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Food For Your Soul
The Expository Teaching Ministry of Dr. D. Richard Ferguson 

Spreading & deepening delight in Christ

James 1:12b
I’M HOPE

 Suffering, Tests, and Temptation  part 7
  
 This message is a summary of the various encouragements Scripture gives us for times of suffering, given in a format you will be able to call to mind in the time you need it—the moment of suffering. 

Excepts:
 
Victory doesn’t mean you never fall. It means getting up one more time than you fall.
 
Suffering always pushes you toward the true object of your love and trust. Whenever you suffer, examine the test results carefully. Do I trust God or do I trust the thing my suffering is taking away from me? Do I love God or do I love the thing I’m lacking in my suffering?  
 
Use the 10 to 1 ratio - ten thoughts about God’s good purposes for every one about the pain. You have to think about the pain. … But make it so that the time spent doing that is dwarfed by the time spent thinking about God’s good purposes in that suffering.  
 
When we are worried and anxious, it’s because we are relying on our own resources. … If you cannot even do a miracle then you are utterly disqualified for the job of preserving your own life and you need to step down immediately. You should tender your resignation as sustainer of your own wellbeing because you are SO under-qualified for the position. Humble yourself, and let God be the sustainer of your wellbeing.
 
When you suffer, ask two questions:
 
What is God up to?
 
What is Satan up to?
 

Click here for the next message in the series


There is no way you can be a good wife or mother without knowing what the Bible says about how to handle suffering. The same goes for being a husband or father. There’s no way you can be a good employee or boss or friend or sibling without knowing what Scripture says about how to respond to suffering. Almost every problem people come to us with for help involves suffering. People with anxiety are worried about future suffering. People with anger don’t know how to deal with present or past suffering. Every suicide that ever happens, happens because of a lack of ability to deal with suffering. Drinking problems and drug problems mostly stem from inability to deal with suffering the right way. 99% of broken relationships in the church are broken because someone caused someone else to suffer and they didn’t know how to handle it biblically. Whenever we give into temptation and commit sin, isn’t it because we think that doing what’s right in that instance will involve some kind of suffering? Or in many cases, we indulge in a sin because we think we deserve some pleasure because of how much suffering we’re going through. We saw last week that many people shipwreck their faith on the rocks of suffering. It causes them to walk away from God. If it’s not handled the right way, suffering drives people to anxiety, depression, anger, fighting, revenge, immorality, despair, apostasy, and suicide.  We have a desperate need to know what God’s Word teaches about how to handle suffering.
 
We have been studying through James ch.1 together for the past 6 sermons, and the first 12 verses are all about suffering. We finished v.12 last week, but before moving on to the next section of the book… , I believe the Lord would have us linger just one more week on this topic, because sometimes too much information can be a lot like no information. There are so many principles to remember that when the time comes when you need that knowledge, nothing comes to mind – especially when you’re suffering. That’s when it’s the hardest to think clearly. Most of the time, when you’re in the furnace of affliction, no matter how hard you try to remember all 12 points of last Sunday’s sermon on suffering… , the only thought that you seem to be able to come up with is, “Ugh – this is miserable! Get me out of this furnace!” Never once has anyone ever said to me, “Darrell, my boss yelled at me in front of everyone last week, and so I just thought of your paper on the 23 benefits of suffering in Scripture and boy, did that help.” So for that reason, I wanted to take one more week and see if I could give you a summary of what the Bible says about how to respond to suffering in a form that you will be able to recall and utilize in the heat of the moment while you are in the furnace.
 
So for the last 2 months or so I have been trying to boil it all down 5 or 6 of the most important principles, and put them in a form that is easy to remember.  So I put them in the acronym, I’M HOPE. Twice in the psalm that was read at the beginning David said to his downcast soul: “Why are our downcast? Put your hope in God!” He says it a third time in the next psalm. When you suffer, your biggest need is to put your hope in God. So I hope this acronym will help you hear God saying to you in your suffering, “Turn to Me – I’m your hope!”
 
