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Do any of you have trials? If any of you don't, I'd like to talk to you about how you do it. But seriously, we ALL have trials. And God's word says we MUST have trials. But there are little trials and then there are BIG TRIALS.

Today I want to talk to you about trials and how we should respond to them.

The most common concept when one hears the word "trial" is that of a judicial activity where the legal position of two parties is determined. But that is not what we are going to discuss today, though a legal trial may certainly be a trial for the parties concerned. There are many synonyms to the word "trials". Among them are suffering, testing, trouble, and persecution. The closest synonym to what we will be discussing is probably suffering, especially as demonstrated by various scriptures.

A great variety of Hebrew and Greek expressions, too many to be enumerated here, have been translated as the word "suffer" and other forms derived from the same verb.

(1) Perhaps the most common meaning of "suffering" in the English versions of the Bible is "to permit," or "to allow," or "to give leave to": (Mark 10:4) tells us "Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away". In other words, Moses permitted a bill of divorcement to be issued by the husband in order that his wife no longer be his wife.

(2) The main theme of this sermon will be the definition which means "To experience," or "to go through,"' or "to endure": i.e., in (Matt 27:19) where the wife of Pilate said, "I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him". Or in Mark 5:26 where a woman "had suffered many things of many physicians." Sounds like some people I've known.

I'm going to begin by giving you a rather long list of different kinds of endurance type sufferings so you can be aware just how much suffering Biblical Christians have endured.

In 1 Th 3:4 Paul told the people of Thessalonika "to suffer affliction or tribulation"

( NASB) For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.

In Heb 11:25, Paul said to be willing to share the ill-treatment experienced by others.

( NASB) choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin;

In 2 Tim 2:8-9 Paul says "to suffer hardship"

( NASB) Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, {9} for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.

In Heb 13:3 Paul says "to suffer adversity" per the KJV or to suffer "mistreatment"

( NASB) Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.

Acts 5:41 shows it is worthy "to suffer dishonor" or "shame" in support of Christ's way of life.

( NASB) So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.

Acts 7:24 describes the Israelite who suffered wrongly from the Egyptian.

(NKJV) "And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended and avenged him who was oppressed, and struck down the Egyptian.

In Ps 88:15 David describes suffering from terror all his life

(NKJV) I have been afflicted and ready to die from my youth; I suffer Your terrors; I am distraught.

In 2 Cor 11:25 Paul describes suffering from shipwreck and punishment.

{25} Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.

Ps 34:10 and Prov 19:15 describe suffering from hunger

(Psa 34:10) The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.
(Prov 19:15 NKJV) Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, And an idle person will suffer hunger.

In Job 24:11 Job describes those who suffer from thirst.

They press out oil within their walls, And tread winepresses, yet suffer thirst.

2 Cor 11:19 describes putting up with or tolerating foolish people

(KJV) For ye suffer fools gladly, [i.e., you tolerate the foolish gladly], seeing ye yourselves are wise.

Luke 13:2 describes undergoing more punishment than others.

Think ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they have suffered these things?

1 Cor 3:15; also Phil 3:8 describes sustaining loss.

If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss

Matt 16:21; Mark 8:31; 9:12; Luke 9:22; 17:25; 22:15; 24:26,46; Acts 3:18; 17:3; 26:23; and 1 Peter 3:18 describe the suffering death of Christ. Here the clearest references are to the suffering or passion of Christ, which indeed includes the enduring of untold hardships and affliction, all of which culminate in His vicarious death for man.

We have gone through these many scriptures which describe the suffering of Biblical personages. But suffering specifically belongs to the discipline of all Christ's followers. Let me give you another rather long list of scriptures, this time describing how true Christians are obliged to suffer with Christ if we intend to be in His Kingdom.

(Rom 8:16-17 NKJV) The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, {17} and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.
(2 Cor 1:7 NKJV) And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.

(Gal 3:4 NASB) Did you suffer so many things in vain-- if indeed it was in vain?

