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Dealing with Crisis

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Dealing with Crisis’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 8/9/2015, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here:

This is the 3rd and final Sunday in a 3-part series titled, “The Bible Cure for Stress & Anxiety.” So far, we’ve looked at overcoming anxiety, and responding to bad news. This week, we round out our discussion of stress & anxiety by examining how we deal with crisis.

Is Crisis Bad?

Crisis is commonplace. Unfortunately, crisis happens all the time. Crisis is defined as, “a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.”[1] At best, crisis is seriously uncomfortable; at worst, crisis can be disastrous.

Maybe someone you know has had a crisis of faith. I had a conversation with a friend in ministry just this week about how commonplace it is for pastors to have such a crisis. Some men and women in full-time ministry lose sight of the Gospel message, and get lost in the difficulty of God’s calling on their life. Sometimes they take a sabbatical to rest and regroup; other times they leave ministry altogether.

Maybe you know someone who has had a mid-life crisis. Some people work their entire adult lives without stopping to wonder if what they do every day actually makes them happy. Some people go to work, and then come home, without stopping to think if anything they’re doing actually makes a difference. Then, one day, all the things that used to make them happy no longer have any effect. New sports car? Doesn’t make a difference. House at the beach? Doesn’t put a dent in the emptiness. Crisis can be severely damaging to everything you think you know.

Closely related to a mid-life crisis is an existential crisis. What is the meaning of life? What am I here for? What is my purpose? This type of crisis can happen at any age, no matter your life experience. The well of enjoyment you used to get from simple pleasures suddenly runs dry.

So how can we effectively deal with crisis? Our tendency is to run from crisis. We figure we’ll never have a crisis of faith if we don’t think too hard about eternal issues. We avoid existential crisis by working even harder, without stopping to think about whether or not we get joy from what we do every day.

But ignoring crisis does not make it disappear. Sooner or later, we’ll have to make a decision on the issues that are most important in life. So if we can’t avoid crisis, what should we do?

Embracing Crisis

I’d like to propose that crisis can actually be incredibly good for you. Crisis does not have to be disastrous; it can actually be a monumental growth opportunity. Crisis forces decisions that you might hesitate in making, and pushes you beyond the limits of how far you would otherwise push yourself!

President John F. Kennedy noted that, in the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is actually composed of two characters. The first character represents danger: this is the side of crisis with which we are all familiar. But the second character represents opportunity: and this is the side of crisis we ignore!

Most importantly, crisis forces us to trust God in ways we never have before. Crisis paints us into a corner, and forces us to make a decision to trust God, no matter what. Faith is built in times of crisis, not in times of calm!

Moses In Crisis

God promises that, no matter what, He will cause us to grow through crisis. What’s more, He will often warn us – in advance – that crisis is coming. This is how God spoke to Moses before crisis materialized:

Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Zephon; you shall camp before it by the sea. For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, ‘They are bewildered by the land; the wilderness has closed them in.’ Then I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that he will pursue them; and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord.” And they did so. – Ex 14:1-4

God spoke to Moses before crisis ever happened. He warned Moses: Pharaoh will pursue you, and you might be scared; but trust in Me, because I will have the victory.

Unfortunately for Moses, God’s word wasn’t very specific. All Moses knew was that 1) Pharaoh would pursue Israel, and 2) God was going to do something awesome. But he didn’t know what or how God was going to gain the victory over Pharaoh.

God will do this with us quite often: He will show us the big picture of what He is about to accomplish well in advance, but will wait until we follow Him with our faith to reveal the smaller steps required. Moses didn’t know exactly what Israel’s salvation would look like, but he definitely knew it was coming, one way or another!

And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” – Ex 14:10-18

Even as Moses reassured the people of Israel that God would deliver them, he had no idea what God was about to do. He simply made the decision to trust God through crisis, no matter what. The moment Moses made the decision to cry out to God, God told him what to do.

Moses experienced crisis. He was the leader of a rebellious people who would have gone right back to Egypt if they had their way. When Moses got to the edge of the Red Sea, he had a choice. Would he listen to the voice of the men & women crying out in fear, and turn back? Or would he trust the voice of God, and keep moving forward in full faith?

Moses was obedient through crisis. Because of his insistence on trusting God, and faithfully walking out His instructions, God’s people witnessed a deliverance, the likes of which had never before been seen. Radical obedience through crisis brought deliverance.

Jesus In Crisis

Did you know that even Jesus experienced crisis? Remember, crisis is a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or anger. If even the Son of God embraced crisis as necessary, how much more should we?

Jesus knew His mission. God showed Him everything that He would do in order to save mankind. Just as God spoke to Moses ahead of his crisis, He spoke to Jesus ahead of the crisis He would face. But just because Jesus knew crisis was coming did not mean He could avoid it:

Coming out [of Jerusalem], He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me…” – Lk 22:39-42a

Jesus was in crisis. He was fully God, yet also fully man: subject to the same internal scrutiny and insecurities we face every day. He cried out to God, and asked Him if there was any way He could avoid what He was about to face.

Jesus had a choice: would He listen to the desires of His flesh, and turn back from everything God called Him to do? Or would He obey the will of God, and move forward toward His inevitable death to fulfill everything God had called Him to do?

Just as Moses had done centuries before, Jesus resolved His crisis through radical obedience:

“…nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. – Lk 22:42b-44

Crisis allowed Jesus to trust God in a way He never had before. Just as with Moses, Jesus’ obedience through crisis paved the way for salvation for all God’s people! As a result of Jesus’ obedience through crisis – His insistence on walking out God’s instructions – God’s people witnessed a deliverance never before seen!

Your Crisis

What deliverance might be on the other side of the crisis you’re facing in your own life? When Moses trusted God’s word through crisis, Israel was saved. When Jesus trusted God through crisis, the world was saved. When you trust God through crisis, you become a testimony to the people around you so that they might be saved too!

Whenever we face a crisis, the question we’re actually answering with our response is, do I trust God? Will I trust the word of God? Or will I only go so far as to trust the words of other people? Will I trust God through thick and thin, or will I only trust Him up until my insecurities kick in and take over? After all, if we really trust God with all our hearts, is any situation really a crisis?

Crisis is inevitable. God never promises that crisis won’t come. He simply promises that He is our strength through anything & everything we could ever face. He will strengthen us, and help us to make the most of any opportunity. Whenever crisis comes, He will cause us to grow in ways that would otherwise be impossible.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Rom 8:28

– by Pastor Mike White

© Michael D. White, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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