(from the Breath of Life Series by C. D. Brooks)

transcribed and edited by Derek Morris

Our subject tonight is the “The Discipline of Trials.” I want to begin by reading to you a beautiful passage from God’s Word. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. The Bible says, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” Paul refers to God as “the God of all comfort.” There are times when we need someone to speak comfort to our hearts, don’t we? Because our hearts are tender and our hearts are often broken, and our hearts are often distressed.

“The Discipline of Trials.” In 2 Timothy 3:12 the Bible says, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” That’s a challenging place to begin, because the implication is that if you’re not suffering anything, you’re not living godly. Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re involved in a great controversy. A war between good and evil; between light and darkness; between truth and error; between the Prince of Heaven, our splendid Christ and the Prince of Darkness, the supreme demon, the Devil himself. The war, the controversy, is fought over every person that is rescued from the enemy. The minute you step off his enchanted ground and make yourself available to Christ, the Devil despises you, and will do everything in his power to discourage you, and to drive you back into his own haunts. Christians have got to be intelligent about this. Would you say Amen out there?

The Lord forecasted this when He was with His disciples. He said, “Some of you are going to be cast into prison, you’re going to suffer.” But He made a promise, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against My church” (Matthew16:18). I’m going to allow My people to go through it for their own good. I’m going to suffer it to be so. But I declare unto you that the power of Christ and the power of His Word is a keeping power. And though they are tried and tested, the Devil will not be able to take them out of My hand. The gates of hell will not prevail against the church.

For the first several years of the Christian era, Pagan Rome was no problem at all to the Christian Church. They had it listed in their chronicles as religio lissitae, or permitted religion. Now, the Romans were very jealous about their own religion, and any religion that they considered to be a threat to their own, they would stamp out if they could. But they listed Judeo-Christian religion as religio lissitae, or permitted religion. They considered it so ridiculous that it was not a threat at all to their state religion. They had many gods, and of course, Caesar was Pontifax Maximus, the supreme god, from which we get the word Pontif.

But then on July 19, 69 A.D., Rome caught on fire. The Emperor at that time was Nero. You’ve heard that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Historians accuse him of setting it on fire, because he had a passion for building cities. Rome at that time was a city of wooden tenements, and the houses could go up wickedly in flames. It was an ugly town. Historians say Nero wanted to redo the capital city, so he had his men set the city on fire. And while it may not be true that he played the fiddle while Rome burned, Tassitus says that “Nero stood in the window of his palace and watch the fire, enchanted by the loveliness and the flower of the flames.” There was one thing he didn’t count on, however: These Romans were all pagans, and they had their little gods in their homes as well. When the flames swept across Rome, they began to lose their household gods, and folks don’t like giving up their gods.

By the way, whatever receives your first love is your god. You don’t have to bow down to a stone to be an idolater. If your job or your position or your prestige or your car or your home or even your family or friends are more important than Christ, they become your god. When you fool with people’s gods, they get stubborn and they wriggle and squirm. And they don’t like it when you bother their gods. Many a man would join the church if he could keep his god in his pocket and nip on it now and then. But when the preacher says “No,” then he starts fighting the church.

Well, Caesar burned up these folks’ gods and a revolution was in the making. The Emperor Nero needed a scapegoat. Since Christians were falling into disrepute by now, Christians became his scapegoat, and according to historians, he blamed them for burning Rome. For Christians were already becoming unpopular, and I want to tell you why. One reason was that truth saves individuals. It comes in and divides families. Jesus said, “A man’s foes shall by they of his own household” (Matthew 10:33).

All of a sudden, in the homes of the Romans, Christianity was making inroads. Husbands who were clinging to heathenism saw their wives joining the Christian church, and they began to fight against the church. And so with popular sentiment turning against Christians, Nero decided to use them as a scapegoat. He blamed them for burning Rome, and from that time forth Christianity was branded religio ilissetae, a forbidden religion. Pagan Rome began systematically exterminating Christians, putting them to death by the thousands.

The persecution that broke out in Rome reached the far corners of the empire. In every hamlet and province, Christians were rounded up and fed to wild animals, and made the sport of the crowds in the stadiums, and were pulled apart by teams of wild horses. If you think I’m kidding, go to your library and read about it. The Romans did this to the Christian Church.

