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The Discipline of Difficulty

In Touch / Charles Stanley
The Truth Network Radio
September 16, 2021 12:00 am

The Discipline of Difficulty

In Touch / Charles Stanley

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September 16, 2021 12:00 am

Learn how to rejoice in trouble. It’s the path to holiness.

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Welcome to the In Touch Podcast with Charles Stanley for Thursday, September 16th. God often sends His followers along ways that sometimes seem very dark and stormy. But through the discipline of difficulty, He wants us to set sail towards spiritual growth and maturity.

Listen closely to some more helps to holiness. I don't know what your difficulty may be this morning, and it may take on one of many facets. It may be sickness in your life. It may be some financial setback. It may be a problem in your home.

It may be a problem in your business. It may be some frustration about your future, your vocation. Or it may be that you feel like your back is to the wall. You're being beaten down in the corner. You don't know which way to turn. You don't understand what's happening. And you're complaining and moaning and groaning. And you see our first response is we want to blame somebody for all of our difficulty.

Now you think for just a moment. When things don't go right with you, is it not your first response to look around to see what or who is to blame for what's happening in our life? When it may not be anything out there, the problem may be within.

You see, the difficulty that comes from God, from Satan, or from self, if it is from God, it is to deepen us, discipline us, and to denote in us some point of weakness that needs to be worked on so that we should not view difficulty as always from Satan. In the end, what have I done wrong? You see, so often the believer's first response is, my, my, what in the world have I done wrong? It may be that you've done nothing wrong.

It may be that God is zeroing in on a particular area of your life. You say, why doesn't he just tell me? I'll tell you why he doesn't just tell you. He's been trying to tell you and you haven't listened. You know what he says?

I want you to check that out. And you don't listen to that, he says, I want you to check that out, and you still don't listen. Then he says, you need to listen to me. And you don't listen to that, he says, you need to listen to me. And then when you don't listen, fine, now what happens? He pulls the rug, you fall flat on your face, and then what happens?

When you fall flat on your face, the first thing you do is turn over and when you turn over you're looking straight up. That's exactly what he wants to do. He wants to bend our, it took you a while to get that, didn't it? He wants to bend our knees and lift our chin. He's trying to get our attention so that most of our difficulty is the result of the deafness of our ears. If we just listen to him, he could just whisper most of the time. But you see, he has to pull the rug to get our attention because he keeps saying to us, that area of your life needs to be checked out. That area of your life needs to be built up.

We just pay him no mind and go our way. The second thing I want you to note here is the refining process of difficulty. The refining process of difficulty. That is, God has something very definite in mind and that definite thing he has in mind could be wrapped up in one word. That is, he is in the process of refining us. Now, most of us would rather just go ahead and be saved by grace and love and mercy and go ahead and just tag along in life with the rough shoddiness of life and say, well, after all, you know, man, you can't be perfect. I know I'm going to heaven.

My name's written in the book. So I know I'm not gonna be perfect and just sort of hang loose. The only problem with that is there's nothing in the Bible about believers hanging loose. The scripture says we are in the process of being conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. That is, he wants to make us like him. To make us like him, he must perform surgery in our life to execute the attitude of holiness and righteousness in our life. Most people have never heard a single sermon on holiness. I don't mean the holiness of God. I mean the holiness of the individual.

And if you'll notice in 1 Peter 1, for example, he reminds us here, he says, as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves after the form of lust, but he says, be ye holy, in verse 15, in all manner of conversation, because as it is written, be ye holy, for I am holy. Now, one of the helps to holiness is difficulty. And you see, what difficulty does is to refine us. And the refining process is a smoothing, cutting, pruning, sculpturing process.

You see, to refine something means you just eventually eliminate all the rough parts and all the rough edges that crop up. So let's look for just a moment at God's refining process in our life. Look in Malachi chapter three for just a moment. And I want you to notice a couple of things that he says here, because Malachi three, verse two says, but who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appearth, for he's like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap.

Now, you know what he's saying? He's saying that he's going to do something in our life that would be comparable to a refiner's fire. Now, when you put fire to metal, you refine it.

When you put it to gold, what happens? All of the tarnish and all of the impurities rise to the surface and they're taken off the surface. Fire refines, soap cleanses. And what he's saying to us in that third chapter of Malachi, that God oftentimes acts like a refiner's fire and full of soap, which is an indication that he's going to do something in our life that at first probably will not be acceptable and surely will not be very, very inviting. Now, he says the refining process, now watch this in Hebrews chapter 12 and also in 2 Corinthians. Number one, what is this refining process?

