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From Trouble to Triumph, Part 1

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
January 17, 2023 3:00 am

From Trouble to Triumph, Part 1

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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January 17, 2023 3:00 am

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As believers who articulate our faith, we are going to be tested. If we pass the test, even though there may be times of struggle and times of doubt, our faith is not destroyed, it is not eliminated.

We hold to Him because we love Him. If that's the case, then we will be blessed. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.

I'm your host, Phil Johnson. A great preacher said that all trials serve two purposes—to better acquaint you with your own sinful heart and with your Lord and Savior. Now, it's one thing to agree with those words after you have come through a trial, but what do you do when your suffering never seems to end? Bottom line, how can you be sure that God will get you through the toughest times? John MacArthur has encouraging answers today as he takes a practical look at benefiting from life's trials.

Now here's John. Let's open our Bibles to the first chapter of James. Now let's go to verse 12 and look a little more at that verse. As believers who articulate our faith, we are going to be tested. If we pass the test, holding on to the Lord, even though there may be times of struggle and times of doubt, our faith is not destroyed, it is not eliminated, we hold to Him because we love Him.

If that's the case, then we will be blessed. Now to sum this idea up, let me suggest to you that the purpose of the testing is then twofold. Number one, its purpose is to expose the quality of faith. Testing, as I've been saying, is designed to reveal what kind of faith you have. Look back at verse 12 again. That phrase, for when He is tried. Literally, when He is approved after testing.

That's the whole idea. Beloved, can you perceive that in your life? Look, when tests and troubles and trials come, when there is a death or when there is loneliness or a loss or problems, whatever they might be, can you see that through that God is testing the validity of your faith? He is testing the validity of your faith.

He is making you approved. He is putting you through the fire, as it were, that you might come out with the dross burned off and the true faith shining bright. Those who hold fast to their trust in God through trials, those whose faith does not fall, though the trial may persist, show themselves to have living faith...living faith. Now, I want to digress for a moment because this is a perfect place to talk about a very important biblical truth, a very important theological thought. Have you heard the phrase, the perseverance of the saints? That's a wonderful phrase, a common one in theology.

Let me talk about that for a moment. What does it mean when we hear the perseverance of the saints? We would say that it is a part of our theological creed that we believe in the perseverance of the saints. In other words, we believe that the saints will never abandon their faith. They will always persevere, believing God through every trial. That's the perseverance of the saints. In other words, they won't believe for a little while and bail out. They'll persevere. There will be no trial that will come on them to make them give up their faith.

Why? Because there is no temptation or trial given you, but such is as common to man and God who is faithful will not allow you to be tempted above that you are able and always will make a way of what? Escape that you may be able to endure it. There is always the possibility of the perseverance of the true saints and the true saints will always persevere. That's a very, very important thought.

Let me tell you why it's important. For years, I grew up hearing a phrase called eternal security. Have you heard that? We believe in eternal security. That's a good phrase. In fact, I used to hear it this way, once saved, you got it, always saved.

That's right. And that's a common phrase. Once saved, always saved. And we like to believe that.

I mean, who wouldn't? I would not want to be a part of a system that said once saved, but you never know. I don't want that. No, the emphasis on once saved, always saved, that's all right. But what that is saying in a sense, some people get real nervous and they say, wait a minute, once saved, always saved means you can do anything you want and God sort of stuck with you. And the emphasis on that is on the holding power of God and that's all right. The idea of eternal security means that God holds you. You're secure in His unchanging promise. You're secure in His inviolable power.

And Scripture does emphasize that. We are secure. We are secure because of the power of God. There's no question about it.

For example, let me just break that down. We are secure in our salvation because of the promise and power of God. John 10, do you remember it? You've probably gone back to it many times in thinking about eternal security. John 10, 28, I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.

Why? My Father who gave them to Me is greater than all and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand, right? So we're eternally secure because of the promise and power of God. He that has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. In other words, it's the promise and the power of God. Secondly, we say we're secure not only because of the promise and power of God but because of the prayers of Christ. He constantly intercedes on our behalf, right?

So that no matter what we might do, He intercedes on our behalf and tells the Father that He has already paid for that sin and therefore it's forgiven. In John 17, He prays for all of His own that they might enter into the fullness of salvation and that prayer will be answered. In Luke 22, He talks about Peter and He says Satan desires to have you, but I have prayed for you that your faith fail not. And He says when you get through this deal, I want you to strengthen the brethren. In other words, Peter was secure not only by the promise and power of God but by the prayer of Christ. If any man sin, 1 John says, we have an advocate with the Father Jesus Christ the righteous and He is the propitiation for our sins and not for ours only but the sins of the whole world. Christ is our intercessor, our intermediary.

