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.

This Week’s Sermon From The Ranch – Thinking About Sinful Desires

(Each Sunday, This Day’s Thought is blessed to share Eric Elder’s sermons from his wonderful ministry, “The Ranch“)
The Ranch: A Place of Healing and Restoration
 

Thinking About Sinful Desires

Lesson 31 from Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind

 By Eric Elder

 

My kids and I were window shopping in downtown Chicago last week (window shopping is where you look, but don’t buy).  We were looking at all the cool things in the Apple store on Michigan Avenue when my wife came up after finishing a doctor’s appointment.  She said she had seen a man outside in a wheelchair who was asking for money and who wasn’t looking too good.

She didn’t have much to give him, but she gave him what she had, a little pocket change and a prayer.  When she asked if she could pray for him, he said:

“Yes!  Pray that God will give me a girl.  I think about making love (he used another word for it) with a girl all day long and I can’t get the thoughts out of my mind.  I’m just so lonely and I can’t stop thinking about making love with someone.”

After getting her thoughts back together, and refraining from trying to immediately cast something evil out of him, she began to pray for him, asking God to give him what he needed, even if it wasn’t the thing that he was asking for.

What was going on in that man’s mind reminded us of the verse that we’re looking at today in the book of Romans.  The verse says:

“… do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Romans 13:14b).

Paul knew that even just thinking about gratifying the desires of the sinful nature could lead to doing them eventually.  As the apostle James said in his book:

“… but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).

Just as good thoughts can lead to good actions, sinful thoughts can lead to sinful actions.  And sinful actions, when pursued in full, can lead to all kinds of destruction, even death.

It doesn’t take much imagination to think about what could happen if this man in the wheelchair did get a girl and was able to do with her whatever he wanted.  But the truth is, the thoughts that he expressed are not so far removed from the thoughts any of us have from time to time.  And if we don’t keep them in check, all kinds of things could happen if we were to follow-up on our thoughts as well.

I was talking to another man this week who said he was having similar thoughts, although he said them in more palatable words.  He said he was just standing there admiring the beautiful curves of a woman he had seen when he realized what he was doing.  Before he let those thoughts overtake him, he reminded himself that he had died to his old sinful nature when he was baptized into Christ.  He was lonely, too, and longed for a lifetime companion but he knew he couldn’t gratify the desires of his sinful nature in the way that he was thinking.  So he took control of his thoughts, brought them back under the authority of Christ, and was able to walk away with a victory in his mind instead of a defeat.  What a blessing that was for himself, and for others he spared from potential destruction.

What he was doing was “putting on the armor of light” and “clothing himself with the Lord Jesus Christ,” as Paul described in the following words.  Paul said:

“So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in org – – – and drunkenness, not in se – – al immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Romans 13:12b-14. Note: I’ve deleted a few letters from some of the words in this passage so this whole message won’t get stopped by certain spam filters).

 

It really is possible to take control of your thoughts.  When you do, you’ll be blessed and so will those around you.

And if you look back even further in this passage, you’ll see why Paul was so passionate about helping people get control over their thoughts:

“And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” (Romans 13:11-12a).

Paul wants us to wake up from our slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  For years, people have been saying that Jesus is coming soon, just as Jesus said Himself almost 2,000 years ago.  And the truth is, His coming is closer now that it’s ever been!  As Paul said, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here!”  What a great thought, and what a great motivator to do what’s right!

Don’t let the darkness overtake you.  Don’t give in to dwelling on thoughts that could lead to your destruction.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that Jesus isn’t coming back soon, because He is.  As Jesus said to the Apostle John:

“Yes, I am coming soon” (Revelation 22:20).  

Jesus wants you to live your life to the fullest, and the best way to do that is to live your life in the light.  This isn’t to say that it’s easy to overcome temptation.  But it is possible, and more than that, God will help you to do it.  As Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians:

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). 

