Greg Laurie - The Refreshment of The Spirit In Times of Trials
Welcome to "Harvest" with Greg Laurie. This TV show is all about helping you get to know God better because God loves you, and God has a plan for you, and God wants to transform your life. And he's told us everything you need to know about him and life in general in this book, the Bible, the user's manual of life. So, we're gonna be talking about what the Bible says and what God wants to do in your life. Again, welcome, and God bless you.
Have you ever been working on your computer and things sort of freeze up? What do you need to do? You need to refresh your screen. Sometimes that means a reboot of your computer to get everything working again. in our life as Christians, sometimes we need a reboot. We need a refresh because we're feeling down. We find ourselves depressed. And by the way, that is not a 21st-century phenomena. The psalmist writes in Psalm 42, "My heart is breaking. I remember how it used to be. I walked among the crowd of worshipers leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks". But then he honestly says, "Why am I discouraged? And why is my heart so sad"? Do you connect to that? Maybe you've been at church recently, and you were sad instead of glad, or even as you're watching this service right now, you find yourself feeling down.
Well, now I love how the psalmist shifts gears. He goes from an honest question, asking, "Why is my heart so sad"? And then he effectively preaches to himself and says, "I will put my hope in God. I will praise him, my Savior and my God". I found myself doing that. I'll get down and I'll quote a Scripture to myself, sometimes out loud, have you ever done that? And then the psalmist also says in Psalm 42, "As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for you, the living God". So really, what is he saying? He's saying, "I need some spiritual refreshment". Do you need some spiritual refreshment right now? If so, you've come to the right place. Now, let's review some of the things I already pointed out that will bring spiritual refreshment into your life.
Number one, you will be spiritually refreshed when you read and study the Bible. So, when you open this book up and read it and study it and memorize it, it will refresh you spiritually. Psalm 19 says, "The Word of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul".
Number two, you will be spiritually refreshed when you think of others more than you think of yourself. Now, I know this can seem counterintuitive because it seems the way to be happy is to think about yourself and do things for yourself. And you'll say things like, "I need a little more me time". By the way, if you ever say that, please just stop. You actually don't need a little more me time, you need a lot more Jesus time. And you need to think about others as well. Selfish people are basically unhappy people, studies have actually confirmed this. You do get a momentary burst of what we might call a temporary happiness by doing something selfish, but that is short lived. But studies have also found that selfless people are happy people. I mean, you know this already.
Think about when you just did something for someone else, how it made you feel. Experts have actually described this as the helper's high. There's an actual euphoria that one can experience emotionally when they're focused on the needs of others. And, of course, the Bible tells us that a generous person will prosper and whoever refreshes others will be refreshed himself. So, as you seek to help others, as you seek to refresh others, you yourself will be refreshed. Now, here's one that might surprise you. And this is really my theme I'll be dealing with in this message. Spiritual refreshment comes through times of spiritual testing. God says in Isaiah 43, "I'm about to do something new. See, I have already begun. Don't you see it? I'll make a pathway through the wilderness. I'll create rivers in the wasteland. Yes, I'll make rivers in the dry wasteland so my chosen people can be refreshed". In the wasteland, in the hardships, in the difficulties, I often experience God in a way that I don't experience him anywhere else.
You know, we want to live on mountaintops and have constant emotional experiences. But the reality is, spiritual fruit does not grow on mountaintops. It grows in valleys. It grows in times of difficulty. So, why, we ask, does God allow trials and hardships and difficulties into the life of the Christian? Here's the answer, James chapter 1, that's gonna be our primary text for this message. James 1 starting in verse 2 he writes, "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and when your endurance is fully developed, you'll be perfect and complete". Wow, powerful words.
So, maybe you're facing a time of hardship right now. Maybe I'm talking to someone who just had the bottom drop out in life. You've gotten bad news from a doctor, or maybe your marriage seems to be unraveling or you're having trouble at work or trouble somewhere else. And you're asking this question, "Why is this happening to me? I'm a Christian, I'm walking with Jesus and this hardship has befallen me, what have I done to deserve such a fate"? Here's the answer, every Christian will face trials in life, listen, for their own good. It's for your own good. Jesus said, "In this world, you will have tribulation". He didn't say you might have. He said you will have.
