sermon preached on 25 June 2010
Blessed be Yahweh our Elohim who we can joyfully praise and declare His majesty as we come together once again to remember His Sabbath. How many of you have been through or are going through some kinds of trials? One of the best tests of our maturity as believers is trials and tribulations that we go through. When Yahweh’s people go through personal trials, they quickly discover what kind of faith they really possess. Trials not only reveal our faith but they also develop our faith and character in Messiah. Now I know that most of us, in fact I am sure all would easily agree that we do not like trials; I mean they are never easy, some may be easier than others, but we would most probably all agree that it would be better to not have any trials and many teach today that we don’t have to go through any trials and suffering because it has all been taken away and they sadly miss the essence of the necessity for trials to help us grow. As fine as that sounds to not have trials, there would only be one problem though; without any trials we would never mature – now for some that would be great for they just love being like little spoilt naughty children without responsibility and many do not want to take up the responsibility of growing in Messiah, but that is not the goal of our faith – Yahweh wants us to mature and grow up in Him. Tonight I want to talk about turning those seemingly miserable trials that we face in to joyous occasions for growth. My message is called, “Turning trials into triumphs”. How many of you want to do just that?
“There are three kinds of people in the world, the wills, the wont’s and the cant’s. The first accomplish everything; the second oppose everything; the third fail in everything.”
Which one are you? In Messiah we are called to be the ‘wills’, for we will follow Him no matter what, amen!
Turn with me to the book of James, we are going to read chapter 1 (Read James1)
I was wrestling through many passages of Scripture this week and even looked at the life of Bil’am in Numbers 22, which we went through briefly on Wednesday night and will do so tomorrow, but I felt led to share about living through the trials we face almost on a daily basis. We have faced some new trials of late – I say new because as I am sure you can all agree there are always new trials coming our way – one trial seemingly finishes and a new one is quick on the heels. This is a passage I am sure we are all very familiar with, however it is always good to be reminded and refreshed through the Word in order that we may learn to have a fruitful life of joyful praise unto Yahweh, amen! James main theme throughout his letter is ‘faith’ – and a practical faith that equips us to live daily in a very practical way, emphasising the life of faith that followers of Yahshua are encouraged to live. Throughout Scripture we read of many great men and women of faith who turned defeat into victory and trials into triumphs; so instead of becoming the victims they became the victors. James explains to us that we too can experience victorious living as we grow spiritually mature. For we walk from a place of victory in Messiah, we are not walking to victory but from victory for He has overcome therefore we too overcome as we walk in Him. In essence as we look at what we have just read; if we are going to learn to turn trials into triumphs then we must follow 4 essentials needed in trials and they are: 1 – A Joyful Attitude; 2 – An Understanding Mind; 3 – A Surrendered Will; 4 – A Believing Heart.
Four imperatives that we can pick up on in the fist 5 verses in 4 key words – Count – Know – Let – Ask.
