Summary: God uses our trials to transform us
Gordon MacDonald, who is a well-known Christian speaker and writer tells this story from his days running track:
When I first ran track in prep school, my coach invited me to his home for dinner one night. After the meal, he pulled out a notebook with my name on the front cover. He turned to the back page, which bore the heading "June 1957"—three and a half years away.
"Gordon," he said. "These are the races I’m going to schedule you to run almost four years from now. Here are the times you will achieve."
McDonald says, “I looked at those times & thought: ‘Impossible!’ They were light years away from where I was at that moment as a runner.”
But then his Coach began turning back the pages of that book, page by page, showing the 42 months he had scheduled for workouts. These were the graduated, accelerated plans for my increasing skill on the track as the months and years would go by. He had a sense of direction and development when it came to my athletic growth. (Gordon McDonald, Promise Keepers "Go the Distance" conference, 8-11-00, from PreachingToday.com)
Did you know that God has a goal for you?
Maybe you’ve heard the phrase taken from a popular evangelistic tract, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
But have you ever thought about what that plan may be?
I know whenever I thought and prayed about what that plan was, I was always trying to figure out what God wanted for me in terms of my vocation, or where I lived or my relationships
And when we pray for God to reveal His plan to us, that’s probably what most of us pray for:
“Lord, what college should I go to?”
“What should be my major?”
“Lord, should I marry this person?”
“Lord, did you REALLY want me to marry that person???”
Should I buy this house?
“Should I take this job?”
I spent years struggling with what I was supposed to do with my life.
I wanted so much to know what that “wonderful plan” was for my life.
I stumbled around in some jobs I really didn’t like a whole lot.
I prayed a lot – begging God to guide me.
It was during one of those times that someone I greatly respected, a man who was the leader of a ministry I volunteered for said something that just threw me off my feet.
We had been talking about God’s plan for us and guidance and that kind of thing.
And George summed up his knowledge on the subject by saying, in his Scottish brogue, “I don’t think God gives a rip what we do.”
It was as if someone punched me in the stomach.
“What do you mean, ‘God doesn’t give a rip what we do?’
“Here I am agonizing over what to do with my life and you’re telling me God doesn’t give a rip?”
Well, of course God DOES “give a rip” what we do with our lives – even George admitted that!
But his POINT was this:
God is less concerned with what we DO than with what we BECOME
God has a goal for us that is bigger than just “being saved.”
Like Gordon McDonald’s track coach, God has a plan for us
And that plan has less to do with what school we go to or what job we take or even who we marry.
God has a goal for us to be transformed from broken, sinful, hurting people, to healed, mature, whole people.
And God has a plan for how to get us there.
In some ways, it’s not that much different from the plan Gordon MacDonald’s track coach had for him.
In these verses we see the goal that God has for us, that we would be “mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”
But unlike MacDonald, maybe the goal seems more realistic than the path to get there:
“Consider it pure joy … when you encounter various trials…”
Doesn’t that sound absolutely crazy? How can we consider trials and problems “pure joy”?
Does God expect us to be the kind of people who say, “I just got hit by a bus! Praise the Lord!!
The word for “Consider” means “to make a decision after weighing the facts”
We need to use our heads to give us perspective instead of just allowing our emotions to rule how we think about things
For many of us, if something is comfortable and convenient for us, it’s good
If we’re having a picnic and it rains, it’s awful
But if our garden is dying for lack of water and it rains, it’s good
To “Consider it pure joy when we encounter various trials” means that we take a step back and look at our experiences – even our negative ones – and say, “God has used this to grow me up, to make me more like Jesus.