Trouble With The Curve

Sunday July 25, 2021

 

Trouble With The Curve

 

John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

 

INTRODUCTION

Satan’s Modus Operandi is that he is deceptive, shifty, and crafty.

He is like a pitcher in baseball who is always changing his pitches to keep the batter off balance.

He has fastballs, change-ups, sliders, knuckleballs, and even screwballs to mess us up.

And not only that, he also throws his pitches in different locations to keep us in the popcorn machine so we will be confused in our mind.

He also doesn’t use 12-inch softballs to throw us underhand pitches that anybody can hit at a picnic or a neighborhood game in the backyard.

If we could see trouble coming before it arrived,

I’m sure, we could all bat a 1000 every single time.

But, our enemies never play fair and they love to crash our party.

Today, I want to zero in on one of his pitches, called the curve, in order to expose our weakness and how we can handle the curves life throws at us.

 

HANDLING LIFE’S CURVES

 

We have all had curve balls thrown at us in our lifetime.

What is a curve ball?

Well, in baseball, it is a ball that is pitched with a snap of the wrist that has a strong downward spin, which causes the ball to drop suddenly and deceptively veer away from home plate making it almost impossible to hit.

In life, a curve is an unexpected downward interruption in the normal routine of life.

It could be anything from your hard-drive crashing 10 minutes before a deadline at work, or a major tragedy falling on your life when you are unprepared for it.

Life’s curveball’s come from a variety of sources.

Sometimes, because of our actions, we deserve the consequences we are experiencing.

However, at other times life’s interruptions come so suddenly that they take us unaware.

We need to understand and expect the curveballs that come into our lives.

(We should not be surprised.)

We need to face the reality that curve balls are coming because Jesus told us that they would:

In our Scripture text in John 16:33, “…In this world you will have trouble…”

That word trouble means pressure.

It’s a promise.

Troubles Will Come!

(If they haven't made it to you yet, don't worry, you will have your share before you get out of here.)

Things like: Your hard drive will crash.

Your loved ones will pass away.

You will get sick at one time or another…

And very possibly your bank account could be empty at some point in your life.

When I think about people who have had a lot of curve balls thrown at them, I think about the story of Joseph in the Old Testament.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to read the entire account of his life so let me encourage you to read it on your own.

His story begins in Genesis 37 and ends in Genesis 50.

Here is a guy who experienced being sold into slavery by his brothers at the age of 17.

He was falsely accused of having an affair with his boss’s wife and then thrown in prison.

He befriends Pharaoh’s butler who forgets him when he is restored to his position.

At the age of 30 he faces his brothers again who sold him into slavery.

(That is 13 LONG YEARS of ups and downs that made absolutely no sense at all to Joseph while he was enduring them.)

In his story, and others like his, there are some important truths that we can learn that will help us know how to handle life’s curves.

As you read through the life of Joseph you never see him shaking his fist at God.

On the contrary, in Genesis 50:20 you can read how he felt about his 17 years wandering in the wilderness of confusion:

Genesis 50:20 “As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people.” (NLT)

You see Joseph had the right attitude toward the interruptions in his life.

How can we, like Joseph respond to life’s curves?

In the movie Joseph, Prince of Egypt, there were two great songs.  One was Through Heaven’s Eyes and the other one was You Know Better Than I.  I just loved both those songs.  Here are some of the lyrics:

 

First: Through Heaven’s Eyes

…The stone that sits on the very top of the mountains mighty face…does it think it's more important than the stones that form the base?  So how can you see what your life is worth or where your value lies?  You can never see through the eyes of man, you must look at your life through heaven's eyes

A lake of gold in the desert sand is less than a cool fresh spring

And to one lost sheep, a shepherd boy, is greater than the richest king

If a man loses everything he owns has he truly lost his worth?  Or, is it the beginning of a new and brighter birth?

So how do you measure the worth of a man?  In wealth or strength or size?

In how much he gained or how much he gave?  The answer will come to him who tries to look at his life through heaven's eyes.

