"Trial and Temptation under God's Grace", Sermon / 1 Pter 1:3-9 / Pr. Lucas A. Albrecht / 2nd Sunday in Easter April 19th 2020 / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Text: 1 Peter 1:3-9
Theme: “Trial and temptation under God’s Grace”
Intr – “Two hunters came across a bear so big that they dropped their rifles and ran for cover. One man climbed a tree while the other hid in a nearby cave. The bear was in no hurry to eat, so he sat down between the tree and the cave to reflect upon his good fortune. Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, the hunter in the cave came rushing out, almost ran into the waiting bear, hesitated, and then dashed back in again. The same thing happened a second time. When he emerged for the third time, his companion in the tree frantically called out, "Woody, are you crazy? Stay in the cave till he leaves!"
"Can’t" panted Woody, "there’s another bear in there.”
How many bears do you see around these days? Sometimes it’s actually more than one. They are inside our house, in the workplace, out in the street… We are living now with a bear so small that none of us can see, and yet it made the world stop. This is an illustration of the kind of situation that is not rare in our lives: trials and temptations. Now wait…how would we call it? Is it a TRIAL or is it a TEMPTATION? Is there a difference between the two of them?
That’s one of the themes St. Peter addresses in our epistle on which we want to have a closer look today.
1 – Trials and temptations
I asked a few people this question some time ago, “Do we have Trials or Tempations in our lives? Are they the same? Are they different?”
Here’s some of the answers I got:
"_Yes, they are just the same;
_Trial tests my faith. Temptations test my principles;
_In every temptation we have a trial. And the reverse is true too."
Those are not necessarily correct, just a sample of them. But yes, in some ways they look the same. Many times they may come along even in the same occasion. We may think of:
_Means of subsistence;
_”Nobody is seeing what I’m doing…”
And sometimes they may come all together on the same bundle, like this quarantine we are having to endure.
For example: as the Churches started to be closed down because of the quarantine, some questions about faith and faithfulness also came with it. Questions like: “why would we close our Churches, don’t we trust God for our present and our future?” “Wouldn’t suspending Services be a sign that we are yielding to the temptation of doubting that God will protect and provide? For this time of trial should to bring us even closer to Jesus.”
I understand where that comes from, but precaution and obedience to the authorities are not opposed to faith and faithfulness, especially in these times when we have means to be together even when apart mediated by a screen.
Also, I’d like ask you this: do you have insurance for your house? Is your car insured? Do you usually resort to insurance in your life? Now, wouldn’t that be a sign that you don’t trust in God for your future? Actually, wouldn’t it be that having a savings account in the bank would represent the same doubt about God’s providence for the future?
We all have those questions settled these days. But know that for many Christians over a century ago, when insurance started to be sold and bought, it posed a spiritual question just like this one about the virus.
So many situations can bring temptation and trial, and when they come, one of two things usually happens: we may falter and follow a path leading away from Jesus. Or we remain steadfast on track and follow our Savior by the Grace of the Holy Spirit.
There is a major divide between the two paths. We could sum it up in a quote:“Trial is what strengthens my FAITH. Temptation is what tries to push me away from it.”
Temptations - Being manifold they host many different parts (evil, doubt, misuse of our emotions)...at the same time! They push us off of God's lap and away from knowing His grace and love. While His grace and love never leave us, temptations are the tricks and the traps of the devil, the world and our flesh leading us stray from knowing God's love.
Trials - They are manifold, too. These host many different parts, too. However, trials are those situations that draw us nearer to God in faith and trust.
The Bible declares that our God does not tempt us. Yet, we do know that God may sometimes allow trials. These are to strengthen our faith like refining gold by fire. We must make sure we understand well His way of action. We learn from St. Peter that trials happen to those who love the Lord. When you love in faith that’s when you can be tested, otherwise, which faith is that is going to be tested?
Peter knows what he is talking about. He is an example to us and so we can trust that he knew what he was talking about. He experienced both trials and temptations. At times his colorful personality and boldness caused him to fall. But the Lord brought him back as for example in John 21.
2 – Under God’s Grace
Jesus Christ Himself when on Earth who fought all temptations and trials when he walked this earth did it without ever sinning. He went to The Cross giving us faith and strength in all trials. We also have forgiveness of sin when temptations cause us to fall short. Jesus did not have trials for the same reasons we do. And that's because He is God's Son. Instead He suffered, died and rose again so that our faith would be anchored in God's love and grace. That is where we want to be when trials and temptations come.
This is St. Peter’s reminder for Christians of all time: "We have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
Christ work is complete. He took our place and conquered life, death and the devil on our behalf. The resurrection is ours, too. Faith and hope and strength belong to us. He put us under God's grace. That is the safest place in the world for all situations of trials and temptations. Because of Him we face them differently. We face temptations and trials as Children of God under His Grace. That makes all the difference. Completely!
Plus, we have an inheritance, says St. Peter, which is Imperishable, Undefiled and Unfading.There's no temptation or trial that can cause our hope or inheritance to fade away or to be defiled, to perish. We are redeemed children of the Father because of Jesus Christ.
When we are facing temptations that try to make us give up our faith, or when we are undergoing trials that are meant to refine and strengthen our faith, it’s always good to remember that short phrase attributed to Luther – I’m not really sure if he said that – but the phrase is really meaningful:“Pray and let God worry”. Sometimes we try to solve problems, to face temptations and to undergo trials with our own hands, thinking that “Jesus is my copilot, I’m actually the pilot of my life, if I need any advice I’ll ask him.” Pray and let God worry. Christ is the pilot, He is the leader of our life, He guides our life, to green pastures, to still waters. He is the one who comes even when our doors are locked, our houses are locked. As we saw in the Gospel, when the disciples were locked down because of the virus of death that was around them, they thought they were going to be killed. Jesus comes there even with the doors locked and says “Peace be with you”. Jesus comes to your house even when you are locked down there. He says the same thing, through His word. And also, pray and let Me worry. I am the one who does the worrying, and I’ll guide you. Place your trust and faith in me. And follow my commandments; you don’t really need to think that if you follow authorities’ directions that means unfaithfulness. Only when we quit the Word we stop being faithful to God. As we are pinned down to His Word that’s when we know that the Holy Spirit by His action keeps us steadfast in the Word, during trials and temptations.
Cc - So, what about those bears? Yes, they'll keep coming. They'll be there and keep tempting us to give up and say, "There's no God, if there were I wouldn't be in this trouble, the World wouldn’t be in this mess." Now That's TEMPTATION. By faith in Jesus Christ, we see the TRIAL and the FREEDOM it brings. We hear his voice, "I am with you always. I have already fought those bears for you. And, I'll keep fighting the new ones in you and with you. Your strength is in me, in grace and in love."
Make sure that you keep these two things clear: Don't let you faith be misguided by someone who'd promise that being in Christ means no bad things will touch you. St. Peter does not agree with that. And also, don't let your faith be attacked by those who say that in tough times there is no God to help you out. Even though some bears are big and strong, greater and stronger yet is The Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ. The One who protects us in temptation and leads us through every trial under His grace.Amen
 Source of the illustration: http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-sermoncentral-staff-stories-71188.asp