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Bible Search
James #1 - chapter 1, verses 2-12
The Book of James – Authentic Faith
The Test of Perseverance in Suffering
James 1:2-12
 
One of the paradoxes of Christianity is how God uses suffering and difficulties to accomplish His will.  All the way back to Job, the question has been asked of why bad things happen to good people.  Not only do we have some personal sorrow and sadness, but because we're Christians and we bear one another's burdens, we sometimes have to sorrow with those we love who are sorrowing also. 
 
We have to share the grief and disappointment of those we are close to.  That was certainly true in the lives of those to whom James is writing who are being persecuted for their faith. 
 
Now it seems to me the better question to ask, rather than “why do bad things happen”, is to ask, “how do we deal with the reality of difficult days and suffering”?
 
Well let’s see what James, the servant of God and Jesus Christ who happens to be half-brother to the Lord has to say about it. 
 
I don’t know that there is any other text in the Bible that deals with this issue in a more positive and instructive way than does this passage.
 
Notice what he says in verses 2-12
 
 
 
The last verse, really, is the summation of the point here and notice, it’s a beatitude or a blessing.  Blessed is the man who endures or perseveres, if you will, under trial.  To put it simply, trials produce blessings.  Having been tried, those who come out the other side receive the crown or the reward which is actually life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
 
So how does that happen?  How do you turn trouble into blessing? Or maybe a better way to ask is, “How should we respond so God can bless us?”  That's really the issue here.
 
Now remember, the aim of James is to help his hearers have assurance of their salvation.  They have been driven from their homes and families because they’ve chosen to follow Christ.  What they really need is for Joel Osteen to show up and give them a lecture about how to have their best life now.
 
But instead, James sends them this letter and he frames his comments in the context of a series of tests that reveal the character of salvation.  And the very first one is in regard to suffering and going through trials. 
 
They say one of the surest tests a jeweler can do to verify if a stone is a real diamond is to put it under water.  A real diamond will sparkle under water. An imitation stone, no matter how convincing it might be to the eye, will not sparkle under water.  Place one alongside the other under water and the difference is immediately apparent.
 
 
 
The same is true of faith.  There are a lot of people who look good on the outside until the going gets tough and when their faith goes under the water or
sorrow and affliction it loses all its brilliance.  Why?  It isn’t genuine.  On the other hand, the true child of God shines just as brightly, if not more so, under water as they do out of the water. 
 
James is concerned with such matters. He's concerned, as verse 3 says, with the testing of faith and he wants to make sure these Jewish Christians have the real deal. 
 
So right off the bat, the very first thing he talks about is trouble and he tells them their troubles are a test of their faith.  And then down in verse 12, he says, "If you pass the test you'll be blessed and you'll receive a crown of life."
 
Not only does James tell us that troubles are a test, he also says the troubles show up in a lot of different ways. 
 
verse 2
 
He mentions “various trials”.  The emphasis is not on the number but the diversity.   They are multi-colored.  They show up in a lot of different ways.  We experience them in relationships, in monetary things, in physical things. There are all different kinds of trials. 
 
We really have no way of knowing everything these Jewish believers were experiencing.  We know they were scattered from their homeland.  We know those like Saul were trying to kill them and intimidate them. 
We know that some of them were being persecuted. Some of them were not being paid for the work they did. I would guess they were abused in the legal system and ridiculed in social circles. 
 
And notice, James doesn’t even attempt to identify all of the problems because it doesn’t matter.  Troubles come in a lot of different ways.  James doesn't even distinguish between internal trouble and external trouble.
 
Trouble comes in both forms. Some of it is outside of us; some of it is inside of us. Some of our most profound trouble has nothing to do with anybody else. It has to do with personal disappointment and personal failure or fears and anxieties and worries and cares and frustrations. 
 
And there are external things like criticism and persecution and misunderstanding and conflict and lies and whatever.  Some of it is internal and some external and that's life.
 
But when you shuck it all down, how you respond to all the difficulties of life is a test of your faith. And verse 12 is where God wants the whole thing to end, with blessing and eternal reward and Him giving us the crown of life.
 
