1/17 – The Gift of Trials [Sermon]

1/17 – The Gift of Trials [Sermon] Shoe Leather Theology: Study of James

The Gift of Trials
Study of James
By Todd Stiles

Bible Text: James 1:13-18
Preached on: Sunday, January 17, 2016

First Family Church
317 SE Magazine
Road Ankeny, IA 50021

Website: www.firstfamily.church
Groups Website: www.ffcgroups.com
Online Sermons: www.sermonaudio.com/firstfamilychurch

This morning I would like to just kind of illustrate in a very simple and elementary way almost kind of what we have been talking about last week and what we are going to talk about today. And that is via at least initially this backpack. Now it is not heavy at all, but I will probably act like it is for the sake of illustration, ok? Because what I want this to represent this morning is trials. You know, they present a unique opportunity to us in that … and a challenge in that they require a response that we don’t normally give. And they require wisdom we don’t naturally have. We looked at that last week.And so when we end up strapping on, so to speak, a heavy burden, that is placed upon us. We didn’t ask for it. We didn’t cause it. We can’t change it. We can’t stop it. But for some reason we have to remain under it. Wearing this backpack that seems burdensome, it is weighing us down, we learned last the week the key is to remain faithful under it, ask God for wisdom while we are in it in faith. As we journey through whatever time this trial may be kind of velcroed or attached to us or part of our life.Ideally there is a point in time in which the trial ends and what we discover is that what seemed burdensome, what seemed heavy, what seemed like a bother—what do I do with this, how do I wear it, how do I get along with it, how to respond to it—was actually a gift from God. It was disguised as a burden, sure, but it was actually a gift, because in a trial we know that God said he would do his work in his. He will do things in us that will bring us to maturity, that will complete us, that will enable us to lack anything spiritually. And so actually what seems like a burden at the beginning is actually God’s gift to us. In fact, I would say it is a gift to us that he gives to mature us that… in ways that he wouldn’t do any other way, because trials do things you would never get when it wasn’t difficult.

And so this morning we are going to see a little bit more about this thing that we call trials, that seem like they are troublesome, but the truth is they are actually gifts. This is the journey we are on. This is what all of us experience from time to time with trials.Now along that journey of seeing a trial, seeing a backpack that is burdensome become actually God’s gift to us and then it matures us. Along that journey there is an important intersection that everyone comes to. It is an intersection when that trial could become a temptation. It is when what is actually God’s tool of sanctification could turn into Satan’s enticement to sin.My wife knows a good bit about this intersection. Last Sunday night we wrapped up all of our Sunday ministry efforts and different things. It was later in the evening. Lamps were on in the living room. We were sitting there, no kids around. We are talking. I emphasize no kids were around. We are talking. Beautiful moment, you know. No offense, we love the treasures called children, but we were happy for a moment here just to chat and talk. And she almost out of the blue said: So what is the greatest trial you have been through? We chatted and then I said to her in response: What about you? What is the greatest trial you have been through? And we know each other obviously very well, but I was curious how she would respond to that if there was anymore insight I could learn. And she related to me more of the story that I was familiar with but not to this degree and after her freshman year in college—that is where we met—she went back home to Michigan for the summer. During that summer a good friend of hers named Scott—she had previously dated him, was good friends with him and his family—had a terrible accident, a tragic accident. They thought he was going to die. This was in August after her freshman year. And he didn’t die, but they thought he would just be a sever vegetable most of his life, the rest of his life. And the truth is as years have passed he has become not quite that. He is doing decently better, but still has tremendous brain issues, physical ailments, not much past, just a vegetative state in some ways. But in those beginning months there was a lot of questions: What is going to happen? And Julie really knew Scott. She knew his family and was close to them. And in those first few months it happened, I mean, excuse me, those first few weeks she helped a lot, was at the rehab center at the hospital. She came on back to college after her … after that summer, but after only two weeks she just felt such a traumatic response, I guess, or effect from that and she moved back home and said: I will finish my studies there. She did and went to school at Adrian College. And during that time she just stayed close to the family and Scott. We met again later and ended up getting married.She said that during those months helping with that family, helping Scott she goes: I… there were many moments driving back from the rehab center, driving back from the hospital to home, driving from their house to my house that I would stop the car and be very tempted to say: This is your fault and to blame God. She said: Week after week, month after month that temptation just kept pulling at me. That is the intersection that is dangerous. That is when a trial can become a temptation.Now God was faithful to my wife. She, in the midst of that, trusted his faithfulness, asked for wisdom and even though face to face for weeks with a severe temptation, we will call it, she remained faithful. God brought her through. And she would say to you this morning: He did things in that, he did things in her life through that that he could have accomplished no other way. She is thankful for that gift, as odd as that may sound, but in that moment, in that journey, when that trial, that backpack that seemed to be so heavy, there was an intersection in which it almost became a temptation. It is that intersection that James talks about next in chapter one beginning in verse 13. And it is that intersection that I want to discuss today in this text. So take your Bibles. You are there in James one? Put a finger on verse 13, would you? And while you are doing that, getting your pen ready and making sure your Bibles are open, whether they are digital or hard copy: I just remind you that this Bible God has written for us, it reveals his one over arching passion from cover to cover and that is that his glory be known among all nations. And it is our joy to make that passion our mission.Are you there? James one. Verse 13. All right. Here is what we are going to see today. Here is kind of the take home truth that we will kind of end up at. It is really this morning a take home warning. But I want to kind of give it to you up front. I want you to see where we are headed. And then we will kind of unpack this in the text. Here is what we are going to say this morning in a simple sentence, that trials, God’s gift to mature us, can become a temptation, Satan’s took to deceive us, if we stop trusting God under it and start blaming God for it. We are going to see this laid out in the text. I will draw your attention to two types of what I call shore observations—S H O R E. I use that word on purpose. Just follow me as you take notes. Two shore observations, because from each of these shores we are going to build a bridge of action and we are going to stand on that bridge and be able to resist the deceptive temptation to blame God when we are in a trial.

