Finding God's Direction for Loss
Sermon Summary
This message seeks to help us find God’s direction during the most difficult times of loss. Whether it's the loss of someone, loss of a marriage, loss of a dream, loss of your health, loss of belongs in a fire, flood, or a financial loss, regardless of the type of loss, if you don't find God's direction for dealing with the loss, the loss will only grow! But God has other plans for you! He wants to get you through your loss and He wants to not only get you through, He wants to use that loss to make you stronger and more confident of His presence in your life than ever before. Our text is James 1:1-8. Five directions for dealing with loss are found in this passage: redefine Joy, finish the test, let perseverance finish its work, it’s okay to ask questions, and make the decision to trust!

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Describe a significant loss you’ve experienced and how God helped you through that loss.

2. A person who has faith in Christ can still have joy when they experience a loss even though they may not be “happy” about the circumstances and may grieve the loss. Explain how the “joy of The Lord” is different from the “happy” of the world.
Psa 94:17  Unless the LORD had given me help, I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
Psa 94:18  When I said, "My foot is slipping," your love, O LORD, supported me.
Psa 94:19  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.

3. God wants us to be mature, complete, and lacking nothing when it comes to our spiritual well being. What are some ways perseverance causes these things to become a reality for us?
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

4. Some have taught that it’s wrong to ever ask questions and that people of faith never have any kind of doubts. The Bible does not support this kind of logic, and according to James when we do have questions we are to ask God for wisdom and be willing to lay aside our doubts, trusting God to lead us through our difficult times. I’ve often said, I have many questions, but the one thing I don’t have to question is God’s love for me, because He proved that on an old rugged cross many years ago.” Your thoughts?
Heb 12:2  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.


Full Sermon Notes
In today's world, it's as important as it's ever been to know what you believe and why you believe what you believe! If we don't know what we believe, the Bible tells us we will be tossed about as the waves upon the sea! But the Bible also supports the words of the song we all just sang. "Our Judge and our Defender, suffered and crucified. Forgiveness is in You. Descended into darkness You rose in glorious life. Forever seated high." When Jesus died on the Cross, Heaven's loss was our gain! God understands loss as much as any human being! He understands what it's like create a life and then have that life turn on Him and even despise Him.

And yet God is such a God of love, He gave up His One and Only Son so that the very people who had rejected their Creator God could have another chance to choose the right path! I can't even imagine the loss God felt on that day when Jesus took my sin, and yours, upon His shoulders at the cross! And yet God is willing to forgive anyone who calls upon Him! In this life we all face loss from time to time in our lives. Some more than others, but we all face it! Let's pray and ask God to help us choose His path for our lives no matter what the circumstances and especially when we experience loss in our lives, no matter what that loss happens to be.  

"Father God, I come humbly to You this morning asking You to grant us the honor and blessing of Your presence in this place. As we seek to discover Your direction for our lives especially during times of loss, we need Your guidance, Your peace, Your strength, Your presence. Moment by moment, minute by minute as we seek to breath when we hurt, when we seek to find reasons to go on, when we try desperately to find answers to the questions that crowd our minds and hearts. When we can't see a way clear, a way out, a way beyond, a way forward, a way through, a way up, help us look up and seek Your Face, Your voice, Your hand, Your Spirit! Life is filled with loss and the reality that loss  is inevitable. However, we remember Your promises. The promise to hear our prayers, to listen to our prayers, to answer our prayers, and the promise to never leave us alone or helpless! Lord, I pray You'll continue to hold our Brothers and Sisters in Charlotte, North Carolina close to Your side. Give them strength to continue to trust You in their loss. As always, hide me behind the Cross and let Your Holy Spirit speak Your words through Your servant and I will be quick to give You all the honor and glory You are due!! In Jesus Name I pray and believe, Amen!!"

The tragedy that happened in Charleston, South Carolina a few weeks ago, talk about the pain of loss, and yet one of the most astounding things is that many of the victim's family members talked of forgiveness. Their loss was so great, and Satan had taken so much from them, however, their response to their loss, prevents Satan from taking even more! And, yes, when you experience a loss in your life, whether it's a loss of someone, the loss of a marriage, the loss of a dream, loss of your health, a financial loss, the loss of belongs in a fire, flood, or other disaster, regardless of the type of loss, if you don't find God's direction for dealing with the loss, the loss will only grow!