Before we begin, let me just give you one word of instruction. For this to work, it’s not going to be enough for you to be able to recall the word or phrase for each letter of the acronym. The only thing that’s going to have the power to actually transform anxiety into joy will be the Scriptures themselves. So I would urge you to take the sheet in your bulletin, and one by one, spend a day or two or three, or maybe a week, really studying and meditating on each passage of Scripture for that point. A great thing to do is to print it out on a paper using large font, double spaced, and then curl up in a comfortable chair with a hot cup of coffee in the morning… , grab a pen, and just mark the passage up with every observation you can make. Circle things, draw lines between things, take note of relationships between phrases, notice lists or similarities – observe everything you can observe. And when you physically mark it up with a pen, you’ll be amazed at how much better that passage will stick in your memory. For each one of the points in the acronym, make sure you have at least one passage of Scripture that comes immediately to mind. That’s where the power will come from. In order to cover all these in one sermon I’ll have to give a very brief overview, so in the sermon footnotes you’ll see references to past sermons that handle each point in more depth.
 
 
Interpret
 
These principles are not in any certain order, except for the first one. The first one is first because I believe it is the most often emphasized principle in Scripture about how to deal with suffering. The I in I’M HOPE stands for Interpret. Almost all wrong responses to suffering, or failures to benefit from suffering, come from wrongly interpreting the trial.[1] All your emotions are the results of how you interpret things. You interpret what happens (make an evaluation of it), weigh that against the norms of your belief system, and the result will be some emotion. When something painful happens, if we interpret that for what it is – a priceless gift from God sent to change us and benefit us and bring Him glory, the emotion that results will be joy. If we misinterpret it as being a bad thing, the emotion will be anger or despair or discouragement.
 
For Your Good
 
So whether it is a huge calamity or a tiny inconvenience– whether your wife hands you divorce papers, or your icemaker stops working on the fridge– whatever the trial, you immediately interpret it for what it really is – a good thing sent by God to change you and bring Him glory.
 
Job 23:10 when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.
 
Psalm 119:71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.
 
Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.
 
Holiness comes through suffering. Not even the Son of God Himself was exempt from that process.
 
Hebrews 5:8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered
 
If you are a believer, the suffering in your life is God’s kindness. He is in the process of creating a harvest of peace in your life, and a harvest of righteousness in your life.
 
Hebrews 12:7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. … 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
 
For God’s Glory
 
And the purpose of that righteousness and peace is nothing less than the very glory of God. Think about Job. Why did all that horrible suffering happen to Job? It was for God’s glory. It was to show that God was worthy to be worshipped even when He allowed hardship. Whenever you suffer, never forget how much your suffering enables you to glorify God. When you are hurting, you have more capacity to glorify God than the rest of us do. If my life is just smooth sailing, and I have plenty of money to pay my bills, and all my relationships are happy, and my health is good, and I come here and sing praises to God, does that glorify Him? Yes – some. But nowhere near as much as it glorifies Him when you come and worship after a week of agonizing suffering. Why? Because what is it that pleases God? Faith, right?
 
Hebrews 11:6 without faith it is impossible to please God
 
God is pleased not with impressive feats of strength, or acts of self-denial, or hour-long prayers. He is pleased with us when we trust Him. And who has the greatest opportunity to show trust in God; the person whose life is a bowl of cherries, or the one who is being crushed under painful suffering? The worse your suffering, the greater your capacity to bring glory to God and send Satan out of heaven with his tail between his legs like what happened when Job kept worshipping God even after all his calamities.
 
File It Under “Joy”
 
Our minds are not just computers taking in data. Everything we observe, we also evaluate as good or bad. And when suffering comes, it is essential that we re-train our heart to evaluate it as a good thing, not a bad thing. We need to file it under the “reasons I have to celebrate” file in our hearts.
 
James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds
 
Romans 5:3 we also rejoice in our sufferings
 
And the more you suffer now the more joy you will have later.
 
