Every Word in Trials & Temptations

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Illus[1]: Oysters suffer affliction when they get a grain of sand lodged inside their shells. No matter what they do, they can’t get rid of it. The sand gets lodged and it grows irritating to the oyster. The gritty sand becomes so irritating the oyster responds by coating the sand over and over with numerous layers. Coating the sand does not clear out the obstacle but it does comfort the oyster. Over time the coating of the grain of sand produces something costly called a pearl. A pearl is the result of an oyster’s pain. The pain produces priceless value. Likewise, God allows the sufferings of this world to produce something precious inside of our lives.

In life, suffering is not a detour. God uses all our trials and troubles to cultivate our character. While we view suffering as a frustration, God views suffering as formational. We consider our suffering as an obstacle to our life goals but God uses suffering to outline our identity and purpose. Our biggest fight in life is not against isolating ourselves from suffering but insulating ourselves from others when we face sorrow and suffering. God wants us to share our sufferings with others as Jesus shared them with us for our rescue and redemption. In all, Satan’s goal with suffering is to destroy us while God’s goal with suffering is to develop us. We may not understand the reasons for our suffering on earth, but God is preparing us for an eternity that will redeem every suffering for His glory. Jesus knows exactly how to take hurt, heartbreak, and brokenness and transform them into something whole and beautiful.

Today’s message is to help shape our perspective with God’s Word on trials and troubles

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EXAMINE           Psalm 119      Every Word in Trials and Temptations

Psalm 119 is the longest of all the psalms and is most unique.[2] The central theme of the psalm is God’s Word: Torah (24x) testimonies (19x), precepts (20x), statutes (19x), commandments (22x), judgments/decisions/appointments (22x), Word (22x), and promise or saying (20x). Every verse mentions God. The outline of the psalm is an acrostic,[3] using the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet; it’s like saying, “God’s word is precious and perfect from A to Z.” Each verse in each stanza begins with the letter of the alphabet to which the stanza is related. There are eight lines/verses in each stanza, with eight as one more than seven, perhaps indicating beyond completion or perfection.

Why would someone write a lengthy psalm in such a unique pattern? Simply put, the psalmist is in love with God.[4] The Psalmist daydreams delight in God’s words (Psalm 1:2) and has the highest admiration for it (Psalm 19:7-10). When a person truly loves God’s Word they will treasure it in multi-faceted ways; such as the content of your writing, the art of your house, the music you play or hum each day, the pictures you paint and draw, the names of your children, the time you spend, and innumerable other forms. In all, the psalmist is being both creatively artistic for the eyes and ears and communicable for heart and mind to memorize.

While the psalmist delights in God’s Word, a background theme in Psalm 119 is how God’s word sustains him in the midst of trials and temptations.

Psalm 119:65-72

This stanza is like all the others in the acrostic, starting each statement with the same Hebrew letter “teth”. Yet, it goes further in also starting five of the eight verses with the same Hebrew word “tov”, generally translated “good” (vv. 65, 66, 68, 71, 72). Therefore, the psalmist wants us to notice something good.

3 truths…

God’s goodness is certain in our circumstances (119:65).
The psalmist is experiencing temptations and troubles, but he affirms the wisdom and ways of God. He calls out to God as His LORD (Yahweh), as one he trusts to do what is right in his life. The psalmist’s notes that God acts according to His word. In other words, God is trustworthy to act consistently with how He has in the past and promises to work in the future. God’s faithfulness is a foundation for our life circumstances.

The very first sin was in the garden where man and woman doubted God’s care and disobeyed God’s commands. Man and woman did not trust that God was good and they viewed their own plan as better than God’s. We do the same today in doubting God is good when we follow our choices over God’s commands.

This past week our church deacons met for their monthly meeting. Our deacons meetings involve time of ministry training and spiritual growth, and also time for discussion and prayer for the needs of members in our church. As our deacons went around the room sharing of individuals’ and families’ hardships, it was dawning on us just how burdened and broken our world is. Life is hard.

Life is hard because of sin.

