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Charles Stanley - How To View Life's Trials?


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It's pretty evident that people are hurting everywhere about something. We receive over five thousand letters every day at in touch, and most of them, the vast majority of them, have to do with people who are hurting for some reason or the other. Everything imaginable. We live in a time when people are hurting about their jobs, about their finances, about their health, about their children, about their college education. Everything imaginable, people are hurting about them. Why are they hurting? Where's God in all this?

And people ask that question, well why doesn't God do thus and so. And so they respond either by anger toward God or just indifference to the fact that God has anything to do with it. Or they'll blame it on the devil or blame it on someone else. And so they're miserable in their hurt and in their pain because first of all, they don't know why. And secondly, they don't know how to respond. And I wonder if you'd fall in that category. You know what's going on in your life, but you're asking the question, well God, why are you letting this happen? I love you, I trust you, I try to be obedient to you and look at this. Why is all this coming into my life? Why does this have to happen to me? What have I done to deserve that?

And so a lot of questions, a lot of anger, a lot of uncertainty and a lot of frustration. And the question is, does God have an answer? And the answer is, yes, he does. God has an answer to all these things that you and I are facing. So I want you to turn to a passage of scripture in a moment that I turn to when I'm going through some difficult time in my life and maybe I understand, maybe I don't. But I always go back to this one because when Peter was writing his epistles, he was writing it to people who were going through all kinds of difficulty, hardship, pain, life, death and you name it. God always has an answer. Sometimes we like his answers, sometimes we don't. But the question is, do I want God's answer? Do I want to know why God is allowing these things in my life? And I think you do. If you didn't, you probably wouldn't be listening.

On this message, I want to encourage you wherever you are, if it's possible to get you a copy of the Bible, your Bible. And maybe a piece of paper and a pen or a pencil, and I want you to jot down some things that are very simple, but things you need to remember, because we're going through difficulty, hardship, pain and suffering and lack, or whatever it might be. All of us are at some time or the other. And sometimes if you can just remember, now, what was that particular point? What did he say about that? And I think you'll hear in this message some answers to why things are going in your life the way they are. You may not like the answers. That's not the question. The issue is, do I want to know the truth? And I want to share with you what the truth is.

So turn if you will to first Peter, the first chapter, and we'll begin with the third verse of this first chapter, writing to people who are going through all kinds of heartache and pain. And so he begins in the third verse saying, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his," watch this, "Who according to his great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope". Not a dead hope, a living hope. How do I know? "Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you".

And what that means is simply as this when he says it is imperishable, that is, it can't be destroyed. What God has for us can't be destroyed. When he says, it is undefiled, it can't be polluted by anything. And when he says, it'll not fade away, that means that it won't decay in any way. Whatever God has provided for us in our inheritance is absolutely stable, solid forever and ever and ever. And so he says in light of that, "Who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time".

Then he says this, "In this," that is, what he said all before about what he has in store for us: he says, "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now," at this particular time in your life, "Now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials". He said, in other, all these things are true, but they're true even though right not you're going through these trials, "So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire," that's intensity. He says, "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 (joy)".

A person who's going through a difficult time in life, that is a precious promise of Almighty God. Now the question is, how does that relate to us? And I want to read you a little poem here by Robert Louis Stevenson: because when I think about how permanent everything is, he says, we have an inheritance, imperishable, undefiled, will not fade away. Listen to this. "The stars shine over the mountains. The stars shine over the seas. The stars look up to the mighty God. The stars look down on me. The stars shall last for a million years, a million years and a day. But God and I will live and love when the stars have passed away".

Hallelujah! Can you think about that? When everything that God has created is gone, you and I still have the love of the Father and the awesome inheritance. He says, imperishable, undefiled and will not fade away. So, when you think about what you're going through and the difficulty and the hardship and the pain, remember there are some things that are unchanging. And what you read is unchanging, that is, that God has already fore-thought about our pain, our suffering and our heartache. And he's assuring us that he's an unchanging God. And what he's provided for us, we cannot lose. You can lose everything on this earth, but if you're saved by the grace of God, you can't lose it. It is eternal salvation, and there's an eternal reward. He says it's imperishable. It doesn't fade away, indestructible. That is, all that God has provided for his children, he's provided for it permanently. It's ours.

