Read at beginning of service:
Psalm 37:23-24 (NIV)
23 If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; 24 though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
Today is Father?s Day. What a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the gift and role of Christian fathers/husbands and men! At the end of this service, we will be honoring each man that is here today by presenting them with a special gift (like the one I hold in my hand). This gift is born out of the theme for the message today which is, “Pressure can be Good!”
I would like us to realize that pressure isn?t all bad! In fact, it can be a wonderful way to bring us closer to the Lord. It?s my desire that every man in this place will be encouraged to grow and increase in his relationship with God and faithfulness in his various roles as a father/husband and Christian.
Scripture Reading: 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 – “We do not want you to be uninformed brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves. But on God, who raises the dead.”
Text: 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 ? “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure ? but this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God.”
Webster?s Dictionary defines pressure as: “force per unit area.”
Farm accidents are nothing new. All of us grow up hearing about our share of them. Usually it involves some piece of machinery and human error caused by over familiarity or just not recognizing the danger of the situation.
Some years ago, a pastor was called to visit a man from his congregation in a local hospital. The man had been working on the farm tractor with one of his sons. After having difficulty raising the bucket, he turned the tractor off so he could find out why he was losing hydraulic fluid pressure. He noticed that one of the hoses had a pin-sized hole in it. Wondering if this was the problem, he placed his thumb over the tiny hole and asked his son to restart the tractor. What he didn?t realize was that hydraulic fluid in the hose of a tractor, once started, exerts an incredible amount of pressure. Enough pressure, in fact, to shoot right through his thumb, bone and all! Since the human bloodstream/tissues are not accustomed to the presence of hydraulic fluid, he quickly became infected. Blood poisoning rapidly set in. By the time the minister arrived at the hospital, the man was laying in bed with his thumb 3 times its normal size, sliced open like an Octoberfest sausage so it could drain, and stuffed with gauze. For a while it looked like the thumb (and possibly more) would have to be amputated. Thankfully, this was not the case, and after a few weeks, he was well on the road to recovery and the thumb was not compromised.
Pressure, like fire, can be a positive thing, or, as in the story I?ve just shared, a very negative thing. Hydraulic fluid works well in tractors?not so well in thumbs!
Human beings experience pressures of many kinds. Many forms of pressure in our lives produce much good. When we were going to school, a certain amount of pressure was exerted on us to get good grades and to excel in our studies so that we could achieve our vocational goals. As adults, we still need to feel some pressure in our jobs so that we can know the joy of achieving, producing and meeting deadlines. This kind of pressure is considered not only good but necessary!
Unfortunately, as we look at society in general, we see evidence of the effects of negative, detrimental pressures. We only need to look at the incidence of divorce, suicide, emotional/nervous breakdown and depression to realize that there are lots of negative pressures out there, or lots of people who don?t have the tools or strength to cope with pressure, or both!
Some time ago, Time magazine reported that “in the last 30 years, doctors and health officials have realized how heavy a toll stress is taking on the nation?s well-being. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, two-thirds of office visits to family doctors are prompted by stress-related symptoms. At the same time, leaders of industry have become alarmed by the huge cost of such symptoms in absenteeism, company medical expenses and lost productivity.” (“Stress: Can We Cope?” Time ? 6 June 1983 ? pp.48-54)
The article went on to say that the effects of stress were costing American business $50 ? 75 billion dollars/year, or more than $750 for every U.S. worker. “Stress and pressure”, Time Magazine said, “is a major contributor, either directly or indirectly, to coronary heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidental injuries, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide.”
Life today, as we know it and experience it, is a pressure-cooker! Dr. Joel Elkes of the University of Louisville, once said, “Our mode of life itself, the way we live, is emerging as today?s principle cause of illness.”
The human soul, although very resilient, is not nearly as tough as steel, concrete or reinforced rubber hydraulic hoses. It does have a breaking point! A human soul, given the right amount/kind of pressure, can crack, blister and cave-in under the crushing weight of a family tragedy, financial disaster, relationship betrayal or marital breakdown.
The Apostle Paul confessed that he was a man under great pressure.
2 Corinthians 1:8 ? “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.”
What particular pressure was he referring to? We?re not told here, but we know that the hardships (“trouble” ? KJV.) that he experienced were so intense that he was burdened excessively to the point of renouncing all hope of survival. He saw no way out of his oppressive circumstances. Some have suggested that what Paul really meant was that he had given up on the hope of any human help. I don?t know about you, but that seems like a weak explanation to me!
The text says he “despaired even of life”. Does that mean that he had a death wish? Not necessarily. However, the pressures and hardships of his circumstances were tantamount to a death sentence from which there was no reprieve (verse 9a). That is why later in verse 9 he speaks of a divine intervention that followed that was tantamount to a ?resurrection from the dead? for him.
