The person who claims to be a Christian and who goes through trials and comes out a winner, which means he never gives up his faith, he never abandons God, he is shown to be the genuine Christian. And he will receive the crown of life which the Lord will give to those that love him. Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. King Solomon said that God ordains a time for everything, including heartache. In other words, trials don't just happen.
God sends them your way. But why would a loving God want you to go through trouble? How could it possibly help you? John MacArthur answers those questions in the study he begins today titled, Benefiting from Life's Trials. Well, John, you know that in the athletic realm, there's a saying, no pain, no gain. And if I know where you're headed in this series, what you're going to be saying is that's true in the spiritual realm as well. No pain, no gain. That is absolutely true.
And this is one of the most significant series this ministry has ever done through all the decades. Why? Because everybody goes through trials.
Everybody. This is what life is in a fallen world, fallen people, sinful people, even believers. So learning lessons of benefiting from life's trials is really learning how to live life.
The rest of life, when you're not going through a trial, that's pretty easy. If you want a really rich life, you're going to have to accept trials because that's what God uses to refine us, make us more sanctified and more useful to him. So you need to welcome trials, but you also need to know how to benefit from those trials. This study comes from the first chapter of the book of James, and it takes into account all kinds of trials, broken relationship, prolonged illness, financial struggle, persecution, persecution by a loved one, betrayal by a friend, accidents, crime, a job change, death, whatever it is. There are troubles that are coming at us all the time. And God intends them to be positive so that you can count it all joy when you fall into various trials. And I mean, not just some minor temptation like forgetting an important appointment or something, but major trauma to your life should be trials that God turns to joy.
But you have to learn how to make sure you go that direction. It's one of our Listening Family's long time favorite series. Just maybe the key to experiencing victory in the next challenge you face, great or small, and don't miss a day.
That's right, hard to imagine a more practical, necessary series than this one. No one is exempt from heartache and suffering, and you need to hear what God's word says on that subject. So join John in James chapter 1 for help in benefiting from life's trials. Let's open our Bibles to the first chapter of James, and I want to read for you verses 2 through 12.
James chapter 1 verses 2 through 12. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing this, that the testing of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and abrades not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering, for he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.
A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted, but the rich in that he is made low, because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and its flower falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth.
So also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. Blessed is the man that endures trials, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love him. G. K. Chesterton said, I believe in getting into hot water.
I think it keeps you clean. And there is, to be sure, the need in our lives for attesting to see if in fact we are genuine, and sometimes there is no better test than hot water or the water of sorrows and trials. How one handles trouble is an indication of their faith, and trouble coming into your life and my life will speak to the reality of our faith or the lack of it.
Therefore, in the purpose of James, which is to give us tests of living faith, the first thing he wants to talk about is the test of trials, where trials will reveal whether your faith is living faith or dead faith, whether it's genuine faith or imitation faith, whether it is saving faith or non-saving faith. It's a very natural starting point for the simple reason that everybody who lives in the world lives through trials. In fact, we are fallen creatures, we are sinful creatures, we live in the midst of a fallen and sinful society, and as a result of that, we experience constant trouble. In fact, it just seems like it never goes very far away if it goes away at all. Frankly, even for Christians, even for those of us who are the children of God, there's a constant kind of facing of trouble, a constant facing of trial in a very troubled world. And even when we sort of get our own little world under control, somebody invades it and messes it up, inevitably.
And you will know that if you've had a group of kids over to your house lately. No matter how you protect your insulated little world, they have a way of doing damage to it. And they are but a small illustration of how life is.
We do everything we can to protect ourselves, to get the perfect peace and comfort, but inevitably trouble comes either from outside or from inside. Even in marriage. Marriage, Peter says, is the grace of life. That's like saying it's the whipped cream on top.
It's the best of things in life. But even in marriage, 1 Corinthians 7, 28 says, if you get married, recognize you will have trouble in the flesh. I mean, if you have trouble just being you, then imagine how it'll be when you have to be you with somebody else trying to be who they are. There's going to be trouble. Even in the best of things that God gives to us, Jesus Himself was not able to avoid trouble. In fact, He said of His disciples, You have been with Me in My troubles. He said, It's normal in the world for you to have tribulation.
