November 16, 2014  James 1   Trials 


     There are 5 different men with the name of James in the NT and many believe that this was a younger half brother of Jesus and if so then God did quite a work in him because we see in John 7 where Jesus brothers did not believe in him.    Tradition tells us that James was a man of prayer and was known as old camel knees.   James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem and according to tradition James was martyred in AD 62.   The Jews hated his testimony of Jesus and he was thrown down from the temple and clubbed to death    

    James opens this book or letter with greetings to the 12 tribes scattered abroad or among the nations.  They were Christian Jews living outside of Palestine.    Many believe that they were scattered abroad because of persecution.   We see the persecution of the church in Acts and these Christians most likely lost their homes and moved out of their country.  No wonder James was moved by the Holy Spirit to speak to the pain that these Christians had endured.  Trials are a big part of chapter 1.      In verse 1 James identifies himself as a servant of Jesus.  What does it mean to be a servant of Jesus Christ?       

     James has a couple of things to say about trials.    The first thing James said about it is to count it all joy when you face trials.  We could ask James are you nuts?    Are you writing from the insane asylum?    Most folks avoid trials like the plague.   Most folks are like why did that have to happen to me?   I do not deserve this.    I can’t stand one more thing on my plate.   Life can be difficult and I am not making light of that in any way.    I talked to one person this week who said that there was so much pain and grief in their life they were worried about getting a heart attack.  I do not think the Holy Spirit is saying that all these negative things are good and wonderful.   I think God is giving us a good alternative in this passage.  A person can whine and fuss and take the negative road.  A person can get depressed and even to the point of taking their life.   We can say oh woe is me or we can say God is in my life and there is good that I can experience from this. I can have a good attitude.       Maturity is valuable and it is important. It is worth the pain.

    James says consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.  It is almost like well if you are struggling then be happy or joyful.   Lord you mean count it all joy when my knee blows out and I need to get a knee replacement?    Count it all joy when I burn out?   Count it all joy when I get shingles?   Count it all joy when my back goes out?  Yes.  God is in my life.  The pain is not in vain.   My pain is nothing compared to what others have endured.  And all of our pain is nothing compared to what Jesus suffered for each one of us.  Life was not all easy for Jesus.   God teaches us something about suffering in the 3 crosses doesn’t He?     Suffering is widespread.   The unrepentant thief is crucified.   The repentant thief is crucified.   The innocent Son of God is crucified.    The bad suffers and dies the repentant bad suffers and dies and the sinless Son of God suffers and dies.    However on judgment day the state of them is drastically different.    

    We might as well get it in our head that life is going to be tough at times and embrace it.  We will struggle.  The struggle can be with other people, family members, a spouse, our health, money issues, it can be broken or unrealized dreams.     James is saying you are going to suffer so count it all joy period.   That is the way life is and you rejoice in it.  Many need to work on our attitude.   We need to learn to be joyful in trials, sorrows and difficulties.  It is hard to be joyful when you are suffering.   So James immediately speaks right to that issue.    After Adam sinned God said cursed is the ground for your sake.   I do not think that God enjoyed cursing his creation but God did it for our good.   Trials are good.  

    One thing we see in this passage is the specific purpose is that “the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (v. 3). The Greek word means literally “to remain under.”   This is the ability to remain under pressure without collapsing; to cope successfully with the strain of stress.   Such perseverance requires time.  You cannot force this maturity.  Don’t interfere with God’s plan for your life.    We do not change and mature over night.   We want that pain to be gone yesterday but that is not how it works.    Hang in there, so that His plan for you will be complete. This is the difficult part.   Embrace your situation with joy and with faith.   Jesus yoke is easy and light.   Roll that trial on the Lord and let him share the load. 

     There is a great promise here.  God is telling us that He is not going to let our struggle come to nothing.  God is telling you that there is good and value in it.   God is saying I am right there in your pain and trouble.   When you struggle God feels it also.   God is that close to you.   If God is not in your life then trials may be a waste.   If you do not walk with God in the trial then it may not produce good fruit.  God in his love allows trials in your life.   The trials are perfectly tailored to your life.  Trials are meant for your good.    Some folks think well God must hate me because here I go again. That is simply not true.  Sometimes we bring a mess upon our self because of the way we live.  We do reap what we sow and many times God is blamed for our own mess. 

     I think there is a lot of truth in what Warren Wiersbe writes, "Our values determine our evaluations.  If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us.   If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to count it all joy!   If we live only for the present and forget about the future, the trials will make us bitter, not better."  The Holy Spirit through James tells you to count it all joy.  You are not alone in struggling.   In Romans we see that the whole creation groans and is in travail.  

    In this same passage where James talks about suffering he says if you lack wisdom ask of God.   James tells us to ask the Lord about it.  God why am I in this situation?   Lord is there anything wrong in my life that is causing this issue?   Often we think that what we are doing is OK but God may be trying to correct us about something that is wrong in our life..  Hebrews 12 tells us that God corrects his children.  I Corinthians 11 tells us that when we are judged by the Lord so that we will not be condemned with the world.  We are corrected for our own good.   Certainly not every trial is because of sin.  Many trials are just to build faith and character.  Ask the Lord why you are in the situation you are in.  God promises wisdom.  I have been asked why I have this back issue and I should probably pray about it more.  The truth is that many times we do not know the reason that things happen to us.   Some things just happen.  The car battery will not last forever.  Our appliances are made so that they will quit working after awhile.   That is just life and those things impact us also. 

