Hope is a life-giving force— you know when you have it and you know when you don’t.
The Bible says hope deferred makes the heart sick. This is an observation of human nature; when what we are hoping to happen, believing to happen, suffers a setback then depression, sadness and tears overtake us. All this can smolder into a wildfire if we allow it, setting ablaze dry weeds of fear hiding in the corners of our mind. Destruction, the tearing down of dreams and faith, is sure to follow.
Are you wallowing under the weight of setbacks? Matthew 8 and Luke 8 show us how Jesus handled them and the method He modeled for us.
In Luke 1:3, Luke says that he investigated all the accounts concerning Jesus which means he sought out eye witnesses like an investigative reporter to write his portion of the New Testament. Let’s put Luke’s and Matthew’s accounts together and study what happened when Jesus decided to visit the region of ten city-states known as the Decapolis, specifically the area near Gadara on the east side of the Jordan River (Umm Qais in modern day Jordan) and on the southeast shore of the Sea of Galilee in the Golan Heights.
Jesus said to His disciples, “Let us go over unto the other side of the lake.”
So the disciples got into the boat and set out. The seasoned fishermen among them sensed nothing out of the ordinary like cooler east winds foretelling a storm, and Peter would have said if he did because the lake is twelve miles long and eight miles wide, nothing to smirk at when trying to navigate a boat in the violent storms caused by cool air sweeping over the eastern mountains and dropping onto the water.
But without a warning “there arose a great tempest [seismos].” Seimos is a commotion in the air like a gale or on the ground like in an earthquake. Luke called the storm lailaps, a whirlwind, and described it with the word anemos which means from the four quarters of the earth. This wasn’t an ordinary storm.
Enter setback number one.
Waves swept over the boat and threatened to drown the sailors in the 200 foot depths. The disciples seemed to be in a dangerous position.
“Seemed?” you shout. “Look at what’s just happened to me!”
Satan likes to give us something to look at, and it was Satan and his rulers and principalities of the air behind that wind. He likes to push bad reports in our face. An X-ray, lab test, job evaluation, conversation, test, phone call, e-mail, text, bank report, forecast of any kind, etc. He wants us to engage with his news.
But Jesus didn’t take the bait. I heard Audrey Mack say that symptoms are to sickness what temptation is to sin. Is temptation sin? No, it is the bait. Jesus wasn’t moved by the symptoms of a setback. He was sleeping. He knew what His will was: He was going to Gadera, and it only seemed like Satan and his demonic wind was going to kill them.
The freaked out disciples had swallowed the bait and already imagined their deaths by drowning—and they would have. They were amazed at Jesus’ behavior and reaction. He responded to their fear by telling them they had only a little faith. Like the believers in Matthew 13:21-20, they surrendered His spoken word, Let’s cross to the other side, when trouble was pushed in front of their face.
But Satan wasn’t done.
When they arrived onshore two men met them. Luke speaks of one, the one he investigated, the one Jesus sent to go back to his home. Jesus and his disciples had landed onshore in a rural area near a cemetery. The two men were out of their minds. Luke’s man informs us he was naked and lived an animal like existence among the tombs. People tried to chain him up, but he broke the chains. The two men were so aggressive, so violent; no one could pass through that area.
Enter setback number two.
Can you imagine the disciples’ faces as they took in the sight of these guys running towards them? How many of us would’ve run back to the boat? How many of us absorb the bad report and sink into a whatamigonnadonow syndrome?
Jesus stood His ground, and when the men took note of Him, they fell at His feet. They knew a Higher Authority when they saw it. That Authority lives in you and has been given to you to trample over all the works of Satan. (Luke 10:19)
But Satan wasn’t done.
After Jesus had healed the men, the pig herders in the area who had seen the whole situation play out ran into the town and brought back a crowd. The people were amazed. But they were afraid of Jesus.
Enter setback number three.
Fear stirred in them like the whirlwind on the lake and blinded them. They begged Jesus to leave. This was the end of the road. The trip was over. It seemed Jesus had hurdled stumbling block after stumbling block only to be defeated after all.
But Jesus knew the gates of hell could not prevail against the Church.
He sent at least one of the men back to Gadara. “And he went and began to proclaim in Decapolis what Jesus did to him. And all marveled.” (Mark 5:20 LITV) The message of salvation, healing and wholeness spread.
God’s word and His will prevailed that day despite what it seemed like, and it can prevail in our lives too, if we don’t take the bait Satan pushes in our face. Hope deferred does not mean all hope is gone; it means we make our enemy nervous. It means he is hoping we fail at faith and receive his lie: symptoms, reports, imaginations. Don't quit, and don't let go of your hope in the goodness of God and the power of His word.
What is the nature of the image of the defeat being pushed in your face? Don’t swallow its bait. Find verses dealing with the issue and stand on them, fall asleep resting on them until the squall blows itself out, and make sure there is no unforgiveness in your life giving Satan fuel for his flash fires.
Setbacks, trouble, hindrances are nothing new to believers. They shouldn’t surprise us and they shouldn’t unnerve our trust in God or cancel the plans God has for us. What needs to be new is how we handle them and how high we esteem God's word, scriptures He's given to build our hope.
Praying for you, and myself because renewing our minds and building ourselves up in our most holy faith is a life-long process.
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