I've long been a fan of James MacDonald's Walk in the Word on radio. Even though I've lived relatively near his church in the Chicago area for almost 3 years now, I've yet to be to his church. He preached tonight on trials - to go with his life of the past 5 years and his new book, When Life is Hard.
1. Consider your trials joy.
Trials are going to come. We are called to be joyful – not happy. If you have been riding the roller coaster of happinesss – you don’t get what James is saying here. Joy: supernatural delight. Joy is from God. You can’t do this for yourself. Joy is:
1. In the person of God. Who He is – in His attributes – we are called to delight in the person of God. Your heart will be restless until you rest.
2. In the purpose of God. God has a purpose. There is a God who rules the universe.
3. In the people of God. You can’t just get “a thing” going on with just anyone – it is found in the body of Christ. There is a joy in relationships.
Trials obliterate happiness, but they enhance joy. Consider it joy when you “fall into” “various” (same word for Joseph’s coat of many colors) – all shapes and sizes, different for each person. Our God is marking our steps. Consider it – count it – you can’t come to the conclusion that trials are a joy if you don’t think about them. Consider is translated “to press your mind into”. Get a pen and paper the reasons why I can think about trial as a joyful thing. A helpful thing to consider is why we are put here on this earth. The reason I get to draw another breath is so we can display the life of God. That is why Christians go through trials – people can see something different.
God’s love isn’t a pampering love – it’s a perfecting love. Your Mom may be like that, but God’s not like that. God is not interested in putting a smile on my face by Friday. God stands outside of time – He sees the end from the beginning.
You can’t come to the joyful conclusion about trials filling your face with food to dull the pain; by filling your mind with entertainment to dull your pain; by filling your heart with anger about the wrong that has been done to you to dull the pain; by filling your body with substance abuse to dull the pain. You can only come to the joyful conclusion of trials by counting it, by considering it. You have to right size your trials. Big God, small trials. Not Big Trials, Small God.
2. Trials produces staying power. 1.3. Ps 27.13. You have to get the part that God is trying to get to you. Most people don’t like tests. But, we must know that the TESTing of your faith produces “hupo mene” – under remain. Testing produces “to remain under”. Here are three questions that we must answer.
a. Do I believe that God is in control?
b. Do I believe that God is good?
c. Am I willing to wait by faith until the darkness becomes light?
The first thing we want to do is get out of our trials. There is no exit ramp. God is trying to grow in you the ability to remain under. Name 4 things we want to do instead of remaining under:
1. We complain.
2. We lash out.
3. We bail.
4. We fold or despair.
Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God so that he might exalt you at the proper time. You can’t make it through trials without a deep, abiding sense of your partnership with the God of the Universe.
3. Trials produce life transformation. 1.4. “Under remain” leads to transformation. Some of us have been going through the same trial for years because we don’t “under remain” the trials we receive. Let these trials be the avenue of impact to others. “Under remain’ so that you will be perfect, complete, lacking in nothing. Suffering refines and grows us – if we “remain under” the pressure.
4. If you lack wisdom about your trial – verse 5 – ask God for it. He’s not going to answer the existential why, the ultimate why, the ultimatum why, the observation why. He will answer the why this in my now. What are you trying to teach me, God? You have to ask in faith without doubting. God wants to work on my heart. God starts with the blind spots. Make sure you really want to know. You will be complete – lacking nothing.
I can’t honestly say I’ve experienced “heavy” trials in my life; God has been overwhelmingly good to me. But, in the few “little” ones I’ve dealt with in life – my peace remains by holding firm to the Word of God. That is my voice of hope – because it is the voice of my God who loves me. That is my prayer for you: whether your marriage is hard, your children aren’t believers, finances are small and inadequate, your health is under fire – TRUST. Believe. Walk bold in the truths of God’s Word. Obey. Love Him.