Charles Stanley - Wisdom For Life's Trials
One of the most frequently asked questions is this: Why is it that God, who's a loving Father, allows His children to go through such terrible trials? Painful, sorrowing trials. Why does He do it? We say that He's omnipotent and that He's a God of love. And if He's a God of love and a God of omnipotence, which means He's all-powerful, He should love us enough not to let that happen. And if He really and truly loves us, why does He let it happen? Does it just happen? That is, has He just created everything, walked away and just let things transpire? Or does He have anything to do with it?
I think about all these tornadoes, for example, and floods and all the heartache and the burdens and the trials that people go through. Where is God in all that? And there is an answer in the Word of God. It's the only place you can get the real answer. People have all kind of answers. They'll say, Well, God created the world and then He just turned away and let it just unfold the way it would choose to unfold. Some people would say, Well, I don't know what happens. It doesn't make any difference. It's just happening and here we are, we're sort of victims. Well that's no real peaceful, tranquil, helpful kind of attitude.
So what does the Word of God say about the trials that you and I face? Well, I want you to turn if you will to James chapter one, because he deals with this whole issue of facing these trials in our life and facing them wisely. And when you first begin to read this, if I were not a believer, I would probably read this second verse and say, Count me out. Because there's no way I could do this. So look if you will in James one; and then I want you to notice it may appear that he's talking about three or four different things, but he's talking about the same thing, "James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings".
That, he's talking about all the Jews who've been dispersed and scattered all over the world because of their captivity and so forth. The he says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials," 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. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the winds. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, Being a double-minded man, unstable in all of his ways. But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; And the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and the flowers fall off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. Blessed is the 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".
Now, as I said it looks like he's talking about three or four different things, but he's not. And he makes a statement in this very first part of this chapter that I think most anyone reading it for the first time, or maybe several times, would say, "Now wait a minute. Does he really and truly mean that I am to have joy when I encounter various trials? In other words, we might say, joy, or, put it this way, trials and tears; trials and heartache; trials and burdens; trial and rejection; trial and suffering. But trial and joy, those two don't go together." Well, they don't go together unless you understand God's viewpoint of what life's all about.
And so, when I look at this chapter and realize that here's what He says and He says this specifically and clearly, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when," not if you encounter, but when you encounter trials. And when he says, notice various trials; that covers everything. All kinds of difficulty and hardship and trials that people go through. He says, "When you encounter them". Encounter them means they come upon you. In other words, sometimes a sudden situation, not something that you bring upon yourself necessarily. When you do that, he says we are to rejoice. And when he talks about joy, he's not talking about this happy, frivolous feeling. He's talking about an inner sense of calmness and quietness and peace and tranquility and assurance that's far more than just clapping and saying I'm happy that I'm going through this trial.
That's not what he's talking about at all. Something much, much deeper than that. And if you'll notice how he says this, he says, "Count it all joy when you encounter these trials, knowing that," knowing that something's happening. And so, it's what I, watch this, it's what I know during these trials and while these trials are coming on that make the difference of whether I'll be able to survive or not. So all of us could think about some trial we've been through. And I think about the people who have been through so many trials when it comes to physical and natural calamities that are taking place, even right now while we're speaking.
And they have a reason to question, "Wait a minute now. How am I to rejoice over all this? What is my attitude? What is the proper attitude when you and I go through these trials in life?" Well, when I think about that and I think about what God says in this passage and ask the question. Well first of all, he says, "Count it all joy". And then it looks like he switches the subject to wisdom. Well, he's not switching the subject. Here's what he's saying. In order to understand the trial, and in order to understand it in a fashion that I'm able to have this deep sense of joy down inside in spite of what's happening, I have to have wisdom. I need wisdom to know how to look at this.
So, let's define wisdom. Wisdom is simply this. The Bible says all wisdom starts with reverencing God. Wisdom is viewing things, listen, seeing things from God's viewpoint and then responding according to scriptural principles. It isn't enough for me to see as God sees it, but I'm to respond in the way that fits who I am as a follower of Jesus and to fit the Holy Scriptures. So it's seeing it as He sees it and following the scriptural principles that He gives to us. And when we do that, for example, I think it's pretty evident we will be able to evaluate circumstances in people and make the right decision. And we'll be able to make decisions based on the past experiences in our life, the present situation that's there and the future plans that we have.
