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From Trouble to Triumph, Part 3

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
January 23, 2023 3:00 am

From Trouble to Triumph, Part 3

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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January 23, 2023 3:00 am

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Trials do serve a very helpful purpose in affirming to us either legitimacy or the illegitimacy of our faith, and that is exactly what James has in his mind in this opening section of this wonderful epistle.

How can you turn for the comfort, stability, and peace you need? Well, today on Grace to You, John MacArthur is going to show you biblical truth that can give you strength and even joy, no matter the hardship you face. John's current series is titled, Benefiting from Life's Trials, and it's a look at not only how to survive life's toughest moments, but also the good and loving plans God has for the trials He sends your way. And with that, here's John. Christians.

I think that's pretty routine. People who felt they were saved, believed they knew God, and then some severe difficulty came into their life, exposed the reality that they didn't know God at all when they proved to be unable to deal with that severe trial. Their faith was revealed. It was found to be dead faith, not living faith, non-saving faith.

They were unable to hold on to the resources provided in those who really believe in God, and they forsook what appeared to be perhaps a genuine faith. The kind of trials that come into life all the time are intended to do that, to sort of prod people out of their security, to awaken them to the fact that they either do trust God or don't in the direst of human circumstances. Trials do serve a very helpful purpose in affirming to us either legitimacy or the illegitimacy of our faith, and that is exactly what James has in his mind in this opening section of this wonderful epistle. He is concerned throughout the entire epistle with the matter of living faith. He is concerned with the subject and the issue of genuine salvation. And as we have noted, the whole epistle is a series of tests intended to reveal the legitimacy of someone's faith. The whole epistle is a series of tests for living faith.

The first one is the test of severe trials. When trials come into our lives, they reveal that our faith is real or it is not. It holds or it does not. We hang on to God and count on his resources or we don't. And that is something we need to know. We need all of us to understand the strength or the genuineness of our own faith. We need not only to recognize it in our own lives, but in the lives of other people as well. Trials cannot destroy faith. I want you to know that.

I want to keep emphasizing that. Trials do not destroy faith. They only put it to the test. And the faith that stands the test is proven to be genuine, and the faith that fails the test is proven to be false. Trials cannot destroy faith.

They can only test it. God sends trials to humble us. He sends trials to wean us from the world. He sends trials to call us to concentrate on eternal things. He sends trials to reveal to us what we really love. He sends trials to teach us the value of God's favor and blessing. He sends trials to enable us to help others in their trials. He sends trials to develop in us greater strength for greater usefulness. Sometimes he sends trials to chasten us for our sin and push us toward perfection.

But James is concerned with primarily one reason God sends trials, and that is to test the genuineness of our faith. Now we've been saying all along that in the midst of a trial, true faith will persevere. True faith will endure. True faith will hold on and move through. It will persevere to the end. It will endure any trial.

And the question that James really draws us to is how does it do that? How can true faith endure any trial? How can true faith suffer any loss and still hold to its faith in God? What gives the ability to persevere and not fall away?

Well, there are several ingredients, and we've been looking at them. First of all, James says, a joyous attitude. True faith possesses a joyous attitude in the midst of the severest trial. Verse 2, my brethren, count it all joy or total joy or sheer joy or unmixed joy or pure joy when you fall into various trials. The first attitude that is characteristic of true faith is joy in the midst of trial. There's always a window somewhere in a trial for a true believer to find a source of joy.

It may be that we know God is in control, and we do know that. But for the true believer, there will be a joyous attitude, and we need to cultivate that in our own spiritual life. Because of all that trials accomplish and because of all that trials cannot accomplish, because they do draw us nearer to the Lord, they do strengthen us, they do make us more useful, all the positives. And because of the fact that they can never destroy true faith, they can never obviate the plan of God, they can never alter His eternal design, we can find joy in the midst of any trial. So a joyous attitude. Secondly, there is another ingredient that is germane to the ability to persevere, and that is an understanding mind.

