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Passing the Test - Week 1

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So, you're going to help us today, but I've got to go away for a second. So while you wait, I've got this cupcake for you. So, you can eat this cupcake now while you wait, or when I come back I'll give you two cupcakes, if you wait until I come back. Well, welcome today to all of our LifeChurches, all of our Network Churches, and those of you all over the world at ChurchOnline. Man, have I got a massive treat for you today, as we start our brand new series, Passing The Test. I have one of my favorite Bible teachers and best friends in ministry here to teach you God's Word. James McDonald is an incredible man of God who started Harvest Bible Church in Chicago. Now, they have seven campuses and ministering to over 14,000 every single week! One thing I love about his church is that in the last year they actually started 22 new churches around the world. He has an incredible radio ministry called Walk in the Word, that is broadcast on over eleven-hundred stations all over the world. He is going to bless you as he's blessed me. Would you please welcome my good friend, Dr. James McDonald? Alright, amen! Amen. Well we are very honored to be at LifeChurch. I've heard about this ministry for many years, I've witnessed from afar your incredible fruitfulness in the Gospel, and I feel truly honored and privileged not only to be here, but to call Pastor Craig and his dear wife Amy our friends. So, I'm excited to share with you. The title of the series that we are going to be starting today is called, Passing The Test. Let me just start with this: I hate tests, hate tests! How many people hated tests when you were in school? Put up your hand if you hated tests. Okay how many people, be honest now, should be honesty in church, how many people did not hate tests? And that's why we hated you! Okay, because for most of us, I'm just teasing with you bro! For most of us, being in school and struggling and wrestling, the whole idea of a test is a pretty difficult thing. And when you get a hold of the idea that God tests us, I mean, it just doesn't strike you in a great place does it? So, why don't you get a hold of a Bible, a copy of God's Word, anywhere where you can; get it on a phone, get it in your lap, a book, it doesn't matter. But God's Word is authoritative, we don't have to wonder about how things are when we're looking into the Bible. James, Chapter One is where I want to direct your attention. There's a wonderful passage of Scripture here. If you're ready to jump in, just say jump! Jump! Verse one, passing the test, it says: James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ..., Let me just point out that it's pretty awesome that James refers to himself as a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ because here's the thing, this isn't James like Peter, James and John; this is James like James the half brother of Jesus. Now, don't you think that if you were Jesus' brother, like real brother brother, I don't know if you know, like same mother different father, do you know that story? We'll save that for a different message! But this is James, Jesus' half brother and he didn't even say that. He's a humble guy right? And he's just, 'I'm a servant of Jesus Christ,' and then to the twelve tribes, which are the sons of Jacob who had been, it says, ' the Dispersion through persecution, these Christians had been scattered from Jerusalem all over Asia Minor.' They were running from the pain and the persecution of following Jesus, alright? So, they're not having a great week and it's hard, it's costing them to follow Christ. So, he doesn't beat around the bush. You know, he's not like some of Paul's letters, 'Hi, and grace and peace to you,' and '..and here's some things'. No, there's no warm up here. When people are going through a test you just cut to the chase, there's not a lot of time for extra words. So he just jumps right in and he says: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. How's that working for you? What? Yeah, yeah, if you're getting tested, if you're going through trials, consider it joy! What? Consider it joy! Now, one of the reasons why that's hard for us to hear is because when he says joy we think he means happiness. Or, as we would say in Chicago, 'hippiness, hippiness!' 