In Part 1 we noted the increasingly higher-pressure cooker we seem to live in today. It seems like our world is determined to grill us alive. We began to examine how select men of God handled such pressure in their lives. The first key was to pursue the higher promises of God for our lives. We continue the topic here.
SOAR ABOVE OUR SITUATIONS (v9-11)
Stephen recounted Joseph’s story.
Acts 7:9-10 (NIV) “9“Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.”
Here we find a teenager who was so despised by his own brothers that they kidnapped him and sold him as a slave into a foreign land. Most would have acquired a rejection syndrome. Imagine the trauma of a favoured son who suddenly was forced into slavery in a foreign land, utterly alone.
Then as a foreign slave, his master’s wife tried to seduce him and because he tried to avoid adultery, was wrongly accused and thrown into prison. Imagine the stress of being accused of a crime you never committed and thrown into prison, a rotting hell-hole. As a foreign slave turned criminal, he would have been literally treated as a non-person. How would you have responded to devastating situations like that?
Yet in each and every case, Joseph soared above his situation. As a foreign slave, he became the best and most trusted chief slave in his master’s house. Even as prisoner, he became the most trusted prisoner – given opportunity to manage the insides of the entire prison. Eventually, he was vindicated and appointed by pharaoh to be the Prime Minister. The foreign slave and prisoner rose to be Prime Minister!
He made it a habit to turn life’s lemons into lemonade. He soared above his situations.
God did not abandon Joseph even when his family did. God saw that Joseph had the qualities that enabled him to soar high. For Joseph was a man who responded out of who he was in God instead of giving in to the pressure of the situation.
Gen 39:9 (NIV) No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”
He did not allow situations to become his excuses. Don’t allow your challenges to become excuses. This reflected Stephen’s attitude as well. He did not bow to the pressure but focussed on who he was in God. All of us face personal challenges. But will we choose to be like Joseph and turn life’s lemons into lemonades?
People can say unkind or critical things about you or about your group or even about church. Do we let that unsettle us? Or do we challenge ourselves to improve instead?
As a church leader, I had to face criticisms of various kinds, some very unfair. Some rather personally directed at me. But instead of getting hurt and wounded or giving up, I chose each time to improve, to learn from it. I stand upon who I am in God and press on.
Your lecturer may inform you that you failed your assignment or test. Your boss may inform you that your project failed. Do you sink through the floor and quietly die, give up? Or do you resolve to soar above the situation, looking to God for His grace?
God promises to be there for us.
Isa 43:2 (NLT) 2 When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.
Psa 34:9 - 10 (NLT) 9 Let the LORD’S people show him reverence, for those who honor him will have all they need. 10 Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the LORD will never lack any good thing.
So look to God for strength and determine to soar!
RESPOND RATHER THAN REACT (v23-29)
Stephen then recounted about Moses.
Acts 7:23-29 (NIV) “23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’ 27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian…”
How on the spur of the moment Moses killed a slave master out of anger. How he reacted instead of responding to the situation. What is the difference between responding and reacting?
To respond is to rationally reflect through a situation before taking action.
This reflection can take 5 seconds, an hour. A day or longer. It is not the timeframe but the fact that there was a weighing up of the situation to find the best possible solution. Responding is guided more by objectivity than by emotion.
To react is a spontaneous action usually based upon emotion rather than intellect.
Usually, we react when we are unprepared or overwhelmed in feelings such as anger, frustration, lust, etc. Moses had a bit of history of reacting in anger.
Ex 32:19 - 20 (NIV) 19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.
Num 20:10 - 12 (NLT) 10 Then he and Aaron summoned the people to come and gather at the rock. “Listen, you rebels!” he shouted. “Must we bring you water from this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out. So all the people and their livestock drank their fill. 12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!”
Moses sometimes made the mistake of reacting rather than responding. Reacting under pressure often makes matters worse. I heard there was once an argument that developed between a husband and wife. The husband came home after a tough day at work. As a result, he was less than attentive to his wife. Upset, the wife accused him, “You never give me the same attention anymore!” Frustrated, the husband reacted, “Well, you are not the same girl I married.” You can imagine more fireworks after such a statement.
Often, we react the most to those closest to us. This often hurts the relationship and cause even more stress to the people closest to us.
A few simple tips to move from reacting to responding:
Know when to shut your mouth. Better to say nothing than to regret it. Better to have a bit of thought about how to have something constructive to say.
Know when to walk away and come back when you have cooled down and have had some time to think things over.
Know when not to make decisions. When your blood is boiling. When your frustration level is too high. When your emotions are running hot. Those are not good times for decision-making.
We all face pressure of different kinds. Let’s learn to deal with pressures by God’s grace. Learn to pursue higher promises from God in the face of our challenges. To soar above your situations by choosing to turn life’s lemons into lemonade. To respond rather than to react during times of pressure.
Copyright©️2021 by Wilson Lim & Lai Ling Lim. All rights reserved. Materials are free to be distributed in whole or part as long as proper acknowledgement is given to the author and not sold for profit.