So how do we accomplish that?  This text unfolds five things that are required if we will handle trial in a way that will result in receiving reward. 
 
We’ll look at a 2 and a half or three of them tonight and the rest at a later time as we make our way through this passage. 
 
The first response to trials is to be
 
1. A Joyful Attitude
 
Verse 2
 
"My brethren" indicates he's talking here to believers.  Unfortunately, he’s lost some of the brethren already!
 
Now right off the bat, we learn that Christians aren’t exempt from troubles.  The idea that somehow when you become a Christian you ought to be free from trouble is just not true. We're talking here about believers who are going through trouble and, first of all, he says your response is to consider it all joy.
 
Now the way he makes the statement indicates he’s talking about a conscious, deliberate, once and for all kind of decision.  In other words, make up your mind either before the trial ever comes or when you first encounter it that you will deal with it with joy. 
 
That is the intent of the phrase “count it” or “consider it”.  That is an extremely vital part of the command. 
 
To “consider” something means to really think about it.  You dwell on it for a while.  And if you really think about something, and process what is happening, you begin to come not only to an understanding of what effect it's having on you, but of where it's going to lead. So to “consider” something, as it’s used here, is to take into consideration the end result.  You cannot process something in your mind without processing its implications. And that's very important.
So in processing the trial that you're going through, you have to get out of the immediate trauma of the moment and look ahead to its benefit.  Obviously there is no joy in the immediate pain.
 
Most of us do that when we lose a loved one.  Time and time again I’ve heard family members say they didn’t want someone they love to continue to suffer and be in pain.  What are they doing?  They’re looking ahead from a Christian perspective. 
 
Death hurts like everything and it can be overwhelming to think about the loss and never seeing them here on earth again, but then you get to thinking about heaven where they are and where you’ll be one of these days. 
 
You begin to think past the moment of pain and into the vastness of eternity.  To consider our trials as joys requires that we don't get stuck in the moment. 
 
So, whenever you encounter these trials, you are to think forward to the joyous reality that is beyond and that is necessary with any trial, not just death. 
Instead of getting wrapped up in the sadness of the immediate experience, you begin to think forward to what God is producing through that experience.  He allowed it to come.  He knows what’s goin on.  He’s going to go through it with you and He’s going to use it for your good and His glory. 
 
You can't get stuck in the midst of the pain and experience the joy. You've got to go forward.
 
And notice James doesn't just say, “I want you to just endure and have a little joy in this.”
He says, "Count it all joy." In other words, he says make it your settled conviction and determination to face trials as a source of pure, unmixed, complete, comprehensive and total joy as one who counts it a privilege to suffer because he knows it brings about divine blessing and eternal glory.
 
Paul lived like that.  He said he’d learned in whatever state he was to be content because he knew that in the most profound trial, out of it would come blessing.  He was a man with a settled conviction. He was determined to be joyful because he could see beyond the suffering.
 
The go-to illustration of suffering is Job.  What he went through was unimaginable.  He was as good a man as ever lived.  And God initiated a time of testing in his life.  God was going to prove to Satan and did prove that you can't break saving faith, you can't steal the trust of a true child of God. It's an eternal thing.
 
So He said to Satan, "Go after Job." And boy, did he ever!.  All his children died. All his crops were gone. All his animals were gone. He was reduced to destitution. All he had left was a griping wife who told him to curse God and die. Life was so miserable he had scabs all over his body and some kind of illness and he sat in a pile of dirt with a broken piece of pottery, scraping the scabs off his skin.
 
 And to make matters worse he had some ill-advised and witless friends who came and told him all the wrong answers to his dilemma.  They kept accusing him of sinning and saying the reason he's in the mess he's in is because of sin in his life. And he kept saying...No, there's not.
It was just an unthinkable situation.  But in chapter 23, verse 10, Job said, "But He knows the way I take, when He has tested me I shall come forth as gold." Isn't that great?
 
