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. Welcome to Grace to You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. Maybe you've noticed that not long after a trial hits, you find yourself facing a series of related and challenging issues like where to look for a new job or how to make room at home for an elderly parent or even life and death decisions for a family member in the hospital. When situations like those arise, how can you know you're making the right decisions? John MacArthur points you to biblical answers today on Grace to You as he continues his study called, Benefiting from Life's Trials.
If you have a Bible, turn to James chapter one and here is John. Let's say you're going through a trial and you're really doing your best to keep a joyous attitude and 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, 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 five. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God. Let him ask of God.
Trials are intended to drive us in dependency on God to Him. Then he also adds, verse five, and upbraideth not. Now that's an old word and what it basically means, he holds back nothing. He gives liberally, generously, without reservation.
It is a negative form of the previous statement. He is, it says later in chapter 1 in verse 17, He is the giver of every good and perfect gift and there is no variableness nor shadow of turning with Him. He gives and He gives and He gives. That's His nature as a giving God. He gives sincerely. He gives without hesitation. He gives without mental reservation. He is not giving reluctantly.
That's what it means. He isn't saying, well, I shouldn't be doing this, but boy, I'm going to do it, but I hope you appreciate it. He isn't playing games about your unworthiness. He isn't reminding you about how undeserving you are. He is good and He is giving and He just keeps giving, holding back nothing. If you lack wisdom, you're commanded to ask God, who gives to all men freely and liberally, holds back nothing and when you ask, the end of verse five, it shall be given Him, it says. No wisdom, beloved, this is a promise, no wisdom needed for the believer's perseverance through a trial is ever withheld from that believer who asks. Isn't that a wonderful promise?
I hope you got that. No wisdom needed for a believer's perseverance through a trial is ever withheld from the believer who asks. Sometimes we don't ask. We do everything but ask God. Sometimes we ought to be found on our knees crying out from our hearts for God to give us His direction. I love what it says in Psalm 81, 10.
You'll remember this perhaps. I am the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the land of Egypt. Here it comes.
Open thy mouth wide and I will fill it. Isn't that a wonderful promise? God wants to provide every needed resource for a believer in the midst of trial. Now what this means, as I've been saying, is that we persevere through prayer. We endure through dependent prayer, casting ourselves on God. In Mark 14, 38 it says, watch and pray lest you enter into trial, parasmos.
Watch and pray so that you don't fall into parasmos and then once you're in it, if you do fall into a trial, make sure it never turns into a temptation by throwing yourself dependently on God. We endure through prayer if we ask God. But would you notice please in verse 6 there's a condition for the kind of asking? But let him ask in faith. In other words, believing, confident prayer, genuine trust.
Now having described the willing father, James now turns to the waiting child. There are some people who just doubt that God can give him an answer. There are other people who just want to argue with God about why he did what he did and so their prayers are nothing but a fight. But you are not to doubt the available supply of God. You are not to doubt the available power of God and you are not to doubt the purpose and the will of God. You're not to debate whether God did what he should have done or not. If something in your life doesn't go right, that's no cause for debate or dispute with God, telling God he should have done it your way. Unwavering faith simply believes that God is sovereign, believes that God is loving and believes that God will supply everything that is needed for understanding the trial and goes in prayer to God.
What a promise. Whatever the trial is, you're going to have a believing heart, believing that God allowed it for his purpose and that is right, believing that he will give you wisdom to endure it and be better than you ever could have been if you had not endured that trial. Verse 6, he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. The wavering person who goes to God and doesn't really believe that God can provide the wisdom and vacillates is like the surging, billowing, restless sea moving back and forth with its endless tides, never able to settle, like that one tossed to and fro and blown around. Like those of Joshua's day, you remember, who halted between two opinions. Like those of Elijah's day who couldn't decide whether Jehovah was God or Baal was God.
Like those of Paul's day who were sacrificing to demons and then going to the Lord's table. Those people who want God but want something else and vacillate back and forth. Those lukewarm people whom the Lord will spew out of his mouth because they're neither hot nor cold. That wavering person who doesn't go to God and hold on in confident trust is like the surging sea. And verse 7 then says, let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. There's no such, there's no sense I should say in such a person supposing he will receive anything from the Lord.
