Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Various trials… I would say we have seen our share of various trials recently. Yet, at least for me this church, even in its own turmoil has held me together, has been the comfort of God for me. You have wept with me, held your arms around me, and rejoiced with me.
I have not had the happiest couple of months. Losing my mother was extraordinarily difficult. It did not help that when I should have been processing that loss and the pain that accompanied it therefore healing, that it felt like a barrage of calamities hit me one after the other. I know that I was not the only person in this church to experience difficult times. Separately and together, we have had various trials hit us, we have suffered separately and together. I know that the enemy is afraid of Jesus Christ in us, he is afraid of what we can do and who we can be in the Holy Spirit.
There are a number of ways people can deal with tribulations like that. We could let them defeat us, lay down and say, “you win.” We let the bad circumstances overcome us and become ineffective Christians or wounded self-pitying people. We could, like the world, blame God for the atrocities the enemy is performing all over this broken world.
We could try and fight the enemy, looking for solutions to the problems that pop up. We could run around looking for loans, suing people to get “justice,” or wounding those who have wounded us. But, that is us forgetting the goal, running a race aimlessly or beating the air like a boxer with his eyes closed. That is us fighting the problems, not standing in the faith and promise of God, not remembering our hope, that imperishable inheritance.
Or we could keep our eyes on Jesus, we could remember the goal, seek God, glorify the Lord and bring as many people with us to eternal life as possible. We can hold on to the hope of Christ and rejoice, even in midst of the sorrow. We can believe, truly really believe and so rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. We can listen to the voice of God and do what He tells us to do, even if what He says is, “Rest,” or “Forgive. Vengeance is mine.”
Suffering can result in us turning inward on ourselves and living in the pain the enemy wants us to live in, crippling us in the kingdom. But it can result in greater things, it can result in great glory to God. It can result in us becoming powerful and effective Christians.
In my own suffering, I felt a little like Job. I was not in a self-pity mode, but I reached a point where I was afraid to say, “At least it’s not worse,” because I felt like when I said it, the devil said, “It can be! Let me show you!” But, I stayed in communion with God, even when it wasn’t as passionate as it could have or should have been. He kept reminding me of Genesis 50:20 when Joseph explained to his brothers how and why he forgave them for what they had done to him as a teenager. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
That is the hope we hold onto, that God will bring good out of all the stuff that happens to us. Paul reminds of it in Romans 8:28-29 as well. It is very good that we are made more like Jesus and other good comes out of it. God wants good for us, He wants salvation for everyone. That doesn’t make the tribulations any less tumultuous, but it does help us to trudge on through them, to obey God, and to eventually look back and even rejoice for what came out of it. The faith that God will work good out of evil and will work good for those who love Him can give us the reason to praise Him even when we are hurting and don’t know what else to say. I can say, “thank you Lord that some of my family and friends got to hear that my mother loved you.” I can praise the Lord because I know I will see my mother again in the resurrection and I know she is with Jesus completely at peace and joy, all her doubts vanished, all her pain gone. I can praise God because through the church being forced to find a new place to meet, we have come to know that we are the church, one body who loves each other very much, who loves Jesus very much and who will continue regardless of a home. That we will be a very strong core to a growing body who will glorify the Lord and impact His Kingdom in ways the devil never could have imagined. The evil he meant for us, God meant for good and to bring about that many people will be saved.
Then my sister encouraged me with some verses from Job. Job 5:8-11 reads,
“As for me, I would seek God,
and to God would I commit my cause,
9 who does great things and unsearchable,
marvelous things without number:
10 he gives rain on the earth
and sends waters on the fields;
11 he sets on high those who are lowly,
and those who mourn are lifted to safety.