'Yeah, we've got a lot of hippiness over our house. My friends are coming over and we're going to cook some brats out on the deck and we're going to watch the Bears play and we're going to have some hippiness!' Happiness is a universe away from the subject of joy. In fact, I should just tell you at the outset of this message on testing, how God tests us, that you know, my wife and I have had some tests. You see a guy, he comes in from out of town, you're like, "Oh, this guy, his life must be rockin'!" Well, God has been kind to us, but you know, my mom just died of ALS and suffered greatly, we've just seen a prodigal daughter who broke our hearts for several years come back to the Lord, praise God! We've had significant trials in our church, I just have gotten a clean diagnosis from several years of prostate cancer, so amen, praise God for that! But here's the thing alright? I don't want some Joe up there telling me about testing who has never been tested! So, I just want you to know I've been through some tests and I understand about this. In fact, when I was getting my cancer treatment, we were out in California and I was really weighing up this joy verses hippiness thing. So, we had some extra time on our hands and I went down to this television studio and I went on that...have you ever seen that game show, The Price is Right? Those people are crazy! How many people have seen that show, The Price is Right? You don't work during the day? You sit around? It's crazy, right? I know, I've seen it too, I'm just messing with you! But anyway, these people kind of tick me off because the guy will be like, "You're getting a new refrigerator!" And the people go insane, like screaming! Like, don't you already have one of those? I don't even understand that kind of approach to things. So anyway, I was so ticked! We got seats in the front row and I spent the whole time glaring right at the camera because these people didn't have a clue what real joy is, I didn't think they did. Watch this, here's a little clip of it. (The Price is Right video clip.) So anyway, isn't that crazy? So, I was just kind of ticked because I was like, really? Do we have to spend our whole time just like, here's what I'll just say, when you've been through some testing, the things that people say lead to happiness have no real value for you anymore. There's something deeper, there's something better, there's something more. Can I give you a little definition of joy? If you like to jot things down, jot this down: Joy is a supernatural delight, first of all. So, it's from God, okay? Don't be like, "I'm going down to my basement, I'm going to get something. I'm not coming up until I get some joy." You're going to be down there a long time, okay? Everyone point to, where does joy come from? Okay, it's supernatural, it's from God! Only God can give you joy! Well, joy in what? Here it is: Joy is a supernatural delight in the person of God, okay, God Himself, and in the purposes of God, okay, what God's doing. Even when I don't understand it, even when I can't quite explain it, it's joy in the person of God, in the purposes of God. And here's one, in the people of God. That's why you all come to church, that's one of the reasons. I mean, with all due respect to Pastor Craig and the awesome worship and the great things that are happening, you're fired up to see other people that love God. Have you ever had this experience? You're walking through an airport and you get talking to somebody and before two or three minutes go by you say to the person, "You're a Christian aren't you?" And they're like, "I am, I am!" And you're like, "I am too!" And all of a sudden you have this thing, we've got a thing now! How many people have ever experienced that? Alright, that's joy okay! Joy is a supernatural delight in the person of God, in the purposes of God, and in the people of God. So, back to the Word of God now. When He says, "Count it all joy..." he's for real not saying you know, 'Price is right, I'm so happy!' He's going for something way better than that: Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds... That word meet there in some of the translations, it says when you fall into. And that's what it really is like, trials come out of nowhere. Have you experienced that? I mean, I was going along and everything was going great and bam! Out of nowhere comes this huge, I didn't see it coming, and I think there's mercy in that by the way, that we don't always see it coming, or we'd be so anxious even anticipating what God sometimes allows. And now, the key word in this text is the first one in verse two if I can just draw your attention to that, where he says "count it". The idea here is consider it, weigh it up. It's an awesome word that means literally to press your mind down upon, okay? Now, I'm about as serious as a heart attack right now, okay? You can't come to the joyful conclusion about trials without considering it. You have to count it brothers and sisters. You have to press your mind down upon it, you've got to calculate. Because most times when we're going through a testing, a trial, we would say honestly, "Really, count that joy? Joy?" Well, you've got to count it, you've got to calculate it. And when I was going through some of the toughest things kind of all at once, honestly, some of my friends were like, "You're like Job!" And I said, "Well, first of all you should read the Book of Job, I'm nothing like him!" But yes, we are going through multiple trials at the same time, and God is testing us. This helped me a lot, I would take a three by five card and I would write down these questions: 1. What happened to me? What happened to me? Let's just be as specific as we can be: "Well, my son is rebelling against me." "I've lost my job, we're facing bankruptcy." Write it down, what happened to me? That's a really important