“Faith Tested” – James 1:1-4

May 5th, 2013

James 1:1-4

“Faith Tested”

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Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  — James 1:2-4

                                                                                                               

Background Information — Five questions we should ask before we begin our study of James:

Who wrote the book of James?

  • The book begins with the straightforward statement, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1).  The author assumes that his readers (called “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations”) would know his identity.  This James, the author, must have been someone well-known, with stature and authority in the early church.  James, the brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem church, is the obvious choice.  This is also the traditional view (since early in the third century) and the belief of most biblical scholars today.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, xi)
  • James wrote from a city in religious turmoil, with opposition from Sadducees, legalistic Pharisees, and a vengeful high priest.  Christians were a persecuted minority.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, xii)
  • James wrote from a city in political turmoil, in a land where the people lived under foreign rule, in occupied territory.  Christians were powerless in the community.  Often they had to accept their lot and live quiet testimonies within a hostile atmosphere.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, xiii)
  • In general, the Jews of Jerusalem were poor, although many of the landowners and religious leaders had wealth.  In addition, tax collectors like Matthew (Mt 9:9) and Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10) made financial gains by allying themselves with the Romans and exploiting their countrymen.  Eventually, however, Jerusalem became desperately poor because of Roman greed and a terrible famine (Acts 11:28-30).

James wrote from a city with an unstable economy and from a people with very few material resources.  The Christians in Jerusalem were poor.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, xiii)

  • The book of James was written after the death of Stephen (A.D. 35), the persecution that caused many of the Jerusalem believers to flee for their lives, the conversion of Paul (A.D. 35), and the death of James the apostle (A.D. 44).

It was written before the Council of Jerusalem (A.D. 50), Paul’s second and third missionary journeys (A.D. 50-52, 53-57), Paul’s final imprisonment and martyrdom (A.D. 67), and the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus (A.D. 70).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, xiv)

  • The church in Jerusalem was poor.  In fact, this church eventually became so impoverished, especially after a devastating famine, that Paul collected money for them on his third missionary journey (see Acts 11:28-30; 24:17; Rom 15:25-26; 1 Cor 16:1-4; 2 Cor 8:1-9:5).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, xxvi)
  • (Mt 12:46-50; 13:53-55) Jesus’s half-brother James whose mother is Mary and father is Joseph.  James the one who shared a bathroom and probably a bedroom with the Son of God, Savior of the World, the Anointed One, the God/man.
  • (Jn 7:3-5) James did not believe Jesus was who He claimed to be.
  • (Mark 6:3-4) In fact James and most of Jesus’ other family members were offended by Jesus’ teaching and claims.
  • (Mk 3:20-22) James thought Jesus was crazy, insane and tried (unsuccessfully) to pull Jesus away from the crowds and take him home out of the public limelight and eliminate what James was sure was family disgrace.
  • It is asked: would Jesus have committed his mother to the care of John, if she had other sons besides himself? (Jn 19:26, 27).  The answer is that, so far as we know, Jesus’ family were quite out of sympathy with him and it would hardly have been possible to commit his mother to their care.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 18)
  • (Acts 1:3-14) James has a change of heart after Jesus’ resurrection and immediately after is counted among the disciples.
  • (Acts 12:17) Peter recognizes the position, status and authority of James in the early Church.
  • (Acts 15:13; Gal 1:19; 2:9-12) James is the leader of the Jerusalem Church.  Think about that. With Peter, John, and Paul hanging around, they chose James to be the leader.
  • (Acts ch 15; ch 21; 2:9-12) As leader of the Jerusalem church, James was constantly battling the tension that true Christianity must always fight between legalism (following the Law) and antinomianism (unbridled, cheap grace).
  • When Acts opens, Jesus’ mother and his brothers are there with the little group of Christians (Acts 1:14).  From there onwards it becomes clear that James has become the leader of the Jerusalem Church although how that came about is never explained.  It is to James that Peter sends the news of his escape from prison (Acts 12:17).  James presides over the Council of Jerusalem which agreed to the entry of the Gentiles into the Christian Church (Acts 15).  It is James and Peter whom Paul meets when he first goes to Jerusalem; and it is with Peter, James and John, the pillars of the Church, that he discusses and settles his sphere of work (Gal 1:19; 2:9).  It is to James that Paul comes with his collection from the Gentile Churches on the visit to Jerusalem which is destined to be his last and which leads to his imprisonment (Acts 21:18-25).  This last episode is important, for it shows James very sympathetic to the Jews who still observe the Jewish law, and so eager that their scruples should not be offended, that he actually persuades Paul to demonstrate his loyalty to the law by assuming responsibility for the expenses of certain Jews who are fulfilling a Nazirite vow.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 10)
  • What changed the life of James?   Jesus showed Himself as the true Elder brother for his prodical younger brother (Luke 15) and came back to see James and restore him to the truth and Family of God immediately after Jesus’ resurrection (1 Cor 15:7).
  • James was popularly known as “James the Just”, “James the Pious” or “Camel Knees” because of his life of prayer and pious example.
  • James is not a name dropper, even though his half brother was the Messiah.   James criticizes the proud and arrogant so he could not and did not make this part of his letter.  And yet he was well known enough in the early church that he did not have to qualify which James was writing this letter.  Everyone in the early church knew which James was writing this letter.
  • 62 AD, James was still the leader of the Church in Jerusalem but, at the same time he was highly respected by the Pharisees and Scribes of Jerusalem.  They, not knowing his unwavering commitment to Jesus, thought that it would be good for them to put James on the roof of the temple and have him explain to everyone his position towards his half brother Jesus.  Instead of denying the divinity of Jesus, James confessed that he believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  At which point the Pharisees and Scribes realized the seriousness of their error to have James speak from the temple roof and pushed James over the edge onto the pavement below.  The fall did not kill James and so they stoned him and beat his head in with a club to finish him off.  (Josephus; Antiquities of the Jews, xx, ix, i)
  • He could have begun his letter, “James the Just, from the sacred womb of Mary, congenital sibling of Christ his brother, confidant of the Messiah.”  But James did not even allude to this status, being content with “servant” (cf. Mk 10:45; Phil 2:5-8; Rom 12:7).  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 17)

 

To whom was James written?

  • The new Israel (NT believers) who were scattered all over the Roman empire as a result of persecution and the implications of the first Christian Pentecost.
  • (v. 1) ‘The twelve tribes’ no longer existed physically, but the title had become a way of describing the regathered and spiritually renewed Israel that God would create in ‘the last days’ (see Ezk 47:13; Mt 19:28; Rv 7:4-8; 21:12).  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 58)
  • (v. 1) The original twelve tribes of Israel no longer existed.  Deportation of the ten northern tribes had effectively destroyed their identity.  All that was left of that part of Israel were the mixed-race Samaritans who were despised by the Jews.  By the time of this letter the term the twelve tribes had come to describe the regathered and renewed Israel that God would create in the last days (Ezek 47:13; Mt 19:28; Rv 7:4-8; 21:12).  That regathering has been made possible by Jesus the Messiah.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 3)

 

Why was James written?

