Coping Through Tough Times

Scripture: James 1:2-4, 2 Timothy 3:12, Job 5:17-18
Date: 09/08/2018 
How can we triumph despite our trials? Why does God allow difficult things to happen?
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Doug Batchelor: Sometimes you'll go through a trial because you may have an idol in your life. It could be somebody. It could be something that is more important to you than God, and God may touch that person or that thing to get your attention.

You know, I wanted to share what I think is a practical message with you today that I hope will be of some encouragement. It's about "Coping Through Tough Times." How can we triumph in spite of our trials? The Bible's pretty clear that there are trials in life. Everybody at some point is going to experience varying degrees of trouble. You can read in Ecclesiastes chapter 2, verse 23: "For all of his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest." Paul said, "All that live godly," this is 2 Timothy 3:12. "All that live godly will suffer persecution." And Paul, he was, "Strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them continue in the faith, saying, 'We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.'"

It is through tribulation we enter the kingdom. Everybody experiences tough times, but don't be discouraged. In spite of that, we can have joy and we can have faith. You can read where Jesus said, of course, that "in this life, you'll have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I've overcome the world." "All that live godly will suffer persecution. St. Augustine said, "God had one Son on earth without sin, but he never had one without suffering." So all of us experience varying degrees of suffering.

Now, I'll make something for you very simple. If you want to understand the trials that you go through and kind of a divine perspective, everything is going to fall into one of two categories, and often both. In your struggles, God is trying to do something in you, that's one. And in your struggles, God is wanting to do something through you. And often, he's wanting to do something in you and through you, it's both. If you know there's a purpose behind it, it's a lot easier to deal with, right? If we just can know, "Is there some reason for this? Is something good coming out of it?" then it makes it a lot easier to handle.

So, here are some of the common reasons, according to the Bible, that people go through trials, trouble, suffering, tribulation. First of all, he wants to help us recognize our spiritual need. So, some of it for us. It's redemptive. The Bible says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And God may have blessed you with physical poverty so you might know your spiritual poverty. Our different trials that we go through are designed to help us know that. 2 Chronicles 32:31: "God withdrew from Hezekiah, in order to test him, that he might know all that was in his heart." Hezekiah thought he was rich and increased with goods, and he didn't realize he had a lot of pride in his heart.

So, God--now, God didn't back off so God could find out. God knows everything, right? The Bible says, "Jesus knew what was in man." He did it so that Hezekiah could realize, "Maybe I'm not as holy as I thought." God sends messengers to find out about Jehovah, and instead, all he does is talk about his stuff. You ever gone through trial and the Lord showed you something about yourself you didn't know? Exodus 9:27: "And the pharaoh said to them, 'I have sinned this time. The Lord is righteous, and my people are wicked." Even the pharaoh came to the place where he realized his wickedness as he went through the trial of the plagues that came on Egypt. So, that's one thing.

Number two, God sometimes allows us to go through trials to humble us because God--if you kick the devil out for pride, we're not going into heaven with our pride. We need to humble ourselves, which is very hard. Deuteronomy 8:3: "So he humbled you, he allowed you to hunger, and to feed you with manna which you did not know nor your fathers know, that he might make you know that man doesn't live by bread alone; but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Jesus, of course, quotes this to the devil, the proudest of all, in the wilderness. He humbled them that they might come to depend on God. They went through trials where they not only ran out of food, they ran out of water, and they had to turn to God. They were attacked by their enemies.

They learned on a daily basis that they had to depend on God, and it's humbling, but it's healthy. Ezra 8:21: "Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before God." You know, sometimes fasting is sort of like self-induced trial, self-denial, and part of that represents we're humbling ourselves before God. Matthew 26:75: "And Peter remembered the words of Jesus when he said, 'Before the rooster crows, you'll deny me three times--'" Peter had been bragging, "Though all men should forsake you, I'll not forsake you." And he went through this terrible trial so he could find out something in his own heart, and he realized, "I'm not near as loyal as I thought I was." And the Bible says, "He went out and he wept bitterly." So, that trial accomplished something in Peter, and it also is a warning to us.

