A True Woman Chooses Joy
*This message was transcribed from James MacDonald's True Woman '10--Chattanooga message.
James MacDonald: Nancy, I’m pretty fired up about this Manifesto here. I’m going to talk about this—suffering. Here’s what it says in the True Woman Manifesto. You all got one of these? This is pretty hot stuff.
Suffering is an inevitable reality in a fallen world; at times we will be called to suffer for doing
what is good—looking to the heavenly reward rather than earthly comfort—for the
sake of the gospel and the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.
That is exactly what I want to talk about tonight.
You might sense, if you’ve ever heard me speak, my voice is very weak. I’ve been in bed all week. I’ve had to cancel preaching at my own church this weekend, but I just couldn’t cancel on Nancy. I’m not well. I have no strength of any kind, but God says, “Is not my word . . . the hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29, ESV). So I’m trusting the Lord to be strong in my weakness tonight.
Take your Bible and turn to the book of James. We’re going to be talking about Why-Why-Why Trials? “Why?” is the question that hits the hardest, hurts the most, lingers the longest. When life takes a difficult turn, that’s the question on everybody’s mind. “Why? Why me? Why this? Why now? Why, God?” We’re going to get some answers to that hopefully in this session.
Now, I’ve got to say that I’m not preaching from some ivory tower experience in this regard like, “Oh, I studied the Bible, and I know now a lot of things now about trials.” That’s not how it happened. It started with the trials.
Going back two or three years ago, our oldest son was in a serious car accident; broke his neck in three places; almost died. Several elders in our church—one died; his wife got cancer. The one who’s here with us, their son got cancer. Since then, it’s just been a free-for-all. Our church went through a building program that almost bankrupted the church—$20 million over budget. Anybody here heard of Walk in the Word? Our radio ministry? (Sounds of applause and cheers) That’s great. That almost went bankrupt, too. There were times I was just like, “Are you kidding me, God? More?”
Then we have been through a very extended season with a prodigal daughter. Last time I was in Chattanooga, she was with me, speaking for Kay. Several months after that, she went through a series—there was a ten-week period where we didn’t even know where she was. It just broke our hearts. I’ve always said that parenting isn’t like baking cookies. You do the best you can, but they make choices, and she has really struggled to find her own faith.
So I figured like, that’s enough. Right? How many people think that’s enough? If we could have gone by committee, that would have been enough. But apparently God did not think so, and He’s in charge, right? Then I got prostate cancer. Kathy and I went through a long, long season of radiation treatments, and my mom is dying of ALS.
So you have to keep preaching, right? You can’t just say, “Oh, I’m not going to be a pastor for a while.” I had to keep preaching, so I had to get into the Bible. I thought, “What the heck? I need some answers.” All in favor of answers? I was. At least I knew where to go. So I started digging into the Bible looking for answers to, “What on earth is happening here? What’s going on when the dark clouds come over your life and they start to hang there. Seriously, I needed some answers to this situation.”
So that’s why I had you open your Bibles to James chapter 1. Now, here’s the thing: When you’re going through trials, no more small talk. All right? People who have been deeply wounded, people who have been through things, they just don’t have a lot of time anymore for blah, blah, blah. Could we just like have some real serious talk here, because that’s the way he starts the book.
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad” (verse 1). That was the Jewish people who, through persecution, had been driven out of the land of Israel and were scattered across Asia Minor. They knew about trials big time. He’s like, “Greetings.” Hey, all Jewish people going in trials, what up?
Verse 2—I mean, he’s on it. “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials.” How’s that going for you? Be joyful about your trials. Here’s the first thing: Joy does not mean happiness. He’s not saying be happy about your trials. Like, “Oh, I got my girlfriends all coming over for a tea party, we’re so happy.” No. He’s not talking about that.