1 – COUNT – A JOYFUL ATTITUDE (v2)
Wow – how often do we hear this and find it a little hard? Well as I have said on many occasions the saying, “Outlook determines outcome and attitude determines action” – we are called to actually welcome trials!!! The way we view our trials is critical and the attitude we face them with is of vital importance. Yahweh tells us through James’ letter that we are to expect trials! In fact James writes ‘when’ you fall into various trials, not ‘if’ you fall into various trials. The one thing we can be sure of – and that is trials will come. Now many today want to believe that they never have to face trials – this is a false teaching, for Scripture is very clear – we will face them! Yahshua told His disciples in John 16:33 that in this world we will have pressure/trials, but we should take courage for He has overcome the world, and so we by faith in Him are, too, able to be overcomers! Let me ask you – “How do you welcome trials and difficulties?” We can read in Acts 14 about the account of Sha’ul (Paul) when he was stoned in Lustra and dragged out of the city for dead, yet the next day, while the believers were praying around him, he got up and went into the city!!! Story goes something like this: Sha’ul (Paul) and Barnabas on their travels came to Lystra, and they healed a cripple and everyone thought that the ‘gods’ have come down to visit! What ‘gods’? Well the myth of that area that everyone grew up being told and believed was that centuries before Zeus and Hermes came down to Lustra and went from door to door where they were not welcomed. The whole town refused to welcome them and entertain them, all except the very last home they went to where an elderly couple lived. This couple opened their home and were very hospitable giving them a great meal etc. Zeus and Hermes asked each other whether they should tell this folk what they were about to do and they took the couple outside and told them to look at the town for they were about to destroy it and asked what the couple wanted from them for their kindness. The couple replied they wanted to grow old together. And so after destroying Lustra, the ‘gods’ left and this old couple being the only ones left grew old and one day as they were sitting around leaves began to grow out of their arms and legs etc and they turned into two ‘linden’ trees!!! The linden tree is unique to that part of the country and was believed to remind the people of Lustra of how they were once destroyed for not welcoming Zeus and Hermes – again this is all mythology of course – but they believed it! So when Sha’ul (Paul) and Barnabas came and Sha’ul (Paul) healed the cripple the people were convinced that Zeus an Hermes had come back and they had better welcome them this time for they did not want to make the same mistake that was made before. Of course Sha’ul (Paul) and Barnabas responded to this nonsense by tearing their clothes and telling them they were just men like they were. This caused them to turn against them – one minute they were worshipping them as ‘gods’ and the next they are against them and they stone Paul – left for dead!
I mean the How many of you would, after being stoned, get up and go back perhaps for more – Paul in his joy of serving Yahweh welcomed trials!!! He went to Derbe and then came back again a third time to Lustra to encourage the believers in their faith that they would have to face hardships to enter the Kingdom of Elohim. It was in his third visit that a young man by the name of Timothy, who had certainly witnessed all that Sha’ul (Paul) had been through, had responded to the call of Elohim and followed Paul. Timothy became head of the Assembly in Ephesus and was a great and mighty man of faith who understood by the example of Paul that even though one may suffer for the Kingdom, it is worth suffering for. Timothy was the only one we know of from Lustra that responded to the call – the res were kind of what we see today – too comfortable to count the cost of following Yahshua and counting it all joy when they face trials of many kinds! Peter tells us in his first letter not to think it strange or be surprised by the trials we may be suffering – we are in this world but not of this world and Satan constantly stands against us, however Yahweh is in control and He sends us the trials to test our faith. In the Torah Yahweh makes it clear that if a prophet comes and leads you away from Torah then he is a false profit – exactly was Peter warns us against in both his letters – those who teach lawlessness are false teachers – telling you that you do not have to obey Yahweh’s commands! We are told that if a prophet comes and performs all kinds of miracles and signs and leads you away from the Torah – know that Yahweh has sent them to test our hearts!!! We must be very quick to discern a false teacher or prophet – for they will tell you that it is ok not to keep Torah – which is a lie!
It is also interesting to note that the words ‘fall into’ does not mean by accident but rather when it comes across your path or rather when you encounter them. Often we believe the lie that the trial we are facing is because we have stepped out of line. Trials come across your path to mature you – it is not because you are in error – you can be walking in total obedience – trials will come so that your faith may be proved genuine and you may grow on to maturity not lacking anything! Trials of many kinds indicate that they come in many ways – unique, if you will, to every individual, and the final product of the trials that are faced through patient endurance is a beautiful thing for Yahweh’s glory! To ‘count’ is a financial term meaning to evaluate and is used several times in Philippians. Paul upon having the scales fall from his eyes was now able to evaluate his life and set new goals and priorities – things that were once important to him were now considered as rubbish in light of his experience with the Messiah. When we go through trials we too must evaluate them in light of what Yahweh is doing for us, and as a believer we can and should have joy in the midst of trials – for we live for the things that matter most in Him and not the things of this world. Trials will always help us evaluate our walk and remain humbled in worship unto Yahweh, recognising constantly our dependence upon Him. The term ‘all joy’ is also critically important to us as it speaks of ‘all joy’, ‘all’ being the key to the amount of joy – it means whole joy – filled with joy leaving no room for doubt or worry! Yahshua could endure the stake because of the joy that was set before Him – the joy of returning to heaven and the joy of one day sharing his full glory with His body of believers.