The one who doubts God, the one who debates God, the one who wavers in his trust and isn't solidly committed to the Lord isn't going to receive anything. That person, that man, as it says in the Authorized, characterizes an unbeliever. It could also characterize a weak, doubtful Christian who's acting like an unbeliever.
And it's really sad to see that. A person who comes to the church and is a sham Christian, isn't for real, they get into a trial and they start to doubt and they dispute with God and they get angry with God and they leave. But very often, and in many ways equally tragic, is a Christian who's a weak Christian. They go through a severe trial and instead of having a joyous attitude, an understanding mind, a submissive will and a believing heart, they vacillate and they flip-flop and they're sort of an emotional basket case and they can't trust God and they don't seem to be able to pray and ask for wisdom from God. They literally are unwilling to cash in the resources God has provided in their spiritual account.
And they receive nothing. And so they may go on and on and on in the misery of that trial, never knowing the resolution immediately available to them through faithful, persistent, trusting prayer in God. And verse 8 sums it up, such a double-minded man who vacillates back and forth, not knowing whether to trust God or abandon God, is unstable in all his ways. A double-minded man, a sinful man or woman. In fact, in James 4-8, cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. A double-minded person is really the hypocrite, the person who says, oh, I believe in God, but when the trial comes, they don't know what to do. They maybe want to trust God, but they don't trust God and they vacillate, as he says here.
In that case, they will receive nothing. In fact, they will be unstable in all their ways. Double-minded is dip-sukkas. The word, the di at the beginning is two, and sukkas is the word for sold, two-sold, two minds, a soul divided between God and the world, trusting and not trusting, believing and not believing, a friend of the Lord and a friend of the world. And you remember what James 4-4 says, friendship with the world is enmity with God. Loving the world and trying to love God at the same time, and John says it's impossible to do that. So verses 5-8 are very simple.
Let me sum them up. When you go into a trial, the way to endure that trial is to receive from God divine wisdom. To go to God and have the confidence that he gives freely and never debates and never argues and never holds back anything but gives exactly what you need to endure that trial. But the condition is that your faith be real, that it be unwavering faith, not like the troubled sea, because if you have vacillating faith that trusts and doesn't trust, that believes and doesn't believe, you are caught in the middle and you will not receive anything.
In fact, such double-mindedness will make you unstable in every area of life. True stability in life comes to those who trust God in the midst of any trial, any trial. So a believing heart that genuinely believes is essential in persevering. And then finally, a humble spirit, a humble spirit. This discussion is very, very rich. Verse 9, let the brother of low degree rejoice. Stop there for a moment.
This is another command, a mandatory rejoicing. Let the brother of low degree, what does that mean? The poor man, the economically deprived, the poor Christian, low on the economic scale, the guy who doesn't have much. And you know, these scattered believers to whom James wrote, 12 tribes scattered abroad, verse 1 says, were victims of persecution. They were victims of dispossession, of deprivation, of racism, of bigotry. Poverty among those who were dispersed was common. Many of them were very poor.
They had very little. And the word here that is translated low degree is used in the Septuagint, which is the Old Testament in Greek, to translate the word poor, tapenas, poor. Let the poor people rejoice.
What does that mean? That word is a very rich word. It means to boast of a privilege or a possession. Let them boast. Let the poor people boast.
Here is the joy of legitimate pride. He may have nothing in the world to rejoice about. He may have nothing in the world that he possesses. But let him rejoice. Let him exalt.
It is privilege. And what is it that he is what? Exalted. He's exalted in what way?
Spiritually. He may be the filth and the off scouring of the world, but he can rejoice because his standing before God is that of exaltation. So he says, if you have nothing in this life, if you have been deprived so that you find yourself at the lowest level, you have cause to rejoice because spiritually you're exalted. He may be hungry, but he has the bread of life.
He may be thirsty, but he has the water of life. He may be poor, but he has eternal riches. He may be cast aside by men, but he has been received by God.