But looking back in the past, how has God worked in our life in the past, and different situations. And then, likewise, we have to ask the question, "If I'm wise, what would God have me to do in this particular situation?" Wisdom is viewing things from God's viewpoint and responding accordingly. So, when it comes to these trials, here's what he says, if you'll notice again, and the way he says it. He says, "When you encounter these things, you know something". He says, "Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect complete work lacking in nothing".
That is, God is up to something in our life when there are trials. Multitudes of people all across this nation of ours who are undergoing all kind of difficulty and hardship and trial and loss and suffering and pain; and sometimes feeling guilt that is false guilt, but sometimes feeling guilt that is indeed legitimate. Now, wisdom enables us to face trials confidently and triumphantly. And that's why He says, "wisdom so that". So that God gives us wisdom, enable us to face these things and to face them and come out, listen, being blessed, not destroyed; being helped, not hindered; expressing His love, not His disfavor. So whatever trial you're going through, it doesn't make any difference what it is, it fits this; because he said, various trials.
So I want to think for just a few moments about "What is God's purpose for allowing these things in your life?" Well, the first one is this, and that is to do what? To test our faith. Now watch this carefully. He uses a word here in the Greek that would be sort of meaningless to you, but the word is dokimion which means to approve. And if you'll turn to First Peter, for example, one, verse seven, listen to what he says. He says, verse six, "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials," distressed by them. Listen to what he says, "So that the proof," dokimion, the proof, the approval, "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".
Now, what is he saying? Simply this. He says, You and I can rejoice even though we're going through this particular trial. Now how can we rejoice? He says, Knowing this. That the proof, that is this test is to prove your faith genuine. So that the gen... watch this. Your faith under trial proving to be genuine, he says, is more valuable to you really than what? Than any kind of gold or precious metals. He says there's nothing to compare with it. So I ask you a question. Would you say that it's worth going through a trial for God to build great faith in your life? I can tell you that's the only way. He says these various trials, he says here, proving that your faith. And so, He's not testing your faith to say what's wrong with it. The proving of your faith is, listen, to make it stronger and stronger because untested faith is unreliable.
A person's never been tested, never been tried, they don't know whether they've got any faith or not. It's the test and the trials in life that build our faith and make our faith what God intends for it to be. And so, one of His reasons for allowing trials in our life is to build up faith; But there's a second purpose and that's simply this. It also tests our devotion to Christ. Let's say, for example, you have a trial in your life and God is, sent this trial in your life to do what? To test you and to enable you to understand where you are on the scale of obedience with Him. And where is that? If He requires something of you in some trial, are you willing to say, I don't like it; God, I, this is not what I would choose, but I'm going to obey You no matter what.
And, listen, the only way you and I know how obedient we're going to be is when our obedience is tried, when we are tempted and tried, as we would say. And we see these things and we have opportunities to do the wrong thing or the right thing. How do you know how obedient you are? On what scale of obedience do you stand? Only when you're tested, only when you're tried, only when you're offered alternatives to obedience. And so, you can choose to obey Him or not obey Him. So, how do we grow? We grow by being tested in our faith. We grow in our devotion to Christ by making wise decisions under fire. Then, one of the reasons He sends trials in our life, watch this, because it provides Him an opportunity to demonstrate His love for us, to demonstrate His power in our life, and to demonstrate His care for us, His intense care and love for us.
If everything just sort of came our way and there was no trial, no difficulty, no hardship, we'd take Him for granted. When do you pray the most? Things get the worst. And so, one of the reasons we have to be wise is to recognize the fact that sometimes what is He doing? He's creating a situation in our life whereby He can demonstrate, I can give you a job when twenty-five people have asked for it and I gave it to you. I can supply your need when you didn't have any earthly idea how it could possibly happen. I can heal you when you've had all those bad reports. In other words, God is up to something good in our life no matter what the trial may be. When God sends a trial or allows one, He has an eternal purpose in mind.
