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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Matt's Messages - Real Christians Trust God in Times of Trial

“Real Christians Trust God in Times of Trial”
Real Christians
November 11, 2007
1 Peter 1:6-7

This is the next message in our series on Real Christians.

We’ve learned:

Real Christians Believe the Real Gospel.
Real Christians Really Love God and Really Love People.
Real Christians Are on a Real Mission and Really Love Missions.
Real Christians Really Pray, and Real Christians Delight in God’s Word.

Today, “Real Christians Trust God in Times of Trial.”

1 Peter 1, starting in verse 3.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. [And here’s our text...] In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Let me ask you a question:

What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?

The worst thing that has ever happened to me (so far) was in April of 1999.

Heather and I were expecting our first child, a baby girl.

And we had traveled out to Ashland, Ohio for the Allegheny District Conference. We were staying with my folks in nearby Shelby, Ohio.

And we came to realize that our baby had died.

No movement. No heartbeat. No life.

I’ve never cried like that before in my whole life. I wailed like a baby in the Emergency Room.

She was at 6 months gestation.

We drove all the way back to State College to deliver our little baby at Centre Community Hospital under the caring supervision of Heather’s doctor, Doctor Gary Schell.

And we got to her briefly, and say goodbye.

That’s the worst thing that has ever happened to me, so far.

What’s the worst thing that has ever happened to you?

Let me ask you another question:

What’s the worst thing that is happening to you, right now?

Are you going through a trial?

Are you having a struggle, a difficulty, a problem?

What’s the worst thing that is happening to you, right now?

And how are you responding to it?

I remember driving through the pouring rain on that wretched night in April 1999, and being confronted with a decision: How would I respond to God in this trial?

How would Heather and I cope?

What would Heather and I choose to think, to feel, to believe if our worst nightmare had come true? And it had.

Would we turn away from God–the very God that had called us into pastoral ministry?

Or would we trust Him?

The Bible teaches that Real Christians Trust God in Times of Trial.

Let’s read verses 6 and 7 again.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Peter knows that these Christians he is writing to are struggling.

He’s written this little letter to encourage them in their sufferings. And that’s why he begins with the gospel. He talks about God’s mercy, and a new birth, and living hope because of the Cross and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. And he talks about an inheritance that never be taken away and a total salvation that is on the way.

That why he says, that these Christians greatly rejoice:

“In this you greatly rejoice,” that is, in this great gospel of salvation, you rejoice.

But right now, there is trouble.

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”

Peter knows that the Christian life is a life of painful joy.

We live in a world that is still under a curse.

There is a better day coming, but it is not yet here.

God has broken into this broken world with His Son and has broken the curse, but its effects remain.

So now, for a little while, we have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

All kinds.

For these Christians, it was persecution. Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

They were experiencing it, firsthand.

But it says, “all kinds” not just persecution.

This includes losing a daughter.
It includes cancer or heart trouble.
It includes divorce and family discord.
It includes losing a job or being robbed.

All kinds of trouble.

I look around this room, and I know a lot of the trials that you have faced or are facing right now.

Peter says that it will be just for a “little while,” but that little while could last 70 or 80 years! That’s not a long time compared with eternity!

Even though Real Christians Believe the Real Gospel and REJOICE IN IT, Real Christians also have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

But even so, they trust God.

Real Christians Trust God in Times of Trial.

Fake ones don’t! When the going gets rough, the fake Christians lose heart.

But Real Christians Trust God in Times of Trial.

I see 3 major reasons, in verse 7, why Real Christians Trust God when times are tough. Let me point them out to you.

#1. Real Christians Trust God in Times of Trial, BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT GOD HAS A PLAN FOR OUR PAIN. V.7

“These [painful trials] have come so that....” Wait a second, stop there.

These are two of the most important words in this verse: SO THAT.

Why does he say, “So that?”

You only use the words “So That” when there is a purpose hiding somewhere in the sentence.

