Hey guys, and welcome back to this series on “How to Fulfill Your Calling”. We’re coming towards the end of the series now but I’ve saved one of the most important topics for this point in the series. You see, when we want to fulfill God’s calling on our lives, we start to learn some of the keys to walking in his power, to understanding that our character needs to be right and all those different things that we talked about in this series, but then life happens. Difficulties come, things that we were not expecting come. Sometimes we face battles on the inside, sometimes we face battles on the outside, and sometimes those things feel like they’re too much for us and they’re threatening to knock us off course and convince us to give up and not to fulfill God’s calling on our lives. And so in this episode I want to share with you some of the keys to being able to persevere through trials and I want you to listen really carefully to what I’m going to say at the beginning which is this: trials threaten to hinder you from fulfilling your calling but actually, without trials you will never be able to fulfill your calling. So let’s jump into episode 11: Persevering Through Trials. And you might be thinking, “David, what are you talking about? Surely if there were no trials it would be much easier to fulfill my calling! What do you mean I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my calling if there weren’t any trials?” And some of you are thinking, “I know what trials are. I’ve been through difficulties, I’ve been through challenges and I know that if that thing hadn’t happened in my life, my life would be so much better now and it would be so much easier now”. And if that’s the way you see things, I want to share some things with you in this episode that I believe will completely change your perspective and actually enable you to rejoice when you go through trials. You see, James chapter 1 verses 2 to 4 say this, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature complete, not lacking anything.” Now one of the big problems is that many Christians do not understand the purpose of trials. And I believe that we have just read what the purpose of trials is. The purpose is to make you mature, complete and not lacking anything. Now isn’t it interesting that when we go through trials we usually feel like we need something that we don’t have. Now, can you imagine being so mature spiritually and having such a deep trust in God that it doesn’t actually matter what happens to you, it doesn’t matter what your circumstances are – in any circumstance and situation you know that you lack absolutely nothing. That would mean that your faith is unshakable. So I’d like to ask you that question at the beginning of this episode: is your faith unshakeable? Do you want it to be? Do you realize that there’s only one way that faith gets purified and that is through the fire? First Peter 1 verses 6 to 7 say this, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith (there’s the word faith) – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Did you see that? It says that your faith is of greater worth than gold and when gold goes through the fire the impurities become visible. They didn’t just appear out of nowhere, they were always there. It’s just that you couldn’t see them until the gold went through the fire – it was the circumstances that brought the impurities to the surface. And we could ask ourselves, couldn’t we, “what are the impurities in our lives?”. Well it could be anger, it could be fear, it could be complaining, sinful behavior, bad attitudes, control, lack of trust in God. And so what happens is that we get into a challenging situation and up come these impurities. And sometimes we behave in ways and speak in ways that we just think, “wow, where did that come from?”, but it was the circumstances that brought it to the surface. Now, often instead of recognizing the purpose of the trial, we start complaining about the circumstances or we try to change or control the circumstances to make ourselves feel better. And actually what I want to say to you is: it’s not the circumstances that need to change, it’s us that needs to change. It’s the complaining that needs to change, it’s the anger that needs to go, it’s that controlling behavior that needs to rise to the surface and actually be taken out of our lives so that we might come forth as pure gold. So we need to realize that our faith is being tested like gold in a fire and the purpose of the trial is that those impurities can come up and be removed. Now, regardless of the trial that you’re facing, regardless of the reason for the trial, every trial is an opportunity for your sanctification and growth. That means that through trials impurities will get removed and we will grow into greater maturity in Christ. And actually when I realized this, my eyes were opened. I saw things in a completely different way and what I actually said to myself was, “oh my goodness, I need trials!”. I need trials because if I don’t face trials my character will not be developed into the character of Christ. But we mustn’t forget… verse 4 says, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” So it’s not just the trial that brings about the maturity, it’s when we choose to persevere and let perseverance finish its work. You see, if we shrink back or run away from the circumstance or the trial, or if we run to false comforts halfway through the trial, actually we’re not letting perseverance finish its work. Now imagine if we did that with gold. We would heat up the gold and all the impurities would come to the surface. Now at that point if we switched off the furnace or waited until things cooled down, what would happen is that the pure gold would be hidden underneath all the impurities. You see, what’s supposed to happen is that while the gold is hot, the impurities are removed. And I think that you and I need to think really seriously about that because we don’t want the pure gold that