You expect that. It's everywhere. Jesus groaned in His Spirit. In John chapter 11, 33 it records that. John 12, 27 records that.
Even in John 13, I think it's around verse 20, 21 records it again. He knew what it was to have a troubled spirit. He was troubled. Paul said He was troubled on every side.
2 Corinthians 4, 8. We expect it. We expect trouble in our family. We expect trouble from our friends. We expect trouble in our job. We expect trouble at school. We expect it in the economic world.
We expect it from criticism. We expect trouble in the form of disease and illness. We even expect trouble to come into our lives in the form of death as it strikes people very close to us. Trouble comes from persecution. I mean, it's just the way it is in life, and if you think you're the only one going through it, you haven't been looking around lately.
Everybody's in the same situation. Now James says, in effect, if your Christianity is genuine, it's got to show up in trouble. I mean, frankly, if it's no good for trouble, then it's no good. It is a legitimate test of the genuineness of faith to see how it stands in trouble.
Now notice verse 2 for a moment as we just kind of think this concept through a bit. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. Poikilas, many colored, variegated, varied. This is not to emphasize the number, but the diversity of troubles. This isn't the idea that we're going to have many troubles, that's true. It's the idea that we're going to have all kinds of them, varied kinds.
Multicolored was the original meaning of the word, coming in all shades and sizes and varieties. All kinds of troubles, coming from our family, coming from our relatives, coming from so many areas of disappointment, whatever it is, all kinds of troubles. Now notice also the various trials. The word is a very familiar word to a student of Scripture, parasmas. It means trials, and it basically has the idea of trouble.
Something that breaks the pattern of tranquility, that breaks the pattern of peace and comfort and joy and happiness. We don't really know specifically the trials that James has in mind as he writes. We don't really know what was going on among the scattered Jews, which he would have identified as some specific trial, and it's probably well we don't because the general nature of life is so full of trials that a general instruction in this regard is very applicable on a wide range of things, not only to the people to whom James wrote, but to us as well.
And since he calls them the various trials, the multicolored trials, the varied trials, he is no doubt assuming that they come in all kinds of forms, and it really isn't specifically important which ones these people were enduring at that time. Now the word trial does not necessarily denote some solicitation to evil. It does not necessarily mean temptation. In a sense, it's unfortunate that it has been translated and authorized as temptation. It is translated trials in some editions in verse 2. The same word is translated temptations in verse 12, and the translators really have a little bit led us astray in that.
It simply means trials. It does not necessarily mean a solicitation to evil. And the context here clearly shows us that the idea is not to emphasize some subjective solicitation to evil, but rather an objective difficulty to prove and strengthen faith.
In and of itself, this trial is not a solicitation to evil. It is just an objective difficulty that enters into life that can be a test of the genuineness of our faith. And by the way, according to Moulton Milligan, an excellent scholar who has given to us a lexicon of the Greek language, they say that the word always conveys the idea of attesting. It always conveys the idea of attesting.
It is a very rare word, frankly, in secular Greek, but a very common word in biblical Greek, because the testing of faith is such an important part of spiritual life. In fact, the verb form of parasmos, parazo, means to put someone to the test. To put someone to the test. So what is the idea then of attesting? Whether it results in good things or results in bad things, the issue here is the test.
Every trouble that comes into your life and every trial, be it a small one or a large one, becomes a test then of your faith. You either pass or fail. To pass the test, mark it, keeps it a trial. To fail the test turns it into a temptation. If it ends up as sin, it has proven to be a successful temptation. If it ends up in victory, it has proven to be a successful trial.
A temptation leads you to sin and makes you fall. A trial leads you to strength and makes you stand. So trials then are tests that reveal the genuineness and the strength of your faith. They can on the one hand reveal the genuineness of your faith, and they can on the second hand reveal also the strength of your faith.
What you do through a trial will reveal whether you really believe God and are genuinely saved, and it will also reveal how strong that saving faith really is. Now may I suggest to you here what I think a lot of people throughout history have overlooked. Many people have felt that James was heavy on works. I want you to know in this epistle, James is very heavy on faith.
He is not out of balance. He is very strong on faith, not just works. And Martin Luther, who said this is a right strawy epistle, S-T-R-A-W-Y, showing that it was rather useless because it was so much a works righteousness, really missed the point. James is really strong on faith, and works is only a manifestation. It is only one test of true faith.
