Sunday, January 26, 2020

Lord Build Me through Struggles

The book of James is on fire to me whenever I study it. It bursts forth with life, with the Holy Spirit of God these words are mighty and intense, and raw, and brutal. The book of James is written to the lost twelve tribes of Israel, as they are scattered and persecuted in the nations. They’ve lost everything. They’re enduring extremely difficult times. And through those awful difficulties God is building them into heroes of the faith.

Lord, Build us. We are your temple. So build your temple. We are your people. Build your people. Construct us, brick by brick. Pound the nails into the wood planks, as you construct us. Burn the impurities out of us through the fires of affliction. Save us from the pit of hell, by burning through us now, and thus transforming us, by the blood of Jesus, into new beings, forged in the fires, mature, strong, free from sin, and pure in Christ.

What is suffering in this life compared to eternal victory in the next? We think our lives are so important. Our lives are but a few puffs of smoke, a few years, we travel this Earth, and then one day we are gone. For many this life will be the best they will ever have, and their eternity will be in a place of fire and torment. In fact the sad reality is that many will go there, because they just aren’t willing to receive Christ and change their ways.

But for us, we are citizens of another country, pilgrims and travelers on a journey home to paradise. And this life is the worst we will ever have to see. One day, the memories of this broken world won’t even come to mind anymore. But today it’s hard. And why is it so difficult? Because of all the many trials and temptations we have to go through. There is no beating around the bush the trials of this life are so very hard.

Our scripture today says very plainly: “2 Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

What? What is this madness he is saying? When we have troubles, when our car breaks down, when we lose a loved one, when we relapse, when we battle with serious health problems, chronic pain, James writes that we should consider it an opportunity for joy? What!

Yes, joy, because , and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this, but, we should be happy because it means our faith is being tested and when our faith is tested in this process, it produces something called “endurance.”

Endurance is the ability to stand strong in the long term, to withstand difficult circumstances without giving way.

So God allows us to go through very hard times, for what reason? To build me. To Build us. Every difficult thing you’ve gone through in your life has prepared you for this moment today. And more will come. And as we proceed through trials week by week and month by month, we’re slowly transformed.

God is buiding us through the hard times. And it pleases God when we patiently go through these difficulties. Jump down to verse twelve and it says, “12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Testing and temptation are mentioned there, and these are two different things. Testing is a situation that challenges our faith in God. This would be something like losing a job, or developing a serious health problem, or chronic pain. And we might be tempted to wonder why God would allow such a thing to happen. This is testing our faith. And the best way to respond when that thought comes up, why God, is a simple statement: God, I trust you completely. Your plan is right even if I don’t understand. God loves that kind of sincere trust in Him.

Temptation is something altogether different. Temptation is when we’ve been sober for a certain amount of time, and one night we’re having a bad day and we feel tempted to go buy a bottle. Or we’ve been honoring God in our sexual conduct, but one night we feel so lonely, and we feel tempted to go try and meet someone and fornicate. And in those times, God calls us to resist the temptation, and pray, and seek God, and overcome the temptation.

This isn’t easy. It’s not easy to fight temptations, especially if you’re depressed, or lonely, or sick, or having a bad day. I confess to you church that I recently did just that, I fell to a temptation. I should’ve resisted, but I didn’t. But here’s the amazing thing about God.

Even if we fall to a sin. And give in to temptation. We can come before God on our knees, in tears, and sorrow, and cry out to God for forgiveness, according to the precious blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross. And that blood cleanses us once again. And we are made right. That is amazing grace, that he washes us clean AGAIN, even after the first time, when I got saved 7 years ago. His blood still is at work, cleansing me once again when I turn to Him and repent, and change my ways. Amazing grace.

Now we might wonder, is God tempting us? If so, why? Well the answer to that is simple: James writes: “13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong,[c] and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.”

God doesn’t tempt us. We’re tempted by our own sinful desires. And the evils of this world. And eventually those desires can drag us away, and into sin. That’s why I try to shut down sinful thoughts as soon as they come into my mind. I’ll just say out loud, “No, that’s not who I am in Christ. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Because those desires give birth to sinful actions. So we go from thinking about it, to then going out and doing it. Boom, sin takes over. Then as we do it over and over, that sin is allowed to grow. And if we keep doing it over and over, then that sin matures within us, and gives birth to spiritual death.

Meaning we give so much room to the sin, and we do it over and over, and it grows so strong that we stop praying, we stop reading the Bible, and we leave the church all together. I’ve seen it happen many times. People hide a sin in their life, and eventually it takes control and drives them right out of the church.

It’s like the old eskimo man who told his grandson this story: Once upon a time a man had two wolves that lived within himself, one wolf was vicious and mean and bit anyone who came near it, And the other wolf that lived within him was mighty, strong, brave, selfless, good, and pure. And they constantly battled inside the man.

The old eskimo’s grandson looked at him and said, “Grandfather, which wolf won? The evil wolf or the good wolf?” And the old eskimo replied, “The one he fed.”

If we feed our addictions, our sins, and give them all our time and resources, then those sins will drive Jesus from our lives. If we feed our Christian life, through prayer, study, attending groups, listening closely at church, then Jesus will put sin to death in us.

Which will win? Sin or Jesus? The one you feed. So feed the Christ spirit in you, not the sins of the past.

Our scripture today concludes in this way: “16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.[d] He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.[e] 18 He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”[

You are God’s prized possession, and He has given us his word. But we’ve got to follow it friends. We’ve got to live it. That is the goal of our series “Build Me.” To live out our faith, to grow in grace, and live free from sin.