1 Peter chapter 4 it says, "Dear friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you're going through as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad that you might be partners with Christ and share in his suffering". Okay, so with this in mind, here's point number one on why God allows hardship and trials in our life. It's simply this, God allows trials in our lives, so we will grow up spiritually. You can't be a baby forever. It's cute when a baby is a baby so helpless, so dependent. But as they get older, they learn certain skills. They learn to feed themselves. They learn to dress themselves. They learn to take care of themselves. You don't want to be a baby Christian your whole life. You want to grow up, and you want to mature.
As we read here in James from the Phillips translation, James 1, verse 4, "Let this process go on until you become men of mature character". Listen, sometimes God tests us to see if we've learned the material. Go back in your minds now to your days in school. Some of you are still in school. And the teacher might come before the class and say, "Kids, I'm going to test you today. It's a pop quiz. So, close your textbooks. Get out a sheet of paper and answer these questions". Now, the nerds and the geeks back in my day would get all excited when an announcement like that was made. They'd be like... Well, they didn't sound actually like that. But, you know, they were excited. Why? Because the nerds and the geeks studied and they were prepared, and they were ready. Me, the troublemaker, me the mocker, me the person who was drawing cartoons sitting in the back of the room, was never excited by the idea of a pop quiz. By the way, those nerds and geeks, we don't call them nerds and geeks anymore. We call them boss now.
And isn't it interesting how the word nerd and geek has become positive now instead of negative as it used to be. But reason I did not want a pop quiz was because I was not prepared. I had not learned the material. In the same way, God will bring pop quizzes, if you will, into our life. He'll test us to see if we've learned the material. Oh, we're so quick to tell others how to live. We're so quick to tell others to have faith and to pray about this. But then when it comes into our life, sometimes we just freak out. So, God allows us to go through tests to make sure we really know what we say we know. Coming back to James 2, here's how another translation puts the verses that we already read. "Brothers, when all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, don't treat them as intruders but friends. Realize they've come to test your faith and produce in you a quality of endurance. Let this process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you'll become men of mature character, men of integrity with no weak spots".
I know when a trial comes you think, "Oh no, again". Have you ever thought of that as it's not an intruder, it's a friend, it can actually help you? It's sort of like going to the gym and working out. I don't know about you, but I hate going to the gym. I do go to the gym twice a week, but I don't enjoy it. If I never worked out again in my life, I would be just thrilled with that. I would far rather go eat doughnuts. But I do go to the gym so I can stay mobile and flexible and retain a certain amount of strength. But, you know, let's all admit it, there's some weird people that hang out in gyms, right? I don't know about what gym you go to, but there's always those certain people. Like, I go to a gym where it's all guys in this gym, and there's always a guy that hogs the machine. It's like, he puts his towel there, and he's on another machine. But it's sort of like he's got this machine chosen, and he's on another one, and he's working on another. He has a little circuit going on, and you really can't get in there. And then there's the guy who grunts really loudly. They're usually wearing headphones, so they're oblivious to what they're doing. "Raaw," you're making all these noises.
And how about the person that sweats everywhere? I saw a guy who was on a treadmill and the people on each side of him, like, got off their treadmills, sweat was flying everywhere. There were, like, pools of sweat. I'm really not exaggerating with this guy. So, we see all of these people doing whatever they do. How about the person that drops a weight? They get them up here, rah, whoo, boom. Everyone jumps, they usually have headphones in too. So, weird people hanging out in gyms, but still, there are certain benefits of working out. One of them is you break your muscle down in order to build it up, right? So, in the same way, trials are like God's gym where you're broken down to be built up. You go through trials so you will get stronger. Trials are not sent to weaken you, they're sent to strengthen you. Trials make you stronger, not weaker. It's been said character is not made in crisis, it is revealed.
Hey everybody, let me just say a few things about contentment. Listen to this, what you have in Christ is far greater than what you don't have in life. Conventional wisdom is, "If I get this thing or this promotion" or whatever it is you think will make you content, you'll be happy. But studies have shown clearly that these things do not bring contentment. Listen to this, contentment does not come from what you have, it comes from who you know. The book of Hebrews says, "Be content with the things that you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you or forsake you.'" It's knowing that Christ is in my life and he's forgiven me of my sins that will bring the ultimate contentment. Things come and go, we come into this world with nothing, we leave with nothing, but our relationship with God is everything, so find your contentment in Christ.
