John Markum

Your Problem is Not the Problem

ProblemThe lesson I’ve had to learn, and relearn, my entire life is frustratingly simple. And yet the Bible speaks to the title principle of this post repeatedly. Where, you ask? Well, for instance:

  • Matthew 17:20, “If you have faith like a grain of a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it shall be moved.”
  • Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood… but against spiritual forces…”
  • 1 John 4:4, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

Here’s the thing… The problems, troubles, and frustrations that you and I deal with are a consistent part of living – especially for the counter-cultural, God-centered value system of a Christ follower. But when we begin to live, think, and behave as though these difficult circumstances are somehow more than external distractions from the greater battle we’re at war with, we’re already losing the real fight.

You see, your problem is not “the” problem – your perspective is. There is no external problem that is greater than the God who promises to indwell every believer. This same indwelling Spirit of God “always leads us in triumph,” in Christ (2 Cor. 2:14). That’s a pretty big claim. And our instinct is often to argue that claim. After all, we don’t always feel as if we are being lead in “triumph” by God. That feeling comes from our focus, though. And as long as we focus on our problem, rather than the God who is greater than our problem, we’ll always feel discouraged.

That is why Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Don’t lose your focus on the One who promises victory over your trials. Following Christ does not mean that your world becomes “problem-free”. It means that you have overwhelming victory over those problems. The only thing better than not having a challenge, is knowing that no challenge can stop you. “If God is for us, than who can stand against us?!” (Rom. 8:31).

Pastor John

Of Heaven and Hell

It seems as if there are times in everyone’s life that are marked with concentrated periods of stress, trouble, and tough times. It always seems to come in waves:

  • First you fight with your spouse over finances and the lack of time you’ve spent together.
  • You get to work and find out that your hours are getting cut in half.
  • Because you’ve been moved from full-time to part-time you realize you now lose your company-paid benefits as well.
  • On the way home the car starts overheating.
  • You check the mail on your way in to see the familiar stack of bills, that seem to be constantly rising.
  • You share all of this info with your spouse who starts to cry.
  • She then tells you all of the problems in her day: house, kids, depleted savings account, etc…
  • A family member called her because her mother (5 states away) is in critical care at the hospital.
  • To top it off, she suspects that she’s also pregnant.

Sound familiar? This story is not entirely hypothetical. More than likely, you have your own lyrics to the same song. There’s an entire message I could preach here about God’s grace through life’s difficulties, and His faithfulness to see us through. Or I could talk about the fact that God is not putting us through the fires of life to burn us, but to forge our faith and promote us to another level of His blessings. All of that would be true.

Instead I want to share a story and a simple thought that I got once from an amazing man, pastor, father, and mentor in my life from years back when I was in high school. His name is Norwood Tadlock. I went to school with all three of his kids. I knew him as my Bible teacher at my Christian high school. His wife passed away while I was still a teenager. Making similar observations as I have above, he once pointed out to me:

For those of us who know Christ, this is as close as we will ever get to Hell.

That’s a relief. The Bible even tells us that compared to Heaven, our present sufferings are but “a light affliction that is working for us a far greater weight in glory!” God is not minimizing our pain. He is simply encouraging us that one day, all of this will seem very small in comparison to Heaven. But “brother Tadlock” didn’t stop there. He quickly made the opposite observation:

For those who do not know Christ, this is as close as they will ever get to Heaven.

Frightening. And not what God wants for them, either. These thoughts coming on the back of a week full of natural disasters, false prophets, hurting people within my church, hurting people outside of church, and trying to pastor others through this messy thing called life, make me think 2 things:

1)   Heaven must be unimaginably amazing. I want everyone to go there.

2)   Hell must be unimaginably terrible. I don’t want anyone to go there – not even my worst enemy.

Let’s stop trying to guess at the day that Jesus is coming for us since He said that “no one knows the day, nor the hour of the coming of the Son of man,” and let’s get passionate about seeing people far from God awakened with life in Christ. We have a world to change. Let’s “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” and make a difference.



The phrase no pain, no gain has been a mantra for athletes and fitness junkies for years. And what they understand about physical pain needs to be broadened to a much more general use in all of our lives. Pain hurts. That's the whole problem. No one enjoys it, and if someone does, we rightfully

The Premium of Pain