Tag Archives: Trials

Going Through

James 5:10-11 KJV

10 Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.

11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

There are so many examples in the bible of people who have persevered through adversity and come out on top.  We could spend days going through the whole list.  I’m glad James narrows it down to the prophets for his example here.  If not, we could look at Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Samson, Gideon, – on and on the list goes.  The fact is that I cant think of anyone who had clear sailing while serving God.  There were intense in the lives of everyone we hold dear to our faith.  And everyone of them endured through those trials.  In fact, isn’t that what we draw the most strength from?

James says we should look at the prophets first in looking for those who endured.  The prophets who told the nation of Israel what God is going to do, an hat they should do in response.  I think of Isaiah, who was the most positive of prophets and was given the most vivid prophecies of the coming Messiah.  I am sure Isaiah wanted more than anyone to see those prophecies come to pass.  I imagine he longed for that day, but he never saw it.

I think of Jeremiah, who over and over again told the nation of Israel that if they did not turn back to God, they would be taken into captivity just like the northern kingdom had already been taken.  He was beaten, put in stocks (Jer 20:1-2), had a death sentence pronounced over him (Jer 26:11), and as left for dead in the mud (Jer 38:6).  Yet he never stopped giving the words God was giving him.  He stuck to the message of doom despite the opposition.

I think of Ezekiel who delivered his message partly in Israels homeland and partly in captivity.  He preached a message of doom and judgement for years and saw much of his words come to pass.  Once in captivity, he preached a message of op for a future Israel free from captivity.  He was told to bake his bread over cow dung for 390 days as he lay on his side to prophecy (Ezek 4:9-15).

I think of Daniel, who was taken into captivity.  He decided to not eat the king’s food.  His buddies were thrown into the fiery furnace, where they received a great deliverance.  He was thrown into the lion’s den, only to be spared by almighty God.  He waited for answers from God, yet never turned away.

Shall I continue?  The point James is making is that if we are people of God, and He is working in our lives, there will be trials.  People will mock us as they did all of those listed above.  We can expect all of this and more.  If those men who God entrusted with His inspired word were persecuted, why should we think anything different will befall us?

Then he brings Job to our attention.  The bible tells us Job was upright in all his ways (Job 1:8) yet God allowed satan to afflict him.  His outcome was great but what he went trough would shatter anyone. I often question if I would stay the course if I lost everything, absolutely everything, in the course of a few hours.  It is the most tragic story in the bible.  But Job remained faithful and was rewarded in the end.

We are to endure with patience.  Wait the trials out.  Not get anxious over them.  Allow God to do what he will, or allow what He will, and we just trust Him.  Here are a few scriptures to remember when going through  hard time.

Prov 3:5  Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

1 Cor 10:13  There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Rom 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Isaiah 40:31  But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Isaiah 41:10  Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Phil 4:6-7   Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.   And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Matt 6:34  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.

Be blessed

Listen and Be Quiet

James 1:19  KJV

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

This verse is golden in my book.  It is an area where I struggle everyday.  Isn’t it odd how the simplest things can trip one up in their pursuit of a Godly character?  The truth contained in this verse is advantageous in all areas of life, and we should give all diligence to carry out this assignment as if our lives depended on it.  We will all find our lives so much smoother if we can do that, and the sooner the better.  Let us begin.

Wherefore means “as a result”.  This verse is addressing the previous 18 versus and tells us what we should do once we have realized the truth of that section.  Let’s  quickly capsulize the truths contained there for those who may just be joining our study.

  1. Have joy in temptations, trials and tests
  2. The reason to have joy is because these things are sent to us so that our faith will work to produce patience
  3. When patience has full become a reality in our life, and we have learned to wait on God with joy, we will be ready to fulfill the plan God has for our lives
  4. If we need wisdom to understand the reason for these trials, we must ask with a faith that does not waver, for if we do not we will be unstable in all our ways, and will receive nothing from God
  5. We must seek the lower seat, not to be noticed in our trials or our good deeds, for God will raise us up at the right time
  6. When we endure the trials with patience, we will be rewarded with the crown of life
  7. We should always realize that God is not putting the trial on us, but our heart’s lust has brought it on.  God merely uses our trails as a means of perfecting us.  He only gives good gifts.  We must not be in error on this point, but rely on His word to guide us through.

Wherefore – as a result, we should be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.

We must be swift to hear because our God is always speaking to us.  I have become so aware of this since May of last year as my life slowed down and I went through cancer treatments.  I have been able to hear His voice very clearly as I quieted down.  As a result, you have been able to receive the studies on Philippians, Ephesians, Psalms and now James.   Thousands have read the 500+ poems, songs and Psalms the Lord has given me.  All because I learned to listen.