Now the difficulty is how do I handle these things that come into life? Maybe I don't understand them and, sometimes maybe I want to get upset with God. Lord, why do you let these things happen? And sot he question is this, does this just happen? Does it have any purpose? And I want to establish one fact, first of all, there is a purpose, a divine purpose, in the things that God allows into our life. And remember I said "Allows" because he can allow them or he can stop them. He's absolutely omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent. There isn't anything that comes into your life or mine that God couldn't stop if he wanted to: or lessen the pain of it. He's in charge.

Now, sometimes there seems to be an absence of purpose. Well, God, why would you do that? And sometimes he gets blamed for things he's not responsible for. He doesn't do everything that happens, things he allows, for example, that sometime we don't understand. And some of those things up here are necessary, and some things you and I'll never understand.

I think about my mom, for example. My father died, they'd been married three years and I was only nine months of age and he died of something that could be easily cured today. My mother lived to be about eighty-three. And, even in her eighty-third year: though she'd oftentimes say this to me, she said to me, her last year, she'd say, you know, I don't understand, cause they'd only been married about three years. She said, I don't understand why God took Charlie at such an early age. And Charlie was my father's name. I don't understand why he took him. Now my mother had married again after nine years and lived to be eighty-three and my mom was still asking the question. I don't understand why he took him. My mother loved him dearly. I don't understand why he took him. And she would ask me that.

I'd say, well, mom, let's think about this. And I would try to answer it and say, well, maybe he took him because, and she'd say, but look at all the hard time we've had. And we lived in seventeen different places in seventeen years. And so, she would tell me all the hard times that she'd faced, and I knew that they were true. And then I'd say, but look at this and I would talk, how the Lord had sustained us and I would talk about how he'd called me into the ministry and I would tell her about a whole lot of good things and she'd say, yeah, but I can still hear her. I still don't understand why God took Charlie. And I guess only now when she's in heaven that she understands that.

So there are some things you and I won't understand till we get to heaven. But God does have reasons for what he does. And so, but sometimes it seems to be purposeless. In other words, what's the purpose of this? Why would God do this? Why, why does, or why doesn't he do it to somebody else? Why does he do it to me? And so, we're not like people who lived in Paul's day in the Greco-Roman world, whose idea of death was totally different from ours because they had a saying, says that at death, all that's left is dust, ashes, bones and stench. No concept of the resurrection or concept of life after death, except some people who believed in those Gods that they'd make idols to, but had nothing behind them. An idol is simply a piece of stone or whatever it might be. But God has given us purpose in life. And that purpose also involves the way he operates in our life. And there is a divine purpose.

Now sometimes that purpose seems to be blurred. I don't quite get what you're doing and sometimes our response is, because the nature of the trial, why would you let this happen to me? Or why would you let this happen to my little boy or my little daughter? Or, for example, the timing, why would you let this happen at this point in my life. And I'm sure that must have been my mother's question. Why would you let this happen at this point in my life? And why the intensity of this? Why do I have to suffer so deeply? Why couldn't you make it a little lighter, God? And so all of these questions and, and naturally the results, look at the results of this and father, why, why, why, why, why, why?

Now the question is, is it a sin to ask why? Absolutely not, because if it were, Jesus would have sinned. Remember what he said? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And he was suffering, he was suffering for our sins with the eternal payment of his blood. And that's who, his humanity. He was God-man, but he said, why, why have you forsaken me? He was feeling the full torrent of punishment for our sins. And so, sometimes it gets a little blurred for us, but there is a purpose. And what I want to show you first of all, there are some secondary purposes.

There's not the main purpose for which he allows things, there are some secondary things that God allows, some reasons that God allows things in our life, and the first one is this. One of them is he allows pain in our life to surface those situations, circumstances, attitudes, actions, beliefs that we have that are detrimental to us. And so, or, he surfaces things in our life that are not right, attitudes that are not right: sins in our life. And so you can go along, and I think we've all been there, and all of a sudden we're down praying one day about something else and the Lord brings up something we hadn't even thought about. Well Lord, excuse me. Father why haven't I thought about that before now?