There's a third element in this. We are secure not only because of the prayer and the promise of God and the prayer... the promise and power of God and the prayers of Christ but also because of the presence of the Spirit, the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is in us the guarantee of future glory.

Is that not so? Doesn't Ephesians 1 say we have the earnest of the Spirit? We are sealed by the Spirit to the day of redemption? Now all of that emphasizes eternal security from the standpoint of the power of God, the presence of God through His Spirit and the prayers of Jesus Christ. The whole Trinity secures us forever so that no Christian who believes in the Lord will ever be lost.

Isn't that wonderful? That's eternal security. And our salvation and our security is based...listen to this...on the covenantal faithfulness of God.

It is based on the covenantal faithfulness of God. And the very God of peace, says Paul to the Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 23, sanctify you holy. And I pray God, your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. I'm praying for you that you'll be preserved blameless till Jesus gets here, verse 24 says, and faithful is He that calls you who also will...what?

Do it. We are secure based on the covenantal faithfulness of God. That's wonderful. God preserves His people from apostasy. He preserves His people from defection and He brings all of them to heaven.

That's clearly the teaching of Scripture. Listen to what Scripture said. Second Timothy 1 12, for the which cause I also suffer these things nevertheless I'm not ashamed for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed to Him against that day.

You remember that one? He's able to keep what I've committed to Him and what have I committed to Him? My soul. Second Timothy 4 18, and the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work...listen to this...and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom to whom be glory forever and ever.

Amen. 1 Peter 1 5 says, we are kept by the power of God. Jude 1, we are preserved in Jesus Christ. And Jude 24, now to Him that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.

Aren't those wonderful Scriptures? Strong language, folks, about eternal security. But may I hasten to say there's another side to this. There's another side to this.

You say, what's the other side? The other side is that we are not only kept by God, but from the human viewpoint, we also persevere. In other words, you aren't kept by God if you chuck your faith in the midst of a trial.

And again, you're back to that apparent paradox of the work of God and the way of man. You're saved because you were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world and yet you're not saved without exercising faith, right? You're secure because of the covenant faithfulness of God, but you're not secure without exercising perseverance. The means then of eternal security is wrought through the power of the Spirit energizing the true believer to endure in faith through all trials. Berkhof, Louis Berkhof, an excellent theologian, calls perseverance that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart is continued and brought to completion. So our part is to endure.

Listen to what it says in the Scripture also. Matthew 24, 13, He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Now we just said that God's going to keep us.

We've turned the table around and it appears to be contradictory, but it isn't. It's the way He keeps us by energizing us by His Spirit to endure. Then Jesus said to the Jews in John 8, 31, If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples for real? First Corinthians 15, Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached unto you, which you also received and wherein you stand...listen to this...by which you also are saved if you keep in memory what I preached to you unless you've believed for nothing. If you don't hold on to it, you show your faith wasn't real. Colossians 1, listen to this text, And you that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death to present you holy and unblameable and unreprovable in His sight.

Isn't that wonderful? Salvation. We're presented to God holy, unreprovable, unblameable in His sight. Then it says, If you continue in the faith of Christ, then it says, If you continue in the faith grounded and settled and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, you're only secure if you endure. You're only secure if you endure. Endurance is the means by which security is worked out. Therefore, Hebrews 2 says, We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we let them slip.

Don't let them slip. We are made partakers of Christ, Hebrews 3, 14 says, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end. Hebrews 4, 14 says, Let us hold fast our profession. Hebrews 6, 12, We desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end, and be not slothful, but followers of them, listen, who through faith and endurance inherit the promises. That's the perseverance of the saints. We endure. Hebrews 10, 39 says, We are not of them who draw back unto perdition, but them who believe to the saving of the soul. Peter even said in 2 Peter 1, 10, If you do these things, you shall never fall. So the point is, no one is secure who doesn't endure. You say, well, what happens when someone doesn't endure?

Very simple. 1 John 2, 19, They went out from us because they never were, what, of us. They failed the test of genuine faith. No trial then, beloved.