The Greek word for “hardships” (“trouble” ? KJV., “affliction” ? RSV.) is the transliterated word “thlipsis“. It means: “a pressing, pressing together, pressure.” It is understood in terms of: “afflicted, anguish, burden, persecution, tribulation, distress and oppression.” It?s exactly the same word that Paul uses in 2 Corinthians 4:17 ? “For our light and momentary troubles (“afflictions” ? thlipsis) are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
PRESSURE! Every man experiences it?in his job, in his marriage, in his role as a father, in his ministry, in his friendships/relationships, in his various roles as provider, spiritual head of the home, and even in his walk with God. Pressures like these are common, normal and beneficial to every man who aspires to please God.
As men, God has a purpose for pressure in our lives. When He administers pressure, it is done in love and balance. It is deliberate and reasonable. Unfortunately, the same cannot always be said of us when we apply pressure to others or ourselves.
I?m sure all of us relate to the two extremes of male stereotype: the couch potato who won?t lift a finger to help around the house, let alone take his role as the head of the home. He is the image that fuels today?s sitcoms. Or the guy who is so driven to success that he is a workaholic. Often he is competitive and absent from the home and the marriage. Neither of these extremes represents the proper application or response to pressure.
Your gift today states, “In life, too much pressure can result in a rough ride?too little pressure results in poor performance.” Consider the following two automobile experiences:
A father was called to help his daughter one frigid winter morning this year. She was stranded on the side of the road with her ?performance? car which was not ?performing?. Upon examination, he realized that the low-profile tires had slipped right off the rims, making the car ?un-driveable?. At the tire repair shop, he was told that routinely in extremely cold weather, this was common because of low pressure. This is an example of how “too little pressure results in poor performance”.
A pastor related the following true story about a call for help from his daughter.
It was a hot August Sunday night at 11pm., when he and his wife received a phone call. It was a family friend who was renting a trailer at a summer camp about 2 hours away. Their seven year old daughter was attempting to stay overnight with the family?something she had never been able to accomplish successfully up to this point.
It had been a long, busy day at the church and, like most pastors, he was beat. Driving two hours to get his frantic daughter and then two hours back home was not the most appealing thing he could think of doing; however, when it?s your little girl who?s upset and homesick, a father will do just about anything!
After beginning the long, tedious trip, it began to pour rain. It poured all the way there and all the way back. The minister couldn?t figure out why it was so hard to keep the car on the road. He had driven in bad weather before. He had driven while exhausted before, too. This night was different. It was as though he had no control of the car– no traction. It felt like he was driving a lumber wagon with a team of horses. He was afraid for their safety. The next day he recalled having had the car serviced the day before. They had changed the oil, lubed the doors and fittings, checked the fluids and adjusted the tire pressure. He said, “I don?t know what made me think of it, but I took my tire pressure gauge and checked all four tires. To my shock I found that they had not only been inflated to the maximum amount, but exceeded that amount by 15 more pounds per square inch!” No wonder he couldn?t keep the car on the road in the heavy rain– very little of the tire tread would have been touching the pavement!
A man?s life is like that too. “Too much pressure can result in a rough ride?” In fact, it can be downright dangerous! We need to keep an eye on the pressure that?s going on in our lives. We need to adjust and regulate that pressure to ensure maximum performance. How do men, in general and fathers, in particular, strike that balance of pressure in their spiritual, emotional, physical, intellectual and moral lives?
How does a man handle the pressure to succeed? What about the expectations he places on himself?or that his employer, children, spouse, friends, church, or his God places on him?
How does he handle the pressures of aging, the stages of life, the race towards being prepared for retirement and the temptations of a world full of opportunities?
WE MUST REALIZE THAT WE ARE NOT ALONE
First of all, we must realize that we are not alone. Every man who has ever lived has experienced the pressure ?tug of war? in his soul.
Secondly, God understands what we go through and has made some very great and precious promises to us.
Promises of God?
I. God is our refuge and strength and our help in trouble? (Psalm 46:1)
Psalm 46:1 is one of them. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help (abundantly available help) in trouble.“
According to Strong?s Hebrew Dictionary, the word trouble means: “distress, adversary, adversity, affliction, anguish, tribulation, trouble.”
This verse means a help that has been found reliable and proven in the past so that any future calamity is no reason to fear.
II. 2 Corinthians 4:8 ? 4 part promise
Another “pressure promise” is 2 Corinthians 4:8 ? “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.”