Now let me say another thing. We should note that James is not distinguishing here between internal and external trials because we can't distinguish between those either. I have found in my life that every external trial soon becomes what?
An internal one. No trial that I've ever seen stays on the outside, or it isn't much of a trial. It's when it gets in and festers in my mind that it is a trial. So James is not saying here are the external things, and then later we're going to get to temptation, which is the internal thing. Any trial is external and internal.
Christian life can make no such distinction. These are just trials in general. And all of them come, look at verse 3, for the purpose of testing your faith, to help you to see whether your faith is real and how strong that faith is. They are tests of genuineness for those who claim true faith and tests of the strength of faith.
So in a sense they can apply to unbelievers and believers as well. So remember, James' purpose now is to test faith. And beloved, I want to tell you that when you go through a trial, you really ought to look carefully at that trial and examine it in the light of how you react and what that says about your faith.
That's what you are to learn from it. And if you persevere through trials as a pattern of life, if you persevere through suffering as a pattern of life, and you never abandon your trust in God, then you prove to have genuine faith. Robert Johnstone, writing in a commentary on James many years ago, said this, James shows that where there is but an empty profession, or a mere dreamy sentiment, unbased on firm and intelligent convictions of truth, the fire of trouble will burn them up. Further, he said, but where there is true faith, affliction naturally leads to deeper thought than under other circumstances on sin and its desserts, and thus frees the heart from the control of self-righteousness. The source of weakness leads to earnest wrestling with God in prayer, and experience of the sustaining grace thus obtained strengthens and exhilarates hope with regard to the time to come."
That is a very rich and loaded statement. But what he's basically saying is you put a false Christian through a test and inevitably it'll blow him away. It'll burn him up. You put a true believer in a test, and it'll drive him to despair about his own weakness, and it'll drive him in prayer to lean on the strength of God rather than his own weakness. Trial then for an imitation of faith burns it up. Trial for true faith causes it pain, the pain of inadequacy and weakness, causes it to turn from self-righteousness and cast itself upon the strength of God. So trouble or affliction becomes the first of James' tests for living faith.
Now that's how he begins this section, and I want to show you how he ends it, so let's go down to verse 12. Blessed is the man that endures trials, for when, or literally, after his trial is over, he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to them that love him. Here is a declaration of the blessedness of one who passes the test. Blessed means happy. Better yet, it means satisfied. Better yet, it means fulfilled with inner joy.
Fulfilled with inner joy, a state of the soul in ecstasy, a state of the soul in joy. Now this is not happiness due to freedom from trial. This is happiness due to victory over trials.
Big difference, big difference. It's not the banal happiness of someone who never knew conflict. It's the exhilaration of one who fought and won, who fought and won. It's not the happiness of the spectator, it's the happiness of the participant. Happy, satisfied, fulfilled with an inner state of joy is the man who endures testing. And again, it's not a matter of solicitation to sin. If that was the issue in verse 12, if enduring temptation to sin was the issue, it wouldn't have said happy is the man who endures it. It would have had to say happy is the man who resists it. But it says blessed or satisfied is the man who endures it. And there are three key words in verse 12. The word endure, the word trial, and the word tested.
And the same three words appear in verses 2 and 3. Count it all joy when you fall into various trials knowing this, that the testing of your faith works patience. And then in verse 4, let patience have her perfect work.
Count it all joy. The testing of your faith produces endurance. So you have trial, testing, endurance in verses 2 and 3. You have trial, testing, endurance in verse 12. And therefore I conclude that verse 12 is talking about the same thing verse 2 is, and these two verses bracket the text in between.
And the whole section is about triumph over trials. Same thing in mind in verse 2 and verse 12. Notice in verse 12 it says, Blessed is the man that endures. Just as in verse 3, the testing of your faith works endurance.
It's the same idea, same word. Now to endure in verse 12 means to patiently, triumphantly endure. It doesn't mean, oh, I endured it.
I grit my teeth, I hold my breath, I suck it up, and I endure it. It isn't that. It isn't a passive endurance. It isn't a passive survival. It is to be the winner.
It's hupa mene, present active indicative. To patiently, triumphantly be the winner. Now the point is simple. The person who claims to be a Christian and who goes through trials and comes out a winner, which means he never gives up his faith, he never abandons God, he is shown to be the genuine Christian.
