Greeting: God ha said: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Text: 41:9) “I have chose you and not rejected you. 10) So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.: 43:2) “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3a) For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel.”
Intro: Which of these sentences sounds better to you: 1) God promises to supply you with trials – or – 2) God promises to support you in trials? You are going with Number 2? That’s a good choice. So am I. Both the sentences are true. The same loving God speaks about them. He promises His believers in Christ that they will face afflictions and troubles and trials. In John 16:33, Jesus says to His disciples: “In this world you will have trouble.” In Acts 14:22, Paul and Barnabas told the Christians in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch: “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” In 1 Peter 1:6, the Apostle Peter says: “You have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” God definitely promises to supply us with trials to bear. But it is equally true and extremely more comforting to know that the God who arranges for us to go through trials also promises to support us in those trials. Our text from Isaiah 41 and 43 emphasize this great consolation. It is that great, latter promise that will be the focus of our attention today.
God promises to support you in your trials. As we consider this, it may be good for us to think about God’s purposes in placing us in adverse conditions and difficult situations. Trails are tests. In a legal trial, we are testing whether someone is innocent or guilty under the law. In the trials God sends His believers, He is testing us in regard to our faith, our love, our loyalty, our patience and our perseverance. The trials and tests of believers are not punishments for our sins. We may be tempted to think that they are just a payback for things we’ve done wrong. But the Gospel tells us that Jesus has taken all our sin and guilt on Himself and has removed it entirely from us. Our trials are not meant to punish. They are however meant to purify and strengthen us. Peter writes: “These (trials) have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Through our afflictions and troubles, God would cleanse and purge us of the sins that resides in us and flows out of our sinful natures. He uses trials to remove more of the spiritual impurities in our hearts and to increase the strength and purity of faith and life in Christ. These are wonderful and important things. God has good purposes in mind when He has us go through trials.
But the tests God sends our way are difficult – and are more than we can bear and pass in our own wisdom and strength. So God makes us this promise: “I will support you in your trials. I will be present with you as you go through them. I will help you to prevail as you emerge from them.”
1.He Will Be Present With You In Them
As part of His support for us, God tells us that He will be present with us. Listen to Him assure us: “Isaiah 41:9: “I have chosen you and not rejected you. 10) So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. 43:2) When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”
We face many kinds of trials. Our trials may include having to deal with an unreasonable boss at work, a cranky, inconsiderate neighbor, poor government leaders, continuing temptations to sin, false religious teaching that misleads people, false friends, economic hardship, sickness, or a bitter family conflict. As we go through a trying time, we may well be tempted to wonder where God is in all of this. Our human reason doesn’t comprehend God’s plans and purposes very well. Our sinful nature always assumes the worst about God. So in times of trial, it is very tempting for us to think one of two very incorrect things about God. We may be tempted to think God has forgotten us, that God has given His attention to other people and things and has overlooked us and our need. Or worse, we may be tempted to think that God has rejected us, that God has decided that He can’t stand us anymore and has purposely abandoned us.
However, neither of these things is true. God does not forget or forsake His believers. But He knows that in our sinful weakness that we are tempted to think this way, so He assures us: “I have chosen you and not rejected you.” He tells the people that He has made His own through faith in Jesus Christ that they are His. He has chosen them from eternity, called them through His Word in time to know and believe in Christ. They are His people, His disciples, His children. He does not reject them. He welcomes them. He accepts them. He favors them. He sticks by them. In Matthew Jesus tells us that God knows and cares for us so well that He knows even the number of hairs on our head and that not one falls without His permission and notice.
He promises to be with us. He says: “Do not fear, for I am with you. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” Through the prophet Isaiah, God promised the people of Israel that He would be with them during their time of exile in Babylon. He reminded them that He would be with them as they passed through watery or fiery trials of all kinds. No matter the difficulty or danger He would be with them. He would be with them just as He was with the people of Israel as they left Egypt and passed through the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan River to get to the Promised Land. It may be that some of the exiles in Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego took special comfort in God’s promise to be with them through the fire as they dared to defy their king, Nebuchadnezzar, the head of the Babylonian empire and the most powerful man in the world. They refused to dishonor the true God be bowing down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol and ended up being thrown into the fiery furnace. As they were in the fire, a fourth person joined them – the Son of God Himself came to be with them and support them.
This promise of God is also meant for you as God’s child. God is with you in all the trials you face. You are not alone. He is there. He does not spare you the bitter experience. But, He does not intend to destroy you or to drive you away. He stays with you. He watches over you. God knows your needs. He limits the pain and damage that can be done. He gives you His Word to hang onto in the face of adverse circumstances. He hears your prayers for help and answers them. Whatever adversity or affliction you face, you face it with God – a God who cares for you and loves you, a God who accepts you and cherishes you, a God who works through trials to free you from what is harmful and fill you with what is good.
2.He Will Help You Prevail Through Them
When God promises to support us in trials, He not only tells us that He will be present. He also assures us that He will be helpful. Listen to His words: “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” 43:2) “When you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3a) For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel.” God tells us that He will “strengthen, help and uphold us with His power.” God promises us that He will actively work on our behalf in every trial we face.
We are in deep need of this assurance. It is the nature of sinful humanity to tend toward pessimism in the face of afflictions and hardships. We get in a bad spot and we can’t see a way out of it. We face a stubborn challenge and think that it will go on without every ending. We suffer a setback and think that we have lost it all. Our gracious God comes to us in our discouragement and depressive mood and says: “Do not fear, I will help you prevail.” To prevail means to succeed, not fail. It means to win, not lose. It means to come out on top, not sink to the bottom. He will.
In one of the better known Bible promises of support through trials, Saint Paul speaks to us of God’s assistance in 1 Corinthians 10: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” In these verses God lets us know that the trials we face are not unique to us alone. We only face things that others also face. It may seem like we are alone in our trials and are being specially targeted for trouble, but that is not the case. God also says that He lovingly limits our trials for intensity and duration. They will not be stronger or last any longer than we can bear with His help. God promises that He will make sure that we can provide all we need so we can bear up under our trials and emerge successfully through them.
God intends that we can come through our trials successfully. He would have us emerge from our trials renewed, improved and strengthened. God would have us be more keenly aware of our sinful weaknesses and more convinced than before of His pardoning grace. He would have us be comforted so that we can look back on past trials we have gone through as minor and perhaps even trivial. We may look back on some trials and think: “How could I have been so troubled by such a little problem?” God would also have us realize just how blessed we are. The Reformer Martin Luther suggested that for every trial we face, God gives us 100 consolations. We may have a pain that lasts for a few days, we have also been given years of good health. As our God brings us through trials, He gives us greater confidence that God will help us prevail over greater, future trials – even over the great foe of death. As God brings us through trials, He also uses us to assist others who are facing troubles and problems in a faith-led way.
God has given us His sure and proven promises to support us in trials. May He help us cling to and cherish these promises. May He help us focus our hearts on His Word and not on our own worries. May He help us pay attention to His promises and not so much to our problems. Then we will discover in a very personal way that His Word is true and powerful to sustain us and to help us overcome. Your God will support you in all your trials. He will be with you all the time in your trials. He will help you prevail so you will come through them stronger and more richly blessed in Your life. Amen.