to show you how to apply your faith to the irritation, and
thus turn a setback into a springboard.
There are SIX keys to this principle, so bear with me as I briefly share each one, in the hope that God will bless His word to your need and your circumstances today.
The First Key is to “Remember that God has allowed it”
In our Old Testament lesson which we read earlier, we saw how Joseph, the dreamer, Jacobs favourite Son, was unfairly and unceremoniously dumped in a well, and then sold as a slave into Egypt! In the space of a few minutes his life, his hopes, his future, his plans, his family, his destiny had all been changed. When he got up that morning, he had no idea of what the day would bring! Have you had days like that? Days when in a few moments all your world was turned upside-down? Days when your plans, your hopes, your dreams were all dashed.
All your familiar things suddenly became strangers, and the bottom seemed to have dropped out of your world? Of course you have, we all have. This is life, before we are long into this world we know about trouble, because we were born into it.
Could God have stopped Josephs brothers from faking his death, frightening his father and fixing his dreaming? Of course he could, and I firmly believe in the Sovereignty of God, but I also believe that God allows or permits certain irritations in our circumstances so that he can bring good to our lives and glory to his name. (This is generally understood as the permissive will of God) We are not robots, programmed to a certain function and role, and God has given us free will and free choice. Even when we make mistakes, even when we go the wrong way, and do the wrong thing, God can turn that situation around for our good and we will often have learned valuable lessons in the process.
Unknown to Joseph, God was going to turn his situation around
to his good, and the ultimate good of his family and the nation. Who knows just what God can bring out of your present drama and difficulties. If God has allowed it, then God has a reason, and if that remains a present mystery, it may become a future miracle. Remember above all that God loves you, and all his plans are written in love, and as the Hymn writer learned, he was “Loved with everlasting Love, and led by grace that Love to know”. Through present problems, you can know the promises of a loving God, so do not doubt in the darkness what he has made clear in the light. So then, Remember God has allowed it….
The Second Key is to “Remember that God has a Purpose in it”
If you read more of the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis you will discover that the pit and the prison were only the first in a long line of inconvenient irritations and setbacks he was to encounter on the road to success, victory and honour. Gods purpose was to exalt or lift him up to be the next to the Pharaoh in Egypt but before that, Joseph would have to learn many valuable lessons en route to such a Purpose and Destiny. Those lessons could only be learned in hardship, service, obedience and discipline. There are many things about life and living that cannot be grasped in University of College, and are only obtainable though the school of “hard knocks” we all know that!
If God has allowed you to experience disappointments or setbacks in your life, it is generally because he has a greater purpose. If you didn’t get the job, didn’t get the promotion, didn’t get the car, didn’t get the house, didn’t get the partner, didn’t get the thanks, …. Then thank God for you did get this and you got an opportunity instead to wait on something better, and something that is best. Life’s inconveniences and setbacks are often engineered by the Loving hand of God to achieve a greater purpose that we could ever imagine.
I remember some years ago hearing the Dutch Evangelist Corrie Ten-Boom tell of an engagement to Preach in Auckland, New Zealand. She found out that the journey time from where she was staying at that time Dakafield to Auckland would be nine hours by car! So she says, I had a little talk with my father in heaven. I said “Father, you know I will be tired after nine hours by car, revived people need a strong message, and I will be far too tired, please Lord will you give me an aeroplane.” She says, “I prayed that prayer and waited on God, for our impossibilities are the material he needs for his miracles”
Several days later a man came to my door, he asked “Miss Ten-Boom, is it true that you must be in Auckland on Monday, and here on Sunday also”? “Yes,” she said, “it is true”. “how are you going to go there, it is nine hours by car”? he asked, to which Corrie replied “ but I am not going by car, I will go by plane” “There is no airline in Dakafield Miss Ten-Boom” he said. “Yes I know” said Corrie “our problems are the material for Gods miracles and God knows I must go by plane!” “That is very interesting” he said” I work for a firm of ‘top-dressers’ …. (you know what top-dressers are? I don’t and she didn’t, but top-dressers are people that spray crops with insecticides and for that they use aeroplanes) …. the man continued: “my Boss said you must ask Miss Ten-Boom if she is going to Auckland and if so, she can have one of our planes.” Corrie said “Thank You Father” and in that inconvenient journey she was able to point that Pilot to a living relationship with Jesus Christ, in what seemed a setback, God used it to save a precious soul. His purposes are often beyond our knowing, but if we can apply “faith” to our setbacks, and understand that God allows them and has a purpose in them, then miracles are possible in our lives too!
