“We’ve got trouble, right here in River City” (Professor Harold Hill, The Music Man)
In college, I was a communications major, but theatre was my true educational interest. There’s nothing like an old fashioned musical that fills the stage with cast, color and music. During my high school days, I appeared in several musicals, such as Fiddler on the Roof, Camelot and The Music Man. Although I enjoyed all of them, my favorite was The Music Man.
Set in 1912, The Music Man is the story of Harold Hill, a charming con artist salesman who arrives in the small town of River City, Iowa, with the intent of conning as much money as he can from the town folk. There is just one problem: the fair citizens of River City do not like traveling salesmen.In 1912 one didn’t run down to the local mega-mall to buy one’s goods. No, locals did their business with traveling salesmen who came to town on the train. In the past, the town’s citizens had been conned into buying products that didn’t perform as promised. And before they figured out what happened, the con artist was already on the train out of town.
As Mr. Hill arrives in River City, he bumps into an old colleague who warns him of the town’s sensitivity to traveling salesmen. But Harold Hill is no average con artist – ah, I mean salesman. What others viewed as an obstacle, Harold saw an opportunity. He asks his friend, “What’s new in town?” To which his friend replies, “Nothing but a pool table near the town square.” In an instant, an opportunity was born.
Harold begins to garner the attention of passers-by and begins to build a crisis in their minds that will terrify them so much that they’ll have no choice but listen to his solution. In a silky smooth delivery, Harold Hill sings out, “Well, either you’re closing your eyes to a situation you do now wish to acknowledge, or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of a pool table in your community. Ya got trouble, my friend, right here. I say trouble right here in River City.”
As Harold Hill continues to build his case, it’s not long before the people of River City are pulled into the “con.” The more they hear the word trouble, the more troubled they become. Soon they are joining Mr. Hill as they answer back, “Trouble! Oh, we got trouble right here in River City . . . with a capital ‘T’ that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pool; that stands for pool. We’ve surely got trouble! Right here in River City. Right here! Gotta figger out a way to keep the young ones moral after school! Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble.”
The con is in place. “The answer, my friends,” says Harold Hill, “is to form a boy’s band.” And he proceeds to sell an instrument to every family in town.
THE TROUBLE WITH TROUBLE
We may laugh at the gullibility of the fine people of River City, but the truth is most people respond to the suggestion of trouble the same way. No one likes trouble. After all, that’s the trouble with trouble: it causes us so much trouble. We want our lives to be peaceful, productive and prosperous. And the only thing that seems to stand in our way is trouble. If we could just find a way to avoid trouble, then everything would be fine. Or would it?
Like the people of River City, the mere mention of the word trouble raises our defenses. As soon as trouble starts to manifest, we are tempted to yield to the feelings of fear and doubt. We start asking ourselves what we think are natural and important questions: “What am I going to do now? How am I going to beat this? How can I get rid of this as fast as I can?” But a quick study of the Bible reveals that the real trouble with trouble isn’t the trouble after all. It’s our attitude toward trouble that has to change.
TROUBLE IS UNAVOIDABLE
“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.” John 16:33 NIVThe first troubling attitude we have to change is the misconception that trouble can be avoided. Author Frank Clark said, “If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” Jesus promised that as long as we live in this world we are going to have trouble. We don’t have to go looking for trouble; trouble will find us.
Too many Christians spend precious time and energy trying to stay out of trouble. They believe if they watch their step, live right and pray enough, they will avoid trouble. Then when trouble finds them anyway, they unfortunately believe they didn’t pray enough, try hard enough or that God is punishing them for some unknown sin.Jesus made it clear that the only qualification for trouble is living in this world. No one is exempt. Instead of trying to avoid trouble, we should focus on learning what the Bible says about dealing with trouble.
WE NEED TO FACE OUR TROUBLE
“So He (Jesus) came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.’ Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, ‘is this not Joseph’s son?’ He said to them, ‘You will surely say this proverb to Me, Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’ Then He said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.”Luke 4:16-30 NKJV
To understand this interesting passage of scripture, we need to understand the cultural significance of what Jesus was saying to them. Both Zarephath and Naaman were Gentile cities, and the Jews hated the Gentiles. Jesus was saying to them, “Because you have rejected My mission, God is going to use Me to demonstrate signs and wonders of deliverance in the presence of the Gentiles.” In other words, “The miracles you seek from Me to relieve you of your trouble are going to be demonstrated to the Gentiles instead.”
