Tests and Trials
Posted on 07/22/2007 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
Good morning! I hope you've all had a good week, and I'm glad you've come together to seek after more of God.
Be sure to make plans to be here next Sunday, July 29th. We're going to have a very special guest who will be sharing with us, and you don't want to miss it.
Let's get started this morning by going to the Lord in prayer.
Lord, thank you for this brand new day, the first day of a brand new week. And thank you that your mercies are new every morning, and that we can come to you unafraid of being turned away, and can ask and receive full forgiveness, and your Holy Spirit to set us free.
We pray for those who have asked us to remember their needs.
We pray for Ricardo, who, in his own words, is asking for a "complete medical overhaul." That's the type of thing that only you can do, and we ask that you grant Ricardo's request and give him abundant, radiant health.
We pray for Litron's sister, that you would draw her to yourself. Holy Spirit, convict her of her sin of rejecting you by not accepting you. Show her your love and the freedom that comes only by knowing you. And reveal Jesus to her. We claim Litron's sister for the Kingdom, in Jesus' name.
We pray for JPT, who's going through some rough times. Thank you that all these things can produce character, faith, and endurance, along with the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Bring peace to JPT, and have your will in his situation.
And Lord, we ask you to blow through this place, as you hover over and blow through each one here today or listening or reading later. Teach us from your Word, and draw us closer to Jesus.
And it's in Jesus' name we pray.
Everyone please stand to your feet as we prepare to worship God with song. Click-touch the pulpit for a notecard or just follow along with the overhead. Jesus is worthy of our praise!
WHAT A MIGHTY GOD
What a mighty God we serve
What a mighty God we serve
Angels bow before him
Heaven and earth adore him
What a mighty God we serve
HE IS THE KING
He is the King of Kings
He is the Lord of Lords
His name is
Oh, he is the King
His name is Jesus, Jesus
Sad hears we've no more
He can heal the broken hearted
Open wide the prison door
And he's able to deliver evermore
JESUS I ADORE YOU
Father, I adore you
Lay my life before you
How I love you
Lord, we do adore you, and we lay our lives before you. Have your way in our lives today, and fill us with the joy of your presence.
Teach us now by your Word, and draw us ever closer to you.
Thank you Jesus.
You may be seated.
Let's turn to God's Word today, and as we continue to worship him in our spirits, let's press our ears toward heaven so we can hear what he wants to say to us today.
The title of today's message is, "Tests and Trials," and today I'd like for us to take a at look some of the questions almost all of us have asked many times:
Why do bad things happen to us? Why do we have financial problems? Why did our car break down? Why did our company go out of business? Why did our house burn down? If we are "more than conquerors" as the Bible says, then why are we just barely getting by?
Let's open up our Bibles to the book of James, the first chapter, starting with verse two which says,
My brethren, count it all joy when you endure various trials;
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith produces patience.
But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally and without rebuke; and it shall be given to him.
But let him ask in faith, without doubt. For he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
For do not let that man think he will receive anything of the Lord.
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
So this passage says we are to consider it joy when we go through various trials. For most of us, "joy" is the last thing that comes to mind when a fire leaves our home and all our belongings in ashes. And yet Scripture tells us that we should consider it joy, for in the middle of tragedy, we can know and remember that our faith is being tried, and a richer depth of character is being produced within us.
We read in Romans 1:17 that the righteous person lives by faith, and Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God.
Could it possibly be that the difficult things that happen around and to us are necessary for our faith to grow?
A financial tragedy can cause us to worry and even do things that are immoral or unethical. That same tragedy can cause us to fall on our faces before God and choose to surrender the situation to him, trusting in him to provide for us as he has promised he will.
A bad report from the doctor can cause us to despair and lose hope. That same report can cause us to thank God for the years he's given us, and it can even be part of the journey toward believing God to perform miracles.
So trials and tragedies can work to produce faith in us. But what exacly is faith? Is faith simply believing?
Perhaps, but not in the way many of us might have always believed. You see, faith is not just a level of belief that we can work up inside us, by ourselves.
Jesus tells us that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can tell a mountain to be rooted up and thrown into the sea, and it will happen. He says that with the tiniest bit of faith, NOTHING will be impossible for us. Yet we do not have to look very far to find numerous examples of people who have firmly believed something and went to their graves believing something that has not nor ever will come true.
People of various religions, faiths, and spiritual practices have accomplished supernatural feats because of discipline and strong belief. Great men and women of history have displayed incredible courage and strength and have done the impossible because they had an unshakable faith, manifested by undying perseverance.
Yet I am unable to think of a single person who has commanded a mountain to thrust itself into the sea, and the mountain has obeyed, and this is the type of faith we need to have.
When we speak of faith, we think of something that men and women of all belief systems, or no belief system at all, can posses and develop if they only believe. But if faith is as powerful as Jesus says it is, if faith can command a mountain to be ripped from the earth and cast into the sea, then tell me, who has faith?
Perhaps we have misunderstood faith. Since faith simply speaks the word and all physical elements and spiritual forces must obey, then our idea of what faith is must be wrong.
Let's see what God has to say about faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
Now, let's break this down and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, seek to grasp exactly what this means.
First this tells us that faith is the SUBSTANCE of things hoped for. What is the substance of that for which you hope? Is it not that thing itself, something you can see and touch and feel?
Then it tells us that faith is the EVIDENCE of things not seen. And what is the evidence of something you have not seen? In a court of law, that evidence would be the very thing itself.