But God has other plans for you! He wants to get you through your loss and He wants to not only get you through, He wants to use that loss to make you stronger and more confident of His presence in your life than ever before. Now I'm going to read you our text for today. At first glance, God's instructions may  counter intuitive and even a bit strange or even impossible. Let's read and discover some instructions for dealing with loss in James 1:1-8...

James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;
8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Direction #1
Redefine Joy

Wait a minute! Did he just say "Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds?" You've got to be kidding! That's just plain crazy. There's nothing fun about trials, tribulation and loss! Notice, James said consider it pure joy, he didn't say consider it pure fun or happiness. You see, there's a difference between joy and happiness.
Happiness is dependent on circumstances. If things are great, if things are good, if things are comfortable, if things are fun, then I'm happy! But here's the problem. Circumstances change! Constantly! So happy comes and goes by the week, day, or even hour. But joy is deeper than happy. It's not dependent on circumstances.

Wait a minute, aren't joy and happy the same thing? I'm not talking about the joy of the world, because the world's definition of joy is basically the same as happy. They are synonyms. The world bases it's joy on feelings of pleasure! And that's where the problem lies. Circumstances change so feelings change.

The joy James is talking about is the joy of the Lord! It's a joy that gives us the confidence to continue to have hope no matter what the circumstances! Why? Because we know God has promised to never leave us or forsake us, and God can turn suffering into glory. Listen…

Romans 8:17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs —heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

So when my circumstances look horrible, I take joy in knowing God can take the worst day of my life and use it as an example of His glory that shines in my life even through the worst of days! So when I'm having a bad day, or experiencing a loss, I try to remind myself to expect God to do something glorious in the midst of my trial.

Listen to what the writer of Romans says just a few verses later...

Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,
who have been called according to his purpose.

Did you notice that God's Word does not say all things are good, but that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose? Amazing! And did you notice that God's Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness and when we don't know how to pray, The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express? Folks, trials, tribulations, hardships, loss, these things are a part of life. All of us have faced them or will face them. It's a part of being alive.

But we have a joy that cannot be taken away even by the worst of circumstances. We won't always be happy about things, but we can always know that our God can make good come out of the bad! When we lose, especially when we lose a loved one, we cry! We weep! We morn! We are sad, but we still have a hope. A blessed hope. Listen...

1 Thessalonians  4:13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.
14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

Direction #2
Finish the Test!

James 1:3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

There will be a test, in fact more than one! But with God's help we can pass every test that comes our way! We are not alone when we take our test! Our teacher is super cool. Our teacher sees us struggling with our test and comes to our desk and says, "Let me help you! I want you to finish. I'll personally explain things to you." I love the way Peter put in his first letter. Check this out...

1 Peter 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade —kept in heaven for you,
5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is
ready to be revealed in the last time.
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
7 These 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.
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Did you hear that? We have a living hope! No matter what you've lost. If it's a loved one, we have a living hope we'll see them again, and if it's a dream you've lost, God's got a plan for that and He may have a better dream for you than anything you could have dreamed up on your own! This takes us to our third direction...

Direction #3
Let perseverance do it's job!

James 1:4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

What this means is we are not to quit! We are not to give up! No matter how bleak things may seem, no matter how terrible the loss, no matter how much it hurts, we must have faith that God will help us find an unexplainable joy even when we're not happy, He will help us pass any test no matter how difficult! But the natural response to loss is the opposite of trust. It is the opposite of perseverance. Let me give you some examples and you may be there today or have been there at some point in the past...

I’ll never live again, not really!
I’ll never trust again, I just can’t!
I’ll never marry again, I’d just mess that up too!
I’ll never try again, my dream was stupid anyway!
I’ll never get it right, I’m just a failure!
I’ll never let it go, what they did was just wrong!
I’ll never feel better, it would mean I’ve forgotten the one I lost!
I’ll never be able to pray again, I’m such a hypocrite!
I’ll never be able to please God after what I’ve done!
I’ll never forgive myself, I was an idiot!
I’ll never have another opportunity like that, I’ve totally messed up God’s plan for my life!

