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Finding PEACE in the trials of life

Papa Bear is a trainee pastor. This means that every now and then he gets to preach. I love it when that happens. He has a keen insight and a philosophical outlook that really speak to me, and I enjoy hearing what he has to say. Last week Sunday our pastor was away on a conference, and Papa Bear got to preach. Here’s what he spoke about:

Finding PEACE amidst the trials of life

As Christians, we seem to have this world view that life should be easy for us. Somewhere along the way we picked up the idea that the meaning of the term “God’s Blessing” was the way would smooth, plain sailing. We imagine that people will like us and see the good in us as we strive to be more like Jesus. We imagine that, by sheer dint of hard work, (and a bit of judicious planning) our financial woes will be a thing of the past. We expect to be safe from all external harm – crime, accidents, political chaos and so forth. And we expect that we will have good health until we drop dead from the simple accumulation of minutes on the face of the planet.

Why do we believe these things? There’s certainly no Biblical support for this world view whatsoever, and there’s also no anecdotal evidence available from a cursory glance around the planet. Everywhere we look – whether we’re looking around us at the people who share our space on this planet, or behind us, at the people who’ve gone before us in time, the evidence suggests strongly that a life of peace and comfort is not likely to be a reality for ANYONE – and much less likely for a Christian than for anyone else.

Jesus explained this very truth to use when He said, “18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. 23 He that hateth me hateth my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did , they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law , They hated me without a cause.” John 15:18-25

Charles Spurgeon explained the attitude we should adopt like this: “If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem to be against us, we do not believe Him at all.”

Let’s take a look at five facts about trials that will help us to gain peace as we face them each day.

  1. The predictability of trials – they’re a fact of life

    Another famous line from Charles Spurgeon explains it like this: “The safest part of a Christian’s life is the time of his trial…Smooth water on the way to Heaven is always a sign that the soul should keep wide awake, for danger is near!”
    Romans 12:12 – Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
    The implication is that tribulation is a part of life. Note what it says in the book of James:
    James 1:2 – My brethren, count it all joy WHEN ye fall into divers temptations;
    When – not IF … we ALL face trials and temptations.
    Acts 14:22 – Confirming the souls of the disciples, [and] exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
    Psalms 34:19 – Many [are] the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all.

  2. The endurance (permanence) of trials

    Trials will always be a part of everyone’s life – whether you can see it or not. Your trials are as bad for you as Joe Soap’s mine are for him.
    1 Corinthians 10:13 – There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it].
    We keep getting tried until we acquire the lesson.
    James 1:3-4 – Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
    Note: “let patience have her perfect work …” – in other words, let the trial finish making you patient, so that your heart can be perfected in the lesson you’re learning. Resistance is futile (and painful J)

  3. The assumption of trials

    We assume they’re to be endured, but in fact we should see them as opportunities for growth.
    Romans 5:3-5 – And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
    We assume we should be exempt from them but in fact trials have been promised to us.
    1 Peter 4:12-15 – 12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.
    We assume we’re alone in trials, but in fact this is when God is most near us.
    “As sure as God puts His children in the furnace he will be in the furnace with them” Charles Spurgeon
    Psalms 23:4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
    Hebrews 13:5 – Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
    We assume we can’t handle it
    Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

  4. The comfort of trials

    God is with us, and He strengthens us:
    John 16:33 – These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
    Even the worst of times works with God’s plan for our ultimate good:
    Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.

  5. The end (purpose) of trials – our maturity

    To establish us:
    1 Peter 5:10 – But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle [you].
    To work together for our own good
    Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.
    To perfect us (make us mature, complete)
    James 1:2-4 – My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
    We are promised rewards for faithful endurance
    James 1:12 – Blessed [is] the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.
    Romans 8:18 – For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time [are] not worthy [to be compared] with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
    Revelation 3:21 – To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

What should our response to trials be?

Positivity (JOY), patience and prayer.

Romans 12:12 – Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;

James 1:2-4 – My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

1 Peter 4:12-15 – 12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

John 14:16 – And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

James 4:7 – Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

And finally, another quote from Spurgeon to round it all off:

“Hope itself is like a star- not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity. ”

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Job’s comfort

If you’re reading the Bible chronologically this year, then by now you’d have read up to the end of Genesis 11. and Job chapters 1-23.

The book of Job comforts me. When I had been feeling the pain of our situation (indebted and struggling to make ends meet some months), I wondered why God had allowed it, and what could be done to fix it. What sin had I committed?

My reasoning was that if I have confessed all known sin, repented, sought His will, changed my ways, forsaken all evil in my life and sought only truth why would we still be battling this way. (Of course, that doesn’t mean I had forsaken all evil and sought only truth, but I was hypothesising and doing my best).

However, the book of Job reminds me that it may be that I am not the problem. In fact, it is naive, immature and self-centred to assume persistently that I am the cause of all the trials we face.

It could be that someone else’s sin or personal growth is the cause for our straits when they occur. In that case, my role is to be patient and rejoice in the Lord always.

Or it could be that this is a test –

James 1:3-4 “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

In that case, my role is to be patient, and to rejoice in the Lord always.

God is just and faithful. He NEVER lets us down, and I should never let Him down, either. Because

Job 23:10 “But He knoweth the way that I take; When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Lesson #17: Times of Testing

Only Jesus can turn a MESS into a MESSAGE

Only Jesus can turn a MESS into a MESSAGE

I have been working through the book of Job in my quiet times, recently. What strikes me, as I dig deeper into the book, is that while Job briefly considered the possibility that God may have been testing his faith, he didn’t really ponder this option long enough to realise its truth. Aren’t we just like that, sometimes?

I know I am. When things aren’t rosy in my life (and we’ve had a fair amount of less-than-rosy in recent years), I always think it could be the result of one of three things:

  1. I am being punished for some sin. I fast and pray, read God’s Word and confess any and all sin that comes to mind.
  2. I am being tempted by the Devil and his team. I pray for protection and ask God for deliverance.
  3. I am being tried, purified and made stronger.

Unfortunately, I usually (like Job), gloss over number three. I spend so much time trying to work out whether the trial is a punishment or a temptation (or a purification) that I get wound up in knots. When I am sure that I am right with God, and I’ve prayed for protection, I become despondent that the trial hasn’t lifted. Unlike Job, I begin to doubt God’s grace, mercy, love, provision and justice. I begin to see Him as an arbitrary and cruel God who no longer cares for me – through no fault of my own, I might add! I become so downhearted and disillusioned that it becomes difficult to achieve anything at all. Sometimes I even mope around in my pyjamas for days on end.

What I am being taught at the moment, through the reading of God’s precious Word, is that sometimes we really have been justified and purified from sin and we really are protected from Satan, but we have something to learn or some new level of wisdom to reach, and then we just need to stay faithful and trust our good God for the outcome. Romans 8:28 reminds us that we know that all things work together for good to them that love God. And I do love Him.

So we can decide to pass the test. We can make a conscious choice that, no matter what the cause of our trial, no matter what the outcome or how scary it is in the midst of it all, we will never curse God. We will never stop trusting in His faithfulness or believing in His Word. He will be true and we will come through. As the saying goes, “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.”

Right now, and from this moment forward, I will proclaim the goodness and faithfulness of my Redeemer. He is good. He knows my needs and He meets them. He loads my life with blessings – new ones every day! I will pass the tests He sends my way and cling to Him for salvation. I thank Him for taking the time to mould and shape me, to grow me into the kind of person He can some day use. I am grateful that He shows me my weaknesses so that I can run to His loving arms and be made strong, filled and equipped with all I need to serve Him.

How gracious and merciful is our awesome God.

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