James Meehan - Tested, Take the Test
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Hey Switch. Man, I'm so excited to be talking to you guys today. My name is James, and today we are talking about tests. And, no, we're not talking about the ACT, the SAT, or the EOI. We're gonna talk about the tests that we'll all face in our lives. And I think it's such an important topic because the tests that we face, whether it's some struggle or trial, will determine the stories that we tell. And it's the tests that we face that give the meaning, the power, and the emotion to those stories.
Now, for me personally, I have been tested many times in my life. Whether it is something to do with the sports team that I competed with, asking out some girl, a test in school, like a literal test, or the struggles that my family went through. The thing with those tests is that they have shaped who I am today. And there were many times where I responded in a great way. And there are other times where I was so afraid that I would fail, that I wouldn't be good enough, I wouldn't have what it takes, that instead of even taking the test, I just held back and responded in the wrong ways. When we're presented with these tests, it's an opportunity for us to respond in a way that brings us closer to Jesus and the life that He wants us to live.
So, the good news is if you've ever struggled with tests or felt that way about them like I have, there's this guy named James, not me, the actual brother of Jesus, who wrote a letter that I think is so helpful for us today. And so in the book of James, you can find it in the New Testament of your bibles. Starting in verse two, James says this, and because I can't read without my glasses... "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything". So, here's what we're gonna do right now. You are going to take some time in your Switch group to talk about times where you have been tested. Talk about times where you've been tested, and you've faced some sort of trial in your lives. How did you respond to that test?
So, I hope you guys had some great conversations in your Switch groups, and I'm sure you probably heard that all of us have faced different trials and tests in our lives. And that's why I think it's so important for us to know the answer to the question how do you respond when you are tested. Because again, all of us are gonna face different tests and trials. And I'm sure you've heard people talk about how the tests that they've faced have defined them. But I would argue that it's not the tests that we face in our lives that define us, it's how we respond to the tests we face in our lives that truly define us. Because you can have two people who faced the exact same test, but come out of it on the other side completely different. Because some of us, when we respond to our tests, we will respond in such a way that on the other side of the test, we grow in maturity and perseverance, and we become more of who God has created us to be.
Where as others of us, we may respond to the test in a different way that results in bitterness and frustration. And so, again, the question isn't will you face a test, what is the test? The question is how do you respond when you are tested? I think one of the best examples we can learn from on how to properly respond to tests is Peter. He was one of Jesus' original 12 disciples, and a couple of his highlights were he was literally one of the first people to start following Jesus. There was this time where a bunch of people were done following Jesus, and Peter stuck with Him. Not only that, but Peter preached a message after Jesus' resurrection where 3000 people became Christians, putting their faith in Jesus. And what I love about Peter, is almost every time he was tested, he responded by moving closer to Jesus.
Almost, because the truth is, is that even though there were many times where Peter responded in the right way, there were sometimes where he didn't. There's a story where Peter and the other disciples were on this boat, moving across a lake, and they see Jesus walking on the water, when Jesus invites Peter to come out of the boat and to come to Him. And so Peter jumps out of the boat, he starts walking on the water, but then, because the storm was raging around him, he took his eyes off of Jesus and he started to sink. There was another time where Peter had some interaction where at the end of it, Jesus literally looked at him and said get behind me, Satan. There was another time where, when Jesus got arrested, Peter pulled out a sword and cut off a dude's ear. He literally cut some dude's ear off.
And then probably one of the worst times was when Peter denied Jesus. The disciples are having dinner, and Jesus looks at Peter and says, hey man, you're going to deny me three times. And Peter's like, nope, not a chance, I will never leave, I am with you to the end. And then after Jesus was arrested and He was taken into a room where He was gonna be questioned, and He was gonna be put on trial, Peter denied Him. He denied when a servant girl asked him, hey are you one of His followers. He denied when another servant girl asked him, are you one of His followers, and he denied when a group of people said, hey I think I saw you with Jesus, is that true? And he denied. He did the very thing he said he wouldn't do.
And so maybe for you, you've never been in a position where you were walking one water, but maybe you have chosen to put fear over faith. Because of the things around you, you chose to trust in that fear instead of keeping your eyes focused on Jesus. Maybe nobody, and hopefully, nobody has ever called you Satan, but maybe you've chosen comfort over the calling that God's given you. Maybe for you, you haven't denied anything, but if you were to look at your life and the way you live on a Wednesday night at Switch and the way you live at school, they would be two completely different lives. Because, unintentionally, you are denying Jesus by the way you carry yourself around the people that aren't seeing you at church. So, right now, I want you guys to take some time in your Switch group, and talk about a time that you were tested by some trial and you failed. What'd you learn? How did you respond? Go ahead and take some time right now and talk about that.
I'm sure you guys had some incredible conversation in your Switch groups. I wanna go back to that verse from James, chapter one, verses two through four. And glasses back on for this. He said, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. So let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything". So, these opportunities, they were all opportunities for Peter to develop perseverance and maturity. They were opportunities for him to learn, to grow, and to experience the love and grace of Jesus.
I love this story of shortly after Peter's denial of Jesus, after the resurrection, Peter and some of the other disciples are out fishing, and then all of a sudden they see a dude on a beach who just so happens to be Jesus. And Peter is so excited that while everybody else is getting the boat ready to go to shore, Peter jumps out of the boat and swims so that he can be there first. And then this conversation ensues where Jesus forgives Peter for the denial, and still asks him to lead his people. Peter, even though he denied, still got to experience the love and grace of Jesus. And I think because of that moment, Peter was set up for success so that later in the book of Acts, we hear this story about when Peter and John and another disciple come across a dude who is crippled. They see this guy and they heal him in the name of Jesus.
