The Breaking Point

There is an interesting story in I Kings about Solomon’s son Rehoboam.

Rehoboam went to Shechem, where all Israel had gathered to make him king.  The leaders of Israel summoned Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel went to speak with Rehoboam. “Your father was a hard master,” they said. “Lighten the harsh labor demands and heavy taxes that your father imposed on us. Then we will be your loyal subjects.

Rehoboam replied, “Give me three days to think this over. Then come back for my answer.” So the people went away. Then King Rehoboam discussed the matter with the older men who had counseled his father, Solomon. “What is your advice?” he asked. “How should I answer these people?”

The older counselors replied, “If you are willing to be a servant to these people today and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your loyal subjects.”

But Rehoboam rejected the advice of the older men and instead asked the opinion of the young men who had grown up with him and were now his advisers. “What is your advice?” he asked them. “How should I answer these people who want me to lighten the burdens imposed by my father?”

The young men replied, “This is what you should tell those complainers who want a lighter burden: ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Yes, my father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!’”

Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to hear Rehoboam’s decision, just as the king had ordered but  Rehoboam spoke harshly to the people, for he rejected the advice of the older counselors  and followed the counsel of his younger advisers. He told the people, “My father laid heavy burdens on you, but I’m going to make them even heavier! My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions!”

 So the king paid no attention to the people

When all Israel realized that the king had refused to listen to them, they responded,

“Down with the dynasty of David!
    We have no interest in the son of Jesse.
Back to your homes, O Israel!
    Look out for your own house, O David!”

So the people of Israel returned home.

Mr. Webster gives us three meanings for the term “Breaking Point”:  [1] The point at which a person gives way under stress, [2] The point at which a situation becomes critical and [3] The point at which something loses force or validity. All three are applicable to this text. Solomon had pushed the Israelites right up to the brink of rebellion. His massive building programs had been expensive and had created a huge tax burden for the common man. While Solomon lived in a luxurious palace and dined on caviar and fine wine, the Israelites were struggling to make ends meet. Solomon walked on floors and side walks overlaid with gold, the common people were walking on dirt. His extravagance might have impressed the Queen of Sheba but it had lost its luster with the Israelites; they were feed up.

Rehoboam was no spring chicken; he was 41 years old and I am sure that his father saw to it that the boy had the best education that money could buy but for some reason the boy was dumb. His first decision as king was a colossal blunder, one that his grandfather David would have prayed about but not Rehoboam. Not only did he not pray, he also rejected some very good counsel from men who had worked with his father and were aware of the state of the country. They understood that the wood was dry and the least spark would ignite a massive rebellion. Nevertheless, Rehoboam spurns their counsel and listened instead to a bunch of dump punks who did not know their back side from a hole in the ground. Rehoboam spoked harshly to the people and they didn’t like it. His rudeness and his harsh words was the match that ignited the rebellion. In an instant, the damage was done and it was irreparable. All the kings horses and all the kings men could not put the kingdom together again.

There are times when it is good for us to reach a breaking point. Nicodemus reached that point when he saw his peers celebrate the brutal execution of Jesus. Something in this proud Jew snapped and the man who came to Jesus by night to keep his peers from finding out suddenly becomes a man of courage who doesn’t care what the Jews or anyone else thinks. He is going to help Joseph take Jesus down from the cross in broad open daylight and he dares someone not to like it. Nicodemus had reached his breaking point.

For Nicodemus, reaching the breaking point to where he did not care what others thought was a good thing. I have noticed that young people are especially prone to live in fear of what others think, especially young women. I do think youth is a factor but I also think gender is a factor. Most women worry about what others think; most men don’t give a rip. Women get torn up about things that are funny to men. You do need to reach that point where you do not live in fear of what people think. It is a bondage that you need to be freed from. There is only one good fear and that is “Fear of God” and all the rest or terrorist. They will torment you day and night.

I started this article as a blog and then realized quickly that I could not say all I wanted to say on the subject in my daily blog. I see several truths in this story that are worthy of comment.