So let’s dig into our text, James one verse 13. God says to us this: Let no one say when he is tempted: I am being tempted by God. For God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire and then when desire has conceived it gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers, every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the Word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

Six simple verses that kind of talk about this intersection, this place that in our trials we may find that we are tempted to blame God instead of trusting him under the trial. How do we avoid that? How do we work our way through that? I think we have to understand that there are two types of shores looked at here and I think they show us why it is impossible—listen very carefully—why it is impossible for God to be the source of a temptation even though he may be the one, is the one responsible for the trial. He is not the one for the trial to become a temptation. We are going to see why that is an impossibility. First of all, it is because of his character. And notice several phrases in these verses that speak to who God is. All right? This is the first shore I want you to see.Verse 13. It says: God cannot be tempted with evil. Maybe more literally the wording could be: God is unable to be tempted. And so consequently he doesn’t temp anyone. Now I think you understand something. God is infinitely, perfectly, intrinsically holy, which is why he is unable to be tempted. He doesn’t know sin. He is not around sin. He dwells in unapproachable light. His holiness is perfect. God is not just a better version of you. Let me even make that more understandable. God is not in heaven just thankful that he hasn’t sinned yet. It is not that God doesn’t sin. Listen, church. It is that God cannot sin. It is an impossibility for God to lie we are told in the New Testament. We know that he was… Christ was without sin, the second person of the trinity. So I need you to understand in a theological fashion here. We are not just saying: Wow. God is doing good so far these thousands of years. He has not sinned yet. He is holding the universe together. By him it consists and he is doing a great job. Keep your fingers crossed. That is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible is by nature and by being intrinsically holy, perfect, complete, righteous, just. It is who he is, all right?

We said this before at our church. He is wholly different than us—W H O L L Y—but he is also holy different than us—H O L Y. God is both of those. He is not just a better version of you. He is different than you and he is wholly different than you. God lives and dwells in complete and perfect holiness and is perfectly righteous and holy.So he is not able to be tempted. He does not know sin. So it would make sense and logically close then that he would not then cause someone or tempt someone to sin. If he doesn’t know sin, if he is unable to be tempted, if he is righteous and holy, then why would we assume that kind of being could produce a temptation to sin? It doesn’t make sense logically or theologically. So the character of God, first of all, is intrinsically holy. It is impossible, at least based on that simple phrase, for him to be source of a temptation. Pardon me.

