Summary: 1. Troubles cause us to trust. 2. Temptations help us to obey. 3. Offenses teach us to forgive.
(Note: The outline of this sermon, and some of the content have been adapted from Rick Warren’s material on 40 Days of Purpose.)
I remember when the makeover shows started. They would give a person a new hairdo, new makeup and a new dress. That was it. But, of course, the American way is bigger and better. Now, you get an extreme makeover: a new nose, a new figure, new teeth. . . and a new dress. But even that was not enough. Now you get a new bedroom, kitchen and yard — a whole new house. Even your car gets a makeover. Interesting, isn’t it, that we want our bodies and our stuff to get a makeover, but not our hearts? You can have a made over body, but if you have the same heart what good is it? Why are we so concerned with our outer appearance and so little concerned with our inner condition? The Bible says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). If God is truly looking at my heart, then I want my heart to have a makeover. I want him to make my heart beautiful and good. I want to have a heart like his. This is my purpose. I am not here to be forgiven and wait for heaven. I am here to be conformed to the likeness of my Savior. As our scripture stated, we have been “predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Romans 8:29). The Living Bible paraphrases it this way: “From the very beginning God decided that those who came to him — and he knew who would — should become like his Son.” This is the glorious privilege of every believer. And those who are not seeking this spiritual makeover are missing the greatest purpose for which God has created us. In the end, we will not be judged for what we have done as much as for what we have become. You can do a great deal for God, but if you have not become more like God then it is all for nothing.
This morning we are talking about becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is more than just becoming a Christian, it is progressing in the Christian life so that you are actually being transformed into the image of your Savior. But this is the purpose of all life, that is, being changed in the likeness of God’s character. Nothing else is more important than this, and without this, nothing is important. But how do we become a serious disciple of Jesus Christ?
There are the obvious tools that can be used, like a consistent devotional life and practicing the spiritual disciplines, but let me suggest three other ways that may surprise you — three unexpected tools that God may use to grow us.
The first is: God uses troubles to teach us to trust him. I’m not sure abut you, but I have never enjoyed having troubles. They are unpleasant, bothersome and seem to be such a waste of time. I could be doing something useful while I am having to take the time to deal with the troubles in my life. But when I look back on my life, I see that the troubles I have faced have been the furnace that God has used to refine and purify me. God does not cause these problems, nor does he deliberately bring them into our lives, but he will definitely use them. This gives me great confidence and joy, because when I am faced with a problem I can say, “Lord this really is painful, but I know that you are going to use this bad thing for good. You are going to teach me lessons, and make me a better and stronger person as a result of this situation, and I thank you for it.” There is nothing so bad that God cannot use it to bring some good in my life. That does not mean the situation is good, but his plans for that situation are good.
C. S. Lewis used to say that pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Pain gets our attention. It wakes us up and gets us to do what we were unwilling to do before. It makes us listen to things we didn’t want to hear before. It makes us depend on God because we realize how little we are in control. The Bible says, “. . .troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:3-4, NCV). What is the hope we have? It is found in these words of Scripture: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28, NLT). The troubles you experience will drive you to place your trust in God, because you know that you can’t handle them on your own. Out of your helplessness, you will seek his strength. Out of your inability to figure things out, you will seek his wisdom. Out of the horror of what your sin or the sin of others has caused, you will seek his forgiveness, help and healing. You will be driven to God and to a faith that he can work these things for good and for his purpose. You have to learn to trust God when things look terrible and everything is falling apart — especially then. What good is your faith if you can only trust God when everything is going your way?