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Jamie Johnson
6 October 2023

Tempted to Despair

Anyone looking at our world will see division, confusion and strife. It is easy to despair. In fact, it is tempting to despair. At times, I am tempted to despair. It reminds me of the words from the hymn "Before the Throne of God Above" in this verse (

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

The despair in this verse is due to the accusations of the enemy. And certainly despair can come from such brokenness, but it can also come from brokenness otherwise. Often temptation is considered for things like money and sex. We are tempted to look for sensationalism. However, it can apply to despair and how we approach suffering, too.

You'll suffer in this world. You'll have trouble. Jesus said that much in John 16:33. Your suffering may be a health concern, the loss of a loved one, a wayward child, an aging relative, some sort of injustice, persecution or "the guilt within" as the hymn says. It can come with suffering. And there has been, is, and will be suffering. And in that, it is easy to succumb to despair.

Yet, Jesus also says in John 16:33 that we can have peace in Him for He has overcome the world. We find peace in Him, not in the circumstances, not in yourself, not in the world. Peace is in Christ and He will walk with you through the valley of the shadow of death as Psalm 23:4 says. You need not fear. The verse from the hymn says, "Upward I look..." And we must deal with temptation immediately by looking to Jesus.

In his December 1, 1993, sermon entitled "Temptation", Alistair Begg says the following:

How should I deal with temptation? Number one, immediately. Immediately. The time to deal with temptations is in their beginnings. Desires and passions grow as rivers do. They are like rust, which left to itself, eats away unceasingly. You have to appoint the moral sentries for your life.

The great contrast between 2 Samuel 11 is found in Genesis 39 in the story of Joseph and the wife of Potiphar. Remember? And Joseph was determined to deal with every encroaching advancement of sin. And he dealt with it not in relationship to how the situation would make him feel, nor did he deal with it in relationship to who would know or who wouldn't know, but he dealt with it in relationship to what sin would do to God. "How can I do this dreadful thing," he says to Potiphar's wife, "and sin against God?" Are you dealing with stuff immediately when it rears its ugly head? Or are you playing with it, like the fish playing with the bait?

Look upward immediately! Joseph immediately considered God. You, immediately look to Christ. However, know that looking immediately doesn't mean immediate relief from suffering. Rather, it means immediately having the proper perspective as you (inevitably) suffer. Think of how Jesus loves you. He plays the long game. He was willing to die for you, even when you were at enmity with Him. Think of before your salvation and He still went to the cross for you. Think of how you have disobeyed or do disobey Him (and by doing so, fail to love Him as implied by John 14:15). Yet, He still loved you and loves you. Look to Him. Are you suffering now? Look to Him. Is someone a trial for you? Look to Him and love them.

In his Enduring Word commentary about 1 Corinthians 13, David Guzik shares the following:

Love suffers long: Love will endure a long time. It is the heart shown in God when it is said of the Lord, The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). If God's love is in us, we will show longsuffering to those who annoy us and hurt us.

So, even in suffering, one can look to Him and be longsuffering. Some give up as suffering lingers. They give in to the temptation to despair, even to the point of giving up or even falling away. Some fail to have the proper perspective or try it in their own strength and fail.

Chad Myhre, pastor at Calvary Chapel of Charlottesville preached a sermon about having the perspective of Christ when suffering (start just after the 1 hour mark if pondering deconstruction). He mentioned Isaiah 55:8-9 and how our thoughts are not God's thoughts. He said, "If you think wrongly about God, you are going to think wrongly about everything else." He mentioned a story of a desconstructionist abused via manipulation by a church leader (which is terrible), but results in walking away from faith. He addressed that with "You walked away from your faith because of that? The Problem: Wrong thinking about God. That's the problem. The broken and sinful church was not your God. You can lose faith in a bad church and you should. You should lose faith in a bad church if you are abused and manipulated or coerced in a way that is unbiblical, you should lose faith in a bad church, but if that leads to you losing your faith in God, I wonder who your god was before."

That's a good question. Who is your God? Are you looking to situations or people (who may have failed you) in your suffering? That's how to fall into the temptation of despair. Who is your God? Hopefully, He is the God of the Bible and you have a relationship with Him through Christ.

Consider what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:3, 8a (NASB): "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. ... Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead..."

And that is the core of this message: Endure through hardship and remember our risen Lord, Jesus Christ. You will suffer, but have the perspective of Christ as mentioned in 1 Peter 4:1 (NASB): "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because the one who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin ..."

And that puts your eyes on Christ, but also creates a proper perspective in regards to suffering as mentioned in Romans 8:18 (NASB): "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

I am reminded that as I endure hardship, I must remember the risen Christ. And may this remind you. As we suffer, we must have the perspective He had and walk obediently and have hope in Him in the midst of it. And we must do so immediately, day by day if we must. And that is how we must respond if tempted to despair.

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