thing, because I think our mind sometimes doesn't allow us to be specific. Secondly, write down: 2. Why am I here on earth? "Why am I here? Why do I get to draw another breath?" "I love Jesus Christ, I'm going to heaven someday, why am I still here?" Right, because I think that's a really important question. And then the third question to write down is: 3. How can what's happening to me advance the purpose for why I am still here? And I would suggest to you that the reason why you're still here, if I could just give you the cliff notes on that, how many of you want the cliff notes? Here's why you're still here, alright? You're here on earth to display the superiority of the life lived in God. You have a resource in God and in His Son, and in the Holy Spirit, and in the Word of God, and in the fellowship of God's people. You have a resource that other people don't have. That's why Christians get cancer, that's why Christians have prodigals, that's why Christians go through financial struggle and bankruptcy and hard ache. When you talk to a doctor in an emergency room who sees on a regular basis, like a woman in our church, people running in with a child in their arms. The contrast between the hopeless despair of people who have nothing, and then the grief and the sorrow, but the faith and the trust of people who have the Lord. Now, whatever you're facing, and I'm thinking on a church this size across your many campuses, you have many people who today are facing all sorts of different things. And I bring to you God's Word, James 1:2: Consider it joy my brothers and sisters when you encounter or meet trials of various kinds.... And you're like, "And why would I do that again?" Here it is: ...for you know that the testing... And it is a testing right? Remember, we don't like tests but it's a testing and you want to pass this test. You say, "What's happening to me? What's happening to me?" This will help, "You're being tested." "Why is this happening? Why is...Pastor, why has this come into my life?" Here it is: "You're being tested." You say, "Well, what's being tested?" It says it right there, "Your faith is being tested." Here's the question: How much will you trust God for? How long will you trust God? How sure are you of His promises? You're being tested! Turn to your neighbor and say, "I'm being tested!" Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! It's a test! It's a test! My faith is being tested! Now, because I've had to take this test many times, didn't you love it in school when the teacher would be like, "Okay, the exam is tomorrow and let me just tell you now, here's the questions on the test." Remember that? I'd love when the teacher would do that, and so, I'm just going to give you the questions on the test. Here they are right now, here's the test. We all have to take it many times. By the way, we all take this test as followers of Jesus. If you're sitting here listening to this message and you're like, "I don't know what you're talking about man, everything's been rockin' at my house, has been for more than a decade, no trials of any kind!" Oh really, because that's not good news for you, okay? Because the Bible says that whom the Lord loves He chastens and disciplines every son whom He receives. If you're without testing, you're not's the thing okay, all God's kids are getting it. All God's kids are being tested and if you're not being tested, you need to go back to go and do not collect two-hundred dollars, see if you really got on the Gospel train okay, because all of His...everyone say, all of His kids are getting it, say it. Alright, so we're all getting this. If you're without chastening, then you're not one of His children, and I believe you know what I'm talking about. So, here's the test, let me just give it to you. It's a three-part test. Here's the first one. First question on the test, always the easiest question first, right? 1. Do you believe that God is in control? Do you believe that God is in control? Do you believe that nothing happens in the life of one of His children, one of His sons or daughters but that He allows it? I mean, do you believe it? And look it, God's not in control like, 'Oh, we're keeping a handle on things up here. It's getting crazy, but we're on it, we're on it!' Is God in control like that? Everyone say, God's not like that! Alright, I like to say God rules the universe with His feet up, okay? He's not stressed or strained, He's not pacing back and forth, God's not wringing His hands, God doesn't wipe sweat from His brow! Say, He's not like that! He's not like that alright! It's just not like that. So, that's the first question, do you believe God is in control? Number two and more importantly I think: 2. Do you believe that God is good? Do you believe that all of God's actions toward you are to bless you and to bring goodness into your life? Listen, now listen, even if it doesn't look like it, even if it doesn't appear so? He's not done yet! You've got to wait a little bit, alright? You've got to get this thing down the road a bit. Okay, stop pulling it up when it's not finished and coming to a decision about it, that's what trusting God is all about. Can you pass the test? 1. Do you believe God is in control? 