There were some of the Apostles still alive. By the way, it was under Nero that the Apostle Paul was put to death. While this persecution was going on, Peter wrote his epistles, not so much to exhort people to doctrine, but to try to encourage them in the face of fiery trials. Read 1st and 2nd Peter, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. In 1 Peter 4:12-16: “Don’t count it strange when fiery trials come as though something strange happened to you.”

I’m telling you that tonight: When you make up your mind to serve God, the Devil turns against you. But I’d rather be on the Lord’s side than on the Devil’s side any day! Would you say Amen? And yet it’s true; when you make up your mind to serve God, the Devil turns against you. But the Bible says that the Devil can’t do anything except what God allows him to do. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Let’s say Amen out there!

So while God is in control, and while the Devil can only do what God permits him to do, the Devil tries to scare you to death. His number one weapon is fear. 1 Peter 5:8. The Bible says, “Be sober, be vigilant, for your adversary the Devil, like a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.”

One day I walked through the zoo in London. I never will forget it. I was walking past the lion cage and there was this big bull lion there. He was pacing back and forth in that cage, and all the while his eyes were on me. After a while, one of the zoo keepers came over and I asked, “What’s wrong with him? Why is he walking back and forth like that?”

He said, “The lions nature is to destroy, and he is walking up and down that cage looking for a weak spot. Looking for a door that might be left open. If there were any opportunity, he would be out of there destroying life, just as quick as you could say Jack Rabbit!”

The Bible says the Devil is like a roaring lion. He’s walking about looking for your weak spot, looking for an open door. If your weakness is cheating, he’s got folks out there who’ll encourage you to live crooked. If your problem is booze, he’ll have people after you to drink who don’t even know your name. If your problem is that you’re ultra-sensitive, he’ll have people stepping on your toes twenty-four hours a day. As a roaring lion, he walketh about your character looking for weakness.

His greatest weapon is fear. I read recently that the bull lion seldom kills. It’s the lioness that does that. But when the bull lion is good and hungry, he stands up, fills his chest with air, and lets out a blood curdling roar that is so devastating in its effect that the other animals stand and tremble. They can’t even run; they are immobilized by his roar. He hasn’t even touched them, but they can’t even run because he roared.

A lot of us are just like that with the Devil. He tries to fill us with fear about obeying the Lord. Why, if you decide to keep the Sabbath you might lose your job. You haven’t lost it yet, trembling already. He goes about seeking whom he may devour.

The Apostle said, Don’t act like something strange has happened when the Devil gets on your case. The only reason he left you alone before is because you were his friend. But when you give him up and take hold of the hand of the Lord, he comes after you with his fangs bared. In a thousand ways he comes after you. Peter said in 1 Peter 3:14, “Happy are ye when ye are called upon to suffer for Christ’s sake.” Jesus said the same thing in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Verse 10: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Would you say Amen? Verse 11: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake.” Jesus said, “Rejoice and be exceeding glad . . . for great is your reward in heaven!”

This is the tone of the New Testament. Paul said, Fight the good fight…run with patience…strive till the end…wrestle not against flesh and blood. All these indicate struggle. And when you make up your mind to serve God, you’ve got to run, you’ve got to fight, you’ve got to wrestle, you’ve got to strive. Would you say Amen? That’s the way it is.

But I want to tell you something: all of the struggles and all of the trials down here are nothing compared to what God has prepared for His people. Would you say Amen? I realize that some folks laugh at that. They call it pie in the sky, sweet by and by. Well, they can call it what they want to. But there is also going to be a hell on earth, by and by. It’s a matter of choice; a matter of where you want to go and what you want to do.

Now, what about the men who wrote these words to us? It’s one thing to give someone advice. It’s another thing to go through it yourself. Well, I want to tell you, Peter was beaten, Peter was in prison, and finally they led him out into the piazza in Rome to be crucified. It is recorded that he asked to be crucified upside-down, for he said, “I am not worthy to die the way Jesus died.” A man who went through all of that said to you and me, “Rejoice when you suffer for Christ’s sake!”