If you’ve been riding across the choppy waters of life in the happiness boat, trials are going to torpedo that program. Everyone say, “He’s not talking about happiness.” Man, happiness is . . . When I was getting my radiation treatment, one of the things about that is it only lasts for about an hour. When it’s over, you’re like, “What do we do for the rest of the day?” We had to go to California for this treatment. (I was just finished up this time last year.)
So we went on that game show, The Price is Right. Have you all seen that? How many people have seen the show The Price is Right? Be honest. Like, “No, I was working all day. I would never watch that show.” I’ve seen it, too. Did you know those people are insane on there? These people are going crazy over a new refrigerator. I mean, like, “Don’t you already have one of those?” And that, “Come on down,” and all that stuff. I didn’t actually get up on the stage, but we got seats right behind the people who are bidding. I was so put off by all this happiness over a new toaster that I just stared in the camera the whole time. You want to see a clip of it? Here it is. Check this out. (Sounds of the movie clip) You’ll see me here in a sec—I was so mad about this. Isn’t that ridiculous?
So I was, like, “This is so stupid.” How many people can see that that’s sort of stupid? It’s all right to laugh about it. I’m just telling you, if you’ve been riding the roller coaster of happiness, you completely don’t get what he’s talking about when he says, “Consider it all joy, my brothers.”
Let’s get a little definition here. Joy is a supernatural delight. It’s supernatural, which means it’s from God. You can’t sit in your little chair where you have your quiet time and go, “I’m not leaving here until I get me some of that joy.” No, you can’t do this for yourself. God’s got to do it. Everyone say, “It’s from God.” That’s where joy comes from.
It’s a supernatural delight in three things: Number one—in the Person of God. Joy is a supernatural God-given delight in the Person of God—who He is, in His attributes. We were created to enjoy God and to delight in Him. There’s someone who loves you. There’s someone who knows you perfectly but still loves you. He made you, and your heart will be restless until you find the joy of delighting in Him. “Delight yourselves in the Lord,” ladies. So it’s a supernatural delight in the Person of God.
Secondly, in the purposes of God—God has a purpose. There is a God who rules the universe. I like to say God rules the universe with His feet up. He’s not stressed; He’s not pained. He’s not pacing back and forth; He’s not wringing His hands. He’s not, “What are we going to do next?” He’s in control. You say, “How in control is He?” He’s got His feet up. He’s completely in control. Say, “He’s in control.” God’s in control, and I’m delighting in that reality—He has a purpose.
Joy is a supernatural delight in the Person of God, in the purposes of God, and lastly, in the people of God. You all are probably experiencing that at this conference. There’s something just amazing that happens when you actually get together with a group of people.
How many people have just been loving the people you’re with here? Just tell me. You got it goin’ on? Just turn to your neighbor and say, “We got a thing.” (Sounds of laughter) We got a thing. You can’t just get that with any lady over at the supermarket. True or false? All right, because you got a thing. We got a thing going on in the Body of Christ. There’s a joy that we find in one another. You can’t find it anywhere else. I was so happy to see Kay backstage. I was so happy to pray with Nancy. You know people through the years, and you have a joy in that.
Back to the text. That’s what we’re guarding—the joy thing. Trials obliterate happiness, but they enhance joy. “Consider it all joy, my brothers”—that’s brothers and sisters. You only have this with the family of God. You don’t get this other places. Then notice, “when you encounter.” All of this is under the general heading of “Consider your trials joy, my brothers, when you encounter.”
Does anyone have in your translation there, “When you fall into”? That’s actually a great translation (NKJV) because that’s how it happens. Right? I was going along and everything was going great, and then wham. How many people would agree that’s where trials come from? They come out of nowhere.
I love the honesty of God’s Word here. “Consider it joy when you fall into” and then the word “various” there. Various is the same word translated into the Greek of the Old Testament for Joseph’s coat of many colors. Trials come in all shapes and sizes. They are very different. I don’t want yours, and you don’t want mine. Sometimes we look at people, and we say, “I wish I had her trials. Man, I’d trade my trials for her trials any day.” Don’t do that. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t have any idea what’s really going on there. Your life is your life. There’s a God who loves you. He’s marking out your steps, but our trials are all different.
