"Perfected Through the Flames"
Let me ask you, "How is your faith?" As you think about the question, let me ask you to think more specifically. How do you know how your faith is? What standard do you use to judge the depth of your faith?
Perfected Through The Flames
A. The book of Ruth opens with the family of Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and his two sons leaving Bethlehem because of a famine and going to Moab seeking refuge. But refuge was not to be found. Elimelech and both sons (who had each married a Moabite women) died, leaving Naomi, Orpha and Ruth as widows.
B. To that bitter end, Naomi decides to go home, back to Judah, back to Bethlehem. We know that Ruth goes with her, and the Bible says (READ Ruth 1:19-21).
C. I share that with you because many people view life exactly like Naomi. She saw only the sadness that come upon her. She did not see Ruth or the future that would come. She walked through the valley of the shadow of death and feared evil and being alone. She saw God’s hand at work causing her to become a bitter woman. She is not the first person to view such terrible grief in such a manner. But is there another way? Is there some way to face the trials of life and come out perfected, come out better?
D. We use phrases like, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” But how many us make lemonade and how many of us simply have a sour demeanor?
E. When our spiritual life is confronted by this life we live in the flesh, we have to determine which life leads. A spiritual life behaves differently than the fleshly desires. The book of James is a placed as one of the general letters. But he opens with these words (READ verse 1).
F. James sees himself as a slave to God and writes to people who have been dispersed because of trials. The one who first read this letter were people who suffered in this life, people who may have been forced from their homeland, but at the very least, they were Christians who lived scattered throughout the Mediterranean world.
I. Count It All Joy?
A. To this this group James says, (James 1:2). What an opening. Rarely do we feel that a life like that of Naomi’s should be counted as a joy. In fact, we often sympathize with such a person. Yet, James wants us to see trials as something that can be productive to our spiritual growth. It is the same words used in verse 12. (READ it)
B. In the 2006 movie “Rocky Balboa,” Rocky is talking to his son who is having a difficult time because of how people see him and his dad. Rocky says to his son,
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
C. That is what James is saying to these Christians. It is not a joy that you face trials and tests; it is a joy that you keep moving forward and win the race. You will never know your own strength until it tested. We often quote Rev. 2:10, “be faithful unto death and I will give you a crown of life.” But I want you to hear the context (Rev. 2:8-11). Jesus let them know trials were coming and what the reward was if they came through the trials. It wasn’t about “death,” it was about “life.”
II. The Perfecting Process
A. There is process that we go through in order to reach then and still have joy. That process tests our faith. James continues (READ James 1:3-4).
B. Steadfastness. The NIV says “perseverance.” Others say “endurance,” “patience” or similar words. The idea is that of active courageous endurance. It is not an idle word, but one that actively pushes you to keep on when you want to quit. To see the end result as worth the effort.
C. Fresh Krispy Kreme donuts are great. Some people will line up and wait for hours to purchase these 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. Afterwards, the donuts pass through a cascading waterfall of icing. Do you ever feel like a Krispy Kreme?
D. The Psalmist would write (Ps. 66:8-12). Brothers, that is what James is telling us. Yes, we will face trials of many kinds. Yes there are times when emotionally we are bitter and feel like God is angry with us. But let me tell you that if you see the bigger picture, if you keep on keeping on, God not only will bring you through but bring you out to a place of abundance!
A. James says that when we stand the test we are “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” It is time you tell yourself those words. You are here today in spite of all that life throws at you. You ARE perfect and complete. You are whole in Christ. You don’t lack anything because you don’t quit on God – and I know He doesn’t quit on you.
B. Too often we read about trials and we think of our failures, our times when sin overtook us and we fell. Did you repent? Did you go to God and face your sin with him? It is the work of the evil one who wants you to keep beating yourself up over something God has forgiven you of. You are perfect and complete in Christ. Learn it, live it, love it.
C. This is the day that Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it. It may not be the best day of my life, but I will rejoice that God gives me the strength and walks with me through it all and brings me to the place of abundance.
D. If we can help you experience the same joy and success in the trials of life, then come as we stand and sing.