The Trouble With Trials
By Todd Stiles
Bible Text: James 1:1-12
Preached on: Sunday, January 10, 2016
First Family Church
317 SE Magazine Road
Ankeny, IA 50021
Why don’t you take your Bibles and locate the epistle of what? Or Jacob. Good job, guys. You learned from the podcast last week, as well as from our message. Good. Go ahead and find the epistle of James, would you? We will be looking at the very beginning chapter, of course, primarily verses two through 12 in what will be the first of a couple of weeks, maybe three weeks, in which we are going to be talking about trials.
Let me say just a couple of introductory remarks, if I could. Whenever I speak on trials I want to say, first of all, I don’t have a lot of experience in severe trials. I mentioned this when we spoke through the suffering series, the five week series in one of the Corinthians. And that is not to say we haven’t known tough times, we haven’t had difficult moments. It is not to say that at all, but some of you have been through deep, deep waters, far deeper than I have ever known. And so I approach this subject with a good bit of realization that I just haven’t walked in some waters when you have. So I want you to know that. And so perhaps if you here in my voice a tone or perhaps a hint of like what maybe you don’t get this or maybe you don’t understand, that is not my heart at all. I am sure our days are coming. But at this point I just have a… I don’t have a ton of experience in deep water trials. That doesn’t mean that I don’t sympathize or empathize.
And so that affects, like it would with you, how we understand and see God’s instruction on that. But I do know this. While my experience may not be as deep as some of yours—and some of you would agree with that, by the way, on your own account. You would say: Yeah, that is kind of where I am, too—can we agree that if there is one subject that everyone can relate to, it is the subject of trials? In fact, did you know that when I spoke on sanctifying suffering, oh, a year and a half or so ago, it is, I think—and I might be corrected by the stats from the website, but I think if it is not the top, it is one of the top listened to series of messages in our church. Why is that? Because everyone can relate to trials, can’t we? The spectrum is wide, granted. But all of us know what it is like to walk through something that we did not ask for, that is out of our control, that seems to be so crushing, so heavy that at times you think this may be the end of me. That is the subject we are going to be looking at this week and probably the next couple of weeks as James discusses that in his first chapter.
So your Bibles are open to James chapter one, aren’t they? You know, as we look at different trials, as we look at what James say about these kinds of trials, we have to understand that when these things happen to us, when we are weighed down, when we are under something that we don’t quite get, we wonder why it brings us to a point where we ask: What should our response be? What is our reaction? How do we get through this? And a lot of times we have more questions than we do answers. And, see, I think that is the trouble with trials, which is kind of our title today. The trouble with trials is that they require a response that we don’t normally give and wisdom we don’t naturally have. Would you agree with that? You would, wouldn’t you? Trials, tough times, difficult situations, when things are out of your control and you cannot change them, they require a response that we don’t normally give and they require wisdom we don’t naturally have. So what is one to do? I think James chapter one, the first 12 verses, they lay out three very simple commands that we are to do in light of the fact that we are to give a response we don’t normally give and have wisdom we don’t naturally have.
What do we do? I think we should thank God. We should ask God. And we should trust God. Very simple understanding of these first 12 verses, but I think you will find that there is a wealth of insight in these six simple words. So what do you say we read the entire text first and then let’s just go back and see how God would inform us this morning about these simple responses to trials.
James chapter one verse two. Here is what the Bible says. Follow along with me. James under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit says to 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 we are to let steadfastness have its full effect so 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 double minded, unstable in all his ways. Let the lowly brother boast in his exultation and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass, he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass, its flower falls and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.
I had debated between two or three different outlines for these 12 verses and I scrapped them all about Monday afternoon and I went with these six simple words. I had some outlines that were all alliterated. They were nice. You would have liked them. But do you know what? They were confusing. They were like… ah, it is more about the outline than then simple text. And I just said: You know what? Can we just analyze this text from its six simple words that I think speak to the heart of every person here? When we are in situations that just are crushing and you don’t understand. I think thanking God, asking God and trusting God is the heart of James’ instruction. So let’s analyze that for a bit, can we? He says, first of all, to thank God.