Notice verse 3. Knowing this, that the trial or testing of your faith produces endurance. Now, you have to go into trials with knowledge. You need to know that trials produce endurance, that is, staying power, persevering power. If you don't have any trials, you're not going to be strengthened to persevere. So, a joyous attitude and an understanding mind.

And thirdly, we noted, a submissive will. Verse 4, he says in the imperative, let endurance have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing. In other words, let the trial come and let it bring the endurance and let the endurance bring perfection.

And we noted that perfection here means spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity. Let it do what God wants it to do. Let it humble you. Let it wean you from the world. Let it call you to eternal hope.

Let it reveal what you really love. Let it teach you to value God's blessing. Let it enable you to help others. Let it develop strength in you so that you can be used for greater ways in the future. Let it chasten you if that means your purification. In other words, let it do what God wants it to do.

Don't fight it. So, the right attitude then in going into a trial, a joyous, joyous attitude. The right mind is a knowing mind that understands God's purpose and a submissive will that eagerly and anxiously accepts it. Knowing that through trials we come to be like Christ.

That's the path to maturity. Fourthly, a believing heart. A believing heart.

And for this we look to verses 5 through 8. A believing heart. Now let me stop for just a moment before we look at the text and kind of set the scene if I might. Let's say you're going through a trial and you're really doing your best to keep a joyous attitude, an understanding mind and a submissive will, but you're having difficulty really grasping what's happening. You might be saying to yourself, you know, I want to have a right attitude. I want to have a right understanding and I want to have a submissive will. But I lack the wisdom and the power to remain joyous and to endure and to mature through this. I am struggling to keep my heart fixed on the cause for joy. I'm struggling to understand this and I'm struggling to be permissive. I need some help.

What do I do? Well, what you really need is one thing. You need wisdom. You need wisdom for a trial. You need to understand it. You need practical insight needed to face the issues of life. You'll not be able to maintain a joyous attitude and an understanding mind and a submissive will unless God gives you more than just your human faculties to work with. And so this is where you come to verse 5.

If any of you lack what? Wisdom. If any of you lack wisdom. Wisdom is always at a premium but especially when you're going through a trial. Wanting to understand, wanting to know how to be joyous, wanting to be willing to endure the trial for the holy purposes of God demands wisdom.

And you're not going to find in your human reasoning all the answers. Wisdom to James and to any Jewish reader and any Jew of that time was the understanding needed to live life to the glory of God. Wisdom was functioning in obedience to the will and the word of God.

It began with fearing God and then moved to obeying God. And when we go through a test and we go through a trial, we need wisdom. Any believer is going to feel weak. He's going to feel the need for strength and resources.

He's going to look for something to hold on to in the midst of the trial. And where does he go? He goes to God and he asks for wisdom.

That's the promise. If any lack wisdom, let him what? Let him ask of God.

Let him ask of God. The search for wisdom is man's supreme search. For those of us who know and love the Lord, he provides that wisdom. I think about Proverbs 3, 5 to 7. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding.

What a great statement. When you're going through a trial, when you're going through difficulty, don't lean on your own understanding. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. In all your ways acknowledge him and he shall direct your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes.

Don't look to yourself for answers. Ask God for divine wisdom. So we could say safely here that trials have a way of enhancing your prayer life, right?

They drive you to your knees. They cause you to call on God for what you do not have and so desperately, desperately desire. So when you go through the trials of life, whatever they might be, it is the intention of God that you recognize the bankruptcy of human reason and the answers that you might get from other people and I think about Job who tried to get answers from everybody around him and everybody gave him the wrong answer.

And the right answer is always available at the hand of God if we seek from him to receive that. Look with me for a moment at Job 28, one of my favorite portions of scripture, this tremendous chapter. The first part of the chapter, it talks about mining for precious metal and how men will go to incredible lengths to find wealth.

They take it out of the earth and they go deeply into the ground and they go through all kinds of things to try to find wealth. But in verse 12 it says, and where shall wisdom be found? Where does man go to get wisdom when he needs it? And where is the place of understanding? Man doesn't know its price and neither is it found in the land of the living.