Notice another part of his character here mentioned later in verse 17. Kind of scan down the passage here. He talks about good gifts and perfect gifts coming from above, from the Father of lights using there I think the word lights to indicate that God is the creator, the owner of the heavenly bodies, of the sun, the stars. And then he uses that as a way to say that unlike those heavenly bodies of light there is no variation or shadow with God as there is with the light he has created. For instance, the sun, the stars and different heavenly bodies. In relation to their light there are different seasons. There are different shadows based on movements and based on position. You can get things that change, right? Such as today. It is not today the temperature it is going to be next August.

Some of you are like: We can’t wait till August. I am with you there. Right? But all of the things that happen with the heavenly bodies, the sun, the stars, the moon, the earth and different things, and not just our own planets, but others, they create changes and shadows.Maybe there is a reference here, perhaps, in James’ mind to an eclipse. We don’t know exactly, but God is not like that. God is unchangeably—now watch this—good. He is not just unchangeable, which he is. He is immutable. God is unchangeably good. So God has never had a bad day. God never woke up on the wrong side of the heavenly bed. God didn’t forget to go buy Starbucks, per se. It is like: Man, I am in a bad mood today. All right? He is not having a caffeine withdraw. God is unchangeably, immutably good. Everything he does is good, which is why every good and perfect gift is from God.

Now I want you to think about that in this way. For God to be intrinsically holy, completely righteous and just and faithful and true as well as unchangeably good, that would mean that everything God does, because of everything God is, is true and righteous and just and good. In other words—listen very carefully—God can do no unloving thing. It is not even possible. He can do no unfaithful thing. He can do no unjust thing.You are thinking to yourself: Well, what about this or that? What about when he disciplines or chastens? Or what about in his judgment? Did you know that even in his judgment it is just and true and righteous holy because he is true, righteous, just and holy. Nothing out of his character can come that isn’t who he is. And so even when he does—I will use the phrase for understanding—difficult things in discipline and chastening and judgment, all of those are perfectly loving, just, true, righteous, holy and good. Why? Because God is all of those things first.So when we find ourselves tempted to say: God, you did this to make me sin. First of all, that is theologically and logically impossible, because God knows nothing of that in his makeup and character. That is the first shore, ok? Who God is, his character.Now you may be wondering, before you go to the second shore: Well, what is the cause of this trial that suddenly makes me want to blame God and this thing turns to temptation. Who is causing that? It is not God’s character. It is the condition of man. Look what he says in the next verse. He says: We are tempted when we are lured and enticed by our own desires. Do you see that? Now he doesn’t say anything her about Satan’s bait. That is true. I don’t think James is saying Satan is not part of temptation. I think here he is simply making this point, that we are responsible when trials become a temptation, not God. So don’t thin that he is saying Satan is not part of this. Satan could very well be a part of this just like the world could be and the flesh could be. John lays out three sources of temptation: The world, the flesh and the devil. But what they do is they bait us with things and then our own desires kick in for that bait. And notice the kind of agricultural, fishing type of words used here. Our own desires kick in and we see that dangling worm on the hook, don’t we? And we bite at it and what happens is then sin occurs. God didn’t cause that. He didn’t send the bait to lure us. But the bait is there, something usually not bad, but good, that is twisted by our enemy, our selfish desires kick in. We bite on that and what happens then is sin is produced and if not dealt with, that sin will eventually lead to death.