This brings me to
The Third Key, “It can Produce Christ-like Qualities”
The apostle Paul had discovered that as a result of his many and numerous sufferings he had been able to give succour and comfort to the Church in its infancy and (of course) to the Church ever since. In 2.Corinthians 1,v4 Paul writes: “who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort others…. with the comfort of God.” What God does in us, in our character through trials and tests and troubles often produces the Christ-like qualities or fruits of the Holy Spirit, love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, meekness, and so on, qualities that not only make for our benefit, but for the eventual benefit and blessing of others. If this sermon is blessing and helping you today it is largely because I first discovered these keys myself in my own setbacks, and am sharing or comforting you with them today, in the hope that you like me will be able to use setbacks as springboards in the future!
Paul goes on in 2nd Corinthians in the 4th Chapter to speak about his tried or tested ministry. He says in v7 “ But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
8: We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9: Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
10: Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
11: For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
12: So then death is at work in us, but life in you.
(and down to verse 17)
17: For our light affliction, (here) which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; (hereafter)
18: While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
So Paul is reminding us that our present afflictions are but instruments in the hand of a loving God to make and mould us into a more recognisable like-ness to his wonderful Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. If we are ever going to be like Jesus, then we cannot get to that place without following in his suffering steps. We are called into the fellowship of his suffering which Paul speaks about in Chapter 6.
(Just allow me to add here that when Paul is speaking about suffering, He is not at any time speaking about sickness. Such would be a contradiction of his own life and ministry. There is absolutely NO evidence to suggest that Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” for instance, had anything whatever to do with sickness. Paul knows that all sickness was dealt with at the Cross, and as with our Salvation, Healing too is ours for the taking. But of course if you don‘t or won‘t believe it, it doesn’t work for you!)
This brings me to the Fourth Key, to understand that
Setbacks – “ could be good for you“.
The Psalmist in Psalm 119 v71 says “it is good for me that I have been afflicted, it has caused me to learn of thy statutes”.
I discovered the preciousness of this text about 30 years ago, while reading the early life story of Joni Erickson, who was severely disabled following a swimming or diving accident in which she broke her neck and has been virtually totally paralysed ever since. Immediately following the accident, she struggled in the battle for her faith, and was tempted, (as we also might have been) to give up on God! Yet her disability forced her to question Gods purposes for her life and drove her repeatedly to the Word of God, the Bible, for answers to her many questions. It was during this searching in the word, that she found Psalm 119:71 and it revolutionised her life!
She discovered that she could actually thank God for her disability, for had her life’s course not been dramatically altered by it, then Gods purposes for her simply could not have been worked out. As a result of her crippling paralyses Joni Erickson has been able to write and produce many books on the Love and Power of God. Her suffering OPENED DOORS which have allowed her to criss-cross the world to testify and preach, influencing thousands and maybe millions even today!
Remember that a setback may be the “good” that God has disguised for you, to bring you into the excellence of faith which you long for. Faith that is built in trial often rises above the circumstance to embrace the purposes of God. Remember that Moses as a baby, was hidden in a basket amongst the bulrushes, but the faith of a Mother turned a setback into a springboard and Gods purposes were completed in the great prophecies and pen of Moses. Who would have thought “it was good for Moses” to be wrapped in a blanket and placed in a basket in the river, but it was good, and Paul writing to the Roman Church says “all things work together for our good when we love God” Rom 8.28. And the Hymn writer said “be not dismayed what’er betide, God will take care of you.”
