TEXT: James 1:2-4
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. [NLT]
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. [NASB]
Erma Bombeck who faced adversity throughout her brief 69 years on this earth had a principle that she lived by, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonaid.” Erma was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (an incurable, untreatable genetic disease) when she was 20 years old. She survived breast cancer and mastectomy, and kept secret the fact that she had kidney disease, enduring daily dialysis. She went public with her condition in 1993. On a waiting list for transplant for years, one kidney had to be removed, and the remaining one ceased to function. On April 3, 1996, she received a kidney transplant. Erma Bombeck died on April 22, 1996, aged 69, from complications of the operation. Erma Bombeck made people laugh, very few people knew about her physical problems or the pain she endured to do a days work.
Chuck Swindoll says, “Sometimes life throws you a hard curve on the inside of the plate, chopping you down at the knees.” Note in text for tonight, James did not say, “If you encounter various trials,” he said “when you encounter various trials.”
Christians are not immune to suffering. We must experience trials for many reasons. Some trials come due to the fact that we live in a broken and sin cursed world, some come due to sickness, some come from bad decisions, some come from our relationships. We are all going to face trials of various kinds. I used the NASB because the word various is omitted in the NLT. It means multi-colored or all sorts of trails. I was talking to a man yesterday about adult children and the heart ache that they can bring when they made bad decisions. He began to tell me that his children had never caused him one bit of grief. He raised the right was the impression I got. As I drove away I thought to myself, none of his children attend church. None of them love Jesus. Listen folks, we all have problems but they come in different varieties.
There are three keys in these three verses that will enable us to triumph over our trails.
I. The first key is to CONSIDER
The AV translates this word ‘count’ and Dr. Wiersbe says that it is an accounting word. Literally, it is used of evaluating a situation as a leader. It means to study the situation and evaluate what to do. Our values determine our evaluations. If I value material things more than spiritual things, I am not likely to consider going through a trial as being an opportunity to rejoice if I value the material above the spiritual. If I think like Esau, which is for the moment rather than the future, it will be difficult for me to rejoice in difficult times but if I think like Job, “But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold,” then I can consider my trial as a time to rejoice.
II. The Second Key is To KNOW or To Understand
If we are saved and we read the word of God, we know that FAITH is always tested. When think about faith being tested we think of men like Noah, Job and Abraham. God does not tempt us to do evil but He does test us and the purpose of the test is to bring out the best in us. The devil tempted to bring out the worse. The test is never for God’s benefit, He already knows the answer: the test is for our benefit.
Peter said, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. 7 These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
Once we know that God uses the trials to make us better, that it is a process whereby He is conforming us to the image of Christ, we can celebrate what He is doing. Trails work for our benefit.
Trials help us to mature. There are some things that God wants to see in our lives one on of those things is endurance. The Greek word is hypomonē. It is a compound word, hupo means under and mone means to remain. So the word means to remain under. It is the picture of a man with a burden on his shoulders but he has the strength, the endurance to remain under the burden. An irresponsible person would cast the burden to the ground but a mature Christians has the ability to stay where God has placed them and under the burden. You may be in an uncomfortable position but if God has put your there stay strong.
The AV translated this word patience but we are talking about something more than patience, we are talking about courageous perseverance in the face of extreme difficulty. God does not want us to quit in the heat of the battle. The word tested in verse 3 is word used for sterling coinage. For money to be genuine and unalloyed, it had to endure intense heat. God uses suffering and troubles to refine us, to burn out the dross [impure motives] and to make us the real deal.
There is no substitute for the understanding mind. If you are aware of what God is doing and you know that the end result is for your good and God’s glory, you can endure most anything.
III. The Third Key is a SURRENDERED WILL
God by His sovereign choice will not build character in you against your will. If you have no desire to become a mature Christian, you will not become a mature Christian. God’s goal is for us to mature and come to the likeness of Christ. He wants us to be complete and lacking nothing. It would be a tragedy if our children never matured. What happens to children when their parents are over protective? They fail to mature. He takes some bumps and bruises to grow up and people who live sheltered lives cannot mature; they will never be complete.
Paul give us a good outline for this completeness that God has in mind in Ephesians 2:8-10. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. First there is the work God does FOR US which is save us from hell and to heaven. We call this regeneration but sometimes we refer to it as Salvation. Then there is the work God does IN US, for we are His workmanship. We generally call this Sanctification which is the process of becoming like Christ and then there is the work He does THROUGH US and we can call this Service or ministry. We are created in Christ Jesus for good works.
God builds character before He calls us to service. He must work in us before He can properly work through us. Abraham waited 25 years to get a son. Joseph was in the refiners fine for 13 years before he was exalted to Prime Minister of Egypt. God spent 80 years getting Moses ready. God used these men in phenomenal ways. It is mind boggling to think about what was accomplished in their lives but nothing was done against their will. Abraham, Joseph and Moses were willing: they had surrendered their will to God.
Make no mistake about it, God can use whom He wants when He wants. He used Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, Balaam and Jonah. Jonah preached the greatest revival in history with a bad attitude. God can use a man with a bad attitude but Jonah was not blessed. It was good for Nineveh but Jonah missed a blessing because he had a bad attitude. I’m not saying that God cannot use you unless you are surrendered but He works more efficiently through the committed.
Do you want to be able to rejoice in difficult time? To do so you must value spiritual things above the material. You must read and study the word of God and know what God is doing. In conclusion, you must lose your will in His and surrender to whatever He says or wherever He leads. You do these three things and you will have joy in the midst of sorrow. It may not come immediately, but it will come. My first response is not joy but once I’ve had time to digest what is going on and put in into perspective, I know that God is making all things work together for good and in that I can rejoice.