1 Peter 4:13 rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
 
Be Conscious of God
 
So how is this done? How can you manage to make it so all your evaluations of suffering in your life register joy in your heart? By being conscious of God.
 
1 Peter 2:19 it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.
 
Use the 10 to 1 ratio - ten thoughts about God’s good purposes for every one about the pain. You have to think about the pain. You have to make decisions, you have to deal with sin, you have to fix problems that are your responsibility. So you do have to think about the hardship. But make it so that the time spent doing that is dwarfed by the time spent thinking about God’s good purposes in that suffering. Make sure passages like these are going to be as familiar to you as your phone number or address:
 
Deuteronomy 32:4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.
 
God never does anything wrong – ever. He never does or allows anything that it would have been better for Him not to do or allow. Not ever. And if you love God, then it is all for your best interests.
 
Romans 8:28 we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him
 
If you want to see someone actually do this, read Lamentations 3. In the first half of the chapter you will see a man who is in full-blown, clinical depression. And then in verse 20, one thing turns him around and replaces his depression with hope.
 
Lamentations 3:20 …my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
 
What? What thing did you suddenly think of that could pull you out of the deepest, darkest despair and depression imaginable? God’s love and compassion.
 
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him
 
God became his portion. That means God was enough for him, and he was content to just wait for God’s deliverance. He just got to thinking about how compassionate and good God is, and how creative God’s love tends to be – new every morning, and when he thought about that more than he thought about his troubles, he got so he was actually looking forward to the next morning. Even though there was no end in sight to his suffering, he realized that God had something really good up His sleeve for tomorrow– not because he could see signs of it yet, but just because he focused his mind on thinking about the nature and character of God.
 
Interpret trials accurately. Let all that you know about the nature of God enable you to file all your suffering in the joy category, because God only gives good things to those who love Him. He is your hope.
 
Mimic Jesus
 
The M is for Mimic. Follow in His footsteps. Back to that 1 Peter 2 passage.
 
1 Peter 2:19 For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. … 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
 
When we suffer, we need to follow in the steps of Jesus in the way we handle that suffering. God is sanctifying us with the exact same method He used to bring Jesus to maturity in His human nature.
 
Hebrews 2:10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
 
Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus … who … persevered
 
Your Bible might say endured, but the word is the same Greek word as in James 1 translated persevere. Fix your eyes on Jesus who persevered.
 
Hebrews 12:3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
 
Think about Him. Consider Him. Fix your thoughts on Him. While you are suffering, when you feel the sting of a cutting remark or something doesn’t go your way – think about Jesus and how He responded to suffering. How did Jesus manage to persevere? Hebrews 12:2 says it was for the joy set before Him. He looked at the outcome and the purpose, and that enabled Him to handle it. Doing that enabled Him to scorn His suffering. Your Bible might say despise. We hear the word despise and we think it means to hate. But that is not what this word means. It means to think little of. The point was not that Jesus hated the shame; it was that He thought little of it. He thought about it, but it only took up a small percentage of His thoughts, because so much of His thinking was focused on the joy set before Him and the outcome of the suffering. He thought a little about the suffering, but not very much because He just didn’t have time. Thinking about God’s great purposes in the suffering took up so much of His time and mental energy, He just didn’t have much time left to devote to thinking about the pain.
 
So mimic Him. Join Jesus in His suffering and become like Him in the way He died.
 
Philippians 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death
 
When you suffer, remind yourself about how Jesus managed to persevere through suffering. He did it by looking past the temporary suffering to the eternal joy.
 
Think about Eternity
 
We can do the same thing.
 
2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us from excess to excess and eternal weight of glory. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
 
Nothing will help you more in times of suffering than turning your attention to eternity.[2] Sometimes it can be so comforting just to be reminded: This trial isn’t forever. Hang on a little longer – it’s almost over.
 