  • There is scarcely anything in the letter that a good Jew could not accept.  So much so that there are those who think that it is actually a Jewish ethical tract which has found its way into the NT.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 21)
  • The literary style is referred to as NT Wisdom literature.  It is not intended to be a theological treatise but a reflection of Jesus’ teaching in written form.
  • In some ways, the letter of James is the most authoritarian in the NT.  That is, James issues instructions more profusely than any of the other writers.  In the short space of 108 verses, there are 54 imperatives.  (William MacDonald, Emmaus Correspondence Course:  The Epistle of James, 2)
  • It is a grave mistake to infer, as some have done, that this Epistle emphasizes works rather than faith.  It stresses the importance of faith throughout, but shows that real faith is never separated from a life of piety.  (H. A. Ironside, Expository Notes on James and Peter, 11)
  • The Jerusalem church had experienced tremendous growth.  With this growth there undoubtedly were many “hangers on,” spiritual groupies, people who wanted to be part of the Christian crowd but had no depth to their faith.  Ananias and Sapphira seem to fit into that category.  Their phony profession and dramatic deaths rocked the young church (see Acts 5:1-11).  Later in the NT, we hear of others, who left churches when the going got tough: “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us.  But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us” (1 Jn 2:19 NRSV).

To deal with this problem head-on, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit James pronounced that superficial faith, just believing the facts about Christ, is not enough.  True faith involves wholehearted and genuine trust in Jesus Christ and will be evidenced by a changed life.  In other words, true faith will produce good works.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, xix)

  • James knew as well that it is easy to slip back into old habits or spiritual neutrality when one has moved away and is surrounded by those who believe differently.  And so he challenged his readers to move beyond mere words into action–to live out their faith.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, xvi)
  • Genuine believers order their lives under the will and word of the Lord.  Then, when they fail to meet the standard, they plead for grace.  As James says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (4:10).  That is the gospel of James.  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 13)
  • James presents a series of exhortations and numerous admonitions that reflect an ethical rather than a doctrinal emphasis.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 10)

 

When was James written?

  • More than likely somewhere between 44 – 48 AD

 

Defining some terms used by James in 1:2-4:

  • (v.2) {NIV – trials} Peirasmos is trial or testing directed towards an end, and the end is that he who is tested should emerge stronger and purer from the testing.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 42)
  • (v.3) {NIV – testing} James describes this process of testing by the word dokimion.  It is an interesting word.  It is the word for sterling coinage, for money which is genuine and unalloyed.  The aim of testing is to purge us of all impurity.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 43)
  • Dokimion is the Greek word translated testing; it means “approved after testing.”  Although we tend to think of testing as a way to prove what we don’t know or don’t have, testing ought to be seen as a positive opportunity to prove what we have learned.  Testing is an important term because it is positive rather than negative.  This is the exact term used in 1 Pt 1:6-7 for “proved genuine” and means that the trial is God’s attempt to prove our faith genuine.  It is a test that has a positive purpose.  The person being tested should become stronger and purer through the testing.  In this case, the trials do not determine whether or not believers have faith; rather, the trials strengthen believers by adding perseverance to the faith that is already present.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 6-7)
  • (vss. 3 & 4){NIV – perseverance} The word endurance has a particular connection with this diamondlike quality created by testing, since the Latin root of this word means “to harden.”  Perseverance is not a passive submission to circumstances–it is a strong and active response to the difficult events of life.  It is not passive endurance, but the quality of standing on your feet as you face the storms.  It is not simply the attitude of withstanding trials, but the ability to turn them into glory, to overcome them.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 7)
  • (vss. 3 & 4){NIV – perseverance} Hypomonēn is translated “patience” in KJV, but it is a much more active and forceful word.  It speaks of tenacity and stick-to-it-iveness.  Barclay explains that it is not the patience that passively endures; instead, it is the quality that enables a man to stand on his feet facing the storm (NT Words, 144-45).   It is in struggling against difficulty and opposition that spiritual stamina is developed.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, 168)
  • (v.4) {NIV – mature} The Greek is teleios which usually has the meaning of perfection towards a given end.  A sacrificial animal is teleois if it is fit to offer to God.  A scholar is teleios if he is mature.  A person is teleios if he is full grown.  This constancy born of testing well met makes a man teleios in the sense of being fit for the task he was sent into the world to do.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 44)
  • (v.4) {NIV – not lacking in anything} The Greek is leipesthai and it is used of the defeat of an army, of the giving up of a struggle, of the failure to reach a standard that should have been reached.  If a man meets his testing in the right way, if day by day he develops this unswerving constancy, day by day he will live more victoriously and reach nearer to the standard of Jesus Christ himself.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 44)
  • These expressions, in their present application, are by some thought to be borrowed from the Grecian games; the man was perfect, who in any of the athletic exercises had got the victory; he was entire, having every thing complete, who had the victory in the pentathlon, in each of the five exercises.  (Adam Clarke, Commentary and Critical Notes: Vol. IV, 818-19)
  • There are frequent references to the law in this letter.  It is called “the perfect law” (1:25), “the royal law” (2:8) and “the law of liberty” (2:12).  James does not teach that his readers are under law for salvation or as a rule of life.  Rather, portions of the law are cited as instruction in righteousness for those who are under grace.  (William MacDonald, Emmaus Correspondence Course:  The Epistle of James, 2)

 

James vs. Paul — Real or ignorance?:

  • James is writing in response to the charge that Christianity was antinomian.
  • James is writing to show how to live the Christian life. NOT how to become a Christian.  James is concerned about sanctification.  Paul was worried about justification.
  • James is a letter to encourage believers to walk with God, not a letter to tell you how to come to God.  James mentions Jesus – 2 times; the cross – 0; the resurrection -0; baptism – 0; justification, atonement, and reconciliation – 0. James is NOT a theological treatise.  James is trying to show he is from Missouri – show me.
  • What James is attacking is either a misunderstanding of what Paul said or a perversion of it; and nowhere was such a misunderstanding or perversion more likely to arise than in Jerusalem, where Paul’s stress on faith and grace and his attack on the law were likely to be regarded with more suspicion than anywhere else.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 23)
  • Paul and James are no more in contradiction than are Articles 11 and 12 of the 39 Articles of Religion of the Church of England.  Article 11 reads: “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith.”  Article 12 reads: “Good Works, which are the fruits of Faith…are…pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith.”  Paul and James respectively could not be more succinctly expressed.  To Paul the question was, “How is salvation experienced?” and the answer, “By faith alone.”  To James the question was, “How is this true and saving faith recognized?” and the answer, “By its fruits.”  The supposition that Paul and James are at variance is a false trail.  (John Stott, The Message of James, 19-20)
  • But was devotion to the law James’ motivation in Acts 15 and 21?  There is no need to think so.  His behavior at the Council is that of a great conciliator.  His intervention in the debate aims to provide a common ground on which all may unite.  Likewise in Acts 21 he does not take sides, but stands between two sides which, if nothing is done, might well pull apart from each other.  His persuasive ways are evident in that Paul followed his advice, and if he fell foul of the Jews in doing so this was not germane to James’ purpose, which was to provide common ground for different views and emphases among Christians.  Such a James is essential as author of this letter, with its central insistence on harmony and the composing of differences.  (John Stott, The Message of James, 22)
  • James approaches faith subjectively–in the sense of trust or confidence in the Lord, while Paul explains it objectively–as the instrument by which a believer is justified before God.  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 15)
  • James uses the word faith subjectively in the sense of trust and confidence in the Lord.  This active faith gives the believer perseverance, certainty, and salvation (1:3; 2:14; 5:15).  Faith is the believer’s active involvement in the church and in the world.  Through faith he receives wisdom (1:5), righteousness (2:23), and healing (5:15).

Paul, on the other hand, often speaks of faith objectively.  Faith is the instrument by which the believer is justified before God (Rom 3:25, 28, 30; 5:1; Gal 2:16; Phil 3:9).  Faith is the means by which the believer takes hold of the merits of Christ.  Because of these merits, man is justified before God.  Justification, then, comes as a gift from God to man–a gift which he appropriates in faith.  Justification is God’s declaration that God has restored the believer through faith to a right relationship with himself.  (Simon J. Kistemaker, NT Commentary: James, 15-16)

 

  • Paul’s main point was that a person could never be good enough to “earn” his or her salvation.  And because everyone has sinned, all people fall into this lost category–all fall short.  “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:22-24).  Interestingly, James also underlined the universality of sin and the need for salvation when he wrote: “For whoever shall keep the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he is guilty of all” (2:10).

In summary, James was speaking of good deeds after conversion, as evidence of faith and a right relationship with God–true faith produces good works.  Paul was speaking of good deeds before conversion–they can never earn or produce a right relationship with God–obedience follows profession.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, xx)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What can we expect to learn from the book of James over the course of the next 3 months?

 

Answer:  James is showing us what constitutes true, saving faith and what tests you can self-administer to verify or confirm the status of your own professed faith.

 

John MacArthur sites eight purposes for the Lord’s allowing trials to come into the lives of His people:

  • To test the strength of our faith (Ex 16:4; Dt 13:3-4; 2 Chr 32:31; Job 42:5-6; Hab 3:17-18; Lk 14:26).
  • To humble us, to remind us not to let our trust in the Lord turn into presumption and spiritual self-satisfaction (2 Cor 12:7).
  • To wean us from our dependence upon worldly things (Ex 2:11-25; Jn 6:5-6; Heb 11:24-26).
  • To call us to eternal and heavenly hope (Rom 5:3-4; 8:18-25; 2 Cor 4:14, 16-18; Phil 1:23-24).
  • To reveal what we really love (Gn 22; Dt 10:12; 13:3; Mt 22:38-39; Lk 14:26).
  • To teach us to value God’s blessings (Ps 63:3-7; Heb 11; 12:2).
  • To develop in His saints enduring strength for greater usefulness (Isa 41:10; 2 Cor 12:10; Heb 11:33-34).
  • To enable us to better help others through their trials (Lk 22:31-32; 2 Cor 1:3-6; Heb 2:18; 4:15) (John MacArthur; The MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 17-20)

 

True faith is a faith that works.  (Kent Hughes, James, Faith That Works, 15)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Confirm

 

Steve Brown – God allows unbelievers to be in trouble, and God allows believers to be in trouble, so the world can see the difference.

 

God allows unbelievers to have cancer, and God allows believers to have cancer, so the world can see the difference.

 

God allows unbelievers to be in financial trouble, and God allows believers to be in financial trouble, so the world can see the difference.

 

God allows unbelievers to go through broken relationships, and God allows believers to go through broken relationships, so the world can see the difference.

 

The Spirit of God will make a difference in your life.

 

What tests does James offer to help us accurately evaluate the status and substance of our faith?:

I.  Real faith is confirmed when the faithful glory in their servanthood to Master Jesus. (Jas 1:1; see also: Mt 6:24; 24:32-51; 25:14-46; Mk 13:3-37; Lk 12:22-39; 16:13; 17:7-10; 19:11-27;  Rom 1:1; 6:13-14, 19; 12:1-2; 1 Cor 4:1; 2 Cor 4:5; 6:1-10; Gal 1:10; Phil 1:1; 1 Pt 2:16)

 

Westminster catechism question #1 “What is the chief end of man?”

Answer: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

 

What is more important than the exact literary history of the two documents is the fact that James has a point of view so similar to that which marks the teaching of Jesus during his lifetime.  Much of James reads like the gospel of Jesus rather than the gospel about Jesus.  (R. Williams, The Cambridge Bible Commentary: John and James, 86)

 

Then, after the Ascension, we find James with the apostles, Mary, and others, praying continually (Acts 1:12-14) and waiting for the Holy Spirit as Jesus had told them to do (Acts 1:4-5).

This is James who describes himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1) and as a believer “in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” (2:1).  He is a man whose life was changed by Christ: a sibling turned servant; an antagonist turned apologist; a passive observer turned passionate follower.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, xi)

 

It is impossible to have spiritual maturity and pride at the same time.  (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church, 338)

 

II.  Real faith is confirmed when you have a more familial connection with your brothers and sisters in Christ than you do with your own biological family members. (Jas 1:2, 9, 16, 19; 2:1, 5, 14, 15; 3:1, 10, 12; 4:11; 5:7, 9, 10, 12, 19; see also: Mt 12:46-50; Lk 8:19-21; Jn 15:17; Gal 4:26; 6:10; 1 Pt 1:22; 1 Jn 1:7; 3:14)

 

No Christian can read the NT and escape the responsibility to follow his example.  Jesus tells his inner circle of disciples: “This is my command: Love each other” (Jn 15:17); Paul writes, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal 6:10); Peter exhorts us: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart” (1 Pt 1:22); while John even sees the issue as a test of faith and says, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers” (1 Jn 3:14).  All James has done so far is to call his readers “brothers”, but already he is stirring us into action.  There is a relationship we should foster.  (John Blanchard, Truth for Life, 17-18)

 

If James is to be anyone’s brother, he prefers to emphasize his relationship with his fellow believers (v 2).  He calls his readers brothers 15 times.  (Mark Jeske, The People’s Bible: James, Peter, John, Jude, 11)

 

III.  Real faith is confirmed when you count trials as a means God uses to develop perseverance, maturity and completeness in your life.   And this brings you pure joy. (Jas 1:2-4; see also: Ps 66:10-12; 119:71; Isa 48:10; Mt 5:11-12; 24:13; Rom 5:3-5; 8:18-25; Heb 5:8)

 

Do you know that there are spiritual attributes or qualities that cannot be developed in any other way than through tribulation, trials or suffering?  You cannot learn humility, freedom, compassion or faith by a textbook or lecture or watching it in someone else.  These attributes must be learned the hard way . . . God’s way.

