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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
 www.edmontonimmanuel.ca
 
Title:The Lord teaches us to trust in Him in the midst of a world full of temptations
Text:LD 52 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world
 
Preached:2008-08-24
Added:2008-10-18
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing:

Psalm 65: 1, 3

Hymn 1B

Psalm Psalm 141: 1, 2, 3

Hymn 47: 3, 7, 9, 10

Hymn 2: 3, 5

 

Read:  James 1: 1-18

Text: Lord’s Day 52 (& Canons of Dort, Ch 5, art. 4)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters:

 

The Olympics expose us to the best athletes from all over the world. These superb athletes have overcome great odds to get to the Olympics and to compete at that level. They have had to make great sacrifices. On the way to becoming a top athlete they had to withstand many temptations. They could not conduct their lives in the same ways as their peers. When friends and relatives could enjoy times of leisure and rich foods, they had to abstain. Their peers could pursue careers and make a decent living, whereas most of these athletes could not. Many of them had to put that aspect of their life on hold. Only the most elite Olympians gain financially from their athletics.

 

In addition, in order to compete in their athletic event, the athletes have to endure extreme pain as well. They have to perform in spite of broken toes or sore backs or excruciating pains all over their bodies. And yet they continue to compete to the point of complete exhaustion.

 

Why? Why do they subject themselves to such rigor and pain? Well, that's obvious. They want to win the ultimate prize, the gold medallion. They are willing to withstand the temptation of throwing in the towel and giving in to their body’s signal to stop and to take a breather.

 

Not many people are willing to go to such extremes. That is why only a few athletes make it to the Olympics.

 

What has all this got to do with today’s sermon? Well, Lord's Day 52 speaks, among other things, about the temptations we face as Christians. As Christians we too are looking forward to our prize, namely our salvation. The aim for us too is, as it says in answer 127, “to obtain the complete victory.” But how do we obtain that victory? That's very hard. There are many temptations along the way. Time and again we are tempted to throw in the towel and to do like the world does. The sacrifices are too great and we are too weak. If it were up to us, we would never reach the finish line. We are incapable. We're too prone to give in to the desires of the flesh.

 

The only one who can win the prize for us is the Lord God himself. Only he can win that victory through Jesus Christ. Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ has already won that victory. However, that does not mean that we can now idly sit by the sidelines as spectators. No, we must also run the race. But we should do that in the realization that we need the Lord God by our side. Else we will fail. And so that means that we must put our trust in him. That's also the theme for the sermon:

The Lord Teaches Us to Trust in Him in the Midst of a World Full of Temptations.

We must:

1. Withstand the lure of Satan;

2. Persevere in the midst of trials.

3. Be assured of God's listening ear.

 

The catechism speaks about our sworn enemies and mentions three, namely the devil, the world, and our own flesh. That is straight from the Bible. That is what it says, for example, in 1 Peter 5:8. Peter says there, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." He is our enemy. Paul says the same in Ephesians 6:12: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

 

You can see why Satan is our enemy. He wants to devour us. In other words he wants to kill us. He wants to make us part of the evil kingdom. He wants us to be destroyed along with him. He wants to do everything against God. How does he try to destroy us? There are many ways in which he tries to lure us into his den of destruction.

 

Some of you, including the children of this congregation, may have gone fishing in the summer. Boys and girls, how do you catch a fish? You use a lure and you put that lure on a hook. You put a worm on the hook, or a fly or something that resembles a fly, to make the fish think that there is something very delicious there hanging in the water. The fish comes swimming along and then he sees that delicious worm right in front of him. He wants it. He is too stupid to realize that it is attached to a sharp hook. As soon as he takes that lure you've got him. The fish is history. You pull the fish out of water and you kill him so that you can eat him.

 

That is how Satan does his work as well. He dangles all kinds of delicious morsels in front of you so that you will take the hook. He tells you that forbidden fruit tastes good. That's what he told Adam and Eve and he will also tell you the same thing. He will say, for example, to you young children that you do not have to listen to your mother and father. He will cause you to think: “They do not know everything.” When you get older, into your teen years, Satan will try to convince you that it feels good to have sex with somebody even when you are not married. “After all everybody else does it.” Or he will tell you that you don't have to turn off the movie that has a lot of swearing and sex and violence. “After all, it's a good entertainment, isn't it?” And with regard to the music that you listen to, he may cause you to question: “Does it really matter that the lyrics promote drugs or disobedience to parents and to others in authority?” And so he tries to reel you in little by little.

