Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Truth About Trials Part 2

There is something to be joyful about!
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. ~James 1:2,3

 Three weeks ago when Pastor preached part one of this sermon, he gave us three reasons for trials:

1. Trials test the quality of our faith.
2. Trials bring us to God.
3. Trials develop enduring strength.

This Sunday he added to that four more; they are:

4. Trials produce Christ likeness.
5. Trials reveal what we truly love.
6. Trials demonstrate character.
7. Trials produce ministry opportunities

As he pointed out, there are many more and the point taken is trials, difficulties, and suffering in our lives is not pointless. God brings unexpected and purposeful trials into our lives. Pastor also pointed out God desires us to react to and face these trials in some specific ways.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds ~James 1:2

Choose joy. When trials or suffering enters uninvited into our lives, we could respond and react to it in any number of ways. God says through James to lead with joy. When James says “Count it all joy”, he is saying to step back from the situation, get the big picture and let the driving response be a joyful one. You may be thinking, and rightly so, this is not my first reaction to trials and suffering. You are right; joy is not naturally the first responder on the scene when our lives become a train wreck. Consider the prophet Micah…

But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. ~Micah 7:7,8

God had revealed to Micah the coming judgment and destruction of Judah. This is the message Micah took to the people, calling them to repentance and turning back to the One True God. Even as he preached, Micah knew the people would not turn and judgment was inevitable, but he could still find joy. Micah is an example of what James calls us to do, which is to count it all joy when trials come. Micah has his eyes on God and the understanding that even though he should fall and sit in darkness, God Himself would be a shining light to and for him. He looks to God and takes joy that God hears him and saves him.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. ~Philippians 4:4 

Both James, and here in this verse, Paul command us to make joy our leading and guiding response always. But, we do not always feel that way when trials come. Since “counting it all joy” is a command and “rejoice in the Lord always” is a command, what does that tell us about James and Paul’s understanding about how we respond? Two things come to mind, one is rejoicing in the midst of trials is a matter of the will not feelings. Pastor pointed out happiness is a feeling in response to outside circumstances, but joy is a choice we make and perspective we take. The second thing we should take note of is both James and Paul believe it is within our ability to do this… with God’s help.

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; ~Habakkuk 3:17-19a 

Habbakuk, like Micah, knew judgment and destruction (trials) were coming at the hand of the Babylonians. God’s blessing on the nation was being withdrawn and along with the coming hoards they were to face, they would experience disease and famine. Again, the prophet’s response is to look to God and count it all joy. How is he able to do this? To respond to trials with joy is not humanly possible, but a miracle of grace! Habakkuk’s joy is not based on his circumstances, but in the Almighty God he serves. God Himself is the strength the prophet has to face these trials and God Himself is our strength to face the trials that come our way.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. ~Philippians 4:4

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