 

Most of our contemporary life is trying to deal with life so we don’t have trials.   And if we can avoid trials then we’ll have joy.   But if we have trials, we cannot possibly have joy.  Therefore, we have to get rid of these trials in some way so that we can get on with joy.  James says, “No”.  If you want to know pure unadulterated joy, then you will find it in your trials. (Alistiar Begg, sermon “When Trials Come: part 1  )

 

Trials are the means by which our faith is tested.  (Alistiar Begg, sermon “When Trials Come: part 1  )

 

More progress is made in the Christian life through disappointment and tears than is ever made through success and laughter. The winds of tribulation blow away the chaff of error, hypocrisy and doubt leaving that which survives the test the genuine element of Christian character.  (Alistiar Begg, sermon “When Trials Come: part 1  )

 

To reach the condition of firm endurance and sacred hardiness is worth all the expense of all the heaped up troubles that ever come upon us from above or from beneath. — Charles Spurgeon.

 

It is an only-too-often repeated fact that such faith as we possess collapses before the storm of sorrow, or pain, or disappointment, or whatever it may be.  We say that we believe that God is our Father, but as long as we remain untested on the point our belief falls short of steady conviction.  But suppose the day comes–as it does and will–when circumstances seem to mock our creed, when the cruelty of life denies his fatherliness, his silence calls in question his almightiness and the sheer, haphazard, meaningless jumble of events challenges the possibility of a Creator’s ordering hand.  It is in this way that life’s trials test our faith for genuineness.  (John Stott, The Message of James, 31)

 

Without problems, we would never develop endurance.  Even men of the world realize that problems strengthen character.  Charles Kettering, noted industrialist once said, “Problems are the price of progress.  Don’t bring me anything but problems.  Good news weakens me.”  (William MacDonald, Emmaus Correspondence Course:  The Epistle of James, 5)

 

Happiness is a subjective state, whereas James is instructing us to make a more objective judgment when he says consider it pure joy.  “Happiness” might encourage readers to expect a carefree life or a constantly cheerful mood.  Neither of these is what James has in mind.  He acknowledges the presence of extremely unhappy experiences in his readers’ lives.  At the same time, and with no perception of any contradiction, James counsels these readers to rejoice during those very experiences of hardship.  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 35)

 

Most of our school tests are designed primarily to reveal what knowledge the students already have in them.  The biblical concept of a testing, as James uses it here, is one that does reveal the genuineness of the person’s faith; but James says the test is also designed to develop something that is not yet present in full measure in the person.

This is why, for the one who wants to live by faith, the trial can be a time for rejoicing.  How many people today suffer in trials of many kinds, thinking that the issue is whether they have the faith to pass the test?  The spiritual reality is that God will use the trial to develop something that they admittedly do not yet possess.  James says, “Rejoice in that prospect!”  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 36-37)

 

Dokimos = approved – written under pottery that had gone through the fire and had survived without cracking.

 

All of us are facing a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.  (Chuck Swindoll,  James1:2-12, “When Troubles Won’t Go Away” )

 

The adjective “perfect” is used five times by James (twice here; 1:17, 25; 3:2).  It speaks of completeness, maturity, full-grown, brought to its end, finished.  Impatience, complaining, or bitterness would not be a “perfect” result.  The command is in the present tense, indicating continuous and progressive action.  The purposes for testing are being accomplished as we remain steadfast.  (Vernon Doerksen, James, 17-18)

 

Mature Christians are the end-product of testing.  (Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale NT Commentaries: James, 61)

 

The idea is not that of seduction into sin but of strengthening and purifying.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 42)

 

There will be the tests of the dangers, the sacrifices, the unpopularity which the Christian way must so often involve.  But they are not meant to make us fall; they are meant to make us soar.  They are not meant to defeat us; they are meant to be defeated.  They are not meant to make us weaker; they are meant to make us stronger.  Therefore we should not bemoan them; we should rejoice in them.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 43)

 

Our attitude is to be one of pure joy (genuine rejoicing).  This is not joyful anticipation for trials.  Instead, it is joy during trials.  The joy is based on confidence in the outcome of the trial.  It is the startling realization that trials represent the possibility of growth.  In contrast, most people are happy when they escape trials.  But James encourages us to consider it pure joy in the very face of trials.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 5)

 

How a person handles trouble will reveal whether his faith is living or dead, genuine or imitation, saving or nonsaving.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 15)

 

The Puritan Thomas Manton perceptively observed that “while all things are quiet and comfortable, we live by sense rather than faith.  But the worth of a soldier is never known in times of peace.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 20)

 

We are not just to act joyful, in reluctant pretense, but to be genuinely joyful.  It is a matter of will, not of feelings, and should be the conscious, determined commitment of every faithful believer.  And because God commands it, it is within the ability, under the Spirit’s provision, of every true Christian.  When faith in Jesus Christ is genuine, James assures us, even the worst of troubles can and should be cause for thanksgiving and rejoicing.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 21)

 

Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.  —African proverb

 

Generally speaking, one day of adversity can be of more profit to us for our eternal salvation than years of untroubled living, whatever good use we make of the time. (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 114)

 

There is no education like adversity.  —Walt Disney

 

The ancients used an interesting little instrument, called the tribulum, to beat grain to divide the chaff from the wheat.  The word “tribulation” comes from this word.  Tribulations truly separate the chaff from the wheat in human character.  (Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, 1524)

 

We acquire maturity not in dingy lecture halls but on crosses.  (Calvin Miller; A Hunger for Meaning)

 

I thank You, Lord, for bitter things,

They’ve been a friend of grace;

They’ve driven me from paths of ease

To seek the Father’s face.

