Bible Study Tools / Self Control

Desperate Measures

by Ian Simons
Photo by Ingo Stiller on Unsplash

I listened to a sermon once, which described how a man literally escaped from the jaws of a lion. The lion had snatched his rifle from him and he was seemingly helpless. While the lion was dragging him away by his foot, he reached over, grabbed the rough tongue of the lion with both hands, and pulled with all his might. At the same time, his companion started to rush at the lion with his Land Rover, a jeep-like vehicle. Luckily, the lion loosened her grip (yes, it was a lioness!) and the man was able to vault into the back of the open Land Rover with his good foot. Not many would have survived such an encounter. With sheer courage, the man and his companion fought back and he escaped what would otherwise have been a painful death.

Have you ever had to resort to desperate measures? It is surprising what people will do in order to survive. What would you do to escape what seems like certain death? How far would you go to save your life? Let us explore this question and learn a lesson from the answer.

Some of you may have heard of Aaron Ralston who, at the age of 27, used a pocketknife to amputate his own arm and free himself from a boulder weighing 800-1,000 pounds that fell and trapped him for five days in a remote desert canyon in eastern Utah. Pinned in a three-foot wide slot canyon, Ralston cut through his own arm below the elbow, applying a tourniquet and administering first aid before rigging anchors and fixing a rope. He rappelled down to the Blue John Canyon, and then hiked out to meet his rescuers. Ralston had been hiking alone when the boulder fell and pinned his right arm, as he was moving through the narrow slot.

Ralston’s pocketknife amputation was not the first in the region. A Colorado fisherman, Bill Jeracki, cut his leg off at the knee when two boulders fell on his leg while he was angling alone in a remote canyon stream. Trapped and yelling for hours, Jeracki made the drastic decision after the weather took a turn for the worse and he became concerned for his survival.

Then, there was Jonathan Metz who tried to cut off his arm after he trapped it in a furnace while he was alone. He started to sever the arm, but despite his immense bravery, he became overwhelmed by the severe pain. Eventually, friends who were worried after not seeing Metz for three days finally alerted the police. He was falling unconscious when rescuers found him. The amputation had to be completed because of infection. The physician who treated him said, “The way that he did it was frightening, admirable, horrifying, brave – and just amazing to us.” Nevertheless, Mr. Metz was happy to be alive: “And trust me, whether it’s cutting your arm off or finding some other way, I think people would be surprised by what they are capable of.”

Occasionally in the mines of South Africa (probably in Canada as well), a physician must go underground to do an amputation of a limb to extract a worker pinned down by a rock fall. No doubt, such a worker would be grateful to have his life saved even though he may have lost a limb.

These stories demonstrate the desperate measures people take to save their lives. However, there is something more important than physical life and that is our eternal life. How far would we go in order to be saved spiritually?

In Matthew 18:8-9, Jesus Christ speaks of spiritual amputation. “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” The hell fire that Christ was referring to is Gehenna fire or the lake of fire, which symbolizes eternal death.

If Christ were speaking of physical amputation, there would be many people inheriting eternal life who would be without limbs or eyes. Of course, here Christ is speaking of getting rid of sin, rather than actually cutting off limbs or plucking out eyes. It sounds very drastic, but He was using an analogy. He meant that we should take whatever measures needed in order to rid ourselves of sin.

So, how do we get rid of sin? Let us first look at the source of sin. In Matthew 15:17-20 Jesus said, “Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” Jeremiah says the heart of man is evil. Yes, believe it or not, we still have human nature, so evil thoughts have to be ruled over. We spend our Christian lives learning to control our evil thoughts, and learning to replace them with good thoughts so that our words and our actions will be good. This spiritual amputation takes constant effort and work and we need God’s help.

Solomon also speaks of the heart in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life [our thoughts].” The heart (mind) is the source of all human troubles and that is why we need to “keep” it (under control). Verse 25, “Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.” If the eye offends pluck it out, don’t compromise. Verse 26, “Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.” If the foot offends cut it off. Now we do not literally reach in and pluck out the heart. We cannot cut our heads off, but our thoughts can get us into trouble if we are not careful. We eliminate the sin by spiritual amputation. We are undergoing a process of reeducation. We change our thoughts and attitudes with God’s help. Moreover, it does not happen overnight. Our lives are a continual battlefield, strewn with the land mines of sin.

When Potiphar’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph, he did not compromise but fled the scene. We change by not compromising and God can change our minds and hearts from evil into good. We do not give up but rely on God to help us to change.

The God of the Israelites said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). The apostle Paul said, “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). We should also ask God to reveal any changes we need to make in our lives.

So, how far do we go in order to save ourselves spiritually? If our priorities are right, we will do whatever is necessary to go the distance – with God’s help.

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