God has put in each one of us – he’s put it in me and he’s put it in you – we don’t want that to be hidden by the bad attitudes and the sinful behavior because we refused to allow God to deal with those things through trials. So how do we make sure that the impurities in our lives get removed? Well first of all we don’t shrink back or run away from the trial and we don’t run to false comforts. Actually there are three things that we need to do: confession, repentance and forgiveness. You see, Jesus has already done everything necessary to deal with these things in our lives on the cross but we need to humble ourselves and yield to him. So we need to confess. We need to confess our sins – we need to say, “God I’m sorry”. We need to be sincere and say, “God that attitude was wrong, the way I spoke to that person was wrong, the way I erupted with anger was wrong, the way I tried to control that situation was wrong. God you’ve said in your word ‘do not fear’. I went into fear and anxiety. It was wrong, I’m sorry”. And it’s amazing how confession begins that work of God’s healing and setting us free and so the second thing is to repent. To repent is to turn – to turn in the opposite direction from those things and say, “God, I’m turning away from this. I don’t want to have that attitude anymore, I don’t want to be complaining anymore, I don’t want to be an angry person anymore, and God I’m asking you to help me. Lord, would you come and empower me by your Holy Spirit, by your grace, not to walk in those ways”. And 2 Corinthians 7 verse 1 says, “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” So do you see that when we’re going through the trial, often it’s the Holy Spirit that shows us and convicts us of the things that are not right in our lives. But it’s clear here – it says “purify ourselves” – it’s clear that we have a responsibility to purify ourselves. That means that we get those things out of our lives. Now we can’t do that without God’s help but we need to play a part in responding correctly to his conviction and seeking to obey Him and his Word. Philippians 2:14-16 a says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” So we have to make the decision, “I’m a child of God. I’m going to refuse to complain in this situation.” And I’m actually going to ask God to change me on the inside and I’m going to say, “God, would you help me as I choose to walk in holiness and not in complaining”. And often, you know, we start to realize that the anger and the bad attitudes that are in us are actually there because we’ve been badly treated by others. And so that’s why it’s confession repentance and forgiveness, because often the Lord will lead us to forgive anybody who has hurt us. And if you haven’t watched the episode in this series on forgiveness I would really encourage you to go back to that because I really believe that there are things that I share that will unlock huge healing and freedom in your life if you follow the true transaction of forgiveness. So actually trials are not the thing that will hold you back from fulfilling your calling. How you respond to trials will either qualify or disqualify you from fulfilling your calling. Now of course it won’t disqualify you permanently but actually if you don’t respond rightly to the trial, you’re not going to persevere and continue in the direction that you’re going and it could take a lot longer for you to make progress in fulfilling your calling. Now even Jesus had to do this. Hebrews 5 verse 8 says, “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” And I think to myself ‘wow, if Jesus the Son of God needed to suffer in order to learn obedience, how much more will I need to suffer in order to learn what it really means to be obedient to Him and to persevere through trials while keeping my heart and my attitude right’. You know, it’s pretty difficult to overstate how important it is to learn how to persevere. In James 1 verse 12 it says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, because having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the lord has promised to those who love him.” Isn’t it interesting there that it says “those who love him”. Jesus equates those who persevere with those who love him. Why? Because actually the trial brings about a temptation to disobey and Jesus has said, “if you love me you will obey me”. So actually the one who perseveres is the one who continues to obey through trials. So, what does it really mean to persevere? Well first of all let’s understand what the Greek word for persevere actually means. The Greek word for persevere is “hupomeno” and ‘hupo’ means ‘under’ and ‘meno’ means ‘to stay’. So actually to persevere means to “stay under”. So instead of trying to change our circumstances to make them more comfortable, often God is calling us to stay under the weight of the trials and to keep going. Now I just want to say that God is not always calling us to “stay under” and to persevere – there are times when he calls us to get out of that situation. But very often when we feel like we want to get out of the situation those are the times when God is calling us to “stay under” because there’s a work that He wants to do in us and actually until that work is complete we won’t have what it takes to fulfill our calling. So in order to persevere through trials we need to remember two things. The first thing is this: faith will not come from looking at our circumstances. Faith comes by hearing the word of God. The word of God doesn’t take the trial away. Sometimes it does if it’s an internal battle, but often the word of God doesn’t take the trial away – it doesn’t instantly change your circumstances. What it does do is it changes your perspective on the trial and it enables you to persevere. You see, when we have faith that God chose us, that God hasn’t changed, that God knows what I’m going through and actually He’s right here with me – He’s never going to leave me or forsake me and He will help me through