Now here’s something that really has helped me in trials: You’ve got to understand what you’re here for. That’s why he says, “Consider it,” or in some translations, “Count it.” You can’t come to the conclusion that trials are a joy. You can’t come to that conclusion without thinking about it. The word there translated count or consider means literally “to press your mind down upon.” You’ve got to weigh this up, girl. You’ve got to weigh this up. You’ve got to think about it. You’ve got to get a pen and a piece of paper, and you’ve got to write down, “The reasons why I can think about this as a joyful thing.”
One of the things that will really help is understanding why you’re here.
- I’m not here for my ego.
- I’m not here for grins.
- I’m not here to be popular.
- I’m not even here to be well liked.
The reason I get to draw another breath, the reason why you and I are here, is so that we can display the superiority of the life lived in God. That’s why Christians get cancer. That’s why Christians have prodigals. That’s why Christians go through painful financial times.
As we go through the very same thing that our neighbors go through, people can be like, “She’s not handling it the way they’re handling it. She hasn’t lost her joy. She’s got something they don’t have.”
You talk to a doctor in an emergency room, and you ask him the difference between a Spirit-filled, born-again Christian holding a dead child in their arms and the despair and the darkness of people who don’t know the Lord going through the same thing. They watch it. The contrast is obvious. God allows His children to go through suffering so that we can display the superiority of the life lived in God.
All of God’s children are going through trials. Do you understand that? All of God’s children. You say, “Well, I’m not. Everything is going great at my house, has been for more than a decade.” Well, that’s not good news for you because Hebrews chapter 12 says that all His kids are getting it. So if you’re not going through any trials, you better go back to “Go” and see if you really got on the Gospel Train, sister. ‘Cause all His kids—“Whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every son [every daughter] whom He receives” (Hebrews 12:6, NKJV).
If you’re without chastening, then you’re illegitimate. You’re not even really in the family. Everyone say, “We’re all getting it.” Now that’s proof of love. You say, “It doesn’t feel very loving.” Well, God’s love, as I’m fond of saying, is not a pampering love. God’s love is a perfecting love. God’s not like, “Here, Susie. Have another cupcake. Take the one with the extra icing.” Your mom might be like that. But everyone say, “God’s not like that.”
God’s not the least bit interested in putting a grin on my face by Friday. God’s not even in time. God’s not marching through the weeks and the months with us in time. He’s with us, but God stands outside of time. He knows what He’s making. He knows where this ends up. He knows the end from the beginning. Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end—the Alpha and the Omega. He’s not trapped up in here, “Oh, Thursday—I’m down on my knees—I need it by Friday, God, and I don’t mean after lunch.” I have found God amazingly unresponsive to my ultimatums. (laughter) Part of prayer is moving the heart of God and part of prayer is changing me as I learn to pray according to God’s will.
You have to think about this. You have to put trials in their context. That’s why he says, “Consider it joy.” You can’t come to the joyful conclusion about trials (Ready? Take a deep breath).
- You can’t come to the joyful conclusion about trials filling your face with food to dull your pain.
- You can’t come to the joyful conclusion about trials filling your mind with entertainment to dull your pain.
- You can’t come to the joyful conclusion about trials filling your heart with anger about the wrong that’s been done to you to dull your pain.
- You can’t come to the joyful conclusion about trials filling your body with substance abuse to dull your pain—legal or illegal.
You can only come to the joyful conclusion about trials by counting it, by considering it.
I commend you for coming to a conference like this, for setting aside time to right-size God and trials. How often in our life big trials—small God. But what do we need? You’ve got to right-size it. That’s what he’s talking about when he says, “Consider it,” ladies. Think about it. Count it up. Consider your trials joy.
