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Having joy in the midst of trials.


Joy in the Midst of Trials

Welcome to another online edition of Hannon Free Will Baptist Church. Wherever you may be, we are glad you’re joining us.
Text: James 1:2-4, James 1:12
I remember leading up to 2020 we had such grand plans.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson
We had a plan, and we were pretty excited. 2020 Vision we called it. Well, perhaps we got punched in the mouth and our vision got a little blurry, but God works in mysterious. Terry and I have talked several times about the good things God brought about this year at Hannon in spite of and sometimes because of the pandemic. It forced us to increase our Web and social media presence faster than we would have. It made us go ahead and setup livestreaming faster than we would have. We are reaching more people with the truth of God’s Word and the Gospel that ever before. We are in a better position to minister to shut-ins than we were the previous year. We are setup to do some additional things now in the coming years that has the potential to reach even more people for Christ. Did it go as expected? No. Did God do great things in the midst of a very trying year? Absolutely! How about you? How did your 2020 plans go? Did things go as expected?
Let us be honest, 2020 had some issues.
A global pandemic
Economic downturn and layoffs
Lockdowns and stay at home orders
Rise in domestic violence, depression, drug overdoses and suicide
Lower grades in many public schools
Racial and civil unrest
Riots and looting across our nation
A turbulent election
·Maybe beyond that there was personal problems in your own life, your own family, that compounded the overall negative feelings.
Many are so ready to kick 2020 to the curb and usher in a fresh start as if the whole world hits the reset button. Contrary to what some believe life is not a computer simulation that can be rebooted by the press of a button. We live in reality. The cold hard truth is that problems we had in 2020 did not stay in 2020. Need evidence of that? The fact that we are having online only services for a couple of weeks because of a local COVID-19 outbreak is “exhibit A”. Also, there is still uncertainty about the election and the economy.
So here is the real question. How do we acknowledge the reality that trials and testing remain and yet still have comfort, joy, peace and hope? Because God knows that is what we need right now. The takeaway today is how we can have true joy in the midst of trials.
New Year's resolutions - By and large, New Year’s resolutions are about self-improvement. Making a better you is a good goal. However, most resolutions fail fast because, guess what? It takes effort. It’s hard work and commitment. What if I told you there is another path to a better you. The good news is God is in the “making a better you” business. In fact the subtitle of this sermon could be “How God makes better humans”. The bad news is you might not initially like His method.
MAIN TEXT: James 1:2-4, 12
James 1:2 NASB95
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
I. Joy During Trials – James 1:2
a. Consider (regard it as) pure joy, genuine, not fake
b. My brethren – written to Christians
c. When you encounter – not if but when, unavoidable trials will happen
d. Various trials - Many different kinds of trials and hardships (persecution, tragedy, temptation) As a Christian we often have to get out of our comfort zones.
Let’s be clear, we don’t chase after trouble and hardship to gain more joy. In addition we don’t rejoice in trials, tribulations and testing because we enjoy pain or we deny tragedy. We are not saying, God I’m so thankful for COVID-19 and all the collateral damage it has brought to this nation over the last year. That would be disingenuous, not to mention a little silly. But as we are about to see God works through testing and trials to do some pretty amazing things in our lives.
James 1:3–4 NASB95
knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
II. Positive Results of Testing – James 1:3, 4
a. What is being tested? Your faith.
b. Produces endurance
c. Perfect - mature, experienced (not sinless perfection)
d. Complete - fully trained
e. Lacking in nothing - contentment, security
Romans 5:3–5 NASB95
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Think about how strength training works. Does lifting weights build muscles? Technically, no. It causes muscle tension, muscle damage and metabolic stress. That’s a very important part of the strength training process though. It allows for rest and nutrition to rebuild those muscles bigger and stronger. Our faith is similar. Under the stress of trials and when we are being tested spiritually it breaks us down, humbles us, makes us rely on God more so that he can prove and strengthen our faith and build our character. It’s why Paul said, “for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”.
James 1:12 NASB95
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
III. Reward of Perseverance During Trials – James 1:12
a. Blessed - Happy, joy-filled
b. Who? Those who love the Lord and are faithful to the end.
c. Why? Faithful believers receive the crown of life - the promised reward of eternal life with Christ
Many people have New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, gain muscle, get healthy, or gain wealth. Most people fail because they don’t persevere. They want to see results now. They want instant gratification. It is only those that keep their eye on the end goal and are patient that succeed. Paul said I have fought the good fight and ran the good race. He looked at the Christian life as a race with a finish line. He was able withstand a lot of persecution, trials and tribulation because he kept his eyes on that finish line, on eternity, on Jesus Christ…
In his parable of the sower Jesus spoke of the stony ground hearers with shallow roots. They receive God’s Word with gladness but when testing comes they fall away. Spiritually, those that learn to rejoice in trials will grow in their faith and be able to persevere to the end and receive the crown of life.
As gold and silver is refined and purified in the fire our faith is proven and purified through trials.
1 Peter 1:6–7 NASB95
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
There are so many people in the Bible we could look to as examples. Abram was tested when he was told to offer his only son Isaac as a sacrifice and his faith was appointed to him as righteousness. Job was probably the greatest examples of one that went through trials and tribulation but never sinned by accusing God of wrongdoing. Joseph has to be one of my favorites. He was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, falsely accused of rape, forgotten by the cupbearer who he helped in prison, but rather than becoming bitter toward God his faith was strengthened. In the end he was greatly rewarded and saw that God had been working in his life and preparing him for something greater than himself. When his brothers feared that Joseph would take revenge listen to what he told them…
Genesis 50:19–21 NASB95
But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. “So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Maybe God is preparing you for a task or ministry this year. Are you willing to surrender to him and say Lord I’m going to rejoice in trials because I trust you are doing something great in my life. I know you’re going to strengthen my faith, build my character, and use me for your glory. I hope and pray that is our heart as we begin this new year.
God doesn’t tempt us but he does test us. He allows us to face trials for our own good. Thankfully, God never tests us beyond what we can handle by His power. He tests our faith. Unlike some tests we want this one to come out positive. No matter what 2021 brings we can be positive, we can rejoice knowing that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Romans 8:28 NASB95
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
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