Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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4. The Treasure of Testing – Part 2

James 1:2-8

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

The first joyful purpose of testing is that it produces the treasure of perseverance. The second joyful purpose is that it promotes :

  1. PERFECTION – verse 4

Testing promotes perfection but not in the sense of sinless perfection. He’s talking about perfection in the sense of completeness and fullness that comes from following and growing closer to the Lord everyday. But how do we do that, through testing and trials. When talking about the 100% purity of God’s Word, the psalmist wrote in 12:6 that they were as pure as “silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” The picture of metal being purified by fire is a common picture in the Bible. In order for precious metal to be purified it has to be heated to extreme temperatures. Temperatures so hot that all the impurities are burned off and the only thing that remains is the pure precious metal. The prophet Zechariah paints that picture of refinement for Israel in Zechariah 13:8-9. God’s people had been disobedient, so God put them through a test not to punish but to purify. The result of these fiery trials is refinement. To make them purer than silver or gold, to make them holy examples of who He is. That’s why God tests His people, not because he is hateful but because He is holy, and He wants us to be holy like Him. How much heat do we need to be holy? Unfortunately, rarely does Godly growth come in the good times but in the groaning times. Think back over your life, if you were to graph out your Christian walk on a chart, you would discover that most of the biggest times of growth have come in the challenges not in the comfort. It’s not when our seas were the calmest, but when storms were at their strongest that we draw closer to God. The tests tend to bring us closer to completeness in Him. Completeness, fullness, perfection, perfection is a joyous thing. Not only do tests promote perseverance and perfection but the third joyful purpose is that it wants:

  1. WISDOM – verse 5

Testing wants wisdom, amazingly one of the first things we say when we are in the middle of a test is, “I don’t know what to do.” Do you remember who the Bible calls the wisest man that ever lived? Solomon, King David’s son. Before David died, he was told that Solomon would succeed him as King of Israel. What a huge responsibility, can you imagine what was going through Solomon’s mind when David died and he was handed the crown? How in the world would he be able to effectively lead God’s chosen people? That’s quite the test but is it any bigger than the tests we find ourselves facing? God, I just got the results of my biopsy back, I don’t know what to do. God I just lost my job, I don’t know what to do. God I just experienced a painful breakup, I don’t know what to do. God, I just… you fill in the blank. Here is the truth most of the time when God places a test before us, we don’t have a clue what to do and we find ourselves in the same position as Solomon. A king without a clue. But in 1 Kings 3:7-9, Solomon prayed to the Lord to give him wisdom. Solomon was overwhelmed with the test that lay before him, he felt like a helpless child. So, what did he do he asked for wisdom so that he could pass the test. Tests can cause you to feel like Solomon did, overwhelmed, confused and helpless. But like Solomon we can seek the Lord and ask Him for wisdom. Today some of you are facing tremendous tests you are confused and overwhelmed and what you want is wisdom. James encourages us to ask our generous God and He will give us wisdom. Sometimes it’s only in the testing that I realize my need for God and His wonderful wisdom. Because as long as everything is going great what I know is enough. The fourth joyful purpose is not only does it want wisdom but it finds:

  1. FAITH – Verse 1:6

Testing finds faith. When you think back to Solomon when he asked God for wisdom, where else could he turn? He couldn’t turn to his dad, David was dead. He couldn’t turn to his family, they were a wreck. There were no “how to be a king” classes at the local college. The test God placed in front of him pointed him in the only direction God. But Solomon could have been stiff necked and refused to humble himself and ask God for wisdom. He could have been determined to go it alone and be the man. But he chose to turn of the pride and look to God in faith. That’s what testing will do for you, it will cause you to follow by faith. In Mark 9, the Bible tells of a man with a demon possessed son. The disciples had tried to heal the boy but failed. Here was a father facing a heart wrenching trial, a son that threw himself into the fire, and when he wasn’t burning himself, he was trying to drown himself. But Jesus told him that his son would be healed if he truly believed. Mark 9:24 records that “straightway the father cried out, I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” This trial caused the father to find faith. He asked Jesus for it and Jesus gave it and the boy was healed. Do all our tests end up with a happy ending? No, sometimes God chooses not to heal the sick. Sometimes He chooses not to remove the thorn from your flesh. But we can rest assured that if we respond rightly not just in our attitudes but also our actions that test will produce perseverance, promote perfection, will cause us to want wisdom and find faith. We will all face tests the question is are we going to pass or fail them? Without Jesus we will fail every time. The greatest test of all only has one question, but it has an eternal grading scale. It is asked by God the Father the maker of heaven and earth “What did you do with My Son Jesus?” Have you trusted Him as your Lord and Savior? Are you living in submission to His supremacy? Only Jesus can give you the patience and perseverance to pass the tests of life. Only He can give you the completeness and perfection you need to pass the tests of life. Only He can give you the wisdom and faith you need to pass the tests of life.

 


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3. The Treasure of Testing – Part 1

