Friday, January 22, 2010

How to respond to the trials in your life

The last several weeks have been pretty intense in the life of our church family.

We’ve had some pretty dramatic things happen to some of our people. Major surgery, major war injury, and a miscarriage. See our prayer blog for the stories. Add to that the post holiday blues and the earthquake in Haiti and it’s no wonder people are stressed or depressed. In reality, we could all name at least one trial we’re going through personally, most likely.

My hope is that you’ll leave this post better equipped to deal with those trials.

We’ll celebrate the Lord’s Supper this Sunday in our service. Talk about trials! And it’s in that context that I’d like to address how to respond to our trials. In other words, I want to encourage you to consider how Jesus responded to his trials (more dramatic than anything we’ll ever experience) and heed his advice through his half-brother James.

James writes, “Consider it pure joy, brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1:2)

The author of Hebrews wrote, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb 12:2-3)

As crazy as it sounds, God wants us to rejoice in the midst of our own trials.

It doesn’t make sense on the surface. But give it a chance. Let his words sink in.

“Because the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-3)

In other words, the payoff is two-fold: 1) You’ll become more mature (more like Jesus), and 2) You’ll become more complete (more like the person God created you to be in the first place).

James 1:12 gives a third reason: you’ll be rewarded.

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial. Because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Those are some pretty amazing reasons to persevere joyfully when you find yourself going through trials: Big and little trials.

Oh, and I’ll respond the big trials the way that I respond to the little trials. Maybe the little trials are God’s way of preparing us for the big ones. So perhaps we should practice rejoicing in our little trials now. Today.

Let’s look at Luke 22 a little bit and see some of the things that Jesus did that were made possible because he considered it pure joy to go to the cross for you and I.

One key thing to remember here: It’s the Thursday night before the cross and Jesus knows that he’s being betrayed that night and that he’ll be tortured and crucified the next day. In light of that, here’s what he did. (Key words in Luke 22:1-23)

“hour”            Jesus rested in God’s sovereign will. (14, 19 & 22) God has the cross in mind from the beginning. Nothing could change that. Jesus trusted his daddy and therefore rested even in anticipation of all that would come.

“Passover”      Jesus remembered God’s faithfulness. (7-8, 15) The Passover was where God promised to “pass over” the firstborn of those who painted the doorframe of their house with the blood of the lamb. He was faithful and did exactly what he said he would do for those who trusted and obeyed. It was a picture of what Jesus would do and be on the cross. (Read all about it in Exodus)

“with you”       Jesus remained connected with God’s people. (15) Our tendency is to isolate ourselves. He resisted the temptation to isolate himself and instead desired to be with those closest to him.

“suffer”            Jesus received God’s assignment to suffer joyfully. (15; Heb 12:2-3) Jesus modeled for us how to “consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.” This is the key!

“kingdom”        Jesus reminded them of the Kingdom of God. (16) "Thy kingdom come..." "Seek first His kingdom..." This is the mission. "The Kingdom of God is near" is the Gospel!

“gave thanks”   Jesus repeatedly thanked God. (17 & 19; Phil 4:6-7) Paul reminds us that instead of worrying we take our concerns to Jesus with thanksgiving.

“gave”               Jesus gave sacrificially to God and man. (19-20) "But God demonstrates his love in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died (torturous death on a cross) for us." (Romans 5:8)

So why does God want you to rejoice in your trials? 3 reasons: (James 1:2-4, 12)

1.     So you’ll mature in Christ.
2.     So you’ll become complete in Christ.
3.     So you’ll receive the crown of life.

Imagine how we, God's people, would grow to love one another more if we handled our trials like Jesus did. Even on the cross at the peak of his pain he’s forgiving his enemies and saving fellow cross-hangers. Imagine if each of us rested in God’s sovereignty, remembered God’s faithfulness, remained connected to God’s people, received God’s assignment to suffer with joy, gave thanks to God repeatedly, and never stopped giving of ourselves. What a loving church family we’d be!