Summary: God wants to grow us through the garbage in our lives.
Why Trials Come
Rev. Brian Bill
I began the message last week with a question from a PBC member. I begin today with a series of questions from someone else. She has been wracked with worry and pummeled with pain: “Why does it seem some people just can’t get a…break? It isn’t right and it isn’t fair to those of us who are trying to start over…Why do things always have to happen to my family? I mean I know it’s just not mine but…I thought I had stopped it when I let go of some of my pain. Did I do something to deserve this? I just want to give up…I want to fight…I want to run…I hate this.”
Most of us have been there – at times we feel like throwing in the towel and then we want to fight and then we want to run away, but most of all, we just hate going through hard times. We’re continuing in our series today called, “When Life is Hard” as we look at the common question, “Why Do Trials Come?”
You may be like some hunters I read about that were trying to cash in on a bounty of $5,000 for capturing wolves alive. This turned Sam and Jed into fortune hunters. Day and night they scoured the mountains and forests looking for their valuable prey. Exhausted one night, they fell asleep dreaming of their potential fortune. Suddenly, Sam awoke to see that they were surrounded by about fifty wolves with flaming eyes and bared teeth. He nudged his friend and said, “Jed, wake up! We’re rich!” Some of you are facing a pack of problems and some wolves of worry right now.
Note: As I mentioned last week, I am indebted to a book by James MacDonald called, “When Life is Hard” (Moody Press, 2010). Portions of this sermon come from this book and are used with permission.
The “why” question hits the hardest and it hurts the most; and it’s the question that lingers the longest. Before we look at this each of us need to face another question: Am I willing not only to hear God’s answers, but to embrace them? In order to get us ready, let’s take some time right now to pray. Tell God that nothing is off limits; that anything He wants to show you from Scripture is fine with you, no matter how difficult it is to hear. If you’re not willing, tell Him that, too. You might want to say, “God, it’s too hard and I’m not sure I want to hear what you have to say. But Lord, I can’t go on like I have been, so I’m willing for you to make me willing. If you choose to not change my circumstances, please change me.”
Please turn to James 1:2-8. This book, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was humanly written by James, the brother of Jesus. It was addressed to people who had experienced pain and persecution and had been scattered to different places. This book, similar to the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, deals with the practical aspects of the walk of faith. If we have faith that works, it will be seen in how we face trials (chapter one), how we treat people (chapter two), how we talk (chapter three), how we deal with sin in our lives (chapter four) and how we pray (chapter five). It’s interesting that the very first topic that James tackles is how to treat our trials.
Add Up Your Adversity
I think we could nominate James 1:2 as one of the most outrageous statements in the entire Bible: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” In just 108 verses, James has 54 different commands – and this is the first one. Because this verse is so powerful, let’s look carefully at the various phrases.
“Consider it…” Before most everyone is here on Sundays, I do a microphone check. Some who arrive early like to tease me that I can only count to three because I usually say “Check. Check. 1-2-3. Check.” Just to show that I can go higher sometimes I go all the way up to five! This word “consider” carries with it the idea of counting. It’s literally the idea of “pressing your mind down on something.” The picture is that of one leading his or her mind through a reasoning process to arrive at a conclusion. And the tense conveys urgency. We’re to weigh our worries, calculate our trials and put them in perspective. The challenging part of this is that some of us have a hard time even getting to “three” because the junk in our lives has jettisoned our joy.
I like what Warren Wiersbe writes: “Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to ‘count it all joy!’ If we live only for the present and forget about the future, the trials will make us bitter, not better.”