Remember the Cross
 
So follow Jesus’ example in how He persevered. And while you are at it, think also about why Jesus suffered in the first place. One of the reasons Jesus suffered was to prevent you from having sinful responses to your suffering.
 
Titus 2:13 … our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
 
Jesus suffered and died not only to pay the penalty for our sins, but also to make us eager and willing to do what is good. When you suffer, look to Jesus because Jesus is saying to you, “I am your hope.”
 
Humble Yourself
 
Accept It from God
 
When you suffer:
 
1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
 
Whenever something hard happens in your life, or you don’t get your way, you say, “Yes Lord, I will submit to You in this.”
 
Hebrews 12:7 Endure hardship as discipline. … 9 we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!
 
Follow the example set by Job.
 
Job 1:20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”  
 
And when his wife urged him to turn against God:
 
Job 2:10 He replied, “... Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
 
We accept whatever God gives us. Some of you need to get in the habit of saying this out loud. You wake up in the morning and you are dead tired: “Yes, Lord.” You’re late for work and you can’t find your keys: “Yes, Lord.” Your wife has some really “helpful” remark about how you should have put your keys on the hook like she told you: “Yes, Lord.” Red light? Yes, Lord. Someone cuts me off? Yes, Lord. Grinding sound in the transmission? Yes, Lord. Sore knee acting up? Yes, Lord. Boss calls you in and says, “You’re fired”? Yes, Lord. Get in the habit – everything that happens, “Yes, Lord, I will receive this from Your hand. You are God; I’m not. You are wise; I know nothing. You’re the King; I’m the subject. Your plan matters; mine does not. You know what’s best for me; I do not. So yes, Lord, I will receive this from Your hand with gratitude and thanksgiving and joy.”
 
Let It Humble You
 
Accept the suffering, and cooperate with the purpose of the suffering by letting it humble you.
 
2 Corinthians 12:7 To keep me from becoming conceited … there was given me a thorn in my flesh … to torment me.
 
Let suffering destroy your pride.[3] Suffering is a great reminder of how helpless we are. Obviously – we are so helpless we cannot even avoid suffering.
 
In Matthew 6 Jesus was talking about how ridiculous it is for us to have anxiety.
 
Matthew 6:27 Who of you by worrying can add a single cubit to his height?
 
When we are worried and anxious, it’s because we are relying on our own resources. We are trying to be our own provider and savior. And Jesus shows us how absurd it is for us to try to take that role because you cannot even do a simple miracle like making yourself half a yard taller. If you cannot even do a miracle then you are utterly disqualified for the job of preserving your own life and you need to step down immediately. You should tender your resignation as sustainer of your own wellbeing because you are SO under-qualified for the position. Humble yourself, and let God be the sustainer of your wellbeing.[4]
 
Loosen Your Grip
 
In that same Matthew 6 passage we see that a major part of humbling yourself is loosening your grip on the treasures of this world. When you are in charge of your own wellbeing, you have to make sure you hang on to your assets. Giving that up to God means holding those assets in an open hand, so that if God decides to take something away, He doesn’t have to pry it out of your hands. Too much attachment to earthly treasure is a cause of a lot of unnecessary suffering. Isn’t it true that a lot of times, when you have lost some cherished treasure, 20% of the suffering came from the loss, and 80% came from your fear of losing it? Or from your resistance to what God was doing? So much of the pain comes not from the trial itself, but from our thrashing around trying to resist what God is doing. That is why in that same passage Jesus said,
 
Matthew 6:19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
 
The thieves are going to get to it either way, but it hurts a lot less if that is not where your treasure is. When the stuff they take is your treasure, that’s when it really hurts. Don’t let those things be your treasure, because where your treasure is, there your heart will be. If you let those things anywhere near your heart, it will choke out the Word of God in your life.
 
Mark 4:18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
 
So when suffering comes, humble yourself and say, “God, I’m not my hope. You are my hope.”
 