No life can escape being blown about by the winds of change and chance.  And though you never know all the steps you must learn to join the dance.

So how do you judge what a man is worth?  By what he builds or buys?  You can never see with your eyes on earth. You have to look at your life through heaven's eyes.

 

Second Song: You Know Better Than I

I thought I did what’s right.  I thought I had the answers.  I thought I chose the surest road, but that road brought me here.  So I put up a fight, and told you how to help me.  Now just when I have given up the truth is coming clear. 

You know better than I.  You know the way.  I’ve let go the need to know why. For you know better than I. 

If this has been a test I cannot see the reason.  But maybe knowing I don’t know is part of getting through.  I try to do what’s best, and faith has made it easy to see the best thing I can do is put my trust in you. 

I saw one cloud and thought it was a sky.  I saw a bird and thought that I could follow.  But it was you who taught that bird to fly.  If I let you reach me will you teach me? 

For You know better than I.  You know the way.  I’ve let go the need to know why.  I’ll take what answers you supply, because You know better than I.

 

One of the most important things we learn from the life of Joseph is:

Stay faithful to God! (Genesis 39:19-23)

God’s hand of blessing was on Joseph even while he spent his last two years of his 13 year test in prison.

We can take it for granted from this that Joseph kept his cool through it all.

He didn’t “lose his religion,” he didn’t “talk bad about God!”

He was unfairly thrown in prison but he never blamed God.

Stay faithful to God even when no one else does.

Even when you don’t understand why!

Even if it never gets better!

 

A second thing we must keep in mind as we try and handle life’s curves is:

We must be careful not to allow bitterness and unforgiveness in our lives.  

When he faced his brothers again after 13 years he had every right to get even with them, but he said:

Genesis 50:19 “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, to judge and punish you?" 

 

I hate weeds.

Constantly picking out weeds.

You have to work every day to keep the weeds out of your life, lest a root of bitterness begins to grow and grow and grow until it chokes the life out of the seed/the word of God that has been planted in your heart.

If anyone had a right to be angry and bitter it was Joseph.

He had 13 years to nurse the hurt of being sold into slavery by his brothers.

Now he was in control, Prime Minister of Egypt, and he had every right to punish his brothers like they did him.

But he never let the past get the best of him.

I remember a very important man in my life one time when I first became pastor had a disagreement with me.

He yelled at me over the phone.

I tried to explain my position.

I was right but he didn’t know the whole story and let loose on me.

I was a young pastor trying to do the will of God and this guy was telling me how bad I was.

I listened.

I got mad - but he didn’t know it.

And then I prayed…

Life is too short to hold grudges.

The next time I saw him he acted like nothing had ever happened.

And I didn’t bring it up.

And the only reason I mention it today is just for this illustration.

This man is very close to me today because I didn’t let one situation that they didn’t have all the information on destroy a lifetime relationship.

 

Life is too short to hold grudges.

I realize that for some of you, life has been unfair, but don’t let bitterness and anger rule your life.

I know it is not easy.

Let’s be honest, sometimes we have to fight to make sure we don’t have those unforgiving attitudes.

Suck it up and deal with it.

Talk about it.

Get help if you need to, but do everything you can to keep bitterness and an unforgiving spirit spring up in your life.

 

An incredible author, Joni Eareckson Tada who was born in 1949 in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest of four daughters.

As a teenager, she enjoyed riding horses, hiking, tennis, and swimming.

But, on July 30, 1967, she dove head first into Chesapeake Bay after misjudging the shallowness of the water.

She suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels and became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down.

During her two years of rehabilitation, according to her autobiography, she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and religious doubts.

However, she learned to paint with a brush between her teeth, and began selling her artwork.

Then she began to dictate books of valuable information to her aid.

To date, she has written over forty books, recorded several musical albums, starred in an autobiographical movie of her life, and is an advocate for disabled people.

Then in 1982, she even got married to her sweetheart Ken Tada.