“Why would I do that?” you say. Well, here it is. Jot this second thing down: Trials produce staying power. Notice in the text—I’m not just making this up. This is Bible teaching. We’re just going through it a verse at a time. Every word in verse 2 has been covered now. “Consider it joy, my brethren, when you encounter [fall into] various trials.” That covers verse 2.
Where we going to go in the message now? Anyone want to guess? How about verse 3? I get so sick and tired of teaching that isn’t Bible teaching. I’m not just making stuff up. I’m trying to bring God’s Word to you. Verse 3—if you’re wondering how long this message is going to go on, it finishes in verse 8. You kind of know when’s he going to be getting to the end. When he’s in verse 7. (laughter)
Right now, verse 3: “Consider your trials joy” and secondly, because trials produce staying power. He says, “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Knowing—there’s some things you’ve got to know this when the dark clouds gather. I’ve been there; trust me on that. I knew what it was to pray; I knew what it was to kneel down to pray. But I didn’t know what it was to lay on the carpet and spill out my tears to God.
Kathy and I had to live for months at a time, Psalm 27:13. “I would have despaired lest I believed I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” I wouldn’t have been able to go on if I didn’t believe—not some day, not when I’m in heaven, but I’m going to see it, man. I’m going to see it right here, right now in this world. I believe that.
Our church got through its big construction woes, and by God’s grace, is growing and flourishing. About a month back we had 425 adults baptized in one weekend. (applause) And praise God for that.
Our son got through his car accident, got married, and gave us a beautiful grandchild. Test results indicate my cancer is behind me. (applause) Our daughter has continued to go through some trials of her own, and just in the last few months has come back to us and is on her way back to the Lord. There’s a lot to that story, but incredible grace God has shown to us in that. (applause)
I know some of you are praying. How many of you are praying for prodigals right now? Amen. We know. But the first thing you have to get is the part that God is trying to get to you. You have to get the part that God is trying to point to, that God’s really trying to get to. Get that part first. Get what God is trying to get to you.
That’s what verse 3 is about: “Knowing that the testing.” See, there’s a test, right? How many people hated tests in school? Just be honest—hated it, hated tests. Okay. How many people—truth—actually really liked tests in school? That’s why we didn’t like you, because we were jealous of you. I have to be honest. We were very jealous of people who liked tests.
Most people don’t like tests. Even fewer like tests in life. I happen to have learned first hand about the test he’s talking about here when he says, “Knowing that the testing of your faith.” Are you ready for the test? Why don’t we just take it right now. It’s a three-part test. It has three questions. The first one is always the easiest on every test.
Here’s the question, the first part of the testing of your faith. Number one—write it down—please answer the test, essay form, with Scriptures to back up your answers, please. A half page per question would be good. You can finish it up tonight. Question one: Do I believe that God is in control?
I don’t mean, can you explain it on paper. I mean, in your heart of hearts, do you really believe that? Even when I’m not feeling it, even when I’m not seeing it—question one—Do you believe that God is in control?
Here’s the second question. It’s harder than the first. Number one: Do you believe God is in control? Number two: Do you believe that God is good? You’re like, “Well, yes, He’s in control, but He’s paddling the boat over the falls!” No. It’s not going to go over the falls. Even if it looks like it is, it isn’t because God wouldn’t do that. God is good.
Then, here’s the hardest part—the bonus question. Number three: Am I willing to wait by faith until the darkness becomes light? That’s the hardest part. I don’t see it. I can’t see it. I can remember times when I didn’t even know what to pray. The reason I didn’t know what to pray was because when you pray, you ask God to fix it, and I couldn’t even think of a way that it could be fixed. The pieces were scattered so far apart that I couldn’t even think. Those are great prayers, by the way, because God’s totally fine with you sort of praying the solution—like, “Here’s a way You could do it, God.” I doubt if heaven’s hardly ever like, “Now, that’s an idea.” (laughter)
Down with prayer that is sort of brainstorming. “I’ve got some suggestions.” No. There’s no suggestion box in heaven. Here’s what I know for sure: All of the ways that I can conceive of the answer coming are for sure not the way that it’s coming. God does it the way that we could never have imagined or ask so that no flesh would glory in His presence.