Obtain Comfort from God
 
Sometimes God’s solution to your suffering is to give you relief. But more often instead of relief He gives you comfort. The trial needs to stay, because it hasn’t accomplished its work yet. But in the meantime, God offers comfort.
 
When you are suffering, and there is no way out that isn’t sinful, seek comfort from God. One of the most devastating results of self-pity is that it will tend to hold God’s comfort off at arm’s length. Self-pity wants to make a case for how hard you have it, and so it will turn a blind eye to God’s kindness and blessing, and it will refuse to be comforted. When you suffer, let go of self-pity and run hard after comfort from God. That starts with understanding how much compassion and concern God has for you.
 
Understand God’s Love for You
 
1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.
 
The key to knowing how to cast your cares on God is understanding how much He cares for you. Don’t ever think God enjoys putting you through this suffering. He doesn’t.
 
Lamentations 3:33 he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.
 
He brings it, but not willingly. Literally, it is not from His heart. When I took my kids to get shots after they were born, putting them through the pain of getting stuck with a needle was not from my heart. I didn’t do it willingly. I didn’t enjoy it. I hated it. I did it because I loved them. It was something they needed, it was for their good, so I did it, but I hated seeing them suffer even for a moment. Don’t ever forget – God loves you far more than you and I love our kids. His love for you is infinite, which means the pain He feels when He puts you through some trial is infinite. It is agonizing for Him to watch you suffer – far more agonizing than it is for you to actually endure the suffering. God would never put Himself through that if there were any other way. Or if it were not the absolute best thing for you. When you are suffering, spend a lot of time studying about how much God loves you and cares for you.
 
Matthew 6:26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?[5]
 
Intensify Prayer
 
So gain comfort first by learning more and more about God’s love for you. Secondly, get comfort from God through prayer. Maybe the greatest benefit of all that comes from suffering is intensified prayer. When things are smooth it is so hard to pray earnestly and passionately. But when pain comes, fervent prayer is so much easier. And that is the kind of prayer God responds to. So use all your suffering to ramp up your prayer life.
 
Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
 
Suffering can do that for you. That’s even how it was for Jesus.
 
Luke 22:44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly
 
When you hurt, you can pray harder. And when you pray harder, God answers more. And when God answers, He brings you comfort. In 2 Corinthians 7:6, He is called, God, who comforts the downcast. In 2 Corinthians 1:3, He is called the God of all comfort.
 
Suffering Is the Only Time You Experience This Attribute
 
Your goal in life is to love God more, right? And few things, if any, will increase and intensify your love for God as much as being in excruciating pain and receiving comfort from God. When you are in the crucible, and the fire is hot, and you can’t stand it anymore, and you cry out to God and that moment comes where He reaches down and just touches your soul ‒ the trial is still there but somehow you don’t even really care. The turmoil in your heart gives way to peace. The blackness of the pain gives way to the sweetness of knowing you are in His presence. And at that moment you feel a love for God that you would not trade for anything in the whole world, including relief from your suffering.
 
There are so many attributes of God that you can only experience while you are suffering. There are so many facets of God’s glory that we can experience firsthand that none of the angels in heaven can ever experience, and that you will never experience in heaven. Now is your only chance to personally experience so many of the attributes of God like, compassion, mercy, restoration, renewal, comfort in times of trouble, guidance in the darkness. Don’t waste your suffering. If you have poor health or a hard marriage or financial trouble – take advantage of the attributes of God that you can experience only in times of suffering, so that in heaven when all the angels are gathered around you saying, “Tell us – what was that like to experience God’s comfort and renewal in times of weakness?” you can have something to say.
 
Drink in His Word
 
God offers that comfort, but it is not automatic. You have to seek it. You have to cry out for it in prayer, and search the Scriptures for it. When you pray, most of the time God’s answer comes through His Word.
 
Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. …8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
 
Psalm 119:92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.
 