He may have no home here, but he has a glorious home in the life to come. So he says, you poor folks, rejoice that you have received divine attention and that your trials are making you perfect and that is to exalt you in the spiritual dimension. When God takes away, he takes away to make you spiritually mature.
When he makes you spiritually mature, that's an exaltation. So the person who is deprived can accept his deprivation, accept his trials because of the hope that God is exalting him through those in the spiritual dimension and ultimately bringing him to future glory, ultimately lifting him up to the day when he receives all the inheritance promised to the saints that love God. Some day, says Peter, he will receive an inheritance that will cause him to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
So we can rejoice in any trial. We can rejoice in any deprivation because God has chosen us to an exalted position in his kingdom. And Paul said, the sufferings of this world are not worthy to be compared with the joy that shall be ours in that day.
Romans 8, 17 and following talks about that. True riches are ours. So poverty is a short, live trial.
It doesn't last very long. And those of us who endure those kinds of trials of which poverty would be one, can look ahead to a glorious time of exaltation. To sum it up, it says this, don't look to draw your joy out of your worldly circumstances and you won't be disappointed if you don't have anything. Draw your joy out of your spiritual exaltation, out of God saving you and moving you toward Christ likeness and some day putting you in his presence.
And on the other hand, look at verse 10. And the rich in that he is made low. That is, let him rejoice.
The same verb should be applied. Let him exalt. Let him make it his boast that he is made low. Because when a rich person goes through a trial, he begins to realize realistically that all that he possesses can't buy the real things of life. The wealthy Christian should rejoice that when he goes through trials, he has to face the bankruptcy of worldly riches and depend on the gifts and the grace of God. So the humble person rejoices in the provision of God and the wealthy person rejoices in the provision of God the same way. The person who has nothing rejoices in what God provides. The person who has everything and realizes it can't buy what he needs also rejoices in what God has provided. The poor Christian can also, as a footnote, rejoice in that he's associated with rich ones. The rich Christian can rejoice in the privilege, the self-denying privilege of being identified with Christ and poor believers.
Why? Because we're all humbled at the same level in a trial and we all have to lean on God, right? That's the point. Money doesn't buy people out of their problems. They're real trials.
Oh, it may solve your economic problem, but you'll get a rash of other ones that it won't be able to solve. So the point here is whether poor or rich, trials come into life to humble us. And true humility, whether it possesses much of this world's goods or little, true humility says my resources are in God.
The commentator, the great Lutheran commentator, Linsky, I think has an interesting paragraph. He says, faith in Christ lifts the lowly brother beyond his trials to the great height of a position in the kingdom of Christ where as God's child he is rich and may rejoice and boast. Faith in Christ does an equally blessed thing for the rich brother. It fills him with the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of lowliness and true Christian humility. As the poor brother forgets all his earthly poverty, so the rich brother forgets all his earthly riches, and the two are equals by faith in Christ.
That's right. And I believe that equality is driven home through trials. When you lose a daughter or lose a son or lose a wife or lose a husband, doesn't matter how much money you have, none of it's going to buy your way out of that trial. None of it.
There's the equalizer. Trials bring us to the same level of dependency on God and thus bring us humbly to the same level with each other. So we do not preoccupy ourselves with earthly things. And in the church we do not exalt those who have much as over against those who have little because all our earthly possessions are inadequate to buy us what we need spiritually. Now James seems to have a particular concern to really hit the rich people.
He does it in chapter 1 and he keeps doing it all the way through as we shall see. But he says, notice back in verse 10, the rich should be happy that he's made low because when he's made low, see, he realizes the true riches are otherworldly, not here. As the flower of the grass, he shall pass away.
Rich people in general, he's not speaking particularly of a rich Christian, but rich men in general are going to pass away, just like the flower of the grass. In Israel, there are three very common flowers, the anemone, the cyclamen and the lily. And they can flourish and you can see the beauty of their color in February and they are burned to a cinder by May.
It's not unlike, frankly, the hills of Southern California where they blossom and you go out of town for a week and come back and it's a desert again. And that's what he is seeing here. There is a true spirit of humility that says, I don't put my trust in these things which pass so fast, which burn up so readily. And the poet in James expands his illustration even further in verse 11. For the sun is no sooner risen with the 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.