Our values determine our evaluation. I mean it is like this: if we value comfort over character then trials will upset us; if we value the material and physical over the spiritual then we will not be able to ‘count it all joy’. If we live our lives for the present and we forget the future then trials will make you bitter and not better. Job had the right attitude toward trials:
Job 23:10 “For He knows the way that I take. When he has tried me, I would come forth as gold.”
So when trials come – give thanks to Yahweh and adopt a joyful attitude, for he allows such trials as a test that is intended to show the validity, not the weakness, of our faith. We must look at trials through the eyes of faith – remember outlook determines outcome – if we begin with joy we will end with joy! But How – it sounds easier than what it is – how do we rejoice in the midst of trials and difficulties? That brings us to number 2:
2 – KNOW/KNOWING – AN UNDERSTANDING MIND (v3)
What is it that believers know that makes it easier or rather should make it easier for them to face trials and actually benefit from them?
Well there are a few things that we know through the Word of Truth and firstly:
A – Faith is always tested!
We know that faith is tested – in fact faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted! Ok so you say you believe and trust for ‘xyz…’ well how do you know – has your faith been tested in that area? Yahweh tests our faith to bring out the best in us. Satan certainly tries to tempt us to bring out the worst in us, but the testing of our faith proves that we are of Elohim and that we are born again! If we are able to look beyond the present and see the product that Yahweh intends to produce through our suffering and trials, we will experience joy. This is often impossible with most people for they value pleasure over character and the present over eternity! We know that faith is tested so as your faith grows expect the tests!
B – Testing works for us and not against us!
The word testing or proving can also be translated as ‘approval’. Peter tells us that the ‘trial of our faith’ is worth more than gold! When a miner brings in some ore to be tested – the sample of ore in itself is not worth much, but the approval – in other words the official statement after the testing, if approved, is worth millions as it assures the prospector that he has a gold mine! Yahweh’s approval of our faith is precious for it assures us and Him that our faith is genuine! Trials work for a believer and not against.
Romans 8:28 “And we know that all matters work together for good to those who love Elohim, to those who are called according to his purpose.”
2 Corinthians 4:17 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
C – Trials rightly used – help us to mature!
Trials can and will mature us if rightly used. What is it that Yahweh wants to produce in our lives? It is patience, endurance and the ability to keep going when things get tough!
Romans 5:3-5 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that the suffering produces perseverance, 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because Elohim has poured out His love into our hearts by the Set-Apart Spirit, whom He has given us.”
Patience is not a passive acceptance of circumstances – it is a courageous perseverance in the face of suffering and difficulty!
Immature people are always impatient! Let me ask you when last were you impatient? A sign of immaturity and that maturing is required which will happen through trials! Impatience is immaturity as it is always about self, where maturity leads to thinking about others above self. The mature are patient and persistent under trials! Impatience and unbelief or doubt always goes together, just as faith and patience do. We need to learn patience, for when we learn to wait on Yahweh we will then see how Yahweh will do great things for us! We must be careful not to run ahead of Yahweh and we can learn from those who have gone before us. Abraham ran ahead of Yahweh when he slept with Hagar, which brought sorrow into his home; Moses ran ahead of Yahweh by killing an Egyptian and he then learned patience attending sheep for 40 years. The only way that Yahweh can develop patience and character in our lives is through trials. Patience cannot be obtained by simply reading a book or listening to a good message or even by a simple prayer in haste – it is through the difficulties in life, which as we trust Yahweh, read His Book and pray persistently through and walk in obedience to his Word always rejoicing that patience can be produced in us. The end result of trials that produce patience and character is glory to Yahweh.
