(Please leave your comments below. I have been working my past sermon outlines and organizing them. I would love to see your comments. Thanks)
Facing Trials of Various Kinds
Text: James 1:1-18
In a book that has some questions as to James the half brother of Jesus being the author, it is no doubt that this book was written to instruct the Christians (esp. in those times the ones that were dispersed) on how a believer should live their lives. James pens this letter in a way that includes brief sayings that will encourage his readers to become “doers of the Word”. The original recipients of this letter are likely to be the early Christian Jews of the twelve tribes (Acts 8:1-3) that were scattered primarily b/c of persecution (James 1:1). In short, he is saying to them:
I know you are persecuted;
I know you face various trials;
I know you are suffering.
Don’t put off your life of faith until times get better. Right now, in the midst of your suffering, is the very time to be putting your servanthood toward Christ into practice. There is a proper view of suffering.
In your own experiences…
Do you have any fears that hold you back?
Do you battle with anger?
Have you experienced confusion as a result of circumstances?
Has there been job loss or unexpected suffering in your life?
1 James, a servant[a] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
Testing of Your Faith
2 Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass[c] he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, andsin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.[d] 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
In this chapter, we will discover some ways to view trials…
A proper view of understanding trials (2-4; 13-18)
There are External Trials that include the afflictions, persecutions, loss of jobs, physical and emotional pain, financial struggles, and so on experienced through life. These are the things that are most evident by the outsider looking at one’s life.
Another category of trials are Internal Trials that include trials that are a little more difficult to recognize for the outsider as well as the one suffering from the trial. These trials come in several forms such as: temptations, wars that wage within a believer’s heart (Romans 7), worries one may experience in the midst of the suffering.
The author writes about trials that are external or outward circumstances (conflicts, sufferings-financial/job loss/death/sickness). The understanding of ways to view various trials will enable the believer to begin complemented the proper approaches to their trials.
A proper attitude experienced (2)
Joy vs. Happiness
The initial response to any trial is to either deny or deal honestly with it. I understand the flood of emotions that one experiences as they experience trying times. Pastor Kyle Idleman talks about the AHA moment of the prodigal son found in Luke 15, and what led him to act in the midst of his tough experience. The AHA moment of the prodigal son required to Awaken (come to his senses) in the midst of his situation, then approach the situation with Honesty (Brutal Honesty) about where he was heading, and final plan an Action that would result in change. It is not okay to stay at the Awaken or Honesty level, we must seek Action. James’ call to “count it pure joy” through the trials of life correlates with that AHA moment Pastor Idleman talked about. When one understands the trials life brings our way then they point us to the righteous life God intends, the AHA moment can be embraced with the “joy” that only God has placed in our hearts. The reaction of a believer with “joy” in their hearts from a relationship wit h their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will take them further than any one expression of happiness (emotional) one could ever experience. It is the “pure” joy, not mere happiness, from Christ Jesus alone that is required for a believer to understand various trials.
Allow me to explain what I mean through a personal story of a tragic event in my families life. The story is about the experience of losing one at such an early part of life, and how a family was able to experience “joy” through Christ their Savior. This it the story of a 27 year old police officer (Marcus Lyman Whitfield) who was killed on a late August night in the year 2000 while apprehending a criminal. It was a tragedy indeed for a family of strong Christian beliefs to mourn the loss of such a young life taken in such a senseless act. The difference between “Joy v. Happiness” became evident as this family began what would be a long time period of grieving. The faith of this officer as well as his family allowed those left behind to experience the “joy” that can only be grounded in believing faith of a believer. It is not an emotional feeling that one would experience because good things happen, but the feeling that only a believer seeking a right relationship with Christ Jesus. This “joy” is expressed only because of the reality of the hope one has in the resurrected Son of God.
When the foundation is faith alone, then the attitude through the trial changes the believer’s perspective upon that experience with deep “joy” grounded in Christ. Then the believer will begin to understand why trials exist.
A proper view of why trials exist (4)
Many believers go through a process in the midst of a trial much like young child’s blame game. They will seek answers to questions like: “why would God allow this”, or “what’s wrong with me” as a way to understand the experience. Even with the proper attitude, the believer needs a healthy perspective on the trials experienced. There are three questions that I believe will aide in the processing of understanding trials experienced:
1) What is the “spiritual reality of trials/struggles”?
