Trials and Tantrums

Trials and Tantrums
--from September 17th--
written by Lane Cummings

Day 1

Read James 1:12-27

Wow, where’d that come from?

So you’re just clipping along, living life, when suddenly life drops a big old rock on you. And your first thought is “wow, where did this come from?”… Now is not a good time for this. I’ve got enough going on without this…

Where do the trials of life come from, and is there any good to come out of them? This week’s devotions will focus on where our trials arise, why, and what good can come from them.
The book of James talks a lot about living in the trials. Not IF we’ll have trials, but WHEN. We’ll all have them; it’s the nature of us living in a fallen world. As you remember from the first sermon (watch in the app if you missed it – the setup helps understand the context of who James is talking to and why), James is talking to the Christian Jewish community that is scattered and under persecution. They are living in trial every single day, scattered and cut off somewhat from their rightful community.

James’s words to them still apply to all of us today, part of the community, but living in a usually hostile world.

So question 1 becomes - Where is God during our trials? Why has he not reached out and pulled us out of the fire? James 1:1-11, covered in the first sermon in the series, explains to us very plainly that we don’t get a pass on the troubles of life, just that God will always be there to help through those troubles, and to use everything – including these trials – to make us better mature, patient, complete Christians, capable of showing compassion and helping others because we’ve been there ourselves.

How then do we come out of our trials in a better place, or as a better person? Read James 1:12, which tells us that one who stays strong under trial will be blessed. Verses 1:13-15 tell us plainly that our troubles come from giving in to our own selfish desires and temptations. These troubles are never a punishment or temptation from God, but he can still use them to refine us, and to give us an opportunity to be obedient and do what is right – following his word on how to respond to trouble, instead of the world’s.

Following his directions requires us to first dig into his word and see how He would have us respond. His word shows us where both our help and our self-control come from - the spirit that lives in us.
The first thing to do when we see how God wants us to respond to our trials is trust that His way is a better way than ours, and to turn the direction of our lives over to him. We’re fixers and usually want to fix our own (and everyone else’s) problems instead of following his lead, but remember – God has a better plan and path for our lives than we can chart; letting him lead requires us to first trust that he is who He says he is.

Re-read James 1 in its entirety, and make a conscious decision to let God guide you through life. You’re not on your own, ever. He’ll always be by our side, if we’ll just let him.

What is a trial that you are experiencing or have experienced lately that you feel needs wisdom from God’s word to help go through it?

How do you let God guide you in that trial right now?

How does this become part of your prayer today?

Day 2

Read Genesis 3

But God, I want to drive the bus!

Let’s start off today’s devotion with talking about why we are here in the first place. 
Why were we made? Go back to Genesis 2:15. We were created to work the Garden of Eden and live together with God. We weren’t created just to exist; we also were given duties & responsibilities.

But we wanted to live life our own way and didn’t follow God’s direction for a fully right and happy life. We wanted more than was rightly ours; we wanted to know everything God knew. In Genesis 3, we see that we (Adam & Eve, but still the same as us) let our own desires come to the front and went our own way. Part of that bad decision was due to following our own desires; so that when the serpent said “eh, go ahead, nothing bad’s gonna happen”, we had set ourselves up for failure. Remember – our desires will find an expression! Make sure our desires are the right kind.
Since it’s our nature to want to follow our own path, when we encounter the trials of life, it’s also our nature to want to take over & solve our own problems instead of sticking with God’s direction. The big problem here is that we don’t trust God to lead our lives – we think we can do it better. Like Adam & Eve, we listen to other voices – the world’s, the devil’s, our own.

Listening to the right leader is critical –a former pastor in our past once said “everything rises and falls on leadership.” So who are we following today? When we don’t follow the right leader, we’ll see the results of walking away from God. In the Garden of Eden, the result was the very ground being cursed, and mankind being sent out of the garden... Paradise lost.

Remember that we and those around us have to live with the consequences of our own actions (and other’s actions). You’re an influencer, whether or not you want to be. Don’t splash your (or my) sin on those around you that you love. Lead your children.

Once we recognize we’re walking our own path, how do we make a course correction?
Make a conscious decision to return to the right path – We have to be intentional with how we’re living our lives. That doesn’t come naturally; our natural selves are broken.

Decide to let God be God. Make a choice to follow his lead. Isn’t he enough? I know I’m not, but I’m sure he is.

How have you experienced a similar choice like that which faced Adam and Eve?
What is it that you can do today that shows that you trust God in the trials that you are facing right now?

Why not share some of the thoughts on the messaging app with others doing these devotions? (Please consider this public step, because the Bible is best when shared in a community with others.  This will also help encourage other people to post there as well.)

Day 3

Read Ephesians 4

Life’s hard - Where is all my help?

