Note: On Tuesday, December 10, 2013, a fire destroyed the building of the Gethsemane Baptist Church. This message was given as we gathered together in Pastor Hale’s home the following Sunday, December 15, 2013. It is presented here in a 2-part series to remind us of God’s Faithfulness.
There’s no guarantee that God will remove a trial. But those temptations are not greater than we can bear. I want to look at four characteristics in how we can respond faithfully in times of trial.
1) Trust In God’s Sovereignty
In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory.
God works all things according to the counsel of His will. Included in His workings is the fact that we have an inheritance. And one of the purposes in this is to bring about praise that glorifies God. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground without God superintending it [Matthew 10:29-31].
When we’re anxious, we’re saying that we don’t trust God’s goodness, that we’re not convinced of His character. Which of us by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span? [Matthew 6:27-34]
As believers, we’re commanded to:
- Rejoice always. [1 Thess 5:16]
- Give thanks in everything. [1 Thess 5:18]
- Pray without ceasing. [1 Thess 5:17]
- Be anxious for nothing. [Phil 4:6-7]
Those behaviors exhibit trust in God, demonstrating your belief that He is perfectly good, that He has our best interests in mind, AND that He is in control – that He can bring about His desired ends.
Like it says in Job, “No purpose of His can be thwarted.” [Job 42:2]
2) Consider It All Joy
C.S. Lewis wrote: “God whispers in pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but SHOUTS in our pain.” In other words: Trials drive us to God more than the good times.
Let’s look at 3 passages:
Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
James 1:2-8 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
1 Peter 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
These passages are from 3 different authors: Paul – the preeminent apostle; James – Jesus’ brother; and Peter – the leader of the 12. And they’re all saying the same thing.
Suffering, trials, anguish, persecution…
All of that brings about: endurance, character, growth, maturity.
Understanding this truth gives us hope. And living in light of this truth glorifies God.
Look at the basis for rejoicing found in these 3 passages:
- Romans: We have peace with God.
- James: We’ll be perfect and complete.
- 1 Peter: We’re being guarded for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
If we keep in mind these truths, the trials we face are put into perspective. Not that they’re not real. Not that we don’t grieve – Peter says we will. But these truths give us a foundation to consider it all joy.
3) Comfort Others
2 Corinthians 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
As God comforts us and gives us faith and peace to get through this, think about how equipped we will be to comfort others who are going through life’s trials. And other believers have the opportunity to comfort us now.
4) Focus on the Glory to Come
Romans 8:12–18 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
2 Corinthians 4:7-18 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
This is the best news!!
- Remembering this will comfort us and can help us to comfort others.
- Remembering this makes it easier to consider trials all joy.
- Remembering this highlights God’s sovereignty.
In Romans 8:18, Paul says it’s not even worth it to make the comparison between our afflictions and the glory to come. That’s how much greater the glory that will be revealed to us is than our present sufferings. And in 2 Corinthians, Paul says that the glory being prepared for us as we endure momentary, light afflictions is beyond comparison.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed by life, and you’re having a hard time remembering that these are momentary, light afflictions:
- Find a quiet place and meditate on what it’s going to be like when we’re with God.
- Read the first five chapters of the book of Revelation.
- Focus on the glory of the Father and of Christ that we see there.
That’s how much greater the glory to come is than the sufferings of this present time.
Returning to our question…
How can there be an all-powerful, all-loving God when we see so much evil in the world?
Our answer is that it’s no problem for an infinite, holy and righteous, perfect God to bring about purposes that are greater for His creation, more edifying for His people, and more glorifying to Himself than had the evil not happened. It’s God’s attributes of being infinitely powerful and infinitely loving that allow Him to do that. And we shouldn’t be surprised that our finite minds can’t comprehend that possibility.
Is there a verse, a biblical truth, we can hang onto that teaches us that understanding of God? Absolutely!
Romans 8:28 (NASB) And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
We see examples of this in Scripture:
- Genesis 50:20 – You meant it for evil but God meant it for good.
- Judges 14:4 – Samson’s parents did not know that it was of the Lord.
Our aspiration ought to be to respond the way Job initially responded:
Job 1:20–22 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
FINALLY: What is it that sets this as our standard AND that gives us the strength that’s required to honor God in our responses? It’s the finished work of our Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that seals us in Him.
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?
If God went so far as to deliver up His Son to overcome the greatest evil, will He not give us everything we need to overcome the sufferings and trials and persecutions that come our way in life?
Of course He will.