“Let” Trials Make You Better Instead of Bitter

Even though God uses trials for our good, it’s still tempting to become bitter. When people are suffering, there is greater potential for them to question, criticize—or worst of all—turn from God.  James 1:3b–4 reads:

…the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

I would love to say, “Trials always produce patience, and patience makes you perfect and complete, lacking nothing,” but sometimes it would be more accurate to say, “Trials produce bitterness.” Perhaps you can think of people experiencing a trial and they said something like, “How could God let this happen to me? I do not deserve it! I wish I could give Him a piece of my mind!” If we’re honest, we can probably think of times trials did not produce patience or maturity in us. Instead of making us better, they made us bitter.

We Must Choose to “Let” Trials Make Us Better Instead of Bitter

The wording of James 1:3-4 is odd. If we never read the verses before we would probably expect them to say, “…the testing of your faith produces patience, which makes you perfect…” Instead, there are instructive words: “let patience have its perfect work.” The Greek word for let is echō, and it’s a verb because James is commanding us to do something. We must “let” trials “work.” Echō means, “To have, hold, own, possess, lay hold of.” Here are two places it’s used:

  • Matthew 3:13–14—“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need (echō) to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’”
  • Acts 2:44–45—“Now all who believed were together, and had (echō) all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had (echō) need.”

Of the 712 times echō occurs in the New Testament, 613 times it is translated as “have,” because it is not simply about accepting trials in our lives. We must take ownership of them. Instead of resisting trials, we must embrace them. This is how we “let” God use them for our benefit. The alternative is to fight against trials, which hinders the “perfect work” they can accomplish.

Before doctors administer a shot, they say, “Relax. Try to remain as calm as possible. This will hurt, but it will be worse if you resist.” The doctor is telling you to accept what is about to happen because failing to do so will only make an already painful situation even worse. It is the same with trials. We cannot avoid them. They hurt, and we make them worse when we resist. Instead, we must accept them, trusting God wants to use them for our good and His glory. This is how we “count it all joy” and “let” trials make us better. Continue reading ““Let” Trials Make You Better Instead of Bitter”

What The Fall Teaches About Marriage

The Fall took place when the devil attacked Adam’s headship. Genesis 3:1–4 says:

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”
Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”

There’s an important contrast between the creation account in Genesis 2 and The Fall in Genesis 3:

  • In Genesis 2:16, “the Lord God commanded the man.”
  • In Genesis 3:1 and 4, “[the serpent] said to the woman.”

God spoke to Adam, but the devil spoke to Eve. Why? The devil knew Eve was “the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). Part of the reason God placed Eve under Adam’s headship was for her own protection.

The Choices Adam and Eve Faced at The Fall

When the devil tempted Eve, she had two choices:

  • She could trust her husband who had given her God’s command, thereby submitting to him.
  • She could trust the devil, submitting instead to him.

Sadly, Genesis 3:6 reveals her choice: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

At this point, Adam also had two choices:

  • He could obey God who gave him the command, thereby submitting to Him.
  • He could obey his wife, submitting instead to her.

Adam chose to obey his wife instead of obeying God. Genesis 3:9–12 gives us the outcome of that decision:

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”
Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

It’s significant that the conversation about The Fall took place between God and Adam. God didn’t address Eve until Genesis 3:16 when He explained how sin’s curse would affect women.

Who was Blamed for The Fall?

Continue reading “What The Fall Teaches About Marriage”

Temptation Often Comes Back Stronger

Temptation often comes back stronger

The past two Sundays we’ve been looking at the story of the old prophet and the man of God in 1 Kings 13. Here are the sermons:

In the chapter, God sent a prophet – repeatedly called “man of God” – to confront the idolatry King Jeroboam introduced to the nation (the golden calves in 1 Kin 12:25-33). The Lord told the man of God, You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came” (1 Kin 13:9, 17). After the prophet received this command he was repeatedly tempted to disobey it (verses 7, 15, 18). It’s similar to what we experience: God gives us commands through His Word and we’re repeatedly tempted to disobey them.