Beyond that, we must learn to listen to those around us.  I know that I am a terrible listener.  I have a habit of interrupting people, I  don’t remember conversations and what was said, and I am always thinking about what I will say in response when I am in a conversation.  It is terrible and I need God’s help to change this.  I know this is my pride creeping in all the time.  Why do I say that?

First, Pride will interrupt because I feel like what I have to say is more important than allowing the other person to finish first.  Pride assumes it knows where the the person is going, and has an answer before the do finish.  Pride thinks it knows it alll, so can bump in anytime.

Second, pride isn’t concerned with remembering what was said in a conversation.  It deems it as unimportant in the long run and only keeps those things  it deems important/   The problem is that I don’t remember the little things, like kinds names and the hobbies/sports they are into.  Like if they are going on vacation or trying something new in their lives.  These things are unimportant to me when I have pride because they don’t affect me, but in reality they are very important to them, and if I can remember them, it will be better for me.

Third, when I think about what I am going to say next, it is also pride because what I have to say is more important to me than listening to what they are saying.  At least I deem it to be so.  These bad listening habits all stem back to pride.  I know I have pride, and I continually need to keep an eye on it.

Being slow to speak follows right along with that, as you can obviously see that I speak to quickly all the time.  If I can listen better, I will slow down on speaking,  Another good things about being slow to speak is that I will take time to think about what I am going to say so that it does not hurt the hearer.  Boy, do I need to practice that in my marriage!  I am regularly saying things that hurt my wife, and I don’t even think about how what I am going to say could be taken wrong.  I must be more careful there.

And being slow to wrath should be obvious to all of us.  Being angry is never justified unless it is a righteous anger over things in the Kingdom.  Even Jesus displayed that toward the scribes and pharisees.    That is the only time we see this side of Jesus.  Wrath, or anger, is also a result of pride when it is aimed at another individual.  It says that I have a right to be angry because you have done something to me to make me angry.  Usually it comes because of what we deem as something they have done to offend us.

I have saying I try to live by when it comes to being offended – “f I am offended I need to ask myself what miserable piece of flesh s left in me that can still be offended?”  We are supposed to be dead to the flesh and walking in the spirit.  Only my flesh can get offended by earthly things.  Living above that is essential in this life.

These three little things – swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath – are so essential to our effective witness.  People see these things in us and will  wonder how we can remain so calm, so caring and so in tune with what is going on.  They will wonder how we can do that, and this will give us an opportunity to witness.  Remember, James is tying this in with His discourse on facing trials.  These three principles should be specially practiced when we are going through tough times.  Swift to hear the voice of God guiding us through, slow to speak to anyone else about the troubles we are having, and slow to wrath as we try to survive and make it through.

I know this post has run rather long (1155 words so far), but it s essential that we learn these things.  i easily could have broken it up and talked about each one of these three things in a separate post, but I felt it important to keep them together.  I hope you don’t mind.  I wonder how you are doing with these three things in your life?  I hope you are doing better then me!

Good From Bad

James 1:13-15 KJV

13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

I’m sure you have all heard it many times, just as I have.  “God is just testing me!”.  It implies that God has put a temptation or a test before us to see if we will pass this certain test, or to see if we will learn a lesson necessary for our growth as we go through this circumstance.  It also implies that God will use any means to cause our growth in His kingdom.  Any of these scenarios are wrong.  God does not test us, tempt us, put trials upon us, or bring about bad circumstances so we will grow.  We will touch on this in the next lesson, but God only gives good gifts.  God does’t even consider anything evil – it is not in His vocabulary.

However, God will use every situation that comes into our life for our good.  Every single time!  No exceptions!  Do you really believe that?  I do – I not only believe it, but I know it is true.  How do I know this?  Because the word tells us so.  You all know the verse.  Romans 8:28 :

 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

The key words in this verse are the first three.  “And we know”.  This is something we have to know, something that has to be so true to us that whenever a temptation or trial comes our way, we immediately know that God will use it for our good in the end, no matter how bad it looks.  Our human nature tends to look at the worst case scenario, but God looks  at what He can teach us through the situation and He goes about doing just that.  if we encounter a financial problem, God will use it to teach us about integrity with our possessions.  if it’s a family problem, God will use it to teach us about humility or servant-hood or perhaps holding our tongue.  If it’s a problem with a co-worker, God will use it to teach us to love our neighbor, or to rejoice with those that rejoice.  Whatever come sour way, God can use ti for our good.  No exceptions!