Everything was looking bright again when in 2010 she announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

However, again, she emerged successfully from cancer surgery and continues to write, paint, and speak motivationally all over the world today.

If anyone had a right to be bitter about life it was Joni, but she turned her bitterness into sweetness and became a witness of God's graciousness.

Do whatever it takes to keep bitterness from springing up in the midst of life’s curves.

 

Another way to handle the curves of life is to:

Don’t rule out the reality that God has a greater purpose to what you have experienced.

Genesis 45:5 “Don’t be angry with yourselves that you did this to me, for God did it. He sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives. These two years of famine will grow to seven, during which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God has sent me here to keep you and your families alive so that you will become a great nation. Yes, it was God who sent me here, not you! And he has made me a counselor to Pharaoh—manager of his entire household and ruler over all Egypt.” (NLT)

Now, it is important for us to understand something here.

God never puts his stamp of approval on evil or sin.

It was wrong for Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery and lie to their father that he was dead.

But, as Joseph looked back on his life he sees how it was no accident that he is where he is.

Even in the midst of all that was going on in his life—God used it for the good.

(God has a way of making masterpieces out of messes! He can do that with your life if you will surrender your will to His!)

As a matter of fact he used Joseph’s life to save many other lives.

Before you give up on God you need to realize that he is in the process of bringing out great possibilities through your experiences.

(I doubt you realize the positive impact you would have on everyone around you if you would give your life to God!)

Many times we won’t know what God wants to do in our life situations until after the fact.

In other words, someone might be throwing a curve at you and you really don’t know how God is going to use that.

So many times it’s not until we are through with the pain and through with that experience, that we can look back and see how God used our pain.

 

Don’t live life by explanations, but by God’s promises. 

God never said, spend your life trying to figure out the mysteries of the unknown! No!

He said that we were to walk by faith, not by sight.

Live by his promises found in His Holy Word.

From the Bible we know that we have hope even in the midst of the unknown.

 

CLEAR PROMISES OUT OF ROMANS 8:

Verse 18: “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later.”

Verse 28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good (even when your hard drive crashes) of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”

Verse 31: “If God be for us, who can ever be against us?”

Verse 37: “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”

I don’t know what kind of curve is being thrown at you today but I trust you will make a commitment to handle it the right way.

 

HOW TO HIT THE CURVE

There are three basic curves we face in life.  Let’s look at them by considering the example of a biblical character for each one.

 

1) CURVES THROWN TO US BY LIFE ITSELF 

Where do they come from? Who knows!

They come from all kinds of different directions, but we must understand that life is the wheel on which the potter molds the clay.

The old song, "Life Is Like A Mountain Railway" pretty much sums up the answer to the question for us.  

If you don’t remember the song here are a couple of verses and the chorus for you:

Verse 1

Life is like a mountain railway

With an engineer that's brave

We must make the run successful

From the cradle to the grave

Verse 2

Heed the curves and watch the tunnels

Never falter, never fail

Keep your hands upon the throttle

And your eye upon the rail

Chorus

Blessed Savior there to guide us

Till we reach that blissful shore

And the angels there to join us

In God's grace forevermore.

 

A good Biblical example of a man who was thrown a wicked curve in his life was:

JOB 

In one day he lost his wealth, his family, and his health.

You can just hear the devil saying, “Strike one, strike two, strike three, you’re out.”

But, God said, “Not so fast Satan, he may be knocked down, but he’s not knocked out!”

You can read the scenario of Job’s crashing experience in Job chapter 1.

In one day, he lost all his oxen, his sheep, his camels, his donkeys, and his servants.

If that wasn’t enough he lost all his sons and daughters in a horrific windstorm that blew the house down and killed all of them at one time.

In Job chapter 2 Satan afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.

His wife turned against him and said, “Why don’t you curse God and die!”

Job’s fair weathered friends insisted that God must have been punishing him for some sin.

Then over the next 36 chapters of Job’s life he insists on his innocence but nobody is listening.

 

How did Job handle the curve?