2. Do you believe God is good? Now, here's the hardest question, bonus question on every test that God brings our way. Look it, look it, and I want you to pass this test, alright? For God's glory, I want you to pass this test. Here's the third question: 3. Are you willing to wait by faith until you see it? Because some of you are like, "Well James, yeah, I believe God's in control, but I'm not seeing it!" "Yeah, I believe God's in control, and I believe God's good, but I've got to tell you, we're not seeing that at our house right now! We're just not seeing it! I've got nothing I can point to to say those things are true!" So, question three becomes critical, right? Are you willing to wait by faith until you see it? Because the answer that a lot of people would be like, "No, no, no, not waiting! I'm going to take control of this thing, I'm going to go down there and tell her something! I'm going to set this on a program!" I had to learn this the hard way. I had to learn this the hard way. I had to learn this the hard way with my daughter. The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God! And when you take hold of this yourself, "I'm going to fix this! I'm going to put this on a program! I'm going to get this going in the right direction!" Your starting to get between the hammer and the work now, okay? And that's not a great place to be! So, I just love the fact that Pastor Craig has allowed me to come here and just tell you the truth, amen? Don't you want the truth? I mean, let's come to church and find out how it really is. This is the way it really is, you're getting tested. You're getting tested and consider it joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith... You're like, "Well why? Why would I consider it joy though? I mean, even if it is a test and even if I have to pass, I'm not seeing the joy part yet!" Okay, all in favor of seeing the joy part? Here it comes, here it comes: ...for you know that the testing of your faith produces... Okay, ready everyone? Looking at a copy of God's Word, everyone call out the next word, I'll give you another load. Ready... know that the testing of your faith produces... Say it! ...perseverance. I know, isn't that funny, right? It's like a charismatic service, everyone's saying something different! And here's why: because that word is poorly translated in almost all of the translations. Some say steadfastness, some say patience, some say endurance, okay? But you know, I wish I had a white board, if I had a white board I'd like to teach you a word right now. How many people would like to....oh here he comes, here he comes! He will never disappoint! Alright man, thanks! Okay now, thank you Pastor! Now look, I'm not a big scholar here, don't teach Greek words to my congregation, don't think that's necessarily a great thing to do, but sometimes the word is so awesome that people want to learn it. In fact, sometimes it's so awesome that they can't help themselves saying, "I want to learn it!" Sometimes they shout, "I want to learn it!" Excellent, excellent! So here's the word, ready? In English letters the word would look like that, sort of. Okay? But in the Greek it looks...hoopomene, like that. Okay, now the reason I'm telling you all of this is for something very important, this changed my life, alright? These two words, this word here means to remain. And this word here means to remain under. Okay? Now, look back at your Bible again: ...Count it all joy when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces hoopomene. The testing of your faith produces the ability to remain under. Now, that's what I flew down here to teach you today, okay? That what God's trying to produce in you is the ability to remain under. Now, what is the first thing that we do when we get into a trial? What's the first thing? We start looking for an exit ramp, "I don't want this test! I don't want this test!" "I've got to get off this road, how did I get on this road? This isn't what I signed up for, this isn't the one I want!" "I didn't know marriage would be this hard!" "I had no idea parenting was like this!" "I'm going to go in a different business!" "I'm going to a different church!" We bail, we bail, we bail! God forgive us! What God wants to teach you and me, "Why is this happening to me?" Well, it's testing your faith to produce hoopomene. To me, this is the most important word after faith in the Christian life. God's trying to teach us how to remain under the pressure. Now, I need a volunteer. You're in the sermon, come on jump up here! Alright, come on, jump! Don't jump fast! Good, perfect! Okay now, so the picture here is of God putting the pressure on. The pressure is...mmm baby! The pressure is on, it's on! Now when the pressure is on, okay, what is the first thing we want to do? We want to get out from under that, okay? But I'm telling're out of the sermon thanks, good job! Okay, that's you, that's you, that's me. When the pressure is on, we're looking for a way out from under. But when