Facing Trials

You Asked For It Series Sermon 3
~ Facing Trials ~
Tyson Graber, Herscher Christian Church
January 23, 2011
James 1:17-18

[Story of tricking my brother]
My brother and I worked a few summers at a Hog Farm when we were growing up.  The summer we started there, I was 13 and my brother was only 11.  We were getting paid what amounted to about $3.00 a day.
 
Since he was younger, I often took advantage of him with practical jokes, but one time I went a little too far.  There were some other kids working with us on that day, and while we were on break, I took a cup and mixed a bunch of stuff together into a nasty concoction of cola, coffee, mustard, ketchup and what ever else was left on the table.  Then I challenged him that if he could take 3 drinks of what ever was in that cup, I’d give him $3.00.  He could make a WHOLE DAY’S PAY just for taking 3 drinks!

Well, he took me up on the challenge.  He took one mouthful, and you could see him shudder at the taste, but he swallowed it.  He waited a few seconds, then took his 2nd mouthful, almost gagging on it, but he managed to hold himself together and swallowed it. As he started to take his 3rd mouthful, I grabbed the cup from him and threw the rest of it into the sink.  “What are you doing?  I was doing the dare!” he complained. “But you didn’t take the 3rd drink,” I said, and walked off with the rest of the guys.

I took advantage of my brother like that incident, but years later he told me that was the day he quit trusting me.  It would be several years before he would begin to trust me again.

Often times, children are innocent enough to believe the promises they hear. If somebody promises them something, they usually will believe it.  They have this special ability to trust.

But, what happens to that innocent trust that most of us start out with? It starts to go away when people around us break their promises. Just like my brother when he was hurt, not by the nasty drinks I gave him, but by my misleading and hurtful words, we begin to be hurt in life.  That’s when we start saying things like, “You won’t fool me again,” “I won’t fall for that again, you won’t hurt me.”

Sometimes, after the biggest promises have been broken, we can get to the point where we say, “I’ll never trust anyone again.” The fact is, we live in a world where people break promises. But even though people break promises, God doesn’t. From the first page of the Bible all the way through to the last page, God is a God who makes promises. But the wonderful thing is, God not only makes promises, He keeps them.

No matter what kind of hardship you are going through this morning, no matter who has lied to you or who has hurt you in the past, I want each of you to place your hope in the promises of God. Trust Him. He is faithful, and He always fulfills His promises.

Even after our trusting nature has been hurt by the world, today we’re going to look at three of God’s promises that can give us a joyful hope no matter what else the world or a so called friend throws at you. Our hope is that each of us would continue to place our hope in the promises of God.  (PLEASE HEAR THIS)

The things that God that does and the things that God says, you can trust whole heartedly because they are always perfect and good.  

Read James 1:17-18

The first promise we see around this text is that God’s promises not only are perfect, but they make perfect. Look with me at the first part of verse 17

1.  God promises make perfect.   (Though sometimes through struggles.)

Please understand the context of this verse. It’s easy to pluck verse 17 out of context and make it say something it doesn’t. This verse is in the context of a promise of Trials and Testings that God gives us or allows in our lives. James has spent the previous 15 verses talking about testings and trails, specifically, having joy when these hard times come.

Why?  READ James 1:2-4

 And now when we get to verse 17, James calls those trials, ‘gifts from God.’  You see, the trials and hard times in your life are not mistakes. They’re not events that just happen to you. They don’t surprise God. They don’t catch Him off guard. God either places them there, or allows them to happen to you. And then He calls them a gift. God gives us the gift of trials and testing. God gives us the gift of testing our faith.

Why? It is a provision for our good and understanding that trials will lead us to become more ‘mature or complete.’  Some translations say ‘perfect, not lacking anything.’  God is in control.  Whatever circumstance you may find yourself in has passed through His hands. It has passed through His hands, not for evil purposes, but it has passed through His hands for good. It is for the accomplishment of His perfect will for your life.

Now, does that mean that we have to call bad things that happen to us good?

No. Death isn’t good. Sickness isn’t good. Tragedy isn’t good. Heartache isn’t good. But God is good.   When those things happen in your life, He is still good. He is still perfect. When you trust Him as sovereign in the midst of your circumstances, He will shower you with blessings you can never explain. He will give you the joy that James talks about in verse 2, the ‘good gift of joy.’ The perfect gift of joy; the kind of good and perfect joy that can only come from a God as powerful as the one who created the light and separated it from the darkness; the kind of good and perfect joy that can only come from a God who loves you enough to call you His child; who loves you enough to provide for you in the way that only an all-loving, all-powerful Father can.

The first promise that can give us joyful hope in testing is that God promises that, through everything, God desires to make us perfect or complete through Jesus.

2. God promises  His permanence.

Look at the second part of verse 17,  God's promises are permanent because He is permanent.

We have all felt insecure at some time.  When I was little, I remember being in a store with my mom.  I was distracted for a moment by a toy on display, then took off walking with her again... except it wasn’t her.  She hadn’t stopped when I did, and when I turned to walk again, I was following another lady.  Still looking at things on display, I touched her leg for assurance she was near, and felt her react.. I looked up and discovered someone who was NOT my mom, and looking at me with a very cross expression on her face.  I was LOST!  I couldn’t see my mom anywhere....

Maybe you remember when you were little and you were lost in the store.  Can you remember the feeling of separation from your parents?  Do you remember the panic you felt?