That is why studying Scripture helps us to grow in patience.
Romans 15: 4 “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of Scriptures we might have hope.”
Yahweh has a purpose in trials and he fulfils His purposes as we place our trust in Him. There is no substitute for and understanding mind. Scripture tells us in Hosea that people are dying because of lack of knowledge. If people would but just dig into the wonder of His word, then they would gain great understanding and insight in how to face trials and turn them into triumphs. Satan can easily defeat an ignorant believer, but the believer who knows and lives the Word of Yahweh, the one who walks in His Torah, who walks in Yahshua Messiah gains understanding and overcomes the wicked schemes of the enemy and can endure trials with great joy. To know is a key and understanding this helps us realise why so many believers are living in defeat and are not joyful– for they lack the knowledge that equips them to rejoice. We are to be a joyful people, making a joyful noise- because of Who and what we know!
3 – LET – A SURRENDERED WILL (v4)
Yahweh cannot build our character if we do not cooperate and surrender our will. If we resist him He will discipline us into surrender – which we can be sure of – why because He loves us and disciplines those He loves. If we submit to Him – we allow him to accomplish His work in us – and His goal for us is maturity, so that we lack nothing. He has given us every spiritual blessing and for us to appropriate that by faith we need to grow in maturity and we must surrender our will for His. Maturing happens through the refining process of fiery trials, and sadly too many today shelter themselves from trials and therefore never ‘grow up’. Paul outlined for us 3 works that are involved in a complete life of a believer:
1 – The work Yahweh does for us - that is salvation through the Blood of Yahshua Messiah on the stake that has bought us at a price and redeemed us for himself, cleansing us from sin. He has worked Salvation for us as a gift that no man can boast in his works.
2 – The work Yahweh does in us – That is through sanctification – for we are His workmanship, and we are daily being conformed to His likeness – to the likeness of the Son.
3 – The work Yahweh does through us – that is through service – created in Yahshua Messiah unto good works. We are made to serve through the gifts He works in and through us.
Yahweh builds character in us before He calls us to service. He must work in us before he can work through us. 25 years He worked in Abraham before He gave him his promised son. 13 years Yahweh worked in Joseph through various trials before promoting him to being in charge of the affairs of Egypt bringing about deliverance for Jacob and his family. 80 years He worked in Moses for 40 years of service!!! Yahweh will work through those who submit and surrender their will to Him.
The maturing accepts and willingly submits joyfully doing the will of Elohim from the heart. If we go through trials without a surrendered will, without knowing Him and without having counted it all joy then we will end up like an immature child rather than a mature adult. There are a lot of immature adults out there!!! Jonah is a great example of one who wouldn’t surrender his will, was disciplined then obeyed yet at the end he sits and is upset that Yahweh didn’t send judgement on Nineveh – he acted like a spoilt kid who didn’t get his way!!! Another thing we can learn from Jonah is that if we surrender and obey joyfully then we have the opportunity to witness to cities that can be saved and cause Yahweh to not sending His judgement as people repent and respond to our joyful witness. We have an opportunity as children of the Most High Elohim to be a true witness, calling people to repentance and so cause the judgement of Yahweh to be halted over cities!!! What are you doing? Have you surrendered your life to His will?
