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It Will Feel Better When It Stops Hurting

The Path of Faith  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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To help this congregation desire the better choice no matter how difficult the road.

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Blessed is the one who holds out for the best

In seminary I had a young professor with the last name of Ballentine.
Dr. Ballentine was infamous on campus - He was known as the professor that presided over the St. Ballentine’s day massacre.
On that fateful day, he gave an exam that the vast majority of students failed and legend has the highest grade was a C and there was only 1.
And there was no curve.
That was before my time but the story lived on.
When I arrived in his Old Testament Survey class, he had mended his evil ways and he had set up a contract system.
In the course syllabus, he very plainly stated what the requirements were for an A, a B or a C.
In the first week of class you had to declare what grade you were contracting for.
Essentially what you had to do was to choose which level of pain you were willing to endure and then once you chose, you had to endure it.
He was a dynamite lecturer and a merciless test administrator.
There were times during the semester when you were tempted to thrown in the towel and be done with it.
But I contracted for my grade and I trusted Dr. Ballentine that if I fulfilled my end of the bargain, my reward would be waiting for me at the end.
And it was.
I know you are curious - I contracted for a B.
The requirements for an A were insane and I knew my mind didn’t think the way he required for an A.
The pain of a B was enough.
I remember when I got hurt as a kid, my dad saying, “It will feel better when it stops hurting.”
Well, when my grade report came out, the B felt good.
But a lot of pain was endured to get there.