Now when I mention that you may say: Todd, I don’t see the word thank in the text at all. How did you get that? How did you arrive at this idea that at first we are to thank God when that is not even in the verse? You are right. It is not. But let’s explain the verse and let’s understand it and get the heartbeat behind it. He says that, first of all, we are to count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds. The word there that is significant is count. It was used in that culture to kind of assess a situation mathematically. Sometimes if they were in the middle of a transaction, they would count and reckon the number of coins or even pebbles that were used. It is to systematically, intentionally, factually assess what is going on and count this out. There is this, there is this. It is a reckoning, like in an accounting reckoning, a mathematical reckoning of what is going on in my life when it comes to trials. He says we are to do that with things that are out of our control, these things that are called trials. And they have various kinds. We are to assess them. And we are to assess them with this understanding, that as we look at them and count them, as we reckon what is going on, this will be the avenue—now watch this—the avenue, the pathway to full, deeper joy.
Now can we just all say that is not how we normally respond to trials? It is counter intuitive to our human nature. We don’t count trials as a joyful experience, we would count them as horrendous, horrific. But I think the rest of the verse tells us why we should count and reckon and assess the difficulties with joys, because of what they lead to. Look at verse three. You see the connecting word for? For you know the testing of your faith—I would circle that phrase. Connect it to the word trials. They are synonyms here—trials of various kinds. They are the testing of your faith. They produce steadfastness or endurance, an attitude of remaining under something even in difficulty. This is how this is produced. It is through trials. And it is when we have a steadfast attitude, it is when our life is one of endurance that we experience the full effect of God’s hand. That is what verse four says. Let steadfastness have its full effect or perfect work that you may be complete, perfect and you don’t lack anything. In fact, I think it is biblically right to say this. If you avoid trials you will always be lacking something spiritual. Amen? That may be hard to hear, but if we avoid trials, if we try to detour and bypass them, if we don’t count and reckon our situations, like, wow, this… I am going to have joyful attitude in the middle of this, we will be lacking, we will be insufficient, inadequate, because there are certain things that only come about in difficulty. And so we are to count our trials. We are to reckon our situations as one of joy, because it produces, these trials produce in us steadfastness and steadfastness is what it takes to see God’s full work in our life accomplished.
That is why I say to you we should thank God for trials, because they do things—now listen very carefully, church—in you and to you that you would never get any other way.
I look around the world at this spectrum of trials here. I see Lori here and the cancer that she went through. I look at those who have had miscarriages. I see some who have lost a job. I think about the Day family back there and their tragedy with their son Ryan whose death… I mean there is a wide spectrum, isn’t there? Did you know that there are things that—and I want to be careful how I say this—it is with great love that I want you to hear this, church. If this verse means what it says it does, there are things that you would have never known about God had that not occurred. I don’t say that glibly. It must be that there is an element of dependence that God is seeking that we treasure him above everything. And, perhaps, could it be that the way we learn that, the way we begin to value him above everything is when we see other things not as valuable, perhaps, when there is difficulties and trials and we begin to realize that is not where I should find my identity. That is not where my stability. This is not where I should build my life. Those are hard things to talk about. They are difficult to grasp. I don’t know if those who are in deep trials, I don’t know if we ever fully grab the full understanding of it. But could it be that somewhere in the midst of that there is an element in which God says: I want you to see me as your full and finest treasure. And so he allows things into our life that lead us that way.
These verses are hard to read. They are hard to grasp, but I think we would all admit that if this is how we have God’s full work in our life, if this is the avenue to—I will use the biblical word here—perfection and completion, then I want to thank God for it. It is counter intuitive. It is not natural. Like I said, trials require a response we don’t normally give. But trials seem to be the avenue whereby God’s work in our life becomes fullest, most complete. When we don’t lack anything, that only comes through trials. So we want to thank God for it.
