A Seemingly Strange Reason To Be Thankful

Learning how to find joy during the struggles in life.

George Wright
Nov 24, 2019    29m
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In this sermon Pastor George Wright teaches from James chapter 1 to illustrate that it is still possible to find joy and thanksgiving during the struggles in life. He explains that our joy can be found when we remember that even in the midst of a struggle God is in control, and he has greater things in store for those who trust in him. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

Transcription
messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:00 Now, James chapter 1 we see a very interesting call to joy in these verses. And as we enter into the week of Thanksgiving, I want to look at these verses because they certainly relate to or tell us how we can find joy and gratitude and thanksgiving, but they show us how thanksgiving and joy can be ours in a very different way than we often might think. And so let's stand together as we read these verses so that we can be reminded as we stand all around the room, the Word of God is our authority, and the Word of God is the foundation on which we stand. The Word of God reveals to us what God says is right and good and true, and this is what we need to hear as we turn our attention to the Lord.

George Wright: 00:51 James chapter 1 beginning in verse 1 it says this, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, joy in the midst of trials." Thanksgiving, even when it appears there is nothing to be thankful for. This is what the word of God reveals, and this is what we need to hear.

George Wright: 01:32 Let's pray and ask God to speak into our lives. Would you pray with me? Fathers, we stand before you now, and as we have some join us online for this service. We pray, Lord God, that everyone who is listening to these words today would be open and receptive to what the spirit of the living God is revealing to us. And so we pray now Lord, as we turn our attention to you, that you would open our eyes to see what we need to see. I pray, Lord God, that you'd open our ears to hear, to listen to what we need to listen to, in the midst of all the noise, in the midst of all the busyness, in the midst of all that is distracting us in our lives. I pray, Lord God, in these moments, this sacred moment that you have set aside before the beginning of time, that we would hear from you, and you would use this day, use this time in your word, for your glory, and for our joy, so have your way among us. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen. You may be seated.

George Wright: 02:46 I have entitled this sermon A Seemingly Strange Reason to be Thankful. As we enter into this week of Thanksgiving, you may be here today with many reasons to be thankful. You may be here today though saying, yes, I need to hear a message about trials at Thanksgiving, because I've got to spend time with family. And I understand that. But you also may be here today, I realize, carrying the weight of the world. And every time we gather together we recognize that there are many among us who are walking through a difficult time, a difficult struggle, or a trial, or a hardship. That may be your story here today.

George Wright: 03:29 I'll let you know in our household, it's been an interesting week. I told Megan last week that I was going to be preaching on this passage of scripture today, a week or so out in advance. And she said, well, I guess we better hold on, and she was right. And it's amazing to me how often what I'm preaching on, we get to experience as a family. And so just real quickly, I'll let you know what we've walked through this week. On Monday morning, both of our girls started throwing up with the puke bug, and I know that's pretty normal that goes around. But that was how our week started off, both of our girls were very sick. And then on Wednesday, our oldest son Brody had arthroscopic surgery on his knee to repair torn cartilage from a wrestling accident, and then we thought, okay, maybe we're through the woods. And last night our youngest Everett, we had to rush to the ER because he's battling a severe case of pneumonia. So we are four for four this week when the pastor talks about trials as it relates to our kids, so I certainly appreciate your prayers for our family. As I was going to bed last night at about 1:30 after being in the emergency room for several hours, I thought to myself, Lord, please say something because I need to hear it. So, if you're here today and everything's great and you're not walking through a trial, I just want you to know I need to hear what I'm preaching. So just bear with me because the word of God says what I need to hear, and I believe it says what we all need to hear as we think about walking through struggles.

