Stash Your Problems On The Gospel Shelf

When life falls apart, Christians often close their Bibles and turn to anyone and everything else for help. Afterall, the gospel seems to know little of Instagram bullies, chronically depressed spouses, and teenagers overdosing on opioids. The gospel bookshelf deals well with the issues of life, rebirth and death. But the Jesus shelf appears to weak and awkwardly shaped to hold the massive and never-ending series of short and long stories entitled “My Issues.” To make it through life, we stick these books onto the self-help bookshelf, or display them on the social media bookshelf, or jam them into the therapeutic bookshelf. In so doing, we miss out on some of the best aspects of our salvation and sanctification. Those books that contain our sorrows, sins, and trials belong on the gospel shelf. It is strong enough to hold them all. More importantly, it is the only place that can make sense of our pain, sorrows, and struggles.

Micah and the Hope of the Gospel

In Micah 5:1-6, the Old Testament prophet and his audience faced an existential crisis. The Assyrian army stood outside their gates intent on Judah’s death. All political options had been exhausted. The bribes for peace had been paid. The God’s Holy temple and the palace of the Davidic king had been stripped of their gold. The nation had been humiliated And still, the Assyrian army came, seeking more plunder

Seeing their panic and fear, the prophet Micah could have counseled the nation to adapt a new form of taxation, to have developed new geopolitical alliances, or to have reinvested into their national defense. The prophet did none of those things. He pointed his people to Bethlehem Ephrathah.

We do not have to impress God to gain salvation. Jesus did not come from Jerusalem. He come from Bethlehem. He came from nowhere to save nobodies.

Micah focused on the city of David because it represented the King who had arisen out of obscurity to defeat Goliath and to establish the kingdom of Israel. It was a story of redemption and salvation that pointed to the great salvation would be accomplished by the Messiah who would also come from the tiny, humble town of Bethlehem.

Jesus’s origin story reveals that he knew we were weak. He does not find our sins, failures, and weakness offputting. He knew we would face armies of adversity that we could not conquer. He came because he knew we needed help, his help. We do not have to impress God to gain salvation. Jesus did not come from Jerusalem, the land of the kings and the powerful. He come from Bethlehem. He came from nowhere to save nobodies.

Jesus arrived tiny and lowly in Bethlehem intent upon ransoming captive Israel. Times of sorrow wrapped in falleness drop into our lives. Back pains strike us unexpectedly and neighbors persecute us for our faith. The Egyptians enslaved Israel. The nation of Judah would go into exile. But the our fall is never the end of our story for we are tied to the gospel story, the story of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. According to the gospel, the birth pains of sorrow that we experience in this world always point to our salvation: redemption and new creation.

The Hope of the Gospel

We hope and trust that God will work in our lives today, because he has saved us. He has redeemed us, the children of Adam and Eve, from the exile of our grandparents. Like them, we too had rebelled against God. And yet, Jesus still came and brought us back as brothers and sisters (Micah 5:3). Jesus lived, died, and rose again to transform rebels like us into sons and daughters of the king when we repent and believe. But that is not all.

Christ does not save men and women and then leave them to figure out what to do next. God guides his children to eternity. He walks with us as we struggle with temptation, failures, and disappointments, reminding us of God’s glorious promises. He protects us from false teachers, evil friends, and fools who seek to ravage our souls. And he empowers us to victory over sins and death. Theologian David F. Wells helpful captures the transforming hope of the gospel when he writes:

Hope…has to do, biblical speaking, with the knowledge that “the age to come” is already penetrating “this age,” that sin , death, and meaninglessness of the one is being transformed by the righteousness, life, and meaning of the other, that what has emptied out life, what has scarred and blackened it, is being displaced by what is rejuvenating and transforming it…hope is hope because it knows it has become part of a realm, a kingdom, which endures, where evil is doomed and will be banished.

Above All Earthly Powers

When we make the gospel our hope, we discover that our problems are not the measure of the power of God’s promises. Jesus is the guarantee of success. Micah proclaims, “He shall deliver us from the Assyrian (5:6).” God is at work. Friends do not despair of today’s problems, assuming you will be defined by brokennes. Place them into the gospel. Redemption, the return from exile, the new creation, is coming! The cosmic story of redemption will transform our lives. Don’t hide your problems from the gospel. Stick them right in the middle of it.

Do you trust the gospel with your problems?