This Week’s Sermon From Kelly Randolph

This Day's Thought

The Sweet Fruit of Bitter Times

John 3:1-3:16

by Kelly Randolph

Krispy Kreme donuts are all the rage right now. Many of us have tasted them. Some people will line up and wait for hours to purchase these sweet delights. Let me tell you about the process that leads to a Krispy Kreme donut.

First the little balls of dough are shot through with a piercing blast of air to create a hole. Then they go into the proof box where they ride up and down an elevator in an atmosphere of heat and humidity. This causes the dough to rise. After this, they are dropped into hot oil and boiled thoroughly. After surviving this ordeal, the donuts pass through a cascading waterfall of icing.

Does anyone here today feel like a Krispy Kreme? Do you feel like you have been blasted with air? Do you feel like you have been boiled in oil? Well, remember that these experiences precede the sweet delight that follows. None of us look forward to trials. None of us love hardship. But without them, we will never enjoy the sweet fruit of maturity. A Billy Graham said, “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.”

Today, as we begin our study of James, we are going to look at the sweet fruit of bitter times.

James introduces his letter.
A. James, the author.
1. He refers to himself as a servant of God and of the
Lord Jesus Christ.
2. His identity is almost surely James, the half brother
of Jesus.
a. He was a leader in the early church of
Jerusalem (Acts 15, 27).
b. He was the brother of Jesus (Mk. 6:3).
c. He was an eyewitness of the resurrection (1
Cor. 15:7).
B. His readers.
1. He refers to them as the “twelve tribes scattered
among the nations.”
a. Christian churches of a predominantly Jewish
character.
b. Christians who were scattered (diaspora)
among Gentile nations.
C. His letter.
1. It is much like OT wisdom literature. It deals with a
variety of subjects which describe how to live an
upright life.
3. It has much in common with the Sermon on the
Mount, i.e. oaths, the tongue, peacemakers.

I. A Proper Attitude Toward Trials (v. 2).
A. What are trials?
1. The term is used to speak of afflictions and
adversities that we encounter in life.
2. These trials are of various kinds. It could be illness, financial reverses, problems at work, persecution for
our faith, etc. They come in all shapes and sizes.
B. Our attitude toward trials.
1. Consider it pure joy. Not part joy and part something
else, but pure joy.
2. It seems quite unnatural for our attitude toward trials
to be pure joy.
3. However, this is a categorical biblical command. We
are commanded to have an attitude of joy in trials.

We must be careful to understand what James is calling for here. He is not suggesting some kind of masochistic happiness in the hurts and losses of life. He is not saying that we are to enjoy being sick, losing a loved one, getting laid off from our job, being persecuted, etc. This is not some weird kind of denial that life often hurts. Some of us here today are hurting. We are suffering. James does not suggest that we manufacture some kind of other-worldly, phony sense of happiness about our troubles. So, what is he suggesting?

There is a reason to be joyful in the midst of trials. It is not being happy about the trouble. It is finding joy in what the trouble produces. It is enjoying the sweet fruit produced only by bitter times.

II. The Powerful Outcome of Trials (vv. 3-4)
A. Consider it all joy…because you know…
1. We know that the testing of our faith produces
perseverance.
a. Testing of your faith. Trials test faith.
1) Not a test to find if faith is there.
2) A test to strengthen faith (1 Pet. 1:7).

In the LXX, this word is used to describe the process of refining silver. It is put into the flames to burn off the impurities and strengthen the quality of the silver. God does not test us to destroy us but to purify and strengthen us.

b. Testing leads to perseverance. The Gk. term
hupomone means to abide under. It refers to
the ability to bear up under a burden. It is the
staying power of the Christian life.

I love this little parable of endurance. It seems that an old dog fell into a farmers well. After considering the situation, the farmer decided that neither the dog nor the well were worth saving. So, he decided to bury the old dog and put him out of his misery. When the farmer began shoveling, the dog was hysterical. But as the farmer kept on shoveling, and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck the old dog. Each time a shovel full of dirt hit his back, the dog would shake off the dirt and step up. So, blow after blow, the dog would shake it off and step up. No matter how painful those shovels of dirt were, the old dog fought panic, he just kept shaking it off and stepping up. Finally, the dog, battered and exhausted stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well. What he thought would bury him actually benefited him because of the way he handled his adversity.
Perseverance is the ability to shake it off and step up when a load of trials are dumped on you.