You think you've had trouble, you didn't lose everybody in your family, all you possess like he did. It's okay, he said, I'm taking the forward look and when He's tried me, I'll come forth as gold. And it's when you think forward that you find the reason for joy.
 
Here’s the second thing.  The proper response to trial s requires, not only a joyful attitude, but
 
2. An Understanding Mind
 
verse 3
 
If the key word in verse 2 is joy, the key word of verse 3 is "Knowing".
 
And the knowledge he’s talking about is the kind that comes through personal experience.  Personal knowledge gives us the information needed to evaluate our trials so we can look forward to the joy.
 
As a Christian, there are a number of things I need to know if I am going to face my trial with joy and if I don't know them, I can't possible deal with the problems the way I should. 
 
And the thing I need to know sort of sums it all up is that the testing of your faith produces patience or endurance." That's what you need to know.
 
That means that God has a purpose in the testing and it is to make you stronger by producing patience or endurance.  We might call it staying power. What God produces is what allows us to get under the load and stay there.  It's that tenacity of spirit that holds up under pressure.
 
Now if you’re going to do that, you better be absolutely convinced that God is at work in your life. 
That's what you need to know. And the work that He's doing is to develop your spiritual strength so that you'll be more useful, more blessed and receive even a greater eternal reward. This test is producing. It's achieving. It's accomplishing.
 
That means I need to know when I go through a trial that God is allowing itYou remember in 2 Corinthians 12 the apostle Paul went to God in his prayers and three times he said, "Lord, take this trial away, take this trial away, take this trial away," and the Lord said no. No, I am not going to take this trial away, I'm just going to give you the grace to endure it because I want to accomplish something in your life.
 
You see, that's very important to know. You and I need to know that things don't just randomly happen in our lives.  It’s not bad luck or karma.  I’m not just having a bad day. 
 
There is a sovereign God purposely working in the life of every believer to achieve His end. I need to know that.  If I don't understand that about my God, then I am really going to have a difficult time looking forward and finding that joy.
 
So I need to know that this is a test designed by God to make me strong and develop the tenacity of spirit that strengthens me and holds me up under future pressure and makes me a blessing to others and a strength to them and an honor to His name. I need to know my God has a plan and that His plan is the right plan and that He is powerful enough to work that plan.
 
I also need to know that while God is fulfilling that plan He will never put me in a position where I've got more than I can handle. 
 
Remember 1 Corinthians 10:13? "No temptation has taken you but such is as common to man. God is faithful who will never allow you to be tempted above that you are able, but will always with the temptation make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it."
 
God has a plan, He is sovereign enough to work that plan. He is wise enough that we can be confident it is the right plan. And He will never put us through something that He doesn't give us the grace to endure.
 
See, it's my confidence in my God that anchors me. I need to know that. I need to know that I'm not a piece of driftwood floating around.  I'm not a stick in a waterfall just going over the edge and being thrown to whatever happens to be under me when I hit bottom.  God is in control of every single detail of my life. God is intimately involved in everything. If I don't know that, then life takes on a completely different character.
 
That means Satan is not responsible for my problems.  It isn't Satan who puts me through trials. It is God who allows Satan to bring a trial against me but it is always to accomplish God’s will, not Satan’s.   Satan is the servant of God.  He can't touch me anymore than he could touch Job if God didn't allow it.
 
You need to know that. When the trials come, God is initiating a process in us to produce patience.  God has a plan and the power to work that plan, the wisdom to design the right plan and the compassion and grace to never put you through something that you can't endure.
 
As you go through something and develop perseverance, you have a greater strength for the next trial. As you go through that, have greater endurance for the next trial. And little by little, step by step God is producing greater and greater strength for your own blessing and usefulness and for His great glory.
 
Third, if I will face my trial with joy I must have
 
3.  A Submissive Will
 
verse 4
 
Just let it happen and don’t fight it.  Let the work of God take place. 
 