James 1:2-8

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Last time we looked at the identity test, where we were placing our identity, in our work or His. In Jesus or our jobs. We saw the audience he was writing to, those scattered abroad as a result of suffering, and we were reminded that the picture was one of pain and persecution not comfort and pleasure. Today as we look at verses 2-8 James is going to remind us of why we are tested, revealing not only the purpose but also the treasure in tests. James begins by teaching us a truth about tests that at first seems strange, “when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”James starts by reminding us that we need to have the right attitude toward tests, he starts with our attitude, because your attitude will determine your actions and if your attitude toward testing stinks so will your actions. It’s back to school time, teachers are excited, kids were wishing we would extend Summer break, and almost all of the Parents are ecstatic. And I’m sure that the reason you can feel all the excitement in the air is because in a few short weeks the testing will begin!! In school, test time is the moment of truth when students prove what they’ve learned. It’s where the rubber meets the road, that time where you “put up or shut up.” The problem is that when it comes to tests most of us have very negative view and that’s because we fail to see the value of tests. When we start to see the value in testing not only will our view of tests change but our attitude towards them and ultimately our actions in them will change. We will start to view tests as a good thing, as a way to prove that we are not only learning but growing. When we start seeing tests as a way for us to learn and grow it will cause us to want to prepare well for them. And preparing well will help us not just to survive them but to pass them successfully. God is not calling us to have joy in the junk, He is not being sadistic, he is being realistic, by reminding us that we are going to have trials and trouble. Notice that James doesn’t say “if” troubles comes but “when”. The goal is not to live a problem free life, but to live life so that you are not only prepared for the problems, but you pass. Many of us fail before we even face the tests because we have a bad attitude toward them. Look the joy is not in the pain but in the purpose. Because it’s here that we discover the treasure in the testing. The first treasure of tests that should cause us to have a joyful attitude toward testing is that testing produces

  1. PERSEVERANCE 

We all know the real reason for tests in school, it’s because the teachers are mean, right? Well, that is what some of us believe and it’s a belief that is carried over into our relationship with God. When things get hard, we tend to blame God, instead of worshipping and rejoicing we whine and complain. But God doesn’t let hard things come into our life because He is mean uncaring and calloused, but because He cares, and He wants to grow us. When God saves us, He’s was not finished with us. In fact, in many ways He is just getting started with us. Paul says in Philippians 1:6? “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”Today we want to claim the product of this verse but not the painful process. We want the growth but not the groaning it takes to grow. We want the victory but not the vehicle God uses to get us to grow us. We have become a culture that wants the win but not the work. In many ways, salvation is just the starting point. That’s why Jesus compared salvation to being born again. Has anyone ever been born all grown-up? No, although I have met a few kids who thought they were all grown up. Physical babies grow up fast, one moment they are babies and the next they are off to college. Parents partnering with God to raise His kids is a privilege not a pain, enjoy every moment because as a dad who has raised his kids I can tell you it goes fast. And I think that’s how it should be spiritually, we should experience the same kind of growth. That’s why we need tests, the purpose of testing is to “work” things in us—to make us grow. Without tests we will remain spiritual babies forever. And there is nothing fun about 30 year old babies, or 40 year old toddlers stuck in their terrible twos. Unfortunately, because we have a poor attitude toward testing and we spend most of our lives trying to avoid the tests, because we have made the goal a good life instead of a Godly life, the church in America has become filled with babies and brats. Believers who spend the majority of their time crying and whining and messing their diapers. Instead of praising they spend their time pooping. It’s why I believe so many pastors are struggling and quitting the ministry today. They are stumbling around, bleary eyed, like sleep deprived parents because they are running a day care instead of a church. Pastors are not called to babysit believers who don’t wat to grow up. That’s why we need tests to grow, but what does this growth look like? It looks like perseverance, endurance. When I think of endurance, I think of the long-distance runner. Now let me ask you what would happen if we all decided to go run a marathon later today? By the way, a marathon is a little over 26 miles. I wonder what would happen? I know this I wouldn’t make it and most of you wouldn’t either. Why because we don’t have the endurance it takes. Now, think about what it takes for long-distance runners to build up that kind of endurance. They have to really train hard. Train is actually another word for purposely afflicting pain on yourself. Testing, training builds our endurance, it increases our spiritual fitness so that we don’t flake out and quit. We need endurance so we can endure and not give up. Today we need perseverance more than ever and we need it for at least two reasons. One because we have become a society of snowflakes, big babies that bruise easily. The second reason we need perseverance today is because persecution and painful times are coming. Being a Christian in this culture is going to become more and more of a challenge. If you plan on being a Godly man you better put on your big boy pants because right now its unpopular but soon you will be persecuted. Christians today are falling like flies, why because they have bought into the prosperity gospel, where everything works out well for God’s kids. The problem with this is that God’s Holy Word doesn’t proclaim a Gospel of prosperity in the here and now but rather one of pain and problems.  2 Timothy 3:12 tells us: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”Why are we shocked when we encounter hardship and go through difficulties, because we have built our faith on a farce, and that farce is this, that being a child of God means everything will be good. Wake up we are in a war, there are going to be wounds, but it will be worth it because we win. Look you wouldn’t suit up for a football game and then get upset because someone tackled you, what did you think would happen. I’ve got news for you, you are going to bet hurt in church sorry, but God’s people aren’t perfect, saints still sin and sometimes their sin stings. Look the God that I am following was flogged, the Savior I serve was stripped and humiliated, the Lord I love was laughed at, the Christ I serve was crucified. And yet we think that following Christ is going to be a cake walk of comfort and convenience. We live in a sin soaked society and we are going to get wet, but that water doesn’t have to drown you. We will prosper but that prosperity will be mainly in the next life, so stop living for the earthly and start living for the eternal. Start living for God not a feel good. You will never toughen up without the trials, embrace the difficult times because they will produce perseverance. But perseverance isn’t just about being tough it also requires that we are tender. The way you harden steel is with heat, but in order for steel to be tough it needs to be tempered. Because a sword that has been hardened by the heat but not tempered will be brittle and break. Tempering brings greater toughness by decreasing the hardness of the steel. Today many of us have let trials harden us but not temper us, as a result we are brittle and break easily, quit. Instead of letting trials make us better we have become bitter. Instead of perseverance there is a poison pulsing through our veins, the blood of bitterness. It doesn’t just poison us but all of our relationships. But if you respond rightly to trials, they with cultivate you instead of callousing you. Enabling you to become tough minded but tender hearted. Hard but not bitter and broken. So, what about you, how are you responding to the tests and trials?