B. Perseverance produces maturity.
1. The Greek term is teleion. It speaks of something that
has reached its intended end. Here is refers to the
maturity that perseverance produces.

2. This maturity is further described as “not lacking
anything. The Gk. term speaks of a thing which has
all its necessary parts.
3. A process is implied here. Trials – Perseverance –
Maturity. This is not automatic. It takes time.

Every person here today can think of a trial which he or she has gone through. If I asked you, “Would you like to go through that again?” You would undoubtedly say, “No way.”

But if I asked you, “Are you grateful for what that difficulty accomplished in your life?” Many of you would say, “I wouldn’t trade those lessons and the character developed in those trials for anything.”

That is why we consider it all joy. We consider it all joy because we know that when tough times come, the end result is going to be perseverance and maturity. Perseverance and maturity are things that please God. They are essential traits for the Christian life. The only way to get them is through hard times.

The mature Christian life is the sweet fruit of bitter times.

CONCLUSION:

John Eldredge tells the story of a Scottish discus thrower from the 19th century. He lived days before professional trainers and developed his skills alone in the highlands. He made his own discus from the description he read in a book. What he didn’t know was that the competition discus was made of wood with an outer rim of iron. His discus was made of pure metal, four times heavier than the ones used by his would-be challengers. This committed Scotsman trained day after day, laboring under the burden of extra weight. He marked the record distance and kept working until he could throw that far.

Of course, when he arrived at the competition, he was handed the official wooden discus. He threw it like a tea saucer. He set new records and for many years, none of his competitors could touch him.

As Eldredge reflected on this story, he said, “So that’s how you do it – train under a great burden.

Some of us here today are training under a great burden. It hurts. It is unpleasant. Sometimes we despair. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we are angry at the burden. But we must always take heart. We must always have a deep sense of joy. Why? Because the burden is producing perseverance. Perseverance is producing maturity. Neither of these virtues so prized by God would ever be ours without the burden.

Dear brother, dear sister, Count it all joy.

Today’s Thought From Billy Graham

This Day’s Thought From Monday & Tuesday

This Day's Thought

Prayer Requests

If we work upon marble, it will perish,
If, on brass, time will efface it;
If we rear temples they will crumble in the dust,
But if we work upon immortal minds and endue them with principles,
With the just fear of God and the love of our fellowmen,
We engrave on those tablets something that will brighten all eternity.

Daniel Webster


This Day's Verse

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.

Psalm 9:9
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, the missionary doctor of Labrador, was a cynical young medical student in London when Dwight L. Moody went there to preach.  Said Grenfell of Moody: “When Mr. Moody finished his sermon, I resolved either to drop religion entirely or else make a real effort to do what Christ would do if He were in my place.  With a mother like mine, that resolve could only have one outcome.  So, beginning that night, I started doing what I thought Christ would do if He were a young doctor in London.”

Wilfred Grenfell


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This Day's Thought

Prayer Requests

Life is a glorious opportunity, if it is used to condition us for eternity.  If we fail in this, though we succeed in everything else, our life will have been a failure.  There is no escape for the man who squanders his opportunity to prepare to meet God.

Billy Graham


This Day's Verse

Even when we are too weak to have any faith left, he remains faithful to us and will help us, for he cannot disown us who are part of himself, and he will always carry out his promises to us.

2 Timothy 2:13
The Living Bible

This Day’s Thought From The Last Few Days

This Day's Thought

Prayer Requests

Ask the astronomer if God is a haphazard God.  He will tell you that every star moves with precision in its celestial path.  Ask the scientist if God is a haphazard God.  He will tell you that his formulas and equations are fixed, and that to ignore the laws of science would be a fool’s folly.  If the laws in the material realm are so fixed and exact, is it reasonable that God could afford to be haphazard in the spiritual realm where eternal destinies of souls are at stake?  Just as God has equations and rules in the material realm, God has equations and rules in the spiritual.

Billy Graham


This Day's Verse

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

John 5:39-40
The English Standard Version


This Day's Smile

The intelligent man finds almost everything ridiculous, the sensible man hardly anything.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This Day's Thought

Prayer Requests

I salute you.  I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.  There is nothing I can give you which you have not already; but there is much, very much, which though I cannot give it, you can take.  No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today.  Take heaven.  No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this precious little instant.  Take peace.  The gloom of the world is but a shadow.  Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy.  There is radiance and courage in the darkness could we but see it; and to see, we have only to look.  Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by their coverings, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard.  Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, and wisdom, and power.  Welcome it, greet it, and you touch the angel’s hand that brings it.

Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there, the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing Presence.  Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys.  They, too, conceal diviner gifts.  Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven.  Courage, then, to claim it, that is all!  But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims wending through unknown country our way home.

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, not quite as the world sends greeting, but with profound esteem now and forever.

The day breaks and the shadows flee away.

This old Christmas greeting from a letter written between 1387-1455 by Giovanni da Fiesole (Fra Angelico)


This Day's Verse

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Isaiah 7:14
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

Love was born at Christmas.

Christina G. Rossetti

This Day's Thought

Prayer Requests

Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children;
To remember the weakness, the loneliness of people who are growing old;
To stop asking how much your friends love you and ask yourself whether you love them enough;
To bear in mind the things that other people have to bear in their hearts;
To try to understand what those who live in the same house with you really want, without waiting for them to tell you?
Then you can keep Christmas.
And if you can keep it for a day, why not always?
But you can never keep it alone.

Henry Van Dyke


This Day's Verse

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose going forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

Micah 5:2
The New King James Version

 

This Day's Thought

Prayer Requests

Then let every heart keep Christmas within:
Christ’s pity for sorrow,
Christ’s hatred for sin,
Christ’s care for the weakest,
Christ’s courage for right.
Everywhere, everywhere,
Christmas tonight!

Phillips Brooks


This Day's Verse

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7
The New International Version


This Day's Smile

An attorney I very much admired once said that the greatest gift he ever received in his life was a note his dad gave him on Christmas.  It read, “Son, this year I will give you 365 hours.  An hour every day after dinner.  We’ll talk about whatever you want to talk about.  We’ll go wherever you want to go, play whatever you want to play.  It will be your hour.”  That dad kept his promise and renewed it every year.

Ann Landers

Today’s Sermon From The Ranch (came late today) – Calling Things That Are Not As Though They Were

(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new sermon series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind.)


The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration


Calling Things That Are Not As Though They Were

Lesson 11 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

By Eric Elder
The Ranch

As we’re looking at ways to renew your mind from the book of Romans, I’d like to draw your attention to one more verse from Romans chapter 4 before moving on to chapter 5.  There’s a phrase in there that is not only extremely quotable and memorable, but it can also be a powerful force for defining your future, if you’ll take it to heart.

In talking about God, Paul described Him as:

“…the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were” (Romans 4:17b).

I love that phrase:  the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.  

If you can believe that God can give life to the dead, which He has proven over and over, and that He can call things into existence that have never existed before, which He has also proven over and over, then you can see God do miracles in your own life that will outshine anything you’ve ever seen before.

Some people bristle at the phrase “name it and claim it,” referring to the idea that we can have anything we want if we’ll just speak it forth, believe in it hard enough, and start walking in that direction.  While there’s incredible power in positive thinking, and it’s certainly much better than negative thinking, it can lead to problems if what we’re naming isn’t in line with what God wants us to claim.  Rather than being a blessing to us, what we’re wanting could actually harm us, as every parent knows who has given in to a poorly thought-out request by their child.

But when you get your thinking in line with God’s, and ask for things that He would love to give you, then it becomes a different story.  When God names it, He wants us to claim it!  When God puts a desire in your heart, He wants you to speak it forth, to believe in it fully, and to start walking in that direction.

This is exactly what God commended Abraham for.  Abraham was sad and dejected that he had no heirs to whom he could pass on all the blessings he had received in life.  He expressed this sadness to God, and God spoke to Abraham, giving him a promise that seemed unbelievable.  God changed Abraham’s name from Abram—which means “exalted father”—to Abraham, which means “father of many,” saying:

“You will be the father of many nations” (Genesis 17:5).

Abraham’s first response was to fall down and laugh!  The Bible says:

“Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’” (Genesis 17:17).

But when God assured Abraham that what He had spoken He would bring to pass, Abraham believed God.  He acted on that belief, circumcising himself and his whole family, and God honored him for his faith and obedience.

Within a year of Abraham’s conversation with God, Abraham and Sarah had their promised son. They named him Isaac—which means “laughter”—as God had told them to do, and so began the passing on of Abraham’s inheritance from one generation to the next until this very day.

