We’ve all heard the saying, “When the going gets tough the tough get going.” It’s the American way. The way of those who have gone before us and it remains the way of the tenacious and determined souls of today. My dad drilled the saying into my head throughout my years of growing up. In college, I had a coach who had a thousand sayings that he would yell at us while were going through tough, gut-wrenching practices in the heat of August. He would quote the great former coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi: “Men, fatigue makes cowards of us all!” He would get in your ear hole and pound you with, “I know men that will fight a buzz saw, but when they get tired they won’t even fight themselves.” And then there was his favorite motivational chant, “It’s alright to get knocked down, but it’s not alright to stay down. Get up! Get up! Get up!” That get-tough, pay-the-price, get-it-done mentality is not just the stuff of athletes–it’s the mindset of countless men and women through the ages who’ve faced tremendous odds and yet they’ve overcome because they refused to give up.
That get tough mindset is a real asset for us in life. Solomon takes this mindset one step further for us this morning. In Proverbs 24, Solomon gives us an added twist. Courage for our day of adversity is important, but it is equally, if not more important to muster the courage necessary to stand up for others when their day of adversity arrives. Let’s read out Scripture for today found in Proverbs 24:10-12.
10 If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength! 11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12 If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done? (Proverbs 24:10-12 NIV)
Solomon tells us that if we falter or become disheartened when trouble comes then we prove that we are not very strong people. There are two very important Hebrew words here that we need to take the time to look at this morning. The first word is the word for “falter.” The Hebrew word means “to sink, let drop, be disheartened, or to show oneself slack.” It is a very descriptive word that all of us can identify with in our own lives. Have you ever been in a situation that just took the wind out of your sails? You couldn’t catch your breath, your heart raced, and you felt like you couldn’t move? That’s the meaning of this little word. Let me show you a couple of other places where the word appears. Turn to Jeremiah 6:22-24 and let’s read together.
22 This is what the LORD says: “Look, an army is coming from the land of the north; a great nation is being stirred up from the ends of the earth. 23 They are armed with bow and spear; they are cruel and show no mercy. They sound like the roaring sea as they ride on their horses; they come like men in battle formation to attack you, O Daughter of Zion.” 24 We have heard reports about them, and our hands hang limp. Anguish has gripped us, pain like that of a woman in labor. (Jeremiah 6:22-24 NIV)
In Zephaniah 3:14-17 God tells His people to take heart, get their chin up, and realize His provision for their lives against their enemies. Read along with me.
14 Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! 15 The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. 16 On that day they will say to Jerusalem, “Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. 17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:14-17 NIV)
We are not to falter on the day of adversity–we are to take heart, to remember that God is still on His throne, and that He will never leave us nor forsake us. What is the day of adversity? Does Solomon mean some specific tragedy? The Hebrew word used here for “adversity” means, “straits, trouble, anguish, distress, or affliction.” The word appears 73 times in the Hebrew Bible. Let’s take a look at some other instances of this word. Turn with me to 2 Chronicles 15:1-7 and let’s read together.
1 The Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Oded. 2 He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The LORD is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. 3 For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law. 4 But in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them. 5 In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil. 6 One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress. 7 But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” (2 Chronicles 15:1-7 NIV)
In this section of Scripture we see that nation was bringing distress upon nation as God was troubling them with “every kind of distress.” Now that may cause some of you distress, but you need to know that God troubles us so that we lose our arrogance and trust in Him. Let’s go on and take a look at another instance of this little word.
David wrote Psalm 18, a beautiful song of deliverance. The superscription of the Psalm reads, “Of David the servant of the LORD. He sang to the LORD the words of this song when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” Jump down to verse 6 and you can see the Hebrew word that we are taking a look at. David writes,
6 In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. (Psalm 18:6 NIV)
What was David’s adversity? What kind of troubles did he face in life? I’m so glad you asked! David faced the troubles brought about by his own sin and the sin of others, just like us. David was slandered, he was falsely accused, he felt like an outcast, and there were those like Saul who wanted to see him dead. David faced the sickness and eventual death of a newborn son. He had to deal with his rebellious kids, he had troubles with his wife, Micah, and those who worked under him rebelled against his leadership. I could go on an on with the variety of troubles that David encountered in his life, but suffice it to say that he faced many of the same troubles that you and I face in life.
The day of adversity has come in many of our lives, and the day of adversity will come again and again, but we don’t have to falter. We can do as David did in 1 Samuel 30:6 when he was greatly distressed.