Listen to his responses—first concerning his losses and then concerning his health.

In chapter 1 it says, “When these things happened, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground and worshiped God saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

In chapter 2 his wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Job replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

Then came God’s opinion of His servant: “In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”

WOW!

Job never messed up his testimony with his mouth!

Now, we must be careful about looking at Job and saying, “Yeah, right!

He did all that because in the end he was more blessed than when he started his test.”

But, the reason we can say that is because we have the luxury of reading his entire story in just 42 chapters in the book of Job.

However, that is not an adequate view of his entire life.

What we do not see is his personal day-to-day struggles.

He had to live out those long days between the Catastrophe and the Coronation—the agonizing pain of wondering why and how this all happened—the anger he had to deal with and the seemingly unfairness of it all.

We read that Job fell to the ground in worship after receiving horrible news.

When we read that, it throws our silly theology and the neatness of religion out the window.

We think, “How in world could anyone worship at a time like that?”

I think we need to look outside of the box and not just see worship within the confines of the church or our own experience.

We must be careful not to make superheroes of the men and women in the Bible.

They were frail, weak and fallible just like we are.

I think Job fell to the ground before God because he had nowhere else to go and just couldn’t take it anymore.

Sometimes that is what it takes to drive us to our knees.

How much pain can you endure before you fall on your knees in surrender to God?

Yes, life threw Job a curve that many of us would be hard-pressed to deal with.

His responses are worth noting to help us when life throws us a curve.

What did he do?

He turned to God AND He acknowledged that God was in control.

I said that there were three basic curves we can face in life.

We just looked at the first one:

Just living life will involve curves, bumps, and whoop-see-dos.

Now let’s look at another direction our curves can come from:

 

2) CURVES WE THROW OURSELVES

To demonstrate the curve of this pitch I want to use King Saul as my Biblical example.

First, the good underhanded 12-inch softball pitch:

He was chosen as the first king of Israel.

(What a honor and privilege given to him by God. His ordination was a powerful occasion.)

1 Samuel 10:1, 6-7 says, “Then Samuel took a flask of oil and poured it on Saul’s head . . . saying, “Has not the Lord anointed you leader over his inheritance? The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.”

WOW! What a beginning!

His reign started out with such a powerful spiritual experience that he became a different person and had God’s blessing upon his life.

With such a beginning you would expect exceptional things of this man.

However, the sad story of Saul’s life does not see the fulfillment of those expectations—because of choices he made!

In only 3 chapters later in 1 Samuel 13 the prophet Samuel said, “You acted foolishly. You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”

The curveball came from his own hand and it had a name on it: DISOBEDIENCE!

1 Samuel 15:10-11: “Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.”

Then the accusation and the sentencing: 1 Samuel 15:23: “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”

 

How did Saul handle the curve?

He made bad decisions.

Saul faced his own curve ball because of the decisions he made.

He played the BLAME game.

The trouble with Saul was that nothing was ever his fault.

When he did not do what God commanded there was always a reason and it involved someone else.

(That is like a batter that says the reason he strikes out so much is because the pitcher won’t throw the ball right!)

Come on Saul, you're the king.

Doesn’t the buck stop with the king?

I hear men say, “I am the king of my castle.”

Well, there is nothing wrong with being king, but if you are the king, don’t blame your bad decisions on your wife or your children.

Stand up, be a man, and be a king by making good, right decisions for you and your family.

The problem is when you think you are king there is always someone else to blame lower than you on the totem pole.

He did not take responsibility and as a result of his own choices the kingdom was torn away from him.

 

Finally, let’s look at one more curveball. 

3) CURVES THROWN BY OTHER PEOPLE

For this one let’s use the Bible character by the name of Stephen, one of the first deacons in the early church.

When the church in Jerusalem had a quarrel about widows being neglected in the daily food distribution, the apostles chose seven deacons to handle it.

They did this to keep themselves free for prayer and the ministry of the word.

The first of the seven chosen was a man named Stephen.