Well, what about Paul? He spent so much time in jail, you could call him an ex-con! He was locked up in dungeons, his hands and feet in chains. In fact, most of the New Testament was written by Paul from a prison cell. He said in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice.” He wrote that from a prison cell in Rome.

Paul says, “I’ll rejoice wherever I go and whatever happens to me because I know that Christ Jesus is with me, and I know that He is working all things together for good to them that love the Lord!” Would you say Amen? Well, what good came out of Paul’s prison stay in Rome? At the end of his letter to the church in Philippi he says, “Greetings from all, including those from Caesar’s palace!” While Paul was there imprisoned at Rome, he obviously did a little preaching to the prison guards, and some of those guards must have given their lives to Christ. You see, it doesn’t matter where you are, or how much you’re suffering, you can always give a testimony for Jesus Christ. Their witness must have reached the palace of the Caesar, and even there God’s Word found receptive hearts. Praise the Lord, He has children in the most unexpected places, and when they hear His voice and when they hear His truth, they’re coming out! Would you say Amen? Yes, even in Paul’s suffering there in Rome, God was working out His purpose.

Look at the disciples. Every one of them was put to death except John, and history records that they put John in a pot of boiling oil, and when that didn’t kill him they sent him off the Isle of Patmos as a prisoner for life. And yet while he was there on that desolate Isle, he received the thrilling Revelation of Jesus Christ recorded in the last book of the Bible.

The Bible says, “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord, to them who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). So get your chin up off the ground. It’s a privilege to suffer for Jesus’ sake. Would you say Amen? Jesus did not take the easy way when He walked on this earth. The Devil took Jesus up on to a high mountain and said to Him, “I know why You are here. You’ve come to redeem this world. Well, I tell You what, according to Isaiah 53, in order to get it back You are going to have to be bruised and wounded for the transgressions of the people. That’s hard, Jesus. I tell you what I’ll do. If You just bow down and worship me one time, I’ll give it to You.” Friends, I want to tell you something. You watch out when the Devil starts making deals. You especially watch out when he offers you something easy. If Christ would have worshipped the Devil, He would have sinned, because sin is the transgression of the law, and the first commandment says, “Thou shalt never have gods before me.” If Christ had bowed down to the Devil, He would have become a sinner, and could not have saved anybody. Christ saw the temptation, easy or hard, and the Bible says Jesus took hold of the sharp two edged sword of the Word of God and said, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve.” And as He thrust the sword of God’s Word into the Devil’s smooth sounding lies, the Devil and all his evil host had to take off. Jesus said, “Get behind Me, Satan,” and the Devil had to flee. I want you to know that the Devil still has to obey the Lord. Would you say Amen?

Christ did not take the Devil’s easy way, and neither did His followers. When they brought Paul out of prison in Rome, and led him out to the place of execution, the crowd was there to see how the old man would react. What would he do now that he was facing the axe? Paul had just written to the young preacher Timothy, “I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith. Henceforth is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the Righteous Judge will give me on that day.” I don’t want you to miss that. People sometimes see you trying to serve the Lord and they want to become your judge. They’ll judge you as crazy or silly or old-fashioned or something. They’ll go against you every time. But Paul said, “These folks judge me and after looking at all I’ve done they’ve decided in their judgment the only thing I’m good for is to have my head cut off. But,” he said, “I want you to know, there is another Judge, the Lord our Righteous Judge, and He is going to give me a crown of righteousness on that day.” And then he got to thinking about you and me and he said, “And not to me only, but to all those who love His appearing.” Would you say Amen?

Willing to suffer trials for Christ’s sake; but I want you to listen to me now. While God allows trials to come our way, He is not the author of suffering. The Bible says that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. God made a perfect world. It was the Devil who turned it into a place of sickness and disaster and death. And yet, every time the Devil messes you up he whispers in your ear, Blame God, blame God. And people walk around saying, “Why did God do this?” A man goes out and gets drunk, gets into a fight and gets his throat cut. Why did God do it? The fool did it to himself. Jump into a car and go racing down the road at ninety miles per hour and hit a tree; the tree isn’t going to move. Then he wants to know why God did it. Blaming God for what the Devil does. Friends, God does not cause suffering; the Devil does.