6 David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God. (1 Samuel 30:6 NIV)
For those of you who are in the midst of a day of adversity are you finding strength in the Lord? Are you allowing God’s Holy Word to strengthen you? Have your hands grown limp? Are you disheartened by your struggle? Seek comfort in God’s Word and you will experience God’s restoration! Paul said,
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV)
King David wrote in Psalm 27:1,
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1 NIV)
I mentioned to you earlier that God will trouble us so that we might lose our arrogance. Here is the rest of that story: when we turn to Him in humility rather than arrogance He will strengthen us like none other. When our day of adversity comes God’s Word will comfort and strengthen us for every challenge, but we must utilize this great and glorious gift that the Lord has given us. Let’s move on in our study. As I said earlier, Solomon adds a twist to the get tough when times get tough mentality. He says that we should show our strength when others are facing their day of adversity as well. Take a look at Proverbs 24:11 with me.
11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. (Proverbs 24:11 NIV)
In this verse Solomon is encouraging his son to get involved with those who are hurting, those who are being led away to death, and those who are tottering on the brink of absolute destruction. The first part of the passage is very straightforward. Solomon says to rescue those who are being led away to death. The second part of the verse is a little more difficult to understand. What does it mean to “hold back those staggering toward slaughter?” I want us to look at the word “staggering” for a moment. The Hebrew word for “staggering” means, “to totter, shake, slip, or to be greatly shaken.” Dr. Walte says,
The admonitions do not want to narrow down the identity of the victims or the crisis situation (disease, hunger, war, etc.) or the means of deliverance (law, force, ransom, etc). (Dr. Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs, page 276-277.)
What is it that is causing others to stagger and totter under the weight of their burden? The causes are limitless. It may be injustice going on in their lives. It could be getting caught in the cross-fire of war. The cause could be the weight of disease or dysfunction or sin, regardless of the cause of the weight we are to rescue those who are being led away, those whose lives are ebbing away. I want to show you some of the places where the word for “staggering” appears in God’s Word. First, turn with me to Leviticus 25:35 and let’s read together.
35 “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.” (Leviticus 25:35 NIV)
If poverty is weighing one of our brothers or sisters down and causing them to sway under the weight and burden of trying to stay on top of their bills then we are to help them. How are we to help? We need to ask God how He would have us get involved. In Psalm 94:17-19 the Psalmist wrote about his own experience.
17 Unless the LORD had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death. 18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O LORD, supported me. 19 When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul. (Psalm 94:17-19 NIV)
Take a look at this verse with me. How many of us can echo these words: “Unless the Lord had given me help I would have died.” My marriage was falling apart and I didn’t know where to turn for help. Unless the Lord had given me help I would have lost my marriage! I was trying to find a way to reach my daughter, but she was rebelling to such a degree that I feared that I had lost her. Unless the Lord had given me help I would have lost her! I had worked for years to build my business, but a downturn in the economy sent me reeling. I stayed up night after night trying to figure out a way to make it work, but I couldn’t. Unless the Lord had given me help I would have lost everything! I was strung out on drugs and knew that I was presiding over my own death, but I couldn’t stop. Lord knows that I tried to stop a thousand times, but each time I would get high again. Unless the Lord had given me help I would had died!
In the same way that we have received help from the Lord when we were staggering under the weight of our sin and troubles, we are to offer the same help to others. How are we to help? That’s a powerful and important question. We must stay in God’s Word and seek God’s counsel in prayer to know the right response to the situations those around us are facing in life. God may call you or me to get involved in the legal system to help someone out of an unjust situation. The Lord may lead you or me to intervene in a situation where we see someone being treated unfairly. I can remember a time when a young person here at our church was bitten by a brown recluse spider. His family didn’t have any insurance and he went to a hospital in town that simply put an antibiotic on the bite. That’s just wrong! If he would have had insurance I’m sure he would have been treated differently. Thank God there are some godly medical people in our church who heard about his predicament and offered him real medical help.
God is calling us to stand in the gap for those who are staggering and teetering on the brink of collapse. What is He calling you to do this morning? Do you have a friend who is suffering from physical ailments? Stand in the gap and minister to them. Do you have friends who are living a lifestyle that will destroy them? Don’t give up on them, stand in the gap for them. Pray for them, love them, encourage them to seek the Lord with all of their heart. Do you have friends in bad marriages where they are being abused? Don’t say that you don’t know what to do, stand in the gap for them. Help them.
The ways that we can help are many, but the best help that we can provide for those who are struggling and staggering is to point them to the Lord. If they can be rooted and grounded in their walk with God then they will not be moved. I want to show you something really interesting about the Hebrew word we looked at a little while ago. If you will remember the word for “stagger” means, “to be shaken, totter, or shake.” There are places in God’s Word where this little word appears in connection with those who are connected to God. In these instances a “negative prefix” is placed in front of the word that reverses the meaning. Some may totter and slip, but not those who trust in the Lord! Let me show you what I am talking about. Turn to Psalm 16:7-8 with me.