 

Satan wants all of us to compromise our principles. He wants to whittle away at our consciences. He wants us to hang on to our material wealth and to use that as our security blanket. He may say to the adults in the congregation, “It doesn't matter that you give only a little bit of money to the church. There are others who will step in. You've done enough. Look at all the money you've given over the years. Just hang on to your possessions. You don't have to share any more than you already have. You have to have something left over for a rainy day, don't you, or to hand over to your children when you die?”

 

He may ask you to compromise your Christian principles so that you are able to hang on to your job or to your clients. “It doesn't matter that you don't tell the whole truth to your customer and that you mislead him a little. It's important to get that account. After all, look at all the financial responsibilities you have. It doesn't matter that your company uses immoral practices, or that you're voluntarily part of an immoral labour organization.  You don't want to lose your job, do you?”

 

Satan also uses our flesh to lure us. That is why flesh is also mentioned as our enemy. Paul says in Galatians 5:17 that "the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Holy Spirit". It actually means "the sinful flesh." Think about that for a moment. Think back about that fish that took the lure. Why did he take the lure? He took it because he likes to eat worms. His flesh requires food. Therefore he craves it. It is understandable that the fish took the lure. Worms are good for a fish.

 

But what kinds of things do we crave? We often crave things that are not good for us. The Lord God gives us many good things to enjoy. We can eat good food and enjoy good drink. We can enjoy material blessings. We can enjoy married life, including the sexual act that goes along with it. All of these things make life pleasant.

 

But do you know what's wrong with us? Because these things taste so good, we want more. And we want them in a way that God does not permit. We crave these things so much that time and again we grasp for that which is forbidden.

 

Married men look lustfully at other women. Married women look for the attention of other men. We overstep the bounds so that we can obtain more possessions. We hoard what we have.

 

We get angry at people who get in our way. We don't want to be corrected, because that would stop us from seeking the things we want for ourselves. We don't want God or anyone else to dictate to us what is good for us.

 

Satan knows that. Therefore he uses the flesh to lure us into his trap. And slowly but surely he tries to reel us in. When you have totally given in to your own desires, then Satan's got you exactly where he wants you. That is what James is talking about when he says in James 1:15, "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."

 

That is why you have to persevere. Else you will perish. We come to the second point.

 

2. In order to be successful in an athletic event you need stamina, the power to endure, perseverance. You gain stamina by practicing, by denying yourself immediate pleasures for the greater pleasure of winning the crown. You don't gain endurance and stamina by being a couch potato.

 

Similarly, a Christian needs to persevere. James says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." In other words, if you don't experience the bumps and grinds of everyday life, you will not have any staying power. You'll never reach the finish line.

 

Brothers and sisters, in life there are many trials and tribulations that come your way. There are obstacles on the road. Things often do not go the way we want. Unexpected things happen. You lose your job. You get a sudden illness. Your partner dies. Your friend betrays you. You fall into a certain sin, even though you did not want that to happen. You do not get the respect that you think you deserve. People misunderstand you, or they slander your name. Things in church are not always the way you like. There are brothers and sisters, or office bearers or a minister there who are not as good or as faithful as they should be. And you're disappointed.

 

Brothers and sisters, when you read through the Psalms then you will see that the various authors mention all these kinds of issues. There's nothing new under the sun. The psalmists experienced the same kinds of emotions, and the same kinds of things. Listen, for example, to David's complaint in Psalm 55:12-14. He writes, "If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God." David experienced all kinds of difficulties in his life, things he brought upon himself and things that others or circumstances brought upon him. Sometimes it even seems to us that God himself is behind it all. That he wants to make our life difficult.

 

Why do these things happen? Why do God's people have to suffer these kinds of hardships? According to James, trials and tribulations are necessary. For you need to develop stamina, to develop perseverance.