Blessed is the one who holds out for the best

Our text today is James 1:12-18.
If you would open your Bibles to James - when you see Hebrews, James is next.
If you see 1 Peter, you’ve gone too far.
If you are watching by live stream or video, take your Bibles out too - it will help you to follow along as we read.
We have Bibles in our pew racks here that you can use and if you don’t have a Bible, please feel free to take one of ours as a gift from us.
Everyone needs a Bible and we’d be tickled pink if you would accept ours as a gift.
While you are looking, to get us up to speed.
In verses 1 - 12, James stated an obvious point - if you are alive, trials will come.
Some trials are subtle and easy to endure.
But some trials are brutal - some of you are living through one right now.
And the only way to endure a brutal trial is with grit, determination and a strong reliance on the Lord for His wisdom.
We understand that the Lord sends trials and allows trials.
And we know when we endure a trial, we are encouraged because we see we CAN endure and that the Lord DOES provide.
And the trial ends up being a blessing.
If you’ve endured a trial, you were blessed because you held out for the best.
Our text is James 1:12-18 - Hear the Word of the Lord
James 1:12–18 ESV
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
This is the Word of the Lord, thanks be to God.
What is blessed?
I see #blessed all over the place for all kinds of things.
A new car, a new house, kids got good grades, baby hit a home run - #blessed.
What is blessed?
If you’ve ever studied the Beatitudes in Matthew, you know blessed means happy.
In fact, the Good News Bible uses the word happy instead of blessed.
But you remember we said happiness is transitory.
I can disappear in a minute because of an argument or a bad night’s sleep or too much pepperoni on the pizza.
Blessed is happiness, but there is depth to this happiness.
This happiness is a happiness of fulfilment and contentment.
It is a happiness where you lean back, you take a pause.
You smile and your heart is warm.
Because everything is in it’s place, everything is as it is supposed to be, God is in heaven and I am content.
A person is blessed, James says, a person has an overwhelming sense of fulfillment and contentment, when they have prevailed over the test.
One of my favorite sports schticks is the statement, “This team has overcome a lot of adversity, we stuck to our game plan.
“These guys have heart - they fought for this win.”
What did the coach say?
We persevered through the trial and we were rewarded with a win.
That’s really James’ idea here - James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial...
Remember we talked about steadfast.
It’s not being patiently, passively submissive until the storm is over.
Steadfast is grit and tenacity.
It’s a grinding teeth, clenched fist determination that we are going to win.
James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, (who has made up his mind, who had gritted his teeth, who had clenched his fists, who cried out to God for wisdom and has determined to never, ever, ever give up)
“for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
Because when you endure to the end, there is a reward for finishing the battle.
If you were here during our Revelation story, you heard this phrase over and over, “The one who conquers will receive....”
Do you do it for the reward?
I endured the challenges of my Old Testament class for the B, so in a sense I was looking for the reward, but it is really more than that.
It’s not only the satisfaction of accomplishment, of a job well done.
It’s the satisfaction of knowing that we are working to achieve something that is better than any easy thing.
It’s knowing we are headed somewhere and that somewhere is indescribably good.
We aren’t working for a trophy for our shelves or a crown on our heads.
We are working to get to the place where we can live the life the Father designed us to live in a place of perfect contentment.
Trials are going to come.
They are a part of our training.
Trials are making us into the men and women of God that we want to be.
But - and here’s the kicker - trials bring temptation.
James 1:13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”
I had to really stop and mull this over a bit before I got it.
Here was my problem, and maybe this is yours too.
God is sovereign - there is nothing outside of His control, period.
There are no accidents, there are no oppies, the Father is never caught off guard.
So, when God sends a trial into my life, it seemed kind of like to me that He’s tempting me to sin.
He laid something in front of me that appeals to me, He knows it appeals to me.
Or, He allows some pain in my life that He knows is painful, and He knows how I am.
How is that not tempting me to sin?
God laid this in front of me, isn’t he tempting me to sin?
The answer is no, and here is why.
First, what is the purpose of the trials the Lord allows into our lives - what is the Lord trying to accomplish?
Trials refine our faith - we’ve used the word genuine - it makes our faith genuine.
Listen to me - you know this is true - when things are really, really hard, all of those fluffy, cutesy Facebook memes - they aren’t real satisfying are they?
It’s like ordering sweet tea and getting a Coke.
When you are in the depths of a life fight, all of the fluff starts getting stripped away.
It’s kind of hard and it’s painful.
A number of those things people have said about God all your life, you find out they were just words.
Being helpless and relying on the Lord makes you see things - makes you see God, differently.
It makes God real.
The Lord tests us to make our faith genuine.
Trials make us see our own genuineness.
Steve Albanese likes to use the phrase, “He’s the real deal.”
When we endure a trial - when the trial is over and we made it through, it helps us realize that we are the real deal.
There is nothing arrogant or prideful about that realizing that.
It is a good thing to understand that you are His and that He sees you through the storms, because;
Trials increase our faith.
It’s the old, kid jumping into the swimming pool into daddy’s arms, thing.
Once the kid sees they can jump and they see daddy won’t let them drown.
Well, you can’t stop them after that right?
Same thing.
Trials increase our endurance.
Go back to the kid in the pool.
Once they learn to jump, you can’t stop them.
Once we learn that we can endure the trial with God’s help, then we are ready for the next one when it comes.
Now, here’s the point.
In Romans 8:29 we hear
Romans 8:29 ESV
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