Even though Abraham’s body was as good as dead, in terms of its ability to bring forth life, and his wife had been barren for ninety years, God proved to them both that He is a God “who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”

God has been doing the same throughout eternity.  

He spoke the world into existence with a word.  He called Gideon a “mighty warrior” when Gideon saw himself as the least in his family and the weakest family in his tribe.  He called David a “king” and a “man after My own heart” even though David was just a shepherd boy at the time and was described by his brother as having a wicked heart.

The Bible is full of stories of God giving life to the dead and calling things that are not as though they were, with the story of Jesus‘s death and resurrection being chief among them!  But the stories of God calling things that are not as though they were didn’t end in biblical days.  They still continue today!

Let me tell you just one.

About ten years ago I was invited to attend a Billy Graham conference on evangelism in Amsterdam.  My passport was about to expire, so I had to fill out an application for a new one.  On the application, it asked for my “occupation.”  I wasn’t sure exactly what to put in the blank, as the ministry I do on the Internet doesn’t fit into a neatly defined category.

Yet at the time I was feeling more and more that one of God’s callings on my life was to be an author.  I loved writing and had written extensively for my own website, filling up hundreds of electronic pages with digital ink.  Yet I never considered myself an author, since the only book I had published was a devotional booklet I had written the year before, and photocopied at home for people who asked for it.  

That hardly seemed to qualify my as an author, yet I felt that’s what God was calling me to be.  So as a statement of faith in what God wanted me to be, I filled in the “occupation” blank with just one word:  “Author.”  

When I arrived overseas at the airport, the customs official took a look at my passport, then took a look at me.  He said, “It says here you’re an author.  What kind of books do you write?”  

I thought about my little devotional booklet and said, “Devotional books to encourage people in their faith.”  

He asked where I was headed, and I told him about the Billy Graham conference.  He said, “With a last name like ‘Elder’ that fits.”  He smiled, stamped my passport, and waved me on through.

Something in my heart “fit,” too.  I realized that I wasn’t stretching the truth when I said I was an author.  I was believing the truth.  From that moment on, it changed both my outlook and my expectations for the future.

Since then, I’ve written and published over a dozen books.  My weekly messages, like this one that you’re reading right now, are being sent by email to over 35,000 subscribers around the world.  I’m not sure what the official qualifications would be for someone to be declared an “author.”  But for me, I believe I became an author the moment I believed it myself, came into alignment with God’s plan for my life in that area, and started walking in obedience to that calling.

God has a way of seeing our potential before we do and then speaking it into existence.  How?  Because God can see an oak tree in an acorn.  

And if you’re willing to open your eyes to see things as God sees them, you’ll start seeing oak trees in acorns, too.  You’ll be able to see the potential in yourself and in the lives of others that you may have never seen before.

I could tell you story after story of people who are alive today whose lives and situations have been changed dramatically because they put their faith in Christ.  I could tell you about marriages that have been dead for years and ended in divorce, but which God has brought back to life when both people put their faith in Christ.  I could tell you about couples who have been declared infertile by doctors, but whom God has said would bear a child within a year—like Abraham and Sarah—and have!  I could tell you about people involved in lifestyles that could literally kill them, lifestyles which some people would say are impossible to change, but which God has changed and given them new lives instead, 

“For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).

When you get in line with God’s plans for your life, nothing will be impossible for you, either.

If God has spoken to you about your future, believe Him.  Put your faith into action and start walking in the direction He’s told you to walk.  If you’ve not sure what God has called you to do, keep seeking Him for His wisdom.  Read the Bible.  Pray.  Ask others what they think about your future.  Then when God gives you the next step to take, take it!

Don’t be discouraged if what God says about your future doesn’t line up with your present.  Remember that God sees an oak tree in an acorn.  

Remember that God called Abraham “a father of many nations” before he and Sarah had even conceived their first child together.  Remember that God called Gideon a “mighty warrior” back when Gideon felt like he was the weakest of the weak.  Remember that God called David “a man after My own heart” even when others were saying otherwise.