James is very clear here where the temptations and tests come from – our own lusts.  Of course, we do not want to admit that, and even in the end we will often blame someone else for our troubles.  But it really all boils down to our own lusts – they get us in the most trouble.  The chief culprit is pride.  I believe pride causes every problem we have with other people, and many of the problems we have on our own.  Now sickness can come without pride being involved, and it will, but will we handle the sickness with pride.  Saying things like – “I can take care of myself!”  “I’m OK, I don’t need to go to the doctor”  “I prayed and God will heal me,  I don’t need medicine” – all imply we know better – Pride!  Even the last one about praying is prideful, because it signifies that God has to heal me – He has no choice!  I beg your pardon!!!!!  God will decide when and how you will be healed – your prayers please Him immensely, but He will work His timetable.  Prayer can speed up the process, or, if you pray wrong, it can slow it down!  This is true with any pray about any situation.

I find the best thing to do when I am going through a test or trial, or when I am facing temptation, is to bow before Almighty God and ask for mercy!  Then I must acknowledge His mercy at all times – He is always working for my good.  It doesn’t matter what comes, He is working for my good.  It doesn’t matter how bad it gets, He is working for my good.  We can look at example after example in the word of how God uses our circumstances to help us grow and minister to those around us. Consider these situations (if you’re not familiar, please read the verses listed):

Abraham tells Pharaoh His wife is His sister to avoid trouble – twice! Gen 12:19-29, Gen 20:1-18)

Joseph sold to the Midianites and taken to Egypt (Gen 37:1-18) To find out all that happened, read the rest of Genesis – quite a story!

Moses reluctant to do what God asks from the burning bush (Exodus 3)

Samson gives away the secret of his strength (Judges 16)

I could go on and on, but you get the point.  All of these people trusted in their pride (in Josephs case t was the brothers that were prideful).  But even though they got into trouble,God turned that trouble for good.  He does every time!  You are no exception!  If you think you are, that’s pride!

Trials, tests and temptations come because of of our own lust or pride, but God will always bring good out of it if we trust Him to do so, and if we know that He will work all things for our good.  This is why we can have  joy in tribulation – yes I’m back to that!  This is why I live in Proverbs 3:5-6.  To me, these two verses are the ultimate expression of knowing that He is always there for me!

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.   In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Obtaining the Crown of Life

James 1:12  KJV

12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

The first 11 verses all lead up to this one.  The blessing that comes from enduring temptation is nothing short of amazing.  We will talk about the crown of life in a moment, but let’s take a look at the other blessings that come from enduring temptation.

The word endureth here is a very interesting word. It literally means to remain under, speaking of staying under a load which has been put on you.  This means we have born the burden of the load until it is finished.  It does not mean that we escape the load, or that we pass it on to someone else, or that we decide to only go part way through a find a means of escape.  It means we carry the load until it has been taken from us – in this case by God.  It also means to persevere, which is to continue in a course of action even if it is difficult or there seems to be no solution.  It is translated endure throughout the New Testament.

As you loom at that definition, does that define how you go through temptation and trial?   Remember, James told us to count it joy when these trials come.  When you enter into a difficult, almost impossible area of temptation or trial, are you determined to go through it all the way to the end?  Or do you look for a way of escape?  The blessing comes with enduring to the end.  God is with you every step of the way, even if you don’t feel Him there, even if you can;t sense His presence.  Many times, God is working the hardest on us when we don’t even know He is working. the  blessing comes when the test is over.

What blessings do we receive?  Joy comes when we realize we have gone all the way through.  Our faith grows because we know if God brought us through that trial He can do it again.  We gain peace because we know, with God’s help, we are through with that battle. Hope is restored that God is with us in every situation.  Our patience is stretched and therefor will be able to withstand more in the future.  Our testimony is alive and vibrant because we can tell others God can help them through their trials as well.  We gain wisdom, knowledge and understanding into the ways of God. because of what we learned as we endured.  We have a deeper sense of how much God loves us, and experience an extra dose of His mercy and grace.  All of these things come as a result of enduring through the trial.

Then there’s the crown of life.  This crown is mentioned here and in Revelation 2:10, where it is promised to those who are faithful until the end, similar to the terms given here.  The crown of life is not associated with eternal life. It is a reward given to those who endure through trials and tests, those who persevere despite the odds, who trust God to bring them through.  It is given at the end of the trial or temptation. I believe it is worth the effort.  I plan to remain faithful and receive that crown from Jesus!  How about you?