And he will receive the crown of life which the Lord will give to those that love him. I mean there are people who come, and you see them and I see them. They come to the church, they profess Christ, they get baptized, trouble comes into their life, and they're gone. I mean they're gone. And they may never come back. Maybe they got burned in a relationship, they had their eye on some girl and she told them to take a walk.
He wasn't her type or whatever. Or maybe they came and they had to go through some struggle, a dear friend or a member of their family died, and it just was overpowering. And they walked away and maybe shook a fist at God and that was it. You see, perseverance through trial is the proof of living faith. Now in verse 12, James calls those who persevere them that love him.
Oh, that's wonderful. Because basically that's the essence of our attitude toward the Lord in salvation. We love him. We love him because he first, what? Does. This is all about a love relationship. This is not just some transaction where God saves us no matter what our attitude is and once we're saved we can have any attitude we want.
No. Those of us who are truly saved have an ongoing, profound love for him. You can just kind of underline that in your Bible as a wonderful definition of a true Christian, them that love him, the Lord. 1 John 2 says that we will love him or we will love the world, but not both. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
I mean, that's basic. And further he says in 1 John 2, 19, they went out from us because they were not of us. If they had been of us, they would have remained with us, but they went out from us that it might be made manifest they never were of us. And what John is saying there, when the test came to whether you love God or whether you love the world, they loved the world and they split and it was okay because they never belonged anyway. It's in the trial that true love is made manifest. In 1 Peter, would you look at chapter 1 for a moment?
Peter talks about the same thing. In verse 6 he talks about manifold trials like various trials that James talks about. And then he says in verse 7, almost as if he borrows the same idea from James, that the trial of your faith, he says, all your trials are a test for the validity of your faith. And the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. In other words, he says, your faith is being tested to prove its genuineness so that you will, having genuine faith, stand before the Lord when He comes. And then in verse 8 he defines that true faith, whom having not seen you... What's the next word?
You love. And again, the same thought, the test of faith is passed by those who love God. Those who love God. Listen, a Christian is not someone who simply at one point in time believed the truth. A Christian is someone who has an ongoing love for God, and that love holds fast even in trial. I mean, what would we say about a love on a human level that was only good if there wasn't any trouble? Forget it.
That's no good. The point is simple then. Those who love Him are those who hold on to Him by virtue of love no matter what the trial and thus they prove their faith to be genuine. What does it mean to love Him? Well, essentially Jesus said over and over, if you love Me, you will what? Keep My commandments. John 14, 15, John 15, 9 and 10, 1 John 2, verses 5 and 6, 1 John 4, 16, 1 John 5, 1, 2 and 3 all say the same thing. If you love Me, you keep My commandments.
The one who keeps My commandments, he's the one that loves Me. So the genuineness of faith is built on love. But love to be demonstrated as genuine must be tested. And invariably, if it's true love, it passes the test and maintains obedience.
It passes the test and maintains obedience. That's John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, launching a series from James 1 titled, Benefiting from Life's Trials. Now, friend, we want to help you take in all you can from this practical series. So let me mention the companion study guide that we've created. It takes you deep into each lesson from the Benefiting from Life's Trials series, giving you detailed outlines, plus questions that will enrich your personal or group study. The Benefiting from Life's Trials study guide is available now.
Order yours when you contact us today. Call our toll-free number, 800-55-GRACE, or go to our website, gty.org. The Benefiting from Life's Trials study guide costs $7, and shipping is free. Again, to order a copy of Benefiting from Life's Trials, the study guide, call 800-55-GRACE or go to gty.org. Also, at our website, gty.org, you can download the messages from John's current series, Benefiting from Life's Trials. But also at our website, you'll find dozens of other topical studies, as well as hundreds of sermons that you've never heard on radio. In fact, all of John's sermons, nearly 54 years' worth, are free to download in audio and transcript format at gty.org. The website is also the place to purchase John's New Testament commentaries, the MacArthur Study Bible, the systematic theology called Biblical Doctrine, and much more.
Our website, again, gty.org. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for tuning in today, and invite a friend to join us tomorrow for more practical verse-by-verse teaching on Benefiting from Life's Trials. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
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