Get it? No trial is so great that it could sever you from your Lord if your faith is genuine. It's only a test to manifest the genuineness of that faith. So eternal security is not enough alone. It is not a question of once saved, always saved, no matter what you believe and no matter what you do.

No. If there's not endurance, if you don't pass the test and hold on to the Lord, if you're not continuing to love and obey Him through every trial of life, then you give evidence of having an illegitimate faith. How many people do you know who came to church for a while, had a little trouble in their life and left? Who made a profession of faith in Christ, but they no longer endure. They cannot be identified as those who love Him.

Their life is not characterized by obedience. I love what it says in the Westminster Confession of Faith. They whom God hath accepted in His beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end and be eternally saved. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but on the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father. Upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace, from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof. Nevertheless they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalence of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins, and for a time continue therein, whereby they incur God's displeasure and grieve His Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts, have their hearts hardened, their conscience wounded, hurt and scandalize others and bring temporal judgments upon themselves. Now what the Westminster Confession is saying is a Christian can get in a whole lot of trouble, but never ultimately jettison his faith, because he will persevere. Trials then prove genuine faith. Whenever trials come into your life or mine, they prove the genuineness of our faith by giving us opportunity to persevere and having persevered, look back and say, yes, I know I belong to the Lord.

But for those who do not fall under the trial, would you notice back at verse 12? For those that do not collapse, he says, after they have been approved, he shall receive the crown of life. Now for you Greek students, that's what I would like to call an oppositional genitive, and literally it would be translated this way, to receive a crown which is life. The crown equals life.

The point here is this. The crown is eternal life. The promise of eternal life is what God has promised them that love Him.

Eternal life, mark it, is our ultimate reward. You say, I already had that, I thought. Well, you do have it. You have it on promise.

Someday you're going to get it in reality, in its fullness. We are still waiting for the full salvation. We are still waiting to enter into our future reward.

That's why it's a future tense. He shall receive the crown. What is the crown? It is eternal life. At the Lord's coming, He will grant to us the fullness of eternal life. This is reminiscent of 2 Timothy 4.8, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown which is righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge will give me at that day, not to me only, but also all them that love is appearing. Again, at the time when the Lord comes and takes us to Himself, there will be a crown. That crown is eternal life.

There will be a crown. That crown is righteousness. We will at that moment have eternal righteousness and eternal life. And I believe it refers to the eternal life that we receive at the coming of Jesus Christ. In fact, all of the rewards that the Lord grants to us are bound up in our eternal life ultimately. 1 Timothy 6, 12, fight the good fight of faith and lay hold on eternal life, the fullness of the promise of eternal life. In fact, in 1 Peter 5, 4, when the chief shepherd shall appear, you will receive a crown which is glory. So it's eternal life. It's righteousness.

It's glory. Those are not crowns that belong to different Christians. Those are crowns that belong to all Christians. All Christians will receive eternal life, eternal righteousness, and eternal glory. By the way, Revelation 2, 10 also mentions the crown of life again. There it is promised to those who were faithful unto death, who went through trials. It's the same context.

He's writing to the church at Smyrna. You have tribulation for a short period of time. If you prove yourself faithful through that, even if it means death, then I'll reward you with eternal life.

Now let me say this. Eternal life is not earned by endurance. It is not earned by endurance, but endurance is the proof of true faith and true love which is rewarded by eternal life.

Did you get that distinction? It is not earned by endurance. It is the reward for endurance which proves the genuineness of saving faith. The word crown, by the way, is the word Stefanos.

It is used in several different ways. But generally, in the culture of the New Testament, it had to do with a wreath that was put around the head of a victor in an athletic event. Some commentators feel that because the Jews rather rejected that whole idea of competition, they didn't like the fact that many of those games were held with men completely naked participating or with very minimal garments which offended the Jews. And so they had a rather severe distaste for that. And so some feel James would never refer to a Stefanos in regard to that kind of competition.

But I think that's begging the issue somewhat. We know for sure from the antiquities of Josephus that there were such games, competition games held in the city of Jerusalem under the reign of Herod the Great. And so it's very likely that they were familiar with the Stefanos as a victor's crown. And obviously when you're talking about enduring a trial to the end, that fits the context here. Some would like us to believe Stefanos has to do with the crown for a king or the garland that was put on the head of someone at a wedding or a feast or a celebration so that it becomes a crown of celebration, a crown of joy, a crown of happiness. But it seems to me it includes prosperity and happiness and honor and royalty. But the context must be that of a victor's crown.