We all have times in our life where we feel insecurity. Life is made up of change. Change in relationships. Change at work. Change in family. Change in friends. Change in our community. Change at church. Change in our society. Change in our bodies. Everything around us changes. That’s all the more reason we need an unchanging reference point.

The tests we face in this ever-changing world we live in can be too much to handle unless you have a permanent, unchanging place to place your trust and your focus. That’s the picture of God that James paints here.

Look at the words he uses. They don’t show up too well in our English text, but the picture is majestic in the original. The words James uses here are astronomy words. They’re words that describe the mysteries and majesty of the night sky.

First, he shows God in His rightful place as Creator of the heavenly bodies. He brings to mind God’s creative work in Genesis 1 when He said, “Let there be light.” And then He separated the light from the darkness. And then He created the planets and the stars as beacons of that light. By calling God the Father of lights, James points out that God is even more permanent than the lights that He created. Tonight when you look up at the night sky, remember that. God is more permanent than the stars you see. He was before them. And He will be after them. Oh, but there’s something even more amazing than that. Throughout all of God’s eternal existence, He has never changed. Those stars that you see have changed. As a matter of fact, we can see light from stars that no longer even exist. They grow, they shrink, sometimes they even blow up. But God never changes.

James says ‘God, who does not change.’ The original word used here is where modern scientists get the word ‘parallax’ from. Now, if you slept through the day in science class when parallax was talked about, you might be lost, but let me describe it to you in simple terms.

Have you ever try to point out the Big Dipper or the Little Dipper to someone at night?  You might say, “Come here and look ..., its right over top of that big oak tree.”  And from that point they can see it.

But what happens when you walk a couple hundred yards in any direction? Will it still be over that same tree? No. Why—did it move?  No. Did the tree move? No. Who moved? You did.

Here’s the point. If we had used the tree as our reference point, we would have assumed that the star had moved. And if we decided to use that tree to navigate our way through the darkness, we would have surely gotten lost. But if we used the fixed unchanging point of the North Star as our reference point, you would have seen that everything else changed with our perspective.

If we took our eyes off the tree and focused on the unchanging star, you would never be lost. The tests God places in our lives can be like the tree. If we focus on the tests, the next thing you know, we can look up and it looks like God has moved. But God doesn’t move. In Him there is no parallax. There is no change, He is permanent. He doesn’t move.

If you’re going through a test and it looks like God has moved, He hasn’t. You have. You’ve taken your focus off Him and begun to focus on the tests. You’ve done like Peter did when he was walking on the water.  You have taken your eyes off of Jesus. And when you do that, the only place to go is down. You’ll sink just like Peter did. But God promises His permanent position. He promises that He is a permanent, steady place to guide you through your trials. He is an unchanging point to focus your gaze upon. In the midst of an ever-changing world, He is permanent. That’s a promise. A promise that will give you joyful hope in testing. God promises to help us become perfect, and His promises are permanent.

3. God  promises a purposeful plan.

Look with me at James 1:18

God promises are purposeful.

If God never changes and everything He gives us is good and perfect, then why doesn’t it always look like it? Why do the trials in our lives look so far from good and perfect?

It is because we don’t know the purpose of them. We don’t, but God does. Did God know His plan for Job when all seemed to be going well for him? Did He know the plan when Job was sitting there in the middle of his wealth and comfort and prosperity; When he had his health and his home and his family?  Yes, He did.   Well, did God know His plan for Job when things began to fall apart for him? When he lost his children? When he lost his wealth? When he lost his health? Yes, He did. Well, if He did, what was it? We get a clue because we get to see what happened behind the scenes when in Job 1:8.

“Hey, Satan, have you thought about Job.” Why would God do that? Because He had a plan. He had a purpose for it all. Was God’s plan for Job to be miserable? No. Was His plan for Job to be defeated? No!  His plan was for Job to be victorious. His plan was for Job to bring honor and glory to God by passing the test that was placed before him. His plan was to hold Job up before all the unseen world as an example of service, love and devotion.

Have you ever watched your child face a difficult situation? You know it’s going to be hard on them. But you know they have to do it on their own in order for them to grow.   And what happens when they make the right choices and do the right thing. You stick your chest out and say, “That’s my boy”or “that’s my girl.”

This is one scene we didn’t get to look into in Scripture, but can’t you imagine what God did when Job passed the test? I can picture Him proclaiming all over heaven, “That’s my boy!” You see, when God saves you, He does it because He wants to. He does it of His own free will. And He planned to do it from before the foundations of the world. Just like He knows and allows the trials that you have faced, are facing and will face from before the foundations of the world.

Why? So you’ll pass just like Job did. When James uses the word ‘first fruits’ here in verse 18, he’s using it to mean ‘first in priority’, not first in order. In other words, God chooses to save us. And He chooses to test us. And He does it so that we can shine before all heaven and earth when we accept His salvation through His Word and we have overcome the trails of life.

So what will you do with God’s trials?

God has planned a time when all the trails will be finished.  It doesn’t matter how much pain you went through or how much you were blessed here on earth.  The question is what did you do with the truth?  Have you accepted the hope of being saved through Jesus? 

If you have trusted Him as your Lord and Savior, if you have received life through sharing in His death, you will live forever. You will be welcomed into eternal life.

If not, you will be cast into eternal punishment.

Are you trusting in God’s promises?
Have accepted His perfect change through Jesus?
Do you trust His promise of His permanent position?
Do you trust His promise of His purposeful plan?

If you are, that’s when God sticks His chest out and proclaims before all of heaven, “That’s My child!  Well done, My good and faithful servant.”

What will you hear on that day?