Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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11. Promises in Times of Testing – Part 1

James 1:17-18

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

As we continue in our series “The Litmus Test for Life” James continues to call us to focus on the Father and His Promises in Times of Testing and not the problems. Because as we walk through the problems of life it is critical that we have a proper perspective. The only way to do that is to view our problems from God’s perspective so that we discover His purpose and live out His plan. Are you going to look at life through the lenses of the Lords promises, or the lens of life’s problems? Because when we focus on the promises we focus on God and His glory, but when we focus on the problems we focus on the garbage and the groaning. Last time as James talked about the problems in times of testing he started with the promise and the price, that for those who patiently endure testing they will receive the crown of life. We need to notice that after James talks about the problems he then continues to talk about the promises in times of testing. What we need to see here is that the problems of life are Sandwiched between the promises of the Lord. This helps me not only to put my problems into perspective, but to start practicing this principle of sandwiching life’s problems between the Lord’s promises in my own life. That means to stop focusing on the buts and start focusing on the blessings. We need to remember that problems are not the food they’re the filler. When you focus on promises they feed your faith where focusing on the problems feeds your fears. Your focus we either feed your worry or your worship? We need to stop protesting the problems and start promoting the promises. So why don’t we focus on the promises? Why are we caught up in the protests instead of the praise? Because we are a people of broken promises. Let me share short story: Two brothers were home alone one day when the older brother pulled an egg carton out of the refrigerator and told his little brother, “I’ll give you $20 if you let me break three of these eggs over your head.” The little brother said, “You promise?” And the older brother said, “I promise.” Then he pulled out an egg and broke it over his brother’s head. It oozed down through his hair and ran down his face. Then he pulled out the second egg and broke it over his brother’s head. This one slid down the back of his neck and inside his shirt collar. After the second one, the little brother really braced himself. He knew the third egg was going to be really nasty. And he waited. And waited, but the third egg never came. Finally, he spoke up. “Hey, when’s the third egg coming?” To which the older brother said, “It’s not—if I broke that one over your head, it would cost $20.” I can’t even imagine what happened next. This story reminds us of a powerful point, that when we are young, we are innocent enough to believe the promises we heard. When someone promises us something, we believe it. Some people call that naïve. I call it trusting. But what happens to that innocent child like faith when that trust gets broken by people who go back on their promises? It starts to go away, as trust gets trashed our faith in people and promises gets flushed. It leads to calloused hearts and cynical heads. We start saying things like, I will never fall for that again.” But the very mechanism we used to protect our hearts actually poisons our hearts. It’s a lot like the castles that people built for protect back in medieval times. They were great until the army that surrounded them chose to stay and lay siege. The very mechanism they build to protect them became their problem. Sure, it kept out the pain, but it also kept out the provisions, the food and water they needed to do life. Soon famine set in followed by disease and death. The very thing they had built to save them from pain actually sentenced them to death. Like them when we rely on our manmade mechanisms, they imprison our hearts instead of protecting our hearts. Our way of protecting our hearts from broken promises is what is ruining our relationships. Are you being poisoned and imprisoned by our own protection? Trust is the root of relationships, and if you kill the root you kill the tree. How many of us are killing our kids today because instead of cultivating the root we are trashing trust. Dads keep your promises to your kids, because the pattern you set will not only be the pattern they pass on, but the picture that they projected onto God. So how do you break out of the prison of mistrust and put your trust in God’s promises. Recognize that while we live in a world where people break their promises, God doesn’t. We need to stop projecting peoples broken promises onto God. From the first page of scripture to the last God not only makes promises but has the power to back them up and bring them to fruition. Many of us instead of promoting the promises feel like we need to protect ourselves from the promises, and the best way to protect your heart from the pain of broken promises is to dismiss them. Which is exactly what satan wants you to do. But my prayer is that as His people we would not only hear God’s promises but would head them and hold onto them. Is there a promise you need to start believing and proclaiming?

 


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10. Problems in Times of Testing – Part 3

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.

Not only does James reveal Satan’s purpose and plan but also his end game which is:

  • To birth bondage and deliver death

James reminds us that Satan often starts small, just like how a newly conceived baby starts off in their mother’s womb. A fertilized egg, so small you don’t even notice, but then those cells multiply and as it grows it become more and more obvious. The baby grows until it is large enough and healthy enough to survive outside the womb at which point it is born. The baby continues to grow taking on its own personality, becoming more and more independent. Until finally it takes on a life of its own. That is the picture James is painting for sin. It often starts so small and tiny that nobody notices it, but what it births in our life is bondage which left unchecked always delivers death. That is Satan’s evil intention. He intends for you to fail. Small at first. But even a small foothold is still a foothold. And once you give him a foothold, he will use it to devour you. Is there any area in your life where you are giving Satan a foothold? It’s here that James now reminds us of the”

A. Solution to defeating Satan and saying no to sin– Vs 16

Don’t be misled: First James calls us to

  • Recognize who is behind the temptation:

2 Corinthians 2:11 says “so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes.” 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” Satan is a counterfeiter, who hides behind camouflage. Satan is the originator of stealth and if we are going to follow Christ and not fall for a counterfeit, we need to recognize him for who he is. The way that the FBI is able to spot counterfeit cash is that they have taken the time to study the real thing. They are so familiar with the real thing that when they are confronted with a counterfeit it stands out as a fraud. Many of us are fooled by the fake because we are not studying Christ. Why is it critical for me to check each piece of currency? Because once I accept a bill, that piece of money becomes my responsibility. Should I attempt to later deposit that bill in a bank and the teller sees that it is counterfeit, the bill will be confiscated, and I will not be reimbursed. What I accept becomes my responsibility. There is a clear parallel here to spiritual discernment. Just as I am responsible for the money I accept and later attempt to spend, in the same way I am responsible for the teachings I accept, put into practice and later attempt to share with others. Thus, it is my responsibility before God to inspect every teaching that comes my way. We should test each teaching that is presented to us and refusing to accept any that goes against God’s Word. Not only should we recognize but second, we should:

  • Reject temptation

Recognize the temptation and flee from it 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” God provides a way out, but we have to take it. I think of Old Testament Joseph who when confronted with. sexual temptation fled. Our problem is that instead of escaping we tend to entertain temptation. In James 4:7 we are told to: “humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The Solution to not falling for Satan’s schemes is to Submit yourself to God. No one has ever resolved their sin problem by working on it, it’s not by trying but by trusting. Righteousness is imparted not by works but by faith. If we are not careful, we will get caught up trying to do things for Christ instead of doing things in Christ. Learn to focus on the promise not the problems, keep your eyes on the crown of life not on the crud in life? Today chose to pursue God’s prize instead of Satan’s prison.