Charles Stanley - The Courage to Face Life's Trials
When you face some difficulty, hardship, or trial, or maybe some crisis in your life, what is the first emotion that you feel? Is it fear or is it courage? And if you find yourself in that same circumstance for a period of time, which one of those attitudes or those emotions prevail? One of them is going to dominate your thinking and therefore is going to affect how you act, what your behavior is. presence of the enemy, in the presence of difficulty, hardship and pain, though I can maybe sometimes see objectively, and maybe I can see physically what's going on. What, listen, what I need to know above what I can see is it's who I can't see that really matters. And that is the capacity to do it.
Now if, for example, you're living in sin and disobedience to God, here's the first thing's gonna happen. Trials, difficulty, hardship, pain, a crisis hits. What's happened? You want to feel that, but Satan's gonna send you this fiery dart immediately. You can't call upon God. Look what you're into in your life. Well, look what you've done. Look back yonder in your past. And so what's he gonna do is try to short-circuit your faith in order to damage your courage. And so that's why it's very important that you and I walk in the Spirit. I simply mean walking in obedience to Almighty God. Does that mean you'll never sin? No, but that your heart is bent toward obedience, your desires are bent toward obedience, and you determine in your heart to walk obediently before Him.
In those moments when you and I feel the trials and the difficulty and the pain and the pressure and the stress and the strain of it all, we have Someone who stands by our side. It doesn't make any difference who we are. When you and I are serving the living God, we are walking, listen, we are walking in the way of our Lord. Whether you serve the Lord full-time or whether you serve Him in your church in some area, whatever it might be. You and I are always walking in the presence of God. But listen, listen, the capacity to claim that, feel that, sense that, enjoy that, live in that, draw from that, work out of that, that is the issue. Are you able to sense that presence? Or do you find yourself so overwhelmed by the difficulty, by the mountain that you're facing, by the hardship, by the pain?
And there are times when you and I can sense pain so deeply, so intently, so cutting, it's like it sort of thrashes us on the inside, shatters us on the inside. Sometimes that pain is such that I understand that it's difficult to get our eyes and our mind off the pain and off the hurt onto the Living God, who is the healer and who is the one who's gonna protect us in that pain, but we can. It is a matter of claiming what is ours. And you and I, listen, we have the privilege, we have the awesome privilege and responsibility and power to claim for ourselves everything we need in those moments of difficulty and hardship and pain. So here's what he said, he said, "In those moments," he says, "when I was to defend myself, they all deserted me, they all left me". He says, but listen to this, he says, "but the Lord stood with me".
Now, I don't know about you, but I imagine that every single one of us could probably go back at some difficult point in our life and say, "Well, Lord, You surely did stand with me, because if you hadn't have stood with me, I wouldn't be here today". Listen, God takes great delight in standing with His children. And listen, listen, remember what He said about the Holy Spirit? He said to His disciples, He said, "I'm going away, but I'm not gonna leave you like orphans". Here's what He was saying: "I'm not gonna desert you". He knew they were gonna desert Him that very night. He said, "But I'm not gonna desert you. I'm not gonna leave you". He says, "I'm gonna send you one just like Me," holos in the Greek, holos, "just like Me. The Holy Spirit. He'll be in you, with you, and upon you".
All the days of our life, once you trusted Jesus as your savior, you and I have, listen, we have omnipotence living on the inside of us. So listen to what the Apostle Paul said: "But the Lord stood with me," and what did He do? "He strengthened me". One of the keys to being able to face any difficulty or hardship with courage is, listen, not only to be aware of His presence, but listen, to draw from His strength. He says, "The Lord stood with me and strengthened me". Now, let's face it. Difficulty, hardship, pain, stress, trials, all of these things do what to us? They sometimes drain us emotionally. And when you get drained emotionally and tired and weary emotionally, you're gonna feel that-a-way physically. And when you get that-a-way physically, often times you'll feel that emotionally. So that one of the dangers in facing difficulty and hardship, if we do not understand how to do it, how to face it, it will begin to drain us.
When we begin to get drained physically and emotionally, we become very, very vulnerable to Satanic attacks that we would not be vulnerable to in other circumstances when we are not physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. And so he says, "The Lord stood with me and strengthened me". Now, think about this. Here he is, standing before this Tribunal with all of their power of Rome. They have the power in their minds that they can take his life or not take his life. The Apostle Paul's standing there, knowing that with all of their power, their power amounted to absolutely nothing, zero, in comparison to the power that stood beside him, because going to affect how you act, what your behavior is. And all of us are going through difficulties and trials and hardships and crises in our life, and so we have to decide how we're gonna respond.
And when you think about how often we can be threatened by our position, by our personhood, by our possession, or from our possessions or your finances or relationships, your goals, your dreams in life, how do you respond? And how is it that you and I can respond in a courageous way zero, in comparison to the power that stood beside him, because his strength was the strength of Almighty God. Somebody says, "Well now, what do you mean by the power of the Holy Spirit"? The power of the Holy Spirit is that divine energy. It's that divine energy that courses through our spiritual veins. We sense something, we feel something. That divine energy can strengthen you physically.