(Phil 3:10 NKJV) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
(1 Th 2:2 NKJV) But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.
(2 Th 1:5 NASB) This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.
(2 Tim 2:12 NKJV) If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.
(2 Tim 3:12 NKJV) Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
(James 5:10 NASB) As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
(1 Pet 2:20 NKJV) For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
(1 Pet 3:14,17 NKJV/NASB) But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. "And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.".......
{17} For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
(1 Pet 4:1-2,13,16) Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, {2} so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God........{13} But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy......{16} Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
(1 Pet 5:10 NASB) And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

Such suffering is called a suffering for the Eternal's sake in Jer 15:15; Acts 9:16; Philippians 1:29; and 2 Tim 1:12. This fellowship in suffering unites us with the saints of God of all times , and is indeed a fellowship with the Lord Himself , who uses this discipline to mold us more and more according to His character.

Now, with these definitions and examples, let's ask some questions about trials:

1. Why does God allow His people to have severe trials? Let's look at some examples to answer that question:

Paul was acutely aware of the church's trials and tried to help. We read in 1 Thes 3, that after suffering many afflictions by the Jews and others, Paul decided to send Timothy to Thessalonika:

(1 Th 3:2-3) We sent Timothy, who is our brother and God's fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, {3} so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them [i.e., such trials].

Why? Because we as Christians are expected to be willing to suffer for him and because the LORD disciplines those he loves.

(Prov 3:11-12) My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent his rebuke, {12} because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
(Philippians 1:29) For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him,
(Mat 5:12 NKJV) "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Of course, there are some trials that we bring on to ourselves by our own ineptitude. We must use our heads to reduce our self-generated trials.

(Luke 14:28) "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?

Our dedication to Christ should be sufficient that we are willing to even die without turning our backs on Him.

2. How was Christ tempted and tried?

Let's review the temptation of Christ by Satan and notice how it compares to our own temptations:

(Mat 4:1-11) Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. {2} After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. {3} The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." {4} Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' " {5} Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. {6} "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' " [Notice that Satan knows scripture. In a moment we'll read an example in Psa 91:11-12 from which this comes] {7} Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' " {8} Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. {9} "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." {10} Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' " {11} Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
(Psa 91:11-12 NKJV) For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. {12} In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Christ was tempted in 3 basic ways in which he could be the most vulnerable: First, knowing that Christ had been the creator, as the Father's Son and thereby a member of the God-head itself, Satan challenged his power. He knew that Christ could make stones into anything he wanted. So he said, in essence, "if you are really the Christ, prove it to me", trying to appeal to any vanity Christ might have had. Do we fall for appeals to our vanity?

Second, he tried to get Christ to tempt God by forcing God's angels to intervene to keep Christ alive. Christ had to be crucified by men. God could not allow him to die otherwise.

Thirdly, Satan tried to buy off Christ. He offered him the entire world if Christ would simply bow down and worship Satan. Of course, being a liar, he could have reneged. Remember that Satan is the lord of the earth and so the earth was his to give. The desire to acquire and hold material possessions turns many of us away from doing what is right. We see examples of being bought off even in our government. Thank God, Christ could not be distracted by material possessions and power.

Heb 5:7-9 talks about the trials of Christ during his final days on earth.

{7} During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears [he feared when God hid his face] to the one who could save him from death [spiritual death], and he was heard because of his reverent submission. [Not my will but thine" from Mark 14:36] {8} Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered [He was obedient before his final sufferings but he stooped to a still more humiliating and trying form of obedience then.] {9} and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him

Yes, Christ learned obedience through suffering.

Do we learn obedience from our suffering? Praying and obeying, as in Christ's case, must go hand in hand.

In Luke 14:27 Christ says: And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

3. Do we sometimes think our trials are more than we can bear? We need to be encouraged by trials.

(1 Cor 10:13) 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.
(Heb 12:5-11) And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, {6} because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." {7} Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? {8} If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. {9} Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! {10} Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. {11} No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

When we have been taught by the school of hard knocks, do we learn by it, or just repeat our mistakes? Are we being trained or just taught?