Now think in terms of what you know.  You know God is good and holy and just and He’s got the right plan, so why would you want to resist Him?
That makes no sense.  We should never reluctant or even hesitant to let God do His perfecting work. Our prayer is pretty simple in this regard:  "Lord, work Your work in my heart.  Don't give me more than I can endure. Show me grace and compassion because you know my weakness and frailties. I want to see Your loving-kindness but I want Your will to be done and I want You to do whatever it takes in me to make me what You want me to be."
 
I love the prayer of Psalm 131.  It’s just three little verses.  Listen to it: 
 
Psalm 131
 
You need to come to terms with that. You need to be able to say that. And I think probably for many Christians that just...that just might be too much, I mean, to really honestly say whatever you need to do in my life to make me what You want me to be, do it...that's pretty strong stuff.
 
Isn’t that beautiful?  You know what he's saying? I just want to cuddle up and be close to You.  I can't figure it all out. I'm not smart enough to figure it all out. I don't even want to try to figure it all out. I just want to do like a little child that finds its greatest comfort and contentment in the arms of its mother.
 
The psalmist is saying I really don't need all the answers.  I just need You.  Listen:  when it comes to the problems of your life, you don’t need all the answers.  You don’t even need to know where it’s all going to end.  You just need to climb up into God’s lap and rest. 
 
That’s what James is saying.  Let endurance have its perfect result. Let God do what God wants to do. Don't resist it. Don't fight it. Just let Him do it.
 
Now notice, patience is moving toward perfection.  It has a perfecting result.  That doesn’t mean sinless perfection in this life.  It means spiritual maturity in this life. 
 
Our faith is being tested to bring us to greater dependence on God and to greater endurance as He processes us to maturity. And he even repeats it at the end of verse 4.
 
“That you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
 
God wants us to be whole.  Everything is there with nothing lacking nothing.  God is moving us toward being a full-grown, mature Christian with full grown capabilities and strengths and we have to yield to the process to let that happen.
 
But here’s the deal.  You can’t get there without some trials.  So just let God bring you along to that maturity. That’s the idea. 
 
Next, in order to face my trials with joy I must have
 
4.  A Believing Heart
 
verses 5-8
 
The scene is something like this:  Let’s say you are going through a trial and you are doing your best to keep a joyous attitude, an understanding mind, and a submissive will.  But you are having difficulty grasping what’s happening. 
 
You might be saying to yourself, “I want to have a right attitude.  I want to have a right understanding, and I want to have a submissive will.  But I don’t’ know how to do that.  I am struggling to keep my heart right in the middle of all I’m going through and I need some help.”
 
Well does James have good news for you!  That’s what verse 5 is all about.  What you need, more than anything else is God’s wisdom. Wisdom is always at a premium, but especially when you are going through a trial.  Wanting to understand, wanting to know how to be joyous, wanting to be willing to endure the trial for the holy purposes of God demands wisdom.
 
And you are not going to find it in your human reasoning.   When we go through a test, we need God’s wisdom.  Any believer is going to feel weak and need strength and resources. And the assumption is when we find ourselves in that situation, our first response is to go to God and ask for wisdom.  A
 
And the good news is God will give you what you need.   And I don’t want to be simplistic.  I don’t want to minimize what we go through, but we could save ourselves a lot of time and frustration if we’d just believe God. 
 
Understand that what the scripture is saying.  When you go through a trial, the place to go is to God.  That’s much more important than running to your friends for answers and getting into the same situation that Job got into.  That’s much more important than going for counseling before you have consulted the mind of God. 
The promise of God in this verse is one of the greatest promises in all of the scripture, if not the single greatest promise to a believer living in this world.  And that is if he needs wisdom, God gives it to him.
 
What more could we want than the divine insight to understand and respond properly to every trial of life.  God gives wisdom.  Now, what kind of wisdom are we talking about?  Well James will discuss that over in chapter 3, but suffice it to say it is the wisdom you need for the situation you are enduring. 
It is the wisdom to make the right response. 
It is the wisdom to honor God. 
 
And notice, God gives all you need.  We have a generous and gracious God who desires to pour out to us those things we need. 
 
What did Jesus say?  “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.  For everyone that asks receives and he that seeks finds, and to him that knocks it will be opened.”
 