That is the process described here. That is how trials become temptation. When we begin to say: Well, God, you are the cause of this. You are tempting me to sin. No. Actually that is the deceptive bait by the devil. If we bite on that, we will find ourselves even further away from God. It is not God at all. God doesn’t do things like that. He can’t. Does that make sense? But who does? Satan provides the bait and our own selfish desires then cause us to bite at that.So our own condition actually is the reason trials become a temptation. We look for a way out of the trial. We look for a way out from under the backpack so to speak. We need to blame someone else for it, instead of remaining faithful under it. It is not God. It is our own selfish desires, because God doesn’t act that way. He is not made that way. That is not who he is. But that is how we are. We are sinful, depraved. And we look for ways to pass the buck or shift the blame often.So just kind of be aware of this. When you want to blame God that a trial is now a temptation, that is theologically, logically impossible. The real reason is our own heart.

Let’s move to the other shore for a moment, can we? So God’s character is the first reason we should know it is impossible for a trial to be a temptation to sin, that God would not do that, because he can’t. The second reason is God’s conduct. Notice the end of verse 18. Or actually all of verse 18. Because here we have the beginning, I think, of an expression describing something God has done. Look what it says in verse eight. Of his own will he brought us forth by the Word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures. So God is a good God. He is immutably, unchangeably good. And so everything he does and gives is good. And what is the best example of just how good God is? Verse 18 tells us. He brought us forth from death to life. I mean, you talk about a good God, he did not leave you to die in your sin. Hallelujah, church? He did not just ignore you. But when you were weak and powerless, when you were still in sin, when you were without hope God came to you and this verse says: By his own will and his Word he made you his work. I love the possessive pronouns in this verse, don’t you? Look what it says. His own will. So it wasn’t your fleshly desire. It wasn’t your free will. It was God’s will that moved upon your dead, cold, wicked heart and brought you to life and then empowered you with faith to choose him, his will and his word, which I think refers here to the gospel truth, the word of truth, that message of Christ. We know Romans says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. So God’s will, God’s Word and then it works so that we become a kind of first fruits. Here he is talking about an example or model of this is what God is doing across the globe and he is going to showcase this. And now it is like: Here is what this looks like. It is all about us belonging to God, because by his will and his Word he brought us forth.Man, that is a great God. So watch this, guys. Listen very carefully. If he is so good that he would seek to resurrect dead sinners, don’t you think he is good enough to take this backpack of a trial and over time show you what a gift it is to you and use it to mature you and perfect you? I mean, if he brought you into life to begin with, he can take whatever he wants and make it for your good as well. That is just how powerful God is. And that is just how good he is. His conduct is good from start to finish and it is proven by the first fact that he brought us from death to life by his will and by his Word so that we are his work.So do you see the two shores now? We have the character of God is one shore. The conduct of God is the other shore. Now speaking of the conduct of God, some may wonder: Well, could God actually use a trial to actually bring me to faith? I mean, these trials so far, you have talked about, Todd, they seem to be the life of the believer. Were are to kind of remain faithful under them, ask God for wisdom in them and faith and … but could God ever send a trial to someone in order that they would actually be brought forth by the Word of truth and become his work? Well, sure he could.Here is a story of a guy to which that happened. It is a little hard to understand so you need to listen very carefully. And here is one of our own, Steve Ryan. He usually sits over here to my right with Steven and Elaine Cooper. Here is his story of how verse 18 actually happened in his life in conjunction with 13 through 17. Watch this video, would you?

Hi. I am Steve Ryan. I have been coming to First Family Church here since 2010. And, well, during my youth I {?}, but I did not go to church very often when I was younger and then in 1991, you know, I went up to UNI and up there I read Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin and, well, I became an Atheist. In 1999 I was seeing my girlfriend. She was Dubuque and, well, that is when this all changed. A semi truck was going north towards {?} And, well, I slammed my brakes and I hit {?}. The ambulance got there as well and they had to take me out of my truck using the jaws of life. My head was smaller, really. I couldn’t close my eyes and they {?} in the accident. My left knee has a piece of surgical steel. I broke my left thigh bone once at the bottom, once at the top. My left collar bone was broken. The pinky ring, index finger and the pinky and index finger on my right hand were broken and I had this scar here and this is {?}. I had 33 different operations done to my head {?}.For the first year after that I honestly wanted to end my life. And then in the year of 2002 I started going up to this place called New Horizons. It is an adult center up here in Ankeny. And it is for brain injured people. And there I met Bethany Cooper. And she was very much devoted to Christianity.And I went up there. Steve Cooper took me up and at that time I was saved. Hearing the gospel being preached, it is a good thing, because the gospel does mean good news. But it shows me the existence, of well, Jesus Christ and the fact that he came and he lived a sinless life and he died for our sins. And after, you know, the trial of my accident {?} and my recovery, being {?} several drawbacks, but I can use it, you know, in order to continue to express his Word and to show people that, well, there is good news, the fact that Jesus Christ died for our sins is the greatest of them all.

