Make no mistake about it — you DO have a "breaking point"! But what is it? There is not a person alive — in or out of God's Church — who will not eventually break under a given amount of pressure. What's yours?
THE TENSILE strength of the human muscle is stronger than even steel! This magnificent human body God has designed and given us has many remarkable capabilities — far beyond what most people can even imagine! But even that muscle, at a given point, will break! God has made the human body to stand only so much before it will give way. As a physical creation, it can only stand so much before it will snap under pressure!
Your Breaking Point?
What about you, as a member of God's Church? Is there only so much that you can take before you will give in? How much pressure would have to be put on you before you would have to "throw in the towel" and pit? One man actually gave up and left God's way of life because his wife made life too miserable for him. She constantly nagged and complained until, as he put it, "I can't stand it anymore!" He felt it was too big a burden to live with an unconverted mate who couldn't go along with his "newfound" beliefs and continually voiced her opinion. Another man found himself involved in a real estate deal which controlled at least $40,000.00 of his money. As is usually the case, it was quite complicated with several interested parties involved. Unfortunately, not all of them were honest men. They intended to get as much as possible — giving no quarter! They managed to inveigle this man of his entire $40,000.00 — the result of long years of planning and expectations. He could not take it! When they found him, all that was left was a bloody nub atop his blood-spattered shoulders! He had blown his own head off with the blast of a shotgun! Yet he had been a baptized member of God's Church! And he still gave way and broke under the pressure. There is a point in everyone's life when the trials and tests get to be too much. It is not always the same circumstance for every person, either. Each person has his own particular weak spot, beyond which he, of himself, cannot go! Many of God's people have somehow deluded themselves into thinking it will never happen to them — that they will never have to go that far! But, brethren, whether we yet believe it or not, GOD IS GOING TO TEST US ON OUR WEAKEST POINT! The question is, how can we survive that severe test when it comes? How can we know we are going to make it and not resort to suicide, despondency and giving up all that we have hoped for? How can we be as certain as the Apostle Paul, who, in effect said, "I have it made. NOTHING can make me give up!" (II Tim. 4:6-8.) If there is anything we need to know, it is what Paul knew, and why be was able to make that statement!
Men Who Made It
The Bible is an accurate chronicle, giving the facts as they happened in the lives of the great and small men of old, for our learning and good (I Cor. 10:6, 11). It is easy to see why the failures failed — now, as we look in retrospect. Judas was a thief, whose love of money became too much for him — resulting in suicide. King Saul's concern over economics and the will of the people cost him his kingdom and an ignominious death at the hands of a novice — not even a warrior! King Solomon, in his old age, gave in to the pressure of his many younger wives, and allowed his heart to be turned from God. But what about those who were successful? What was that ingredient that made them successful — kept them from breaking when the real pressure was put on? Why were they able to bear up under it when others have failed? Let's notice their examples.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego
These three young Jewish men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego have had the focal story of their lives hackneyed and rerun so many times that most people probably feel they already understand what happened. But there is much more to it than the "stories" about them tell! Notice it in Daniel, Chapter Three. King Nebuchadnezzar was without doubt the most powerful and impressive gentile king who ever lived. His was the "head of gold" — the best of the gentile kingdoms. His very presence was no doubt much more fearsome and AWEsome than that of any man alive today. His very word or nod meant life or death! This was the man before whom these three men came. When he heard that they were not worshiping his golden idol, he sent for them in RAGE and FURY! (Verse 13). And, as the heathen custom still is today, he had planned a big fanfare of cacophonic music before forcing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to bow down before the golden image — muttering dire threats of excruciating death in a burning, fiery furnace for refusal to obey! They did not hesitate to answer the king! They had the answer on the tip of their tongues. They KNEW what they believed and there was no question about it! They said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful [overcautious, hesitant] to answer thee in this matter" (Verse 16). They were also absolutely ADAMANT in their belief! They firmly BELIEVED that God was able to deliver them from the trial! "If it be so [that is, if you DO throw us into the furnace], our God whom we serve is ABLE to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king" (Verse 17). In spite of terrifying threats, they actually voiced the idea that God might NOT choose to deliver them — and STILL had faith in God! "But IF NOT [that is, if God chooses NOT to deliver us out of the furnace), be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up" (Verse 18). Notice that God did not deliver them immediately! He expected them to go that one step further — back up their words by actions! Would this have been the point that would have stopped you? Would you be as one woman, lying in pain after an unsuccessful cancer operation to which she had submitted instead of trusting God all the way? She piteously asked, "Surely God wouldn't have expected me to just lie there and DIE, would He?" The answer? Yes, He would! And you can do it without worrying about coming close to your breaking point! God made these three face all the fury and livid RAGE that King Nebuchadnezzar could muster. This was not easy! The furnace was heated SEVEN times over! They were immediately bound tightly — still willing to go all the way — and carried to the furnaces by the most powerful men in Nebuchadnezzar's army. Here is where many would finally falter! They were now absolutely helpless and staring into the flaming mouth of the fiery furnace! God did not rescue them even at this crucial stage, but made them go beyond the point of human help! No ONE could help now, but God! He had to see that they would not only be willing to SAY they would go all the way, but He made them GO all the way before he saved them — from the trial! It would seem that, if anybody came to a breaking point, these men did! But, believe it or not, they never broached their "breaking point" in this trial — and there is a definite reason WHY! There is a binding factor that all the great men of old had, that meant sure and certain success.