It's not available, it isn't for sale and it doesn't have a price. The depth, Seth, it's not in me. Down deep in the earth he isn't going to find it.

And the sea says it's not with me. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price of it. It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx or the sapphire. The gold and the crystal cannot equal it. And the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral or of pearls, for the price of wisdom is above rubies.

The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold. Whence then cometh wisdom? And where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hidden from the eyes of all living and kept close from the fowls of the air. True wisdom, the supernatural wisdom needed to understand the trials of life is not available in the world around us. Destruction and death say we have heard its fame with our ears. Destruction and death have heard about it.

They do not find it. Then verse 23, God understands its way and He knows its place. So if you want wisdom, who do you go to? You go to God.

And I don't want to be simplistic. I just want to emphasize what the Bible is saying. You can go back to James 1 now. I want you to understand that what the Scripture is saying is as simple as this, beloved. When you go through a trial, the place to go is to God.

That's much more important than running to your friends for answers and getting into the same situation Job got into. That's much more important than signing up for appointments at some kind of counseling clinic before you have done anything to consider and consult the mind of God. I believe the promise of God in this verse is one of the greatest promises in all the Scripture, if not the single greatest promise to a believer living in this world, and that is that if he needs wisdom, God gives it to him.

I mean, what more is there than that? What more could we want than the divine insight to understand and respond properly to every trial of life? God gives wisdom. Now, what kind of wisdom are we talking about?

We're not talking about philosophical speculation. We're talking about doing the right thing. We're talking about understanding what's happening with the mind of God. We're talking about what James discusses in more detail in chapter 3, verse 17, the wisdom that is from above, that is pure and peaceable. This is right conduct in all of life's matters. That's what we're talking about. And that's the kind of wisdom that comes from God.

And somewhere along the line, you know, we need to get back to this. When Christians go through troubles nowadays, the first response is usually to run to some other human resource. But it says here, if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God. Let him ask of God. What are you asking for? You're asking for an understanding that will allow you to be joyous and submissive.

You're asking for what is the right thing to do? And it would be my great prayer that in the midst of all the troubles that people seem to have, they would learn that trouble is intended to drive them not to men but to God, to find in him the only source of true wisdom, the path of a right response. Now look back at verse 5 again. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God. Let him ask of God. That is an imperative. That is not optional.

That is mandatory. That is a command. That is a command for us to pray. Trials are intended to drive us in dependency on God to him, to make us realize we have no human resources.

We are left only with an invisible means of support. The true believer then in the test is going to know he needs wisdom and cry out to God. He almost cannot be restrained from crying out to God.

But we need to do that so much more. At the end of verse 16 of James 5, the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. And then the illustration of Elijah who was a man subject to like passions as we are. He prayed earnestly that it might not rain.

It rained not in the earth by the space of three years and six months. He prayed again and the heaven gave rain and the earth brought forth her food. God answers prayer. God responds. Go back to verse 5 again of chapter 1.

And what do we see? If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God. That is a command for us to pray. Let trouble drive you to God. Let trouble drive you to prayer.

And may I suggest this to you? If you are going through some deep trouble in your life and it has not enriched your prayer life and has not driven you to the throne of grace, then maybe the trouble will keep going on until you finally wake up and begin to do that. The source of wisdom is there if we will go there.

And what are we going to find when we arrive? Look at verse 5. Let him ask of God who gives to all liberally.

Who gives to all liberally. We have a generous and gracious God who desires to pour out to us those things which we desire. In Proverbs 2, the writer says, So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom and apply thine heart to understanding.

How am I going to get that? Yes, if you cry after knowledge and lift up your voice for understanding. If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God for the Lord gives wisdom. And out of his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. God has it available and God wants to give it to the seeking heart.

But there's a sense in which he holds it back until you come and ask for it, demonstrating your love, your trust, and your dependence on him. In Jeremiah 29, 11, I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, not of evil, to give you an expected end. In other words, to give you that which is beneficial.