You may have tried various ways to overcome your temptations.  But Paul mentions something in this passage that we’re looking at today that may give you some extra help as you try to break free.  If you look back just a little further in the passage, you’ll see that Paul says instead of focusing on our sinful desires, we should focus on how we can express God’s love to others instead:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”

There’s a big difference between lust and love.  Lust, at its core, is all about selfishness and doing whatever you want to others.  Love, at its core, is all about selflessness, and doing for others what you would want them to do for you.  Instead of thinking about how we can gratify our own sinful desires, Paul says we’re to put on the armor of light, and think about how we can express God’s love to others.

I’ve shared before about my aunt who got some great advice from her doctor when she was going through some days filled with dark depression:  he suggested to her that she think about ways she could help other people.  By focusing on blessing others instead of wallowing in her own thoughts of despair, she was able to pull herself out of the darkness by focusing on others.  She began to bake food for friends, bringing them cakes, cookies, pies, or anything she thought they might enjoy.  She was able to get out of the pit she was in, and to this day, she continues to bless those around her, now from a place of victory rather than near defeat.

The same can happen for those who struggle with sinful desires, which can bring on the same kind of darkness.  When tempted to dwell on thoughts that are potentially destructive to yourself or to those around you, you can take those thoughts captive and replace them with other thoughts.  Reach out and put on God’s armor of light, and let the light of Christ shine through you instead.  Replace your selfish thoughts with selfless thoughts, and you’ll see God begin to turn around situations that you may have thought were hopeless.

Take a meal to a friend.  Write a letter to someone who needs some encouragement.  Put a check in the mail to someone who could use a financial boost.  Call a parent or an aunt or an uncle or a brother or a cousin or a friend who you may not have talked to in a long time.  It may seem like hard work at first, but soon you’ll find that the darkness is fleeing and the light of Christ is flooding into your soul.

Clothe yourself with Christ this week.  Let His light shine through you.  Let Him use your hands and feet, your words and actions, to those around you who could use a touch from Him.  Let your mind wander about ways you can love your neighbor as yourself, instead of ways that you can gratify the desires of your sinful nature.  If you need some extra encouragement to do this, just remember the words of Paul, who said:

“And do this, understanding the present time.  The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now that when we first believed.”

Will you pray with me?

Father, thank You for promising that You will come for us soon.  Help us to keep that at the forefront of our minds as we consider how to bless those around us instead of how to gratify our own sinful desires. Help us to take our eyes off ourselves and to focus on those things that You want us to do in the world.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

What God Says CDP.S. If you struggle with temptation, I’d like to point you to some passages in the Bible that could help.  I’ve listed several below, and I’ve also included a link to a recording on our website where you can listen to each of these scriptures, read by my wife Lana to some beautiful music.  If you’d like to get this recording on a CD, which includes over half an hour of readings from the Bible six other topics as well, I’d be glad to send you the whole CD for a donation of any size to our ministry this month.  Your gifts truly help us get the word out about Christ every week to over 35,000 people around the world, and we’re glad to send you this beautiful recording of God’s Word set to music as our way of saying thanks.  To read these verses for yourself, just click the links below:

– Hebrews 4:13-16
– Matthew 4:1-4 and 11
– 1 Thessalonians 4:3-7
– Hebrews 2:18
– Psalm 119:9
– 1 Corinthians 10:13
– Proverbs 1:10
– James 1:13-15
– 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
– Matthew 6:9-13

To listen to Lana’s recording of these verses online, please visit:
What God Says About Temptation (MP3)

To make a donation and get a CD that includes these verses and many others set to beautiful music, please visit:
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To follow Lana’s blog about her own walk of faith during difficult times, please visit:
Lana’s Blog

 

Questions for Reflection

1.  Read Romans 13:8-14.  Why does Paul say that we should let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another?

2.  How can loving others help us to overcome sinful thoughts and actions in our lives?

3.  What are some practical that you could show your love to others, instead of dwelling on how you could gratify the desires of your sinful nature?

4. What are some other ways that you might “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ”?

 

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

The Romans Study

 

To get more inspiring books and music like this, please visit:

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Lenten Journey Day 18; Revealed

*image source: google.com/images

10-Mar-12:  Mark 9:2-8

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

 

http://beccagivens.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/7454/

http://cloakedmonk.com/2012/02/20/join-me-in-a-lenten-journey/