“I knocked on the door SO THAT she would open it.”
“I stole 2nd base SO THAT we just might win this one.”
“Teachers grade on the curve SO THAT some of the students can get a better grade.”
“Pastor Matt yells SO THAT everyone can hear him.”

Peter knows that there is PURPOSE, a PLAN, for our PAIN. Trials come for a reason! We don’t always know the reason. But we know that God has one.

God never wastes pain. He has a plan for it. There is a “so that” for every trial you have ever faced. Every one (if you are a Christian)! Even the ones that you can’t figure out yet.

There is a SO THAT, a plan, for our pain.

Many people don’t believe that. They think that God (if He exists) is just making things up as He goes along. And that maybe He isn’t strong enough (or heaven forbid!) good enough to keep bad things from happening to His children.

But that’s the not what the Bible says.

The Bible says that there is a plan for our pain.

God will use it to do what seems best to Him. And I can trust Him for that.

We don’t always know what the plan is for our pain.

One thing the Bible says is that we sometimes suffer so that we can offer comfort to others that are going to suffer in the same way.

You’ve experienced that, haven’t you? You went through something hard, and you didn’t know why, but then you met someone who had the exact same problem, and you could help them.

Another biblical reason is to provide a testimony to unbelievers.

When the world sees how we respond to our trials, they have to sit up and take notice.

Peter says in chapter 3 that we should be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. When they see us suffering, and we don’t fall apart, they have to wonder where we get our hope.

I remember 6 and half years ago when Keith and Pennie lost their house in a fire, how they had a number of people ask them how they coped with it so well.

And they will them about the Lord and how He has a plan for their pain.

It blew some people away. And it was a great opening to share the Lord with others.

We don’t always know what God’s plan is. For some of our suffering, we may have to wait for heaven to find out the whys and the wherefores.

But God’s says, “So That.” There is a purpose. There is a plan. And we can trust Him.

#2. Real Christians Trust God in Times of Trial BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT GOD PROVES OUR FAITH THROUGH FIRE.

“These [trials] have come SO THAT your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine...” Let’s stop there now.

One of God’s chief purposes of suffering in our lives is to refine us with something hot and hard so that we are shown to be genuine or [our word for this Fall] “real”–faith proved through fire.

God judges our faith to be a lot like gold but much more valuable. Gold, if fired in a furnace, can be refined to be costly, perfect pure gold. The more you heat it, the better it becomes. But even gold will perish in the end. So our faith is of greater worth than gold.

And like the gold, God brings fire (trials, pain, suffering, heart-ache, fire) into our lives to refine our faith. Did you ever think about that as we sing that song, “Refiner’s Fire?” We are basically asking God to bring us trials! Or at least, to use our inevitable trials to make us holy–“set apart for You, Lord–ready to do your will.”

If you want to know if something is real–you put it through the test. And if it comes out shining like gold–[guess what?]–it’s gold. If it doesn’t, you have something else on your hands.

And God does that to us. He lets the fire burn and the dross rises to the surface for Him to scrape off. And little by little, He perfects us. But only if we are Real. If we aren’t real, the fire just burns us up until there is nothing really there.

If you are fake, you completely fall apart and fall away in times of trial.

“Where is God now?” is your unbending, unbelieving question if you are fake.

If you are Real, your answer to that is “God is right here. And God is calling me to trust Him and to show with my words and actions and attitudes in this trial that I REALLY do believe that He exists and that He rewards those who come to Him. He is trying me by fire to show Himself and to show THE WORLD that I am real.”

When we respond in faith, we are shown to be real, AND we are made even more real. Our faith is purified–we are made holy, complete, lacking in nothing.

In fact, we begin to look like Jesus Christ.

You’ve probably heard how a refiner of precious metals can tell if the metal he is working with is being purified. Every time he heats up the metal, and the dross bubbles to the surface, and then he scraps off the dross–the refiner looks into the metal to see if he can see his own image. When he looks into the metal, and he can clearly see his own face–his work is done.

If you are real, your trials, your pain, your suffering, your heart-ache–the evil that comes your way–is God’s fire to refine you into the image of Christ.