Then shall you call on me and you shall go and pray unto me and I will hearken unto you and you shall seek me and find me when you shall search for me with all your heart and I will be found by you, saith the Lord. Now the word liberally is a marvelous word, aplos. It means unconditionally. It means without bargaining. It means freely and generously. It's reminiscent of Matthew 7, and you're very familiar, I know, with Matthew 7, particularly verses 7 through 11.

We have all claimed it at one time or another. Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. For everyone that asks receives and he that seeks findeth and to him that knocks it will be opened. And what man is there of you whom if his son ask bread will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish will he give him a serpent? If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

The promise is there. When you go through a trouble, when you go through difficulty, when you go through trial, go to God in prayer. He doesn't bargain.

He doesn't lay out conditions. He gives freely and generously the wisdom you need to understand and respond properly to that trial. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.

Thanks for tuning in today. John teaches each day on radio. He's also Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary. His current study on how God strengthens Christians during times of hardship is titled, Benefiting from Life's Trials. Now, John, you've made this point in this study that stands out in my mind that if you cannot rejoice in your trials, your values are wrong. Or to put it another way, having joy in trials starts with having a right understanding about trials. And of course, John, that comes down to knowing scripture and knowing what God promises about our trials and about the growth that they cause and the strength that they build. Well, I go back to, you know, what scripture says.

And we've been looking at that, count it all joy, because this has a perfecting work. And not only do I know that from scripture, but I know it from life. As I look back over the many, many decades of my life, the greatest lessons, the greatest times of spiritual growth in my life have been in a time of suffering, and particularly in times when the outcome was completely beyond my capability to determine. And it's such a great place to be in terms of letting God do what He's going to do through that trial that you can't control. But I have found myself in recent years saying, I think I would rather be in a situation where I can't control an outcome than the opposite. And for somebody who's a leader to come to the point where you say, I'd rather be in a situation where I can't control the outcome, that's saying a lot because you spend your whole life doing what you can to control the outcomes of everything. And what God has done in the darkest and most difficult times where you couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel far exceeds anything that was accomplished in just the routine decisions of life.

So I just want people to understand this. You need to embrace these trials that come into your life, and we can help you do that. I want to mention our latest study guide titled, Benefiting from Life's Trials. And for many years, you know, we produced study guides for the topical sermon series that aired on Grace To You. We produced actually 150 study guides in all. They were very popular.

They're like collector's items these days. So we've reintroduced them to a new generation. People who perhaps have some of the study guides in the libraries are now going to be able to complete the series as we do that. So Benefiting from Life's Trials is the fifth volume we have published.

Look, we understand life's full of heartache and pain and even tragedy. God lovingly provides the truth in James Chapter 1 to help you understand that this can be the best of all spiritual opportunities. You're going to spend a lifetime going back to James Chapter 1 for strength and reassurance when difficult seasons come. So the study guide is just that, a guide to leaning on the encouraging truth that God provides through his servant, James. The study guide has 120 pages, reasonably priced as always, and exclusively available from Grace To You. You can order it today.

Yes, and do order it today. This book is an ideal resource, equipping you with biblical truth that you can use to minister to a loved one who's facing a trial. To get John's brand new study guide on Benefiting from Life's Trials, contact us today. Our phone number is 800-55-GRACE, or you can shop online at The Benefiting from Life's Trials study guide is excellent for your own devotional reading and perhaps even better as curriculum for your Bible study group.

It costs $7 and shipping is free. Again, to place your order, call 800-55-GRACE or go to Also, let me remind you that Grace To You is supported by listeners like you, people who love the word of God, have been changed by it, and want to help us take God's word to believers worldwide, from the United States to the United Kingdom, from Canada to Australia and beyond. To express your support, mail your tax-deductible donation to Grace To You, Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412, or call us at 800-55-GRACE, or you can also donate online at That's our website, Now for John MacArthur, I'm Phil Johnson, encouraging you to be here tomorrow when John looks at how to honor and glorify God during times of testing, and John shows you why benefiting from life's trials really is possible. Don't miss our next half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-23 06:01:41 / 2023-01-23 06:11:33 / 10

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