Trials – Consider it Joy
MBC, June 3, 2012
WHAT TASK OR PROJECT HAVE YOU ACCOMPLISHED THAT REQUIRED GREAT PERSEVERENCE?
James is the one book that either you love or you don’t. It is written in a different style than any of the other New Testament books. (Christian HOW TO book). It is more like Proverbs than any of Paul’s writings. It steps on our toes and pushes us to the next level of our Christian walk. It focuses on our relationship with Jesus in practical and sometimes painful ways. James emphasizes that our actions are outgrowths of our faith. He never says that we must have works to be saved, but he does imply that if we don’t have works, there is no evidence of God working in our lives.
James will take us through a journey to draw us closer to our Lord. It is BIG PICTURE LIVING. He begins with an incredible statement about trials and testing in our life. James will tell us what trials and struggle are good for and how we should respond to them in our lives. He also tells us about wisdom – what we need and how to ask for it.
READ James 1:1-8 – We must MAINTAIN PERSPECTIVE with problems
ACCORDING TO JAMES, WHAT SHOULD A CHRISTIAN’S ATTITUDE BE WHEN FACING TRIALS? Count it all joy – are you kidding James?
Christians should view the difficulties of life with enthusiasm. Why? The outcome WILL be beneficial. The joy James is referring to is not a feeling of happiness. The word happy gets its origin from the word “happenstance” in which we get our word circumstance. Individuals get happy based on their circumstances. Joy comes from a deep knowledge of knowing that God is in control no matter the circumstance. Joy is an active acceptance of adversity because of the foundation of God’s Will.
A man whom many believe was the greatest American president is a good example. When he was 7 years of age, his family was forced out of their home, and he went to work. When he was 9, his mother died. He lost his job as a store clerk when he was 20. He wanted to go to law school, but he didn’t have the education. At age 23 he went into debt to be a partner in a small store. Three years later the business partner died, and the resulting debt took years to repay.
When he was 28, after courting a girl for four years, he asked her to marry him, and she turned him down. On his third try he was elected to Congress, at age 37, but then failed to be re-elected. His son died at 4 years of age. When this man was 45, he ran for the Senate and lost. At age 47 he ran for the vice-presidency and lost. But at age 51 he was elected president of the United States.
The man was Abraham Lincoln, a man who learned to face discouragement and move beyond it. Did you know that it was Abraham Lincoln who, in the midst of the Civil War, in 1863, established the annual celebration of Thanksgiving? Lincoln had learned how important it is to stop and thank God in the midst of great difficulties.
— John Yates, “An Attitude of Gratitude,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 110.
HOW OFTEN IS THIS YOUR ATTITUDE IN YOU OWN HARD TIMES?
The word “trials” has the dual sense of ADVERSITY (disease, persecution, or tragedy) and TEMPTATIONS (lust, greed, or trust in wealth). James is not urging us to seek trials in order to be joyful. Trials will come whether we want them or not. This is the world we live in. We, however, have the CHOICE in how we respond. James assumes good results.
C.S. Lewis likened God’s use of adversity to walking a dog. If the dog gets its leash wrapped around a pole and tries to continue running forward, he will only tighten the leash more. Both the dog and the owner are after the same end, forward motion, but the owner must resist the dog by pulling him opposite the direction he wants to go. The master, sharing the same intention but understanding better than the dog where he really wants to go, takes an action precisely opposite to that of the dog’s will. It is in this way that God uses adversity.
WHY IS ENDURING IMPORTANT?
Perseverance is an active overcoming, rather that passive acceptance. It is not automatic. It takes time and effort. (running second 5k and not wanting to finish)
There is a story of a British soldier in the First World War who lost heart for the battle and deserted. Trying to reach the coast for a boat to England that night, he ended up wandering in the pitch black night, hopelessly lost. In the darkness he came across what he thought was a signpost. It was so dark that he began to climb the post so that he could read it. As he reached the top of the pole, he struck a match to see and found himself looking squarely into the face of Jesus Christ. He realized that, rather than running into a signpost, he had climbed a roadside crucifix. Brown explained, “Then he remembered the One who had died for him — who had endured — who had never turned back. The next morning the soldier was back in the trenches. ”
As a runner, when you are tired, afraid and discouraged, the best way I know to get your second wind is to strike a match in the darkness and to look on the face of Jesus Christ.
— “To Illustrate”, Preaching Magazine, Jan.-Feb. 1989.
WHAT REWARD COMES WITH ENDURING IN THE FAITH?
Becoming mature and complete, lacking nothing. The reward is maturity, completion.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “MATURE AND COMPLETE” (VS. 4)?
James means wholeness of character. He is NOT calling for some sort of perfection or sinless ness. Instead, the emphasis is on moral blamelessness. To be mature is to have reached a certain stage or to have fulfilled a given purpose. An example is of an animal prepared for sacrifice. It must be of the right age, without spot or blemish to be acceptable to God. The opposite of mature and complete is LACKING. The imagery here is of an army which has been defeated or a person who has failed to reach a certain standard.
WHO DO YOU KNOW THAT YOU THINK COULD BE DESCRIBED THIS WAY?
Elected officials, teams that lose championship, failed course/grade/test, etc
WHAT CHARACTERISTICS DO YOU SEE IN THIS PERSON’S LIFE?
Defeat, discouragement, etc.
VERSE 7 TELLS US THAT A DOUBTER NEED NOT EXPECT TO RECEIVE ANYTHING FROM THE LORD. HOW DOES THIS FIT WITH VERSE 5 WHICH SAYS THAT GOD “GIVES TO ALL GENEROUSLY AND WITHOUT CRITICIZING?”
Unanswered prayer is connected to the quality of the asking, not to the unwillingness of God to give.
IF YOU EVER EXPERIENCE DOUBTS ABOUT YOUR FAITH, DOES THAT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT YOU ARE “UNSTABLE IN ALL YOUR WAYS”?
To doubt is to be in two minds – to believe and disbelieve at the same time – to be torn between two decisions: one good and one bad. To be indecisive is to have two heads – a freak or dead. If we doubt that God will give to His children, we are not going to be in the position to ever receive from Him.
Did you doubt I would be here today? Why not? God has proven He is faithful much more than I have. We must trust Him
WHAT IS A TRIAL YOU HAVE FACED IN YOUR LIFE? WHAT HELPED YOU THROUGH IT?
READ James 1:9-11
HOW DOES JAMES TURN THE ASSUMED STATUS OF RICH AND POOR UPSIDE DOWN? Why glory in humiliation? Rejoice in God who keeps us humble and helps us to seek God for happiness.
Even though James’ readers viewed wealth as a sign of blessing from God, James warns those with wealth. With riches, people come to trust in wealth as a source of security. It is a mark of double-mindedness to attempt to serve both God and money
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT THE WAY YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR OWN FINANCIAL POSITION? It makes me nervous, what if God should humble me because of my wealth, I feel pretty good, because I never really had anything, I feel like I have been wasting my life, maybe I really am fairly well off, I want to understand how God really values wealth, or other.
IN WHAT AREA OF YOUR LIFE DO YOU NEED WISDOM FROM GOD RIGHT NOW? WHAT HAS KEPT YOU FROM ASKING FOR IT?