Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sorry this is late! When We Enter Trials of Life, from Acts 25.

Life is so short. Things happen. Good things happen to good and bad people. Sometimes, it is hard to see the WHY of life. What does Jesus teach about this?

As Jesus taught-Lk 12:11-12

Now, look at:
2 Thessalonians 1:3-5 (NIV)
3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
5 All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.

Maybe that is why the poor have an easier time in troubled times than the rich. Makes ya think, doesn’t it?

James 1:1-5 (NIV)
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, 
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Even when we are scattered around, whether in our minds or physically, we would do good to ask the Lord to move our hearts to consider it all pure joy. Our attitudes need to change, doesn’t it? Can we tell the Maker how He is to make our life? Is the clay’s ‘job’ in the world to even suggest that the potter do something else with the clay? He made us. Psalm 100: 3 Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His ; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.

Look at the ownership of that verse! (is He who made us, and we are His ; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture) And His love for us is so deep!

2 Peter 2:8-10 (NIV)
8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.

How fair is God?
Matthew 5:45b He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

The Problem: The way things are.
The Result: The reality of how we respond.
The Solution: The way God looks at things.

•••The Result: The reality of how we respond. We are all going thru hard times. The ceiling falls in on the good and the bad.

As it says in Ecclesiastes 9
1 So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God's hands, but no man knows whether love or hate awaits him. 2 All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.
As it is with the good man,
so with the sinner;
as it is with those who take oaths,
so with those who are afraid to take them.
3 This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.

So, what do we expect out of life? If we do what we ought, should not there be good times for us? No empty cup of blessings! Good and not pain? Why would we think that?

Because we may have the error of thinking that we deserve the Best because we are following the Lord. Look at reality of the Word at the lives of those who follow the Lord and what do we see? John, the Beloved of Christ, boiled in oil.

David, a Friend of God, suffering being hunted by his King and father-in-law.

A man tried to support the ark from falling was struck dead!

God’s Chosen People constantly attacked Moses, whom God had called.

Paul, called of God—by name, was beaten, ship wrecked, and on the move all the way through his career as a Follower of Christ.

Or in this present time, five missionaries were killed by headhunters in the jungle of Peru in 1956.

From 1824 to 1826, during the war of England with Burma, Adoniram Judson suffered almost incredible hardships as he was imprisoned for seventeen months in the jails of Burma, being bound during nine months of this period, with three, and during two months with no less than five, pairs of fetters. His sufferings from fever, excruciating heat, hunger, repeated disappointments, and the cruelty of his keepers, form one of the most thrilling narratives in the annals of modern missionary trial. Yet he counted it all joy!

When it all comes down to it, pain and disappointment is shared by those who love God and those who do not. So why bother?

•••The Solution: The way God looks at things.
Psalm 73
1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, "How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?"
12 This is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth.
13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.
15 If I had said, "I will speak thus," I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!
20 As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

Can you hear his conflict? Ever feel that way? To be honest, this is the possible heart response of everyone here this morning, am I right? At times, you may feel like He ‘might not be concerned for your needs.’

You don’t need me to be the one to tell you the truth on this one. He is every so concerned for you and for your needs…that are in Christ Jesus. He does know what we need before we know it and I believe that He holds back on some of the ‘things’ we ‘need’ to both keep us humble or keep us from being proud. He can supply ALL that we need but would He NEED to?
Why do you follow Him? So you can get answers to your prayers or because you NEED the forgiveness only He can provide?

The right answer is the latter one, of course BUT we sure like the first answer. I follow Jesus and He answers all my prayers. Truth be known? He may need to say “NO WAY!” to some of the stuff we are asking, to keep us humble.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12: 7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

So it comes right down to this, Paul was experiencing the trails of his Faith because he was wanting to bring glory to the Name of Christ in his life. The trial before Festus was only really a test trial of Paul’s desire to follow Christ.

Some may saytoday, “I don’t want to need to trust God in that way. I like a simple life. A life that is organized and predictable.” Sorry. That will not do. We are to be tested so that our Faith can grow even deeper. Grow even wider. Grow, so that the Glory is God is seen on our life, family, church, and community. All for His Glory.

So, I ask do you face trials?
In the West, people say; “Lord, take this burden from me so that I may follow You with zeal!” In the East, people pray: “Lord, strengthen my back to carry the load so that I may follow you with zeal.” Which is correct? Which bring glory to Him?

Now What?
…On your own, or better yet, in your small groups, take time to read the whole of Psalm 73. Ask each other when they experienced such feelings and how those made them feel. How does knowing the ‘end of the story’ help your heart attitude toward the ungodly? How can you pray for their heart response?

Read Psalm 1: Personalize the Psalm by inserting your name in the place of the personal pronouns, (ex. “Blessed am I who does not walk… But my delight is in the law…”). This may take some time so write it out for clarity. How close to reality does this appear to be true for you? What can be done to come closer?

As you read these Psalms, ask the Lord to move you toward His heart. Ask Him to point out areas in your Walk of Faith that needs development. Areas that are lacking in spiritual insight. Thank Him for the growth He has already started in your life.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”)

Before you leave your group, pray for one another along these lines:
Lord, help me define in my life areas I need more spiritual awareness. Develop a hunger in my spirit for the things You desire for me. End by asking the Lord to help the others in your group/family/church to reflect His heart that day.

And enjoy the day!!!