That was probably eight or nine, 10 years ago. So he has known the Coopers, has been discipled, now attends First Family. He would tell you, as hard as this is to say, that that accident and the resulting blindness was a gift to him, because it was the means by which he realized Christ was the answer. And he said: I would rather lose my sight on earth than my soul forever. Now I wish you could have heard him say it. He does it a lot better than me.But do you see how all that works in tandem here? What seemed like this is a terrible backpack, that is burdensome, was actually God working to bring something very good in his life. Because, after all, God only does good things. And the best of the good things he does is save us from our sins and birth us into his family. And Steve is a shining example of that.

I think it is interesting that in the light of all of this theology about God in James one as well as the activity of God that we see in birthing people, there are still those who would say: It is God’s fault. And they blame him. They accuse him falsely. And so what could actually be a gift to them in a trial ends up being a temptation to sin and so many people miss out on the real beneficial effect of trials, because at the crucial intersection we blame him for it instead of trusting him in it.So do you see why this take home warning is so crucial today, this take home truth? Could you read it with me one more time before we see the bridge? Let’s… here is the take home warning. Read it together now. Trials, God’s gift to mature us, can become a temptation, Satan’s tool to deceive us if we stop trusting God under it and start blaming God for it. You see, this is exactly why in verse 16 he leaves us or kind of inserts this imperative between the two shores. Do you see this? Look at verse 16. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. It is almost as if you could hear James kind of raising his voice like most good preachers do, amen? Amen. I thought you would like that. You know, James is her saying: Guys, don’t be deceived. Yeah, he explains who God is, intrinsically holy, unchangeably good. And how he proves that in his conduct by actually giving us life out of death through his Son. And so he says: In light of these two facts, don’t be deceived. It is the imperative of this passage.

Now there is one other imperative. I just want to be textually honest with you. It is the phrase in verse 13: Let no one say when he is tempted; I am tempted of God. But let’s be honest. Both of these deal with this idea of deception. Don’t be deceived and say: God, you are tempting me. So I think these imperatives, though there is two of them technically, they lean into one basic theme. And here is James’ point. Guys, don’t give in to devilish temptation when you are under a trial. You are going to think it is an easy way out by blaming God, that he is the reason, the fault. But that is just a doorway to death. That kind of desire, if you bite on that bait, it is going to give birth to sin and sin, eventually, will lead to death. That is not an option for us. Our option is—watch this—to stand on the bridge that spans between the two shores.

See, this bridge that James has built is this imperative place we stand with our feet firmly grounded that says: The water beneath me may be rough. You may be in some oceans of trials, but because of who I know God is and because of how I know God acts, I am going to stand on this bridge and I will not be deceived when this intersection comes my way to make me want to say: God, it is your fault. You are tempting me. Does that make sense? That is what is happening here, guys. And just like my wife Julie, all of you and me in every trial will have an intersection like this when there will be a bait in front of you and your selfish desire will want to say: Oh, this could be an easy way out. I will blame it on God. That is not a good option. It leads to death. The right option is to trust who God is and how he acts and to remain faithful under our trial knowing that God will in the end show that that burden, that backpack, that difficulty is actually his gift to us.Now let me give you some shoe leather action points to pull out of this, all right? Just two this morning. One from the shore … the character shore and one from the conduct shore, all right? Here is the first one. If you really want to make sure that you are planted on the bridge, that you are resisting the devilish deception, that you are not letting your trial become a temptation, I would say, first of all, do this. Guard your mind with a ferocious diligence to truth. Just commit to knowing the God of the Bible. Notice how I said that to you. I didn’t say know the God that you have invented. You see, we all have a tendency when we are in a tough spot, when we are bearing a backpack that seems like a burden and we get to probably see how it is really a gift, when we are under a trial, we love to reinvent God. We love to make him fit our scenario. We love for God to kind of fit into our situation so that we feel better, so that things make sense quicker. And I want to challenge you not to reinvent God, but to let the God of the Bible be the God of your situation at all times, the God who is intrinsically holy and unchangeably good and will prove to you in time, if you will remain faithful under it and ask for wisdom in it in faith. He will prove to you how this backpack of a burden is actually his gift to you.So guard your mind with a ferocious diligence of truth. Don’t let false thoughts land about maybe what you think God should be or what you wish he was. Trust how God has revealed himself in his Word, which means—and this is the simple cookie shell take away—the more we know the Bible, the better job we will do at guarding our mind with a ferocious diligence to truth. Amen?