So instead of instructing God on how to resolve these things in our life, or asking Him over and over and over, “Bring my daughter home; heal my dad,” ask Him once and then thank Him all the rest of the times that He hasn’t forgotten about it and that He’s working on it. Even when I don’t feel it, even when I can’t see it, just keep telling Him by faith, “I know You’re doing this, God. I know You’re doing it.” When you get to that place, you can pass the test.
Trials are a test, “knowing that the trials of your faith”—and here’s the key part of the message. “The testing of your faith produces”—what? Everyone give me the word. We’re going to do this all at once. I want you to call out the word in James 1:3. “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces” (audience responds). That sounded like a charismatic conference. Tell me again—the testing of your faith produces (audience responds). You all sound crazy . . . patience, endurance, steadfastness, perseverance. What’s going on with the Bible translators on this word? Get it together, boys! What does it mean?
All right. I’m not a Greek scholar, but I do want to try and impress you, so when I write this on the board, I want you to go “oo” and “ah” and stuff. Okay? Promise? The word here is translated this way. Here’s how it would be written in Greek. What do you all think of that? (Audience responds) Yes. That’s really something. Let me give you this in English letters. The word is hupomone. Okay? Can you see that? Are they putting it up on the screen? Sweet. Okay. That’s the word.
The word hupo means “under,” and the word mone means “to remain.” So the word translated patience, steadfastness, endurance, perseverance in your Bibles—I’m not sure what they’re going for there—this is what it means. God’s Word says, “Consider your trials joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces” hupomone—it produces remaining under.
Hey, walk it around, guy. Come here for a second. You’re in the sermon now. Come on up here. (laughter) Come on. You’re doing great. What is your name? (Adam) I thought your name was Crew. This is Adam. Everyone say, “Hi, Adam.” (Audience responds) All right. Now, here’s the thing (Adam and James talk off mic)
What’s the number one thing we want to do when trials come into our life? It puts the pressure on us, right? Trials put the pressure on us. (Sounds of laughter as James is pressing down on Adam.) It puts the pressure on us. Now, when God’s putting the pressure on us like this—and we can smile—but we all know it’s not easy to be under the mighty hand of God. And when the trials are putting the pressure on us, tell me, ladies, what is the first thing we want to do? Right, you’re good (Adam jumps away from James). Thanks, Adam. You can clap for him. (applause)
When the pressure’s on, the number one thing that we want to do is we want to get out from under it. It’s hard in my marriage. I want a different one. “I didn’t know it was going to be like this—to be a mother. I don’t want to be a mother anymore.” You look down the highway, and there’s like no exit ramp forever. (laughter) True? Right. You’re like, “I remember I had a white dress on. How long did I say I was going to be married to this guy? How long?” Forever! Forever! I’ve always said, “One wife for life, one family for life, one church for life.” All that would be flat out impossible if it wasn’t one Savior for life.
God knows that, and so what He’s trying to produce in you is the ability to remain under. The fact is most people, when the trials come, they try to get out from underneath the pressure. God’s trying to produce this single characteristic in you. “I will not give up. I will not seek . . .” Jot these four things down.
We surveyed 100 people. The top four answers are on the board to this question: Name something that we want to do instead of remaining under.
Number one: Complain. I get on the phone to my sister, or I get on the phone to my mother; I get on the phone to a friend of mine at church, and I just vent. “Ah. It’s so hard over here right now. My marriage, my kids, our finances, my health, my . . .” and we complain. Complaining is not remaining under. That’s not remaining under.
Four things we do instead of remaining under. Number one, we complain. Number two: We lash out. “Yeah, well, just so you know, it’s not so great being your husband. It’s not so great being in this marriage.” Men do it. Women do it, too. We lash out. We strike at the people we love, and say things we have no business saying. We conduct ourselves as the furthest thing as a person who is submitting themselves to a sovereign God.