 

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.  -Helen Keller

 

“Trials will either turn you into Gold or cinders”  —Tim Keller

 

“I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned I my seventy-five years in the world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained.  In other words, if it ever were to be possible to eliminate affliction from our earthly existence by means of some drug or other medical mumbo-jumbo, as Aldous Huxley envisaged in Brave New World, the result would not be to make life delectable, but to make it too banal and trivial to be endurable.”  (Malcom Muggeridge; A Twentieth Century Testimony: as quoted by Kent Hughes; Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, 121)

 

Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has.  -Billy Graham

 

And yet, temptations can be useful to us even though they seem to cause us nothing but pain.  They are useful because they can make us humble, they can cleanse us, and they can teach us.  All of the saints passed through times of temptation and tribulation, and they used them to make progress in the spiritual life.  Those who did not deal with temptation successfully fell to the wayside.  -Thomas á Kempis

 

The trial of faith is also a test of its character; it is the furnace that tries the ore, of what kind it is: it may be brass, or iron, or clay, or perhaps precious gold; but the crucible will test it.  There is much that passes for real faith, which is no faith; there is much spurious, counterfeit metal; it is the trial that brings out its real character.  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 87)

 

Trials are the soil in which faith grows.   (Our Daily Bread 9-19-12)

 

IV.  Real faith is confirmed when the desire of your heart is to be like Jesus no matter what you must go through to get there. (Jas 1:2-4; see also: Mt 5:48; Jn 16:33; Rom 12:1-2; Phil 3:7-11; Heb 3:14; 1 Jn 2:19)     

 

In the Bible, patience is not a passive acceptance of circumstances.  It is a courageous perseverance in the face of suffering and difficulty.   (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 25)

 

The thing which amazed the heathen in the centuries of persecution was that the martyrs did not die grimly, they died singing.  One smiled in the flames; they asked him what he found to smile at there.  “I saw the glory of God,” he said, “and was glad.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: James and Peter, 43)

 

It is an excellent exchange to part with outward comforts for inward graces.  Fiery trials are nothing if you gain patience.  Sickness, with patience, is better than health; loss, with patience, is better than gain.  If earthly affections were more mortified, we should value inward enjoyments and experiences of God more than we do.  Paul saith, 2 Cor 12:9, ‘I will glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me:’ misery and calamities should be welcome, because they gave him further experiences of Christ.  Certainly, nothing maketh afflictions burthensome to us but our own carnal affections.  (Thomas Manton, Geneva Series of Commentaries: James, 33)

 

That is a paradox.  It bids a man to be glad because he has trouble and is sad.  It seems ridiculous, but the next verse solves the paradox: ‘Knowing this, that the trial of your faith worketh patience.’  That is to say–if I rightly understand the meaning of this world in its bearing on myself, the intention of my whole life to make me what God would have me to be, then I shall not measure things by their capacity to delight and please taste, ambitions, desires, or sense, but only by their power to mold me into his likeness.  (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: 2 Tm – Jas, 357)

 

There is nothing to be won in the perfecting of Christian character without our setting ourselves to it persistently, doggedly, continuously all through our lives.  Brethren, be sure of this, you will never grow like Christ by mere wishing, by mere emotion, but only by continual faith, rigid self-control, and by continual struggle.  And be as sure of this, you will never miss the mark if, ‘forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth to those that are before,’ you ‘let patience have her perfect work,’ and press towards Him who is Himself the Author and Finisher of our patience and of our faith.  (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: 2 Tm – Jas, 559-60)

 

James invites you to envision yourself in the state of spiritual maturity, rid of the jealousy or laziness or impulsiveness or impatience or bitterness or self-pity or selfishness that now mars the wholeness of your fellowship with God and the completeness of your spirituality.  Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness?  Do you long to be fully the person God desires you to be?  If so, then you now have the full reason for considering it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds.  The trials can be opportunities for testing to develop in you the perseverance which, when it finishes its work, will leave you mature in Christ!  For those who have set their hearts on becoming Christlike, this is wonderful reason for pure joy.  (George M. Stulac, The IVP NT Commentary Series: James, 38-39)

 

The worth and value of our soul is measured by what we love.  If we love corrupt and wicked things we become corrupt and wicked.  But the person who loves God spiritually grows and matures until he becomes like the One he loves.  What a person loves is constantly on his mind.  And what we think about has a power to transform our soul.  We become like what we behold.    (Henry Scougal and Robert Leighton; God’s Abundant Life, 39)

 

An old black woman in the Deep South put suffering in proper perspective when she said, “If the mountain was smooth, you couldn’t climb it.”  Everything God has caused or allowed in your life is for your good–to draw you into a deeper love relationship with him.  Your sufferings are not merely setbacks.  They are also springboards to the crucial task of knowing God well enough that you can trust him.  We must learn to interpret the mysteries of life in the light of our knowledge of God.  Until we can look the darkest fact full in the face without damaging God’s character, we do not yet know him as he is.  (Patrick Morely; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 74)

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION:  What must a person possess before he can begin to appreciate and appropriate James’ message in 1:1-4?:

A-  He must count himself as a desperate sinner and Jesus as his Savior and the perfection of Jesus as something beautiful and worthy to be sought after at all costs.  (Job 1:21; 13:15; Acts 5:41; Rom 6:3-10; 12:1-2; 2 Cor 7:1; 11:16-12:10; Gal 2:20; Phil 2:12-18; 3:7-8; Heb 10:34; Jas 1:12; 1 Pt 4:12-16; 1 Jn 1:1-3; Rev 2:10)

 

If your goal is to be complete in Christ, these things (trials) are a means of grace, a means by which God is bringing fruitfulness out of your soul.  We are his handiwork, we are his craftsmanship, and the pain by which He molds us and shapes us is only for a moment that we might be renewed in the image of Christ Himself.  (R.C. Sproul; sermon “Trials or Trails”)

 

James says, The way in which you can count it joy, is not by moving yourself into a citadel that is absent from the trouble, but is by your attitude in the trouble.   And how do we do it?  Well, look at verse 3.  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

Why would they do that ?  Verse three here gives us the answer.