  1. People, anyone male or female, can be pushed only so far…everyone has a breaking point. Husbands and wives need to keep this in mind. A man came into my office many years ago and said, “Preacher, my wife told me at least a dozen times that she was going to leave me if I did not change my ways…she’s gone and she says “She aint coming back.” Guess what? She did not come back: he pushed her to her breaking point. He was a good provider and gave her a healthy allowance to run the house. She drove good cars and had no worries about money. She left it all simply because she reached a breaking point. In other words, Mona Lisa lost her smile.
  2. Never attempt to manipulate, control or force those who seem weaker than yourself to do what
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    you want them to do. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a brilliant man. As I read and muse over his works, I am awed. I do praise God for giving men that kind of intelligence. I have been listening on audio to Life Together which is a collection of his lectures on the church and I am amazed at his insight. Bonhoeffer says that it is the tendency of the natural man to judge another man immediately, to size him up so to speak, to look for his weakness. To strategize and seek a position of strength so that we might use this person to accomplish our purposes. Dallas Willard, the late professor of Philosophy at USC said something similar, “Growing up is largely a matter of learning to hide our spirit [true self] behind our face, eyes and language so that we can evade and manage others to achieve what we want and avoid what we fear.” [Divine Conspiracy, page 76] Bonhoeffer in Life Together points out this natural tendency to control others by referring to Luke 9:46… “Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.” Bonhoeffer gives the devil credit for planting the seed of discord in the minds of brethren [disciples] and we would be wise to give it some thought. If he put it in their mind, will he not do the same to us? Despising another or looking down on someone who you feel is inferior is a base and ignoble sin that is prevalent among us and is a sin that God convicts me of often. I guess there is a bit of a tyrant in all of us and we would take advantage of the weak if not for the grace of God.

  3. Weak or strong, you can only push a man so far. Vicktor Frankl, Austrian born Jew who was a
    Viktor Frankl

    Viktor Frankl

    neurologist and psychiatrist. He was a survivor of the holocaust [two different death camps] and is most noted for his book, Man’s Search For Meaning. Vicktor Frankl discovered by his own experience that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” He was one of the few that survived not one but two death camps. In this horrible environment, he saw men, weak and strong snap. He saw them reach a breaking point. The German guards were brutal, they were to be feared but Frankl noted that once a man reached that breaking point, the guards held no power over them. He said, “I saw one man after another give up. They simply refused to get out of bed. I saw the guards beat them with the butts of their rifles but they just lay there and they laid there for days until finally they died.”  This lead Frankl to the conclusion that has changed modern psychiatry and counseling, man cannot survive without hope, he must have a purpose for living. If you destroy a man’s hope, you will destroy the man himself. We must resist the temptation to control others. We must not ride a person until they reach a point of despair.

  4. The fourth and final thing that I wish to say about the subject is that you must learn to protect yourself from being manipulated or controlled by others or their opinions.  People marvel that I have not made a commitment to my eschatological views. People ask me if I am Pre, Post, or Historical Pre-Trib and I tell them, “I don’t know what I am other than a believer in Jesus.” I have my own theology and I am not the least bit intimidated by those who disagree. I think everyone has a right to be wrong. Bro. Inman use to say, “I am not Pre or Post, I am Pan, I believe it will all pan out.” Let me give you some advice, let the bible be your chief source for your theological views. Some of the things people are trying to persuade you to believe is Western and wishful thinking. I dare you to talk to the Eastern world about an age of persecution. They don’t know anything other than persecution. Don’t let anyone do your thinking. Do not be a dupe. Parrots get on my nerves. Think for yourself, speak for yourself, and don’t allow another human to control you, dupe you or break you to the point of despair. One of the first things a young pastor has to learn if he is to survive is that you cannot listen to all the criticism. You have to listen to some but there is a point where you close your ears. Let me share a couple of insights that have helped me.
  • Study and discern the spirit of the criticism. Constructive criticism will come from people who love you. They are actually trying to help you when they point out certain weaknesses. The tendency is to resent all criticism but this is a mistake. We all need constructive criticism. If the critic is malicious, do not listen. Their purpose is to hurt and destroy and if you allow it, they will destroy you. The devil wants to discourage you and he will used others to accomplish his goal. It is a subtle trap, don’t get caught in it. One of the things that did impress the Jewish religious leaders about Jesus was He didn’t care what people thought about Him…“Teacher,” they said, “we know that you speak and teach what is right and are not influenced by what others think. You teach the way of God truthfully. [Luke 20:21] Before you take any criticism to heart, determine its origin: is it coming from Satan to hurt or is it coming from God to help?
  • Do not over-estimate your strength: you can be broken, everyone can be broken. Jeremiah
    Jeremiah Denton

    Jeremiah Denton

    Denton was a POW in Viet Nam wrote a book about his experience as a POW, it is titled When Hell Was In Session [There is also a movie]. Denton was a Navy pilot who was shot down behind enemy lines. He was a tough guy and was determined not to be broken but he discovered that daily torture will break even the strongest. Acknowledge your weakness, your limitations; don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are invincible because you are not. REMEMBER this truth: God wants to break your will but not your spirit. The devil is attempting the opposite, he wants to strengthen your will and break your spirit.

CONCLUSION

Breaking points can be good or bad; it all depends. For Nicodemus, it was a good thing for the men in the concentration camps it was not good. Nicodemus breaking point lead him to a new freedom from fear and gave him the ability to serve Christ openly. For the POW’s in the death camps, their breaking point lead to total despair and the loss of all hope. You can see the difference, one is good and to be desired while the other is bad and must be avoided.