So you can trust Him! Trials really hurt, but when you come out of the fire, your faith is proved genuine and your character looks like Christ’s.

And more than that, you experience a deeper fellowship with Christ when you trust Him through a trial. Paul calls it “the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings.”

I’m not sure I really know what that means, but it sounds worth it to me!

Real Christians know that God proves our faith through fire.

Are you trusting Him with that “worst thing” that is happening to you right now?

“When Through Fiery Trials Thy Pathway Shall Lie
My Grace, All Sufficient Shall Be Thy Supply
The Flame Cannot Hurt Thee, I Only Design
Thy Dross to Consume And They Gold to Refine.” (How Firm a Foundation v.3)

And #3. (and last) Real Christians Trust God in Times of Trials BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT GOD WILL BE HONORED BY OUR HOPE IN HIM.

V.7 again. “These [trials] have come so that your faith...may be proved genuine and may result [there is a final purpose for this pain! May result] in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed!”

One day soon it will all be over!

And for those who trusted, God will say, “Well, done good and faithful servant! Well done, Real Christian,” and you will feel the pleasure of the Master wash over you in waves of endless grace and enjoy sharing and experiencing the praise, glory, and honor of the Lord.

And Jesus Christ will receive that praise, glory and honor! It is His work in you–His death, His resurrection, His Holy Spirit, His refining purposes, His New Birth, His Living Hope placed in your heart. Jesus Christ will receive honor as you hope in him through your trials.

If your faith is real–on that glorious (almost indescribable) day in the future when (v.7), “Jesus Christ is revealed” GLORY, AND HONOR AND PRAISE will rain down upon Jesus forever because of the reality of your faith and hope in Him.

And that, my friends, is worth the trial!

So a Real Christian can say, “It is worth it! I don’t understand why I have to hurt like this. But God has a plan, and God is refining me by it, and God will get the glory if I trust Him through it!”

Paul says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18)!!!

What a day that will be!

Real Christians Trust God in Times of Trial Because They Are Living for THAT DAY.

They know that God will get the glory for their hope in Him and Him alone.

And they will get to enjoy that glory forever!

And that makes it all worth it.

That worst thing that has ever happened to you? Worth it! Not even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in you.

That worst thing that you are going through right now? Worth it.

Not even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in you!

Eight and half years ago, my wife and I chose to trust God with the death of our first child.

We named her, Charis, which means “Grace” in Greek because we looked upon her life and even her death as God’s grace to us.

That God had plan for our pain.
Both to comfort others and to give a testimony to others.
But also a plan to deepen our faith.
That God was proving our faith through fire. And making us more Real. More conformed to the Image of His Son.

We realized that if Jesus suffered, then why should we think that we would be exempt?

We trusted that God will be honored by our hoping in Him.

And that our loss was not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Are you a Real Christian?

Are you trusting Him?

If you are not yet a Real Christian, I challenge you and invite you right now to put your trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and the hope of His glory.

If you are not yet a Real Christian, then all of what I’ve said does not apply to you.

Your suffering does not necessarily a part of a divine plan for your good.
Your suffering will not show you to be real or make you more real.
Your suffering will never end in glory if you are not a Real Christian.

Your suffering will never end!

Jesus suffered the penalty for sin so that believers will not have to.

Put your trust in Him today.

Tell Him that you need Him and that you want to know Him as Savior and Lord.

And He will begin to bear your burdens for you. Not so that you won’t suffer, but tso that you won’t be crushed under them.

And He will come to get you. When He is revealed, you will enjoy His glory.

Praise, Glory, and Honor forever!

Real Christians, let’s trust Him!

Whatever you’re going through right now. Trust Him with it.

Don’t turn your back on Him.
Don’t cut out your prayer times.
Don’t give up on God.
Don’t give in to complaining.
Don’t seek comfort in all the wrong places.

Trust in God in your time of trial.

Later in this letter, Peter writes, “So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good...”

Real Christians Trust God in Times of Trial.

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