George Wright: 05:07 It's an interesting statement made in verse 2, "Count in all joy, when you face various trials." Some translations say, "Consider in all joy, when you face various trials." What does it mean to count or to consider? Well, the original language actually gives us even greater depth and meaning to what the scripture is saying here when we translate it. Count or consider, this word literally means to be led by, or to have rule over, or to have authority in one's life. So what is the scripture saying? The scripture is saying there is a truth that needs to lead you in the midst of a trial. There is a truth that needs to have authority over your life in the midst of a trial. Count it, consider this truth, let this truth lead you, let this truth have authority over you. Because in the midst of the trial, every single one of us is in danger of missing the truth altogether. What happens in the midst of the trial? In the midst of the trial, there is pain, there is stress, there is difficulty, there is struggle. And when we start to feel pain, and feel stress, and feel the weight of the struggles of life, we have a tendency to allow what we are feeling to override what God says is true. And the scripture is saying to us here this morning, that in the midst of a trial, your feelings are not bad, your feelings are not inherently wrong, God gave you your feelings. But we must remember feelings are fickle, and feelings can change with the wind. And the scripture is saying, let the truth of God leads you, let the truth of God have authority over you, in the midst of what you are feeling. Because in the midst of what you are feeling, God has something for you to see. God has something that he is revealing to you in the midst of the struggle, will you listen? And so God is saying here to us count in all joy. Let this truth about joy lead you, and have authority over your life, even in the midst of a trial. So that what God says is true, has authority over your life, instead of simply what you feel.

George Wright: 08:03 So what is the truth that leads to joy in the midst of the trial? Well the truth here, that we need to see and be reminded of, is that God is in control. That is a simple statement to say, but that is not a simple statement to live. God is in control, and God is at work in our lives in the midst of the struggle. And while our circumstances may change, and our circumstances may feel like things are totally out of control, God is still in control. So count in all joy when you meet various trials, count in all joy when you're walking through the struggle. This is a call to worship even in the midst of our trials. As we were singing here this morning, I'll just confess, I'm totally worn out physically, totally worn out mentally and emotionally, after the week that we've had as a family. Many of you, that's your normal, and you've been walking through stuff that just wears you out. And as we were singing this morning, I was just thinking, I need this so much. I need to be reminded of who God is, and what God has done. In fact, I would propose to you this morning that one of the most important times to sing songs of praise and lift our hearts in worship, is when we don't feel like singing songs of praise and lifting our hearts in worship, because God has something to say and we don't want to miss it. We need to hear from our God who is in control. We need to hear from our God who is at work in us. We need to hear from our God who is revealing truth that we need to hear.

George Wright: 10:07 Earlier this year we walked through a brief study on the minor prophet Habakkuk in the Old Testament. One of the things we saw in Habakkuk is that we get to be reminded time and time again in this short little three chapter book of Habakkuk, that God is in control even when everything in our life feels out of control. The prophet Habakkuk points us to hope in the midst of the trials of life, and I just want to read the final words of this short little book. Habakkuk chapter 3 verse 17 through 19, I believe we'll have this on the screen. It says this, Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.", the prophet writes. Isn't it fascinating that the prophet is writing this letter, this statement, if you will, this declaration of worship to the choir master, even when it seems like there is no reason to worship at all. And for Habakkuk joy was hard to find in the midst of trials, and yet he says, I will rejoice for God is my strength. My circumstances may change, and my journey may disappoint, but my God is unchanging and my God never disappoints.

George Wright: 12:25 So here we see in James chapter 1 there can be joy in the midst of trials, and it's not that our joy is in the trial itself, like some weird thing where we say, yeah, we're happy about the trials. That's not what this is saying, this is not saying put on a smile and act like everything's okay when everything's not okay. No, this is saying there is a joy that is deeper, that is truer, than the trial itself. And the joy is that God is at work in you in the midst of the trial, the joy is that God is still on his throne, and the joy is that God has greater things in store for those who trust in him. But the trial may be hard, and the process may be painful.

