Nov 25 2018 Wisdom from James - How to Handle Testing and Trials
3rd December 2018
James 1:2 My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. 5 But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without doubting,
These are very famous verses. We think about them all the time. This is a little different than the version I grew up with – Consider it all joy – can be misunderstood. We think it is saying be happy – because we connect the word JOY with happiness – when we go through trials. But that is not what the word means here – JOY – is to exercise contentment and total trust in God within our current circumstances and trials.
Exercise contentment and total trust in God when you encounter all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
It is not saying – you lost your job – you should be happy about it. But within the losing of your job, God wants you to exercise contentment and total trust in Him. Because this happened to you – God will make you more mature and more like Him -and that is the goal of God in our lives.
If anyone lacks wisdom… When you are going through trials and lacking wisdom, we need to ask for wisdom. We want to know why we are going through it – and rarely does He answer that – but the request is what? and how? How should I respond? What does God want me to learn in this situation? Suffering and wisdom go hand in hand. I think we cannot be truly wise if we have not encountered various trials. Various here, means all kinds. They are never the ones we expect. We think, oh these are the trials I’m going to face. In raising children, you think of all the things that may happen. But it is often the ones you never expect.
I wish we didn’t have to go through trials to become wise. It would be much better if we could just know all the stuff we’re supposed to know.
I have found – and many have said even recently – here in our church – how God has brought people through some difficult things which have brought wisdom and transformation. That is how God wants to use these things.
“One of life’s greatest questions centers not on what happens to ius, but rather how we will live through it… how will we relate to life’s turns and circumstances. The losses in life may be non-negotiable - … but we have a choice, how will we live with these losses? And ultimately that determines the people we ultimately become.
Paul, in Romans 5:3
And not only that, but we also boast
(glory – not boasting that our sufferings are better than your sufferings!)
in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,
Trials give us staying power. That is how they can work in our lives. They don’t always do that, depending on our response.
Our kids are all runners – when I hit 40 – my doctor told me I had great health for a 60 year old! I took up running, and it was very rough at first. But it took building up endurance.
4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
The ultimate goal is to get us to a point where we have hope – looking to the future knowing God is working in our lives. Because God’s love is imported into our hearts, we have the Holy Spirit in us – and because we know His mercy, we will experience His love. It might not feel like that now – but that is what God is saying.
And this leads us to Romans 8:28 – the verse we all love and misquote!
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son,
How many of you know this as God causes all things to work together for good…
It is not, God caused your car to break for your good – your car broke because it was 15 years old. But it is saying – when you break your car, God works in and through that event, not to fix your car, but to fix you.
God takes all these challenges and trials and works within those – as a canvas – to paint you into the image of Christ. To mold you into the image of Christ.
Every challenge and stuggle because of this can be used by God to transform us. Even the littlest ones to the largest, God uses those to transform us into His image.
We have a role to play – an author I enjoy – and had as a professor – Terry Wardles – the “All things” plan. God is trying to form us into the image of Christ -and that image is a significant thing – to the extent – looking at Genesis 1:26 – being created in God’s image – both male and female – and what happens now – remember Emeril? Kicking it up a notch? Or because of Christ, it was kicked up 10 notches – we know that we shall be like Him when we see Him. Not sort of like Him – nor mostly like Him – but we shall be like Him!
5 things – as trials come into our lives – it can be discouraging.
1) Give God permission to use the trial to transform you.
This sounds simple -and I don’t want to do that – I only want to give God permission to take it away. It feels dangerous and scary – to say, God, do what You want with me here. That is a scary thing! He might just start ripping stuff out! “I didn’t mean THAT, God!”
“Our effort to disconnect ourselves from our own suffering ends up disconnecting God’s suffering from us”
“Suffering invites us to place our hurts in larger hands. … This can open us up to God’s working among us. As we give Him permission, we must make ourselves available to God in our difficulty. It is easy to pull away from Him in difficulty.
"Our efforts to disconnect ourselves from our own suffering end up disconnecting our suffering from God's suffering for us.'
"Suffering invites us to place our hurts in larger hands."
"If God is found in our hard times, then all of life, no matter how apparently insignificant or difficult, can open us to God's work among us."
2) Our response to the trial shapes us even more than the trial itself. It can either have a positive or negative effect - they will shape us – but our response determines how we are shaped.
3) God is always present to us at every level. We must learn to live with the one who is always present with us. Whatever it is we are going through – we have a choice – we can go through it alone, or with God. He is there. Always present.
4) Surrender to God – cease striving – be still – and know that I am God, He says. Our tendency when the trials come is to strive – to figure out on our own – how do I get out of this? How do I work through this? Rather than to just stop, be still, and know that God is God.
James 5:7 So be patient, brothers and sisters, until the Lord's return. Think of how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the ground and is patient for it until it receives the early and late rains. 8 You also be patient and strengthen your hearts, for the Lord's return is near. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be judged. See, the judge stands before the gates!
So for James, a key ingredient is patience. We think of it as a passive word, but it is not. One called it a militaristic patience – learning to have a death grip on God.
And then James focuses on hope – His return is coming. It gives us a longing for our eternal home.
In Hebrews 11, it talks about all these promises – and it says – they never received them here on earth – that is so disappointing! Why? Because God had something better for them. They never made it to the city, the home – because God had something better for them. God has a better city for us. And that is where our hope needs to go – not just to the end of the trial. And God brings trials to an end. He transforms us through them – but He doesn’t want us to just be happy with the end of the trial – but the end of the goal – to be like Him.
10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers and sisters, take the prophets who spoke in the Lord's name.
He takes them back to the Old Testament prophets. We know someone who has endured great trial – and they are inspiring and uplifting. Do you know someone like that? They have gone through the most difficult stuff.
What I have found – it is never inspiring when I am the one going through the difficult stuff!
The end of Men’s group – last time – this came up – and he goes on at the very end here –
11 Think of how we regard as blessed those who have endured. You have heard of Job's endurance and you have seen the Lord's purpose, that the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
At the end of trials, God is trying to reveal to us that He is compassionate and merciful. There is a disconnect in our brains to see how trials bring us to God’s compassion and mercy. But it is our value system that needs to change.
12 Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him.
What our trials do? They prove that our faith is genuine and real. So many of you have shared that experience. You come out thinking – yes, this is really true – this is real in my life. It is reliable and trustworthy – you can count on your faith! You have what it takes! God is saying here.
So what if, at times, we discover that our faith maybe doesn’t feel genuine at all? You may be, or probably have been through a difficulty that causes you to doubt. Our tendency would be to be ashamed and unwilling to admit it. Jesus didn’t lose His faith, but He did say, My God, why have You forsaken Me? I’ve said that, maybe not those exact words. But what is important – when we get to that point, God is waiting for us to return. He is okay with it. Second – even though we are unfaithful – He will always remain faithful. We will always have times of unfaithfulness – and even in those times, He will never forsake us.