This crippled dude is so excited, he literally starts jumping and dancing because he is now healed. And this crowd of people at the temple take notice because they just saw the guy be crippled, and now he's jumping and dancing. And that draws the attention of this group called the Sanhedrin, who were the people who were responsible for getting Jesus arrested and crucified. So what they do is they're like, hey this is not okay, these dudes are talking about Jesus. I thought we just killed him. I thought this was done, but it's still happening. So they lock up Peter and John, and then later they bring 'em out to ask 'em some questions.
So in Acts chapter four starting in verse seven we're told this, "They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: 'By what power or what name did you do this?' Then Peter, filled with the Holy spirit, said to them: 'Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed...'"
And then it goes on to say that "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus". So where did that boldness come from? Because this is Peter, right? The same guy who denied he knew Jesus to a 12 year old girl, staring down the people that got Jesus killed, and who absolutely had the power to get Peter killed as well. I think that boldness came from the time that he spent with Jesus, seeing his teacher, his Lord, and his friend die on a cross, and then come back from the dead.
I think it came from having breakfast on the beach with the first and only man in history to predict his own death and resurrection, and then pull it off. That is where that boldness came from, because it tells us that they noticed that they had been with Jesus. We become like the people we spend time with, and the more time we spend pursuing Jesus, the more like Him we become. Because he conquered death, as His followers, we have nothing to fear. And so when we are faced with a test, we can take the test with confidence, knowing that that test is going to help us develop maturity and perseverance, so that we can become even more of who God has created us to be.
So, I want you to take some time right now and talk in your Switch group about how the different tests you've gone through have developed perseverance and maturity in you. Alright guys, so I have another question for you. How do you respond when you're tested? And, will your response bring you closer to Jesus and a life He wants for you, or farther from Him? And you need to know the answer to that question. You need to know it, because you will be tested. We've all been tested so many times already, but the world we live in is going to present us with test after test after test where we're gonna have a choice, you will have a choice.
Do you respond in such a way that it brings you closer to Jesus, or it takes you farther from Him? And when everything around you is trying to get you to stay quiet, to just go with the flow, to fit in with everybody else, will you respond in such a way that you stand with boldness, just like Peter did, and be the story teller that God has created you to be? How will you respond when you're tested? Will you respond in such a way that brings you closer to Jesus and the life He has for you? Or will you respond in such a way that takes you farther from Him?
So here's what happens when you take the test. Going back to what James says. He says this, he says that "the testing of your faith produces perseverance. So let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything". Take the test, keep your eyes focused on Jesus. Because when you do, you're gonna develop perseverance and maturity. You're gonna become more of who God has created you to be. And He's gonna use you to show others what it could and should look like to follow Him. He's gonna use you to show people that life is better with Jesus, and that when we follow Jesus, we become so much better at life. Let's pray:
Father God, I thank you so much for these students that are in this room tonight. I pray that each of them would recognize that the tests that they go through are for a purpose. That the tests that they go through are gonna shape who they are, and they're gonna shape the stories that they tell. God I pray that through this message that You will have spoken to them in such a way that they will be closer to You, that they will be prepared to live out the life and the calling that You've given them.
Still, with every head bowed and every eye closed in an attitude of prayer, I know that there are some of you that are in this room tonight where you've recognized that you are a follower of Jesus. But you haven't been responding to the tests in your life in the right way. You haven't been responding in such a way that brings you closer to Jesus, but tonight you want that to change. You want to respond like Peter did, with boldness and with faith, facing every test and seeing it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, and experience the love and grace of Jesus. If that's you, would you please lift your hand so that I can pray for you?
Father I thank you for those students. And I pray right now that you would fill them with boldness, that you would fill them with wisdom, with discipline, so that when they leave here tonight, that they would be closer to You, and they would be prepared, no matter what test comes their way, to respond in a way that brings them closer to You. That they would take the test, and that they would be closer to You because of it, they would develop perseverance and maturity. And God, that you would bless them and use them in so many ways that they can't even begin to imagine today.
Now, again, still an attitude of prayer, with every head bowed and every eye closed, I know there's another group of you that are in here tonight, and this whole idea of being tested is a new way of looking at it for you because prior to this, you've probably just seen those tests as struggles, as frustrations, but tonight you're recognizing that God has used those to bring you where you are today. You are here for a reason, I believe that reason is this, because God wants a relationship with you. You've been going through life on your own, trying to figure it out, but today you've realized that that needs to change. That you need to stop living for yourself and start living for Him.
The problem is every single one of us, me included, we've all sinned. We've made mistakes that have hurt us, hurt others, and hurt the heart of God, that created a distance between us and God. But God, He loves you so much and He loves me so much, that 2000 years ago He sent His son, Jesus, to live a perfect life, to die on the cross for your sins and for mine. But three days later, Jesus conquered death, hell, and the grave when God raised him from the dead, and because of that, we can be forgiven of our sins, we can live life, and life to the full, because of the sacrifice that Jesus made for you and that Jesus made for me.
And there are those of you that are in this room tonight, and you recognize that that is what you've been missing, a relationship with Jesus, the hope, the love, and the grace that comes from putting your faith in Him. And tonight is the night that everything changes, because you turned from your past and you turned towards Him. If you're in this room and you want to begin a relationship with Jesus, to become a follower of Him, to experience His love, His grace, and His truth, then lift your hand right now.