Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


Leave a comment

9. Problems in Times of Testing – Part 2

James 1:12-16

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. 16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.

It’s here that we come to the:

  1. Problem – Vs 13-16

While God has a purifying purpose for testing, Satan’s also has a specific purpose, to poison our lives with his plan. James begins by reminding us of Satan’s purpose and then revealing his plan.

A. Satan’s Purpose – Vs 14

God intends testing for our good, but Satan has evil intents for what God intends for good. Satan twists God’s good tests into temptations. His desire is for us to fail God’s good tests by succumbing to the temptation he brings from them. He does that by tricking us into pursuing his temptations instead of passing God’s tests. Satan goal is to sidetrack us so he can sideline us. He doesn’t want you to be defined by Jesus and refined by the tests, He wants you to be defined by the junk and destroyed by the temptations. Now James uses the word “tempted” or “temptation” 6 times in his introduction. The original word doesn’t necessarily carry the negative meaning that most of us have attach to the word. In the original, it simply meant “test” or “trial”. Where the different meanings come into play is in how that test is intended. See, God ordains the test, He intends it for our good. But Satan intends that same test for evil, that’s when tests become temptations. We need to learn to respond to God’s tests and reject Satan’s temptations which means that we need to understand:

B. Satan’s Plan – VS 15

  • To influence our Actions for Evil.

Satan’s goal is to influence your attitude so that he can infect your actions. We are especially vulnerable to listen to Satan’s lies during times of testing, because it’s in these times that we are tempted to walk by feeling instead of by faith. In times of testing often we don’t feel like God loves and cares for us. This is where Satan comes in and starts to feed those feelings, by whispering lies into our life that lead us down the road of ruin. When we listen to his lies and fall for how he twists God’s tests we end up becoming angry with God and letting that anger alienated us from God. What we are often tempted to do when we go through tough tests is to blame God. We shake our fist at God and accuse Him of being mean and unfair. But why do we do that? Because we have listened to Satan and his lies. He loves to twist God’s tests into temptations, so that instead of the tests bringing blessing into our lives, we fall for and follow his temptations which bring bondage. Let’s look at an example of how Satan turns test into temptations by looking at God’s previous test of prosperity and poverty. Where God tests us with prosperity so that we will learn not only how to manage His money but to invest it in ministry. Satan tries to turn that test into a temptation in order to trip you up so that you don’t just fall but you fail. Instead of seeing yourself as a manager of God’s money he wants you to see it as MINE. So that instead of using it to serve you use it for self. Instead of money being a ministry it becomes a misery. While God wants to use prosperity to help develop a proper perspective when it comes to possession, Satan wants to use it to promote pride in your life. Pride will cause you to focus on ME instead of the Master, again pointing you to selfishness instead of service. Before we know it ME and MY wants start to eclipse ministry and God’s Will. 2 Corinthians 4:4 tell us that “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News” One of Satan’s favorite strategies is a Soular Eclipse, an eclipse of the heart. Have you ever experienced an eclipse, that incredible phenomenon when the Moon passes between the Sun and Earth, and blocks or “eclipses” the Sun. When that happens day is turned to darkness. What’s amazing to me is that while the Sun is roughly 400 times bigger than the Moon, it is also about 400 times farther away from the earth, which is why they often appear to be the same size. While the Moon is tiny compared to the huge Sun it can still blots out the Sun, one because it stands between the Sun and us, and second because it is closer to us. The same is true for us, often we listen to Satan’s lies and let small things get in between God and us so that His light becomes limited in our lives. So, let me ask you what things are you allowing to get in between you and God so as to eclipse Him? What are you focusing on that blots out your vision of God? What is it that eclipses His light in your life? Is it some secret sin that is crippling your sight, are you focused on fear so that you fail to see the Father, or are you so worked up over worry that you fail to worship? Sometimes the occlusion is inside us. There are many people who because of cataracts are for all practical purposes, blind. Cataracts eclipsed the light, but when they undergo surgery to have those cataracts removed the eclipse is gone and their sight is restored. The things around them didn’t disappear they were just eclipsed. The same is true of God, He is still there you just don’t realize it because you have lost your spiritual sight. I want to challenge you to take time and look inside your heart and mind and ask yourself if there are any spiritual, moral or mental cataracts that Satan has been cultivating that are eclipsing God’s light in your life? His light still shines behind the eclipse but it’s not until we deal with the cataract that everything that blocks our vision of God is removed. Now on the opposite side to prosperity is poverty, again God doesn’t test us with humility just to be mean and make us miserable. He uses humility to draw us close to His heart, to learn to depend on his power and not our possessions. While we dislike financially difficult times God loves to display His power through our poverty. Because poverty puts us in a position where we can’t grab His glory, all we can do is brag about His glory. So, let me ask you are you trying to bag or brag about God’s glory? God also used poverty to cultivate contentment in our life, so that our contentment is built on Christ not cash. Because while the world tells us that cash is king, the Word reminds us that Christ is King. Here is where Satan loves to turn God’s test of poverty into a temptation. By using poverty to cause you to complain and criticize God instead of depending on Him. To get caught up in pouting and protesting instead of praise. If we are not careful, we will waste our life’s on whining instead of worship. Instead of the tests bringing you closer to God you let Satan turn them into temptations that batter your belief and cause you to criticize God. Satan’s strategy is simple, he wants to prison your praise. So that instead of a praise filled life, you let poison flood your life. He wants to take you from a love filled life to live a locked-up life. Are you bound up in the lies or living out your belief? You will either be a prisoner to your circumstances or a praiser through your circumstances.