 

It is for that reason that God gives you certain burdens to bear. He doesn't tempt you like Satan does. Satan tries to lure you in order to kill you. The Lord God, however, tests your faith so that you endure. Those Christians that James wrote about to had to withstand many hardships because of their faith. They lost their jobs and their position in society. They were uprooted and suppressed. They were persecuted in ways that we can only imagine. Those people were greatly burdened.

 

But those people had to learn that their treasure, their happiness, is not found here on this earth. The ultimate joy and happiness is found with the Lord Jesus Christ. So James encourages them by stating in verse 12, "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him." You are looking for the crown of life that God will give you.

 

No one ever said that it is easy to be a Christian. Although God blesses you, his blessings come in many forms. Sometimes when he takes a certain thing away from you, that loss can actually be a great blessing.

 

Do you know who worries about you and me as Christians? It is those Christians in poor countries and those Christians in China who are being persecuted. They are afraid that we are too attached to our wealth, and that our wealth and material possessions are drawing us away from the true service to the Lord. They will recall that the Lord Jesus said that it is very difficult for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God.

 

Indeed, brothers and sisters, we may not be too attached to this world and to our earthly possessions. We need to be reminded that what we have here on earth is but temporary. At any time you can lose your health, your job, your bank account. There is nothing certain here on earth. Only your life with Christ is certain.

 

That is beautifully stated in a summary of our faith as we have it in article 4 of chapter 5 of the Canons of Dort. There it states that "the power of God whereby he confirms and preserves true believers in grace is so great that it cannot be conquered by the flesh." In other words, a child of God can never lose his or her salvation. It is secure. Nevertheless, as the Canons also state, "God's people are often seduced by and yield to the lusts of the flesh. And they can be drawn into serious and atrocious sins." The article gives as an example the lamentable fall of David, Peter and other saints. But we all know how David, Peter and the other saints persevered in their faith. David repented in sackcloth and ashes from his sins. His fall was not so great that God could not preserve him, because he never hardened himself in his sin. Peter denied the Lord Jesus Christ three times and yet he remained an apostle. These things they were not able to do themselves, however, but because of God's strength. They continued to trust in God. They persevered. We come to the third point.

 

3. We read in Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." God works all things to our good. Only a converted Christian understands that. He understands what the presence of God means. He is in control of everything. He gives us his Holy Spirit to care about every detail of life. And even when adversity comes our way, a believer knows that God has not withdrawn himself from the picture. No, he is right there. He is right there in the midst of your trials and tribulations. He is all-powerful. As it says in answer 128, as our king he has power over all things and is both willing and able to give us all that is good.

 

There are times however when we doubt whether or not God hears our prayers. We earnestly pray for deliverance from a certain illness or affliction and yet we are not healed. The illness takes its expected course. Or you have a deep desire within you and are convinced that it is to the furtherance of God's kingdom that your request be granted, but God does not grant it to you. And that is painful. But don't think in those circumstances that God does not listen to you. When you say the word "amen" at the end of the prayer, then that is not meant to be a signal that your prayer is finished, but rather a declaration that you feel with certainty in your heart that God hears you. And he does. He has his eye on you all the time, and his ears are always open to you.

 

Brothers and sisters, it is a matter of trust. It is a matter of faith. The evidence of God's involvement in your life is all around you. He has given you the promise to look after you in life and in death.

 

Don't you think that he is doing that? Do you think that you would be able to be here without God? Do you think that you can do anything without God? You can't. You need to believe that and you need to be in constant communion with him. Trust in God. Trust that he will fulfill the promises that he has made to you and to your children and to your brothers and sisters in the Lord. The Lord God answers your prayers in so many ways. He gives you the fellowship of dear friends and loved ones to encourage you. Above all he gives you the fellowship of his Holy Spirit.

 

Brothers and sisters, boys and girls, we are so blessed. We are so blessed to have a God who hears our prayers and in whom we can put our trust. Ultimately there is nothing and no one else we can trust except God. He is your rock. He is your salvation. He is the God who hears you when you call upon him. Speak to him when temptations come. Speak to him when you have given in to temptations and have fallen. Ask him for forgiveness and resolve to do better. He will spur you on time and again. And in the end he will give you the crown of life. Brothers and sisters, persevere. With God's help you can. Amen




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.edmontonimmanual.ca

(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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