4 – ASK – A BELIEVING HEART (v5)
James was writing to a people who had trouble praying, as they were asking with wrong motives and he encourages them to ask for wisdom. When we are going through tough trials of any kind we would do well to ask for wisdom. For wisdom is the right use of knowledge – if we have all the knowledge but no wisdom – how will we use the knowledge? There are many well educated people with brilliant academic qualifications yet they cannot make simple decisions. Why do we need wisdom in trials, why not rather strength or something else? Well we need wisdom so that we will not waste the opportunities he is giving us to mature! Wisdom helps us understand how to use the circumstances for our good and for His glory! Wisdom helps us approach the throne of grace with confidence. James tells us what to ask for – that is wisdom – as well as how to ask for it – that is by faith. We must not be afraid to ask and we must not doubt like the waves of the sea – that is up one minute and down the next! How many of you have found yourself in that situation – up one minute, down the next – so much so you feel sick? As most of you I am sure have been to the beach and swam in the sea – well you know that you cannot turn your back on the sea – for you cannot trust the waves – it will hit you! This is like a double minded man – they say yes but inwardly they are saying no! Faith yes and doubt says no or vice versa depending upon the circumstance! Yes one minute and no the next. Peter when walking on the sea to Yahshua started out with faith and allowed doubt to cause him to sink. He was double minded and nearly drowned! Too many believers live like a cork on the waves – head above the waters yet up one minute and down the next, being tossed back and forth. I am sure most of us have all experienced this more than we would want to and the Good news is we do not need to! Double mindedness is evidence of immaturity. Paul used a similar example in saying we who are becoming mature will not be doubled minded in our walk:
Ephesians 4:14 “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”
If we have believing and united hearts – in unity with the Spirit and the Truth, then we can ask in faith and Yahweh will give the wisdom we need.
We are blessed when we endure through trials – this is a great encouragement and beatitude James gives us – there is in it the promise of the crown of life to those who patiently endure trials! He is not saying that a sinner is saved by enduring trials, no for salvation is not of works but a gift by grace through faith, but he is saying that a believers is rewarded by enduring trials. How? Well firstly by growth in character bringing glory to Yahweh and receiving the crown of life when Yahshua returns. First the suffering then the glory! Before Honour comes humility! We must humble ourselves, submit, and ask. Yahweh makes tests work for us, whereas the enemy will try to use them to tear us down – praise Yahweh for HE uses tests to build us up in Him!
Going through trials is never easy, and in verse 12 James uses a key word – ‘love’. You see, love is the spiritual motivation behind every imperative action we have just spoken about – love is the motive behind our trust and obedience in Yahweh. Love for Yahweh equips us to count and have a joyful attitude as we face trials – because we know he loves us and demonstrated that love by dying for us and taking away the penalty of our sin, washing us white as snow and He will never harm us – he will prove us not harm us. Out of a love for Him we can know and gain an understanding mind – for HE has shared His Truth with us and our love for Him will compel us to know Him and study his Word. Where there is no love there is no surrender or obedience and so we let Him work in and through us as we surrender to Him out of a love for Him. Asking then becomes easy for us and the believing heart is strengthened through love for faith and love goes together. When you love someone you trust them and do not hesitate to ask for help. If we truly love Yahweh we will have no problem counting, knowing, letting and asking and love will keep us faithful in rejoicing in Him. The believer who loves Yahweh knows that Yahweh loves them and will not fall apart when trials come for they are secure in Yahweh’s love!
Attitude toward trials is certainly key, for love for Yahweh helps us have the right attitude and that is to rejoice and praise His name. As his children we can be sure of his purposes to mature us and perfect us in Yahshua Messiah, we can be sure of the good ness of Yahweh and we can be sure of his Word that stands forever. Understanding how to respond to trials will help us overcome temptations, as we learn to be swift to hear, which means hear and obey, not just hear. We in seeking growth unto maturity must hear and do his Word as we look into the perfect Torah. Not simply glance at it but look intently into His torah that we may do His Torah with great joy and passion for Him. For we can be expectant of Elohim’s aid in all circumstances and can be secure of our identity in Him and evaluate our lives as we look into his perfect Torah and accept our responsibility for our choices we make and calling He has for us. We must embrace our responsibility to walk His way no matter what we face and we can expect only good gifts from Him
Perhaps you have gone through or are going through trials – welcome to the club of the maturing – His purpose in trials is maturing – and if that is what you want – to become mature lacking nothing – and you want to turn your trials into triumphs then in a continual response to His Love for you, in love unto Him – count – know – let and ask! And may we truly use our breath to bring him praise, amen!