Charles Stanley - Wisdom in the Midst of Trials
Are you going through some trial in your life that you don't understand? You don't know why it has to happen to you. You look back and you ask one or two questions. What did I do to deserve this? You can't come up with an answer. God, why have You allowed this in my life? Can't come up with an answer. And to be truthful and honest, what you want most of all is out of this. I want to escape it. I want freedom from it. I want all this pain and hurt and disappointment and hopelessness and helplessness and all the things that I'm going through, naturally, I just want out of all this as quickly as possible.
Do you think that's the will of God? You say, Why sure it is because He's a good God. Well maybe in a few moments you'll realize that God has something far more important from His perspective than simply getting you out of this difficulty, hardship or trial Because what I want to talk about in this whole message today, I want to talk about wisdom in the midst of trials. How are we to respond? How does God respond? What is He up to in allowing all these things to happen? In other words, do you want to benefit from it, or you just want to get bitter and resentful and hostile toward God because of it? There's a choice. I can benefit from whatever difficulty I'm facing; or I can get bitter, blame somebody else, blame God and miss the whole point.
So I want you to turn if you will to the book, and toward the back of the New Testament in First Peter. And I want us to look at this first chapter and the first few verses here, because he's talking to people, writing to people rather, who are going through some very difficult times. They're being persecuted because of their love for the Lord Jesus Christ and their devotion to Him. And naturally they've got some questions. Listen to and read Peter's awesome response to what they're going through. And so he begins in this first chapter, beginning in verse three.
Listen to what he says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," He says we have a living hope. This is the mercy of God, "To obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you," that is, for you, "Who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last times". Now watch this, "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof 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; And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory".
Now, think about it for a moment. I don't know what you're going through, but more than likely you've asked a couple of questions. Why has this happened to me? And, God, why don't You remove this? And remember this. More important than God removing the difficulty, hardship, pain and suffering; more important to Him than that, is that you and I learn something; that we benefit; that we walk away from whatever we're going through in life, being able to say deeply within our heart, honestly, Thank You, dear God, for all You've brought me through. Thank You, dear God, for what You're in the process of teaching me in this. Many people don't want to be taught. Many people just want a quick escape. But a wise man or woman does not want to go through heartache and suffering and trial and all the things that can happen to a person and just come out empty, hopeless and helpless, and thinking again, Wonder what God is up to in my life in all this. Do I believe that God loves me enough that He's up to something good?
So, from the viewpoint of wisdom, what are the purposes for these trials in our life? And the first one is simply this, as he says in First Peter, listen to what he says. He says, "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials," for what reason? He says, Look, right now you're going through a difficult time, "So that in order that; for this purpose," what is that? "That, the proof of your faith". And that is, not proof in like we think about it, but prove, that is being approved. That's what that word means. In order that our faith would be approved; we prove that is strong, "Being more precious than gold which is perishable". He says in God's eyes, look at this, your faith is more valuable as far as God is concerned, than gold and silver and all the rest.
So, he says one of the reasons that we're going through it is for God to do what? He's going to do something to your faith. He's going to strengthen your faith. One of your greatest assets is your faith, because it's by your faith. And how many times we go to the scriptures and we find verses in the Bible about prayer and linked with that of faith, trusting God. And so God tests us by allowing us to be persecuted, hurt, pain, suffering, all kind of loss, whatever it might be. And as He watches us walk through that and He, as He sees our faith growing and we persevere and we don't quit, we don't give up. We don't grow bitter and resentful and hostile toward other people because of what's happening to us. What happens? Our faith grows. And the greater your faith, the stronger your personal relationship to the Lord.
Now, a second thing is this, the testing of our devotion. Do I love Him? Do I only love Him when everything's going my way? Can I honestly say that I love Jesus Christ as my personal Savior? And so oftentimes we find out where we are. Test our devotion. When I feel pain more than I think I can bear, can I still say, God, I truly love You. It's those tests in which we find out who we really are; what we're like. Then of course, there is the purpose of purifying our life. And when I think about God purifying us, think about this. Pain has a purifying factor in it. There's something about pain that purifies. It reaches the depths of our soul and our spirit and brings us to the reality and the truthfulness about ourselves.