Because you know, because you know.  In other words, we have to bring how we feel, under the dictates of what we know.  If we continue to put what we know under the proviso of what we feel then we will make all of our knowings subservient to our feelings.  But, isn’t this true in so many areas of life?   I think it is.  (Alistiar Begg sermon “When Trials Come: part 1  )

 

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 the future, then trials will make us bitter, not better.  Job had the right outlook when he said, “But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 23)

 

Outlook determines outcome; to end with joy, begin with joy.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 24)

 

Sense can feel no joy in it, and sense will suggest nothing but bitterness and sorrow; but we are not to go by that count and reckoning.  A Christian liveth above the world, because he doth not judge according to the world.  (Thomas Manton, Geneva Series of Commentaries: James, 22)

 

The Lord then afflicts us in various ways, because ambition, avarice, envy, gluttony, intemperance, excessive love of the world, and the innumerable lusts in which we abound, cannot be cured by the same medicine.  (John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of James, 279)

 

There is no denial that trials also produce strain and pain; there is, however, the reminder that, when they come, and when we evaluate them aright, we ought to bear them with joy.  The flesh will not like them, but the spirit will rejoice to prove itself and to gain from the trials what Christ intended should be gained.  (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle of James, 524)

 

Endurance: How far you will go before you quit.  — Pastor at the Lahina Baptist Church; Lahina Hawaii,  8/20/06

 

I believe that maturity in Christ isn’t so much being good, but realizing how many places one lacks goodness.  -Steve Brown

 

When we rely on self, and when we trust in ourselves instead of God, then our natural default is going to be to look to ourselves to find our salvation and our righteousness.  And if we think we can achieve or merit God’s favor and blessing, then what do we need grace, forgiveness or mercy for?

Jesus spoke about this same subject when he told the parable of the two men who had come to pray.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”  (Lk 18:9-14).

The first thing that we need to come to terms with, in order for us to be saved, in order to us to grow in Christ, in order for us to mature, in order for us to be effective in the Kingdom of God; is for us to understand that WE ARE THE PROBLEM!  And if we are the problem, we are not going to be the solution.  We must forget about “doing” or “being” something on our own to solve our own problems and to save us from our sins.

It is our sinful nature, our deceitfully wicked hearts that trick us into believing we are OK and that everything will be OK if we simply do our best.  That is where we go wrong.  And it is only when we come to repent of our sinful self, that we will ever have a chance of becoming all that God desires for us to be.  Likewise, the church must come to a point of corporate repenting of her sinful nature if she is ever going to grow and mature in Christ.  Therefore, we desperately are in need of God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy if we are to be saved and mature as Christians.

 

Without suffering – obedience is meaningless.   Obedience is measured and defined in the presence of suffering.

 

Paul did not see his relation to Christ as the key to maximizing his physical comforts and pleasures in this life.  No, Paul’s relation to Christ was a call to choose suffering—a suffering that was beyond what would make atheism “meaningful” or “beautiful” or “heroic.”  It was a suffering that would have been utterly foolish and pitiable to choose if there is no resurrection into the joyful presence of Christ. (John Piper, Desiring God, 219)

 

“A season of suffering is a small price to pay for a clear view of God.” (Max Lucado; Evangel, July 31st, 2005, 5)

 

My wife and I once visited a world-famous weaver and watched his men and women work on the looms.  I noticed that the undersides of the rugs were not very beautiful: the patterns were obscure and the loose ends of yarn dangled, “Don’t judge the worker or the work by looking at the wrong side,” our guide told us.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 23)

 

 

Huge waves that would frighten an ordinary swimmer produce a tremendous thrill for the surfer who has ridden them… A saint doesn’t know the joy of the Lord in spite of tribulation, but because of it.  — Oswald Chambers
Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.  — John Wooden

 

There was a time (Moral Majority – Religious Right) when the church had money, power and prestige and we could use those things for the benefit of the Kingdom.  But, now, more and more we are having, less and less.  And that is bad.  NO that is good.  Cause now, the only thing we’ve got is to become like Jesus. (Steve Brown; “Beloved Pagan: Keeping the Church Honest; Pt 3)

 

We must realize that it is not Satan who defeats us; it is our openness to him.  To perfectly subdue the devil we must walk in the “shelter of the Most High” (Ps 91:1).   Satan is tolerated for one purpose: the warfare between the devil and God’s saints thrust us into Christlikeness, where the nature of Christ becomes our only place of rest and security.  God allows warfare to facilitate His eternal plan, which is to make man in His image.  (Francis Frangipane; The Three Battlegrounds) (Beth Moore, Praying God’s Word 323)

 

Have you ever noticed the way suffering helps us become less self-absorbed?  A little suffering can produce a lot of compassion.  And that is what happened to Joseph.  God turned a dungeon into a classroom where Joseph learned some lessons in empathy and sympathy.  He got an education in emotional intelligence.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 24)

 

While physical pain may be a part of the fall, God can and does use it for our spiritual advancement.  Brother Lawrence said God “sometimes permits the body to suffer to cure the sickness of the soul.”  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 170) (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, Fourteenth Letter)

 

It must be a terrible thing for a man to have never to have suffered physical pain. You say, ‘I should like to be that man.’ Ah, unless you had extraordinary grace, you would grow hard and cold; you would get to be a sort of cast iron man, breaking other people with your touch. No, let my heart be tender, even be soft, if it must be softened by pain, for I would fain know how to bind up my fellow’s wound. Let my eye have a tear ready for my brother’s sorrows, even if in order to that, I should have to shed ten thousand for my own. As escape from suffering would be escape from the power to sympathize, and that were to be deprecated beyond all things.   —Charles Spurgeon

 

B-  He must possess God’s Word and the Holy Spirit which empowers a person to count Jesus as beautiful; but also provides that person with the emotional, spiritual, and intellectual resources necessary to persevere in his pursuit of the perfection, maturity and completeness of Jesus. (Ps 19; 119; 139; Lk 8:15; 21:19; Rom 10:17; 15:4-5; 1 Cor 10:1-13; Eph 4:7-13; Phil 3:7-21; 1 Thes 1:3; 2 Tm 3:14-17; 1 Pt 1:3-9)

 

Trouble, hardship and various forms of suffering come to all of us at some time or another.  The natural tendency may be to feel that such things are a waste of human life and to be avoided at all costs.  Knowledge informs us otherwise.  —Derek Prime (Alistiar Begg, sermon “When Trials Comes: part 2  )

 

Bacon’s remark is mostly justified: ‘Prosperity is the blessing of the OT, adversity the blessing of the New.’  (R. Williams, The Cambridge Bible Commentary: John and James, 98)

 

Just as a human baby has two parents, so a spiritual baby has two parents–the Word of God and the Spirit of God.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 15)

 

How, then, is a person “born again”?  The Spirit of God takes the Word of God and generates new life within the heart of the sinner who believes on Jesus Christ.  It is a miracle.  The Spirit uses the Word to convict the sinner, and then to reveal the Savior.  We are saved by faith (Eph 2:8-9) and faith, comes from the Word of God (Rom 10:17).  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature, 15)

 