Life is hard because of our striving against God.

Life is hard because of someone else’s struggle against God.

Life is hard but God is good. We know that God is our only help. We can do nothing without God. There is no solution for our sin apart from the Savior Jesus Christ. There is no healing apart from the hope in the gospel.

–        Reading God’s word is revelation of God. When we read the Bible we encounter God because it is from Him and for us to know Him. Some people read the Bible as a text book for information. Others read the Bible as a self-help book for inspiration (kinda like Chicken Soup for the soul). Still others read the Bible as a moral storybook offering life lessons. Yet, the Bible is more than just information and inspiration, it is an introduction to God. We cannot read the Bible merely for facts or for quant little sayings, but we must read it to encounter the living God who meets us in our deepest and darkest circumstances of life to save and sustain us. That’s what Psalm 119 is meant to show you. God loves us not because we are good, but because He is.

–        When you trust God is good then you will never have to question your circumstances or His commands because you will know He has in mind what is best.

–        God is good / All the time. All the time / God is good.

 

God’s teaching is steadfast in our suffering (119:66-71).
When life is hard we must pray for eyes and ears to learn what God has to show and teach us. The psalmist asks the Lord to instruct him of God’s good judgments and knowledge. In other words, he affirms God is compassionate and wise to act in his life.

Further, the psalmist recognizes that if God did not allow affliction in his life then he would have drifted away from God. Did you catch that? God’s people should not view ease but adversity as a sign of God’s blessing. “It is good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn your statutes” (119:71).

At our conversion and the closer we grow to Jesus, will often be from the result of temptations and trials.

–        John Baptizer

–        Disciples – all were martyrs

–        Paul

–        John Bunyan & Martin Luther

–        My friend Scott Friend – baptized and in coming month diagnosed with cancer and < 18 months passed.

John Bunyan (1628-1688) was a Baptist preacher and was imprisoned for over 12 years for preaching Christ. He suffered greatly while in prison because one of his four children was blind and he wanted to take care of her. He wrote, “I never had in all my life so great an inlet into the Word of God as now [in prison]. The Scriptures that I saw nothing in before are made in this place to shine upon me. Jesus Christ also was never more real and apparent than now. Here I have seen him and felt him indeed. . . . I have seen [such things] here that I am persuaded I shall never while in this world be able to express. . . . Being very tender of me, [God] hath not suffered me to be mistreated, but would with one scripture and another strengthen me against all; insomuch that I have often said, were it lawful I could pray for greater trouble for the greater comfort’s sake.” [5]

Martin Luther had discovered the same “method” of seeing God in his Word. He said there are three rules for understanding Scripture: praying, meditating and suffering trials. The “trials,” he said, are supremely valuable: they “teach you not only to know and understand but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s word is: it is wisdom supreme.” Therefore the devil himself becomes the unwitting teacher of God’s word: “the devil will afflict you [and] will make a real doctor of you, and will teach you by his temptations to seek and to love God’s Word. For I myself . . . owe my papists many thanks for so beating, pressing, and frightening me through the devil’s raging that they have turned me into a fairly good theologian, driving me to a goal I should never have reached”[6]

 

In a world that does its best to minimize or medicate suffering and attempts to maximize pleasure, Christians must understand suffering is not meaningless. God is always working in and through our suffering to produce His greater purposes. On this side of eternity it is difficult to discern every meaning to every suffering (Deuteronomy 29:29; 1Corinthians 13:12) but we can understand a degree of God’s purposes, of which here are at least 8 reasons why God allows suffering:

  • Suffering humbles us to God’s sovereignty(Job 1:21, 40:3-5; Psalm 73:25; Psalm 77, 139)

Is my pride and arrogance causing me to have a sense of entitlement without recognizing God’s sovereignty and requesting God’s gracious blessings?

  • Suffering identifies us with Jesus(2Cor 4:10-12; Gal 6:17; Philippians 3:10; 1Peter 4:16)

Am I attempting to isolate from God and God’s people?