Listen, it can absolutely come to your defense emotionally. Whatever the situation, circumstance, there is a divine energy, a divine presence that is available to every single child of God no matter what. He is there. That energy is there, that strength is there. When you and I stand, listen, that intimate with Almighty God, we're going to sense His strength. Things that would normally overwhelm you, things that would normally unnerve you, things that would normally upset you, things that would normally throw you off the path. When you're, listen, when you are claiming, when you are living out of, when you're drinking from, when you're feasting from, listen, when you are drawing from the strength of Almighty God, there's not any circumstance, any situation no matter what that can defeat you as long as you're drawing from the right well.
Most people today are looking something on the outside to help them through difficulty. Listen, the greatest help, the most dependable help, the most reliable help, the most sufficient help, the most adequate help, listen, the most supreme help, the most awesome help, the most eternal help, listen, the most available help is not out yonder anywhere, but on the inside of every single child of God. It is the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit, that unlimited, listen, unlimited power unleashed in our life in order that you and I may be able to face any circumstance, no matter what it may be. Paul says, look at that passage, he said, "In those moments when he stood before them," he said, "All my friends deserted me. There was not anyone there. No one supported me, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them". Then he says, "But the Lord stood with me, strengthened me".
Now, watch this. "He strengthened me in order that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lions". What is he saying? Three things that I want you to notice here. The first one, we said a few moments ago, the awareness of His presence. When I'm facing difficulty and trials, the awareness of His presence. Secondly, listen, secondly is drawing from His strength. And thirdly, look at this. Yielded to His purpose, yielded to His purpose. Now, I want you to listen very carefully, because this is where many, many believers miss it. The greatest opportunity of their life, they miss it, and they blow it right here. The Apostle Paul was standing before this Tribunal and he said, notice how he said it. He said, "The Lord stood with me and strengthened me, or through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished".
Here's the thing I want us to notice here. When you and I go through difficulty and hardship, what is our response? Is it, first of all, "How can I get out of this? How can I escape? How can I eliminate this pain"? That was not Paul's response. What we have to ask is, "God, what is Your purpose for this crisis? What is Your purpose for this hurt? What is Your purpose for this pain? What is Your purpose for this sorrow? What is Your purpose for allowing me to be defeated? God, what's this all about"? Because you see, God, in every single instance in our life, and especially in times of hardship and pain and suffering and trial, God has a purpose.
Now, His purposes may be several. It may be something that God wants to do in us. Surely oftentimes it is. Something He wants to straighten out in our life, something He wants to sand and sift and sculpture and prune out of our life. Some of that's always there. But one thing for certain. Listen to this, you listening? Say amen. Every time God gets us or allows us to be in a state of difficulty, hardship, pain, suffering, and trial, you know what He's doing? He's setting us up in order to give us this awesome opportunity to say to those who are watching us, "Let me tell you about My God". He's everything I told you He was. Listen, He is every bit the God I say He is. He, listen, He's the one who's giving me strength. He's the one who's giving me energy. He's the one who's giving me faith. He's the one who's giving me perseverance. He's the one who's giving me endurance. He's the one who is enabling me to go through this.
And so what happens? Our pain, our suffering, our hardship, our difficulty, our trial, our crisis turns out, listen, to the glory of God. And as God can point to you in your difficulty, your hardship and your pain, "One of my servants, going through difficulty and hardship. Look at him, look at her. I am proving to be everything they told you I was". And how is it that you and I can respond in a courageous way every single time? Does that mean that you'll never have any fears, any doubts or frustrations? No, but there is a way that you and I can respond courageously. We can respond in faith. No matter what the circumstance, no matter how painful, no matter how difficult, no matter how embarrassing, there is a way to respond in a courageous fashion.
And the Apostle Paul gives us the key to that when he writes to Timothy in Second Timothy, if you'll turn there. In this fourth chapter, and if you'll notice what he says, "I am proving to be everything they told you I was". That's how we should respond. We should be looking for the purpose. God, what are You up to? I may not know all the purpose, but one purpose I know for certain. It is an awesome opportunity for God's children to give witness and testimony. Listen, the most powerful sermons preached are not preached from pulpits, they're preached in people's lives where they live, who are going through difficulty and hardship and pain and they're being obedient to God, walking in His will, walking in His way, being able to smile above their tears, being able to continue in life above their sorrow, their hurt, and their loss, and saying, "My God is adequate. My God is sufficient. He is my God, and He can be yours too through faith in Jesus Christ".
That's the kind of God we serve. That's who He is. And so the Apostle Paul would say to us, no matter what you're going through in life, listen, be aware of His presence. Draw your strength from His abiding presence within you. And fulfill, listen, discover His purpose, fulfill His purpose for whatever it may be in your life at that moment, and certainly one of those is to be the kind of witness, the kind of stalwart, courageous witness, listen, that says to an unbelieving world, "Our God's for real". You know what the unbelieving world, what they're looking for? They want evidence that God's real. They want evidence. I mean, you can tell us this. There are lots of other religions out there, but there's no song in those religions. There's no joy in those religions. There's no peace in those religions. There's no assurance in those religions. There's no contentment in those religions. We have it!