And since that would have been familiar things to them, it's very simple to assume that that's exactly what James had in mind. So what he is saying is that the Lord is going to reward with eternal life those who demonstrate that they had true salvation in that they persevered. So beloved, as we open this section then, we understand that life is full of trials.

I mean that's just the way it's going to be. And how we deal with those trials manifests the genuineness or the lack of it of our faith. If we endure, if we persevere, if we are victorious, we demonstrate true saving faith and we will in the end receive the reward of that saving faith, the reward of that continual love, which is the fullness of eternal life, eternal righteousness, eternal glory. That's for those who prove to be genuine. Now the question immediately comes up at this point, having looked at verse 2 and verse 12, how can a Christian practically endure trials? How can we do that? What is the practicality of endurance?

And that's what James wants to hit. He's very pragmatic. It's not enough to say, I must persevere, tell me how. How do I persevere? These are the pragmatic aspects to a persevering faith.

Several things are required. A joyous attitude, a joyous attitude. Verse 2, count it all joy. An understanding mind, verse 3, knowing this. A submissive will, verse 4, let patience have her perfect work.

Let it do what it's going to do. And then a believing heart, don't have wavering faith, verse 6, but ask in true faith, verse 8, don't be double-minded. And then in verses 9 to 11, a humble spirit. The way to go through trials victoriously is with a joyous attitude, an understanding mind that is perceiving the reality of the trial and the purpose in it, a submissive will, accepting it from the Lord, getting under it and learning what He wants you to learn, a believing heart that never wavers in faith, and the humble spirit that is willing to accept anything.

Now that's how you handle your trials. And with that, John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, concludes today's installment from his series titled, Benefiting from Life's Trials, here on Grace to You. John, I love this series from James 1. In fact, I have a very clear recollection of the first time you preached it, and every time I hear it, I benefit. This is, I think, one of the most practical chapters in all of Scripture, and so as we were deciding which of your series to produce updated study guides for, Benefiting from Life's Trials was really an easy series to choose because the original edition of this study guide had such a fruitful ministry for so many years, and we are anticipating the same thing for this new version.

Well, I agree with that, Phil. This is a critical subject, and it is proven to have an impact on thousands of lives through the years. So based on the series we're airing this week and next week, the title of the study guide is also Benefiting from Life's Trials. For many years, we have produced study guides for the topical sermon series that air on Grace to You. We produced about 150 study guides in all in the past, and they were well received and very helpful to earlier generations of Grace to You listeners. So now we're reintroducing the study guides to a new generation, updated in a beautiful new format, and no doubt this is going to be new for people who have some of the original study guides in their libraries to find that they can get a beautiful new edition of those very familiar and favorite books.

The study particularly Benefiting from Life's Trials is the fifth volume we have republished. And look, we've been saying it, life is full of heartache and pain and tragedy, and God lovingly provides the truths in James chapter one to help you understand what is going on when you experience these trials and how you can follow the path of encouragement through that trial and come out stronger than you were before, and even come to true joy. You're going to spend a lifetime going back to James one for strength and reassurance in difficult times. And this study guide will become a companion for you, a guide to lean on that encouraging truth that God provides through his servant James. 120 pages, reasonably priced, available exclusively from Grace to You. You can order it today.

Right. Friend, the Lord offers you grace to get through any hardship. The Benefiting from Life's Trials study guide will help you learn how to access that grace.

To order yours, get in touch today. Our number here, 855grace, and our website, gty.org. The Benefiting from Life's Trials study guide includes a question and answer session in each chapter. That's great material to go through with someone you're discipling or with your Bible study group. Again, to get a copy for yourself and for a friend, call 800-55-GRACE or go to gty.org.

That's our website, gty.org, and when you visit there, make sure to take advantage of the thousands of free resources we offer. That includes our blog series titled The Biblical Response to Persecution. It's an ideal complement to John's current radio series. Or you can also read the daily devotionals, keep up with the reading plan from the MacArthur Daily Bible, and download any of John's sermons. That's more than 3,500 hours of verse-by-verse Bible teaching, all of it free to download in MP3N transcript format.

The web address again, gty.org. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for making this broadcast part of your day, and be here tomorrow for a look at how times of testing can increase your love for God and for His word. Don't miss the next Don't miss the next 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-17 06:23:27 / 2023-01-17 06:33:56 / 10

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