Posts Tagged ‘trials’

Spirit Led

February 29, 2016

I remember as a young Christian being introduced to the idea that as a Christian my life would always be happy and carefree.

That was not true.  The Christian life in this world still battles with sin, the flesh and the devil.

I.  Spirit Led:  Acts 13:1-4

Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

Barnabas and Saul are set apart and sent out to proclaim the gospel.  They have fasted, prayed and are being led by the Spirit.  We can believe that this decision was indeed the will of God.

II.  Tribulation:  Acts 14:19-22

Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. 20 However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”

Even though they have been led by God and are doing the work of God, they encountered resistance.  In these verses Paul is stoned and left for dead.  Just because we are doing the will of God does not mean that we will escape problems.  Actually, as we serve the Lord we are in the midst of a spiritual battle and things will be difficult at times.  God will give us the strength that we need for the challenges that come our way.

III.  Dissension:  Acts 15:1-2

And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question.

Even in the early church there was occasional disagreement among the followers of Christ.  It was probably quite heated.  We are saved, but we are still human.  Our human nature can lead us to places that the Spirit would not wish to go.  We are far from perfect.

IV.  Decision:  Acts 15:22-29

Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren.

23 They wrote this letter by them:

The apostles, the elders, and the brethren,

To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:


24 Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, “You must be circumcised and keep the law” —to whom we gave no such commandment— 25 it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.


Here they have come to a decision.  Still, there would continue to be occasional controversy over various doctrinal issues.  That continues until the present day.  It does not mean that we are unsaved.  It means that we are limited by our flesh. We think that we are right.  If we knew what was wrong, most of us would change.  Our current understanding is limited.  One day we will know all the truth, but that time will have to wait until we are in heaven.  We should be patient with those with whom we have disagreements, as we all seek to understand the truth.

V.  Division:  Acts 15:36-41

 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Here two mature believers who had worked together for years have a disagreement that leads to division.  We might be tempted to say that Barnabas was wrong, after all, Paul literally wrote most of the New Testament.  However, many believe that  this Mark wrote the gospel denoted by his name.  It is often considered to be the first of the synoptic gospels and may even have served as a model for Matthew and Luke.  So here is an example of “all things working together for good”.

VI.  Walking in the Spirit:  Galatians 5:16-18*

 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Even though we will not be perfect, we should strive to walk in the Spirit.  We should seek to recognize when our flesh is taking over, and we should ask God to help us.

The Christian life is a life that is led by the Spirit, but walked out in the flesh.  We will occasionally make mistakes, but God will not abandon us.  We should be patient with one another as we all seek to be Spirit led.

These are the sermon notes from 1/31/16.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

*This is the memory verse for the week. 

Our Strength and Our Shield

July 20, 2015

Some evangelicals are concerned about the future.  As our society becomes more tolerant in some ways, it becomes less tolerant in other ways.  What lies ahead? I.  God is Our Strength:  Isaiah 40:28-31

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, 31 But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

Our strength is limited.  There are times when we feel overwhelmed, worn out, perhaps we are questioning our ability to continue.  It is fairly normal for us to have those kinds of feelings occasionally.  Thankfully we are not expected to do the work of God in our own strength. “Those that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.”  It is always important for Christians to spend time in the Word and in prayer.  When we are at the limit of our strength it is even more important to spend extra time in the presence of the Lord.  It is God who is the source of our strength for life and ministry. As we spend time in the presence of God through prayer and the Word, our strength will be renewed.  We can overcome obstacles by the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us. One of the themes that frequently reoccurs in my messages is that God will give us wisdom and strength.  If we ask God for direction and help, He is faithful to help those who turn to Him.  He will give us the wisdom to know what we should do, and the strength to do it. II.  God is our Shield:  Isaiah 43:1-3

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place.

The children of Israel were well aware of how God had brought them through the waters.  The story of the salvation of Noah and his family from the flood was a part of their history.  The deliverance of Israel  from the army of Egypt at the Red Sea was still celebrated regularly.  The entrance into the promised land by passing through the Jordan was a story told over and over.  Their history clearly showed that God could bring them through the waters. For those of us who read these scriptures today, we are reminded of the friends of Daniel who were cast into the fiery furnace.  The king saw, not three men, but four in the furnace and the three men came safely out.  The fourth looked “like the son of God”.  We are not alone in our time of trial, Christ is with us.  Truly God can bring us through the fire, or the flood. We are involved in a spiritual war that is played out on two fronts; the physical and the spiritual.  God is able to protect us on both fronts.  We may never know all the ways that God has brought us through the battles.  Sometimes we can see the hand of God at work, and other times it is unknown to us. Conclusion:  Psalms 28:7

The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him.

We do not need to worry about the future.  God is our strength and our shield.  We can face whatever comes our way. Psalms 118:6

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

These are the sermon notes from 7/5/15.  Any advertisements that might appear are placed by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any money from them. 

Patient Endurance

January 9, 2014

Christians sometimes must patiently endure.  Life is not always easy.