Now, honestly, for some people, when hardship comes into their life, even tragedy, they give up on God. They abandon God. Think about Job for a moment. Job is a character in the Old Testament. His very name is a point of reference of the worst suffering imaginable. We'll use the expression the patience of Job because Job is a man who was living a great life. He had a beautiful family. He was very wealthy. He was very successful. And one day, seemingly out of nowhere, a series of calamities befell this poor man. Now, we know from reading the book of Job that there was a conversation between God and the angels, including Lucifer, who's a fallen angel in heaven. And God had been bragging on Job saying, "Have you considered my servant Job? He's a perfect and upright man, one that fears God and shuns evil". And Satan said, "Oh, give me a break. You let me have a little time with Job and we'll see what he's really made of".
And the Lord allowed the devil to bring a series of difficulties into Job's life. And on that day when he lost members of his family, and he lost his possessions, and he lost his own health, he was covered in boils, here's what Job said in job 1:21. "I came naked from my mother's womb, and I'll be stripped of everything when I die. The Lord gave me everything I have, and the Lord is taking it away. Praise the name of the Lord". And then it says, "Job did not sin by blaming God". Wow, that's real faith. In fact, you really find out how strong your faith is by how you react to adversity and difficulty. For some people, something bad happens they say, "I lost my faith," really? Maybe you should lose that faith because the faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted. Put your faith in Christ, don't put your faith in a person. Don't put your faith in the church, put your faith in Jesus himself. He is the one that will sustain you in your times of difficulty.
I was asked the question once, "Greg, what was the most spiritual moment of your life, the moment when you felt God more than any other time"? I had to think about that. I thought, wow, was it the day that I accepted Christ into my life as a 17-year-old kid on my high school campus? I don't really remember that being an emotional day, but it was the most important day of my life. So, I thought that's not it. Maybe it was the day I was baptized. That was a little more emotional for me when I went into the water of baptism in the ocean there at Pirate's Cove at Corona Del Mar Beach. But that wasn't even the most emotional moment. Then I thought, maybe it was the day I got married to Kathy. She was the vision of beauty in her white bridal gown. And I look like one of the guys from "Duck Dynasty" in the worst looking tuxedo ever designed. That was an emotional day, but that was not the most spiritual moment of my life.
And then as I thought, I realized the most spiritual moment, the moment where I felt Christ more than any other moment was also the worst moment of my life. My most spiritual day was on my worst day. I know the actual date, July 24, 2008. It was the day that I heard the unspeakable news that my son Christopher had died in an automobile accident. I felt like my life had just ended, literally. I thought, I don't think I can go on. How do you go on from something like this? But I have to say this, God was with me. My home was immediately filled with people. I don't know how they got there so quickly. I think I lost touch with time. I was in a state of shock. And all these well wishers are crowding into my home saying things to me, some which were helpful, other things were not helpful at all. And I went to my little office, which is on top of our garage and I shut the door. And I fell down on the floor and I prayed a Job-like prayer. I said, "Lord, you gave me my son and I give him back to you," and I experienced the presence of God.
I want to tell you something, if God didn't come through for me at that moment, I would have given up preaching. But he did come through for me, and he still comes through for me. And he was with me in that time of trial. We don't like times of trial, we don't want times of trial, but God will give us strength when we're in them. So again, what is the purpose of trials? To make us stronger spiritually so we'll develop a spiritual toughness, if you will. Now, there are different trials that come into our life as Christians. Verse 2 of James says, "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials". They can be translated, "Many colored trials". So, you might be going through a hardship that's different than the one that somebody else is going through, but you are going to go through them. But here's point number two, even when things look bleak, all things will ultimately work together for God's glory and your good.
God is in control of all circumstances that surround the believer. Coming back to the book of Job, before Satan could bring the hardships into Job's life, he had to get permission from God, and the same is true of you. God knows what you can handle, and he's always keeping an eye on you. And these attacks will come, but this is an opportunity for you to turn to the Lord and to trust the Lord. You never know how God can take a hardship and use it for good.
A while ago, I read the story about a man that was bitten by a shark. Now, that happens every now and then, but this story was unusual because it talked about a man who was thankful he had been bitten by a shark. Well, I had to read that, right? So, here's what happened. This guy was out swimming, and he was attacked by a shark. And so, he's rushed to the hospital. And as they're stitching him back up from the shark bite, they realize that this man has cancer. And because they discovered it at an early stage, they were able to remove it without chemotherapy or radiation of any kind. And this man, who had been bitten, said he was thankful for the shark attack because if he had not been bitten by this shark, he would not have known that he had cancer. Who would ever think that a shark attack could be a good thing? They wanted to give the shark an award, but he was unavailable because he was looking for other people to bite, hoping there would be a positive outcome from that as well. That's a joke, by the way. But this brings me to point number three, God's ultimate purpose is that you might be conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.
