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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Why trials? Part 1

Tomorrow evening in our life group, I am giving a devotion about, "why trials"?  And....."How can I deal with adversity?"
So....I thought I might blog the next two days about some things that I am going to share.
(Disclaimer - these are the "bare bone points" - please feel free to apply your own illustrations).
Why trials?
It's probably the biggest question we face as Christians.
Why, God?
Please open your Bible to James 1:1-12. 
Pastor James (who was the pastor at the church in Jerusalem at that time) writes in verse 1:
"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations."
Right off the bat, we see that the Jewish believers are scattered throughout Asia Minor for their faith.  They are going through adversity and trials.   
And then right away in verse 2, James writes, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers."
(We will talk about the word, pure, tomorrow).
Wow.   How would you like to get an email like that?  "You got problems - be happy"!
Is James saying, "Be happy, happy, happy, when you face trials?"  No.
Happiness is based upon our circumstances.  If only "this would happen," then I will be happy.
You might say, "My friends are coming over to watch the Bears game and we are going to eat some hot dogs and chips.  I am so happy."
But then when they lose (0-3 this year remember) - and we are not so happy anymore.
Happiness is fleeting.  But joy is eternal.  Joy comes from God. 
I cannot create joy in my life on my own.
When James says, "Consider it all joy," he is saying, "Reach out to God.  Get God's heart in this matter.  Understand the "big picture" of what God is doing in your life.
The bigger questions is not, "why God," but "what are you trying to teach me?
Joy is the deep settled confidence that God is in control of every area of my life.
I would suggest that to know the Lord, to really know God, makes happiness completely mundane and superficial.  Joy is a supernatural delight in the presence of God.
Your understanding of this determines your attitude in the midst of what you are going through.  Rejoicing is not just positive thinking - but is based upon the biblical facts of what we are talking about in this blog.
So what this have to do with the "why God"?
Well, joy comes from understanding that there is something bigger than me going on in the midst of my trials.  Something way beyond me.
God has a purpose for my trials - and the key is to find a way to keep on trusting God even though you and I can't see that purpose in the present.
And joy is a supernatural delight in just hanging out with other Christians! 
That's why life groups are so important.  We can share with one another, learn from one another, pray for one another.
We learn that most everyone is going through some kind of trial - if not the same thing that we are going through.  We find out that if another brother or sister can "make it" - we can "make it" too!
Notice that James says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers." 
Only Christians really get this - that only those who follow Christ can consider a trial - joy.
Now then, James says, to "count" or "consider"
In other words, go over it, measure it, even calculate it. 
As we do so, we have the ability to deal with trials in a way that unbelievers do not - and that displays to the non-churched person that life is Christ is truly powerful.
I can consider trials, "pure joy."  How?  Not by filling your mind with entertainment to dull the pain or by filling your heart with anger to deal with the suffering, or filling your body with substances to overcome the hurt. 
But by counting it, by considering it, and who and why you are on this planet.
Questions:  "What trial are you going through?"
"Why are you here on this earth?  What is the purpose of your life"
Write those down and then read on.
Surely, gang, we are not here just for a few moments of happiness.  We are here for God - to display his working and presence and power in our lives.
And then a third question:
"How can this trial advance that purpose?  What can I do here and now to advance the purpose of displaying the superiority of a life lived in God?   I have all of Kingdom resources at my disposal, how can I use these resources to bring glory to God?"
Let's take one more point here and then I will finish up tomorrow.
James writes, "whenever you fall into trials of various kinds."
"Whenever."  You can count on it.  You will experience trials.  They are not an elective in the class of life.  They are a required course. 
Life is difficult.  Life is hard.   We are not to run from that fact - but embrace it.  In fact, and listen to me gang, you will not live a healthy life, mentally and emotionally until  you put your arms around this principle and not run from it.
That word "fall" is interesting.  You are going through life, minding your own business, when "bam" you're flat on your face.  Trials are not planned.  We can seldom anticipate them.  They come when we least expect them. 
And that word "various" is fascinating as well.  It means that they are "many colored."  They come in many shades and varieties. 
There are physical trials, mental, spiritual, emotional trials.  What you go through is different than what I am going through.
Some trials are tough, some are tragic.  Some are difficult, others are devastating.
And finally (for today) James writes, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when  you face trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
In other words, trials have a purpose in our lives.  They can be productive.  They can produce and accomplish something in us. 
"For you know."  In other words, if you don't know now, you will. 
Trials separate the mature believer from the immature believer.
When the pressure is on - they show us how deep our faith in God is.
They test us.  They purify us.  They develop our faith. 
We as Christians are like steel, when we are tested - we come out stronger. 
Job says, "He knows the way that I take, and when he has tried me I shall come forth as gold."  (Job 23:10)
Are you being tested? 
So, some questions:
Do you believe that God is in control?
Do you believe that God is good - no matter what you see or face?
Will you wait on God by faith until the darkness becomes light?  Will you wait?
You may be walking in the darkness - but will you wait until you see the goodness of the Lord?
Our natural, fleshly desire is to take matters into our own hands.  But will we wait?
What do trials produce?
Staying power.  The ability to keep on keeping on.  In the Greek (which is what James wrote - it literally states, "the ability to stay under pressure)."
They sanctify our character.  They make us like Jesus
James writes, "so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
God's number one purpose in your life is to make you like Jesus. 
More to come tomorrow.........subject?  How to handle your problems.

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