Christ’s eye-salve must clear your sight, or else you cannot make a right judgment: there is no proper and fit apprehension of things till you get within the veil, and see by the light of a sanctuary lamp: 1 Cor 2:11, ‘The things of God knoweth no man, but by the Spirit of God.’  He had said before, v 9, ‘Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard,’ etc.; i.e., natural senses do not perceive the worth and price of spiritual privileges; for I suppose the apostle speaketh not there of the incapacity of our understandings to conceive of heavenly joys, but of the unsuitableness of spiritual objects to carnal senses.  A man that hath no other light but reason and nature, cannot judge of those things; God’s riddles are only open to those that plough with God’s heifer:  and it is by God’s Spirit that we come to discern and esteem the things that are of God; which is the main drift of the apostle in that chapter.  So David, Ps 36:9, ‘In thy light we shall see light;’ that is, by his Spirit we come to discern the brightness of glory or grace, and the nothingness of the world.  (Thomas Manton, Geneva Series of Commentaries: James, 22)

 

No thinking person chooses suffering.  But we can choose our attitude in the midst of suffering.  (Joni Eareckson Tada; When Is It Right To Die?, 82)

 

You don’t need the Holy Spirit if you are merely seeking to live a semi-moral life and attend church regularly.  You can find people of all sorts in many religions doing that quite nicely without Him.  You only need the Holy Spirit’s guidance and help if you truly want to follow the Way of Jesus Christ.  You only need Him if you desire to “obey everything” He commanded and to teach others to do the same (Mt 28:18-20 NIV).  You only need the Holy Spirit if you understand that you are called to share in Christ’s suffering and death, as well as His resurrection (Rom 8:17; 2 Cor 4:16-18; Phil 3:10-11).  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 122-23)

 

C-  He must have heavenly wisdom and see God as sovereign, loving, gracious, merciful, compassionate, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent so as to be able to fully trust God in these apparently hopeless trials when they come.  And they will come!  (Prv 3:11-12; Col 1:9-14; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 2 Pt 1:2-9)

 

All of our suffering, all of our tribulations, all of our testing, always takes place Corum Deo (Before the face of God).  I couldn’t stand the thought of having to suffer away from the face of God where the light of His countenance doesn’t shine, to think that God is not aware of my suffering.  But, all of our suffering takes place before His face, and by His purpose.   And He is using it for our sanctification.  It is one thing to suffer.  It is another thing to suffer in a meaningless way.  The worse thing that can befall a human being is to suffer for no reason.  As long as we understand that there is fruit to be delivered at the end of the pain, we can be like women who are willing to endure the pangs and travail of childbirth that they may see the fruit of their own wombs, their babies. (R. C. Sproul sermon “Trials or Trails”)

 

“I’m not comfortable . . . so God can’t want me there.”  (Fred Saunders at Sunday School Class 2-8-09)

 

We cannot equate trials, in and of themselves, as a source of joy. . . instead, they may become the occasions of unreserved rejoicing if we respond to them from the right perspective. (Alistair Begg sermon “When Trials Comes: part 2  )

 

We must see the world as a place of constant testing.  Peace is rare, almost abnormal, and trials are common.  Rather than blaming God for this (1:13-15), we should regard it as joy, because trials produce maturity, especially if we seek God’s wisdom in them (1:5).  (Daniel M. Doriani, Reformed Expository Commentary: James, 17)

 

The Greek verb for consider is an imperative because joy is not the natural human response to trouble.  Christians are under divine command not simply to be somewhat joyful in their trials but to look upon them with all joy.  That phrase is variously interpreted by commentators as meaning pure joy, unmixed joy, complete and total joy, or sheer joy.  From the context, it seems that all of those meanings are fitting.  James is speaking of a unique fullness of joy that the Lord graciously provides His children when they willingly and uncomplainingly endure troubles while trusting in Him–regardless of the cause, type, or severity of the distress.  He will always use them for our benefit and for His own glory.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 21)

 

If a Christian cannot rejoice in his trials, his values are not godly and biblical.  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 24)

 

Some situations are hopeless in human terms, but we can remain under and endure them because our hope lies elsewhere.  Instead of despairing over such situations, we find our hilarity in that which really matters.  This is a victory of a different sort.  We don’t overcome the situations, but we overcome ourselves and learn to rest in God’s grace, which is sufficient to carry us through the tribulations that don’t ultimately matter.  In the things that do, our hope is sure to give us Joy.  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 197)

 

The testing which God allows to take place in our lives is at the place of greatest spiritual significance–our faith.  It is by faith that we come to God; it is by faith that we follow Him, and it is by faith that we receive His wonderful promises, including life eternal.  As we are tried, our faith grows.  We trust God more fully and ourselves less fully.  Indeed, “this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith” (1 Jn 5:4).  (Paul A. Cedar, The Communicator’s Commentary: James, 23)

 

Paul and Silas could sing in the Philippian prison because its bars could not prevent their serving Christ’s cause.  In that service they found the source of their happiness, so their trials only proved their faith and the steadfastness of their devotion.  Christians are not distinguished by their immunity from the trials which are common to mankind, but in the way they meet them and what they make out of them.  Theirs is no mere stoical apathy or fatalistic submission to senseless suffering, but the transmutation of adversity into spiritual victory.  (Abingdon Press, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. XII, 22)

 

We ought to conform to God’s will in interior trials, that is to say in all the difficulties met with our spiritual life, such as temptations, scruples, anxieties, aridity, desolation and so on.  Whatever immediate cause we may attribute to these states of mind, we must always look beyond to God as their author.  If we think they come from ourselves, then it is true to say that they have their origin in the ignorance of our mind, the oversensitiveness of our feelings, the disordered state of our imagination or the perversity of our inclinations.  But if we go back farther, if we ask where the defects themselves come from, we can only find their origin in the will of God who has not endowed us with greater perfection, and by making us subject to these infinites has laid on us the duty of bearing all the consequences of them for our sanctification until He is pleased to put an end to them.  As soon as He judges it in the right moment to touch our mind or heart, we shall be enlightened, fortified, and consoled. (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 81-82)

 

It is difficult to see God’s hand of love in the adversities and heartaches of life because we persist in thinking, as the world does, that happiness is the greatest good. Thus we tend to evaluate all our circumstances in terms of whether or not they produce happiness. Holiness, however, is a greater good than happiness, so God arranges and orchestrates circumstances to produce holiness before happiness.  He is more concerned about our eternal than our temporal welfare and more concerned about our spiritual than our material welfare. So all the trials and difficulties, all the heartaches, disappointments, and humiliations come from His loving hand to make us partakers of His holiness.  (Jerry Bridges; Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love)

 

There is no attribute more comforting to His children than that of God’s sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children ought to more earnestly contend to than the doctrine of their Master over all creation—the Kingship of God over all the works of His own hands—the Throne of God and His right to sit upon that throne…for it is God upon the Throne whom we trust.  —C.H. Spurgeon.