And so, usually, one of his primary purposes is to surface those things in our life that shouldn't be that we need to deal with. And all of us have those and probably will have them till he calls us home. It has a way of driving things to the surface of our life that we don't want to look at. And sometimes I've talked to people and ask them, what's going on in their life and they'll tell me all the bad things that are happening and how painful it all is and I'll say, well what about so and so and I'll ask them questions and they have an answer for everything. I'll say, well, what about this in your life? Ohhh, I didn't think about that.

And sometimes it's the things we don't think about, we hurt. God, God allows pain in our life to get things to the surface that he knows those things or attitudes are damaging our relationship to him: damaging our relationship to other people: and damaging to ourself. And so, he has to surface them some way so, so we'll deal with them. And I think all of us realize that there's pressure in pain. In other words, pain gets your attention. You're doing fine. You're sitting there listening and you're just satisfied. But if you had a sudden appendix attack, all of a sudden that's got your attention. You're not listening to another word I'm saying. Why? Because you feel pain.

Sometimes God allows, I'm not saying he sends appendicitis, I'm saying he allows pain in our life to get our attention so we'll deal with whatever he sees in our life that should not be there. And so, why does he do it? Because he wants us to recognize it, it's hindering us. He wants us to confess it, repent of it and walk away from, what in our life should not be there. And this is, brings me to that song we love to sing, how firm a foundation. When he says "Through fiery trials, thy pathway shall lie: my grace all-sufficient will be your supply. The flames will not hurt you, he says, I only design, thy dross to consume thy gold to refine. That is, God takes us through things in order to deal with things that should not be in our life.

And if you're living in sin today, no matter who you are, you know there's sin in your life. Look at what else is in your life. Well if you don't have any pain right now, you're going to. Because God is going to get your attention. Now if you're an unbeliever, God's not going to treat you the same way he treats believers. We're his children, and so he treats us a different way. Because you see, if you're without Christ in your life, then you're without God in your life. Then you know what? God is not going to treat you the same way. You're on your own. It's you and the devil and the world without God. But with all of us who are his children, he puts purpose in our life. And sometimes those things are difficult.

Now does he use those things in unsaved people's lives? Yes, he does, if they're willing to acknowledge that. But oftentimes they'll blame it on something else. But God is in the process of getting our attention in order to get us clean so he can go to his primary goal and primary objective of sending these things in our life. So confession, repentance needs to follow whatever he surfaces. Now watch this. If you say, Lord, just clean my life up and help me to be what you want me to be. And he brings something up and you say, oh, that's not important. Mm-mm, you don't tell God it's not important.

In other words, if he surfaces something in your life, it is important. Or you say, well I must have, I took care of that long time ago. If you had, he wouldn't be bringing it up. God loves you too much to let you get by with things in your life that you think aren't important. And you have an unforgiving spirit toward somebody, oh, that happened long time, I'm over that. Well how did you get over it? Well I just, I, you know, time took care of it and I just forgot it.

No, no, no, no. If I'm unforgiving, I have to deal with it. If I have stolen something, I've got to deal with it. In other words, if you hurt somebody deeply, you, in other words, whatever is there that doesn't fit who you are as a follower of Jesus, he's going to deal with it. You can keep pushing it down, pushing it down, explaining it away and all the rest, but you know what? That's like saying, I have cancer but I'm not going to believe it. And just ignore it. It doesn't, in other words, ignoring it doesn't cure it.

And so sins have to be surfaced in the eyes of God in order for us to become the person he wants us to be. And think about this. He loves us enough not to let us get away with just doing what we want to do without paying a penalty. The wages of sin is death. Sometime it's a death to our happiness, our joy, our peace, his will and so forth. Sin is going to be dealt with in some way: and one of his secondary, and but very, very important reasons for allowing hardship and pain and suffering in our life is to deal with these.

A second one is to test our faith. And so somebody says, well I believe at this point in my life I have great faith. Well, if you'll notice, in this seventh verse he says, "So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable". If I were to ask you, look, here's five thousand dollars worth of gold coins right here and here's your faith over here, which one would you choose? Most people would choose the gold because they don't think anything. They think, well you know, you can believe any, whatever you want. And they think, but you see: gold, silver, all the things that people think, are so valuable are perishable.