We get focused on the human agency of the trial instead of on a sovereign God who allowed this, and we don’t submit ourselves under the trial. We complain; we lash out. The third thing we do is: We bail. “I am so out of here. I don’t need this. I don’t want this. I didn’t sign up for this. This isn’t what my life was going to be like. I don’t need all of you.” And we miss so much. “I’m going to a different marriage. I’m going to a different job. I’m going to a different church.” We run from the lessons that God’s trying to teach us.
Worst of all, worse than complaining or lashing out or running or bailing, worst is folding. I know there has to be somebody here that this is what you’ve been doing. You’re like, “Fine. Fine. Run me over, God. Run me over. Start the tractor. Bring it now. Just run me over. I give up.” And we despair. We just despair. I know it’s true.
I’ve been on the edge of despair. That is a deep cavern. Don’t go down there. When you’ve lost hope, you’ve lost everything. But that’s not remaining under. No wonder the Scripture says, “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6, KJV). “Submit yourselves therefore to God [later in this book]. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:7-8).
You can’t make it through trials without a deep, growing, abiding sense of your partnership with the God of the universe who’s working out purposes beyond what we could think or imagine.
So trials produce joy; trials produce staying power. Three, trials produce life transformation. You’re like, “And why would I want this hupomone again?” Well, look at the test and see if you can figure out why you would want it. You can study the Bible for yourself. In fact, one of the goals of a great conference like this is that God’s Word would become so alive to you that you would dig into it more faithfully yourself, that you would see that the greatest compliment you can give to a Bible teacher is if you would say, “Eh, I could have got that myself.” Correct. You could have. It’s right here.
So the question comes: What does hupomone produce in the life of a believer? Look at verse 4—get it for yourself. “But let endurance [perseverance, steadfastness, patience—let hupomone] have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete [check that out], lacking nothing.”
Hupomone is the funnel through which all Christian virtue flows. There will be no true women without hupomone. If every time trials come we lash out, bail, complain, despair and fold, God’s purpose is not accomplished. Some of us have been going round and round the same trial, not for weeks and months, but for years and decades because we haven’t learned what it is to quiet our hearts and to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand. “Here I am, Lord. I—here’s a great sentence—embrace what You have allowed. I submit to what You have brought. Do Your work in me, God. Do the work in me. Make me the true woman You want me to be, and let that be the avenue of impact upon others on my heart.”
Let hupomone have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete. How’s that sound? What do you think of her? “Um, she’s perfect.” What do you mean she’s perfect? “She’s complete. She’s the whole package. She’s got it. She’s beautiful outside and in. Outside because of in—she’s beautiful. Why is she beautiful? Because hupomone’s been like rocking her world for a couple of decades now. She doesn’t run; she doesn’t quit. Like, look what she’s going through. I know, man, I know, but she just hangs in there. She just won’t give up. She’s trusting God. I know, I know, but look at her circumstances. Why isn’t she like nutty by now? She loves God. She’s trusting God completely. I mean, she’s not the person I met. She’s growing and changing, more in love with the Lord every day. She’s committing her trials to Him. She’s a true woman. She’s a biblical woman of God. Sufferings are refining and changing and growing her because she remains under the pressure.”
You’re like, “Okay, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine, fine. I’ll remain under the pressure. But I’ve got some questions. I’ve got some serious questions. But what on earth is going on over here?”
Super. That’s what verse 5 is about. One of the most abused verses in the New Testament, James 1:5: “If you lack wisdom.” Remember, I already told you I wasn’t very good at tests? So sometimes I would play with my friends in college, and then I’d go in to the test in the morning. I knew enough about the Bible to be dangerous, and so I’d say, “Lord, You say in James 1:5 that if I lack wisdom, I should just ask, and I don’t have a clue about this exam, God. So now would be a good time for some wisdom.”