Another reason we go through trials is point number three, is to help us with our priorities, to prioritize things correctly. You remember God said to Abraham, "You love me?" "I love you." He said, "Okay, take your son, your only son who you love, bring him to the Mountains of Moriah and offer him there as an offering." "Well, Lord, I love you, but, you know, actually, I love my son more." No, he didn't say that. He put God first. Now, do you think that was a trial for Abraham? It was.

Sometimes you'll go through a trial because you may have an idol in your life. It could be somebody. It could be something that is more important to you than God, and God may touch that person or that thing to get your attention. It wasn't just Abraham with his son. How many of you remember Jephthah with his daughter? He made a vow, "Lord, you give me victory. Whatever it is that comes through the gates of my house I'll offer to you." And the first thing through the gates was not his ox or his goat or sheep. It was his daughter. He said, "Alas, my daughter, I have opened my mouth to the Lord and I cannot go back." Doesn't Jesus say, "Unless you love me more than the husband, wife, child, son, daughter, you're not worthy of the kingdom, father, mother." Jesus needs first place. Trials sometimes help us to recognize what our priorities are and to get them straight.

Another reason we sometimes go through trouble is, quite honestly, simply to separate us from sin. It's a fire of suffering that often brings fold the gold of godliness. 1 Peter 4:1 and 2: "Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourself also with the same mind, for he who had suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his life in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God." Hebrews 12:10: "For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but he," God, "for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness."

Now, so, sometimes God allows us to go through suffering, and I'm going to spend a moment on this, because it's a chastening. Now, how many of you are parents? I won't ask you how you chasten your children. But how many of you lived in the great generation that believed in the rod or the belt or the switch or the willow, and you survived? How many of you that raised your hand believed it wasn't that bad? You know, the Bible has a lot to say about that one. You take this up with the Lord. I'm going to probably get a call from the officials, but this is what the Bible says. Hebrews 12, verse 4: "You've not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin."

There's a struggle sometimes with temptation. "And you've forgotten the exhortation that speaks to you as sons: 'My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, or be discouraged when you're rebuked by him; for whom the Lord loves he chastens, and he scourges every son who he receives.' If you endure chastening, God deals with you as sons; for what son is there whom the father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which you've become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, if we have human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect, shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?"

Submit to his chastening, in other words. "For they indeed for a few days," earthly fathers, "for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but he for our profit," sometimes parents don't do it for the best motives and the best way. They're doing their best. But he said, "God always does it for a profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness."

Sometimes you're going through trials and God is allowing it, that He can refine you and you can be a partaker of His holiness. "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." Job 5:17: "Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For whom he bruises, but he binds up; he wounds, but his hands make whole."

And again, it says, Proverbs 3, verse 11 to 12: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest his correction; for whom he loves he corrects," and there the Bible talks about some children that were not corrected by their parents. Like, it talks about David did not correct Adonijah, and he became very--a lot of bad behavior. Eli would not correct his sons, and he lost his sons, his sons and daughters. And again, I'm not talking about corporal punishment, but I'm talking about the chastening of the Lord, sometimes to save us because he loves us.

Now, there's a couple times my father spanked me. Somebody threw a rock from our house and hit the neighbor's house down below, and my dad lined us all up and said, "Who did it?" And we all said we didn't do it, but he was sure I did, and I got spanked, and I didn't do it. But, you know, I didn't hold it against my father because I thought of all the times I did do things he didn't know about, and so I figured it evened out somehow. You know what I'm talking about? Parents make mistakes, but what about all the times you did something wrong and you didn't get in trouble, or you blamed it on your sibling and they got in trouble? And so it sort of evens out at some point.

Sometimes we go through trials because it helps us to focus on heaven. Romans 8:18: "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed." You know, as you think ahead and you look at heaven, it gives us peace in knowing that you can endure almost anything if you know it's not going to last. It reminds you that whatever suffering you have now, it's not going to last. And the sufferings of this life is like just a drop of water, and then look at an ocean. I mean, you might have a hard time in this life with that one drop of water, but God is going to give you an ocean of pleasure at his right hand forevermore that you can't comprehend through eternity. So to patiently endure the struggles of this life, though they seem to be long, is really nothing, Paul is saying, by comparison with the glory that God has in store for those that love him." Can you say, "Amen"?