Let me ask you, what do you own that you can't lose? You can lose everything you own, except, your faith. That is your trust in Jesus Christ. You have the gift of eternal life. Once you trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are eternally saved. No matter what somebody tells you, when you're saved, you're saved. Listen. You're not saved by your conduct. You don't keep saved by good conduct. You're saved by the blood of Jesus Christ at calvary. That's what saved you, your faith in Jesus Christ. So, you may disobey God, expect to be chastised. Disobey God, expect to have to face it. Lose your faith, no.

When somebody tells you that you can be saved and lose your faith, what's the basis of your assurance? Then what are you doing? You're living to stay saved? How do you live like that? You're not saved by conduct. You're saved by the blood of Jesus. What should affect your conduct, your character and every aspect of your life. So when he says here, "So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable".

Now. You say, well how much faith do you need? Well, when you and I got saved, our faith was probably pretty simple. Here's what the Bible said, that I was a sinner separated from God: and if I placed my trust in Jesus Christ as my Savior and I'm really sincere about that and I mean it, I'll be saved. So I ask him to forgive me of my sins: accept him as my personal Savior: I'm saved. Now, so that's an act of faith. That's baby-faith. That's simple faith. That's child-like faith. But now if I want that faith to grow, how is it going to grow? Tests, trials, you name it.

For example, you, if I said, listen, I'm going to build a muscles: I'm going to get me some one-pound weights. And you say, oh, praise the Lord! One, one pound weights. I'm just going to lift them up and I can do this and I can do that. Good! Do I want to grow in my muscle? One pound, hm-hm-hm-hm-hm-hm-hm. But if I want to grow, got to get two pounds: three pounds: five pounds: ten pounds. Mmmmmm. And I can look around here and tell some of you guys could really lift the weights. I couldn't do it that much. But how do you grow them? You grow them by increasing the weight, the intensity.

How does your faith grow? Same way. So it's one thing to have a bad cold and ask God to heal you. Something else to have the flu, that takes more faith. And then you and I could just go through life, look at all the things people have to face in life. The loss of their loved ones, their health, their finances, lose their house, all the things that they deal with in life. What happens? When we walk through them trusting God to get us through them, what happens? Here's what he does. You say, well praise God, that's got to be the worst. And you think, well, hallelujah! I'm over that. Next thing you know, he's increased the weights. He's got something else going. Why? Because he's not going to leave you as a weak Christian. He loves you too much with one pound weights. He loves you too much for that. And so what happens? He increases lovingly, by his direction, he increases those things that do what? That demand more faith.

And so, testing our faith, is very important. For example, untried faith is totally unreliable. You can't rely on untried faith. But when you've been through real difficulty in your life and you're hurt painfully: and you've lost something you deeply love: and you think, God, how will I ever get through this? And God leads you in a way that he gets you through it. The next time you face something like that, you think, well God. And I can remember this. I can still remember this. When I picked up the phone, answer the phone, and I heard a message that would have normally devastated any pastor.

I remember exactly what I felt. I put the phone down and I said, Lord, you've led me this far: you'll lead me the rest of the way. And the reason I could say that at the most difficult time of my life is because of all those little times, little things back here that builds faith. Because you see, he's not going to test you more than you can handle. He has a limit on what he's going to do. And so, you and I look at situations and circumstances in our life and think, well God, what are you up to? I'll tell you what he's up to. He's up to building your faith. And he understands what little faith you may start with. And he understands where you are at this point in your life. And this is why you as parents, grandparents, you need to instill within your children very, very, very early in life to trust God.

You can leave them all the money. You can leave them a big inheritance. You can leave them this and that and all the other things. If you haven't left them godly faith, you have cheated them out of the most important thing, an inheritance to have. They can make money. And they can have a reputation. But when all hell breaks loose, they need faith, not money and all the rest. And where should that start? It should start at home, in your household with what they see and what they hear. And so one of those reasons we said, is, it's the cleansing: a second to test our faith: and then to test our devotion to God. You'll get tempted by different things in life. Depends on where you are in life, what's going on.

Now, if I'm devoted to him, I will say "No" to sin. Does that mean that you'll never sin against God? No, but it means, listen, for your way of thinking and your way of life and the habit of your life and the pattern of your life is to be obedient to God, not a shadow between you and him. You say, well I can't live that way. Yes you can. God will never call you to do anything he will not help you do. He will help you, enable you, enable you to do whatever he calls you to do.