2) How will God use the trials/struggles in the life of the believer?
3) Why is perseverance so valuable in the life of the believer?
What is the “spiritual reality of trials/struggles”?
The reality here is that every Christian believer will experience trials that serve to test their faith. We are not promised a life without difficulties or struggles here on earth. We must understand trials do not come from God because God cannot tempt us, He allows the trials or temptations in order to accomplish His great purposes. A trial/struggle can be time of financial struggle, job loss, tragedy, suffering, and much more.
How will God use the trials/struggles in the life of the believer?
God uses these tests/trials to produce in the life of the believer perseverance and endurance to strengthen the believer’s faith. We should embrace the trials with eyes of faith because through them God makes known His purposes. According Romans 8:28, we can expect God’s purposes for the obedient believer resulting from trials experienced. My wife and I engraved Proverbs 3:5-6 inside our wedding bands when got married, only to truly understand why this verse became our mission in our marriage. It was through experiences like: a son having two open heart surgeries at a young age, loss of a job that we were so passionate about, as well a struggles financially that we understand “trusting in the Lord with our whole life” really means. In those times, I could only look up to my heavenly Father lacking understanding of any purpose and seek His intervention. It was these experiences that helped me developed a “theology of suffering” that can only be understood in Christ alone.
Why is perseverance so valuable in the life of the believer?
The testing of our faith produces endurance (perseverance), and when endurance becomes fully grown it will produce a fully equipped believer God has purposed. The enduring time of through the trials is the shaping and molding process of what we would call the sanctification process of a believer. The end result of the sanctification (growing) of the believer spiritual maturity. God allows the trials by fire to occur in order that His maturity process of the believer to take place.
Have you ever heard the phrase “it only makes you stronger”, perhaps they were words shared in the midst of a trying time you have experienced. Those five simply words are very true from the spiritual sense because God in His sovereignty has great purposes for your life. These “fires of life” can be an awesome training ground for the Christians believer. I have often wondered one without a hope in the resurrected Christ ever experience lasting comfort through trials that come their way. There is another approach that I believer must practice that makes them stronger in the midst of trials, which is the power of prayer.
A proper view of prayer (5-8)
The cry of everyone in the midst of a trial is “what do we do?” It is a cry reflecting a “lack of wisdom” in their situation. I am encouraged by God’s people expressing hope and patient expectation in the midst of not knowing what to do when encountered by a great army that was aimed to try to drive them from their possession found in 2 Chronicles 20:12. The people called on God admitting their own weakness, and sought with expectant hope and eyes of faith on the One true God.
James give us two examples of the kinds of trials mentioned about in verses 2-8 and the truths each can bring to the believer. In verses 9-11, James describes a lowly brother who is “poor” as a believer who should give God glory for the difficult trials in their life because it will develop character and hope, and the rich believer who should give God glory through a trial because it teaches them that life is short and they need to trust solely in the Lord.
No matter the circumstance, believers need to:
1) Seek wisdom from God through prayer a new
2) Trust completely that He will provide the answer
3) Anticipate God’s deliverance through the trial(s).
The believer is encouraged (in verse 12) to continue to endure through temptation and suffering because through them they will receive the “crown of life” at the Judgment seat of Christ. We are to recognize that God’s plan is not to save from the trial but teach us to solely rely on His provision through the experience. Paul gave a great example of an attitude that should desired in Philippians 1:21 when he said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” May we seek the same pursuit in the experiences that life brings us. I want to move now to a discussion of God’s purpose through the trials experienced in a believer’s life.
A proper view of God’s purposes (13-15)
As we have already talked about, it is God’s purposes though a believer’s trials to produce endurance in the believer through shaping them into maturity and completeness. We are not to view the believer’s trials as temptations coming from God because He cannot tempt anyone. We should face each trial or struggle intending to let God’s divine purpose be accomplished in our lives. Therefore, the importance of recognizing God’s purposes through these trials and struggles in a believer’s life is so that we understand:
1) God’s nature (God is holy and His holiness will not allow Him to tempt)
2) Temptation comes from one’s evil desire not God
3) God’s purpose is to mold us and shape us into godly character.