    God will answer us according to this passage.   The bible is clear that we must ask in faith.  James writes that the person who wavers and doubts should not think that they will receive anything from God.  James writes that the double minded man is unstable in all his ways.  It is important to hear the Lord speak to us.   It is good to be on speaking terms with God.   Do you desire to hear his voice?   Some are afraid to hear him speak.   Is God a close friend to you?   Many people just speak to him but never listen to him.   You cannot be led by the Holy ‘spirit if you are not listening to Him. 

       President Calvin Coolidge was a man of few words, and the words he spoke were often blunt. A female journalist once told him, "Mr. President I made a $100 bet with another journalist that I could get you to say more than three words. Would you care to comment?" Calvin Coolidge smiled and said, "You lose." That's how he got the nickname "Silent Cal."   Some people think of God as "Silent God." When they are going through painful trials and tribulations, they cry out, "Why, God? Why me? Where are you, God?" Sometimes we do not approach God with the best attitude.   And it can seem at times as if heaven is silent.  But the Bible teaches God cares and God does speak.   

     The apostle Paul prayed 3 times about his thorn in the flesh and God told him that God’s strength was perfect in his weakness and Paul gladly accepted the trial.  Sometimes that is just what we are to do.  Paul had a good attitude. There is no promise here that the issue immediately is answered or goes away.   One of my pastor friends when he was talking to me about my back said he liked it when God moved immediately and removed all the pain and the infirmity.   We love miracles.  Can I accept 6 months for my body to heal?     I certainly may not like it but it looks like it is going to be a period of time to heal.  God’s word to me in this passage is to count it all joy.  Be thankful that at times I ask God to help me to climb the steps without falling.  Normally we just walk the steps with no thought of praying.   I am in a good place.  I have a lot to be thankful for because I am much better than I was.  I certainly believe that God can heal me instantly.   For some folks God would heal them instantly but sadly many Christians are not open to that nor do they believe that God will that.  We can always ask Him to do that. If do not ask God for wisdom in our trials how would a person know if God wanted to heal them immediately?   God can be glorified through instant healing and God is still doing that today. 

    Are you willing to receive whatever he gives you?  For some folks that may mean staying married and submitting to a difficult relationship.    It may mean permanent singleness.    It may mean continuing in a difficult job situation or remaining unhealed for a season.   Maybe you lack wisdom, because you’re not sure if you want God’s answer.  God does not promise to tell us everything but He does promise to give wisdom.  Would you make a commitment to obedience, not even knowing what God wants you to do?    Will you say to him, “Lord, I commit myself to do what you want?”   If you are willing to make this commitment, you will find God and answers.   God says come to me for wisdom.   In Corinthians we are told that we have the mind of Christ.  The bible in Psalms and Daniel tell us that God gives wisdom.   The bible tells that the Holy Spirit is the spirit of wisdom and understanding and Jesus said that God would give his spirit to those that ask.   Jesus said in John 14 that the person who loved Jesus would be loved by the father and Jesus would reveal or one translation says manifest himself to that person.  God desires to reveal.   God is into revelation but it does not often come for those who casually seek. 

    Some of our struggles may last the rest of our lives.       This is not a sprint that we are running but a marathon.    It is not 15 rounds but 150 rounds.    It is not 10 innings but 1,000 innings.   It is not 4 quarters but 400 quarters.   It is not 18 holes but 180.    It is better to walk with God through them then to go it alone.    It is better to be thankful and to count it all joy then to be negative and whining.   God is working His image in the life of his saints that embrace God.   Work out your salvation. Work out the Spirit’s life in you.    At times it is uncomfortable and sometimes it is hard work but we can do it with a good attitude and in a spirit of victory and not defeat.  These promises may not apply if do not walk with God.   That means that you may not get wisdom in your trials and the trial may not work out for your good.  It may mean that God wanted to heal you instantly but that did not happen. 

     Crowns have always been the sign of authority and Kingship. Charlemagne, whom historians say should deserve to be called "great" above all others, wore an octagonal crown. Each of the eight sides was a plaque of gold, and each plaque was studded with emeralds, sapphires, and pearls.   Richard the Lion-Hearted had a crown so heavy that two Earls had to stand, one on either side, to hold his head.   The crown that Queen Elizabeth wears is reported worth $20 million-plus.   Edward II once owned nine crowns, something of a record. Put them all together, from all of Europe and from the archives of the East, all of them are but trinkets compared to Christ’s crown.   Revelation 19 says he had many diadems. He wears a crown of righteousness. He wears a crown of glory. He wears a crown of life. He wears a crown of peace and power. Among those crowns, one outshines the rest.  It was not formed by the skilled fingers of a silversmith, nor created by the genius of a craftsman. It was put together hurriedly by the rough hands of Roman soldiers.  It was not placed upon its wearer’s head in pomp and ceremony, but in the hollow mockery of ridicule and blasphemy.  It is a crown of thorns. The amazing thing is that it belonged to me. I deserved to wear that crown. I deserved to feel the thrust of the thorns. I deserved to feel the hot trickle of blood upon my brow. I deserved the pain. He took my crown of thorns -- but without compensation.  Jesus took my pain my penalty and my suffering.    He offers to me instead His crown of life.   Amen