Abraham and Isaac
Abraham was one of the first truly great men mentioned in the Bible. His name and heritage will always be remembered because he did his utmost to do all of God's ways (Gen. 26:5) — and more than that! This man was tried and tested more severely than any other mortal! The greatest stigma of Abraham's time was to be childless. Abraham and Sarah were that for years — in spite of God's binding promise that their progeny would be as the sand of the seas. It was only after years of testing that God finally blessed them with a child — Isaac. They were both well past the age for normal childbearing, which made this a miracle in itself. Isaac was a special gift of all gifts to them. As wealthy as they were, nothing could have meant more to them than the birth of Isaac. Little is mentioned of the first few years of Isaac's life except that Abraham loved him very much! This means that Isaac was a well-trained, disciplined child — responsive to his parents (Prov. 13:24).
The Hardest Test
God unexpectedly said to Abraham: "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of" (Gen. 22:2). Abraham did not hesitate and begin to reason within himself, allowing all the natural, negative and rebellious thoughts to flow through his mind. Not once did he think of taking Isaac and spiriting him off to some unknown and hidden place to "escape" from God! He set his mind immediately to OBEY God. He rose up EARLY the next morning (Verse 3), gathered the necessary material, and began the three-day journey to Mount Moriah. It was not something he could just "do" and have it over with. He had to go to the place God chose — three days away! You can rest assured Abraham got no sleep during those three days and nights! Plenty of time to "think" it over and reason and remember. This was the most difficult part — the mental agony! Three long days spent walking alongside a donkey with the most precious thing in his life coming every step closer to death! It was here that Abraham remembered the good things, the cute sayings, the meaningful incidents, the short and fast years of growing from a baby in the crib. Three days to observe and memorize the facial features, the posture, the sound of a voice — to remember kissing him good-night through the years, the things Isaac had learned, and his quick, alert attitude! As they were on their way up the mountainside with the wood and fire for the burnt offering, Isaac queried, "Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering'" (Verse 7.) Under ordinary circumstances, any man might break here! This would be like plunging a knife into the heart and twisting violently! How would you answer such a question at such a time? Abraham answered, "My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering" — knowing full well in his own mind that Isaac was that lamb! It was probably not until Abraham had to bind Isaac that Isaac knew who the lamb was to be — yet Isaac willingly submitted to his father. "And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son" (Verse 10). It was at this moment that Abraham, in his own heart and will, actually slew his son! He had started the downward plunge of the knife before God halted him. God now saw for certain that Abraham would withhold NOTHING from Him (Verse 12). He had passed the supreme test without faltering. He did not break under the pressure! Here was that same indelible characteristic which has marked all those who "made it"! Of Noah, who braved one hundred twenty long years of smirks and abuse in building the Ark; of Job, who declared, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him!" (Job 13:15); and of all those described by Paul in Hebrews 11 who never gave up — that they might obtain a better resurrection (Heb. 11:35). What made the difference for these men and women?
If God Be for Us
The Apostle Paul gives us a vital key, declaring, "If God be for us, WHO can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31.) He makes clear to us the quality all these men had which made them qualify. God was FOR them and they KNEW it! They knew that, "Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:38-39). When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego went into the burning fiery furnace, they knew God was for them. They had no doubt but that He was ever-present, intently observing what was taking place in Nebuchadnezzar's court — and that if they did their part, they would not fail! God desires that no one fall short, and is willing to go to all lengths to help us! Our God is Righteous, "Who will have ALL men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth" (I Tim. 2:4). He is "not willing that any should perish, but that ALL should come to repentance!" (II Pet. 3:9.) Abraham knew this vital information and fought desperately to do his part — and WON! All the Godly men of old who did not come up short KNEW and applied this knowledge!
The Christian "Breaking Point"
Why do some often come to the breaking point sooner than others? Why do some seem weaker and let the cares of this world pull them away sooner? Because they just don't BELIEVE God! We have the definite, dogmatic irrevocable promise from God that, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer [allow] you to be tempted above that ye are able [to stand]; but WILL with the temptation also make a way to escape, that YE may be able to bear it" (I Cor. 10:13). Do you realize what this means? God, who cannot lie, has given us His True Word that He will not allow US to even reach our "breaking point"! He will never allow a temptation to come upon us that is more than we can stand. However, He will leave the temptation there for us to overcome — but it will never be more than we can stand! But what of those who so obviously broke under the pressure? The truth is, they simply ceased believing God — they stopped being a Christian! They only thought it was too much and gave up much too soon! They refused to continue taking God at His Word and walked out on Him. He was still for them, but they refused to believe it and came prematurely to their "breaking point." Make no mistake about it, as long as you are serving and believing Almighty God, it is not possible for you to reach your "breaking point" or to be tried too much! What a wonderful promise to fully realize! Those who "break" are those who "give up" on God, who just grit on the job — and are no longer worthy of His Kingdom! What about you? If you are getting all discouraged and down and out because of your trials, never think about giving up! If you break and give up, it is your own fault and lust — not God's. Believe God and trust Him to help you overcome the trial.