And a person can go along in life and sort of get along as they would think and I'm doing fine as a Christian, and a lot of things in their life that shouldn't be there. And all of a sudden the bottom drops out of their life; there's pain, suffering, heartache, troubles and trials; and then what do they do? They want to cry out to God to help them. And most of the time, what is He going to do? He's going to start, not with the physical ailment. He's going to start in the spirit, in the heart, what's going on in your life. And many people prolong the suffering because they will not acknowledge that God is in the process of purifying their life.
Now another reason is that God takes an opportunity to do what? To show Himself strong in our life. We go through trials and heartaches and we think, God, how am I going to handle this? And God steps into that situation and demonstrates His awesome power. And He demonstrates what He's able to do and what He's willing to do, what He can do in your life if you're willing to listen to Him. So, God has purposes. He doesn't let these things go by without specific purposes. And so that's one of them. Then, as we said, His purpose is to provide Christ-like character in our life.
So, if we stopped right there, we'd say, Well, God have any purpose in all this? Yes, He does. And that's some of the purpose, and I'd just add one more. And that's very clear in Second Corinthians chapter one, verse four, listen to this. Verse three says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by God". He says one of the primary reasons He allows these things in our life to do what? To equip you and me to be able to help other people through that difficulty.
For example, let's say that you're going through some real bad difficulty in your life. Maybe it's a physical thing, some pain. Who do you want to talk to? Somebody who's in perfect health? Never had a problem at all in their life and wonder why you're where you are. No, you don't. If you're going through something in your finances, and you don't know which way you want to turn to somebody who has been there, who has wisdom and knowledge about their finances. You can take any aspect of life. Because God, listen, God intends, watch this, He intends that you and I profit from all the hardships, disasters that happen in our life. He has something good in every single one of them.
Now, if you believe that, and I certainly hope you do, and you can look at the scripture, lots of scriptures. Then I should be able to walk out of here saying, You know what? Enough of this complaining and moaning and groaning and feeling like a victim, and blaming somebody else. God's up to something good in my life. Oops, I know it hurts, God, but I know You're up to something good in my life. It'll change your attitude. Now watch this. Just physiologically, when your attitude gets right, it's amazing the effect that has on your physical body. I'm not saying you can think yourself into healing, but I know this. When I understand that God is up to something good even though I'm hurting, whatever the source of it may be, there's going to be a feeling; there's going to be a sense of encouragement; because you don't see it as just isolated pain or isolated disease or isolated loss. Or somebody has attacked you for something. You see God working in your life in an awesome way.
Now, we need wisdom to discern the proper response. How am I going to respond to these things? And as we said, you can be bitter and resentful and hostile. What's the right way? So let's think about it for a few moments. We can rejoice when we're convinced that the following things are true. That God is in control of the time and intensity of my trial, very important that I understand that. That He's in charge, He's in control of the time of it and the intensity of this pain or disaster or whatever it might be.
Secondly, that He has a specific purpose for allowing it. If I can really believe that He has a specific purpose for allowing it, then I'm going to be able to walk through it with confidence and assurance, and I'm going to be able to benefit from it. But I must believe that.
Thirdly, that it's designed to meet a specific need in my life. Let's say you're going through a difficult time in your life. Let's say that your loved one has walked away from you or the person that you wanted to marry just walked away. Who are you going to talk to about how you respond? Somebody who's happily married and never had a problem and everything just fantastic? No you're not. You're going to somebody who has been there. You're going to somebody who's walked a path that you don't want to walk but you're walking it. It's not something you chose, but it's something that you've had to deal with. And so, it's to meet a specific need in your life. And you know what happens? One of these days God begins to use you in a very specific way.
