“It’s just too much!”
We hear people say that. Sometimes we say it ourselves. Sometimes we face a problem, or a frustration, or an opposition that just seems to overwhelm us.
I had an experience like that recently.
I’m not a mechanical person—mostly because I just don’t want to be. If there’s a problem with the car, or the house, or whatever, I’d rather pay somebody else, who knows what he’s doing, to fix it than put the time and energy into doing it myself.
A while back my riding mower broke down, right in the middle of my mowing the lawn—but then, when else would it? This was beyond my knowledge set, and I made plans to take it to a shop and have it fixed.
But no one would work on it. They’re swamped; they can’t get parts lately; they don’t work on this model.
Nobody wanted my money.
Well, Dan, you’re just gonna have to knuckle down and figure out how to fix it yourself.
It took a while—longer than it would have if the guy with the wrench had known what he was doing—but I’m happy to say it’s back to its old self again, and I have all my fingers as well as my sanctification.
Thank you, YouTube.
Over the decades I’ve faced bigger problems, longer-lasting ones, intimidating ones. And so have you. Since my life has really been relatively easy, chances are you’ve faced bigger ones than I have. I know that’s true for many of my friends.
A situation comes along that you just don’t know how to deal with. You don’t have the knowledge, you don’t have the strength, you don’t have the focus, you don’t have the emotional stability.
It’s all just too much.
There’s a discussion on social media these days over whether God ever gives you more than you can handle. I think the disagreement is largely a matter of definition—what does “more than you can handle” mean?
We do have Paul’s famous observation that everything that comes your way has been allowed—filtered, if you will—by God, and that there is a way of escape (1Co 10.13), though it may be difficult to find. We have Paul’s further assertion that all things eventuate well (Ro 8.28)—though many have observed that quoting that verse at the moment of crisis is not always the best pastoral care.
But when those hard challenges come, where do we turn? What’s in our toolbox? Where’s the instructional video?
There are several instances in the Scripture where God’s people faced significant challenges. We all know about David and Goliath (1Sa 17.40-54), and Joshua’s commission (Jos 1.1-9), and Solomon’s (1K 2.1-4), and Jesus’ farewell address to his disciples (Jn 14-16).
I think we can find some useful information in a lesser-known event, another transition.
Paul’s ministry is a wonder to behold. He achieved astonishing things in his few decades of service to Christ, moving the gospel from its first location outside Israel—Antioch (Ac 13.1-3)—to the extent of the Roman Empire, the world of his day. He planted successful churches all across Turkey (Ac 13.4-16.10), all across Greece (Ac 16.11-18.18), up into modern-day Albania (Ro 15.19), the length of Cyprus (Ac 13.4-12) and Crete (Ti 1.5), and (I’m quite sure) across Spain as well. Most pastors are doing well to plant one church; Paul seems to spin them off every few weeks.
But Paul, like everybody else, has limited time. Soon he is “Paul the aged” (Phm 1.9) looking to pass off his ministry to his proteges, most famously Timothy and Titus.
We know more about Timothy than Titus. It seems that Timothy was less than a natural leader; Paul once prodded him not to let others undercut his authority (1Ti 4.12) and admonished him to take medicine to settle his stomach (1Ti 5.23).
Timothy, apparently, felt too small for the job. He didn’t think he could do what the Word of God, from the mouth of the apostle, had ordered him to do.
In his final letter, Paul urged him on:
I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands (2Ti 1.6).
And then he lifted the haze of doubt and uncertainty and timidity and fear that welled up in Timothy’s heart by saying these words:
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline (2Ti 1.7).
I’d like to take a few posts to consider how we can face the giants—and win—based on this brief sentence.