Jesus says to all of the above…"

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Your burden may not be light, your load may be so heavy you can't take another step, but when you come to Jesus, He help's you carry the burden. In fact, He'll carry it for you if you'll let Him! He will give you rest for your soul! God doesn't want you to fail. Like I said, He'll help you pass the test! He wants you to persevere so for at least three reasons. When we persevere, we grow spiritually mature, we find completeness in Christ, and we become equipped for living life for Christ! Let's read that verse again...

James 1:4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Sometimes loss and defeat are the very things that equip us to do extraordinary things! This is not only true spiritually, but in every area of our lives. We may be tempted to give up, but there's so many reasons not to give up. Watch this video clip for some very practical examples...

https://www.bluefishtv.com/Products/Downloadable_Video_Illustrations/1378/Famous_Failures

Now how about spiritually, emotionally and mentally? When we suffer loss, how does perseverance, sticking with it, staying in the game, continuing to have faith when all seems lost, how does perseverance work? Check out the definition of persevere...

Persevere: to persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly

I love that! To maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement! No matter what your loss, it is so important that you not lose your purpose in Christ. It is so important that you not lose sight of what God wants you to accomplish. The trials and tribulations and the losses we experience in this life are temporary. What we gain by persevering through loss is eternal.

One of the greatest examples to me of someone who understood this principle and who maintained a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles and discouragement is Paul the Apostle. After he decided to follow Jesus he basically lost everything he had worked so hard to gain. You might remember, Paul was a member of the religious elite and the ruling party who sought to stamp out Christianity. Paul was a rising star in this group. But listen to what Paul said after finding his Joy in the Lord instead of personal achievement...

Philippians 3:7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Direction #4
It's okay to ask questions!

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Some people, when dealing with a loss, feel it's wrong to ask questions. They think they should never question God as to why something happened. However, we see many examples in Scripture where people asked questions. Job asked questions. Martha was bewildered that Jesus had not been there when her brother died. They were not reprimanded for asking questions. You need to understand it's natural to want to know why! It's also natural to deal with anger about a loss. Whether it's a person, a job, a marriage, a dream, whatever. I've told you many times, "God is big enough to handle, your questions and even your anger!" We're even told in our text for today, to ask God for wisdom when we don't have it and He says He'll give generously to all without finding fault. You see, He won't jump down your throat for asking the questions and admitting you don't understand! However, sometimes we get bad advice from well meaning people. Chaplain Ray Guinta gave some examples in a his book on grief recovery...

"Don't think about it. Think Happy Thoughts."

You're going to think about it! And remember, there's a difference between happy and the joy of The Lord. Your thoughts won't always be happy thoughts, but God will help you overcome the negative and the depressing thoughts.

"Life goes on."

Yes it does, but that doesn't make it easy and that sure doesn't answer my questions.

"Just get over it."

Wish I could my friend, but that's not natural and if you were in my shoes you would want to punch me for saying that!

"Just get ahold of yourself."

How about I let God get ahold of me and help me, because your sure not helping!

"Don't talk about it so much."

Ok, so you don't want to deal with my pain, because it makes you uncomfortable and reminds you it could be you! That's okay, God has no time limits for His counseling services! The Psalmist put it this way...

Psalm 42:2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.
5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and
6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon —from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.

Direction #5
Make the decision to Trust!

James 1:6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;
8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Ok, some people have tried to use these verses to say we should never have questions and a person of faith never has doubts. I don't believe that's what James is trying to say here. However, I do believe we have to come to a decision at some point. Are we going to put this in God's hands and trust Him to help us get beyond our loss? You see, if we never find any kind of resolution, and we never make the decision to trust God's heart and His guidance will will be unstable and double-minded, because one day we'll trust and the next day we won't. At some point, you do have to make the decision to trust that God does care about you and will help you!

Jeremiah put it this way...

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

At this point some of you might point out someone who is terminally ill and you would be tempted to ask, "How its that God prospering them and not harming them?" To which I would say, "I don't have all the answers to things like that, but I know cancer was not in God's original plan, and neither was death.

However, it is a part of this life. But hear me on this. If God still has a work for you to do here, then He will give you whatever level of health and strength and time to accomplish His plans for you, and if it's your time to graduate to glory, then your hope and your future are simply in a better place! Jeremiah continues to quote God's Words...

Jeremiah 29:12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

I don't know what kind of loss you're dealing with, but I know this…God has a plan for you and if you're willing to ask Him to show you the way and to give you guidance, He promises to do just that!! Let's pray!!