“How to Deal with a Crisis”
A sermon for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany,
Jonah 3:1-5, 1 Cor. 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20,
By Pastor Volker Heide, the Lutheran Church of Madison.
Today we look at “How to Deal with a Crisis.” Perhaps before we begin, we should define what we mean by a crisis. A crisis is any situation that upsets the balance of life. It is some unexpected event that upsets our spiritual and emotional balance. A crisis is a pivotal moment in our life that calls for some kind of response.
We usually think of a crisis as being something bad that happens to us. Something goes wrong. We receive bad news. The unexpected happens.
This is something we can all identify with. We all experience this. That’s life. That’s how it is for all of us. The Bible teaches that crises are a part of life; they are woven into the very fabric of our existence. There is no way to avoid them.
Bad things happen to us because this creation is fallen. Our world has been ruined by sin; it is broken, damaged, and corrupted. The balance of life is permanently out-of-whack.
This all started when Adam and Eve rebelled against God. That was the original crises. That was the first bad news. That brought sin and death into God’s perfect creation. That’s when it all started to go wrong for us.
Now, consider this – a crisis comes into your life. Something upsets the balance of life. Something bad happens to you. How do you respond? What do you do? How do you deal with the stress and tension, with the worry and fear? How do you avoid being overwhelmed? How do you cope with feeling helpless and hopeless?
A severe loss of balance is difficult to handle. Yet, every crisis is a pivotal moment. It calls for some kind of response. We have to make some kind of adjustment. We have to react in some kind of way.
Such a response can be either positive or negative. You can either move forward or fall back. You can either go forward in faith, or go backwards in unbelief.
In the end, it is a matter of faith. A crisis reveals whether we truly believe in God or not. Our faith is tested. We can respond as a believer, or we can act like an unbeliever. We can trust that God is in control of our situation, or we can refuse to follow God’s will.
The Bible teaches that the trials and tribulations we experience are an opportunity for spiritual growth. James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” In the same way, Paul says, “We rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us.”
The Bible does not gloss over the fact that suffering and trials take place in our life. The Scriptures are full of stories of people facing a crisis. But the Bible also teaches that we can deal with a crisis in the context of faith. We know that God is in control, and God has a plan and purpose in everything that happens to us. Through faith, we are able to see that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Faith is the key. Faith trusts in God and follows his way. Faith knows that in everything that happens to us, in every crisis we face, God is able to work good out of it. That is what we believe. That is our hope.
Consider the story in our Gospel Reading. Our Lord enters the life of Simon and Andrew, James and John. He issues that call that will change their life forever: “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus declares, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.”
The time has come! The pivotal point has been reached! The kingdom of God has arrived with the appearance of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Can you feel the sense of urgency in our Lord’s call? He says, “Come on and follow me! The kingdom of God is here! Repent and believe the good news!”
That’s the bottom line – the time to repent and believe is now. That’s the only way that you can effectively deal with a crisis. Now is the time to believe and follow God’s Word. Now is the time to live by faith and trust that God is in control of your life. Now is the time to repent and obey God’s will.
You see this played out in our Old Testament Reading. The prophet Jonah confronts the people of Nineveh with the call to repent and, amazingly, they respond. They actually repent and change their ways. Crisis averted.
You also see this in what Paul tells the Corinthians in our Epistle Reading. He says, “The time is short. This world in its present form is passing away.” In effect, Paul teaches, “Don’t be overwhelmed by your problems and suffering. Don’t be overcome when a crisis suddenly occurs. But remember, in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Remember, faith gives you the ability to cope in a positive way when something bad happens to you.”
When the unexpected happens to you, turn to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is our hope. He is our Savior. He is the one who reaches out to us in our moment of crisis and he says, “Take heart! Do not be afraid! But trust that I am with you in this crisis. You are safe in my love. I will help you get through this. Together, we can make it.”
Our Lord calls out to us and he says, “Look to my cross and resurrection! There you will find the strength and courage you need. There you will discover how much I love you!”
When we look to the cross, we see how our Lord had his moment of crisis. Bad things happened to Jesus. He suffered the ultimate trial. He suffered the pain and agony of crucifixion. He carried upon his soul all the sin and evil of this fallen, broken creation.
The ultimate crisis occurred. All the bad things in the whole world were place upon Jesus as he hung on the cross. He suffered the greatest evil. But God the Father was able to take all that suffering and work good out of it. God takes all the evil of the crucifixion and he work forgiveness. From death, God creates life. From suffering, he creates hope.
The resurrection of our Lord shows how our hope shines brightly. The resurrection shows how God was in control all along. The Father has a purpose and plan to everything that happens to us. That was true for Jesus and it’s true for us.
We know that in this life we have to face all kinds of unexpected events that upset us. Life is filled with crises. Bad things do happen to us on a regular basis. There is no way to avoid suffering.
But remember all the bad things that happened to our Lord. He suffered all these things so that we might have the hope of a new life and a new creation. Because of Christ, we have forgiveness and eternal life. We have hope. We can deal with bad things. We can respond with faith and fortitude. We can become stronger and mature and more complete in our faith.
As James says, “The testing of our faith develops perseverance.” It makes us stronger, more complete. It lifts up our eyes to see the day when there will be no more bad things, the day when God’s new creation comes into existence.
On the last day, God will take away all the brokenness of this world and he will make everything new. Then, the balance of life will be fully restored and made permanent. All crises will forever be resolved in our favor. Then, there will be no more bad things to deal with.
But the key, for now, is to keep on living by faith. Keep on hearing the call of the Lord. Keep on hearing the voice of Jesus calling out to you. Hear the Word of God and respond in faith. For, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” Amen!