The last couple of years has seen Keystone Church talk a lot about the building of community. We’re all put together for a reason. You’re here for us, we’re here for you. That’s both a duty and responsibility when belonging to the family of Christ – the church. While a lot of us wouldn’t consider ourselves a “people person”, we’re not meant to go through life alone. Eve was created for Adam. God knows what and who we need even if we can't see what we need.

Plug into your church community – the church needs you, and you need the church, not just when the trials of life come along, but also to celebrate when life goes well. Have you downloaded the church app to your phone or computer? There are prayer groups, where you can post your needs and pray for each other. Remember, God’s still listening; so is your church family. Like all families, we’re a bit dysfunctional, but still family.

Why do we need to do this? Ephesians 4:14-15 shows us how we can use our community to mature ourselves and each other, growing up to be more like Christ as we go. Then we can achieve true unity as a church, and what a powerful ministry weapon that would be! Then we would have a great tool to help one another through the trials of our lives.

Ephesians 2:22-29 reminds us that before we can lead our community, we first need to lead ourselves! Don’t let life’s troubles, or our anger, or our circumstances lead our lives - live with intentionality (there’s that word again!) in the manner which we have been called.

So why should we turn to this new life? Go to all this work? Ephesians 4:32 makes it clear: we’re called to be kind and forgiving to one another during the trials of life, even (especially?) when our kindness is not merited or earned, because that’s exactly what Christ did for us. He loved us when we were unlovable, and that is our calling too. Love one another. Someone going through a hard time, even maybe something that’s their own fault? Love them through it anyway – love for others is a gift, not a loan.

How have you allowed your trials to change your attitude lately?

Who are the people that you need to apologize to or ask forgiveness from?

How can you better control how you react to others at this time?

How does this become your prayer today?

Day 4

Read Matthew 22:34-46
Haven’t you heard? There’s a war going on…

What happens in our lives when we stray from God’s plan for our lives? 
Chaos ensues, always. Life is hard and full of trials, and sometimes it’s our own fault. We give in to our own wants and desires instead of reaching for what He wants for us, and the result is always the same - disaster. Giving in to the king of chaos poisons our hearts and our peace.

We can be led astray by listening to the wrong voices, and we can also lead ourselves down the wrong path just as easily. Sometimes we choose that path ourselves by focusing our lives on us, not God. He’s supposed to be at the center of our lives but too often we set him off to the side because he’s standing between us & what we want. This selfishness, a self-centered life, flies in the face of God’s own directions for how to live our lives.

In Matthew 22, a man asks Jesus: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Notice the outward focus of the commandment. Jesus was our Servant King, always an outward focus, even when it would cost him his human life. We might have to give a lot to love others, but it will never be as much as Jesus gave for us.

As we struggle to stay on the right path for our lives, it’s important to be very aware of the struggle going on for our lives that we don’t often see with clarity. The devil loves a near-truth, a little confusion, some distraction… and we supply the rest, as off we go down the rabbit hole. Next thing you know, we’re far from God, having lost a little battle in a bigger war.

Galatians 5:7 asks ”who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Remember that we’re free to choose -  we can even choose to do the right thing!

Be aware of the war always being waged in the background, be aware of the call of our own flesh - greed, selfishness, our own comfort above all else (the American way).

If we’re walking with God & letting the spirit that’s embedded in us (James 1:21 tells us “receive with meekness the implanted word”), what is the result: Then we yield the Fruits of the spirit. We’ll save that part of the discussion for tomorrow.
Why do you think the two commandments “Love God” and “Love your neighbor” are connected?

What does it mean to love your neighbor “as yourself”?

How could you live that out today?

How does this become your prayer?

Day 5

Read Galatians 5:16-26

What will come of all this?

In the end, we have to recognize that our lives will be full of trials. No one gets a pass, but we do get a father who loves us more than we could ever imagine. Why would we think he’s not going to help? God doesn’t send the trials but can use all things for our good (Romans 8:28). He’s shown us time and time again that He’ll go to any length to get us back to Him. It’s critical to keep your perspective. Life is hard, but our God is greater than any troubles we’ll ever face. 
 Think of the good things he has taught us, and let your life yield the result.
Being refined through the trials of life builds an enduring, fully mature Christian (James 1:4). A fully matured life yields the Fruit of the Spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Doesn’t that sound like an awfully great person to be around? This then is what we should all aspire to be. A life that shows the full measure of Christ’s love for us, a wonderful thing that we should want to pass on to all we meet.
Ask yourself what you can do today to start your journey to a fully complete life. Don’t be content with just getting by. God has shown us the way, let’s start the journey. It’s all there for you, even in the fires. Stand strong and reach out and lift someone up – true faith results in good works. 
Go fight the good fight. If you grow weary, pray for endurance and wisdom. Don’t forget who you belong to - your biggest supporter is close at hand and ready for the battle.

Go through the fruits of the Spirit and think about where you struggle in them:

  • Love
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Faithfulness

How spending time thinking about these help you in your prayers today?

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