When you go through a trouble, when you go through difficulty, when you go through trial, go to God in prayer.  And I like what he adds at the end oif verse 5.
 
God holds nothing back and He does it without reprimand or reservation.  Later we’ll read that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift.  Well here’s an example of that. 
 
 
 
He gives.  He gives sincerely.  He gives without hesitation.  He gives without reservation.  He’s not giving reluctantly.  That’s what it means.  He isn’t saying, “I shouldn’t be doing this, but I guess I will and I sure hope you appreciate it.”  He just gives.
 
And the point of verse 5 is just believe God.  Trust Him and watch Him go to work on your behalf. 
 
What a promise!  Whatever the trial is, you are to have a believing heart.  Believe that God allowed it for his purpose and believe that he will give you wisdom to endure it and be better than you ever could have been if you had not endured that trial.
 
And the only condition he places is that we ask in faith without wavering. 
 
Verse 6
 
And to contrast the attitude we are to have, he offers the flip side.   
 
The wavering person who goes to God and doesn’t really believe that God can provide the wisdom and vacillates is like the surging, billowing, restless sea moving back and forth with its endless tides, never able to settle. 
 
And verse 7 describes the outcome of that attitude.
 
He is describing, for all intents and purposes a lost person.  And there is no sense in such a person supposing he will receive anything from the Lord. 
 
 
The one who doubts God, the one who debates God, the one who wavers in his trust and isn’t solidly committed to the Lord, isn’t going to receive anything.  And it’s really sad to see that.
 
One of the saddest things you’ll ever witness is a weak Christian who doesn’t trust God getting into a difficulty.  They will start to doubt and argue and before long they’re mad at God and mad at the preacher and they drop out and quit coming.
 
Instead of taking God at His word and trusting Him through the situation with a joyous attitude, an understanding mind, a submissive will and a believing heart, they bounce from one emotion to the next and they receive nothing.  And instead of benefitting from what God could provide, they labor on through the trial in misery and frustration. 
 
And verse 8 sums it up.
 
Verse 8
 
 In fact, a double-minded person is really a hypocrite.  The person who says, “I trust God, but when the trial comes, they don’t, is a hypocrite. 
 
They are “double minded”, a soul divided between God and the world.  Trusting and not trusting, believing and not believing.  A friend of the Lord and a friend of the world. 
 
And such a person is unstable in all areas of life.  Not some, but all.  He can’t stand the trials of life because he doesn’t have enough faith in God.  He doesn’t have enough faith in God to go and seek for the wisdom he desperately needed. 
And he becomes an illustration by contrast of the way to respond to a trial.  The way to endure the  trial is to go to Godwith unwavering faith and have the confidence that he gives freely and never debates and never argues and never holds back anything but gives exactly what you need to endure that trial. 
 
A believing heart will bring stability to your life. 
 
The last thing James says about how to face trial s with joy is have ing
 
5.  A Humble Spirit
 
verse 9
 
Now remember he’s talking to scattered Christian Jews.  Many of them were in difficult times economically.  They had very little.  And James gives this very unusual exhortation.  He says the poor should boast about what they possess
 
He may have nothing in the world to rejoice about. 
He may have nothing in the world to brag about.  But he can rejoice, boast, brag that he is spiritually exalted by God. 
 
He may be the filth and scum of the earth, but he can rejoice because his standing before God is that of exaltation.  He may be hungry, but he has the bread of life.  He maybe thirsty, but he has the water of life.  He may be poor, but he has eternal riches.  He may be cast aside by men, but he has been received by God.  He may have no home here, but he has a glorious home in the life to come. 
So he says, you poor folks rejoice that you have received divine attention and that your trials are making you perfect and that is to exalt you in the spiritual dimension.  The stuff of the world can’t make you happy anyway, so draw your joy out of your spiritual exaltation.
 
Then, on the other hand, look at verses 10-11
 
Now we’re talking about the rich brothers and sister.  Apparently there were some doing well in the church.  But they aren’t excluded from the lesson plan. 
 