7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. (Psalm 16:7-8 NIV)
The Psalmist wouldn’t be shaken, he wouldn’t slip and fall, because the Lord was always set before him. That is where our focus must be. This should be our prayer for those who are staggering under the weight of their difficulties. In Psalm 62:1-2 we find the same truth shared.
1 My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62:1-2 NIV)
We are called to be the signposts that point others to the security that is found in God alone when the ground beneath our feet crumbles and trembles. Stand in the gap and point the way for those who are blinded by their pain.
This is what we are called to do and yet how many times have you heard stories of those who were suffering and nobody would come to their rescue? C. Ray Dobbins, the editor of The Cumberland Presbyterian, tells the story of plane ride from Miami on which there were 65 psychiatrists traveling home from a convention. During the flight a woman became ill and mentally upset, yet none of the doctors offered to help. The plane had to put down in Nashville so they could take the woman to the hospital. His companion’s comment was, “Life is like that.”
The world is full of intelligent experts, but oftentimes their help is not offered at our time of need. The response of most Christians is many times the same. We see great physical and spiritual needs all around us. As Christians we have the answer to help. In fact, we go to great lengths to say that we have what this world needs, but in many situations we continue unresponsive. We sit in another section and assume that we are guiltless. Where is the courage to care?
Solomon tells us that when we see others in need and we turn a blind eye or we say, “I couldn’t do anything” that God will not accept that answer. Read along with me from Proverbs 24:12.
12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done? (Proverbs 24:12 NIV)
Here in verse 12 we see that the person who turned a deaf ear to those in need wasn’t alone. He says, “But we knew nothing about this.” This is such an apt description of the world we live in today. We hear the cries, we see the need, but we are busy, we play like we don’t hear, or we simply say, “Those poor people,” as we go on about our business. It reminds me of the story Jesus told of the Good Samaritan. There were those who passed by on their way to whatever they were doing, but the least likely among them stopped to help.
This Scripture shows us that God is not convinced of our innocence. He is omniscient–He knows everything, even the deepest, best kept secrets of our hearts. He is omnipresent–we can’t slip one by Him because He is always present. In our time of need will we really expect Him to deliver us when we refused to provide help to those we know who are in need?
I love the story of Alyce Litz. I first heard her story last week, but I have done some further study and my admiration is growing daily. Alyce is the President of the Board for Love, Inc. in Wheaton, Ill. She has worked for several years with abused and neglected children in her community. Alyce and her husband began reading books about women in the Middle East who were suffering from great injustice and she prayed that God would give her a pen pal from that area.
At the same time that Alyce was praying there was a little girl named Farah Ahmedi who lived in Afghanistan. When Farah was only 7 years old she was walking to school one day and stepped on a land mine. Farah was taken to a German hospital where she stayed for two years without one visitor.
Farah was fitted with a prosthetic leg and allowed to go back to her home in Kabul, Afghanistan when shortly thereafter her father and two sisters were killed in a rocket attack. About a year later, her brothers, Mahmoud and Ghayous, disappeared as they fled to Pakistan to escape joining the Taliban. Farah was barely 10 years old and yet the heartache that she endured was more than she could bare. She prayed that God would take her away from all of the violence.
In 2002 a relief agency brought Farah and her mother Fatima from Kabul to Wheaton, Ill. where she met Alyce and John Litz. Alyce saw Farah and her mother as an answer to her prayers. She has mentored Farah since she arrived, helped her learn English, and Farah is now a 17 year old Junior at Wheaton North High School.
Alyce heard about a nation-wide contest sponsored by “Good Morning America” and Simon & Schuster for those who would write about the story of their life. Alyce encouraged Farah to enter the contest and she beat out 6,000 other entrants with her story–The Story of My Life: An Afghan Girl on the Other Side of the Sky. Farah’s book is on sale nationwide, she won $10,000 for winning the contest, and Alyce Litz stands in the shadows wherever Farah goes for another interview.
Alyce Litz is a hero to me because she was given an opportunity to help someone who was staggering under the weight of sorrow. Alyce has loved Farah, taught her to speak English, wiped countless tears from Farah’s eyes as she has relived heartache after heartache. What will you do? What will I do? When the day of adversity comes like a tidal wave and washes over someone in our life will we turn the other way or will we allow the Lord to use us to bless and deliver? I pray that we will respond to the hurts of others in the way that God has responded to our own hurt. We were lost and drowning in a sea of sin, but He pulled us out. What a glorious God we serve!
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114