1st Lent in Lent ~ Communion
Psalm 32; Matthew 4: 1-11
Pearl: The spiritual benefits of testing/temptation/trial.
Function: To encourage worshippers to persevere through testing/trial/temptation to gain strength for the journey.
The saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Kelly Clarkson has a hit song “Stronger” which endorses that notion. A similar corollary to that idea is “no pain, no gain.” So, I guess that in general we agree that some level of struggle and trial and even temptation can have a positive effect upon us.
found himself led by the Spirit into the wilderness shortly after his great
moment of baptism and affirmation from God. He was about to launch into his
public ministry but first was led into the wilderness where he endured
temptation by evil forces, by the devil himself, read the scriptures.
- We can take from this that since he was led by God to this trial such trials can lead to strengthening if we endure and persevere through them.
must know this at some level and accept it since we say things like “what
doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and “no pain, no gain.”
can be some fruits of struggle.
- The wilderness, the dry spells, the lonely days and nights can try us as metal is tested by heat, making us stronger as a result.
- Follower of Jesus, summon the strength to persevere during these times and seasons and indeed, become stronger and even better than stronger, become more human as a result.
- There can be some fruits of struggle.
Accept your struggles for the strengthening, for the maturing that they can produce in you as you persevere through them.
Yet too much testing, too much trial and temptation is detrimental.
taught his disciples to pray “Lead us not into temptation.” Why did Jesus teach
his followers to pray that way? It must be because trial and testing is best in
doses that can be tolerated.
- I don’t know what the ideal doses are.
- Some people receive really large doses. Others somehow are fortunate to avoid much adversity.
just individuals but even certain groups of people have to bear so much
adversity which they do not deserve:
- Native Americans;
- African Americans;
- Gays, and many others.
- Many of the burdens that people have to bear are much more than any should have to endure. And I am in no way saying that all that they face makes them better. Not at all! Christ followers seek the kingdom of God which Jesus promoted and which means helping to relieve the burdens of those who are oppressed and mistreated.
the common kinds of testing and trial which come to all of us who are
mortal, can make us stronger and even better: more real…more human!
goal in enduring and persevering through our struggles should be to become
softer of heart rather than harder of heart.
- The story of the Velveteen Rabbit comes to
- It is a children’s story of a stuffed animal rabbit which comes to life by being loved by its owner. As it endured the suffering that loving brings on, it became a real, living rabbit.
- So, in a similar way as we are tested by life, we can become more real, more humane, or we can become less real, and less humane.
- The story of the Velveteen Rabbit comes to mind.
trials and testing…
- Don’t become colder, become warmer;
- Don’t become heavier, become lighter;
- Don’t become vengeful, become more gracious;
- Don’t become cynical, become hopeful;
- Don’t close yourself off to people, open yourself up to people;
- Don’t become fearful, become faithful;
- Don’t become defeated, become motivated;
- Don’t become ugly, become beautiful;
- Don’t become small, become bigger;
- Don’t become nasty, become nice.
- I could go on but these are ways in which to become softer of heart and more human, more real. And this is what Jesus sought to teach and to live. He was very much about teaching his followers how to be human.
- Our goal in enduring and persevering through our struggles should be to become softer of heart rather than harder of heart.
We know to let a butterfly struggle its way out of its cocoon. If we were to help it out and thus prematurely end its struggling, it would not be strong enough to fly. This is a fitting illustration from nature of the value of testing and struggle.
this is easy to say when we are not in the midst of struggle ourselves.
- Those in the midst of struggle and trial can become weary and fatigued.
prolonged seasons of struggle, I think it is good to reach out for help and to
lend help to those who are weary.
- “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest,” said Jesus our Lord (Matthew 11:28).
- None are meant to live with prolonged
periods of trial and struggle.
- Christ-followers who seek the kingdom of God on earth seek to shorten and diminish the suffering of others.
you are teaching your children to swim you might follow the school of thought of
throwing them into the deep water to let them flutter and flap around in the
water for a bit to see if they can keep themselves afloat and find their way in
the water but if they start swallowing water and going under you jump in and you
- There are benefits to struggle, but some struggles become too severe and long-lasting.
- Intervention by you who follow Jesus.
- This is why we work for justice for the oppressed and for those living on the margins.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…but what does kill you will not win because you will rise again!” Jesus was killed on a cross between two criminals, but three days later he rose from the dead!
So, will you rise again who have endured the sufferings, the trials, and the temptations of life?
You will rise again who have loved and who have become more and more genuinely real; you will rise again who have become more and more genuinely human throughout the living of your lives.