Those verses and her prayers ignited me. I knew I needed to seek God even more during this time. I needed to cry out to Him and know He is omnipotent and that He loves perfectly and steadfastly. I did. I read Psalm 42 because I completely understood what David meant when he described his soul as downcast. It’s so much more than sadness. David said his tears were his food day and night. He said that his soul was in turmoil. That is how I felt. I wanted to stop hurting. I, like David wanted to feel like I had felt in the past at a high point of faith and my walk with Jesus.
What was David’s answer? He said,
“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God”
He said his need for God was a desperation, an absolute requirement for his life, the way a deer requires water.
He said, that he remembered the praise when he poured his soul out to God. And He said in verse 8,
“By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.”
He ends the Psalm in verse 11 with,
“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”
David turned to God and God covered him in His love and reminded him of the hope and salvation He gave him. I did too. I finally turned fully to God.
We can’t expect to stand firm in Christ if we are not seeking God with the desperation of that panting thirsty deer. We can’t expect to resist the devil if we are inviting him to engage with us by trying to fight him and wrestle with him rather than crying out to God and letting the LORD do great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number as the book of Job reminds us, He does.
My sadness did not magically disappear, but my hope grew and my joy grew. God showed me that a person can be in deep grief, but still have joy. The more I spoke to God, the more I cried out to Him instead of an empty room, the more I looked for the Lord, the more hope and joy I had, regardless of my circumstances.
And then I saw God moving to help me, I saw Him shining His favor on me, improving some of the circumstances that had piled on me.
How does my crying out to God, how does us putting our faith in God rather than ourselves glorify the Lord? People are watching. People are watching our responses and reactions. They see if we dig way down and flex our own muscles or we stand firm in faith and ask the Lord to be our strength, provider, comforter, counselor, and savior. It is not about changing circumstances. Our circumstances can improve but we can remain bereft or we can grow farther away from God as we become what the world sees as strong. Paul was harassed by Satan who had given him something he described as a thorn in his flesh. Paul turned to the LORD and begged Him to take it away. God chose not to change the circumstances, instead He changed His servant.
2 Corinthians 12:7-12 reads,
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The Lord’s power, His omnipotent unimaginable strength is made perfect, that is it is shown and expressed in our weakness. God can do it all and it is shown best when displayed through our imperfection, our inability, our frailty. It is His strength, not ours that brings people to Jesus. It is God’s strength that allowed Him to lay His life down on the cross and raise up again to defeat death and sin. He empowers us and gives us strength to rise above our circumstances. Paul wrote to the Philippians and said in chapter 4 verses 12-13
12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
When we operate in His strength and not our own, the circumstances do not have to bring us down. But He can and does do great things for us. He does great things and unsearchable, marvelous things without number!
He will give us the church building He showed us. He will do it in a way, none of us imagined. He can do so much more than any of us can think up. He can and will and has provided for us again and again. He heals! He anoints! He brings people to Himself even through the evil campaigns of the enemy.
And what about the good that comes out of the evil that the enemy tries to work against us? Sometimes we don’t know about it. We don’t know how we were protected from some awful thing. Sometimes it takes time to come about. Scholars guess Joseph spent about thirteen years or so in prison for a crime he did not commit. It was two years from the time he interpreted the dreams of the cup bearer and baker to the time he was asked to serve Pharaoh. It was the gifts and wisdom God had given Joseph that saved Egypt and his family.
But there are many times when God let’s us see the good that came from the thwarted attack of the enemy, the weapons that tried to take us down and maybe even looked like they hit the target. I can tell you that I saw how many people I have that love and care about me, my good friends, my church, my family. God sends those people to be His arms hugging and holding you, His comfort as The Holy Spirit operates through His people as we obey the “one anothers” out of love for Jesus and each other. God sent Job’s friends to comfort him during what had to be horrific and unimaginable sorrow. His friends weren’t perfect, they proved that when they spoke out of themselves rather than the Spirit of God. But Job’s faithful response, changed his friends lives and gave them an encounter with the LORD of Lords.