Watch this carefully. Remember this. Whatever pain, suffering, heartache, hardship you go through, not only does God have a purpose, but it's part of His equipping. He's equipping you. And what does that say? So you can feel what the other person feels. Since you've walked there, and God's worked in your life, and you've been through the pain, the hurt, the disappointment and the shame or whatever it might be. You've been there. You know how that feels. Then somebody can say, Well here's what I'm going through. I don't know how to handle that. When you can say, I've been there it is amazing. I have been there, four words are powerful. You see, why do you and I go to Jesus when we're hurting? I have been there, look at the cross. He's been there. Why do we read the Epistles that Paul wrote in prison? Because he could say I have been there.
And when you and I go through those kind of times in our life, He is equipping you and preparing you to be able to say to others, I have been there. The trial is going to be to my benefit if I respond in faith, if I'm trusting Him. Lord, I don't understand it. I don't like it, but I'm going to trust You, Jesus, that no matter what I know You'll work it out for my benefit. And then of course, do I really and truly believe that God is developing Christ-like character in my life? And if He is, when these things hit, it may be that I have to say to somebody, Would you please forgive me for wronging you?
Now watch this. My willingness to ask for forgiveness is part of His character building. The person to whom I say it, it's part of their character building, because they have to decide whether to forgiven me or not. You see, we're all so intermingled, intertwined. God is up to something good in every single aspect of our life. Even, listen, even in our failures, He's up to something good. We sing that song, When I fall down He picks me up. He does. And if I should ask you this morning, How many times have you ever been picked up by God? We don't have enough fingers and toes because He's picked us up so many times. You know why? He's not giving up on us and He doesn't want us to give up on Him. And these trials will also help us measure our spiritual growth.
And I can look back in my life just like you can, and there may be something you're going through today, you'd have had to go through five years ago, you'd have thought, Oh God, I couldn't handle it. Watch this carefully. God guards every aspect of our life and He knows exactly when you can handle what He's going to put on you. Because remember, His goal is never to defeat you, but to develop you into Christ-likeness. And so He's governing every single aspect of our life. Don't waste your sorrows, your heartaches, your pain, your suffering, your disappointments. Don't waste that by a wrong response. But just tell Him, Lord, I don't understand it. I don't like it. It hurts. It wouldn't be my choice. But Father, I'm going to trust You. You know what's best for my life. You know what You want to do with my life. You know how we want to use me in somebody else's life, so God, if You'll just enable me, I will persevere and keep walking Your path, no matter how deep in the valley it goes. I will be walking on the path trusting You to take me through all the way to the other side.
I don't know what you're going through in life, but if you will just take what you've heard and apply it to your heart, your life will change and you'll be grateful to God that you listened and that you responded. If you've never trusted Jesus as your Savior, you're on your own, and that's not going to work.
If you're willing to trust Him as your personal Savior, everything will change. You do that by confessing your sinfulness, listen. You're a sinner. You've sinned against almighty God. You've rebelled against Him. Acknowledge it. Ask Him to forgive you, not because you're going to do better, but because when Jesus went to the cross, the Father placed all of your rebellion, indifference and sinfulness on His Son; nailed Him to the cross; shed His blood. And the shedding of His blood paid your sin debt in full. He'll transform your life. It's a decision you have to make. And I trust that you're wise enough to say, Lord, not my will, but Your will be done. Amen?
Father, how grateful we are that we'll never be disappointed in a promise of Yours. You know who's hurting almost to the point of death today. You know those that are so discouraged they want to quit and walk away. But we know that You have the power to enable Your children to persevere, to keep moving. And Father, thank You for giving us the wisdom in Your Word of what You're up to and what You want to accomplish. And I pray that every person who hears this message will realize there's a loving Father who's not just watching, but who's there ready to see them through it; ready to forgive sin; ready to strengthen them; ready to enable them; ready to do for them exactly what they need, if they'll trust You with all of their heart. We just want to say we love You, Father, for being so good to us. In Jesus' name, amen.