The testing of your faith produces endurance.
That's a compound word that means it develops in you the ability to stay under, to abide under the pressure, like lungs that have been developed through exercise to stay under water longer or run uphill further. Your practical faith that lives out in the world in your walk has what he would call staying power. Have you ever experienced trouble? That's a pretty silly question, isn't it? Of course you have.
We all have. As we all know, the Bible says that trials, even the most painful ones, are a gift from God. But that's not an easy truth to believe. When we're facing a trial, it feels like anything but a gift. Welcome to Wisdom for the Heart. In today's message, Stephen Davey will show you that spiritual maturity is not attained by merely experiencing trials.
It's attained by embracing them. Since trials are part of your earthly experience, you need to understand this. So keep listening to this message called The Truth About Trouble. Ladies and gentlemen, putting faith to work in your life has more to do with how you respond to trouble than perhaps any other thing you encounter.
There is a connection between suffering and usefulness. So is it any wonder that the Christians would be questioning this very issue and that James would dive right into the subject about how to make your faith real, how to bring faith down to earth, is going to have a lot to do with the truth about trouble and how to handle it correctly. Don't miss the fact, by the way, as we begin that the original audience of James is in deep trouble. Don't skip over the last part of verse 1 where James announces his audience.
He says, to the 12 tribes who are dispersed abroad, greeting. In general, the word dispersion diaspora referred to Jews living outside the world of Palestine. But more specifically to James' audience, many of these Jews had been scattered because of persecution. Claudius, the Roman emperor, was driving the Jews into exile. He was anti-Semitic. He just hated Jews. It was the heart of the enemy, of course, saved himself to so despise this covenant people of God. So he has had his leaders along the generations who hated them as well, to try to rid the world of them, thus bringing the covenant of God to naught. So many of these Jews were facing the persecution of Claudius. Under his rule, they were exiled from Palestine.
They were even driven from Rome. For them, life was very threatening. It was fearful. It was unsafe. It was dangerous. So I want you to keep that in mind as you move to verse 2 and beyond.
That's the audience of James. But the Jews who had begun to follow Jesus Christ faced as it were double jeopardy. There was double trouble being Jews. They were now being persecuted by Gentiles, hated and hounded by them.
But because they were Jews who now follow Jesus Christ, they were also hated by their own people. You talk about trouble. They were surrounded by it. It was trouble on every level. Everything for them had changed.
Everything was upside down. They had been forced to leave their homes and run for their lives to other cities and villages that might give them sanctuary. You know how hard it was for you to move from the home you used to live in to the home you live in now? And you got to pick the date. But even still, all the packing, all the stress, all the questions, all the labor, all the issues, all the details, and you got to choose that particular time. So James, with hardly a greeting, begins to discuss the primary subject on their minds, and frankly every Christian's mind for the last 2,000 years. What do you do with trouble? James will begin to answer that and his answer is loaded with truths about trouble. And I want you to notice first of all his basic premise. Look at verse 2. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials. Now I want to begin by having you circle in your text or at least in your mind that little word, when, in verse 2. The first of three truths I'll give you that James gives to us about trouble is that trouble is unavoidable. So at the very outset of this issue, James is telling the believer to expect trouble. Trials are a given. And the truth is you don't have to go looking for trouble either.
It will find you all by itself. Now there are well-meaning people, you can watch them on cable television, who will preach a way that if you really have enough faith, whatever trouble you're having will go away. I remember watching one man for about 10 minutes who had all of his listening audience send in their credit card statement and he had them piled up around the front of the stage and he prayed over them and they were supposed to somehow disappear. If you're really following Jesus, trials, tribulation becomes a thing of the past, you're going to live on this perpetual mountaintop of good health and lots of wealth and your dream job and perfect relationships and trouble-free lives. That's nonsense. James writes it this way, count it all joy when you encounter various trials. It would make a lot more sense to those preachers and to us though, if we admitted it, if he had said, count it all joy when you escape various trials.