That never worked because this isn’t about generic knowledge. This is about wisdom, not to know. To the Greek, wisdom was to know. To the Hebrew, wisdom was to do. In fact, the greatest fool of all was the person who knew but didn’t do. So we, in verse 5, when it says, “If you lack wisdom”—wisdom about what? What’s the context again? Trials. If you lack wisdom about your trial. This is an amazing promise. If you need some insight into what’s going on, if you need some understanding to get through it, if you lack wisdom about your trial, what are you supposed to do? Tell me. (Audience responds) Check the text, girls. Ask. “Let him ask of God.”
And how’s God going to respond if I ask? You say, “I’m not getting any of my prayers answered.” You’re asking for dumb stuff. (laughter) Okay? If we prayed better, we’d get more answers. Ask God for wisdom about your trial.
Now, He’s not going to answer just any old wisdom question. For example,
- He’s not going to answer the existential why. “Why do bad things happen to people like me?”
- He’s not going to answer the ultimate why. As in, “Why is there pain in the universe?” I think there are some good answers to those questions, but that’s not what James 1:5 is about.
- He’s not going to answer the ultimatum why. “I need to know why, God. I need to know today.”
- He’s not going to answer the observation why. As in, “Why doesn’t she have to go through this?”
Here’s the why God will answer: “Why this in my life now?” In other words, “What are You trying to teach me, God?” You pray that prayer, and you get your pen ready because God will answer that prayer. If you go to Him with an open heart and open hands, and you say, “God, I don’t care. I’ve learned a lot, but I know it’s not everything. I want to know why You’ve allowed this in my life. I need to know.” He’ll answer.
But here’s the thing: notice—you have to ask in faith without doubting. Well, what would a person asking for insight about what God’s trying to teach them, what would they doubt? Well, they’d doubt if they really wanted to know. Sometimes we’re like, “Okay, God. What are You trying to teach me? I’ve actually prepared a list of things, God, that I think I need to learn. Here’s seven or eight things. Pick something off the list, and we’ll work on it together.” He’s not answering that.
Here’s what I can tell you for sure: You write down a list of things you’re willing to work on. Guaranteed, the thing God wants to work on is not on your list.
- The thing that God wants to work on is the heart.
- God starts with the hardest stuff first.
- God starts with the deepest things first.
- God starts with the most difficult things first.
- God starts with the blind spots first.
If you’re having trouble figuring out what God’s trying to work on, get with that honest girlfriend, you know, the one who’s just going to tell you, “Oh, like, I don’t know if I really want to have coffee with her.” Take her out. For real. You just tell her, “Look. I’m going to listen for ten minutes, and you can say whatever you want about what you think God wants to teach me.” She’ll talk for the whole ten minutes. Just write stuff down. She loves you, too, and that might be the very thing you need to get this break through.
You have to really want to know. “Ask in faith without doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind” (verse 6)—back and forth, up and down—the Christian who sort of wants to know why God’s allowed this but sort of doesn’t. I could tell you that I am not the same person that I was five years ago. I’m just not, not, not, not. I am a very, very, very different person than I was even five years ago because of what God has allowed me to go through. Lay your life open before God and to say, “God, whatever You want to teach me, I want to learn it.”
If you ask without doubting, “for that man [the doubter] is not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, or unstable in all of his ways” (verses 7-8).
Can I tell you about my first girlfriend? Does anyone care? (laughter) There was a girl that I had such a crush on. I was in first grade. (laughter) This girl, Wendy, was in third grade. I set my sights high, and she was so hot. She was beautiful. She went to my church. We didn’t go to the same school. One of the main reasons that I loved going to church when I was a kid was to see Wendy. She was so beautiful. I don’t remember ever talking to her, but I used to follow her around Sunday school. We had all these little curtain partitions, and I would follow Wendy around, trying to see her. She’d make my heart beat fast.
We had a thing in our church like AWANA. It was called Boys’ Brigade. Wendy had two brothers, and I had three brothers, and our parents decided to car pool so every Thursday night, going to or going from. We would pick up or drop off, and I had a chance to see Wendy. I never missed Boys’ Brigade one time. (laughter) I was so fired up about it. She was so cute, and my first real heartthrob.