George Wright: 13:26 This Wednesday when Brody had his knee surgery, it was very hard to see him in pain after that procedure. Now, before he started feeling pain, I do want you to know as we were driving him home, as he was coming out of the anesthesia, he was saying some really funny things. Okay? And maybe if you've had that experience seeing somebody come out of anesthesia, you know, it's pretty fascinating. He was telling us about a conversation he had had with our dog, and how the dog was telling him that Jesus was his favorite baseball player, and that was entertaining. Right? And then he looked at me and he said, dad, can I preach for you on Sunday? I said, I don't know buddy, I'm not sure if that's a great idea. Do you think people would want to hear what you have to say? And he looked at me and he said, better than you. And so I turned around, and I just began to smack him on the knee that he had surgery on. I'm just kidding, I didn't smack him on the knee. He was on drugs, drugs are dangerous. Right? But it was comical hearing some of the things he said. But then when the medicine started to wear off, that knee was hurting, he was in a lot of pain and our other kids were very concerned about their brother. And so Wednesday night when we were putting Everett to bed, this was before pneumonia, before his trip to the hospital. He was very concerned about his brother, and he looked at me and he asked me a great question. He said, dad, I thought the doctor was going to help Brody. Why did the doctor have to hurt Brody to help Brody? I said, Oh baby, that'll preach right there, out of the mouth of babes, that is good stuff. And isn't that what we wrestle with all the time?

George Wright: 15:29 God, if you're so good, why does this hurt? God, if you are my refuge and strength, why is this hard? God, if you are my ever present help in a time of trouble, why is there pain? You see, when we think about a visit to the hospital, or a doctor, or a surgery, we recognize that there might need to be some short-term pain to bring about long-term health. And the same is true in our faith, there are times when there is short term pain or even it may feel like long-term pain that actually is taking us where God wants us to go and showing us what God knows we need to see. And it can be a struggle, and it can be a trial, but there is joy knowing that our God is good, and there is joy knowing that God never wastes a hurt, and there is joy knowing that God is at work even in the midst of the trial to reveal what we need to see. Namely how great he truly is, and the love he has for us.

George Wright: 17:03 Hebrews chapter 12 verse 11, in talking about the discipline of God says this, "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." You see, this is hard to consider, but the reality is some of the greatest growth in our faith comes out of some of the greatest struggle. The reality is, what we most often need to see, is what we would not see without struggle. And God in his grace, and God in his mercy, and God in his kindness towards us, invites us to see what we need to see and sometimes that hurts, but it's always for our good. And when we trust in his faithfulness, it yields a harvest of righteousness over time. As we see that God is with us, even in the midst of the storm. There may not be joy in the trial itself, but there is joy in knowing that what God does through us in the trial is for our good, when we trust in him and grow in our faith.

George Wright: 18:41 We go back to James chapter 1 verse 3, "We count in all joy." Why? "For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness." Some translations say endurance. The testing of your faith, what is this all about? Is God putting us to the test because he doesn't know how we'll respond? Is God up in heaven confused when he looks at your life saying, gosh, I hope they have faith, I think they have faith, let me put them through a test to see if they really have faith. Is that what this is saying? God's putting us to the test to see what we're made of. That's not what this is about at all. No, in fact, when God is putting us to the test, he's actually inviting us to test his faithfulness. He's inviting us to see how faithful he truly is. He's showing us that our faith can stand not because our faith is in our strength, but in how strong he truly is for us. God puts us to the test so that we can see his faithfulness. Great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning, new mercies I see. All I have needed, all I have needed, thy hand has provided. The faithfulness of our God is revealed in the midst of a test of our faith. This is not about proving our strength, this is about trusting the one who is strong when we recognize how weak we truly are. God in his love and his mercy, God in his grace over us, allows us to see his faithfulness in the midst of the trial. This is about showing God's strength, and when we see his strength and we see his faithfulness, it produces endurance. Our endurance grows as we trust in the unwavering faithfulness of God.

George Wright: 21:07 James chapter 1 verse 4 says this, "Let steadfastness or endurance have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." Perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. The result of endurance is a fuller, richer, faith because endurance is all about trusting and remember the faithfulness of God. The scripture here is revealing a faith that is not a circumstantial faith, that is blown around like the wind as circumstances change. The scripture here is revealing a faith that's not a prosperity faith that says, hey, everything's going to go your way if you just trust God. No, the scripture here is revealing a spirit led, supernatural, faith that is built on the unshakeable faithfulness of God. And that is a faith that is lacking in nothing, do you know why, because our God is lacking in nothing. And when we trust in his faithfulness with a faith that is rooted and grounded in his love, we will run the race with endurance. We will see in the midst of trials that there is still reason for joy, and reason for thanksgiving, because God is at work. And greater is he that is in us, than he that is in the world. God always finishes what he started. When God set out to be at work in your life, he promised to bring it to completion, perfect, lacking in nothing. This is the faith of one who is surrendered to the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. It's not a faith that's built on my strength, it's not a faith that is built on my effort, that is a faith that will always be lacking. It is built on God's faithfulness, the never ending faithfulness of our God.