Doug: Don't go anywhere, friends, we're going to be back in just a moment to complete today's presentation. Have you ever wondered before about this individual described in the Bible as the antichrist? We have a special study guide we'd like to make available to you for free. You're going to want to get it. It's called, "Who is the Antichrist?" Using the prophecies found in the book of Daniel and Revelation, along with other Scriptures by Jesus, we'll understand better this individual, this power that is going to be oppressing God's people in the last days. To get your free copy, call the phone number on your screen and ask for offer number 125, or visit the web address on your screen. And after you read it, share it with a friend. Well, let's get back to today's presentation and learn some more amazing facts from the Word of God.

You know, a boxer can stay in the ring and endure all kinds of punches when he considers the prize, the title, and I don't recommend boxing. It's a brutal sport, but I used to watch it. And my mother dated a fellow that was big into boxing for years. And there was this one fight in New York City, some of you remember Muhammad Ali, Cassius Clay when I was a kid, and he fought with Joe Frazier. And it's one of the few fights that Muhammad Ali lost. And they stood toe to toe in the ring, and they beat on each other for 15 rounds, 2 heavyweight boxers. And Muhammad Ali got knocked out a couple times, and he was in pretty shape. After the fight, he was in the locker room, and he's on the table, and a doctor's checking on him because he's bleeding, he's swollen, he's bruised, and Diana Ross, the singer, came in and she saw him, and she fell down at the table. She's on her knees, and she's crying. He said, "I know I'm not pretty anymore," he said, "but don't cry for me, Diana. I just got paid $2 million to get beat up."

He could handle it when he thought about the prize. And we've got to keep our mind on the prize, that this is not going to last forever. There's a number of promises in the Bible. 2 Corinthians 4:17: "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things that are seen, but the things that are not seen."

Another reason we have trouble is to help us help others. I told you that God allows these things to do something in us, and often to do something through us. Job was afflicted, and he might have wondered, "Why is this happening?" And he and his friends spent a whole book talking about why an innocent man would suffer. How many people, how many millions of people have been encouraged by the patience of Job? Even James refers to the patience of Job, where we see that, in the end, God is good, and we're realizing there's a battle behind the scenes. And as you look at the trials that Job goes through, he maybe couldn't see it then from his perspective, but we can see, looking back, that God sometimes allows these things to teach us and to help others.

Notice, 2 Corinthians 1, verse 3. Now, this is a little bit of a deep verse, so you got to follow me. Paul sometimes waxes eloquent here. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort," now that's the operative word, "who comforts us in all of our tribulation," why? "That we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble."

The sermon's about how to get through trouble. Why do we go through trouble? "That we might comfort those who are in any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, our consolation also abounds through Christ." We're consoling others. Now, if we're afflicted, it's for your consolation and salvation, which is effective enduring the same sufferings that we also suffer. Or we are comforted, with your consolation and salvation. So, whatever you're going through, God even might be using it to discipline you, but it could have multiple purposes, one of them being that whenever you get through it, you will be able to relate to another person and help them.

A friend was telling me they were in the hospital for some procedure, and a nurse came in and had to turn them, and they said, "That nurse was, like, Atilla the Hun, just came in and just threw me around, and I'm in pain, and I'm going, 'Ow, ow, oh, ahh--'" And said, "The next day, another nurse, a different nurse came in and they had to turn them, and they were so--they said, 'Is this okay? How's this? Am I going too fast?' And they were so considerate." And finally, they got them settled down, and they had to say to the nurse, they said, "I just gotta tell ya, I really appreciate you're being sensitive and gentle because yesterday, boy, I had a nurse that was like a professional wrestler, came in here and just throwin' me around." And the nurse said, "Well, I'll tell ya, I've had the same surgery that you've had. I know how you feel."

And so when you're going through some kind of trial or something, just say, "All right, Lord, I don't know what I've done to deserve this," but maybe you didn't do anything to deserve it. Maybe he's going to use it later to help somebody else. And another very simple principle in why we go through troubles and suffering is to grow Christian virtue. 1 Peter 1:6: "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little time, if need be, you've been grieved by various trials, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than that of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus."

And James says in James 1, verse 2: "My brethren, count it all joy." How many of you think, "Oh, joy," when you're going through a trial? "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing," just know, see, if you know there's a purpose, that God has got a purpose in it, "that the testing of your faith, it's helping you develop faith, produces patience." You know, when the Bible says, "He that endures to the end will be saved," that word "endurance" is "patience." "Let patience have its perfect work."