Take a close look at how the Jews responded to what Jesus said. They were not bothered when Jesus proclaimed His mission of deliverance. Nor were they bothered when He prophesied they would reject His message because of their familiarity with His family. But when Jesus told them they would experience trouble because of their rejection of God’s messenger (just as their fathers had in these two Old Testament stories) they became enraged. They didn’t want to yield to God’s prophet any more than their ancestors had refused to yield. What troubled them most wasn’t sin or their apathy toward God but the possibility of trouble. All they cared about was avoiding trouble. You might say they were troubled by their trouble.
Jesus was never troubled by trouble. He always found opportunities in the face of His trouble. As the crowd ushered Him out to the edge of a cliff with the intent of throwing Him off, Jesus turned toward His trouble and walked right through the middle of it. He emerged on the other side unharmed. Was that courage, or was it faith? Or did Jesus know something about trouble that we need to learn?
THE IMPORTANCE OF TROUBLE
“Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.” James 1:2-4 NLT
The trouble with trouble is that no one ever wants it. When trouble comes, people make the critical mistake of trying to get rid of their trouble as fast as they can before it has a chance to cause any serious lasting damage. But that is exactly the opposite of what God wants us to do. Jesus told us not to be afraid of trouble. He assured us that He had overcome the world, and we can overcome the world—if we will face our trouble the way the Bible instructs.
In his epistle, James tells us to let trouble be an occasion for joy. I don’t know about you, but I have never met a single person who, when faced with a difficult and troubling situation, chose to respond with “Oh, goody, trouble!” If you did that, your friends and family might have you committed. A proper English translation of the word joy in this passage would be a “calm delight” or “gladness.” It refers to an attitude much more than a physical response.
When trouble decides to visit your door, you have three choices:
- Do nothing at all, as many people do
- Respond to trouble with fear, as a majority of people do
- Or respond to trouble with faith, as Jesus demonstrated.
In each troubling situation that He faced, one thing stands out: Jesus never panicked. He was always calm. He responded to trouble with a calm delight because He saw it as an opportunity to demonstrate faith to His disciples. He didn’t go looking for trouble, but He always calmly faced that trouble when it came because He knew that each incident was going to strengthen His disciples and prepare them for their own ministry. The truth about trouble is that it causes spiritual growth if responded to correctly. From that perspective, trouble is cause for joy.
GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF YOUR TROUBLE
James makes it clear in the thirteenth verse of this same chapter that God is not the one who brings this trouble. He is not experiencing trouble in Heaven, so it’s impossible for Him to give us something He doesn’t have. However, God will make all things work together for our good. What the devil meant for our destruction is the very thing God uses to mature and grow our faith. If we resist that process or try to shorten its duration, we may be tempted to blame God for our trouble, strengthen trouble’s ability to harm us and lengthen its season. That’s why some people seem to be in trouble all the time. They never learned to properly respond to trouble. They never learned to “trouble their trouble.”
It takes faith to please God. Faith is the key to a successful spiritual life. If you never had any trouble, then you would never have to exercise your faith. If you never had to believe God and rely on His Word, then you would have a weak relationship with Him and you would not be capable of believing Him for anything. In this weakened state, it the devil would mount a serious offensive against you, you would probably die in the process, as many saints have. Without faith, you are no match for the devil. But with faith you can do just as Jesus did: stare your trouble in the eye and march right through it as it isn’t even there.
CHANGING OUR ATTITUDE TOWARD TROUBLE
The trouble with trouble is our attitude toward trouble. As long as we live in this world, we will have trouble. In truth, we don’t need to avoid trouble; we need to learn to turn and respond to trouble properly. We don’t need to overcome our trouble; we need to learn to let trouble strengthen our faith. When we strengthen our faith, our trouble is already rendered powerless. He can no longer intimidate us. He can no longer lie to us. He can no longer put us in fear over what trouble is going to do to us. If you will respond to trouble the way Jesus responded to trouble, I guarantee the devil will move on to an easier target.So stop praying and asking God to take away your trouble. Instead, start praising Him that you have a faith strong enough to overcome the trouble the devil throws your way. Don’t try to shorten the season of your trouble. Just face your trouble, and show the devil you are not afraid. Walk right through the middle of your situation until you emerge victoriously the other side.