I.  Patient Endurance: Hebrews 6:9-15

But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. 10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.

God has not forgotten us.  He is aware of the faithful service that we have rendered to Him.  We need to diligently continue in hope, faith and patience.  If the fulfillment of God’s promises in our lives are delayed, we must not lose hope.  God is faithful.  We should be like Abraham and patiently endure, knowing that what God has promised, He is faithful to deliver.

II.  Do Not Cast Away:  Hebrews 10:35-39

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:

37 “For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
38 Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.”

39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.

The Christian journey is difficult at times.  God allows tests and trials to come our way to try our faith.  Mature Christians are not exempt.  If anything, their tests are more severe, as they should be, since their faith has had an opportunity to develop.  We must not give up.  We walk by faith, not by sight.  We patiently endure the times of testing and trial, knowing that they have an end.  God’s love and mercy, on the other hand, will never end.

III.  Run With Endurance: Hebrews 12:1-3

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

The first thing that we should do to make our ‘race’ easier is to lay aside the sinful practices that will trip us up.  As we become aware of sin in our live, we should repent and ask God to help us change.

Secondly, we can lay aside the weights that slow us down.  There are things in our lives that do not need to be there.  We must ask for wisdom from above to know what things should remain in our lives, and what things should be set aside.

Most importantly, we should look to Jesus as our example.  He patiently endured the cross, knowing that it was God’s plan for Him and for the world.  We too, should endure hardship, as good soldiers of Christ.

If your life is going through a difficult time of testing and trial, do not lose hope.  Do not be discouraged.  God is still with you.  God has not abandoned you.  Patiently endure the times of testing, knowing that God is still with you.  He loves you and will give you the wisdom and strength that you need to face the challenges that come your way.

These are the sermon notes from 1/5/14.  You are welcome to ask questions or post comments.

Any advertisement that appears  has been placed there by WordPress.  I have no control over them, nor do I receive any financial payment from them.

Pursue the Knowledge of God

March 4, 2013

Here are the sermon notes from 3/3/13.

I.  Pursue the Knowledge of God:  Hosea 6:1-3

Come, and let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.
Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth.

There are multiple layers of meanings in these words.  For the original hearers, there was a call to repentance, to turn away from sin and return to the Lord.  There is also a messianic center, as we recognize the reference to the resurrection.  There is also a timeless principle that can be drawn out of the original, and applied to all ages.

God is our Father, our creator.  We are meant to be in a relationship with Him.

Sometimes God allows difficult circumstances to come into our lives.  He is trying to get our attention.  He starts with a still small voice, but if we do not listen, then He may raise His voice, or change tactics.  He is motivated by a love for us, and a desire for reconciliation.

If we would pursue the knowledge of God, then we would be able to hear His still, small voice.  He would direct our paths by His Spirit and His Word.  We pursue the knowledge of God through studying the scriptures and spending time in prayer.

The knowledge of God can really be beneficial, not only in this life, but in the life to come.

II.  The Fiery Furnace:  Daniel 3

In this chapter, the king has made a golden statue.  He has commanded that everyone is to bow in worship to this image that he has created.  The penalty for disobedience is to be cast into the fiery furnace.  Daniel’s three friends; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to comply.  They are brought before the king, who gives them another chance, warning them of the consequences of disobedience.   Their reply is found in Daniel 3: 16-17.

  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

I appreciate the faith that is expressed in this response.  God is able to save them from the fire.  One way or another, they will be delivered from the hand of the king.  Death would be a form of deliverance, or God can save them from the fire.  Either way, they will not worship the idol of gold.

Daniel 3: 19-25

Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”

They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”

25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

The fourth person is a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ.  In this case, God did deliver them by literally bringing them through the fire.  For all of us, as we experience the various tests and trials of this life, we can be assured that Christ will be with us.  Remember that as Jesus was leaving this earth, He assured His disciples that He would be with them always, “even to the end of the age”.  As He was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, He will be with us in whatever test we might face.

We should continue to pursue the knowledge of God.  As we do, we may rest assured that God is with us.



November 24, 2008

Aristotle believed that the goal of human existence was eudaimonia, a Greek word that means basically happiness, but is also translated as flourishing. 

I like the word flourishing to describe the ideal human condition.  I believe that it is indicative not of a single area of our lives, but of the sum of our lives.  If we  were to put it in religious terms we could say ‘blessed”. 

I believe that we are both blessed, and tried in our lives.  God is good to his people and is always with us, but there are times when the spiritual conflict in which we are involved can take its toll upon our minds, bodies and spirits. 

We have houseplants that my wife takes care of in our home.  I enjoy them but leave their care to my wife.  Every once in a while If they are not watered they will start to look droopy.  Give them a drink, and they perk right back up.

Our lives can be like that. Sometimes, we are getting too much sun and too little water, so to speak.  The work that we do, and the trials that we face, drain us and leave us feeling a little (or a lot) wilted.  When that happens we need to drink deeply of the living waters of the Holy Spirit so that we can be revived.  So that we can indeed even flourish once again.