Now because that is not our normal response verse five makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? You see the first phrase? If any of you lacks wisdom. Well, I am in that category. And I have not known some of the waters you guys have known, but even in my own limited experience—and I would even say at times somewhat shallow experience, when it comes to trials, I have felt like I don’t know what to do or how to react or what to say. I can imagine those who have been in deep, deep water would say the same thing. What do we do? How do we respond? What is the next step? And so James assures us that because verses two, three and four are something unnatural to the human, they are only possible by the Spirit, he says: Ask God for wisdom. And here is what is so delightful about this. If we lack wisdom—and we do—and we ask God, he will give it generously to all without reproach.
Now I want to pause there and say something to you. This word without reproach. You know, what does it mean when it says that God will give liberally? He won’t hold anything back. If you ask God for wisdom in the middle of your trials, he will give it to you and he won’t do it with reproach. What does he mean there? The best way to describe that is to understand that God gives wisdom without finding fault. He doesn’t do this. He doesn’t say: Well, I am glad you finally came to me, Chad. I am going to help you with this. And, you know what? This whole thing is your blunder anyway. So I will help you a little bit. He doesn’t give Chad kind of the third degree while he gives him wisdom. I mean, have we done that before as parents? The answer there is yes. Your child comes to you and they are in a tough spot and so they ask for your help. What do you think I should do? And you knew it was going to happen, didn’t you? And you are three steps ahead of them, right? And so you let them know that.
Well, you know, little Johnny, I could have told you. And it is almost like we attach reproach, fault to the idea of helping our child, as opposed to, like: You know what? Yeah, here is the wisdom you need. Let’s just get through this. Now that leads me to say something. Why doe God give wisdom without finding fault, without reproach attached to it, without like this extra tag that makes you feel like, well, you just are really low down scum. This is what you should have gotten anyway? Why does God do that? I think—listen very carefully. This is a little thin ice here. I think it goes to the heart of what a trial is. I want you to get this. And it will hopefully teach you something here. We are to be joyful for trials of various kinds, correct? So within that scope of trials there must be lots of different trials, but I don’t think we can change the inherent definition of trial.
I tend to think in this text a trial is something that happens to us that is out of our control, but under and perhaps even ordained by God’s sovereign hand. It is not—listen very careful. I want you to hear me on this. It is not something that results from our sin or stupidity. You see, we must distinguish between consequence and trial. Ok? Now listen very carefully. Don’t hear what I am not saying. Can a consequence, in some way, have the same effect as a trial? Yes. We sin, we bear the consequence of that and we learn and grow through that. Yes. In repentance, we say: Wow, I should not have done that. God has taught me this. So I don’t doubt that there can be the same effect in the end. But I think in this text he is speaking of things completely out of your control of which you are now under the weight of and you have no control to change it or stop it. You are simply at the mercy of it. Why do I say that? Because the real trial in the context is that of the dispersion of these 12 tribes, Acts chapter eight, when while they are enjoying a vastly growing church that is extremely healthy as well? What happens. Extreme persecution so that the Church in Jerusalem, they all flee except the apostles. They didn’t do something to cause it that was sinful. They weren’t just being stupid. It was something that was ordained by God, brought in to bring the Church to an even greater life of impact and penetration missionally and they were told to remain under that, not to abandon what was their faith because of this persecution. I think that lets me know that trials here in the most technical sense—and there may be various kinds of these—they refer to something that is out of our control.
I think if I had to say to someone: What is the clearest understanding of a trial? I would say it has got to be it is nothing in your control to stop or to change. You just have to endure it. It is in those moments that he says we are to ask God for wisdom and he will give generously without reproach. Why does God give that way? Because there is no reproach to have. There is no fault to find. Why doe God give wisdom? Let’s take Chad here. He asked God for wisdom. He is in trial. He is … it is of no fault of his own at all. He is just buried under something that he didn’t cause, he didn’t bring, he didn’t ask for, but he has got to endure it. Why would God give him wisdom liberally without finding fault? Because there is no fault to find. That is my point. He is honestly enduring under the sovereign hand of God something that God has ordained, slash, allowed. Why? So that Chad would develop steadfastness, because in that steadfastness he will know God in a way he would never have known him otherwise. It is that steadfastness that would see God bring a work that will be full and complete. And this is the way Chad will lack nothing spiritually.