Now, why would he say, "Let patience have its perfect work, except that it's possible for you not to make the most of your trials? Say, "Lord, I will embrace whatever it is you're trying to teach me through this. Somehow, sometime God is simply glorified in some way through the trials we experience. Why did Jesus say Lazarus got sick? Because he ate too much sugar? Or did Jesus tell the disciples, "It's for the glory of God"? "I didn't heal him right away for the glory of God." John chapter 9: "Now as Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from birth." And the disciples want to know, "Why? Did he somehow do something wrong, or did God know he was going to go bad, or was it his parents' sin?" They're always trying to figure out why. You know what Jesus said? "Neither, but that the works of God should be revealed in him."

God was going to be glorified in a great way through his healing. Now, that man had been blind. He wasn't very old. He had just come of age, so he's, like, 18, 20 years old, and been blind his whole life. And you might think, "Well, what a terrible thing, to be blind your whole life, and the Lord allow that, that he might be glorified." But how good did that man feel when he got his sight? And how long is that affliction compared to eternity if he's healed by Jesus and he has everlasting life?

So, Paul said, "We shouldn't question the Potter, saying, 'Why did you make one vessel like this or one vessel like that?" We've got to trust that God's God, and he knows what he's doing, right? I used to always wonder, "Why was I born healthy and my brother with cystic fibrosis?" But if God can be glorified in it--I was able to pray with my brother before he died, and he asked Jesus in his heart. Romans 8:16: "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--and heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him, that we may be glorified together."

Sometimes we don't learn except through trouble. Have you learned that pain is a great instructor? There are lessons you learn in pain that you won't learn any other way. I've got something I'd like to share with you. Do not hold a spark plug wire when someone is turning over the ignition. I have learned that it is not 12 volts that will go through you, but because of the capacitor, you will experience 10,000 volts. Ask me how I know that. Ask me how I know you don't want to touch your disc brakes after you park the car, that they're very hot. I will never do that again. I have learned that lesson.

So, when you're going through a trial, sometimes I say, "Lord, if I'm doing this because there's something you want to teach me, please teach me now." Don't be afraid of trials. Yes, life is tough for everybody, amen? You don't have to be afraid. Who was it that said, "A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears"? Thomas a Kempis said: "He who knows how to suffer will enjoy much peace. Such a one is a conqueror of himself and a lord of the world, a friend of Christ and an heir of heaven."

You know, the Bible tells us that Christ suffered for us. Hebrews 2:9: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor." Christ in the garden said, "Lord, if there's any way not to drink this cup," but he drank it. "That he might taste death for every man. For it was fitting for him, for whom are all things and by whom all things are, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings."

So, if he's our captain and he suffers, we should know that he can bring good of it. Even the soldier by the cross of Jesus saw Christ in his sufferings. He saw him say, "Father, forgive them." And through beholding the sufferings, he said, "Surely this is the Son of God." When Christians would know how to joyfully and patiently bear our sufferings, it sometimes is the very best opportunity to witness, amen? And God is working in us.

I'll close with a little poem that you may have heard before, someone once shared. It's called "The Oyster and the Pearl." "There once was an oyster whose story I'll tell who found that some sand had slipped into his shell. Just one little grain, but it gave him such pain, for oysters have feelings, although they're quite plain. Now, did he berate the working of fate which had led him to such a deplorable state? No, he said to himself as he lay on the shelf, 'If I can't remove it, I'll try to improve it.’ So the years rolled on by, as years always do, and he came to his ultimate destiny: stew." I don't recommend oyster stew. "But the small grain of sand which had bothered him so was a beautiful pearl all richly aglow. Now, this tale has a moral, for isn't it grand what an oyster can do with a morsel of sand? What couldn't we do if we'd only begin to enrich and embrace what gets under our skin?"

God allows trials because He loves you. We need to learn how to just see it through a heavenly perspective, and nothing is going to--the pain won't last. It's all temporary. And just say, "Lord, help me to avoid bringing sufferings on myself. If I suffered for Your sake, let me rejoice." Jesus said, "Be exceedingly glad." And remember that

He suffered and it is an honor to be able to suffer as a Christian, amen?

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