And I think about men that I've met over the years whom God has called to preach or called him to the mission field: or women alike in the mission field. Said, no, God, I can't do that and I need to take care of anything in your life if he calls you to do something specifically. And our unwillingness to be obedient to him is a display of our lack of devotion to God. If I'm devoted to him, I'm going to obey him. If I'm not devoted, I'll have my way.

You'll say, well, everybody makes mistakes. We're not talking about making mistakes. We're talking about deliberately, willfully disobeying God. And it's not for me to say, in your life what's disobedience and what is not. But you know when you're disobeying God. You, because you have the Holy Spirit living within you. And the, watch this, the Holy Spirit does not sleep. He does not sleep, and he is there to enable us, strengthen us, show us the truth. And he's there enabling, listen, to help us put to work our faith, to trust him, that whatever he calls us to do, he will enable us to do it.

And I think there are many people who will never reach their potential in life simply because they don't believe God will enable them to do whatever opportunity. Some people just walk right by big, awesome opportunities because they don't believe that God would help them. That shows the lack of devotion they have to God. If I'm devoted to him, I'm going to obey him no matter what. When I think about Paul's testimony of what he was going through in life and he's probably some eyesight problem, whatever it might be and he asked God to remove it. And he said he prayed three times. That doesn't mean he just had three little periods of time on his knees, but he probably fasted and prayed periods of time and God said, he said, I have something better for you. And he said, I'm going to tell you why.

What I am showing you and what I'm going to show you is going to be so awesome that you would naturally, normally be prideful. And in order to prevent you from being prideful and losing it and messing up my message to you, I'm going to leave that in there. And so his ministry, he suffered for a long, long period of time. Why? Because God was more interested, listen to this, in you and me two thousand years later than for the apostle Paul to lose his position and lose his privilege of writing those letters from prison. And we're still getting blessed from them.

So God has a purpose for these things in our life. We don't always understand what they are. And he, listen, one of the wonderful things about it, nowhere does he say, you must understand. Not understand, obey him and then what happens? What's that old, old gospel hymn? You'll understand it better by and by. "By and by, when the morning comes, when..." you know that song? Good. Maybe we should sing it. We'll understand it better by and by. Well we will. Some things we won't understand down here. But I don't have to understand them, I just have to obey him and watch him work.

So, these are the reasons and the ways God operates in our life. Now. What's the ultimate, primary reason that God allows these things to happen in our life? Well there's one ultimate, primary reason and that's this. Whatever he sends into your life, little, small, intense, fiery or varied trials, here's his ultimate goal. It makes no difference who you are, what your position is in life, what you believe or what you don't believe. But God engineers difficulty, hardship and pain and suffering in such a way in our lives, not to punish us to, as we said, to reveal things and to clean them up, yes. His primary, ultimate goal is this. To conform you and me to the likeness of his Son, Jesus, that's what he said.

In romans eight twenty-nine, he says he predestined, that means he predetermined beforehand, to conform us to the likeness of his Son. That means that he wants to keep our life clean and obedient and surrendered and yielded to him. And so what does he do? That being his awesome goal and his awesome plan for our life, he's going to allow whatever's necessary to make that a reality. And so think about this. When you and I are fighting against pain and heartache and blaming God and excusing it. And people do all kinds of things when they don't want to be obedient.

And so what do they do? They say, well, God has allowed this in my life and I can't handle it and they start drinking, they become alcoholics. Or, God, has, has done this to my life and now I've lost this and so, I'll just enjoy my life. And they get into all kinds of immorality or drugs or whatever it might be. You can always find an excuse for disobeying God. But watch this. Your disobedience has consequences. Why suffer the consequences when God can take the same pain, the same hurt, the same loss and do something awesome in your life? It's a choice we make. I can either respond rightly and say, God, I don't understand this, but you must know something about me I don't know. You must be doing something in my life that I don't quite understand, but Lord, I want you to accomplish your purpose and your plan in my life no matter what.