Does that help a little bit? That is why God gives that way, because there is no fault to find. It is out of his hands and it is totally in God’s hands.
And so we ask God when we are in the middle of trials that we are to reckon and count as something that will bring us closer. We are to reckon this as with a joyful spirit. Ok. I need wisdom in this, because none of this seems joyful. None of this seems like it is right. I can’t stop it or change it or affect it and I have got to endure it. With joy? Hey, God, I need wisdom in this. This does not make sense to me. And so we go to God and we ask him for his perspective.
James attaches a qualifier to this verse, though, in the very next verse, doesn’t he? See the word but in verse six? So yes God gives generously to all those who ask. He doesn’t find fault with you. He doesn’t attach reproach to your request for wisdom. But he does ask that we approach him and ask in faith without doubting. Do you see that in verse six? And then he describes the doubting person. The one who doubts is like the wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. In other words, you are just every which way. You are not sure what to believe. Like watching a wave. You are not sure where it is going to land, when it is going go to peak, when it is going to dip. I mean, it is a wave. Who can predict it, right?
And if we ask God without faith, if we are doubting, then it says this man he is driven and tossed by the wind. He is like a wave like that. And he won’t receive anything from God. He is double minded. He is unstable. And so when we ask God for wisdom—watch this—we must ask God for wisdom without doubting. Now listen very carefully, church. That verse does not say you can’t doubt yourself. Can I say to you there have been trials that I have been in and I have doubted myself. Man, I don’t have a clue what is going on. I don’t know how this is going to turn out for my steadfastness. I don’t know how God is going to use this for me to know him better, because I don’t… to me this does not end in a good way. But, watch this. But I am not God. And God will keep his Word because he is God so I don’t doubt God.
You see, some of us turn this verse into a power of positive thinking mantra. We say: Well, I must ask God with faith and not doubt. So I don’t doubt. I don’t doubt. We crank that engine more. I don’t doubt. Chug, chug up the mountain and with the impression that it is all about us and never having a question, never having a doubt about our own ability. And I just want to be frank with you. The verse says we can’t ask in doubt about God. God will do what he said. He will keep his Word. And so when God says: This trial will be used to bring about a steadfastness in you that will produce incredible character completion, we say: God, I trust you that you will do that even though right now I don’t have a clue how that is going to happen. That is what he is talking about. That is the kind of faith he is talking about. He is not talking about some giddy self confidence, where you walk around people say: How are you doing? Oh, I am doing awesome, man. It is great. And you are in the middle of deep waters and you are acting like everything is fine when really you are not fine. But if they were to peel back your chest cavity, you could say in the middle of tears and misunderstandings, you could say: But I know God is fine. I know he still reigns and he will use this for his glory and my good. He will, because he promised he would do it. Does that make sense, guys?
I hope you will kind of let some of the man made definitions of what it means to doubt fall away. Loosen the Velcro and what we are called to here is an understanding that God will keep his Word, especially the one mentioned in two through four. So we don’t doubt that. We don’t go back and forth. We don’t bounce. We are not bobbling up and down. We trust that God will keep his mind. We are single minded. And that brings about a stability in us. This is why we not only thank God and ask God, we trust God, because it brings, first of all, stability. And then I believe in verse nine, 10 and 11 we get an example of how this stability looks. This is an odd set of verses, ok? Now track with me here, because it seems like it is kind of inserted and we are not sure what it means. Like it talks about a rich man and a poor man and the rich man should boast in his humiliation. What in the world does that mean? And the poor man should boast in his exultation. That is a little less cloudy, but I am not sure totally what it means. And then he talks about people who are fading like the grass because the sun withers them. How is that connected to trials and what is going on with that verse and asking God for wisdom? That is a good question. Textually it is difficult.