Search the Scriptures, and they will remind you of the things like Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd, and even in the deepest, darkest, scariest valley He is with me.[6] You will read passages like Psalm 42 and 91, or John 13 where Jesus comforts the disciples, or Romans 8 or Revelation 22 or Job 38-42 or Matthew 6:25-34, and the Holy Spirit can take those words and apply them to your soul like soothing, healing, restoring balm. (I have a longer list of comforting passages in the appendix)[7] Why are you downcast, O my soul? Put your hope in God! He is your hope!”
 
Persevere
 
Don’t give up. Don’t waver or waffle or falter in your faith – stand firm! Make sure you are not a person whose heart is shallow, rocky soil. In the parable of the soils Jesus said:
 
Luke 8:13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
 
If we are nonchalant about deepening our faith in God, then when trials hit, our shallow roots won’t keep us steadfast.
 
Don’t forget you have an enemy. When you suffer, there are always two people at work in that suffering – God and Satan. God is doing something for your good, and Satan is trying to destroy you by convincing you to respond sinfully to the suffering. So every single time you suffer, ask two questions:
 
What is God up to?
 
What is Satan up to?
 
Make sure you know what God is doing so you can cooperate with that. And make sure you know what Satan is doing so you can resist that.
 
What does Satan want me to do in response to this trial? He wants you to grumble. He wants you to talk to everyone about how rough you have it. He wants that to dominate your thoughts and conversation so that you and everyone around you get depressed and forget about God’s goodness. He wants you to get angry. He wants you to give in to the sin of discouragement. He wants you to question God’s love for you. He wants you to compromise righteousness in order to get relief. He wants you to deaden the pain with alcohol or pills or pot or porn or shopping or TV. He wants you to drop into the bottomless pit of self-pity. And ultimately he wants you to walk away from God. When you suffer, don’t cooperate with the one who is trying to destroy you. Cooperate with the one who wants to use this trial to do you good.
 
And when you do fail, and stumble into some sinful response – don’t act like the war is over. That is just one battle. Get back up, dust yourself off, and pick that sword back up again because you can bet your bottom dollar that your enemy isn’t going to relent. He knows the war isn’t over just because he won one battle, and he is going to try to finish you off. So when you fall, repent and get back up and fight.
 
Proverbs 24:16 for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.
 
Every time you fall, keep getting up. Victory doesn’t mean you never fall. It means getting up one more time than you fall.
 
2 Corinthians 4:8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
 
Persevere.[8]
 
Examine test results
 
Sometimes people say, “I wonder if this is some kind of test?” Don’t wonder – it is. All suffering is designed to test to see if you really trust God and if you really love Him.[9] We saw in James 1:3 that trials are a test of faith, and in verse 12 they are a test of love. So suffering tests both your faith and your love. And here is how it does that: Suffering always pushes you toward the true object of your faith and love.
 
So examine the test results. Ask, is this suffering pushing me toward God or away? Everybody says, “We love God! We trust in the Lord Jesus Christ!” But then suffering comes. And some of them run in the direction of sexual sin, because that is what they really love. Some of them run to psychology and medication, because that is what they trust in. Some of them walk away altogether because they never really did love God; they were just using God to get what they did love, and when He doesn’t work out for that they drop Him like they would drop a bad insurance policy.
 
Whenever you suffer, examine the test results carefully. Do I trust God or do I trust the thing my suffering is taking away from me? Do I love God or do I love the thing I’m lacking in my suffering? Watch very carefully what direction your heart tends to drift off in when you get yelled at or you lose something, or you don’t get something you wanted. Examine those test results so you can let God do the surgery He needs to do to correct the faith and love disorders in your heart that have been exposed by the trial.
 
Conclusion
 
That is my attempt at summarizing what the Bible says about how to deal with suffering. And I know it is a lot. You might hear all that and think, “That’s too much. I don’t think I can do it. I’m too weak in my suffering – I can’t do those things.” I just want to give you a word of encouragement as we close. Last week I read you several verses from this chapter about how God commanded the people to love Him, and if they would love Him He would enable them to love Him more and give them life. In all those verses I read last week there is a section right in the middle that we didn’t get to, but I would like you to see it now.
 