First of all, the refining process is number one, to expose the area that needs building up and strengthening. So what does he do? He puts his finger on our sin.

He puts his finger on our weakness. So first of all, he exposes the area that needs to be dealt with. Secondly, having exposed that, he enlightens us, helping us to see what he wants to do in our life if we'll just straighten that out. Now, back in 2 Corinthians chapter 12, you remember that Paul had a tremendous spiritual experience.

And as a result of that, God sent him, the scripture says through Satan, a thorn that buffeted him. Now, what happened to him was this, as a result of his praying and asking God to remove this and God did not remove it, he discovered something. He discovered that the grace of God was sufficient, that God would be sufficient for him in time of difficulty so that the refining process for Paul meant that he became enlightened as to the graciousness, the mercy, the kindness, and the goodness of God in difficulty. Listen, most of the great things you and I need to learn about God, we'd never learn apart from difficulty. So the refinement is in the process of exposing our sin and our weaknesses. Secondly, enlightening us as to how God deals in time of difficulty. The third thing is to empty us. That is the refining process is to expose our sin, to enlighten us as to the way God works and then to empty us of that thing, of that attitude that would hinder our spiritual walk.

Now, when you say empty, you say, well, what do you mean by that? Well, in 12th chapter of Corinthians now verse nine, he said, my grace is sufficient for thee for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities and reproaches and necessities and persecutions and distresses for Christ's sake for when I'm weak, then am I strong.

Now, what does he say? What God does in our life in the refining process is to cut out, to sand off, to prune out of our lives those things that are hindering us in our walk of holiness, righteousness, obedience and faith because you see, you cannot have a holy walk and unbelief at the same time. Neither can you have a faithful walk and an unholy walk at the same time. Faith and obedience are traveling companions.

Faith and obedience are the heart of holiness. Therefore, he must continuously be in the process of emptying us of attitudes, emptying us of actions that hinder our holy walk. And the fourth thing he wants to do is to enlarge us. That is, he enlarges our vision of God's purpose for our life. You see, once God begins to deal with a particular area of your life, what happens?

Suddenly your attention becomes focused on that given area. Then what does he do? He begins to enlarge your understanding and your thinking about what's happening in your life. You begin to see that God could use you in that particular area. So he enlarges your whole attitude about himself, how he operates about yourself, what he's operating on in your life and his process of doing so. Then the fifth thing, when he begins to refine you, the refining process likewise is a process of enriching us. Now listen, sometime when the difficulty comes, you say, Lord, what are you doing to me? Listen, he's not just doing something to you, he's doing something for you. There is no way for God to work in your life without enriching you. That is, he deepens you, he gives you understanding, he establishes you in your faith, your confidence. He's enriching your life all the time so that as we are pushing back from difficulty and asking God to hold on and wait just a moment and give us a little time, he's in the process of enriching every area of our life. Then the sixth thing, as he sends difficulty, what is he doing but equipping us for what?

Equipping us for service to give ourselves to other people. Listen, the most compassionate, loving, helpful people I know are people who walk in the deepest, darkest valleys of difficulty. Man, they know how it feels. They know what it means to hurt. They know what it means to have a broken heart. They know what it means to be driven to the wall. They know what it means to have the rug pulled out from under them. They know what it means to have the bottom drop out. They know what it means to be covered in the clouds of darkness.

They know what it means to walk in a fog. They know exactly what it means. Therefore, they can empathize with you. They can feel what you feel.

Now, when you go to the doctor and you have some pain, you don't want him to say, oh, well, give you a little prescription. You want somebody to feel what you feel. When you're unloading your heart to someone, you want somebody to say, yeah, you know, I understand what you mean. I've been there.

You've been there, I've been there. Then you understand what I mean. Did you know that's exactly why the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father and the Holy Spirit, in putting together this tremendous word of God, the one thing they could never have afforded to have left out? That simple verse that says that the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted and tried in all points such as we.

That's why you can get on your knees and say, Lord, I know you understand. You see, you and I want to deal with someone who knows how we feel, who's walked where we are walking, and whose footprints we can follow through difficulty. And friends, you can walk through the darkest, deepest, most dangerous valley in life, and if you'll get your eyes open, you'll find some saint who's walked there before you have. And you see, difficulty in its refining process is refining us by equipping us to be available to be somebody else's servant, to help somebody who needs where we've been, what we've experienced, and where we're going. The last thing I want you to notice in the refining process is he says he refines us in order to establish us. And there's scriptures for all of these, but look in 1 Peter chapter five, beautiful verse as he concludes this first epistle, verse 10. And he's been talking about tribulations and trials and heartaches, and he says, But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, listen, watch how beautiful this is. He says, now that you've suffered a while, make you perfect, that is, grow you up, establish you, root you down, strengthen you, expand your energies, and settle you. I mean, he says, difficulty, trial, heartache, suffering, what do they do? They mature you, they settle you, they strengthen you, they establish you so that the believer who avoids difficulty is avoiding strength, settlement, establishment, maturity.

