Saying YES to God

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, February 3, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

The church where I am currently pastoring has a slogan and mission that our goal is to “help people say YES to God." It has been attached to our church since long before I was there. So, when I first came to the church in 2017, I asked the outgoing pastor what it means to help people say “yes” to their Creator. I never really got a clear answer and when others have asked me, I can’t give them much of a clear answer. Saying “yes” to God is a vague concept, somewhat intentionally so. My dad says that it always means “obedience." Others would say that saying “yes” to God means something different for everyone. I would actually agree with both those statements. God does speak to us each in unique ways and we all have unique circumstances, but He is asking for every single one of us to respond to Him in a way that shows that we desire to obey and trust Him more than we desire something else.

As I came across the next few verses in the Book of James to continue in this series, the answer of what it means to say “yes” to God has become somewhat clear. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." The first thing we need to know is that the Greek word for “trial” in that sentence comes from the verb peirazo, which can mean “to test, try, or tempt." We have a tendency to separate all the bad things that happen TO us from the temptations that we face daily. While we see these things in completely different lights, James sees them as very similar.

There is a reason why one Greek word encompasses each of those English words and I certainly don’t believe it’s a coincidence. There is often, dare I say almost all the time, a connection between our seemingly unfair hardships and our temptation to sin. I recently counseled a man who has been struggling more with alcoholism and lust ever since his wife passed away. Someone who was born with toxic substances in their system due to their mother’s drug abuse will have a greater temptation to use drugs than the average person. In a general sense, we’re all tempted to be mad at God, to take out our frustrations on others, or even to give up on life completely when we’ve experienced some severe hardship. Ultimately, we are more tempted to play “God” in our lives if the bad circumstances just keep coming. We all reach our breaking points where our perspective goes from “God is in control and I trust Him” to “If I were God, I would never let all this bad stuff happen to one person or family."

Because we can see the clear connection between hardship and temptation, James, in a statement that is akin to his older brother speaking the Beatitudes, states that the person who can endure it will be “blessed." This does not mean that person will necessarily get to enjoy the blessing in this life. The person who endures will receive the “crown of life." When you think about it, a person doesn’t usually receive a reward for an achievement DURING the task itself. Olympians don’t receive their medals in the middle of the performance, race, or game. The ceremony is always AFTER it’s over. The question then is, when is the “trial” that we face over? And the answer is when we finally breathe that last breath. I think that’s why James is not talking about any very specific trials here. He knows that for the committed follower of Jesus Christ, the renewed life is one where there is constant hardship and temptation for which the believer receives the power of the Holy Spirit to endure. Sure, there are individual hardships that come and go and the times in between are a reprieve, but we cannot sit back and be waiting for God to just take away the difficulty because that isn’t going to happen until we are with Him for eternity.

Take Job for example. He didn’t experience ONE trial that he had to endure. First, he lost most of his wealth in the form of his livestock and the servants who tended to them (Job 1:13-17). Then, he experienced great tragedy as his children were killed when a mighty wind knocked over the house where they were feasting (Job 1:18-19). Job grieved and mourned, but he did not blame God or sin against him (Job 1:22). Job still had his health, but later even that was taken away. He was inflicted with painful sores over his entire body and a wife who lost perspective (Job 2:7-9). Job had lost everything, yet he still did not sin (Job 2:10). But his trial still wasn’t over. He spent a long time after that asking and waiting for God to give him an answer regarding why He would allow all this calamity in Job’s life. In the end, God never actually gives Job the reasoning he requests. Instead, He just reminds Job who He is and who Job is not. As Job accepts this and repents, God restores him in mighty ways (Job 42).

Each of the things Job went through were individual hardships, but the overall test for his entire life was to say YES to God even while he was tempted to give in and reject God because of all the devastation. Job 1 and 2 tell us not just about his suffering, but the fact that it is caused by Satan and allowed by God. This is important for us to understand about our temptations and trials. God does not cause them, but He does ALLOW them. Satan and God have two opposite goals for the same hardship in your life. Satan wants to use it to cause you to reject God, while God wants to use it to test and approve you and draw you closer to Himself and His strength. That is the biggest temptation/test there is. Satan causes so much pain for you but still loses if you remain committed to and trusting in God. And by the way, a similar conversation to the one Satan and God had about Job is happening regarding your life. Satan is asking God for permission to inflict you with pain on top of pain because he will go as far as he possibly can to try to take you away from God, but God gets the final say over how much pain you’ll experience. Just as one other example of what I’m saying, take a look at Luke 22:31-32, where Jesus tells Simon Peter that Satan wants to tear him to pieces but Jesus is praying for Peter that his strength won’t fail during the hardships that are coming his way.

That’s one of the amazing things that we often miss about that passage, and in general about the fact that God allows us to experience pain and suffering. God is not sitting around and celebrating our pain. God the Son, who we know as Jesus, is praying for us as we go through things. Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus is “able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." James 1:13-15 addresses the fact that many of us are quick to blame God when we are tempted or go through something difficult. Rather than recognize that He wants to use it to build us up and that Jesus is praying for us and encouraging us, we decide that God must not really care about us if He’s allowing the pain. James says that ultimately, our temptation to reject Him and say YES to something other than Him comes from the fallen nature deep within us. It does not come from God and cannot come from God because He is holy.

If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us know this is true. Sometimes, we do everything we can to invite temptation. We accept things as true even when they are not consistent with God’s Word. We allow ourselves to “dabble” in sin, which gives the devil a foothold, because we think we can stop anytime we want. But James is clear that we are allowing ourselves to be “dragged away by (our) own evil desires and enticed." And it’s an awfully slippery slope, because sinful desire leads to sin, which ultimately leads to death. The trick of Satan is that he never reveals the ultimate death that will come as a result of our sin. He convinces us that sin will enhance our lives. But it never does. As Ravi Zacharias says, “Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay." If you’ve been experiencing this in your life lately, today is the day to say NO to sin and begin saying YES to God!

Like Logan’s writings? You can purchase his book Heroes of the Faith here!

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