Working through the trials that come our way is one of the most rewarding things any Christian can do. The blessings that come to us once the trial is over are well worth the battle, no matter how long it takes to get through it.  I pray that every one of you will not avoid the various trials and tests you will face, but will work through them with the strength of the Lord holding you up, and with your faith and patience fully on display.  This is a testimony that will speak to others in a most dynamic way.  Endure to the end, my friends!

 

Mercy In Trials

 

My pastor and I were talking yesterday about the trials God allows.  We believe similarly on this and had a wonderful discussion.  The conclusion that we came to was that God certainly does not cause the trial or test, He allows it to come into our lives to grow our faith.  The thing we don’t often see is the mercy that God gives us when we are in that trial.  Instead of piling one trial on top of another, God displays mercy over and over again while we are going through the main trial. Let me take some time to explain because I have seen this in my own life so beautifully.

In December of 2015, I woke up one night thinking I might be having a heart attack.  My chest was tight as I had never had it before, and my arm was hurting.  My wife got me to the emergency room where they gave me some nitro and ran an EKG.  No heart attack.  It was pneumonia.  MERCY.  I stayed overnight an was released the next day with medications.  Then at the end of January I came down with pneumonia again.  This time it was a 4 day hospital stay.  My doctor said he wanted to check a little deeper because something else must be going on.  I asked him if he was thinking cancer, and he said he was hoping to eliminate that.

He ran a CT scan first.  When he called me back to his office for the results, he told me that the radiologist said something he had never heard one say before.  He looked at the lesions on mu bones that the scan showed and told my doctor they were Myeloma lesions.  My doctor said radiologists never say that, but this one did.  So my doctor ordered a more sure urine test to look for the particular protein that goes with Multiple Myeloma.  And it was very positive.  I had Multiple Myeloma.  But there was no panic in me.  There was a calm assurance that God would take care of us.  I had no doubt. MERCY.

My doctor was amazed.  Usually, before someone is diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, they have experienced severe back problems, ruptured disks, bone pain, maybe kidney problems or even dialysis.  all things things before the diagnosis. I had none of these.  MERCY.  In fact, I felt quite healthy. MERCY.  But a bone marrow biopsy would be the final test to make sure.  That showed my blood was 63% cancer cells!  Stage 2 out of 3, bordering on 3.  God revealed it just in time. MERCY.

I chose the University of Iowa for treatment because their long term remission rates were much higher than anyone else in the country, only 3 hours away.  MERCY.  My daughter lives within 15 minutes of the hospital so my wife had a place to stay when we were down there.  MERCY.  I would be undergoing two stem cell transplants in the next 4 months.  Very vigorous treatment for long lasting results.  My good health allowed this. MERCY.

The harvest went well in May as they sued my own stem cells, and in June of 2016 I had the first stem cell transplant.   A week after the transplant I woke up one morning and my right shoulder would not work ( I am right handed).  It was painful the first couple days, but then the pain went away.  MERCY.   I thought I had somehow re-injured my shoulder from some tears I had 5 years earlier, so we tied physical therapy.  No pain.   My arm worked from the elbow down, but nothing from the shoulder.

We left he hospital and came home in that condition.  But through the summer we ran some tests and it was determined I had Parsonage-Turner Syndrome.  No known cause, no known cure.  The interesting thing is that only 12% of sufferers have no pain, and I was one of them.  MERCY.    During this time, The Lord started giving me poetry again – lots of poetry, and I started these blogs on WordPress.  Daily he would give me words to share.  MERCY.

The summer went well and I went in for the second transplant in September.  Much harder this time, I was very weak when I came home and slept in the living room on the main floor for 6 months.  God led me to start a study in Psalms on this blog, and that would take me over a year to finish.  A year of intense reflection on the Psalms will change a persons perspective, and it certainly did mine.  MERCY.

I am going to stop there, except to say I never had any pain through this whole thing.  MERCY.  I never had mouth sores from the chemo. MERCY.  I never had any bone pain from the  Myeloma, which it is common to have.  MERCY.  I had one fall but it was limited in damage.  MERCY.  My shoulder is almost fully restored when they said it would most likely be at least 2 years before it came back, and then would most likely be very limited.  MERCY.   All of my medical bills were covered, and my income was replaced by a an Aflac cancer policy I had sold to myself (I am an agent).  MERCY.  I had prayer warriors all over the world praying for me and there prayers were constantly felt and answered.  MERCY.

You can easily see where I am going here.  During my trial, I did not focus on the difficulty of the trial,  I focused on how good God was being to me – how merciful He was to me over and over again.  And this built my faith to a point where I completely trust Him to bring me through anything I may face.

I have rambled on long enough on this post, but I wanted to show you how mercy is so prevalent in our lives before I discussed the double minded man in James.  We will get to him next time.