  • Suffering teaches us to trust and depend on God’s resources and not our own(Psalm 119:71; 2Cor 1:8-9; 12:7-10; Philippians 4:11-13)

Am I attempting solutions to my suffering from a human or worldly perspective?

  • Suffering matures our faith and character(Romans 5:3-4, 8:28-29; James 1:2-4; 1Peter 1:6-9)

Is there an area of my life and spiritual growth that needs maturity?

  • Suffering chastens us to holiness(Job 5:17-18; 2Cor 12:7; Hebrews 12:5-29; James 5:13-20)

Is there an area of my life that needs surrendering and repentance to God?

  • Suffering equips us to comfort others (Hosea; 2Corinthians 1:3, 4:7-18)

Am I so self-focused that I am missing opportunities to see & share God’s grace and comfort? How can I turn my misery into ministry?

  • Suffering glorifies Jesus(John 9:3, 11:4, 12:23-28, 12:32, 17:1; Romans 8:17-18; 1Peter 4:13)

Am I seeking personal glory or credit for things in my life without gratitude to God?

  • Suffering prepares us for redemptive death in hope of an eternal home(Psalm 90:10-12; John 11:4, 15:2; Romans 8:18-29; 2Corinthians 4:17 – 5:10)

Am I holding too tightly to this world? Am I ready to face God for my eternal destiny?

Illus – Ironing a shirt requires extreme heat be applied to the wrinkles. The wrinkles are the result of clothing being pressed and folded in by its environment. The only way to remove the wrinkles is applying a hot iron. When a person gives time and attention to iron wrinkled clothing, their clothing looks transformed and so much better. Likewise, God applies the heat of temptations and trials in order that our lives can be transformed for the better.

 

God’s truth is priceless among our possessions (119:72).
The psalmist would not trade the temptations or trials he faced for all the gold and silver in the world. The lessons he learned and spiritual growth he gained became a priceless possession. The entire psalm celebrates his claim to God and His word.

119:11 “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

119:105 “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

119:25, 31 “My soul clings to the dust, give me life according to your word… I will cling to your testimonies O Lord”

Illus. Pilot Henry Dempsey and co-pilot Paul Boucher were flying a commuter 15 passenger Beechcraft 99 plane from Portland, ME to Boston, MA. During flight, the pilot heard a rattling noise and left to go check the problem. In a moment the co-pilot Boucher heard a loud noise and saw the warning light that a door was open. He immediately took control of the plane to communicate 1) his immediate landing, and 2) need coast guard to locate body at his coordinance. When plane landed they found the pilot Henry Dempsey clinging to the stair railing that popped out of the door.[7]

Do you cling to God and His Word as if your life depended on it?

APPLY/THINK

God’s goodness is certain in our circumstances (119:65).

–        In suffering, you will be tempted to doubt and even disobey God. The best strategy is to soak your life in Scripture and to have the support of encouraging Christian fellowship.

God’s teaching is steadfast in our suffering (119:66-71).

–        In suffering, you will learn lessons. Sometimes our life cycles in repeat because we don’t apply the learned lessons.

God’s truth is priceless among our possessions (119:72).

–        In suffering, share Scripture with others.

–        à PRAY with those suffering

 

[1] Adapted from “Suffering” in Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking.

[2] Background summary from John Philips in Exploring The Psalms, Leslie Allen in Word Biblical Commentary, Derek Kidner in Tyndale Commentary.

[3] Kidner notes, The acrostic Psalms are as follows: Pss. 9–10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145. Proverbs 31:10–31 is another; also each of the first four chapters of Lamentations, of which ch. 3 is the most elaborate.

[4] Kidner notes the evoke of love in vv. 47, 48, 97, 113, 119, 127, 132, 140, 159, 163, 165, 167.

[5] Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, Evangelical Press, 1978, p. 123

[6] What Luther Says, Vol. 3, Concordia Publishing House, 1959, p. 1360.

[7] PILOT FALLS OUT, CLINGS TO DOOR UNTIL LANDING  http://wpo.st/asgR2

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