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.

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4 Truth in the Trials – Part 1

1 Peter 1:6-12

6 So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 8 You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. 9 The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. 10 This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward. 12 They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.

Peter begins this section with these words: “So be truly glad” “So” here refers to what Peter has already communicated in the first five verses, where he reminds us that as believers we are scattered strangers strategically positioned in a strange land to sow the seed of the gospel. Second, he tells us that we have a God who guards what He gives, which means we can praise Him for His provision, His promise, and His protection. Now the word glad here means to rejoice, and we can rejoice even in the midst of persecution because we are a people with purpose, we get to sow the seed of the gospel. We don’t just have a message we have a mission, we are not just milling around wasting our lives, we have the joy of sharing Jesus. You are not a waste of skin, you are significant because you are a servant of the Savior. Why do we rejoice because we have been called and commissioned by Christ the King. Now as we are growing up and as we go thru school people repeatedly ask us: “what are you going to do when you grow up?” “What are your plans for the future?” and we intuitively know that they are talking about jobs, work, and careers. Our world points and positions us to find our purpose in our jobs. Is it any wonder that many of us make the focus of our lives our jobs instead of Jesus, that we make it more about our career than we do Christ. Is it any wonder that while we become proficient at work we are pathetic in our witness? Yes, we have jobs to do but the goal is not our work it is our witness. Are you making the purpose of your life a paycheck or proclaiming Jesus, because there is more to life than money. Real meaning is found in magnifying the Messiah not in making money, it’s not about what you have but who we have. When we make it solely about the money we lose focus on the mission. Is it any wonder that many of us are miserable because we have missed the mission. Peter reminds us that our joy is found in Jesus, not in our jobs, yet many sons and daughters of the King are trying to find their worth in their work instead of in the One they are called to worship. Now Peter reminds us that not only can we rejoice in the rubbish of life but we can “greatly rejoice.” This is what I call jumping joy, ecstatic joy. Joy is different than happiness; happiness is related to what’s happening while joy is rooted in Jesus and what He has done for us. That’s why Jesus could say in Matthew 5:12 that even when we’re persecuted, reviled and hated we can: “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.” Our joy is tied to our trust in Jesus, not our trials. Unfortunately, many believers are trying to tie their joy to their journey instead of to Jesus, they are making it about their circumstances instead of making it about Christ. It’s here that as Peter teaches us about trials he reminds us of several truths, first:

  1. Trials are temporary.

Verse 6 says: “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while” While we rejoice about what is ahead, our hope in heaven we come to the words, “even though.” It’s in the midst of the glory that we face the groaning. Right now things may not be going so well for you, and you may feel mired down in the mud and the misery of your trials. You may feel like they will never end but Peter wants to bring us back to the truth that while we may be trudging through the trial it is temporary. One of the pitfalls of pain is that we can turn our focus from the truth to our feelings. As I have said many times before problems have a way of poisoning our perspective. And when we turn from the truth we start to build and base our foundation more on our feelings than our Father. Having a proper perspective on our problems means letting truth trump your trial. The words “little while” mean “for a season” right now you may be in a season of suffering and if you are going through a trial right now I want you to turn and tell your trial, the trial you are temporary. The reason Peter called our trials temporary is because in light of eternity our suffering is short. Our problem is that we tend to view our trials from an earthly perspective instead of an eternal perspective. Thomas Watson said, “Afflictions may be lasting but they are not everlasting.” Paul, who was persecuted greatly and went through all sorts of suffering, wrote this in 2 Corinthians 4:17: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Peter hits this again in the last chapter of his letter: “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you” 1 Peter 5:10. So let me ask you are you standing on the truth that your trials are temporary or believing the lie that they will last forever?