Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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20 Trials that turn to treasure – Part 4

James 1:12 “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.”

One of the most photographed trees in America stands on a rocky point overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the famous Seventeen-Mile Drive near Carmel, California. It is a gnarled, twisted cypress growing out of what appears to be solid rock. The sea winds have blown its branches backward until they are permanently shaped like Medusa’s hair and is believed to be as old as 250 years. The old cypress has been scarred by fire, raked by the wind, swaddled in fog, and pounded by storms. Yet it clings to its wave-lashed granite pedestal like God’s own advertisement for rugged endurance. People have photographed and painted pictures of the tree and have captioned their art in several ways. The effort of one famous artist is entitled simply: “Strength to Endure.” This indomitable old cypress has something to say to us all. It has endured the storms through the centuries and proudly wears its “crown of life.” It contributes its strength to all who see it.

Cypress Tree

We appreciate the rugged beauty of this tenacious tree, its roots gripping to the granite rock in which it grows. This tree portrays what is often the real picture of the Christian life, not perfect but powerful, not ease but endurance. God’s plan is not just that we will survive the storms of life but that when the storms subside we will be found standing, a testimony to the grace that He grants to His children. Maybe right now you are in the midst of a storm like the old cypress cling to the rock of ages who is able to help you withstand the fierce winds of temptation and the storms and stresses of life so that you will become more like His Son.  Enduring temptation means that we must bear up under it and not get mad at God when troubles come and things don’t seem fair. We must remain faithful and not grumble if God takes His time in bringing us through the storm. Enduring trials means that we face the troubles of life head on bravely believing in the power of God and trust in His truth. Not only should we bear them patiently but also with integrity know that we are held firm in the hands of a God who can squeeze good out of our groaning. Our focus should not be on the tempest that rages all around but on the one who walks above the waves and silences the storm with His word. What glory awaits those who have faithfully faced the storms and endured to the end, for they shall receive the Crown of Life! Sometimes God allows the storms to come into our lives because they strengthen us by causing us to cling to Him. In the very last part of verse 12 James used an incredibly important word, love. Now we may have expected him to write, “the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those that trust Him” or “that obey Him.” So why did James use the word love? Because love is the spiritual motivation behind every imperative in this section.  What motivates us to continue faithfully on in spite of the trials of life? James identifies the response as Love.

– Love motivates a joyful attitude –– We love God, God loves us and will not harm us.

– Love motivates an understanding mind –– God teaches us through the trials, and we grow.

– Love motivates surrender of my will –– when love reigns, we can surrender and obey.

– Love motivates belief – when you love you believe the best about God and the situations of life.

Love is the spiritual force behind the imperatives James gives us. When we love God, we will have no problem counting, knowing, letting, and asking. Love is not just a word it is the motivation for life, for love is what keeps us faithful to the Lord. Do you notice the sequence of events here? First, comes the cross or trial and then the crown of life. First comes the groaning then the glory. God doesn’t help us by removing the tests but by making the tests work for us. While Satan tries to use tests and temptation to tear us down God turns them into times that transform. He uses the storms like stepping-stones to build us up. Trouble can turn us to God or turn us off but when we let it drive us to God He delights in dealing with our fears and helping those who are forsaken of hope. Good times rarely grow us, when things are easy our prayer life often just skims the surface. We settle for a shallow walk as if Christ is but a casual acquaintance instead of the lover of our soul. But in times of trials and tempests, when we are tossed to and fro, we tend to turn to Him with a sense of urgency. A longing to be loved and a deep desire to be rescued. The difference between peaceful times and problematic ones is the difference between praying and pleading. Suddenly under stress, our prayers, are like swift streams forced through narrow straits that run mightily to the heart of God. Trials seem to transform our prayer life like a flash flood transforms the desert. Where once there was only dust and dry ground, now desert flowers spring up and bloom. Our lives are transformed from boring desert browns to a bountiful bouquet of reds, golds, blues, oranges, and purples. Where once there was only gray now there is green. While trials are not easy they are transforming, our problem is that we want the growth we just don’t want the groaning. Trials cause us to cling more tightly to the cross, to thrusting ourselves more fully upon God. As we do He is able to purify us and make us of proven and genuine of character. This person will be blessed and rewarded in that he will enjoy a divine sufficiency in life regardless of circumstances. God’s goal in trials is maturity and to have the right attitude in trials one must see the advantage of trials. Instead of seeing storms as something terrifying, start seeing them as transforming. Don’t let the storms of this life move you let them mature you. Let them mold you into the man or woman God desires you to be. Like the bold and beautiful cypress tree clinging to the rock, let the trials of this life transform you into a testimony that points to the power and provision of our God.