George Wright: 23:33 As we come to the Lord's Supper, we are reminded of how great his faithfulness truly is. Isn't the Lord's Supper a picture of God at work even in what appeared to be totally and completely hopeless? The Lord's Supper is a picture of God at work, even when it appeared that the darkness had won. The Lord's Supper is a reminder, God is at work even when it appears that everything is completely out of control, because the Lord's Supper is inviting us back to the cross of Jesus Christ. And as we take of these elements, we are remembering the body of Christ that hung on a cross, giving his life so that you and I through him might live. And as we take of the cup, we are reminded of the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed at the cross for the forgiveness of our sins, that the grace and mercy of God might be lavished upon us, so that through faith in Christ we might be made new and called children of God worthy to stand before the Lord.

George Wright: 24:59 The Lord's Supper is a reminder of the faithfulness of God, and so as we enter back into this beautiful ordinance of the church, we are reminded of what God has done. If you're here today and you're struggling, and you're walking through a trial or a difficulty, this is an opportunity for you to remember that there is reason to be grateful even in the midst of the trial because of what God has done. The finished work of Christ at the cross has set us free. And if you're here today with a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving and worship, feeling good about life, this is an opportunity for you to remember that everything that you're feeling good about in life is a gift from God, and an opportunity for you to worship in spirit and in truth, in who God is and what he has done. But if you're here today, and this is all new to you, maybe you've heard of the Lord's Supper, maybe you're a little unfamiliar with it, maybe you've been in church some, but you're not really sure where you stand or, or even what you believe. This is an opportunity for you to see God's love on display for you, he is pursuing you with his love. And as we observe these elements, we are being reminded of the cross of Christ, that he lived a perfect and sinless life, a life we can never live, but he gave that life at the cross as the perfect sacrificial death for our sin. That's true for you as well, and so if you're here today and you've never had a relationship with Jesus, this is an invitation for you to trust your life to Jesus Christ as your savior and your Lord. To trust in the joy that is ours in the Lord that defies all circumstance, that goes beyond this life, into the gift of joy for all of eternity. So we return to the cross and we remember, we remember the reasons we have to be thankful, and we lift our hearts in worship because of who God is and what he has done.

George Wright: 27:23 So let me have a word of prayer for us, and then we're going to open up these stations. We have stations all over the room, there's stations down front to the sides, there's stations in the middle and at the back, in the balcony as well. And we'd love for you to go and observe the Lord's Supper elements as you feel led. But let me pray for us before we do. Father, we are grateful, grateful for your love and your grace toward us, grateful for the honesty of your word, that the Bible does not ignore the struggles of life, the Bible does not ignore the trials of life or ask us to turn a blind eye and act like everything's fine. No, the Word of God deals with the reality that this world is broken, and life is often a struggle and trials are a very real reality, but in the midst of the trials, there are reasons for joy because of who you are and what you have done. So Lord, lift our hearts, lift our spirits, lift our eyes to see the good news of Jesus as we observe this beautiful sacred ordinance of the church, may we be reminded who you are and what you have done. And Lord, for those who are with us today who have never experienced the life changing gift of salvation through Jesus Christ in a personal way, I pray that today would be the day that their eyes are open to what you have done for them through the cross of Christ and the power of the resurrection. Pray that they would trust their life to the eternal joy that can be found as we place our faith in the one who's died on the cross, and defeated sin and death once and for all. Thank you for this time, examine our hearts and lead us into worship as we observe these elements. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.



Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206
803.782.1300