we get out from under the pressure, God forgive us; new marriage, different family, different job, different church, different city. I'm out of here, I'm out of here, I'm out of here! In fact, we've surveyed a hundred people, the top three answers are on the board to this question: Name something Christians want to do instead of remaining under? Number one answer: Lash out, "Oh yeah, I'll stay here, I'll stay here, but you all are going to hear something about how I feel about what's coming down! I'm not happy here, I'm here, but I'm not happy here! You're all going to suffer today because I'm here!" Anyone here ever done that? Turn to your neighbor and say, "You do that!" No, don't say that! Alright, and we punish people because of the pain of remaining under the test. Another thing that we do, I think fairly frequently frankly, is we as I said already, is we bail, we bail, "I'm out of here, I'm leaving! I don't want this, I'm not taking this, I didn't sign up for this!" Or, the third one, I think this is honestly the worst one, and I've been this person, so I have to just acknowledge that, sometimes we just fold and things become so overwhelming and you're like, "Fine, fine, crush me God! Just run me over, bring a truck, start it now! Come on, alright, just crush me!" You know, I've been preaching for a long time and I can tell when people kind of laugh and they're like, "Ha, ha, ha, that's me, that's me!" And none of those things are good, lashing out is not remaining under and running away, bailing is not remaining under. And folding, and just laying down, that's not remaining under. Look it, God's doing an awesome thing in us. He's trying to build in us the capacity to remain under the pressure whatever He allows. That's the test bro, that's the test sister. Okay? And you're like, "And if I pass the test, what do I get?" Well, let's answer that from the Scriptures too: But let hoopomene... Verse four, now you know what the word is: Let steadfastness, endurance, patience... However your Bible translates it: Let hoopomene, let remaining under have its full effect... You're like, "Well, if I remain under and I learn to remain under, what do I get for that?" Here's what you get: You get to be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. How does that sound? I actually did a study on the word perfect there and I got some Bible scholars together and we studied that word at length and do you know what that means? It means perfect! Perfect is actually a perfect translation of the word perfect! It's perfect and God, look it, here's what I'm trying to say: Hoopomene; steadfastness, endurance, patience, remaining under is the funnel through which all Christian virtue flows. If God can this single characteristic into your life, He can get you everything else. He can make you more loving, He can make you more discerning, He can make you more compassionate for those in need, He can make you more evangelistic toward those who are around you that need the Lord. If God can get this single characteristic into you; she doesn't quit, he stays with it. If He can just get that to you, He can get absolutely else to you, this is the funnel through which all Christian virtue flows. And that's the reason why you count it all joy, because now that you understand this, when a trial comes, it's not some random thing that just fell onto your life okay, it's God moving towards you trying to create this in you. And if God can give this to you, God can get everything to you. You're not the mother God wants you to be yet, you're not the spouse, you're not the Christian, you're not the employer or employee that God wants you to be yet. Everyone say, I'm not that yet. And so the question comes, how am I going to become that person? Answer: through testing. Testing is going to get you there. You say, "Well what's testing for?" Testing is to produce the ability to remain under. And if you get that you get everything. And that's why, everyone say, that's why! And that's why you consider it a joy, because when a test comes now you're like, "Oh awesome! Wow, God's going to teach me how to remain under! And if I get this, I get everything! I'm not going to be a quitter anymore! I'm not going to run and hide anymore! I'm not going to act like life is random and out of control." There is a God, He rules! Listen, He rules the universe! Nothing is happening but that He has ordained it to happen. And everything that comes into the life of one of His children has got His signature sign of, "I'm going to use this in her life", "I'm going to use this to advance His purposes." You know, I've told you some of the trials that I've been through, and like, I'm not even the same person that I was before that. And I wouldn't want to go back to being that person. I'm a better father, I'm a better husband, I'm a better pastor, I'm a better Christian. I can remember times in my car, just saying this simple prayer, this is one of the shortest prayers I've ever prayed: "I'm not going to quit, I'm not going to quit!" I can remember, I can hear old sermon tapes of mine, where my voice is hoarse because I was