Somebody says, well but suppose he does thus and so. Remember this. He's a God of love. He's not going to do anything that purposely hurts you. He may do some things and allow some things that hurt you, but that's not his purpose. His purpose is to keep us clean and obedient, growing in our faith, becoming stronger, and most of all conforming us to the likeness of his Son. You say, well do you mean that, that he wants us to be like Jesus? Not in physical form, not divine as he was naturally. But he wants us to be clean and pure and obedient, because look at, think about this. Every time you walk out of your door, wherever you're going, you are going as a representative of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Because you trusted him as your Savior and he's living within you. You have the Holy Spirit within you. You wouldn't go get yourself all dressed up and then, get some black shoe polish and just rub it all over your clothes, especially if you're wearing a white dress or a light tan suit or something. And rub all that all over you and go out. Why? You'd be totally embarrassed. It doesn't fit who you are. You don't rub shoe polish over a white suit or a white dress. It's not who you are.

So you walk out doing your best. We should walk out every day, listen, remembering who we are. We represent Jesus. You, you may say, you may say, well, I don't claim to be a representative. You don't have to claim it. When you trusted Jesus as your Savior, you became a representative of Christ. An example, we're to be an example. And the life that we live is a living example. And so his goal for us, and one of the primary reason for all the things he allows in our life that hurts us is what's he doing? Sifting, sanding, sawing, be whammering, I mean, you name it, he's cleaning up our life. And he wants us to be a beautiful example of his Son.

So ask yourself the question, what habit: what attitude: what action goes on in my life that does not conform to the likeness of Jesus? Now, somebody who wants an excuse says, well, you know, I can't, I can't heal like Jesus: I can't, we're not, we're not talking about that. We're talking about your character. And you can be like him. It doesn't mean that you're sinless: but it means you live a life that is this sinless. You don't tolerate anything in your life, knowingly. Something may creep in once in a while, but on a daily basis, your life is a life of obedience, surrender. And you want your life to be an example of the Lord Jesus Christ. Why not?

Somebody says, you can't be perfect. You never heard me mention that. It's not perfection: it's obedience. It's surrender: it's yieldedness to him. And if something comes along, you say something, see something or do something that's not right and you know immediately deal with it right then. You don't tolerate sin. You don't let it lay there because it multiplies. And so God wants us to live a godly life. You say, well, I just don't believe I can live a godly life. Yes, you can't, but the Spirit of God within you can. All he, listen, the Spirit of God within you will enable you to live a godly life every day in every situation if you will allow him to. And you've got to believe that. If you don't believe it, then you just go sinning away and saying, well, I'm going to trust God to forgive me.

Well join the ranks of people who are hurting for all kind of reasons that don't have to. And you see, many people are hurting, they don't have to. And many Christians are hurting, they don't have to. It's not what God's doing, it's they get themselves in a mess because they disobey God. And there is a principle. You reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow, period. It cannot be changed. It is a divine principle of God and it operates in nature and everywhere else. What is God looking for? He's looking for people to represent his Son in the right way so that other people who don't know him will know his Son.

So, when I think about the process that he goes through to accomplish all this, sometimes, we don't like the process. And so what do we do? Well, we murmur: we get discouraged and we get bitter and angry and upset and oftentimes excuse ourselves, and well, you know, I'll just do this or I'll do that. Sometimes we don't understand. God understands that, but my response should not be, well God, you're not who you say you are and I feel very discouraged. And you can meet somebody, you don't even have to ask them if they're discouraged. You can look at them and tell, the way they operate: the way they act. Well, what's the matter? Well, have you prayed? Yeah, I have but God, he wasn't listening. Oh yes he was. His response may have been, you need to deal with this. You need to trust me here. In other words, whatever the response. God is a God of love and he wants to operate in our life as a God of love.

So, the process by which God develops that Christ-like character, remember two or three things. Number one, first of all, God's in control of every trial. Whatever you're going through, it's just not you going through it. God is with you in it. And he is in control, absolutely of every single possibility. For example, he says in first Corinthians the tenth, chapter and the thirteenth verse, here's an awesome promise. He says "No temptation (or trial) has overtaken you but such as is common to man". Everybody goes through it, "And God is faithful," you can trust him. He's trustworthy. He's faithful. He doesn't change. He's, "Faithful, who will not," listen, "Who will not allow you to be tempted (or tried) beyond what you are able, but (will) with the temptation (or trial), provide (a), way of escape, that you (may), be able to (bear), it".