And what the unbelieving world is looking for, they're looking for people whose lives shout, whose lives proclaim unmistakably, "This God is real. He is so real I am willing to stake my life on it". And when I think about a young teenage girl who's willing to look in the eyes of a vicious young man and in the end of a revolver and say, "Yes, I am a Christian"! That is a testimony the world will never forget. Then the Apostle Paul mentioned one other thing. Look back, if you will, in verse thirteen. He said, "Now, Timothy, when you come, bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments".
Now the books, more than likely, were probably, nobody knows for certain but probably, maybe those early writings of the gospels or some portion of it. But when he talked about the parchments, he's talking about his Hebrew Bible. Now, it wouldn't be a Bible, you know, all in leather like this, but they were parchments. And so he said, "Bring them with you". More than likely, he may have had them when he was in prison before or they may have been taken away, but this time he had left them, having been arrested. He said, "Bring those".
Why do you think he wanted those? Because the Apostle Paul needed the scriptures just like you and I need them. Because he wanted to meditate upon them. Because he wanted to drink from them. Because he wanted to feast from them. Because the Apostle Paul, in spite of everything he knew, how many sermons he preached, how many people he taught, how many churches he'd established, the Apostle Paul was just as normal and natural as any one of us. He too needed the living Word of God to feast upon, to draw upon, to remind him, to encourage his heart. And you see, when you and I go through difficulty and hardship and pain, so many times people say, "Well, I gotta call my friend".
Listen, instead of calling your friend, open this book, get on your face before God, and tell the Friend of all friends to speak to your heart. He always has something to say to us when we're willing to listen to Him. All of us have passages of scripture in the Bible that we've marked. And as I tell people, yeah, your Bible ought to get dirtier as the days go by because as your Bible gets dirty, what happens? Heart gets clean. You write in the Bible, put down dates by those verses of scripture that God has spoken to your heart about. And haven't you all, certainly I hope every single one of you has had those experiences in life where you say, "God, this verse got my name, address, Social Security number, my age, it's got everything down here, couldn't be meant for anybody but me," and you know what? That's the awesome power of this book. It doesn't make any difference where you live, what your language is, if somebody can translate it for you; I guarantee you right now, there's a passage of scripture in here to meet your need no matter what's going on in your life.
Listen, when you get down, you don't give up. When you get down, you don't get discouraged. Let me ask you a question. How can I justify any prolonged discouragement, pity-party, poor me, when I have the living God living on the inside of me, standing by me, strengthening me, In this fourth chapter, and if you'll notice what he says beginning in verse nine, he says, "Make every effort to come to me, to come to me soon; for Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica; Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia".
Only Luke is with me. Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me as a servant. But Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments. standing by me, strengthening me, listen, with a definite purpose in mind for allowing me to be there? And not only that, having this most precious thing that exists on the face of this earth, the living, infallible, inerrant Word of the Living God for God to speak to me personally and to say to me, "I will be with you". How many times have I gone back to Joshua one nine? "Be strong and of a good courage. Fear not, neither be thou dismayed. For the Lord thy God is with you wherever you go".
Friend, that'll take you through every hardship, every trial, every difficulty, every pain, and every crisis, and you'll come out standing up because the One who is within you will stand you up and keep you up no matter what. My friend, without Christ, you don't have anything. Don't you think it'd be wise to invite into your life the very God who created you? Listen, who will walk with you every single moment, who will strengthen you for every experience, who will fulfill His purpose in your life, and who will feed you, listen, who will feed you on His eternal Word, that'll keep you healthy and strong spiritually all the days of your life?
You say, "Well, how do I do that"? Well, here's what you do. You acknowledge the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God, that when He went to the cross, God the Father placed on Him all of your sins. And at the moment you confess your sins to Him, asking Him to forgive you and accepting His death as payment for your sin, in that moment, the Bible says the Lord Jesus Christ comes into your life and seals you as a child of God. He's there to stay forever and ever and ever. He will provide your forgiveness. He will provide your strength. He will walk with you every moment of your life. And when you breath your last breath, you have this awesome, listen, unchangeable, immutable assurance from Almighty God.
Absent from the body, present with the Lord. But if you die without Christ, here's the only promise you have. It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this, the judgment. That's all you have. And I want to encourage you to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins. I want to encourage you to receive Him as your personal savior. I want to encourage you to begin at this very moment, having accepted Christ as your savior, to walk in obedience to Him.
Find a church that preaches the Living Word of God. Be baptized. Begin to share your faith. Begin to tell other people what Christ has done for you. And you know what'll happen? Little by little, you become strong in your faith, and your witness and your testimony will bear an impact of people around you. Listen, that is your opportunity. Whether you're going through difficulty, hardship, trial or suffering, or whether everything seems to be going your way, you have the wonderful privilege of pointing other people to Jesus Christ. And for that, you'll spend eternity thanking God.