You Can't Run Away From Problems
By Warren W. Wiersbe
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Two mighty forces are at work in the world today. One force is pulling everything apart, while the other force is seeking to put things back together again. Sin is the destroyer, but Jesus Christ is the builder.
So many people need to put their lives together today! Their lives and homes are being pulled apart, and their jobs are in jeopardy. For these people, everything seems to be crashing down around them. They are falling apart physically, mentally, socially, financially and, most of all, spiritually. In the Old Testament book of Ruth, we have a vivid account of two widows—one young and the other old—who were able to put their lives together and find happiness and fulfillment in the will of God.
In chapter 1 of Ruth, everything is falling apart. Naomi and her family made some mistakes. People today are making these same mistakes. Let me survey the first chapter for you, and then we will look at the first mistake that Naomi and her family made and the reasons behind it.
Ruth 1:1-5 reveals the family's first mistake. They were trying to run away from their problems. Bethlehem-Judah was experiencing a famine. Naomi, her husband and two sons packed up and went to Moab to avoid the famine and other problems. But in Moab they only found more problems!
The second mistake that Naomi made was trying to cover up her disobedience (vv. 6-18). She tried to send her two daughters-in-law back home so they would not come to Bethlehem with her and be evidence that she had disobeyed God. First, she ran away from her problems, and then she tried to cover her sins and hide them.
The third mistake that Naomi made is found in verses 19 through 22. She became bitter against God. Ruth went back to Bethlehem with Naomi, but Naomi was a bitter woman. The name "Naomi" means "pleasant," but she was not at all pleasant! She said, "Call me not Naomi, call me Mara; for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me" (v. 20). The name "Mara" means "bitter." It comes from the same word as myrrh, the bitter perfume that was used for embalming.
If you want to destroy your life, then make these same three mistakes: try to run away from your problems, try to cover up your disobedience, and become bitter against God. I guarantee that if you will take these three steps, your life will begin to fall apart.
"Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem-Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, and his two sons. And the name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi, and the name of his two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem-Judah. And they came into the country of Moab, and continued there. And Elimelech, Naomi's husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. And they took themselves wives of the women of Moab; the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other, Ruth; and they dwelt there about ten years. Arid Mahlon and Chilion died also, both of them; and the woman was bereft of her two sons and her husband" (vv. 1-5).
The scene is now set. A famine has come upon the people of Israel. Instead of trusting God to provide, this family chooses to pack up and go to Moab. They decide to run away from their problems rather than facing them.
Why do people try to run away from their problems? Let me suggest several possible reasons.
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One reason why this family ran from their problems is because they were living by sight and not by faith. In comparing their life in Bethlehem with life in Moab, they made the mistake of only looking at the situation from a human point of view. When they looked at Bethlehem, they only saw hunger and pain, while Moab appeared to be the land of plenty.
From God's point of view, their decision was wrong. Moab was a heathen land, and the Moabites worshiped false gods. They were the enemies of God and of Israel. God had said in Deuteronomy 23:3, "An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the Lord forever."
The Ammonites and the Moabites were the descendants of Lot as the result of an act of incest (see Gen. 19:30-38). When Lot was delivered from Sodom, he and his daughters lived in a cave. His daughters made him drunk and then committed incest with him. The sons born to these women became the fathers of the nations of Ammon and Moab, and these nations became the enemies of the people of God. From God's point of view, Elimelech and his family were leaving home and going to reside with, and depend on, the enemy.
The name "Bethlehem" means "house of bread." Judah can be translated "praise," while Ephratah means "fruitful." Bethlehem was called Bethlehem-Ephratah. As this family looked at the "fruitful house of bread," they could only see famine and barrenness. The sound of complaining filled the land of "praise." Elimelech said to Naomi, "The wisest thing we can do is leave." If you are living by sight and not by faith, difficult situations look hopeless to you. Running away seems like the best solution.
Why didn't they just trust God? God had made it very clear in His Law that if His people obeyed Him, He would bless them. We are told in Deuteronomy 28 that famines were a discipline from God. God promised to send the harvest, the rain and the sunshine—all that was needed—if His people would obey Him. Instead of running away, the people should have run to God, bowed down, confessed their sin and asked for His forgiveness.
When you start living by sight and not by faith, then you will start running away from your problems and sins instead of trusting. God to help you overcome them. You will try to find an easy way out of a difficult situation.