alone somewhere screaming, "I'm not going to quit, I'm not going to quit! I'm going to keep doing the thing that God has called me to do. No matter how hard it gets, God is bringing something awesome into my life." And that's the reason for joy. Of course, the pain is that we don't always know exactly what God is doing, right? That's what verse five is about. Look at verse five when he says: ...If you lack wisdom... If you lack wisdom. Now, when I was in college I wanted to use that verse, like I didn't get a chance to study, but here I am Lord! If you can just drop some wisdom on me right now that would be sweet! That never worked by the way. I have found God especially non-responsive to ultimatums! But that's not what that's about. What's the context? The context is testing right? Passing the test, learning to remain under. If you lack wisdom about that...this is a prayer that God will not refuse to answer. If you say, "Lord," not "Why is this happening to me", not some big universal existential why, but if you'll pray the personal, "What are you trying to teach me God? How do you want to make me better through this?" You pray that prayer. If you lack wisdom, you ask God, He gives to all generously. And the word there that says, my translation says in verse five, without reproach, it means literally, He won't sink His teeth in to you. If you go and ask God, "God, why is this happening in my life? What are you trying to teach me?" God's not going to be like, "What do you want to know that for?" He's going to be like, "I've been waiting for you to ask that!" And He will give you generous insight into what He's trying to form in who you are. You won't be disappointed. People are like, "My prayers never get answered!" Stop praying for stupid stuff! Ask God for this, ask God for wisdom. "What do you want to teach me God?" You won't be disappointed, you'll get a big time answer to that prayer. And if it's not coming through clear, just ask some people in your family, they've got some insight too, okay? And the hardest part of course, is just the idea of, "But what's going on behind the scenes God, and where is this going?" You know, I'm so appreciative to have met Pastor Craig and his beautiful wife, Amy, and I feel a little incomplete that my wife Cathy is not with me here at LifeChurch, and maybe another time. But we've been married for 28 years, we're very happily married. I'd love for you all to meet Cathy, but I'd actually like to tell you about another girlfriend of mine who was so beautiful. This other girlfriend, her name was Wendy. And Wendy was gorgeous, oh my goodness, see was so beautiful, drop-dead gorgeous, take the air out of a room, Wendy! She was actually my first love, and it was when I was in first grade. And now, Wendy was in third grade, I'd never met Wendy, I never knew her, I never spoke to her. I just, it was more kind of a stalking thing, and I would follow Wendy around and try to get a chance to see her at Sunday School at my church when I was a little boy. But I remember the day that the phone rang at our house, and it was Wendy's parents telling my parents, they were very close, that Wendy had cancer. And our families would drive back and forth to special events at the church and I can remember riding in the car, sitting in the back seat, no one knew my little boy's heart for this beautiful girl two years older than me, but I can remember when she would ride with us in the car, I can remember when her speech got very jumbled, I can remember when Wendy's hair fell out, and I can remember when the phone rang and my Mom was sobbing in the kitchen, and the news came that Wendy had died. And what's God doing taking this little girl, what's happening, what's happening? And interesting, that changed Wendy's mother forever. I mean, it absolutely changed her. She had been estranged from her non-believing family, she didn't talk to them for fifteen years, but she began to reach out to her brother and she invited her brother to come to our church one night to hear her sing. And her brother came to hear Wendy's mother sing and he brought his daughter with him. His daughter started to attend our youth group. I was there the day when Wendy's cousin, it would be, got saved. I was there the day when Wendy's cousin got baptized, and I was there the day when Wendy's cousin got married, because that's my wife Cathy, and that's how she came to know Jesus Christ. Now, I'm not saying that God gave Wendy cancer, I'm just saying that God used it for a great purpose. And that's what God's doing in your life. Let's pray. Father, thank you for this incredible privilege to look into your Word. Grant to each here the sense that you are at work even when they can't see it, producing steadfastness in us for your glory. In Jesus' name, amen.

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Duration: 33 minutes and 10 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
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Posted by: lifechurchopen on Nov 2, 2011

Passing the Test - Week 1 - James McDonald -

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