So if the substance of a hope for provision, for example, is provision, and the evidence of that unseen provision is the physical manifestation of that provision, then faith begins to sound like the end rather than the means.
Yet we know that faith IS the means to the manifestation of a hope for that which is unseen, and according to this passage of Scripture, it is the evidence, the proof, the substance of that thing.
So how can we understand faith? What is this faith that the difficult circumstances and temptations in our lives produce?
Many people have made positive confessions, attempting to speak the word of faith, only to see their greatest beliefs fall to the ground.
On the other hand, sometimes, at some point in our life, we find a strength that comes from something greater than ourselves, and as we speak the words of that faith, something happens. It is as though that faith inside us is indeed the substance of things hoped for, and the solid evidence of that which can not be seen with the physical eyes.
So what is that faith?
Romans 10:17 tells us that "...faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God."
And what is this Word of God, the hearing of which produces faith in us? The Word of God is Jesus, as John chapter one says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ...and the Word became flesh and lived among us..."
So since faith comes by hearing which comes by the Word of God, and since Jesus IS that Word of God, then Jesus is the beginning of this mountain-moving faith.
And how is this faith brought to us?
Faith is deposited in our hearts by Jesus through hearing the voice and will of God.
We could read that verse like this: "Faith comes by hearing the voice and will of God, and hearing comes by Jesus, the Living Word, made alive in our hearts by the Holy Spirit through the trials and temptations through which we endure."
Faith is developed in us through trials and temptations. Without difficulties in our lives, without sorrows and pains, without suffering and hardship, this mountain-moving faith would never be ours.
Jesus promises that we will share with him in his tribulations. When we become partakers with him of his death, death to the world and the flesh, and when we become partakers with him of his temptations, sufferings, and persecutions, we begin to take on his nature, and as a result, we will begin to hear the voice of God, which will produce in us the materialization of that voice, which is faith.
So the materialization of hearing and obeying the voice of God is faith, and the materialization of faith is a miracle.
In some versions of the Bible, our first verse today reads, "Count it all joy when you encounter various temptations." But this word "temptation" is used like the root word "temper," which means to take something through hard circumstances in order to make it strong.
Can temptation "temper" us? I've seen some people use this concept as an excuse to hang around temptation, saying it will make them strong. And yet, this is foolishness, and Scripture tells us to flee, or run away from, temptation.
And here's what Scripture has to say about temptation:
"Blessed is the man who endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love him.
"Let no man say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither does he tempt any one:
"But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.
"Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death."
Temptation does not come from God. In fact, temptation comes from carnal desires which entice us. And yet temptations are an inescapable part of life, and both temptations and trials can produce in us a character and a strength that otherwise would never be ours. And as we are burned, pressed, and purified into the image of Jesus, we become vessels through whom faith can freely flow.
1 Peter 1:3-9 says,
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
"To an incorruptible inheritance, undefiled, that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,
"Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
"Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through many temptations:
"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, honor, and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
"Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now you do not see him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
"Receiving the end result of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."
This tells us that the trying of our faith, the difficult times through which we go, is worth more than riches. And the end result of faith is Salvation. Not only your own salvation, but the salvation of others who inevidably are following in your footsteps.
These trials also serve to break up our hard, fallow ground. You see, God can use you in the manner he desires only after you have been broken. Until we are broken, how can we hear? And until we hear the voice and will of God, how can we have faith? For faith IS the actual substance of things hoped for. And faith IS the concrete evidence of things we cannot see.
Faith is the fulfillment of a promise. It is more than belief. It is more than trust. It is more than brokenness.
Faith flows THROUGH belief, trust, and brokenness. Faith flows through a life purified by the fires of life. Faith flows through a soul which has been emptied of self and who is filled with the life of Jesus.
So when trials and temptations, sorrows and pains, heartaches and disappointments come into your life, embrace the brokenness they create; surrender to the work that God is doing in your life, a work of character, patience, and strength, for it is through these things that faith, the answer to your every cry for help, the miracle-working power of God, can flow.
Lord God, thank you for your Word to us today. Thank you that no matter what we go through, you have promised to work all things together for our good, and you have let us know that it's through these trials of life that our character and faith can grow, moving us closer to seeing miracles begin to happen in and through us.
I'd like for the altar workers to come to the front now. And I want to ask you today, do you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior? So-called faith in anyone or anything besides him is not the faith that can save your soul, for faith comes by hearing, and hearing comes by Jesus, the Word of God.
If you don't know him, if you don't have a daily, personal, intimate relationship with him as your Lord and Savior, your only way, then his invitation goes out to you today. Come to Jesus, and let him make you a brand new creation.
Just say this to him with me now: "Jesus, I want to know you. Forgive me for my sins, and come into my heart. Be the Lord of my life. Teach me how to walk in daily fellowship with you. Thank you Jesus. Amen."
This altar is open. If you want to know Jesus, or if you would like prayer or ministry, please instant message someone on the ministry team, and feel free to come to the altar as well.
If you'd like to gather at the front and seek God, you're invited to come. The presence of the Lord is here with us today, and he is ready to meet with you.
In a few minutes we will all meet in the room to your left for a time of fellowship, and when you are finished praying and meeting with God, please silently slip over there. If you need to go, you are free to do so.
May God bless you with strength through trials, wise and evasive action through temptations, and a faith that grows as you hear and obey his voice in all things. Amen.