But one of the other realities is the temptation often comes back stronger…

First, the old prophet said, “Come home with me and eat bread” (v. 15). The man of God resisted, but then the old prophet said, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water’” (v. 18). The second temptation was much stronger and more convincing than the first.

There are a number of similarities between the man of God and Balaam (in Num 22:1-21):

  • They were both prophets.
  • They were both given commands directly from God:
    • The man of God was commanded not to eat or drink (1 Kin 13:9, 17).
    • Balaam was commanded, “You shall not go with Balak; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed” (Num 22:12).
  • They were both tempted to disobey the commands God gave them.
  • The were both tempted in similar ways:
    • Balaam was tempted to go with Balak.
    • The man of God was tempted to go with the old prophet.
  • And just like with the man of God, the second temptation Balaam experienced was much stronger and more convincing than the first…

First Balak said, “Please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me.” (Num 22:6). Balaam resisted (v. 13) and the second temptation: “Balak again sent princes, MORE NUMEROUS and MORE HONORABLE than before and they said to Balaam, ‘Please let nothing hinder you from coming to me; for I WILL CERTAINLY HONOR YOU GREATLY, and I WILL DO WHATEVER YOU SAY to me. Therefore PLEASE COME, curse this people for me’” (Num 22:15-17).

The final – and most tragic – similarity is Balaam finally went with Balak and it had terrible consequences for him, and the man of God finally went with the old prophet and it had terrible consequences for him.

The lesson for us: temptation often comes back stronger, and we need to be sure to resist it.

When the Old Testament is quoted in the New Testament…

There’s a tendency to think when New Testament (NT) writers quote the Old Testament (OT) that they’re using a verse because it captures what they want to say but the context of the OT verse is unimportant. The HUGE problem with that thinking though is many times the reason the verse is quoted is BECAUSE of its context. Let me give you a simple example from Ephesians 4. Paul is talking about Jesus distributing spiritual gifts: 7 Each one of us has been given a gift through Christ. 8 That is why it says, “When He (Jesus) ascended on high (referring to The Ascension), He…gave gifts to His people.” Then it goes on to say Jesus gifted some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (v. 11).

When it talks about Jesus ascending on high and giving gifts to men, Psalm 68:18 is being quoted, which David wrote after he brought the ark into Jerusalem. It was a time of real celebration (especially when considering how it went the first time David tried to bring in the ark). After it was done, David gave gifts to his people: 2 Samuel 6:19 Then David gave all the people…a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. David was the king and at this tremendous occasion he gave gifts to his people; therefore, Paul quoted Psalm 68:18 because of its context and wonderful parallel: Jesus is our King, and after His ascension – a tremendous occasion – He gave gifts to His people.

We’re going through Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness on Sunday mornings and when the devil asks Jesus to turn a stone into bread, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It’s best to look at Jesus’ response as the tip of the iceberg; here’s a tremendous amount going on behind Jesus quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. It looks back to Israel’s failure(s) in the wilderness when they were tested for 40 years contrasting that testing with Jesus’ testing in the wilderness for 40 days.

The main point is this: the context of the verse Jesus quoted to the devil (Deut 8:3) is vitally important to appreciating why Jesus responded the way He did. It wouldn’t be too much to say one of the only ways we can really understand and appreciate the NT is to be familiar with the OT. Some people say, “Oh, I just focus on the NT.” Focusing on the NT is great, but if you don’t understand the OT, you’re not really going to understand the NT.

If you’d like to hear more about Jesus’ response and the parallel between Jesus in the wilderness and Israel in the wilderness, here’s the sermon I preached on Jesus’ response to the devil’s temptation, including application we can learn from the Lord about dealing with temptation ourselves: Luke 4:4 Responding to Temptation.