As we move to our final thought from this passage, consider how life should be viewed and lived in the midst of it’s trials/struggles? The first way, we should view life as a training ground that will urge believer to persist till victorious b/c of the promised character of the individual, and the second way will be discussed in our final point. We are to understand that life is to be embraced as a divine gift and opportunity.
A proper view of the goodness of God (16-18)
A question to consider…
How is your “image of God” in view of the trials/struggles of life?
Is your image of God viewed as…
1) A Cosmic police officer: Do you consider God as a heavenly police officer sitting on His throne watching and waiting till you mess up so that He can pounce on you? Sadly, many people view God and His character this way. God is much more than a “Cosmic police officer”. He is God interested in not only leading His people toward the right path, but also interested in being among His people.
2) Or through a complete understanding of who God really is…
- His nature (holy, graceful, unchangeable) and His purposes
- He is the ultimate gift giver
When I think about gifts, I can’t help but imagine the excitement on a little boy’s face (esp one of mine) when they see that bright, beautifully wrapped present with a BIG bow perfectly placed on top of the present. The excitement builds as that child tears into that gift and pulls out the perfectly folded tissue paper and finds the best gift they could have ever imagine that Christmas morning. But wait there’s that other gift that is under the tree (almost hidden) wrapped in black, wrinkled paper and no bow. As the child begins to unwrap the present with less enthusiasm, they begin to see that it’s a used gift that looks old and ragged. The analogy here compares the “perfect” gift to the “good” gifts. You see the “good” gifts (spiritually) are wrapped in happy paper and tied with a colorful ribbon. As James tells us, the “perfect” gifts (spiritually) are ones wrapped in suffering, growth, and completeness. Too often we equate good vs. perfect gifts with the looks on the outside and the enjoyment they give for that moment. If we were to look further than the moment, we would find the priceless gifts that God has purposed for us as we persevered through the tests.
- His purposes…
God desires believers to standfast to the tests of our faith and be identified as the firstfruits of God’s redemptive work through Christ. Therefore encouraging believers to look forward to the day they will be made fully mature and complete before God, which is the highest goal we should have in facing life’s trials.
Conclusion: Our response is twofold…
1) We can respond out of an evil desire through…
- Temptation to retaliate/payback evil: When an unjust/hurtful/hateful deed has happened to us, we are tempted to retaliate and hurt back the individual(s) that have done this evil deed to us. We justify within ourselves, but fall so short b/c it is an evil desire. We are reminded from Romans 12:18-19 the promise that God will take care of the evil done to us, and that we need to strive to “live at peace with everyone”.
1) The temptation to retaliate only gives birth to Sin (action that moves us into direct disobedience to a holy God) This action could be hurtful words back, expressing anger as someone gets impatient with you driving down the road in another car, trying to hurt them as much as they have hurt you, and the list goes on.
2) That birthing of that Sin never being dealt will lead to spiritual death. Paul tells us in Romans 6:23 that the “…wages of sin is death…”. As sinners we are found guilty and the only punishment is separation from the holy God that created and loves us.
This response is a real and common way to deal with life’s hardships/struggles, and taught by the world’s systems. We are told over and over to look out for number one, and do not worry about who gets in the way. As believers, we must choose another way of response. In fact, believers have no other response, except the way Christ has shown to us.
2) We can respond out of faith…
- In the Sovereignty of God, understanding He is supreme and in control. He is the one that knows every heart and has promised as Romans 12:18-19 so explicitly tells us that He will take care of the evil, and we strive to live at peace with all.
- In the Actions God chooses through developing perseverance in the believer’s life as they encounter life’s painful trials.
- In God’s Supreme Purposes that promise to mold every believer into a mature and complete follower of Christ.
What difficult experiences have experienced?
How would you define true “Joy” described in verse 2?
What characteristics of God do you recognize in James’ letter?
What is your view of Romans 8:28-29 as you understand life’s trials?
What are you in need of seeking wisdom from God for?
How has your view of God been challenged?
Do you relate to the Israelites’ question in 2 Chronicles 20:12?