If there is any one particular thing that the Lord has been teaching me lately, it is to trust Him when I don’t get what I want… when things are tough. I don’t mean when I have a hangnail. I mean when my daughter is sick and I haven’t had a job or a paycheck in two months. I mean when life seems out of control and I can’t figure out what to do about it, other than pray and trust the Lord. As I read the letter of 1 Peter with my wife a few weeks ago in our devotions, the Lord was yelling to me through that text. A text that speaks over and over again about standing up under trials.
When Life is Hard – SERMON AUDIO
I had the privilege of starting my first series of sermons this past Sunday, as the new pastor of Grace Bible Church and that is where I began: Having been through the trial of no job and no income for a few months (pastors do not get to collect unemployment). Having stretched ourselves to care for our daughter who has been chronically ill for about two years. And struggling to maintain our household and waiting for the Lord to open a door to us, the idea of enduring struggles while trusting the Lord was fresh in my mind. There is a popular notion that, if we live our lives a certain way, that God must bless us. You know, when the news paper askes the centenarian how he managed to live to that ripe old age, the answer “Clean livin’!” often follows. There is some truth to that. Certainly, alcoholics and drug addicts have a much shorter life expectancy. But does God have to bless us if we live reasonably moral lives?
Peter’s argument is that, God uses difficulties in our lives to make us more holy and prepare us for eternity;
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 receiving the end of your faith–the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:3-9
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. – 1 Peter 5:10
So, difficulties in the life of the Christian are not something that is opposed to God’s will, but they are a part of His plan for our lives. They are evidences of His love for us because they force us to deal with the issue of where or faith is really placed. They are God’s tool to aid us in the removal of sin from our lives.
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “AND DO NOT BE AFRAID OF THEIR THREATS, NOR BE TROUBLED.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. – 1 Peter 3:13-17
The Apostle Paul says to the Roman Believers, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5) Trials cause us to persevere and build character and increase our hope. Hope is our assurance that we are Christ’s and the knowledge that He will bring us to our appointed end! He says it in more detail again, in chapter 8;
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE KILLED ALL DAY LONG; WE ARE ACCOUNTED AS SHEEP FOR THE SLAUGHTER.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:28-39
The idea here is not to make trials into something trite by saying, “It’s for your own good!” Rather, it is to help you realize that God is the one who is at work in you. He is in charge of the trials and the triumphs. It’s kind of like taking a test in school, or a tough workout or practice for your sports team. Those things are not fun, but they are necessary to prepare you and prove you for the task at hand. I remember back in High School, when I played football; My senior year, the assistant coach took charge of our conditioning. We had been a pretty mediocre team the first three years I played. Less than mediocre, actually. Coach Duncan made us do things Coach Young had never made us do. More sprints, more Calisthenics… We were exhausted and complained a lot throughout the month of August as we battled through our conditioning. It was a trial! But when we began to win more games and see the result of those long and gruelling workouts, we were glad we had done it. We finished that year with the first record over 500 in a decade or two! God is smarter than a football coach! The writer to the Hebrews understood this when he told those Christians;
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. – Hebrews 12:11-13
So, can you trust God in your trials? If you do, it is evidence that you really know Him, It will strengthen and prove the reality of your faith and it will help you to deal with the sin that is still in your life. When we begin to realize these truths, we can begin, with Paul, to “glory in our tribulations.”
There is a lot more to this and you can hear it as you listen to the sermon. This may be one of the most important sermons I have ever preached. It is my prayer that the Spirit of God uses it to perfect (mature), establish, streghten and settle you! Give it a listen.
When Life is Hard – SERMON AUDIO