Living for the Physical—Not the Spiritual
A second reason why people run away from their problems is because they are living for the physical and not for the spiritual. Some people may argue, "Well, these people had to live!" I would rather be hungry in the will of God than full and satisfied out of the will of God.
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The first temptation that Satan presented to the Lord Jesus was a choice between the physical and the spiritual. Our Lord had just spent 40, days fasting in the wilderness, and He was hungry. Satan said to Him, in effect, "Since you are hungry, turn these stones into bread." If the Father in heaven would have said to His Son, "Turn the stones into bread," Jesus would have done it. But the Father had not given Him that commandment. Jesus answered, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). Jesus did not succumb to the temptation to put His needs before the will of God.
I've often heard people say, "Well, a person has to live." While it is true that we must live in the will of God, it is not true that we must live—no matter what the cost. It is far better for us to be poor and hungry in the will of God than to have all the comforts of life apart from the will of God.
This was the mistake that Esau made. He despised his God-given birthright. Esau had been out in the field hunting and came home famished. Jacob was making some delicious stew, and Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of it. He put his physical desires before God's plan for his life.
When you begin putting the physical ahead of the spiritual, you start living to please yourself. You begin to think that the most important thing in life is to be comfortable, not to be conformable to the will of God. What if our Lord Jesus Christ had put the physical ahead of the spiritual? What if He had been more concerned about His own comfort and pleasure than about doing the will of God? Where would we be today?
Living for the World—Not the Lord
A third reason why people make the mistake of running from their problems is because they are living for the world and not for the Lord. The Word of God says, "Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled" (Ruth 1:1). We have already discovered that the Book of Judges is the book of "no king." At least four times in the Book of Judges we read: "There was no king in Israel" (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). Twice we read: "In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (21:25; see also 17:6). Naomi and her family were living in an era of anarchy. The popular argument was "Everyone is doing it! Why shouldn't we?" But: the fact was that everyone was not doing it! Boaz did not go to Moab. He stayed where he was, and God later used him to rescue Naomi and Ruth.
When the situation became difficult in Bethlehem, Naomi and her family made three wrong decisions: (1) they decided to leave Bethlehem; (2) they decided to go to Moab; and (3) after Elimelech died, Naomi allowed her two sons to marry women from Moab. In Ezra 9:1 and Nehemiah 13:1 you find both Ezra and Nehemiah protesting against the Jews who had married women outside the nation of Israel.
The problem today is that people are conforming to the world with its rebellious atmosphere and attitudes. When you start running away from your problems, you are living for the world and not for the Lord. Your excuse becomes "Everybody is doing it!" And you start doing what is right in your own eyes.
Ignoring the Source of the Problem
A fourth reason why people run from their problems is that they ignore the real source of their problem—their own heart. When Naomi, Elimelech and their two sons went to Moab, they took their problem with them. What was their problem? The spiritual deterioration in their hearts. They were the problem. They were proud because they believed they could manipulate and manage their own lives and do a better job of it than God was doing.
The source of every problem is inside, not out-side. The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart. We blame circumstances, and we even blame God. But when you reach the root of the problem, we are the ones who are to blame. We doubt God and disobey His Word. We put the world and the flesh ahead of the will of God. We think we can run away. But the Word of God makes it clear that when you run away, you take your sinful heart right along with you. That's why you can't run away; that's why running away only causes the problems to increase. You may be in a new location and have a new situation, but you still have the same old heart. You will repeat the same old mistakes. Ralph Waldo Emerson used to say that a change in geography will never overcome a flaw in character.
Naomi and her family traveled the 50 miles from Bethlehem to Moab, and it was a trip that took them out of the will of God. They planned to sojourn in Moab just for a while, but they tarried there for ten years. Everything fell apart. The fruitful fields of Moab became a cemetery for Naomi's husband and her two sons. Instead of having hope, Naomi became hopeless. God had to discipline this family to bring Naomi back where she belonged. It never pays to rebel against God.
Unfortunately, Naomi still had not learned her lesson. We will see that she made another mistake. She tried to cover up her sins and blame other people. Hebrews 12:11 says, "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them who are exercised by it." Naomi had to learn to surrender to the discipline of God and stop running away.
(An adaptation from the book "Put Your Life Together -Studies in the Book of Ruth.)
(An adaptation from the book "Put Your Life Together -Studies in the Book of Ruth.)
Source: Back to the Bible Intl.
Confident Living Magazine, Secunderabad.
Copyright: Back to the Bible (1985)