Now, we all know Romans 8:28. We know that all things work together for good to those that love God and are called according to his purpose. But then it continues on and says, "Whom God did foreknow, he also did predestine to be conformed into the image of his own dear Son". Here's the big picture, here's God's end game for you. He wants to make you like Jesus. God is preparing you for your future ministry, life here on earth, but also for your future in heaven because heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. So, no matter what you're going through, know this, God is at work in your life. Here's point number four, suffering can bring glory to God. When we're suffering, we can bring glory to God. Listen, any fool can be happy when the sky is blue and the sun is shining. But when the bottom drops out, when adversity hits and you're still rejoicing, that's another thing altogether. Sometimes God will allow a hardship so he can step in and deliver us from it, and people will be amazed. So, pray about it, maybe the Lord wants to heal you of something. Maybe the Lord wants to deliver you from something.
Now, God doesn't always deliver us from our circumstances. God doesn't always take the problems away. And sometimes we can glorify him, despite our problem. You know, a disability can turn into an ability when placed into the hands of God. A disadvantage can turn into an advantage as well. So, God will allow these things for his purpose. And another reason sometimes God allows sickness or hardship is to get our attention. Sometimes we're running from God, we're disobeying God. We don't have time for God, so something happens to get our attention. As the psalmist said, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I have kept your Word". Am I talking to somebody right now who is in a hospital room, or someone right now who is facing a crisis and it's actually got your attention for the first time?
Listen, I'm so glad you're here. I'm so glad you're watching because when you get knocked on your back, the only way you can look is up. And there is the Lord saying, "I love you, and I will help you, call out to me". You need to know that the experiences of this life can and will be used by God to help other people. And I don't know what you've gone through in life, but God can use it for his glory. No matter what you go through, God will be there for you and with you. You say, "But I don't think I can handle this". Well, you don't have the strength you need now to deal with that yet. God will give you what you need when you need it, not necessarily before, and certainly not after, but he'll give you what you need when you need it. And wherever you are in life, I want you to know God is here.
God is ready to step into your life, and he's here to bring comfort to you. He's here to bring hope to you. He's here to bring forgiveness to you, depending on what you've done, but you must come to him. I mentioned earlier, there might be somebody watching who has had some kind of a tragedy or problem come into their life that's gotten their attention, good. Now call out to the Lord, and he will save you. And in some instances, he may even rescue you. Are you down and depressed and hurting? Jesus is saying, "Let me come in. Let me refresh you with rest. Let me give you the meaning and purpose of life that you've been searching for". And then Jesus gives us the hope that when our life in this earth comes to an end, we will go to heaven. Not everybody has that hope. Heaven is not the default destination of every human being. It is only the future destination of those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ.
Maybe God has spoken to your heart, and you have seen your need for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came from heaven to this earth. He was born in a manger. He died on a cross. He rose again from the dead. Why? Because he loves you, and he wants a relationship with you. Listen, I'm not talking about religion. I don't want to be a religious person, I don't think you want to be one either. I'm talking about relationship with God. Jesus, who died and rose again, stands at the door of your life and he knocks. And he says if you'll hear his voice and open the door, he will come in. Question, have you asked Jesus Christ to come and live inside of you?
You might say, "Well, I think so, I'm not sure". Hey, if someone moved into your house in the middle of the night, do you think you would be aware of it? I'm sure you would, and in the same way, if Christ has come to live inside of you, you will know. And if you don't know, maybe he has not come in yet. He's just a prayer away, all you need to do is say, "Jesus, I want this relationship with you. I want you to forgive me of my sin. I want to go to heaven when I die". Would you like to do that? Would you like Christ to come into your life? If so, why don't you just pray this simple prayer with me? You could pray it out loud, or you can pray it in the quietness of your heart. But this is a prayer where you're asking Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord. Pray this with me now:
Lord Jesus, I know that I'm a sinner, but I know that you're the Savior who died on the cross for my sin and rose again from the dead. Now come into my life. I choose to follow you from this moment forward. Thank you for hearing this prayer and answering this prayer. In Jesus's name, amen.
Did you just pray that prayer with me? If so, I want you to know in the authority of Scripture that Christ himself has come to live inside of you. And let me be the first to say to you, congratulations, and welcome to the family of God.