So, when I think about all that and I think about the fact that He's always, one of His purpose is always to produce Christ-like spirit in our life. He's always up to that. Listen, watch this, every trial in your life and my life has a divine prescription on it. He knows exactly where we are, where He wants us to be and how to get us there. And so, He's at work in our life. And so, I could say to you this. If I were twenty-five or thirty years of age, you could ignore a lot of this. But I'd-a been around a long, enough times, long enough to tell you it works, no matter what. It works, as long as we respond wisely. And we don't want to blame somebody else; and no matter what's going on, we want to say, God what are You up to in my life? So He's working on making us Christ-like. Now, the issue here is, look. We need wisdom to discern the proper response. I'm going to give you ten things.
So I would encourage you to write it down. If you can't write, get somebody next to you who can. Because you're going to need it. Number one. Now watch what he said. He said, "Count it all joy when you," find yourself in these various kinds of trials. Now here's the question I'm going to answer. When can I rejoice? What must I believe in order to rejoice in those difficulties?
Number one, I must believe that God is in control of the time and the intensity of my trial. If I'm going to be able to walk through them triumphantly, I must believe that He is in control of the time and the intensity of my trial, that nothing's going on without His knowledge.
Number two, that He has a specific purpose for our trials. He does. Whether He sends it or He allows it, He has a design in mind and a clear purpose in mind for what He's doing. So I must believe that. I must believe He's in control; must believe He has a purpose.
And thirdly, I must believe that this trial is designed to meet a specific need in my life. For example, when you pray, you don't pray, Well, God just bless me. You pray for something specific. God does not send or allow trials in our life haphazardly. He knows you; He knows His purpose; He knows His goals; He knows what He wants you to accomplish in life. And so, He designs it to fit you.
Now, if you, for example, you ladies, you have a dress made, you don't go in and say, Oh, just make it big as you want to. You wouldn't say that. Nor would a man just say, You know, I wear a forty-one but give me a sixty-two. You wouldn't do that. You want it designed to fit you. God designs the trial, watch this, to fit His purpose in your life. That's why it doesn't do me any good to complain and moan and groan about it.
Number four, the trial will prove to be good if I respond in faith. It'll prove to be good for me if I respond in faith. If I don't respond in faith and object, then what happens? I just end up wasting my sorrow and my hurt and my pain and gaining nothing from it. Then of course, the trial can strengthen my faith. I must believe that. If I don't think the trial is going to help me, strengthen me, develop Christ-likeness in me, grow me up, enable me to be a better servant of God, then you know what, I'm not going to respond right and I'm not going to be blessed. But I must, in other words, if I'm going to respond wisely, I must believe these things.
Then of course, I must believe that the trial is an opportunity to demonstrate perseverance under pressure. Because one of our greatest testimonies is when somebody sees you walking through some very difficult trial in life and somehow in spite of it, while other people would be crying and weeping and moaning, you have a settled faith. You step forward. You don't hold back. You're very confident. You're very sure. You may be crying on the inside, but there's perseverance on the outside that's very, very evident. If I really and truly believe that God is going to use these things in my life for something good and I'm going to be able to persevere, I'm game, I'm going to be able to walk through it confidently.
Then of course, I must believe that this trial will develop Christ-likeness in me; which we said a few moments ago, that is His purpose. If I believe that, watch this. You're going through something that's very, very painful. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is using that to make you Christ-like? Grow you up, build your faith, transform you, equip you for something future. If you don't believe that, you won't respond correctly. But if you believe these things, no matter what you're going through, you're going to come through it triumphantly.
Then, I think you have to, you have to believe that this is going to help you measure where you are in your spiritual walk with God. Trials help us measure things. The last time I had a trial, what did I do? Moaned and groaned and complained. This time, somehow I have a sense of quietness and calmness and peace and assurance in my life. Why? Because God is growing you up. God is maturing you. God is working in your life. In other words, what is He doing? He's making you the person He designed you to be. God is at work in your life. Watch this. It doesn't mean that you are no longer sensitive. It doesn't mean that you're not sensitive to other people. But it means that things that go on that used to trouble you don't because God has already proven to you He will take you through this no matter what.