Here is what I think is happening in these verses. James is describing two types of people, first of all, within this historical setting. The Jews were dispersed and they were going into the northern parts of Israel, possibly into Syria, these areas, because their houses were plundered. Their incomes demolished, their livelihoods taken. Many of them were starting over and many of the Jews, in addition to the fact that there was a famine going on, many of these Jews historically were in great economic poverty. As you read the New Testament you will find this is one of the reasons in those first several hundred years, but especially the first century, the call to the church was to be hospitable, to house strangers and to give of your stuff, to share what you have, right? So here is people, Jews, in now mainly pagan Gentile territory, Jews who were poverty stricken, so to speak, not due to anything they caused or did, just persecution. And some of them were finding employment, perhaps, with wealthy Gentiles. Now not all of those wealthy Gentiles were pagans. Some were, not all were. What you had, though, in the end was, perhaps, Christian communities outside of Jerusalem that were developing that had a mixture of very poor people and wealthy people. And the tendency was for the wealthy people to perhaps look down on the poor people and to think that their status was set, the rich man’s was, while the poor folks, you know, man, you know, you may not make it, so to speak.
What James is calling for here is—watch this—is not an identity that is based in our externals, whether you are rich or poor, but one that is based in God which is why he says when you are in difficult times, trust God. That is your identity. What God will do in you is really the basis for your identity, not what you have attached to you on the outside. So he says to the poor man: You boast in your—watch this—exultation. Now what does that word mean? Where does it come from? I tend to think it refers to Christ’s exultation after the ascension. He is in the heavenlies with the Father. This word exultation is only used in the New Testament speaking of Christ’s status after the ascension. And so the poor man should say: You know what? I am not really known by my economic indicators. I am known by the fact that I am identified with Christ in his exalted status.
Paul wrote later—remember in Ephesians—that we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies. And then he tells the poor man to boast in his humiliation. What does that mean? I think the humiliation here possibly refers to Christ’s humiliation, Philippians chapter two when he took on the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men. I think what James is doing is this. He is calling on rich people not to see themselves as rich in man’s eyes, but as a humble servant like Jesus was and he is calling on poor people not to see themselves as poor in man’s eyes, but as exalted with Christ like Jesus was after the ascension. He is saying: Guys, if your identity is in Christ, it is not a matter, then, of what you own or don’t own materially, it is not where you are economically. It is not what your trials have done to you or haven’t done to you from man’s perspective. It is this. Your identity is with Christ. And that supersedes, kind of cuts through all of the man made externals.
That is why trusting God matters. In trusting God we are not unstable. We are not bouncing back and forth. We are fixed on our identity with Christ. Stability matters. Identity comes into play.
Knowing that the wealth of this world and even the position it grants is going to be scorched, much like flowers and grass in the Middle East is by the sun. That is what verse 11 says. And so he closes by saying the rich man will fade away in the midst of his pursuits. Here he is saying, basically: What you put your hope in physically, externally, it is going to wither and die. The poor status will and the rich status. Your identity must be rooted in Christ. And when that is in place, when that is where our trust is, guess what? Then when difficult things occur, when trials come, we are not going to be bouncing around back and forth trying to find a place to land, because our identity is fixed in Christ.
Now I want to push pause here and ask a question. Where is your identity? I am not asking about the degree of your identity at this point. Some of you are thinking: Well, I feel like I am connected to Christ and maybe at a spectrum. I am asking a root question here. Have you put your trust in Christ as the basis for who you are? Are you a believer? Have you trusted the gospel that in Christ it doesn’t matter whether we are rich or poor, slave or free. It doesn’t matter if we are white or black, red, green, purple, right? In other words, all of these externals are not the important thing. The question is: Are you in Christ? Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ and the gospel as the basis of your identity, as the whole of your identity so that when you encounter difficult things or when you are not encountering difficult things, your are not bouncing around, unstable, trying to figure out where to land. You have fixed that. And you have landed in Christ.