I like that version. Joyful is certainly the absence of trials, right? No, if you're the slave of God and you want to obey your master and Lord, you would think that trials would become a thing of the past. Jesus Christ though says differently in John 16, he says, in the world you will have trouble. He says in Matthew 6, every day will have its share of trouble. The Christian experience is notably distinctive not by the absence of trials but their presence.
The question is, what do you do with it? Maybe you've been a Christian long enough to discover the troubling thoughts you've had to take to the Lord that you really aren't his sheltered people, you are his scattered people and in every generation he has scattered his people around the world, tantamount to scattering the seeds of the gospel. The second truth James reveals about trouble, not only is it unavoidable, it's unlimited. He says at the end of this phrase that we will encounter various trials. The word various is a word that gives us our word polka dot, multicolored. In other words, they'll come in all kinds, all types.
The packages are small or large or medium. They will involve everything imaginable. They will involve your health and your relationships and your finances and your job and your future and your social standing and your past and your hopes and your children or the lack of children on and on.
They come in all kinds of sizes, all colors of the rainbow. James says, you need to understand in this premise which sets the stage for this text that trouble is unavoidable and trouble is unlimited. He also says that trials are unexpected.
He writes look again, count it all joy when you encounter. That word encounter various trials is translated in the King James Version. If you haven't had one, it's a wonderful translation, fall into. That's a wonderful word picture of the Greek language that gives us, communicates to us something of the unexpectedness. You fall into it. You didn't expect that as you were walking down the path. You didn't expect that pothole and you fell into it. In fact, I think it's interesting that the word in this premise translated trials at the end of the phrase is linked to another Greek word in the same meaning just slightly differently the word which is translated attacker.
We have taken that particular word transliterated it to create an English word pirate. And that creates even a clearer mental image of the sudden appearance. You imagine you're sailing along.
Life is really good. Clear skies, so sun is blazing away at the perfect temperature, wind in the sails and suddenly you look over as a shadow falls across the deck of your life and there's a pirate ship. Some really mean looking guys. And they throw ropes over and they fasten your boat to theirs. Now you would expect then the next verse since he creates that kind of word picture for us to tell us how to cut the ropes and sail away.
Not quite. Brethren, you can read verse two, when you encounter a variety of pirates, trials, considerate all, joy. You might be tempted to think of James like I thought of my professor. He's lost a marble or two to say something like that. Maybe you think, well, he's an apostle. He's paid to say things like that.
That's going to be in the Bible, so we expect that from him now. You need to understand he isn't saying that you're going to enjoy your trials. Now James says to consider it, it might help to add the word with, to consider it with joy. The word consider is a financial term. It means to evaluate. It means to sum total it up.
It means to reckon, to total, to evaluate. See, the Christian who understands he is the slave of God, James 1 verse 1, you remember, can have joy when surrounded by trouble because he happens to be living for the things that matter most. His evaluation, the way he totals up life, his values are reflected in his response. If our highest value is our health, we're going to be really upset when we lose our health. When what we're living for is money, we're going to be really upset when money flies away. You see, that's the point. You need to keep in mind as a child of God that God is literally behind it. I like the way one person said it when he wrote, Satan may turn up the heat, but God has his hand on the thermostat. See, it's that kind of trust, it's that kind of submission as the slaves of God that we evaluate trouble with a joyful spirit instead of the opposite, which could be, you fill in the blank, complaining, bitterness, resentment, and on and on. See, that's the opening statement of James. That's his premise.
Consider it joy when you understand God is behind the scenes and you, his slave, under various trials because God has good in mind. He has a product in mind. We're going to look at the product in just a minute, but before we get to it, I want you to understand something and I'm going to take James' premise and reword it. You do not get to choose your crosses. You choose your responses. Speaking from his experience as a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps, Dr. Viktor Frankl said this, and I quote him, everything can be taken from a human being but one thing, the last of human freedoms, the freedom to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances. We can't choose our crosses.
We get to choose our responses. Now, I want you to look at the product. Here it is, verse 3.