You don't wanna run from that. So you see, the refining process is a burning process. Now listen, most of us are still like children. How many of you fellows remember when you were about a seven, eight, nine year old boy? How many of you seven, eight, nine year old boys love to take a bath?

That's what I thought. You see, dirty boys don't like soap. We didn't like soap. You see, children, there's just something good about being dirty, isn't there? You know, kids go out and they used to go barefooted and dirt between the toes and the dirt would just sort of roll up on your feet and your mom would come and say, well, you can't go to bed like this. Well, what's the matter, Mom?

There's nothing wrong. The only difference is that Mom sees reality and a child just, he doesn't see any of that. Now listen, if we're not careful spiritually, we'll get just like children. We'll have dirt all over us and can't see it. He says God must put the soap to cleanse us. He must put the fire to burn the draw set.

Now watch this, listen. The believer who is walking in the spirit but is continuously, you see, we're walking in an atmosphere that's anti-God and anti-Christ, we're naturally gonna keep picking up little fragments of dirt here and a little unbelief here, a little frustration hangs out here so that what we need is a daily bath. Now listen, the best way to take a bath spiritually is to get on your knees and get in the Word and let Him wash it out. If you don't let Him wash it out through the Word and wash it out through prayer, He's gonna wash you out through fire.

Now you tell me, what should you rather have? Had you rather bend your knee and open your heart in prayer and in the Word of God, just a little soap, or do you want Him to send some difficulty to burn the dross out? Now watch this, it is in our daily devotion that we are cleansed through the confession of our sin and as He says, the continuous flowing of the blood of Jesus Christ in our life. But now if I allow something to remain on the surface, after a while it gets beneath the skin, before long it's deep down within and then just a little soap won't take it off, somebody's gotta go on the inside and cut it out. What God is saying to us is the refining process, the washing process ought to be a daily thing in our life. If it is daily, it will not be of the intensity of pain and suffering that oftentimes it must be because we will not allow God to take it off day by day. I know a lot of we Christians who wanna know why the Spirit of God does not empower them to do anything, I'll tell you why.

They've been running like they were in a race in the opposite direction trying to escape difficulty. If you want the power of God in you, brother, you've got to be willing for God to soak you down and refine you and create holiness within your life. Now listen, I do not mean by creating holiness that he makes me better apart from himself, no. I mean that Jesus Christ is all of my holiness.

Now watch this carefully, you misunderstand me. It is not that I am getting holier and holier and holier. Our total holiness is in the presence of Jesus Christ within us.

I mean by all of what I've said and I'll leave it at the last so you'll not miss me. As I allow him to refine me, Jesus Christ, who is my holiness is available to express more of his holiness in me and through me so that for all outward circumstances and purposes, it is the holiness of God expressed through us. Now I don't know what your greatest spiritual desire is but you cannot have a higher spiritual desire in your life than to be holy before God. Holiness and peacefulness are traveling companions. Holiness and obedience are the same.

And you see, he says the refining process is simply that. Now I want to say to you this morning, God knows that struggle is essential to growth. Do not run from it, accept it, rejoice in it and thank God that he sees within you the potential of a saint who can soar for the heavenly father. Father, we thank you for loving us, forgive us for running. Thank you for refining us, pruning us, sculpturing us. Teach us how to accept it rejoicing me because we do want to soar. We don't want to sit all of our life.

We want to soar. And I pray the spirit of God this morning has spoken to all of our hearts. Whatever you need to prune out, we want to thank you for that. I pray for somebody here who's not a Christian that you'd speak to that heart and give them the wisdom to make that decision. And we're trusting you. And as we wait father for somebody today to give their heart to Christ and some to go home and consider very seriously.

Well, they have been attempting to sit while you have been trying to prepare them to soar. But we ask it in Christ's name and for his sake. Thank you for listening to The Discipline of Difficulty. If you'd like to know more about Charles Stanley or In Touch Ministries, stop by intouch.org. This podcast is a presentation of In Touch Ministries, Atlanta, Georgia.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-05 23:09:54 / 2023-08-05 23:18:33 / 9

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