I remember sitting in the living room when I heard my mom crying on the phone. This family in our church had found out that their daughter Wendy had cancer, so more and more Wendy would actually be in the car on the way to and from Boys’ Brigade. I sat in the back seat. No one ever knew this. I never told anyone this until I’d been married for twenty years about my heart for her. I’d never seen anyone sick before, and I remember when her face swelled up. I remember when she lost her hair. I remember sitting in the back seat in third and fourth grade, going back and forth, trying to figure out, “What is going on here?”
I remember the day the news came to our house that Wendy died. I remember driving over there. I wasn’t even allowed to go in the house. I just sat out in the car. She was gone. I remember the little thing my mom cut out of the newspaper about her and put it in our scrapbook.
Wendy’s mom came from an unsaved family. She was converted away from a life of a lot of prison and heartache and difficulty. When she got saved, Wendy’s mom just turned her back on all of her brothers, all of her family. She walked away from all of those people and didn’t talk to them for a long, long time. But I think the Lord tenderized her heart when Wendy died because she started reaching out to the family that didn’t know the Lord, that she had left behind.
Wendy’s mom was a good singer, so one night she invited her brother to come to church. He had never been to church in his life before. He had been in and out of prison. He had really had a hard, difficult life, but he came to church. His sister invited him. He brought his daughter with him to church that night. She was 15 years old at the time, and she had never been to church in her life before. But she came, and within a couple of weeks, this young lady gave her life to Jesus Christ through the witness of her aunt whose heart had been tenderized by Wendy’s death.
At the time it didn’t seem like a lot to me, but looking back I can see what God was doing because Wendy’s cousin, that young girl who came out to church that night through the invitation of her aunt is my wife, Kathy. That’s how my wife came to know Jesus Christ. She’s the greatest support in ministry that a man could ever hope for. She is a pastor’s wife par excellence. All that we’ve been through, we were saying today, our marriage is stronger than it’s ever been, but by God’s grace. (applause)
Listen, but you look back, and you say, “What was God doing? Wendy, cancer.” God knew the whole story. God knows the end from the beginning. Remain under the trial. Listen, “consider your trials joy knowing that the trial of your faith produces [hupomane]. Let [hupomane] have its perfect [and desired] result [in your life], and you will be complete, lacking nothing. If you lack wisdom, ask God, who gives [it] generously,” but make sure you really want to know, because if you don’t want to know, if you don’t ask in faith really wanting to know what God is trying to teach you, He won’t answer, and you’ll be a double-minded person, unstable in all your ways” (James 1:1-8 NASB & paraphrased).
This is God’s Word to us in this session. Let’s pray together.
Father, thank You for the privilege of being here. Thank You for the strength that You have provided to communicate to these hungry hearts. I pray that any word spoken carelessly will quickly fall to the ground, but I pray that what has been from You and by Your Spirit toward our life transformation will remain. Don’t let the enemy snatch away the seeds that have been sown in our hearts.
Bring each woman who longs to be a true woman of God, bring her to a place of total submission to what You have allowed. Let her embrace afresh in this moment the life that You have given to her in all of its joys and sorrows, in all of its triumphs, in all of its difficulties.
We would submit ourselves under Your mighty hand, and we pray for the strength to do so in the strong name of Jesus.
If you agree with what I’m praying, lift up your voice and say, “Amen.”
All Scripture was taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
Leslie: The message you just heard was presented at Revive Our Hearts’ True Woman ’10 conference in Chattanooga. You can hear any of the messages delivered there and more by visiting www.truewoman.com. There you’ll find even more ways to connect from books and resources for yourself, your friends, or your life group to on-demand multi-media to ongoing conversations you can be a part of.
True Woman ‘10 is a ministry of Revive Our Hearts, helping you become God’s true woman.