Verse 8 is a four-part promise that every man can relate to. Let?s break it down into four statements:
“We are hard-pressed (“troubled” ? KJV.) on every side, but not crushed”
The Greek word for “hard-pressed” means: “to crowd, afflict, narrow, throng.” Think in terms of the pressure on a man?s peace of mind, composure or general sanity and mental health.
No matter how bad it gets; no matter how much the enemy presses hard on our thoughts and soul, no matter how you feel cornered/hemmed in, you are never driven to surrender!
Paul admonished Timothy to “keep his head in all situations.”(2 Tim.4:5). When the baby cries at 2 am., when your wife keeps reminding you that the house needs painting, when the mortgage payment comes due, remember the words of Isaiah: “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3)
“Perplexed, but not in despair”
The Greek word (“Aporeo”) means: “to be without resources, to be in straits, to be left wanting, to be embarrassed, to be in doubt, not to know which way to turn, to not know how to decide or what to do.”
This is a man second-guessing himself. He is confused, lacking confidence and divided in his soul. Think in terms of a pressured assault against a man?s source of supply–his finances, his provision, or his vocation (the ability to continue providing). Every man feels the pressure of “too much month at the end of the paycheck.” Unexpected expenses come, job layoffs, circumstances that defy our ability and reason to trust God. Insurmountable obligations that make you pull your hair out! We may be tempted to doubt at times, or even panic and take matters into our own hands. Sometimes instead of pressures leading us to God, they drive us away from God to things like worry. It has been said that 40% of all worries will never happen. 30% concern old decisions which cannot be changed, 12% center on criticism, mostly untrue, made by people who feel inferior, 10% relate to health, which worsens while you worry, and only 8% are legitimate which you can do something about. We know worry is wrong and counter-productive.
As men we need to be reminded that although we may be at a loss we?re never totally lost! Yes, there are times when fathers/husbands/men face the challenge of not knowing what direction to take. What is the best decision is this situation? What?s best for my child? Will this decision hurt or help my wife, my friends, my marriage or my career? It?s so easy to be unsure and confused. We see in the Scripture that even though we are perplexed, we are not in despair!
Psalm 37:23 assures us, “The steps of a good man are ordered [established] by the Lord?”
“Persecuted, but not abandoned“
The Greek word (“Dioko”) means: “to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away, to pursue in a hostile manner, to harass, trouble or molest.”
Think in terms of pressure to flee from one?s convictions/values/standards/faith/faithfulness/relationships. I think of the pressures that tempt a man to cave in or take flight from a secure position. He?s pursued by temptation?hounded by the foe but not left to his mercy. Take a deep breath! Consider God?s presence in your life. You?re attacked and driven but not left helpless or utterly forsaken. God is on your side! Hebrews 2:18 tells us that Jesus not only knows the power of temptation, but will help me walk through it successfully. “Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” This is both encouraging and strengthening.
“Struck down, but not destroyed“
The Greek word (“kataballo”) means: “to cast down, to throw to the ground, prostrate, lay, put in a lower place.”
I?ve always pictured a boxer being knocked to the canvass with a punch. He?s knocked down, but he?s not down for the count! He?s laid out, but he?s not dead. Not ruined! Not defeated! Not rendered useless! Not out of the fight!
Think in terms of a man?s safety and protection and personal strength. Everyday we get pummeled by life?s circumstances; driven down-?but only far enough to get close to God. Driven to a position of utter dependence and humility.
Deuteronomy 33:27 tells us two wonderful truths:
Deuteronomy 33:27 (NIV)
27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you, saying, ‘Destroy him!’
- “The eternal God is your refuge”
When we are attacked/struck down/challenged in our role as men/driven down by the weight of sin or cares of life?notice what we are driven to.
- “And underneath are the everlasting arms”
Struck down, thrown down, cast down, driven down?right into the everlasting arms of God which are underneath us, ever present to hold us up and support us!
We may be knocked to the ground, but not knocked out!
Paul has a message about pressure in the life of every Christian man: “Even though we may think we are at the end of the rope, we are never at the end of hope!
The intervening, providential hand of God was controlling Paul?s persecutions and circumstances, keeping them within manageable proportions. God was in control of Paul?s life?and He is in control of yours too.
Dr. Alan Redpath said, “There is nothing, no circumstance, no trouble, no testing that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has come past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with great purpose.”
Be reminded of this blessed truth: “God has a purpose for pressure in every man?s life.”
As you receive this gift today let it be a visual reminder that “too much pressure can result in a rough ride?too little pressure results in poor performance.” Somewhere in the middle is the balance that God wants every man to find.
Pressure isn?t all bad?in fact, it can be the thing that really makes a man/father/husband grow, mature, and flourish in the strength of the Lord–which translates into better fathers, better husbands, better Christian men and ultimately, better churches!