The form of the Greek language here is a nomic and that expresses what usually occurs. The thought is drawn out of Isaiah 40 verses 6 through 8, borrowed from Isaiah the prophet. He says the burning sun, or literally the burning heat, it could refer to the scorching wind we know as a saraco.
Blasting it comes and it just devastates all the flowers in its path, that hot, blasting wind. That's going to be as it shall be in the future in the fate of rich men. The blasting heat and wind of the fury of death and the judgment of God will burn everything to a cinder. So the rich man should rejoice in his trouble because his trouble divorced him from dependency on his resources and all of his resources will perish anyway. And he can rejoice that when it's all burned out, he will have the true riches, just like the poor man does.
So what is necessary? What kind of attitude are we to have to face trials? A joyous attitude, an understanding mind, a submissive will, a believing heart, and a humble spirit that trusts not in our possessions but in the provision of God. You're listening to John MacArthur, Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, as he continues showing you how to grow spiritually and experience peace and even joy in the struggles you face. It's part of John's current study on Grace To You, titled, Benefiting From Life's Trials. Now several times in this series, John, you've said that trials are guaranteed. We can't ignore them. We can't avoid them. But it seems to me that we can anticipate them and make sure that we're ready when suffering does come.
So talk about how our listeners can do that. How can someone listening right now make sure he's ready for a trial even before it begins? You may not be able to anticipate the specific trial, but expect it.
Isn't it in Job where it says, just as surely as sparks from a fire fly up, men are going to have trouble? You know, I might think at my age, after all these many years that I've done it all. I've been through all the trouble I need. You know, I don't know if I need to be refined anymore. You know, just, Lord, leave me alone until I go to heaven.
But it's not likely this situation. I'm going to anticipate more trouble to come as long as I'm around. So I think a sensible anticipation that this is life and trouble will come is important. Secondly, affirm the fact that God's purposes in our trouble are always good for us and glorifying to Him. And that basically defines the thing before you ever see it.
So, oh, hey, a difficulty, a challenge, a tragedy, some kind of trouble. This is the Lord working for my benefit and His glory. So predispose yourself to that. And I also think that the better you know the Word of God, the better you are armed to confront these trials with biblical truth. So I would just encourage you, be a student of the Bible. Know your Bible. Know the Word of God. Think biblically.
That's what defines everything in your life, including your trials. And can I take a moment and encourage you to get a copy of the MacArthur Study Bible? That Study Bible has 25,000 footnotes on every page below the text of Scripture to help you understand the historical background, culture, and correct interpretation of every Scripture. You get 100,000 cross-references, charts, maps, introductions to the books, and all Bible study tools. And we have the MacArthur Study Bible in hardcover, leather, premium calfskin. There are English Standard, ESV Version, New American Standard, New King James.
It even comes in Spanish, French, Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic, and a few more. For personal Bible study, for sermon prep or lesson prep, to lead a Bible study with friends or family, get a copy of the MacArthur Study Bible. Contact us today and you can place your order. Right, with detailed introductions to each book of the Bible and about 25,000 footnotes from Genesis to Revelation, the MacArthur Study Bible makes virtually every passage clear. To get your copy of the MacArthur Study Bible, several languages to choose from, contact us today. Call our toll-free number, 800-55-GRACE, or visit our website, gty.org. Again, the MacArthur Study Bible comes in hardcover, leather, and softcover editions. You can choose from the English Standard, New King James, and New American Standard versions.
To pick one up for yourself or for a friend, call 800-55-GRACE, or see all the options available and place your order online at gty.org. And at our website, be sure to take advantage of the free Bible study tool we call Grace Stream. It's a unique way to listen to John MacArthur's teaching through the entire New Testament. It starts in Matthew and goes through Revelation and then starts over again. You just hop in wherever John's teaching and hear sermon after sermon.
It helps you get into God's Word fast and to absorb it in a systematic way. Try Grace Stream for free at gty.org. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for making this broadcast part of your day, and be here tomorrow when John looks at where temptation comes from and how to defend yourself against it. He'll continue his series, Benefiting from Life's Trials, with another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time on Grace To You.
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