Deuteronomy 30:11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
 
If your faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ, God will give you the grace to do what He tells you to do. And what He tells you to do in suffering is very simple: put your hope in Him alone.
 
Psalm 42:11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
 
Benediction: Hebrews 6:18  God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.
 
Application Questions (James 1:25)
 
What would be the best way for you to be able to easily recall the I’M HOPE principles in the moments when you most need them? Perhaps recruit a friend to join you in memorizing each of the key Scripture passages for each point over the next several months? Or keep a log of the specific trials you faced, and your efforts to apply the I’M HOPE principles?
 
When you suffer, what are some of the passages that you find most comforting?
 
Try to think of some recent suffering. What did it reveal about what you love or trust?
 
Is there any self-pity that you need to let go of (An attitude that says, “I would rather think about how hard I have it than think about God’s kindness to me”)?
 
 

Appendix: Comforting Passages
 

Job 38-42—God is awesome!
 
Psalm 5—Protect me!
 
Psalm 16—God is my only good
 
Psalm 18—God responds to my trouble with creation-rattling zeal
 
Psalm 23—The Lord is my Shepherd
 
Psalm 25—I look to You for satisfaction, guidance, redemption
 
Psalm 32—Blessed is the forgiven sinner!
 
Psalm 34—God is near to the brokenhearted
 
Psalm 36—The Lord is the source of all good
 
Psalm 37—Do not fret over the successes of the wicked
 
Psalm 42-43—I long for God, my soul is downcast
 
Psalm 46—God is our refuge and is more powerful than any threat
 
Psalm 51—Have mercy on me, a sinner!
 
Psalm 62—My soul finds rest in God alone
 
Psalm 63—I long for God in a dry and weary land
 
Psalm 77—Comfort from recalling God’s past deeds
 
Psalm 84—I long and faint to be in Your presence
 
Psalm 90—You are our home, satisfy us with Your love
 
Psalm 91—God will protect you
 
Psalm 93—The Lord reigns!
 
Psalm 103—Praise Him for forgiving, redeeming, restoring love!
 
Psalm 121—God will watch over you
 
Psalm 125—The LORD preserves His people
 
Psalm 131—I have stilled and quieted my soul hoping in You
 
Psalm 139—You know me thoroughly
 
Lamentations 3—His mercies are new every morning
 
Isaiah 40—Comfort for God’s people
 
Isaiah 42—The Compassionate Messiah
 
Isaiah 55—Come, all you who are thirsty!
 
Isaiah 57:14-21—Comfort for the contrite
 
Matthew 5:1-13—Blessed are the needy and persecuted
 
Matthew 6:25-34—Don’t worry – look at how God cares for the birds!
 
John 13-15—Let not your hearts be troubled
 
Romans 8—Nothing can separate you from His love
 
2 Corinthians 4:6-18—Our frailty glorifies Him, and our suffering accomplishes glory for us.
 
Revelation 3:7-13—Hold on until I come!
 

 
 
 
 

[1] For a detailed teaching on this point see the sermon on James 1:2-4.
[2] For a full study on this see the sermon on 1 Peter 1:6 titled “Nose Prints on the Glass.”
[3] For a fuller study on this point see the sermon on James 1:12.
[4] For a full study of this principle see the seven-part series on Matthew 6:19-34, and especially part 7 in that series titled “Stress-Free Suffering.”
[5] For a fuller study on this point see the sermon on Matthew 6:26 “What is Your Net Worth in Birds?”
[6] For more see the full sermon series on Psalm 23.
[7] It is essential that you find comfort in God so that later on you will be able to show others how to find the comfort you found (2 Cor.1:3-4). You won’t be able to comfort people who go through what you have been through unless you manage to find comfort from God while you are going through it.
[8] For more on the subject of perseverance go back through sermons on verses 2-12 on James 1.
[9] See the sermon on James 1:12.