Put your trust in God, and remember who He is.  He is:

“…the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for reminding us today of who You are and what You can do.  Give us the faith we need to see Your promises come to pass in our lives.  Fill us with Your wisdom, Your plans, Your purposes, and Your ways, so that we can take hold of them by faith, and begin walking in obedience to Your calling on our lives, starting even today.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

P.S. As I mentioned in my message above, I’ve felt God has called me to write, and I know that God has called many of you to write as well.  I want to encourage you in your writing as much as I can.  There was a time when I felt God didn’t need one more writer, one more author.  I felt that everything that could be said had probably already been said.  But the truth is that God doesn’t tire of hearing people proclaim His name and the wonders that He has done in the world.  He doesn’t tire of people encouraging other people in their lives and faith, by telling them stories that bring glory to Him.  God loves to get his Word out through different voices and different languages.  While I can reach a certain segment of God’s people through my writings, it’s only a drop in the bucket compared to the oceans of messages that God wants to get out.  As someone has wisely said, “No one else can speak your message, or sing your song, or offer your act of love.”  God wants to use your voice, your style, and your stories to reach as many people as possible around the world with His message.  

If you’d be interested in learning more about how I’ve gone about publishing my writings and books on places like Amazon.com and Apple’s iBookstore, I’d be glad to hear from you.  I’m thinking of teaching a class online sometime in the next few weeks, for a donation to our ministry of whatever size that you can afford, that will walk you through exactly how you can do this on your own, uploading you’re writings to Amazon and other websites to help you get what you have to say about God out to others, whether in print or as eBooks.  Just write me if you’re interested in such a class at eric@theranch.org, and I’ll give you more details as the class takes shape.  

Questions for Reflection

1. Read Romans 4:16-25.  What reasons might Abraham have had for why it could have seemed impossible for God to fulfill what He had promised to him?
2. What reasons might you have for why it could seem impossible for God to fulfill what He has promised to you?  How might Abraham have overcome His doubts?  How might you overcome yours?
3. Read Judges 7:1-7.  In reading this part of Gideon’s story, what reason does God give for why He sometimes does what seems impossible through us?  What hope does this give you for your situation?
4. If God has given you a promise about your calling or your future, what next steps could you take to put your faith into action and start walking in the direction of that future?  If you don’t feel that God has spoken to you about your future, what next steps could you take to begin learning more about it from Him?

To read more from this series, Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind, please visit:
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We

 

We are the Bibles the world is reading;
We are the creeds the world is needing;
We are the sermons the world is heeding.

Billy Graham


Don’t you want to know
as through life you go

How it is that we
as the world does see

Should look, talk and act
’cause it really is a fact

That as a Christian are we
all in all supposed to be

A bright and shining light
different as day from night 

For every person to see
that faithful Christians are we

And it’s true they know
’cause it’s not just for show

So then it is that we
can say, “Christ lives in me!”

Teresa Marie  6/7/11

My Thursday Thoughts – Those Who’ve Gone Before Us

 

Oh, how greatly has the man advanced who has learned not to be his own, not to be governed by his own reason, but to surrender his mind to God!

John Calvin


I have a splitting headache, so this won’t be very long.  I checked my e-mails, found this quote on there and pondered it for a few moments.  I thought to myself, “How true!  These old Preachers and Evangelists sure were spiritually wise.”  Then I began to remember some of the books that I have read which were written by or about some of the “greats”, for instance: Billy Graham, C.S. Lewis, Mother Teresa, Saint Therese, etc.

There is much to be said about the wisdom that comes with age as well.  Some of it may be spiritual and some not, but all should be recognized for what it is – experience.  And that is what these people really had that is far and few between these days, an “encounter” with God.  They experienced His glory, His powerful presence.  It marked them and everyone that they came in contact with, especially because they carried His “aura” on them.  There was a glow, or so I’ve read, about some of them that could literally be felt when you were in close proximity to them.

I’ve read and heard stories about some of the old tent healers where the glory of God was manifested so strongly that people were healed without even being in the tent and the glow of it would light up the night sky for miles.  Can you imagine?  How marvelous would that be?

I know that my tiny glimpse that I was given will carry me until the day that I pass over, so I can’t fathom how these people would have felt on a daily basis.  I also know that with great reward comes great sacrifice too.  I don’t know that I could have done what some of them did and that makes them even greater in my eyes.  There is much to be learned from those who’ve gone before us if we will only listen.

I pray for revival to spread through this country and world!  I pray for believers and non-believers alike to have an experience with God and His spiritual world!  I pray that people will begin to take heed to the words of wisdom that have been written down by those who came before us!  I pray that all believers in Christ will begin to teach by example and not just words!  And I pray…

Always remember that Jesus died for us because He loves us!

Humbly Yours,
Teresa Marie