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6th Sunday after Pentecost
2 Samuel 19:1-8

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, do you know what the ball joints are on your car? Maybe about a year ago I started hearing this clunking noise while driving our car. Now, granted, our car is 1995 and is actually the car that I took my driver’s test in when I was 16, but I heard this clunking noise. Wasn’t sure what it was, only heard it when I drove over a bump or on some rough surface, so I ignored it…for about a year. I thought it was easier and cheaper to just ignore the problem, not to face it, the car still drove. Well, last month I was listening to a sermon by another pastor and he talked about how important the ball joints are in the car.  The ball joint is a bolt with round piece on it that that connects the wheel of your car to your car. If your ball joint breaks while you’re driving it could do a lot of damage to your car and more importantly be very dangerous to your safety- it’s nothing to mess around with. After hearing that I did a little research and discovered that the clunking noise was probably a bad ball joint and so after about a year I finally I fixed it.

A couple years ago my daughter Megan was complaining that it hurt when she chewed. My wife and I had thought that it was both easier and cheaper to just make sure we brushed our teeth instead of going to the dentist. Our daughter Megan had never been to the dentist. And when she complained about it hurting when she chewed we told her to chew on the other side of her mouth. Finally we noticed some of her teeth not looking right. We took her to the dentist and found out that she had such major cavities in her teeth that no dentist in town would work on her, no we would have to go down to St. Cloud to a pediatric dentist and she would need child root canals in all her molars with stainless steel caps. It turned out to be much more difficult and much more expensive than if we had been regularly taking her to the dentist.

The lie we’re looking at today is a lie we’re all tempted to believe. “It’s easier to avoid problems than to face them.” Have you believed that lie? Have you found yourself putting something off again and again and again because you don’t want to face it? Then you’re believing this lie. Maybe in school you knew that at the end of the semester there was a large paper due so you found yourself putting it off and putting it off until the week before the due date.  Then you were believing this lie. As a parent do you find yourself rescuing your child in every difficult situation they are in instead of letting them learn their lesson and grow? Then you’re believing this lie (and teaching your children to as well!)

Believing this lie can affect us physically. Perhaps we know that we have a medical history of cancer or high blood pressure or heart disease in our family, but we avoid going to the doctor because we’re afraid of what they will say. Maybe we know that we really should lose weight but we don’t want to face the problem of changing our diet or getting exercise so we put it off again and again. Believing this lie affects us financially. Perhaps we know that we have a spending problem, but we don’t want to face it so we keep charging things to the credit card until we’re broke and can’t pay the bills. There are people who don’t want to do their taxes so they don’t file for one year, then the next year, since they missed the last one are afraid to file again and again and again until they owe thousands of dollars in back taxes. And believing this lie affects our relationships. Maybe we have an issue with a family member but we avoid dealing with it so the relationship gets more and more distant. Maybe we have unresolved issues in our marriage, arguments never settled, issues never dealt with. They pile up and up, we avoid them thinking it’s easier to avoid the difficult conversation and soon we think our marriage is dead and looking for a divorce, when if we had dealt with the problems right away we wouldn’t be in this situation.

The truth is, problems do not just go away if you avoid them, they pile up. Avoiding a problem is not an escape, it’s just a postponement of the inevitable. Whereas when problems are faced, they’re usually not as bad as they are imagined to be.

King David is a prime example of someone who believed the lie, “It’s easier to avoid problems than face them.” One of David’s sons, Amnon, became overwhelmed with lust for his half-sister Tamar who is described as being very beautiful. One day Amnon devised a plan to be alone with Tamar, over powered her and raped her. Then, after he had his way with her, he became just utterly hateful toward her. Tamar happened to be the full sister of another son of David’s named Absalom. When Absalom found out what Amnon did to his sister he was furious. David was also furious- but that’s all we’re told. David never intervened, never called Amnon to repentance. It seems that David thought it would be easier to avoid the problem than to face it.