So look. God has a limit on whatever comes your way, he's got a limit on it. He knows how much you can bear and he knows we can bear a little here and more here. He has a limit on it. So the way he operates, in his process, he puts a limit on what we're going through in life. And, he keeps also that goal in mind, Christ-like character. But he controls what we are tempted and tried by. The second thing he does is he designs it to fit us. That is, God doesn't say, I want all these people to be like this. God knows before you were born, your birth, your life up at to this point. He knows exactly what it takes to get your attention. He knows exactly what he has in mind, what his will and purpose and plan for your life is.

And so what is, he's all, listen, God nowhere says "You all" but it's "You". He calls your name. He speaks to you. He has your background. He knows everything about you and he operates personally in love in every single situation. It's designed specifically. Now he says various trials. Why various trials? Because there are varied situations and circumstances in people's lives. And I think when you get down to it, he uses two primary methods of developing character in our life. And we've mentioned one to some degree, and that is, chastisement, that is, he allows these things in our life that hurt, that are painful.

And if you go back for a moment to, Hebrews the twelfth chapter. And the reason I want you to look at this, I want you to look at a word that's missing in this chapter, in this verse, in verse five, he says, "My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by him: "For those whom the Lord," look at this, "Those whom the Lord loves he disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives". Not a word in there about punishment. That's not what it is. And so when God is working in our life, and one of his, primary methods as we said before is he's working in our life, chastising us when necessary to surface those things that need to be surfaced.

And so chastisement is one: and afflictions are another one of his methods. Difficult things, hardships, pains, suffering, those things that come into our life that we don't like. Afflictions are those things that come in your life, not because of sin in our life. But the environment in which we live, God allows things to happen when you can be living a very godly life, and you can still get sick. A very godly life, accidents can happen. A very godly life, lot of things can happen. And that doesn't mean that God is against us because he allows this to happen: but he does have something in mind.

And look in second Corinthians chapter four. Look here for a moment. Listen to what he says, beginning in verse seven. He says, "But we have this treasure," this awesome treasure, "In earthen vessels," that is the salvation and all the rest, "In earthen vessels," these bodies, "So that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves: we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed: perplexed, but not (despising): persecuted, but not forsaken: struck down, but not destroyed". And so that'll give you a little idea. In other words, for example, in these bodies of ours, these are human bodies and it's possible for us to catch this or that. And we trust that God will keep us strong and healthy, and yet sometimes those things hit us in spite of what we do. And so he's there and what is he doing? He was allowing these things in our life in order to bring us to him, whatever it might be.

So, I think about it in this way also, that God's trials are progressive. He doesn't hit us with difficult things that we can't handle, they're progressive. They're progressive in their difficulty. Some things you can handle today, you couldn't have handled ten years ago in your Christian life. But because your faith has grown, because you're stronger, because you see it from God's perspective: because you see that God is in it: because you see that ultimately whatever's going on it's God building character into your life. You don't like his method. But you do understand what he's doing. And so think about this for a moment. If God is going to build character in our life, what must he do?

We say, well, he's got to surface these things and so forth. What's he going to do? Here's what he's going to do. If he's going to build character in my life, let's say that my character level is right here. If he's going to build character into my life, he has to do what? He has to increase the difficulty and the hardship and the pain. In other words, if the worst thing you've ever had in your life is a bad cold, that's the worst thing you've ever had. You don't know a thing in the world about growing in your Christian life. It takes pain and suffering, heartache, disappointments, trials, intense, not so intense. God knows how much you can handle.

So what does he do? He grows you up. You think, well Lord, praise God that's over. He says, mm-hm. Yes, yes, yes. You know, you know why he's doing that? Not, not to hurt us. He's doing that to build our faith and make it stronger, so that we can handle more. Watch this. The stronger your faith, the more valuable you are in the kingdom of God. When you're living a godly life, the stronger your faith, the more difficulty and hardship and pain and suffering that you can handle in life, the greater your witness, cause people say, I don't understand. I don't understand how you handle these fiery trials. And, you say to them, I'm just trusting the Lord. Watch. You may say, I'm just trusting the Lord, and they're thinking, will I ever get to that place? Well if you're willing to respond right. And I'm willing to accept the trial, watch this, I'm accepting the trial not because I'm guilty of something, or because I've sinned against him: I'm accepting the trial because he loves me enough to want me to have great faith, not child-like faith.

