Ronald E. George Jr. at the Fayetteville Baptist Church
A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer's well. The farmer heard the mule braying or whatever mules do when they fall into wells.
After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathized with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbors together and told them what had happened...and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.
Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbors continued shoveling and the dirt hit his back...a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back...HE SHOULD SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP! This he did, blow after blow.
"Shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up...shake it off and step up!" he repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed the old mule fought panic and just kept right on SHAKING IT OFF AND STEPPING UP!
You're right! It wasn't long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, STEPPED TRIUMPHANTLY OVER THE WALL OF THAT WELL! What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him...all because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.
That's life! If we face our problems and respond to them positively, and refuse to give in to panic, bitterness, or self-pity...The adversities that come along to bury us usually have within them the potential to benefit and bless us!
Remember that forgiveness, faith, prayer, praise and hope...all are excellent ways to SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP out of the wells in which we find ourselves! From Bible Illustrator.
Scripture Text: 2Cor 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 13 It is written: "I believed; therefore I have spoken." With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
What can you do when you're down and someone is trying to bury you? When the world throws mud do you make mud pies?
Some possible responses to problems, afflictions, and troubles in this life: this is what the apostle Paul could have done to those who continued to afflict him.
1. Go with the flow. Just go along with it and don't fight it. Coast along through this life and don’t make waves. Just remember that there is only one way to coast and that is down hill. Everything is relative today. Some say there is no truth, but…
2. Get Revenge/ throw back. Paul could have tried to hurt those who had been hurting him. He could have thrown rocks. He could have planned their death. The donkey could have tried to hurt those who were burying him.
3. Just Give Up and Die. Paul could have quit and died. He continued on to serve the Lord even when that meant serving God from a jail cell. He wrote letters to the churches, which are now our N. T.
4. Curse and Blame God. Get mad at God for allowing these things to come into your life. Paul gave up everything for God and then He allowed these problems and persecutions to come into his life.
The Basis for Paul's Response:
1. Jars of Clay; Realize who you are and Who God is. Don't think too highly of yourself and too low of God.
2. Treasure the Power: Trust God for whatever comes your way. Allow God to continue to work through you even in the midst of troublesome times. Troublesome times are here, filling men's hearts with fear. “The important thing about a vessel is that it be clean, empty, and available for service. Each of us must seek to become “a vessel unto honor, sanctified [set apart], and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work” ( 2 Tim. 2:21 ). We are vessels so that God might use us. We are earthen vessels so that we might depend on God’s power and not our own.”
3. Look toward the Unseen: Depend on the fact that there are aspects of this life that can't be seen with the physical eye. Give your life to God no matter what may come your way. Jesus was raised and so will we be!
4. Persevere: Shake it off and keep on keeping on with God. Keep a positive attitude that has its foundation on the truth of God.
5. Remember the Eternal Glory that is Reserved For Us. God will reward His servants.
6. The power is in us in Christ: Do you have the power within you? Do you have the treasure that Paul described? Are you depending on God for your power?
"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past -- we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude -- I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. And so it is with you -- we are in charge of our Attitudes." -- Dr. Charles Swindoll
Wiersbe, W. W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989. 2 Co 4:7.