How are you coming on that commitment to read your Bible this year? Is it getting a little sluggish? Now I don’t say that to judge you. I found that last two weeks… two weeks ago I talked about this, didn’t I? I gave you several avenues and ways to really make the Bible a bigger part of your life so this could happen. But I found in my life that the devil loves to come and through just even good things loves to trip us and stall us and detour us. Have you found that happening? Probably so. Maybe some of you are in Leviticus now and you are like: Man, I am ready to quit. Maybe some of you have found that work calls for more hours or maybe the kids have been sick for multiple weeks and it is like: I know it is difficult. I just want to encourage you as your pastor. Whatever you do, don’t forsake reading God’s Word. And I would encourage you. Try to find times to get lots of the Word in you. Increase your intake, because you are increasing, then, the truth, that is in your mind. And it is this mind that is the battlefield, right?In fact, notice a verse Paul says, 2 Corinthians 10:5. He says to us this, that we are to take every thought captive. And he refers that back to the idea that there are lofty opinions that raise themselves against the knowledge of God. There are arguments that do that. Here is the picture in this verse that thoughts will come across your way, suggestion, ideas. And they will want to raise themselves and they are actually contrary to who God is and how he acts. You should take those captive and bring them under submission to God’s Word. That is the kind of warfare you have got to do on the battlefield of your mind.

Another analogy is to simply say this, guys, that your mind is like an airport with a terminal. And every day thousands of planes want to land on your mind. Only give the ones clearance that are in line with God’s Word. If they don’t match up with God’s Word, let them fly on by. Does that make sense? Now you are not going to be able to rid yourself of the thousands of planes that want to fly by. They are there: lofty opinions, arguments, different things that will just kind of flood your airport, so to speak. But you have got a terminal. That terminal’s instructions are the Word of God. So that is how you have got to operate it. And, man, I would run that terminal based on the instruction manual of God’s Word. And only planes that clear this book you let them land. Otherwise, let them keep on flying.