every challenge. If we really believe those things, actually we can persevere. So we also need to ask, “what are the lies that I’m believing? What lies is this challenge bringing to the surface that I actually need to get out of my belief system?” I think I said in the last episode, it’s not the circumstances that you’re in, it’s the lies that you believe that are the problem. And we need to replace those lies with God’s truth because when we stand upon His truth, we’re standing upon a solid rock and we will not be shaken. So now we know how to persevere, you might be thinking to yourself, “Okay David, I think I can persevere now, but James said ‘consider it pure joy’. I’m not quite sure I’m there yet!” Well that’s okay because there’s a second thing that we need to understand, and the second thing is this: we have to believe that God has already made provision for the trial that we’re facing. Isaiah 12:2-3 says this, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” Then it says something amazing, it says, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” And I really want to encourage you right now, that there is water in the well. You just need to draw from it. You see some of us, instead of going to the well – you know in the old days people would have had a well in their garden and they would have to pump the well and draw water from the well, but we have taps in our kitchens now. And some of us, instead of going to the well we’ve attached a tap, we’ve attached a hose to a tap in our kitchen, or or done spiritually what is like that – we’ve found an easier way to comfort us in the trial, which means that we’ve gone to maybe people, we’ve gone to false comforts, we’ve gone to activities that make us feel better but actually we haven’t gone to God. We haven’t drawn water from the wells of salvation. We’ve actually tried to take water from a different place, and when we do that God is grieved. Jeremiah 2:13 says, “My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken systems that cannot hold water.” And actually God is grieved because He knows that only He has the living water that will satisfy you. And so I want to challenge you right now and I want to say to you, “What have you done in times of difficulty? Have you become angry? Have you turned to sex, food, alcohol, other people, tv, social media?” I just want you to make sure that you don’t miss the purpose of the trial. You see, you’re not becoming mature complete and lacking nothing while you do those things. You become mature and complete when you persevere through the trial and you make the right choices with the help of God’s grace. You see, God has a great plan for your life and God’s calling on your life involves people. And because people are so incredibly precious to God, that means there’s a level of responsibility that comes with your calling. And sometimes God wants to take us further in His calling on our lives – that might mean that He wants us to impact more people or He might want us to impact people in a deeper way, but we might have to pass some tests before we can qualify for that promotion by God. So have you been tested? Are you being tested right now? Do you understand the purpose of the trial, and are you responding correctly in trials? Testing happens in the fire. So if you’re in the fire now, be encouraged!” And don’t forget this: there is a purpose for the season that you’re in right now, and every season is preparation for the next. Now, when we’re talking about persevering through trials, I don’t want you to get me wrong here. I’m not saying that we should attribute to God sickness, pain, and death and all the awful things that happen in this fallen world – that’s not what I’m saying. But I am saying that we can persevere through trials with joy, and actually we can thank God for what the trials are achieving in us. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says this, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what he’s seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Can you see what he’s saying? He’s saying that God’s wisdom in trials is that we fix our eyes on the eternal significance of the trial and not on the the practical difficulties and realities that we face right now. And we can do that with joy because we can say, “God, this is difficult, this is tough, but You’re with me in the trial and I want to thank you Jesus that because of this trial, I am being transformed into the image of Christ with ever increasing glory – I’m becoming mature, complete and lacking nothing”. And I want to pray for you because I know how difficult it is to persevere through trials. So Father I just want to thank you right now for your word because your word changes our perspective on trials. And I want to pray for everybody now who’s going through difficulties, who’s got difficult circumstances happening right now – maybe it’s money related, maybe it’s in your family, maybe it’s in your church, maybe it’s particular relationships that are strained and difficult at the moment and you don’t see a solution before you right now. Father, I just pray right now that you would come and speak to everybody, Lord, and offer words of encouragement and hope. Lord would you pour out your grace and your Spirit upon all of us right now, that we might have the power we need to persevere through trials, Lord, and may we experience your joy. I thank you Lord that your word says that you will fill us with joy in your presence, so I ask for that joy right now – that we might consider it pure joy when we go through trials because we know the purpose of the trial and we know that we are becoming mature, complete and lacking nothing. And I pray, Lord, that because of the way that we respond to trials in the power of your Spirit and the power of your Grace, Father, you will be glorified in us and through us and that we would keep an eternal perspective on our trials, in Jesus’ name. And I’ll see you in the last episode which is episode 12.