In Acts chapter 6 it says, “Stephen was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit.”

In time, Stephen did more than just serve on the food distribution committee.

He entered into ministry with miraculous results.

This led to another conflict where bribed witnesses testified that Stephen had made blasphemous comments.

This resulted in a fixed trial and Stephen’s death by stoning.

 

How did Stephen handle the curve?

Acts 7:59 says, “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’”

In verse 60 it says, “Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.’”

Stephen handled the curve by putting it in God’s hands.

He understood that revenge and unforgiveness were poisons to his own soul.

He did exactly what Jesus had told his followers to do—pray for those who mistreat you.

How do you handle it…when death unexpectedly knocks on the door?

When you lose your job?

When your marriage is going down the drain?

When you pay the price for making your own rules?

When a loved one tears your heart out?

When your double standard is exposed?

When the doctor delivers bad news?

When a friend stabs you in the back?

 

HOW YOU SHOULD HANDLE THE CURVES OF LIFE

Turn to God and acknowledge that he is in control.

The late author Zig Ziglar wrote: The longest 24 hours of my life were those after my daughter’s death.

When making the funeral arrangements with her husband and his parents, I had to listen to a salesman who was an incessant talker and who told us 30 times he wasn’t a salesman.

Twice while we were making decisions about her casket and burial, I had to leave the room;

I simply couldn’t handle him.

The night before I had hallucinated.

Half asleep, half awake, I kept thinking my daughter was wondering when her daddy was going to come get her.

The next morning I took a walk and was praying and crying the whole way.

When I returned, the Lord spoke in such a distinct way: "She’s fine. She’s with me. And you’re going to be fine, too. I’m all you need. You just keep walking and talking with me. Keep praying and crying, I have confidence in you. You’re going to make it.”

Take your share of the responsibility.

 

Listen to how David handled the curve he had thrown himself in his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah.

In Psalm 51 he prayed: “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my shameful deeds—they haunt me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned.”

Forgive the person, or persons, who have hurt or wronged you.

The story is told that when Leonardo Da Vinci was painting The Last Supper, he had an intense and bitter argument with a fellow painter.

Da Vinci was thinking of a way to get this guy back.

He came up with a devious plan.

He decided to paint the face of his enemy onto the face of Judas Iscariot so it would be captured for time in memorial.

And that is exactly what he did.

When people came to look at his work in progress, the immediately knew who ‘Judas’ was. Da Vinci thought, “This is pretty good. I showed him!”

As he continued his work on the great painting of Christ and his disciples, he finally came to the face he had saved for the very end—the face of Jesus.

But he could not bring himself to paint it.

He was greatly troubled knowing that he had painted the face of his enemy as the face of Judas Iscariot.

He realized that his hatred and bitterness were keeping him from being able to face the face of Christ.

So he went back to the image of Judas and painted some vague face instead.

Then he was able to paint the face of Christ.

Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

Believe me, I am not saying that these things are easy.

There are times when they are extremely difficult.

Perhaps those are the very times we need to take these steps the most.

 

CLOSING

Sometimes we think, “Why does bad things always seem to happen to me?”

We cannot believe it.

How could a good God allow something bad to happen to such nice person like us?

The truth is that difficult things do happen to people like us.

The important issue is how we respond when they do.

So many players do good in the minor leagues because they can hit the fastball.

You think the ball is coming right down the middle and you swing the bat with all your might, but out of the corner of your eye you would see the ball dip to the outside of the plate, "STRIKE," You will hear the umpire say.

So many of us have trouble with the curve.

I encourage you this morning to keep your eyes open and when you face the unexpected curve in your life don’t quit.

Handle it the way God would want you to.

Turn it over to Him!

Your life will be better for having done so.

Are you having trouble with the curve this morning?

I want to invite you to come forward if you know that you can’t handle the curves alone.

No matter where it has come from it needs to be dealt with.

Why not start working on it right now while you are in an atmosphere of people that will love you, help you, and support you?