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When It's Time to HALT Part 2

By Don Umphrey

(with scriptural citations from the NIV)

When might you be tempted to do the wrong thing?

We explored this idea in an earlier blog describing how it is easy to go astray when a person is hungry, angry, lonely, and/or tired; HALT is an acronym of this list. That blog is still available to you as are all the earlier blogs.  

Today we will explore some other circumstances which may lead you to being tempted.

When Under Stress.

Jesus and his disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat when a furious storm came up. They started taking on water, while Jesus slept in the stern of the boat. “The disciples woke him and said, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38).

The Lord was also judged in the same way while visiting in the home of Martha and Mary.  “…Mary… sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me.” (Luke 10: 39-40).

In the first instance, Jesus calmed the waters and asked, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith” (Mark 4:40).

In the second example Jesus honed in on Martha’s personal problem.  “Martha, Martha, the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

Have you ever reached a point where it seemed that no one else cared—not even Jesus?  If yes, how do you think the Lord would have responded to you at that moment?

When Your Focus Is in the Wrong Place

On a different occasion Jesus performed another miracle when his disciples were in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. Just prior to this, the Lord had taken five loaves and two fish and miraculously fed five thousand men in addition to women and children. After that he put his disciples in a boat to cross the lake while he dismissed the crowd and went off by himself to pray on the side of a mountain.  (See Matthew 14:22-33.)

The disciples were rowing into a headwind when, around dawn, Jesus walked on the water toward them.  “When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear” (Matthew 14:26). “But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid’” (Matthew 14:27).

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water” (Matthews 14:28).

“Come,” he said (Matthew 14:29a).

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord save me!’” (Matthew 14:29b-30).

“Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ “ he said, why did you doubt?’” (Matthew 14:31.) 

When problems appear and we get that sinking feeling, we have two choices: Do we focus on the problem or do we focus on Jesus?

Asaph Had The Wrong Focus

As told in Psalm 73, Asaph’s focus was also askew but under completely different circumstances than that of Peter.  His problems started when he “envied the arrogant when he saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:3). 

Asaph wrote, “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.  From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits” (Psalm 73:5-7).

“They say, ‘How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?’ This is what the wicked are like— always free of care, they go on amassing wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence. All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.” (Psalm 73:11-14).

Have you ever judged God?  Asaph did.  It is quite similar to the way Jesus was judged as not caring. 

Have you ever judged your insides but someone else’s outsides?  

Asaph did and so have I. Through my teens and into my early twenties I thought that any guy who drove a Corvette had it made and was superior to me.  That changed when I bought a used Corvette after graduating from college and discovered I was the same guy who the day before had been driving a rusty old Pontiac Tempest.

Coming to his senses, Asaph wrote, “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin” (Psalm 73:16-18).

He then concluded, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory” (Psalm 73: 21-24)

When We Choose To Be In The Wrong Place

 King David is the poster boy for being in the wrong place.  He decided to stay home when he was supposed to be with his soldiers who were in battle with the Ammonites. Walking around on the roof of his palace one night, David peeped over to see his neighbor’s wife taking a bath. “…The woman was very beautiful,” according to 2 Samuel 11:2, but she was also the wife of one of his best soldiers, Uriah the Hittite.  David sent for her and they had sex with the inevitable result of pregnancy.  As a part of his cover-up, David arranged for her husband to be killed in battle.  

David had the rest of his life to live with the sad consequences among his own children that are described in 2 Samuel 12:11-12 and 2 Samuel 12-20. 

 Jonah didn’t want to follow God’s instructions to preach to the people of Nineveh because of the wickedness that prevailed there.  Instead, he boarded a boat that was headed for Tarshish, a destination that would take him about 400 miles west across the entire width of the Mediterranean Sea.

 As the sea grew increasingly rougher, Jonah knew it was his fault, so he talked the sailors into throwing him overboard.  If you attended Sunday school when you were growing up, you know what happened next. It must have been claustrophobic and stinky inside that fish.  Jonah had plenty of time to think of how he’d gone wrong  He repented. “And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land” (Jonah 2:10).

 Getting his marching orders to preach to Nineveh a second time, Jonah obeyed, and the people there repented.

 Perhaps the battle is all but lost by the time we decide to be in the wrong place that is not in accord with God’s will for us. But if we do find ourselves headed in that direction, we may still have the choice to turn around. 


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Copyright  2023 by Don Umphrey

“New International Version” and “NIV” are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. 

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