The Father’s goal in every trial is not for you to fail, it is for you to succeed - He wants you and me to look like Jesus.
Ballentine had me contract for a B.
I did my part - he helped me during the semester.
And when it was over, I had the B.
Dr. Ballentine’s goal was not to fail me.
He didn’t want to fail me - he wanted my success.
When the Lord sends trials our way, His purpose is not to see you fail so He can say, “See, I knew she was a slug.”
His purpose is for you to endure so He can say to you, “See, I knew you could make it.”
Does that makes sense?
See, God would never tempt you and me to sin.
That wouldn’t serve his purpose - remember.
Remember what Jesus said?
Luke 19:10 ESV
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
John 3:17 ESV
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Why can’t we remember that?
When we start whining, “Why me, God? Why are you doing this to me?”
We have to know that He’s not trying to hurt us - we’ve read it - we’ve studied it.
It’s not in God’s nature to tempt us to sin.
How can pure goodness, tempt someone to evil?
It’s not something God wants in His family.
He has no relationship with evil.
He wants us to have no relationship with evil.
And none of this will ever change - it’s who God is.
That’s what James means by James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
James is hinting at the fact that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and one of the very first things He created was light.
On the fourth day, God created the sun, moon, and stars - “for signs and for seasons.”
You’ve seen the shadows right?
As fall comes, shadows get longer.
As summer approaches and the sun goes overhead, shadows get shorter.
If all you watched were the shadows, you would go from thinking a tree was 100 feet tall in the winter to thinking it was 10 feet tall in the summer.
James says God isn’t like that - He never changes - You can always, always count on the Lord to be who He is and to do what He says.
When we say, “Why are you doing this to me?” we are implying that He’s doing something bad
In a sense we are accusing Him of changing.
When we say, “Where are you Lord?” we are in essence accusing Him of lying.
Because He said to us, “I will never leave your nor forsake you.”
And He knows we are going to say those things and that’s precisely why He allows trials to come.
He is proving to us, that He will deliver us and that we will make it.
He is proving to us that our faith is genuine and we are genuine.
But there are dangers in trials.
While God is leading us to strength - there is a part of us that wants no part of it.
James 1:14-15 “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
God is not tempting you - God is trying to make you stronger.
But you and me - we love short cuts.
We love comfort and entertainment and pleasure.
James 1:14 “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”
Now notice something here - James isn’t saying desire is a bad thing.
In fact, some translations use the word lust here instead of desire - but that’s really too strong.
What James has in mind is a simple desire.
We see something we want.
Fried Chicken - the heavenly bird.
Nothing wrong with Fried Chicken.
Unless you have a condition that fried chicken wouldn’t be good for you.
But you now how it works.
When you aren’t supposed to have something, what is the only thing you can think of?
The thing you aren’t supposed to have.
So the desire for fried chicken acts like a bait in the water for a fish.
And you see the bait.
And the bait looks good - I was in Jack’s the other day and they had a pile of fried chicken 6 inches deep under the warmer.
It lures you over to touch it - and once you touch it, the hook is set and here’s the deal.
As I heard someone say this week, sin always takes you further than you wanted to go and it always keeps you longer than you wanted to stay.
That’s the whole idea here.
It’s not God tempting you to sin.
He’s the fitness coach telling you to lift weights, to walk a few more steps, to eat correctly.
It’s you that leaves the gym and goes to Dairy Queen for a Drumstick with peanuts Blizzard.
We do that don’t we?
Some pretty life changing things have happened in our lives because we had a desire we lingered over.
And instead of choosing to gut it out with gritted teach and clenched fists and crying out to God for help, we touched the desire.
And like a hooked fish, we ended up somewhere we didn’t intend to go and it lasted for way longer than we wanted it to last.
That’s why James gives us this pep-talk James 1:18 “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
Listen and follow this:
Of my own desire I leave the gym and get a blizzard.
Of God’s own desire, He chooses to save me.
Through the word of truth, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Not so we’d have a moment of fleeting happiness in a corrupted world.
But so we’d be a “kind of firstfruits...”
Now real quick, let’s explore what he means by this.
God foreknew us.
He loved us before there was even a world.
He purposed in His heart for us to be His.
He created us free to choose good and evil - that’s what today’s message is all about, which will we choose?
We chose to disobey - to break God’s rules, to challenge the way life should be lived and we made our own rules.
And all of creation has been suffering ever since.
But God chose - by “his own will,” God chose to save us.
And God chose by “his own will” to create for Himself a church of people that He has called out.
And He created that church to be “a kind of firstfruit,” a kind of an indicator, a kind of a promise, a down payment
That the Father is going to one day save all of creation.
The church is a promise to the world that what you are living through right now isn’t as good as it gets.
The church is the promise to the world that a new heaven and a new earth is coming.
My prayer for you is this: The next time life gets hard and it will get hard.
The next time life gets hard and you are eating with your family or friends, and you pick up a piece of fried chicken.
I pray you’ll stop and think.
Am I going to grit my teeth, clench my fist, am I going to cry out to God for direction and face this battle down,
Or am I going to take the easy way out and end up some place I never intended to go where I’m going to stay a whole lot longer than I intended.
If you are a Christ follower and you take the easy way out, you won’t die and go to hell.
But you will miss that very thing that you crave.
You’ll miss your contentment.

Blessed is the one who holds out for the best

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