So my question: Where is your identity? It refers to this. Are you a believer? Have you put your faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ? That is the basis of all of our identity.
If you are saying: Well, Todd, I don’t know if I even have it or not. I have been coming to First Family for a few weeks. I have been checking out this church. I have been wondering about the Bible. I have not really had much experience in it or maybe you are back in church for the first time in 10 years or perhaps you have never been in church. There is a wide spectrum of folks here, perhaps, that could be affected by, you know, this thing we call church. My question to you is this. If you have never put your faith in Christ, man, I would just invite you to hear the claims of Christ that he is God’s Son who came, humiliated as a man, yes, but exalted now with God. He is the only one who has taken care of your sin problem. We all have one. And the news about Jesus Christ, that he came, he lived, he died, he rose again is the good news, what we call the gospel. That is the best place, the only real place to find your fixed identity.
In fact, did you notice what binds us all together, doesn’t it? Would you agree? You can say this. We all have … there is a lot of different economic levels in this church, aren’t there? There is folks who this week perhaps have lost their job, got eliminated. They are looking at a different economic picture than someone who, perhaps, just landed a brand new job. Maybe they got a raise, a promotion. There is all kinds of places we live, cars we drive, houses we own. None of that makes us better or worse to God. What binds us together in this family is Jesus. And my question to you is: Do you know Jesus? Is your identity fixed by that? And if not, I would just invite you to put your faith in Jesus Christ, say to God: God, I do believe that your Son Jesus came to the earth, lived a perfect life, died a death in my place, rose again and ascended back to you and that is the only means by which my sin is forgiven. God, because of Jesus and through Jesus: forgive me today. And God will do exactly that. Do you know that? He will forgive you, make you his own and he will give you identity that will never bounce around, bobble up and down like a wave, but will be stable.
I think that is what is going on in nine through 11, this sense of like where do we get our identity? This is the benefit of trusting God, especially in trials.
He then shows us the finality of this trust. Look at verse 12, as we rap this up. Then we will take some questions if there are any. In contrast to the type of man who fades away, the man who remains steadfast is blessed. Do you see that? So blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial. Again, the theme steadfastness, from two to 12. Trials come into our life. That is what breeds steadfastness or the ability to remain under. And if we remain under, if we are steadfast, then we are blessed. The idea here is of the genuinely, deep down happy. I think that goes again to the word joyful. So this is the current status of the one who is in a trial. And then it says: When he stood the test, he will receive the crown of life. Here is a promised crown. So you have got this future status as well as a present status going on here. One is that in the middle of it you are blessed. You are deep down, genuinely joyful. You are reckoning all of these things as an avenue by which you will know God in a way you could have never known him otherwise. You are thankful for that. When the trial is over you will receive the crown of life, speaking here of something that happens in eternity. And it is to those who love God.
That is a crazy phrase, isn’t it? That God has promised a crown of life to those who endure their trials and withstand the test, because that is what he has promised to those who love him. That sounds like Romans 8:28, doesn’t it? When it says that God works everything together for our good. Watch this. To those who love him. Now let me just be a preacher of stark reality to you. If you don’t love God, don’t lay hands on that promise. I have known pagans galore that have heathenized their life away and then in the middle of something terrible they will holler out: Well, God will work it out for my good. They are no more a child of God or believer and guess what? That may not be true for them, because the Bible says that he is working all things together for those who love him. That is comfort for the family of God, isn’t it? In the middle of your trials, you can count those with joy. You can assess the situations with joy and be thankful because you know that as you love God and trust him, none of that will be wasted, not a single experience, not a single trial, not a single encounter will God just say: Oops. I am not sure what to do with that. God uses every single thing to build perseverance and steadfastness because that is the avenue by which our character comes to full completion.
No wonder the man who is in that, the woman who is in that, considers himself or herself deep down genuinely joyful.