And so we decide, in our response to trials and heartaches, we make the decision with the kind of Christian we ought to be, want to be, are going to be by how we respond. Now. If you'll think about it, God measures our progress by the ability to deal with trials. In other words, he doesn't have to measure to figure it out, but we. I think about things that have happened to me in my life, if they had happened in the first year of ministry, for example, I'm not sure what I would have done. But watch this. This is how gracious God is. He knows where you are today. He knows what you can handle tomorrow. He knows where you are tomorrow. He knows what you can handle the next day. And God goes through our life doing what? Building into us faith, Godliness, Christ-like character.

And I would hate to think that I lived my life and come to the end of it and my faith was so weak that I was scared to death to die: scared to death of what may happen: not sure whether I was going to heaven or hell. You and I have the privilege and the knowledge, whether we use it or not, we have the knowledge and the privilege of living a godly life, a sanctified life, so that whatever happens, no matter what it may be, that you and I can face our Lord, knowing Father, I certainly wasn't perfect by a long shot. But I did my best to try to live a godly life and be willing to accept what you've sent into my life for whatever purpose you may have.

Watch this. You listening? Say amen. God never does anything purposeless. He always has a purpose. He allows and he sends with purpose. And his purpose ultimately is character, Christ-like character. What does he say? He says, he predestined you and me to be conformed to the image of his Son, which means that his goal for you and me in character is to be as much like Jesus as a person can be, living in this world in this time, in these bodies, and therefore, we'll not be perfect, but we can be godly.

So trials come and trials go. What you and I want, watch this carefully. What you and I want to do is this. If they're coming, I don't want them just come and go. If they're coming, I want to glean from them. I want to learn from it. I want to draw from it. I want to profit from it. I want to learn everything I can so when it's gone, I'm a better man, greater faith, more sanctified in the eyes of God. They are coming. And they, as they come, we want to respond in the right way, remembering why he sends them as what we've been talking about here.

So you have to ask a question this morning. Lord, do I want to grow in my faith? Do I want to be godly? Do I want to be, live a sanctified life? Do I want you to clean up anything and everything you see in my life that shouldn't be there? I want you to clean it up. Then, here's what he'll do. He will send you, but watch this carefully, he may send you something lightly, but if you have decided you're going to make some decisions without him and you're going to sort of live like you want to live and you're just going to have it your way. Then expect an increase, because, listen, God loves you enough, he's not going to give up on you.

And my prayer for you is this. If you've never trusted Jesus as your Savior, let me tell you something. You're not going to find happiness. You're not going to find peace. You're not going to have joy. You may have moments of that, but not the real joy and real happiness and real peace. Because you see, you're walking in disobedience to God. If you want his best, which is the very best, you trust him: you obey him and you walk obediently before him. I'm simply saying to you, you need to make Jesus Christ your Savior and your Lord by trusting in his death at calvary, and his shed blood at the cross as payment for your sin. Once you surrender your life to him, you and God working together from that point on. And as you yield to him, the blessings of God will flow, maybe intermixed between pain, hurt and suffering and all the rest, but blessing of God indeed. It's a choice you and I make.

Father, how much you love us beyond our comprehension. And we pray that you will give us wisdom to want your best for us. Sometimes we think we know what's best. You always know what's best. But help us to so live our life and think the way you think, that what you know is best, is what we will agree is best. And I pray for someone seated here this morning who's never trusted you as their Savior. Help them to understand they will never make it. There'll be no happiness, no peace, no lasting joy in their life, it's not going to happen, because you have a different purpose for their life, to glorify your Son. I pray that person would be willing to confess their sins today, surrender their life to you, trust you, Jesus, as personal Savior and begin to live a godly life. Help them to see that any act of disobedience hinders their growth and positions them for chastisement: positions them for trial and trouble and heartache until they're willing to say yes, is my prayer this morning. In Jesus' name, amen.

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