Absalom on the other grew and grew in his hatred toward Amnon and devised a plan and had Amnon murdered for what he did to his sister. Afterwards Absalom fled and stayed away for 3 years and David never spoke to his son. Again, it seems David thought it would be easier to avoid the problem than to face it and have a difficult conversation with his son. After 3 years, finally, with the intervention of some of David’s friends, Absalom is allowed to come back to Jerusalem to live but spends 2 years without seeing David because David didn’t want to see him. Again, it seems David was avoiding problems than facing them. Finally, after two years they reunite. Then over the next four years Absalom began to conspire against his father, he stole people’s hearts away from the king, saying that if he was king he would rule and judge so much better than David. Four years. It’s hard to believe that Absalom did that for four years right in the same city as David and David didn’t know anything about it. 4 years goes by and David doesn’t intervene – avoiding problems and not facing them? Seems like it. Well, it leads to David having to flee Jerusalem because Absalom leads a rebellion against David, Absalom wages a civil war in Israel between his own army and the army that was faithful to David, 20,000 men die in this battle and so does Absalom. Wow! And it all happened because David tried to avoid problems rather than to face them. Then, in our text, David is mourning for his son Absalom who had tried to overthrow David and kill him and his soldiers feel like even though they won, they lost. David’s about to lose everything, but finally Joab steps in, does the difficult thing, faces the problem and tells the king to encourage his army. And David does so.

Problem after problem after problem. Easier to avoid problems than face them? I don’t think so.  The problem started around a decade earlier and since it was not dealt with it spiraled out of control. But David says something very instructive a few chapters earlier when he was fleeing Jerusalem he said, “It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today.” You see, although David’s problems had gotten out of hand for him, they were not out of the control of our gracious God.

What amazing grace that we have a God who does not avoid problems. We have a God who never has had and never will have a problem caused by Him. We have a God who rightly wouldn’t have to deal with any of our problems. And the  greatest problem that none of us can avoid is our sin and the consequence of our sin which is eternal death. So what did our God do? He faced not His problem, but our problems. He faced Satan’s temptations, He faced hunger, He faced exhaustion, He faced ridicule, he faced rejection, He didn’t avoid any problem, He faced them all, then He took our problem head on as He faced the cross of crucifixion and took our problems on himself, faced our punishment, faced our death.  Jesus died and Jesus rose to forgive you for all the times you’ve foolishly tried to avoid problems rather than to deal with them.

And knowing that means we can face all problems in life with the confidence that our God has already taken care of our greatest problem. It is knowing that that gives us the confidence to face every difficult situation in life. Think about it. What do you have to fear? Christ has redeemed you! Your sins are forgiven! You have peace with God! You have joy! Nothing can change that! With God’s grace empowering you, you can face problems.

What a gracious God that not only does he come to us and forgive us for all the times we’ve let our problems spiral out of control instead of dealing with them, but He promises to never leave us or forsake us and he will help us and lead us through the difficult situations we bring on ourselves. Think about your life- times when you were really stuck, had no where to turn, and did God bring you through it?

Since we don’t live in a perfect world we will face problems. Problems give us opportunity to turn to God for strength, comfort, encouragement, and empowerment to face them. Problems give us a chance to demonstrate a Christian attitude and response to the problems that everyone faces in life as an example for those around us. Problems give us a chance to grow in our faith and trust in God who promises to never give us more than we are able to handle.

And did you notice what Joab did here in our text? Joab confronted the king. Joab helped his friend not avoid but face his problems. God’s grace in Christ empowers us to do that too. Not only can we face our problems and deal with them as forgiven children of God, but we can help those around us to face their problems with the comfort we ourselves have from God.

Easier to avoid problems than face them? Nope. Thank the Lord for His grace and forgiveness that washes away all our sin of trying to avoid our problems and thank Him for dealing with our greatest problem, our sin, for us so that as His forgiven children we can face our problems head on. Amen.