So do you see why these verses kind of lay out for us a response we don’t normally give and require wisdom we don’t normally have? I do. This is not the normal protocol for trials to thank God, to ask God, to trust God. We would like God to fix us, wouldn’t we? But there is something going on in every single trial that actually will increase our dependence, bring us to greater maturing and that can only happen apparently in trials.
Before I wrap this up, let me see if there is any questions texted in at all. None today? Ok. In some of my weekly reading I did find about two or three various articles that I will post today on my blog. I want to encourage you go by and read them. One is a story of an individual, a family that really went through some deep waters and how they were able to be joyful in it, in the right kind of a situation from God’s perspective. Another one is more of a factual accounting of some things about trials that, perhaps, will help you, too. I will just post those later today.
I think when we read this passage, though, we do wonder about our situation, don’t we? We think: Am I responding correctly? Do I have the wisdom that this passage talks about? Have I asked God for it.
I couldn’t help but this week to think about Elizabeth Elliot. Many of you know that 60 years ago Friday was the date that her husband was martyred. They were missionaries in, I believe, it was Ecuador. And you can read the story and you can Google Jim Elliot, Nate Saint. You can watch the movie The End of the Spear which chronicles all of this. My goal this morning is not to talk about that as much as it is to wonder how the wives of those men, how they got through that. From my perspective, I don’t know. I will just admit to you. I don’t know how you get through news like that. I wonder about some of you who have received phone calls and were there when just tragedy knocked on your door and didn’t ask for permission. It just barged right in. The trial showed up and it just started thundering and lightning. And you are just in it.
How did Elizabeth Elliot, how did she process the murder of her husband? She has written extensively on trials, beautiful what she has written, her honesty and transparency. I think somewhere in there she did what verse five says. God, I need wisdom that can only come from you. She—now watch this, watch this—she pre-prayered for trials. I didn’t mispronounce the word prepare. She pre-prayered for trials. You ask God for wisdom. You in prayer say: God, I don’t know how to get through this. And so I am going to ask you for the wisdom to navigate regardless of where on the spectrum your trial is, you want wisdom from God. So I want to say to you: You need to do more than prepare. You need to what? Pre-prayer. Because time with God—now listen very carefully, church—prayer will bring insight, fellowship, communion and intimacy that no amount of instruction or itemized lists or Todd’s tips or hints or suggestions will ever bring. Do you know that?
What all of us need in a trial is time with God to get his perspective, because trials require a response we don’t normally give and wisdom we don’t naturally have. So let’s run to our Father who loves us and whom we love. And let’s say: Lord, I need to know what is going on.
So this morning as the band comes I want to ask you to do that with me, all right? I want to give you time to just pray. They are going to kind of play through. Excuse me. And sing a song called Judge of the Secrets, all right? You have not heard before, probably. You may have heard it, but we have never sung it here. I couldn’t sing the song if I had to right now. I have only heard it once. I was on sabbatical. I heard this song and the lyrics astounded me. It talks about God getting to the real core of what is going on here.
And in times of trial that is what we need. We need intimate, honest, transparent fellowship with God so that we can gain his perspective, his wisdom and respond like he would have us respond. Are you with me? Left to our own devices, we will not respond well. We won’t have the wisdom, the human smarts to maneuver, to navigate, but by pre-prayering and laying ourselves before our Father who loves us and saying: Lord, what is it you are trying to work in my life? What are you trying to refine? What are you trying to build? What part of my character are you bringing to full completion? God, what is going on here? God without finding out fault in you, will liberally give you the wisdom you are seeking.
So you are going to see the lyrics on the screen. You are going to hear them sing it. I don’t want you to sing any part of the song right now. I don’t want you to stand. I don’t want you to act like you know it. I just want you to in your seat draw a circle around your chair and create a sanctuary where you and God can talk about your heart in the middle of your trial with this admittance. It is going to require a response you don’t normally give and wisdom you don’t naturally have. But guess who does? God. So can we seek him for a bit? When the song is over we would have received our elements, of course, by then and we will go through our communion like normal. But I want you to take some time in this whole song and just kind of let it rest on you, ok?
So let’s bow our head together, church, can we?