“Ah,” but you say, “the Devil may cause it but God has to allow it.” There are two things that need to be said in response to that comment. First of all, if you turn your back on God, and reject His leading, you are at the Devil’s mercy. You’ve already made your choice. But it is also true that there are times when God does permit suffering to come upon His children.

Consider with me the story of Job. The Devil said to God, “You’ve got a follower down on earth named Job. But he only follows You because You bless him. Stretch out Your hand and take all that he has and he will curse You to Your face.” And God decided to let the Devil see that a righteous man can be righteous even in the face of trials. And so God says, “All that Job has you may touch; only don’t touch him.” Did you get it? The Devil wanted God to take the blame: You touch him. But God said, “No, I don’t touch people with pestilence and disaster and death. You touch him. That’s your activity, you rotten Devil. You’ve been touching My children ever since Adam and Eve. You touch him; only don’t touch his body.”

Well, the Devil set to his evil work, and in the space of twenty-four hours the Devil destroyed his cattle, his sheep, his camels, even all of his sons and daughters. That man was emptied of all of his earthly riches. The only thing he had left was his wife, and the only reason the Devil left her alive was because she was on his side. She said to Job, “Why don’t you curse God and die?”

And Job replied, “You talk like a foolish woman. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

So the Devil went running back.

God said, “You see. He’s true to Me.”

But the Devil said, “You wouldn’t let me touch his body. You touch his flesh and he’ll curse You.”

Again God says, “You touch him; only don’t take his life.” And Job is afflicted with boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet.

Then the Devil sent in some rationalizing hypocrites to chastise him. They said, “Job, the reason you’re in such bad shape you’re not a real follower of God. You’re a phony.”

Job’s faith shook in a balance. But finally, inspite of his suffering, Job reached out in faith and he said to those rascals, “Listen to me, though He slay me yet will I trust in Him.” Would you say Amen? Job didn’t know what was going on, but he refused to give up his hold on God.

Why did God allow such suffering to come upon Job? Why did God permit the Devil to abuse one who trusted in the God of heaven? I have one reason. God knew if Job could stand the test, his experience, his witness, his testimony would help Derek Morris down in 1983. If the Devil had known how many folks would have been helped by Job’s experience, he would have left him alone.

Now, the Bible does say that when suffering and sickness comes there is something we can do. We can pray. I believe in the power of prayer, tonight, don’t you? The Bible says that the prayer of faith will heal the sick (James 5:15). I believe that the same Jesus who healed the sick when He walked upon the earth can heal today. Would you say Amen? But the Bible also says that God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we want Him to. James 4:3 tells us why. “Ye ask and receive not because ye ask amiss.” We pray for the wrong things or we forget to pray, “Thy will be done.”

God doesn’t always heal everybody. Otherwise none of His children would ever die. Think about it. The Apostle Paul had a sickness, a thorn in the flesh he called it, and three times he prayed for God to take it away. But God didn’t heal Paul because God is wiser than Paul. And Paul, reflecting on that said, “I’d rather glory in my infirmity.” He said, The reason God didn’t heal me is so that I would not be exalted above measure. Paul would have been so proud he would have gone to hell. Great preacher, great leader. The Lord said, Paul I want to remind you to trust in Me. Listen to what the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee; for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly will I therefore rather glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Would you say Amen?

Ladies and Gentlemen, every time you ask in prayer, God doesn’t say “yes.” Sometimes He says “no,” for your benefit. The Bible says in Romans 8:26 that we don’t know how to pray as we ought, “but the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.” You get down on your knees and say I need forty thousand dollars, but the Holy Spirit says, Lord don’t give it to him. If You do, he’ll stop praying to You. He’ll just go out and waste it on a new car. He won’t help the poor. Don’t give it to him, for his own good. Sometimes God says “no.” That’s why the Christian says, “Thy will be done.”

You may have to make the choice that Moses had to make. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:25, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God.” Did you get that? Moses said, I’d rather face trails and even suffering and be numbered with God’s people than live the life of a worldly monarch and be lost. Would you say Amen?

