WHEN THINGS DON’T PAN OUT: TIME FOR IMPROVEMENT

We all like to have things our way. It’s a natural and normal thing that comes with being human. It’s not necessarily the best, safest, or healthiest thing for us. God has a better way. His way. But sometimes people just can’t tell us differently or convince us otherwise: our way is the best way! It’s this stubborn, inextinguishable belief that’s a huge part of the reason why we like having our way.

As you know full well by now,  things don’t always go the way we planned. It’s a real downer and a source of frustration, disappointment, anger, and tears. But that’s life. And we find a way to go on.

But when things don’t pan out the way God said they would, then that becomes a really really difficult thing for me. I’m a believer. I take God at His Word. When He makes me a promise and I take Him up on that promise, I fully expect Him to do what He said He would do. And when He doesn’t, I go through a serious time of reflection and questioning. Is God’s Word true or not? Of course it is, silly! Then why didn’t it work?

I like to have answers. Sometimes the answers are easy. Sometimes hard to fathom or digest. Sometimes there aren’t any answers. At least, not right now. Maybe down the road. Maybe never. But whether I understand the reasons or not, I’m still a believer. God expects me to continue believing Him. Continue serving Him. Continue praising Him. And since I’m a preacher, God expects me to continue preaching the Word of truth and life.

Thanks for giving me a few moments of your time. Allow me to share with you some of the things God showed me recently  about the troubles we go through from time to time.

IT’S SOUL-IMPROVEMENT TIME

When things don’t pan out the way we thought they would, sometimes it’s a matter of chastening. Nothing’s working out right because God’s chastening us and trying to call our attention to the fact that we need to repent and get things right. Sometimes, the law of reaping and sowing is taking effect and we’re suffering the bad effects or results of the bad things that we’ve done.

Sometimes we haven’t done anything wrong and things still go wrong. You’re doing all the right things. You’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. You haven’t messed up or misbehaved. Why is this happening to me, God? What the heck is going on?

If you really want to know, grab yourself a seat and sit down because this answer is gonna blow you away. Things are falling apart on you and going wrong because you haven’t done anything wrong! A genuine trial is in progress. What is a trial? A trial is a set of troubles or sufferings that God is using to build Christian character in you. It doesn’t mean you sinned or did something wrong. It simply means God wants to make you a better Christian. There’s always room for improvement. And that’s what a trial is. It’s what I call a soul-improvement time or opportunity.

James 1:2-4 puts it this way, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  (3)  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  (4)  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

You see, trials have this purpose in mind: to make you a mature Christian and complete, not lacking anything. Complete? What does that mean? It means God made us Christians to have a whole bunch of things. Virtues. Character traits. The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 contain a lot of these character traits. They’re important because they’re what Christians are supposed to be. We’re not supposed to be the heathens that we were before we got saved. Being a Christian is a transformation process—a type of personality change—where we become like Jesus. In fact, that’s one goal of the Christian life: we’re supposed to grow and get better and better until we become like Jesus.  He Himself told us in Luke 6:40, Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher. Jesus, brethren, wants us to become just like Him. This takes a lifetime of growth and learning. And trials are a crucial part of this transformation process.

When things aren’t working out the way they’re supposed to, get alone with God. Ask Him what’s going on. Did you do something wrong? Is He chastening you? What is He trying to teach you? If you haven’t done anything wrong and God hasn’t shown you anything wrong, chances are, God’s allowing these troubles in your life to improve you and make you a better Christian.

There are three things that you need to know about trials. (1) The first thing you need to know is God generally works on one thing at a time. Sometimes He picks your faith and goes to work on that: He uses your trial to teach you to trust Him and keep on trusting Him no matter what happens. Sometimes He singles out your anger and gives you a chance—not to be angry like usual, but a chance to not be angry and instead do the Christian thing and be nice, be kind, be sympathetic and understanding. Sometimes He picks on your patience. It seems to be in rather short supply lately, so He gives you lots of delays in traffic and people who move intolerably slow. You’re tempted to get frustrated and impatient. But the thing that you’ve got to remember is God put these slow-moving people and circumstances deliberately in your way so that you’ll use this opportunity to become patient. Do you see what I mean? A trial focuses on one thing at a time.

When things are going really troublesome for you, instead of blowing up right away and getting exasperated with God and people, take a deep breath, calm down, and ask God what good work He’s trying to do in you today. He’ll let you know if you don’t already know. Then cooperate with Him. Let God do that work of self-improvement in you.

And this brings me to the second thing you need to know about trials. (2) A trial doesn’t end until God finishes what He sets out to do in you. If you cooperate and make the change that God’s looking for, the trial ends quickly. Resist God’s work and the trial drags on. And on. And on. Friends, the trial will end when you’ve changed and improved. God works incrementally. He doesn’t expect 100% on the first go-round. Maturity and growth take time. It’s incremental. You don’t have to be perfect and be a complete angel before the trial gets done. If God sets out to do a 5% improvement in your compassion, that’s when the trial will end—when you’re 5% more compassionate than before. Do you see what I mean? A trial is designed to do one special thing and accomplish one special goal. And when you’ve accomplished God’s goal, that’s when the trial ends. So if the trial is still in progress, if it’s dragging on and on, it’s because God’s purposes haven’t been accomplished yet: you’ve still got some changing and improving to do.

And this brings me to the third and final thing you need to know about trials. (3) Every trial you go through will eventually come to an end. Sooner or later, you’ll fall in line with God’s plan, you’ll make the change, because you want the trial to end. God promised you your trial would end. He said, You will get it. You’ll have what you prayed for. So matter how painful or frustrating the trial may be, endure it with rejoicing just like James 1:2 tells you because you know the trial will eventually end one of these days. God gave you a promise and He will not lie. Believe and obey. And you’ll see God’s promise come true.

So what do you do when life doesn’t pan out and things just aren’t improving or getting any better? Ask God and learn what He’s wanting to do in your life—what areas of your personality, thoughts, or life He’s wanting to change or improve. Concentrate on making the change. The sooner you change, the sooner things pan out just the way God said they would. God bless you with His grace and ever-loving presence.

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