This brings me to
The Fifth Key, “Remember to thank God in it!”
Most if not all of life’s setbacks are anything but opportunities to give thanks, and generally we do not feel grateful for them. However although life’s problems and pressures are not reasons for thanks, we can none the less give thanks in them, if not for them. The apostle James, encourages us to “Count it all joy when we meet various trials” Jas. 1.2. For he tells us that these trials and testing times produce a steadfastness or as I like to call it, a foundation for our faith. James goes on in his letter
to talk about “double-minded” men, and says they are unstable in all their ways. In other words I believe that they have no real foundation.
When trouble, tests, setbacks, calamities, distresses, and the like, show up, fear sets in, and they run! They have no foundation, no certainties, no absolutes, no promises on which to stand. That is why you and I must be rooted and grounded in the Word of God. It is that Word, and that alone that gives us a firm footing in slippery times. The Hymn writer writes, “We have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the rock that cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Saviours love”
The foundation of our faith that allows us to truly thank God in our setbacks and difficult circumstances, is the knowledge that underneath and round about us are his everlasting loving arms. It is his love that is our hope and stay, his love that makes us thankful. If for discipline he is testing and proving us, it’s a loving discipline, from a loving heart. So we can thank God in every setback, and use it as a launching pad, a springboard to step up to a new dimension of faith in Him.
And now we come finally to
The Sixth Key, “Remember God knows the whole Story!”
It’s easy to be wise in retrospect, to bolt the stable door after the horse has gone, but your life and mine is not as yet a story that is told! It is only a “story in the telling” still unfinished, without the final chapter! Only God knows what days and ways are left to us. Only God knows what trials and tests may yet come along and across our pathway. One thing however I am sure of, is that in Heaven, in the Glory, there are no complaints departments.
We shall for ever be eternally satisfied with what the Lord has allowed to come into our lives – when the reasons and
purposes are fully revealed. In 1 Corinthians 13.12. We read that “now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face, then shall we know even as also we are known.” There is a revelation coming in eternity when we shall fully understand all the “whys” and understand the unanswered questions of this life! Much of your life may appear right now to be a tangled web of differing threads stretching from Childhood, through teenage years to adulthood, to Marriage or maybe Divorce, to bereavement or maybe bankruptcy, to Cancer or a Care-home, who knows, the variety of Chapters that go to make up the story of our lives. I am always comforted in the knowledge that while I only see my side of the story, God has his side too. I see the under-side but he sees the upper-side, I may see only a tangled web of threads, but he sees the pattern. This is put so succinctly in the lovely poem I found a while ago, and have shared it before, it’s called…
My Life is but a Weaving Between my Lord and me
I do not choose the colours, He worketh steadily
Oft’ times he weaveth Sorrow And I in foolish Pride
Forget He sees the Upper and I the Under-side
Not ’till the loom is Silent And the shuttle cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas and explain the reason why
The dark threads are as needful in the Skilful Weavers Hand
as the threads of Gold and Silver in the Pattern He has planned.
God knows the whole Story, trust him to complete the chapter!
One Hymn writer put it “above the rest this note shall swell, My Jesus has done all things well” – you see …no complaints in heaven!
Now this final word:
Turning Setbacks into Springboards is made much more easy when we grasp the six keys to achieve this, …..
The First Key “ God has allowed it”
The Second Key “ God has a Purpose in it”
The Third Key, “It can Produce Christ-like Qualities”
The Fourth Key, “It is Good for You”
The Fifth Key, “Thank God in it!”
The Sixth Key, “God knows the whole Story!”
Keys are used to open doors, to give access to what otherwise was barred or closed up to you. If we allow the little setbacks of life to block our way to the blessings God has for us, then we will miss the abundant overflowing life that God designed and desired. Take these keys today and unlock your future, walk into all the benefits and blessings that are rightfully yours,
What are your Tests and Trials today, will be your Testimonies tomorrow!
God Bless You – Amen