And often, the good that comes from it is the transformation of our character to the image of Christ. Romans 5:3-5 describes it this way,
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
When we’re suffering, not only does the Lord make us more like Jesus but if we choose to pay attention, we can be very aware of the awesome love He has for us. He pours His love into us through the Holy Spirit. He builds us up and He lets us feel that amazing love He is, fill us up with it and even helps us to love others with better with His agape love.
For me, the peace, the comfort, the love all came when I cried out to God, when I sought Him and asked for His help. The joy came when I praised Him for being awesome and good even when my circumstances were terrible.
We can feel so alone in suffering, in trials, and difficulties, but that is a lie from the enemy. Remember God’s promise, “I am with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.” We might ignore God, but He will not leave us, and He will not ignore us. He will not remove His hand from our lives unless we want Him to do that.
One of my favorite names for God is, The God who Sees Me. This was what Hagar called him when she was so hurt by how she was treated by Sarai and Abram after she became pregnant. God pursued her into the wilderness, comforted her and gave her the promise of her son, Ishmael, which means God hears.
We can cry out to Him and know He hears us. We know He sees us, and We know He has compassion for us, and we know that God loves us perfectly because He is love.
And we have more than Hagar’s promise of God hears, we have Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us! We are definitely never alone. And if we are part of a Jesus following, Bible believing, Holy Spirit led church, we also know that the people around us can empathize, that the people around us love us because we are called and empowered to love one another as Jesus loved us. That has been proved in us again and again. We have rejoiced together, we have wept together, we have walked and grown together. That kind of love, the love of God and the love He gives us for one another is what gives us joy regardless of the circumstances.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
I praise the Lord. I praise Him, not because the world is honkey dory, but because He is God. Because He is God with me, Awesome Mighty God, Lord God of Hosts. The world doesn’t need the lie that life is a rose garden if you’re saved, the world needs the truth that God is always God. They need to know that He prayed for them in the garden of Gethsemane and that He died for them and resurrected for them. They need to know the hope of eternal life. I praise God because He is I Am.
The world sees the way we respond to problems. They can call us stupid or apathetic, tell us religion is a crutch, or offer advice about what they would do in our circumstances. Their response will not affect or change our lives,; But maybe they can take notice and see how good God is and start a journey to Christ and let their life be changed by Jesus, who gives us strength to do all things.
The first and most important thing we can do when we are being attacked, when we are facing various trials is cry out to God and let Him be God! If we abide in Jesus, whatever we ask will be given to us! We cry out to God. We can listen and obey. We can move as He orders and rest as He orders. We can and should put on the full armor of God letting salvation, righteousness, truth, and faith protect us and wielding the very powerful sword of the Sprit, the Word of God. Every piece of the armor is about Jesus. Jesus is our Salvation. He gives us our righteousness. He gives us our Faith. He is the Truth. He is the Word of God. Ephesians 6:11 tells us to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”
You have the Spirit of God in you! He adores you that much that He chose to live in you. Live in the Spirit rather than doing what the world says you ought to do in your circumstances. Cry out to God and obey Him, submit to His will. James 4:2-7 says it like this,
You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
You don’t have to do more than merely resist, the word for resist is antistēte, it means to set against and withstand.
The same word is used in 1 Peter 5:9 let’s read 1 Peter 5:6-11
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Once again we humble ourselves, we put ourselves under His mighty hand, we cast all our cares on Him and we resist.
What does it mean to resist, to withstand to stand firm or stand against? Exodus 14:13-14 describes a bit about resisting the enemy. When the Israelites reached the Red Sea and they looked and saw the Egyptian army closing in on them, they were afraid, but Moses spoke for the Lord and said, “And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
So, today whatever your circumstances, trials, anxieties, or sorrows I encourage you to cry out to God and put on the whole armor of God. Let’s humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand asking Him to fight for us; let’s resist, stand against the devil firm in our faith that God is mighty and He has called us to His eternal glory. He will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us! He is I Am! Jehovah, Lord God Almighty!