 

 


Leave a comment

8. Problems in Times of Testing – Part 1

James 1:12-16

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. 16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.

So far in our series, “The Litmus Test for Life” we have seen not only the purpose of tests, to purify and grow us, but also the product, what God wants to produce in our lives through tests, perseverance and perfection. Last time James taught us NOT to put our trust in treasures during trying times, and the importance of having a proper perspective on possessions, because our view of money determines the  value we place on it. Now in verses 12 through 16 James is going to talk to us about “Problems in Times of Testing” but interestingly he starts this section on problems with a:

  1. Promise – VS 12

Why does James start talking about the problems in times of testing with a promise? Because he is preparing us for the problems by providing a proper perspective. That while we will encounter problems in this life God has a plan. James is calling us to focus on the promise not the problems. What is the promise? “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James reveals both the promise and the prize. The promise is to those who love God and the prize is the crown of life. It’s your love for the Lord that blesses your life. So how do we love the Lord, through obedience. Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.” That means trusting God enough to take the test. Are you learning to embrace the tests or looking to escaping the tests? The love that Jesus talks about here is not based on feelings but on faith. Today we have fooled ourselves into believing that love is based on a feeling, so we find ourselves falling into and out of love. Most marriages fail because we have built them on a foundation of feeling instead of faith. In marriage God calls us to a covenant commitment, not a coveting commitment. A covenant commitment is based on God’s Will, where a coveting commitment is based on my wants. Why does a feeling-based marriage fail and a faith based one flourish? Because Faith focuses on the Father where feelings focus on me. God’s goal in marriage is for 2 to become 1 but as long as the foundation is built solely on feelings then it will always be built and bound together by 2, my feelings and my spouses’ feelings. But a faith focused marriage gives us both a single focus, God the Father. Why do we need to follow Jesus by faith, because feelings can fade and because feelings are not always factual. What about you are you living an obedient life by trusting God and taking the tests or trying to flee or fake the tests? Are you obeying or objecting? Now it’s important to note that obedience is not obligation. Obligation says I have to, where Obedience says I get to. Love follows even when the feelings fade, which is critical because tests have a way of tempering our feelings. So, let me ask you is your goal loving God? Is your primary purpose to please God or to please people? Are you living your life for an audience or for the Almighty? Most of us fail to live for an audience of One. We become people pleasers instead of lovers of the Lord. One of the reasons so many people are worn out is that they have become people pleasers first and God pleasers second. Remember you are running to please Christ not a crowd. Notice that we are blessed with both an eternal reward and a present reward. Your eternal reward is the crown of life. Your present reward is the hope of God’s promise. The security that comes from knowing you’re in His will and that you’re pleasing Him with your obedience. Your eternal reward requires both patience and persistence, our problem is that we are not very persistent people. When we encounter a problem, we tend to give up, instead of give it to God. We need to develop persistence which James has already told us is the product of testing. Unfortunately, many of us have let the problems cloud promise. We are focused on the crud in life instead of the crown of life. The secret to focusing on the crown of life is to focus on Christ, the Lord of life. We need to focus on the person not just the prize. Otherwise you will be motivated by obligation instead of obedience. When we stop focusing on the person of Christ, we end up getting caught up in the problems of life. What you give priority to will become preeminent in your life. So, let me ask you are you giving priority to the problems or to God’s promises?