God’s got a challenge for you. You’ve got a decision you’ve got to make and the Devil is going to give you a thousand excuses. God’s going to test you and see if you love Him enough to follow Him no matter what.

People come to me and say, “Well, you know, if the Lord would give me a job, I would obey Him.” Who do we think we are to make a deal with the Lord? Folks who make deals have something to offer. What do we have to offer God? A real Christian doesn’t fool with God like that. A real Christian says, “Lord, whatever Your will is, here am I ready to do Your will, and if I suffer, I suffer, and if I perish, I perish.” That’s the kind of surrender the Lord is waiting for. Would you say Amen? I want to tell you something tonight. When you’ve made that kind of commitment, you have nothing to fear. Though the trails come, though you may be called upon like Job to suffer, it’s all going to turn out right in the end. Let’s say Amen out there.

One of my favorite stories is about a little boy who loved to read stories about a certain sheriff. Every time he saw a new book in the series, he would buy it. That sheriff was his hero. One night he was reading in his room and as his father was walking down the hallway he heard a noise. So he stopped by the door to his son’s bedroom and listened. His little boy was laughing. And every once in a while the boy would say, “If you only knew what I know,” and he would laugh a little more.

Finally the father could contain his curiosity no longer and so he knocked on the door and went in. “Son,” he said, “what in the world are you doing, and who are you talking to?”

“Oh,” said his little boy, “I’m sorry. I got so involved in my book and I got carried away.”

“Well, what were you laughing about? And why did you keep repeating ‘If you only knew what I know’?”

“Well, Daddy,” said the boy, “I’ll tell you what it was. This book was different from all the others. In every other book this sheriff was the toughest man in town, and whenever the outlaws came, he took care of them. He beat them up and threw them in jail. He drove them out of town.

“But when I bought this book it was discouraging. A bad outlaw came into town and when the sheriff went to take care of him the outlaw made a laughing stock of him. He beat him up. And every time the sheriff met this fellow, the outlaw outdid him.

“And Daddy, I got so discouraged I decided to throw the book in the trash can. But I got an idea. I decided to go to the back of the book to see how this thing turned out. And when I got over there, you know what, Daddy? The time came when the sheriff and the outlaw had a showdown. And the sheriff was up to him this time. He caught the outlaw by the nape of his neck, threw him out of the building, beat him up in the street, dragged him off to jail, and put him behind bars. The sheriff won.”

The little boy said, “Daddy, when I saw how the thing was going to turn out, I didn’t mind reading the rest of it. Every time that outlaw seemed to be getting the upper hand I couldn’t help laughing and saying, ‘Fellow, if you only knew what I know!’”

It’s going to turn out right in the end. Would you say Amen out there? Though the way may be rough, though trials may come our way, though we may suffer for Christ’s sake, we know it’s going to turn out right in the end.

So trust in the Lord, and make the decision to follow Him no matter what comes. In Philippians 3:8 the Bible says, “Yea, doubtless and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and I do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” Let everyone say Amen! The prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 65:17 that in God’s new earth the former things will not be remembered.

In the home of the redeemed, life will be so filled with joy that we won’t even be able to remember the trials that seem so big to us right now. So fill your heart with gratitude and songs of praise and your burdens will roll away. The dark clouds will split asunder and the sun will come out in your life, and God will hang a rainbow in your sky. We know it’s going to turn out right. Would you say Amen?

I’ve decided in my heart tonight that I’m going to serve the Lord come what may. How many of you here tonight want to join me in that commitment? If you do, stand up with me now as we pray.

Blessed Lord. You know our hearts. Have mercy on us, we pray. We’re standing tonight to let You know that we want to serve You, come what may. We want You to be first and last and best in our lives. We want to do Your will no matter what the cost. Lord, You know the trials and the sufferings that we face. You know the hearts that are breaking. You know those who wet the pillows with their tears. Lord, I’m praying tonight that You will draw close to us. Help us in accordance with Your will. May we have the grace to surrender our lives completely and turn burdens and cares over to You. May the day soon come when we will all rejoice in the coming of our Lord. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Send Your Holy Spirit to work on our hearts that we might make that complete surrender to You and to Your will. This we humbly pray in Jesus’ name. Let everybody say, “Amen.”

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