No doubt, there are some trials of life directly related to being poor.  But the rich person who seems to have it all in place needs to learn to not rejoice in his riches, but in his humiliation. 
 
What does that mean?  Well, when a rich person goes through a trial, he begins to realize there are some things money can’t buy.  What’s really important in life doesn’t come to you because you are rich but because you are humble. 
 
So the wealthy Christian should rejoice that when he goes through trials he has to face the bankruptcy of worldly riches and depend on the gifts and the grace of God.  And it is the humble person, regardless of his profit and loss sheet that knows how to rejoice in the provision of God.
 
The person who has nothing rejoices in what God provides.  The person who has everything and realizes it can’t buy what he needs, also rejoices in what God has provided. 
 
One commentator says it like this:
 
“Faith in Christ lifts the lowly brother beyond his trials to the great height of a position in the kingdom of Christ whereas God’s child he is rich and may rejoice and boast.  Faith in Christ does an equally blessed thing for the rich brother.  It fills him with the spirit of Christ, the spirit of lowliness and true Christian humility.  As the poor brother forgets all his earthy poverty, so the rich brother forgets all his earthy riches and the two are equals by faith in Christ.”
 
Trials have a way of leveling the ground.  When you lose a daughter or lose a son or lose a wife or lose a husband, it doesn’t matter how much money you have.  None of it is going to buy your way out of that trial. 
 
Trials bring us to the same level of dependency on God and thus bring us humbly to the same level with each other.  So, we do not preoccupy ourselves with earthly things and in the church, we do not exalt those who have much as over against those who have little because, all our earthly possessions are inadequate to buy us what we need spiritually.
 
And as verse 11 says, one of these days it’s all going to be gone anyway.  And when everything else is gone, whatever is left is only by the grace of God.
 
So what kind of attitude are we to have, to face trials?  A joyous attitude, an understanding mind, a submissive will, a believing heart and an humble spirit that trusts not in our possessions, but in the provision of God.
 
The first test of Authentic Faith is the test of trials.  Perseverance in trials marks genuine believers.  It marks genuine believers.  And you need to look at them in your own life and the life of others to determine and discern who is for real.  God is at work to show our faith not only to the world, to ourselves.   
 
I'll close with an illustration from the 48th chapter of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah 48 is a great portion of Scripture and one that is very easily overlooked but there is a great illustration in this chapter of what we’ve studied tonight. 
 
Jeremiah 48 is a judgment prophecy against Moab. The Moabites were a pagan, idolatrous people who lived across the Dead Sea in the south part of that area, east of the land of Israel.
And God pronounced judgment on Moab.  Notice in particular what He says in
 
verse 11
 
Did you hear what made Moab morally weak?  It was an easy, undisturbed life. 
 
Notice in particular that God says he has “settled on his dregs and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel.”
 
This is a very graphic illustration that has to do with wine making and moving the product from bitter to sweet. The liquid was poured into a skin and left there for a long time. And over the course of time, the bitter part would begin to fall to the bottom and become what we call the dregs.   By the way, that’s where vinegar comes from.
Then what was on the surface was poured into another skin and another passage of time would yield more dregs. That process would be repeated until finally it could be poured into a skin and there would be no dregs at all because all of that had been removed in that process. And what you had at the end was the pure, sweet wine.
 
And God says the problem with Moab was she was never poured from trial to trial to trial to trial so that the sweetness developed. 
 
I don't know about you but I don't want to be in that situation, I don't want to be in the situation of a life of ease.
 
If God needs to pour me from vessel to vessel to vessel so that the sinful dregs of my life can fall to the bottom and what is left is the pure, sweet wine of righteousness, then so be it, amen? We want to let God do His work, don't we?
 
If we're going to allow God to accomplish His purpose then in our lives, then we're going to have to have an attitude of joy. We're going to have to have an understanding mind.  We’re going to have to have a believing heart and we’re going to have to have an humble spirit. 
 
So be ready! The trials are coming!
 
Let’s pray.
 
 
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