So guard your mind with a ferocious diligence to truth.Second shoe leather action point from the shore of God’s conduct would be this. Ground your life with the tenacious grip on the gospel. When we are tempted to complain about our current situation, I have found it helpful to realize that even under the burden of a specific backpack of trials, we will call it, God has saved my soul. I am not going to hell because of the work of God on my behalf through Christ. And I have told this to people. They laugh. It is somewhat facetious, but it is very true. Sometimes in the middle of a bad day someone will say: How is your day going? I say: Well, from a man’s angle, not that great, but from God’s angle, awesome, because I am not going to hell. I mean, could there really be a bad day if your eternal destiny is settled?I understand that there is bad news and difficult things. I don’t want to make light of that, but I am trying to make a point here. When you get a grip on the gospel that through Christ God has reconciled you, you who were once his enemy, he has brought you near to his side as a son or a daughter, that because of the work of Christ on the cross completely satisfying the wrath of God against sin, you are no longer considered a stranger. You have now been adopted as a child. I mean, with that news always in front of us, is there really any bad day? The prospect of my life was eternal condemnation in hell before God stepped in, that my future was black and bleak and dark. Separation from God is all that I could envision until God stepped in. And so when I get a grip on that, when I stand on that, like wow. Ok. So whatever trial I am in here, God, it may seem difficult, but it is not as difficult as what I was in. And you rescued me from that. You saved me by your grace. God, you can do a marvelous work in this as well. Keep a tight grip on the gospel, because in the gospel you find the clearest and best picture of just how good God is.Yeah. I want to kind of give a disclaimer here, because that can sound somewhat like: Man, ramp it up, Todd. White knuckle this thing. Get a grip and hold on, baby. Kind of like, you know, it is up to you. And I am not going to back away from the fact that in Scriptures we are called not to shrink back. WE are called to hold fast. WE are called to persevere, endure to the end. I don’t want to be a pastor that makes light of those. Those are true commands we are to obey. But I want to frame it this way. You only can remain faithful and hold fast and get a tight grip because he is remaining faithful, holding fast and got a tight grip on you. In fact, his faithfulness to us empowers our faithfulness to him.Here is what I saw this week in studying through this kind of concept. I realized that my single grip on the gospel, on the good news that God has reconciled me to himself through Christ, my single grip on that is surrounded by the trinity’s double grip on me. Do you know that? John 10. Jesus said: You come to me. I won’t cast you out. You will be in my hand. No man can pluck you out of it. You can’t snatch someone from Jesus’ hand. And then he says: And by the way, I am in the Father’s hand. So Jesus has got you. The Father has got Jesus. In the middle of that double grip there is you holding on with a single grip. I wound venture to say that my single grip as weak as it may be is pretty secure, because I am doubly gripped by the trinity. You see, his grip empowers my grip. His faithfulness empowers my faithfulness.

So don’t hear me say: Come on, you can do it. You know, chug up that mountain. You have got the power. I am simply saying: Because of what God has done for us, man, grip that and then as Paul told Timothy: You hold… or I think it is Titus. You hold fast to the faithful Word. You cling to that.

Two things I think will help us stand on the bridge that spans from the shore of God’s character and God’s conduct and overlooks the waters of trial and trouble. Yeah, you are wearing a backpack. It is heavy and sometimes you want to kind of take a leap off that bridge. You want to blame God and say: Hey, this is your fault. But instead, resist the temptation. The devil’s deception is lurking at you. And trust that God will get you safely through it. It is impossible for him to tempt you. He is intrinsically holy, unchangeably good and he will bring all the way home and show you how what you perhaps saw as a burden was really just a disguise for what is actually a gift, a trial that perfects our character.

Thomas Chisholm knew this really well. You don’t know that name, probably. He is dead, but he is a hymn writer of years ago. In fact, he wrote the hymn: Great is thy faithfulness. Thomas Chisholm, though the story behind his life is one that resonates with us, because he didn’t have any massive, huge trial. He just carried a backpack for most of his life that seemed burdensome. A lot of health issue which caused him to have to change jobs. He was once a pastor, a teacher, a newspaper guy, an insurance agent. His health just was a consistent problem. You might say that at the end of that, when he came, you know, at the end of his life he thought: Man, I just didn’t really accomplish anything. Never successful, never made much money. I was probably a failure in man’s eyes. But do you know what he wrote? Catch this. He said: My income has not been large at any time. Due to impaired health in the earlier years—which has followed me even until now—he was 94, by the way, when he died. A lot of years to struggle under bad health. But I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God and that he has given me many wonderful displays of his providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness. Could it be—and I don’t know this—but could it be that the only way God was going to breed in Thomas Chisholm the character trait to notice with astonishing gratefulness God’s wonderfulness, could it be that the only way God could accomplish that was through a trial of just nagging health issues year after year? And was there an intersection where Thomas perhaps thought: You know what, God? What have you done to me? It is your fault. I suspect so. But he didn’t bite on that bait. He remained under, trusted God in it, asked for wisdom and toward the end of his life he would write these words about God’s faithfulness, the hymn that we often sing.

I am going to sing the chorus for you. Join me if you want and then we will sing a verse together, ok? Let’s think about our own life.

By |2016-06-23T14:45:45-05:00January 17th, 2016|Sermon Series|0 Comments

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