(Heb 12:1) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
(Psa 34:18-19) The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. [Have you noticed how much closer God is when you are really down in spirit?] {19} A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;

In 2 Tim 3:10-13, Paul suffered many trials. So must we.

{10}You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, {11} persecutions, sufferings--what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. {12} In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, {13} while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

4. The righteous must suffer afflictions. Trial and test will enable God to know us. No one will be in God's Kingdom that He isn't sure of. None of us will be perfect before the Kingdom. The world will be in trouble from now on and we must endure it.

(Acts 14:21-22) If we're going to be in the Kingdom of God, we must suffer tribulation. They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, {22} strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said.
(Rev 16:1-6) Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, "Go, pour out the seven bowls of God's wrath on the earth." {2} The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly and painful sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. {3} The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead man, and every living thing in the sea died. {4} The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. {5} Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: "You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; {6} for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve."

God will repay the world for what they have done to you

You might say that many don't realize how bad they really are. They are deceived by Satan, their own blindness, their own vanity, their own self-righteousness, and their own stubbornness.

(Jer 17:9-10) The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? {10} "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve."

Why can't those who believe that only faith is required for salvation, understand from these verses that we will be judged by our works too?

5. Even the righteous sin, but following sin, it's time for repentance.

Do we ask God to give us more repentance when we stumble?

(Rom 2:4) Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

God calls us to repentance. We don't. This is an important principle for all of us to learn.

(Deu 28:15) However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:

God promises curses for disobedience. Some curses are simply a cut-off of blessings. This seems to be what is happening in the US today. e.g., the loss of our nations's security due to infiltration and attacks by foreigners, severe adverse weather due to our nation's participation and insistence in the give-away of God-given Israeli land, a loss of national moral standards by evil men, rejection of Judeo-Christian standards and principles, immoral teaching, loss of national prosperity and prestige, etc.

(Deu 28:45) All these curses will come upon you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the LORD your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you.
(Deu 8:17-20 NASB) "Otherwise, you may say in your heart, 'My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.' {18} "But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. {19} "And it shall come about if you ever forget the LORD your God, and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you shall surely perish. {20} "Like the nations that the LORD makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the LORD your God.

David's repentance from his sins and his praise of God can best be seen in Psa 51:1-19:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. {2} Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. {3} For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. {4} Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. {5} Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me [from my very beginning. Proof that life begins at conception.] {6} Surely you desire truth in the inner parts ; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. {7} Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. {8} Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice [refers to total depression]. {9} Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. {10} Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. {11} Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. [Sin weakens the Holy Spirit within us. Obedience strengthens it. Thus sin becomes a trial.]{12} Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. {13} Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. {14} Save me from bloodguilt [being guilty of murder (including hate)], O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. {15} O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. {16} You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. {17} The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (signs of repentance). {18} In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. {19} Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar.

6. How does our righteousness and trials compare with Paul's?

We shouldn't compare ourselves with others, but perhaps, when it comes to trials, a comparison with the trials of Paul can encourage us. We read some of these verses earlier.

(2 Cor 11:16-31) I repeat: Let no one take me for a fool. But if you do, then receive me just as you would a fool, so that I may do a little boasting. {17} In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool. {18} Since many are boasting in the way the world does, I too will boast. {19} You gladly put up with fools since you are so wise! {20} In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or pushes himself forward or slaps you in the face. {21} To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about--I am speaking as a fool--I also dare to boast about. {22} Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham's descendants? So am I. {23} Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. {24} Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. [Deut 25:3] {25} Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, {26} I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. {27} I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. {28} Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. {29} Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? {30} If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. {31} The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.

Before I close, here are a few more admonitions of encouragement.

Expect God to help us.

(2 Cor 1:3) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
(Mat 10:28) Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (gehenna).
(1 Th 5:23) May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, let's read from the book of Ephesians.

(Eph 6:11-17) Put on the full armor of God [Bible study, not just reading, and prayer and obedience] so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. {12} For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. {13} Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. {14} Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, {15} and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. {16} In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. {17} Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Brethren, hang in there during the difficult days ahead!

Sermon given by Wayne Bedwell
July 13, 2013
Copyright 2013, Wayne Bedwell

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