Dear Friends,

This Sunday I begin a new series verse-by-verse through the book of James.  Come join us at 10:30am at Conner Prairie.  This incredible Bible book begins with this command…

James 1:2–4 (NLT)  Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Yes, the phrase “consider it an opportunity for great joy” is a command.  As crazy as it sounds to us to think of a trial as a reason for joy, God has commanded it.  Since it is a command this means that we are able to obey through the power of the Holy Spirit. (God does not command things we are incapable of obeying).

The word “troubles” is actually “trials or testing” and, according to the Greek-English Lexicon, means “to try to learn the nature or character of someone or something by submitting such to thorough and extensive testing; to test, to examine, to put to the test.”

THREE DECISION WHEN FACING A TRIAL:

Decision 1)  Will I Trust God? 

From the moment you are aware of the trial you must decide to trust the Lord.  Trust that He is good, therefore His plans for you are good, therefore you can trust Him.  The choice to trust Him is mandatory if you are to have victory in the trial.

Psalm 31:14 (NLT) But I am trusting you, O Lord, saying, “You are my God!”

Decision 2)  Is this God’s Discipline or God’s Testing?

> If God’s Loving Discipline:  Is there a practice of sin in your life that God is working to eradicate?  To help you determine if this is discipline you must be honest with yourself.  Some of the trials are brought on us by our own disobedience.  God loves us too much to allow us to hurt ourselves through our own sin.  If this is discipline you must repent and recommit to obey the Lord.

Hebrews 12:5–11 (NLT) And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. 6 For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” 7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? 10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

> If Testing:  Just like your schoolteachers gave you tests to make sure you are learning the material, so too the Lord provides periodic tests to prove to you how strong your faith is becoming.  A kindergarten teacher would not give a calculus test to a kindergarten student, so too God gives tests that are consistent with your ability to pass it.  The harder the test, the more God thinks of your faith.  You and I are free to fail the test, but that only means that we have to retake it.  (Ugh!  Perish the thought!)  To pass the test we must respond in trust and surrender. 

Deuteronomy 8:2 (NLT) Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.

You just believe that God’s test is for the purpose of affirming not destroying.

Psalm 66:10 (NLT) You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver.

Decision 3)  Will I Allow God to Provide His Power?

HERE ARE 7 THINGS YOU CAN EXPERIENCE DURING TRAGEDY 

  1. God’s Emotional Anesthetic—God will surround you with a time of supernatural, emotional protection…almost like pain medicine given to someone who has just been injured.  These are not supposed to be continued indefinitely.  The patient must be weaned off the pain meds at the proper time, but they are so important early on.

Psalm 27:5 (NLT) For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. 

  1. God Is in Control—You can be comforted by the truth that God is in control.  Nothing can touch your life that doesn’t first pass through God’s loving hand.  He has allowed this test for His good purpose.

Psalm 33:11 (NLT) But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken. 

  1. He Will Work this for Good—Since God is in control, He is able to work this trial for your ultimate good.  Trusting this truth is critical for you.  The enemy will try to lie to you to tell you that God has evil plans for you.  You must not believe him…Jesus called him “the father of lies.”

Romans 8:28 (NLT) And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 

  1. He Will Provide Perfect Peace—God will provide you with perfect peace if you will fix your thoughts on Him and trust Him.  As you fix your thought on the Lord, you can begin to offer up thanksgiving (not FOR your trouble, but IN spite of your troubles).  Thanksgiving is the switch that turns on the inconceivable peace of God.

Isaiah 26:3 (NLT) You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! 

  1. He will Give Joy in Trials—I have written about this several times.  One of the most amazing things to me during trials is that we can experience inexpressible joy even as we grieve or feel extreme pressure from a tragedy or trial.

Psalm 5:11 (NLT) But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy.  

  1. He Will Provide Comfort for Your Hurt—God will provide you with His supernatural comfort.  It is like a soothing ointment to a burn.  He draws us close to Himself…almost as if we are sitting in His lap with His arms around us.

Isaiah 49:13b (NLT) For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering. 

  1. He Will Give Strength for the Journey—Walking through a trial requires enormous quantities of emotional energy.  This is the energy God will provide to endure the trial.  But this energy must be appropriated (at least) daily.  You can’t store it up, but must receive it from the Lord one step (or one day) at a time.

Psalm 46:1 (NIV84) God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

SO WHAT?  Are you currently going through a time of testing?  Or maybe you know someone who is facing a terrifying trial.  If so, I would encourage you to read these Scriptures over and over again.  Share them with someone who is struggling.  Intentionally make the three decisions I have offered in this article.  1) Trust the Lord; 2) Yield to His discipline or test; 3) Avail yourself of all the Lord has to offer.

Onward,

Pastor Gary