Then of course, you will only rejoice if you believe that God is going to walk with you through this all the way through and accomplish something good in the end of it. Do you believe He's with you? This is why I said before, when a person says, I'm just desperate. And they are just crying and weeping and desperation, don't know what to do. Well, where is Jesus? I'm not saying you should be insensitive to pain and hurt. I'm just simply saying this. What's the wise response? The wise response is, God, I don't like it.
You say, "Well, could you tell God you don't like something?" Well, you might as well tell Him, He already knows anyway. He knows what you don't like. He knows how you're hurting. He knows every pain you have. He knows what you would change and He knows you don't like Him at the moment. That doesn't bother Him. You know what He does? Huh-ha-ha! He just keeps the pressure on till He breaks that stubborn will until you get down here and you say, "Okay God."
Sometimes it's really funny when you think about how patient He is, that no matter what we think and how we feel, He knows what He's up to. And you know why I think sometimes God may smile? Because here you are back here complaining and moaning and groaning, and God sees this awesome thing He's going to do in your life. And He's just saying, Hmm, hmm, hmm, hmm. He's bringing you along, and He knows that when you get over here, He, you're going to say, Thank You, thank You, thank You, You didn't listen to my prayers! Thank You, dear God, that You didn't do what I wanted You to do. Because, here's the reason: He loves you too much to give in to your complaints when He's got something awesome in your life.
And then of course you've got to believe that by His grace and power you're going to overcome it. If you believe those ten things, you have the wisdom to face anything in life that God may allow in your life. Now, the question is, "How do you respond?" The trials are there and they're going to come and they're going to increase. And if you can just remember when it gets tougher and tougher, He's got something better and better, not worse and worse. The issue is, How do I respond to the trials and the heartaches and the burdens and the things God allows in my life, so that when He gets you to that point, you're equipped and you're ready and your influence and the skill in your life, and the testimony of your life will be weighty in the life of someone who desperately needs what you know.
Now you may say, I'm not even a believer. I'm not even... don't tell me this joy. I'm not even a believer. Well, I understand that. Well, let me ask you this. When you go through those trials, what do you have? Well, you say, I have my mother, my father, my friends. Mm-hm. What can they do for you? Well, they can do thus and so. But when it comes down to the critical things, there are some things nobody can help you do. They can't keep you alive one second more, but God can.
There are situations and circumstances they can't protect you because they're not there. There are a thousand things I could mention. The most important thing in your life is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. And that begins when you ask Him to forgive you of your sins, trust His death at Calvary to pay for your sins and ask Him to come into your life. And surrender your life to Him. Then you have Him with you, in you. And as you walk wisely with Him, all the things that we're talking about, God'll take care of.
So what is your choice? Watch this. Here's your choice, to walk alone. You say, "I'm not alone. I got all these folks." No, you only have that temporarily. You either have life in Christ or you don't have it. The wisest thing you could do in this moment is to ask Christ into your life and to tell Him that you knew that you'd blown it. You're not really equipped to live a godly life. You're not even equipped to live a happy life, a peaceful life.
And you see, there are so many folks around us who have this and have that and have the other. And they've got all kind of recognition and popularity and all the rest. When they go home at night and they lie down and they cut out their lights, you know what? They are miserable. And if they aren't miserable, they're worried. Cause let me ask you a question. Ask it to you as a believer. What do you have, that you really have, that you really own, that you can really put faith in, that you can really trust in, that you can't lose in a moment? Not a thing. If you have Jesus, you've got it all. And that's my prayer for you.
And Father, I pray that the Holy Spirit will awaken the heart of people who listen, who watch; who have been deceived into believing that they're okay, when the only hope of Heaven is Jesus. When the only true, ultimate, eternal friend is Jesus. The only one who can take care of every single area of life is Jesus. Grant them wisdom, the simple wisdom to say "yes" even as they're listening. And we thank You for it, in Jesus's name, amen.