 

Is it possible to have the walls crashing down around you and still experience contentment?  I would have never thought so, but I was surprised to learn that we can be content in the midst of suffering—not mere inconvenience, but severe, agonizing suffering.  The issue, I learned, is that our circumstances don’t determine our contentment, but our faith and trust in God do.  (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 101-02)

 

Do not let ourselves be troubled when we are sometimes beset by adversity, for we know that it is meant for our spiritual welfare and carefully proportioned to our needs, and that a limit has been set to it by the wisdom of the same God who has set a bound to the ocean.  Sometimes it might seem as if the sea in its fury would overflow and flood the land, but it respects the limits of its shore and its waves break upon the yielding sand.  There is no tribulation or temptation whose limits God has not appointed so as to serve not for our destruction but for our salvation.  God is faithful says the Apostle, and will not permit you to be tempted (or afflicted) beyond your strength, but it is necessary for you to be so, since through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God in the steps of our Redeemer who said of Himself, Did not the Christ have to suffer all these things before entering into his glory?  If you refused to accept these tribulations you would be acting against your best interests.  You are like a block of marble in the hands of the sculptor.  The sculptor must chip, hew and smooth it to make it into a statue that is a work of art.  God wishes to make us the living image of Himself.  All we need to think of is to keep still in His hands while He works on us, and we can rest assured that the chisel will never strike the slightest blow that is not needed for His purposes and our sanctification; for, as St. Paul says, the will of God is your sanctification. (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 31-33)

 

St. Bonaventure relates that St. Francis of Assisi was afflicted by an illness which caused him great pain.  One of his followers said to him, “Ask Our Lord to treat you a little more gently, for it seems to me He lays His hand too heavily upon you.”  Hearing this the saint gave a cry and addressed the man in these words: “If I did not think that what you have just said comes from the simplicity of your heart without any evil intention I would have no more to do with you, because you have been so rash as to find fault with what God does to me.”  Then, though he was very weak from the length and violence of his illness, he threw himself down from the rough bed he was lying on, at the risk of breaking his bones, and kissing the floor of his cell said “I thank you, O Lord, for all the sufferings you send me.  I beg you to send me a hundred times more if you think it right.  I shall rejoice if it pleases you to afflict me without sparing me in any way, for the accomplishments of your holy will is my greatest consolation.” (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 67-68)

 

One reason God permits the gift of freedom to result in sin is in order that we can arrive at a consciousness of our own finitude and our own inability to attain righteousness on our own.  Hence Luther viewed temptation, sins, and suffering as closely related to providence.  A major function of the law (the divine requirement codified in Mosaic law) is to train us to not rely upon our own righteousness.  Thus providence works, even through the law, to teach us that we cannot achieve righteousness on our own, apart from God’s sustaining help and grace.  The germ of that idea was already present in the patristic writers.

According to Augustine, God would not permit evil at all unless He could draw good out of it. (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 298)

 

Do with me whatever it shall please thee.  For it can not be anything but good, whatever thou shalt do with me.  If it be thy will I should be in darkness, be thou blessed; and if it be thy will I should be in light, be thou again blessed.  If thou grant me comfort, be thou blessed; and if thou will have me afflicted, be thou still equally blessed.  My son, such as this ought to be thy state, if thou desire to walk with Me.  Thou must be as ready to suffer as to rejoice.  Thou must cheerfully be as destitute and poor, as full and rich.  (Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, III:17:1-2)

 

Suffering is a wedge forcing us to choose between hope and despair.

 

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

 

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blest assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

 

Worship point:   Realize how much God loves you.  Realize He loves you far too much to allow you to stay where you are.  Worship God because He loves you so much that He literally moves heaven and earth to allow you to become like Jesus.

 

“Trials make room for consolation. There is nothing that makes man have a big heart like a great trial. I have found that those people who have no sympathy for their fellows, who never weep for the sorrows of others very seldom have any of their own.  Great hearts could be made only by great troubles.”  — Charles Spurgeon

 

People in every society consistently seek the wrong things.  Some look for money, fame, and power.  But these things cannot satisfy us.  As Solzhenitsyn said about his time in a Soviet gulag, “Bless you, prison.  Bless you for being in my life, for there, lying on the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity, as we are made to believe, but the maturing of the human soul.”  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 58)

 

Spiritual Challenge: Pray (if you dare) that God would use the means of grace and your life circumstances to allow perseverance to develop to the point that your life will become mature and complete, not lacking in anything.

 

We must reassert the words of Joseph Rickaby: “the Cross does not abolish suffering, but transforms it, sanctifies it, makes it fruitful, bearable, even joyful, and finally victorious.”  (Robert Lewis, The Church of Irresistible Influence, 97)

 

This is the hardest duty that ever was required of the distressed hearts of men.  And yet God would not require it if it were not obtainable. —Thomas Goodwin  (Alistiar Begg sermon “When Trials Comes: part 2  )

 

Quotes to Note:

Someone has defined experience as the ability to recognize a mistake when we make it again.  Maturity is the ability to recognize a mistake before we make it again.  It is a trained ability to learn from each previous experience.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary; James, 9)

 

Stoical apathy and Christian patience are very different: by the one men become, in some measure, insensible of their afflictions; but by the other they become triumphant in and over them.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. VI, 968-69)

 

The first epistle of John mentions many marks of genuine faith.  It must go beyond mere verbal profession (1:6-10; 2:4, 9) and must include obedience to God (2:3, 5-6; 3:24; 5:2-3).  The redeemed are marked by not loving the world (2:15), by living a righteous life (2:29), by forsaking and avoiding sin (3:6, 9), and by loving fellow believers (3:14; 4:7, 11).  (John MacArthur, MacArthur NT Commentary: James, 9)

 

James appeals to the OT roots of Christianity, for there the Jewish people learned firsthand the blessing of obedient faith and the curse of halfhearted religiosity.  Adopting the language of blessing and curse, God’s approval and God’s condemnation, and reward and judgment, James urges the Christians under his leadership to submit themselves wholeheartedly to the practice of true religion.  (J. Michael Walters, James, a Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 30)

 

When we find ourselves rejecting difficulty, we may find that we are really rejecting the cross–and therefore Christ Himself.  It was not just John of the Cross who wrote about this.  Consider Thomas a Kempis’ words: “Christ’s whole life was a cross and martyrdom; and dost thou seek rest and joy for thyself?  Thou art deceived, thou art deceived, if thou seek any other thing than to suffer tribulations; for this whole mortal life is full of miseries, and signed on every side with crosses.  And the higher a person hath advanced in spirit, so much the heavier crosses he oftentimes findeth.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, p. 164) (Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, III:19:1)

 

Christ:

Author and Perfecter

of our faith

 

 

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