Look there. You know this, the testing of your faith produces endurance. That's a compound word that means it develops in you the ability to stay under, to abide under the pressure like lungs that have been developed through exercise to stay under water longer or run uphill further. Your practical faith that lives out in the world in your walk has what he would call staying power. So let endurance, he goes on, have its perfect result. In other words, don't short circuit God's work in your life by trying to escape. Let endurance be developed.
Stay under the pressure. Let it have its perfect result. The end of verse 4 says that you may be perfect and complete and everybody immediately thinks, well, that rules me out. Perfect? You need to understand the word perfect here refers to undivided affection.
You might write that in the margin of your Bible, undivided affection. Trials have a way of doing that, don't they? In the midst of suffering, everything that the world clamors for suddenly becomes nonsense doesn't it? I mean, imagine, go back to that mental picture again.
You got the pirate ship, it comes up, straps himself, your life's in danger and would you ever think for a moment what's for lunch? This is the point all of our clinging to the world, all of our clinging to self, all of our clinging to temporal things begins to lose its grip on our lives and our focus when the suffering is to turn to Christ and the sufficiency of Christ you begin to run. Hebrews says with endurance the race that's set before us. James says in effect trials produce single-minded affection for Christ when everything else becomes just a little more silly than it was and really it ought to be. He goes on the end of verse 4 by saying that that kind of endurance in trials or trying times produces completeness. That's a word that could easily be translated maturity. Maturing is big with James.
Why not? It ought to be because he's talking about faith that matters to life. He's talking about faith that makes a difference in the world as they see the demonstration of our faith in our works. He sees faith growing up. That's why he talks about maturity over and over and over again as he exhorts us. Don't try to escape.
Stay in there. God will make you mature at this point. My wife and I have had raised just about finished with our last but we've had four children. All four children had the same problem.
They actually had a lot of problems but I'll just mention one of them. This was about at eight months when it became a really big problem. They got to where they didn't want to go to sleep in their cribs alone in the room and they'd stand up and they'd cry and they'd cry and they'd cry and they'd cry. You see a sign of physical and mental maturity is the ability for your child to go to sleep when they're alone. A sign of spiritual maturity is the ability to rest even when God seems absent and that's going to require growth and wisdom isn't it. James knew that we would need it and so verse five says if any of you lacks wisdom and he's assuming we do because that is an imperative ask God exclamation point ask God he will give to all I love that little word all he doesn't have his pets his favorites you know you're at the top of the class so you get wisdom you at the bottom of the class day afterward do some hard labor and I'll give you a little bit no gives to all generously and without approach he gives. Did you notice that James does not say if any man lacks knowledge by the mask of God. There's a big difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is the accumulation of facts.
It's data. It's what you learn. Wisdom is knowing how to use what you learn correctly.
You have a lot of knowledge but cannot make decisions in life. Why because they like wisdom. It's interesting that James tells us to ask God for wisdom and by the way why not deliverance.
Why not strength. Why not grace. How little do we pray along the lines of James when there's trouble. We ask for God to deliver people deliver us.
God has actually introduced that into our lives to develop us. We are praying counter to the movement of God's spirit in our lives. James is going to move to a warning let me take you there quickly look at verse six. But he must ask in faith without any doubting for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind for that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord being a double minded man. The average Christian again you read that anything.
Well again this is ruling me out. This is an unfortunate interpretation of this text. James is actually describing a wicked man who's like the troubled sea. The word double minded can literally be translated to soul. Somebody who has two souls. There is a there is a division in their heart.
We would use it. They have two hearts. They have two affections.
They're trying to go in two directions at the same time. So he's talking. He hasn't made up his mind. One day he inclines toward God the other day he inclines toward the world. James says in effect this person says he wants the wisdom of God but he's keeping all of his options open.
Ladies and gentlemen God does not give wisdom to someone until their only option is God. Now he gives us some perspective. Now there are some Bible scholars who believe the book of James is actually a sermon he delivered and so he transcribed it.
Well he delivered it. I'm not convinced but one indication of that is that James will be rattling along upon a certain theme and then he'll just drop in from nowhere an illustration like preachers are are in need of doing more often. Notice his illustration in verse 9. But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation because like flowering grass he will pass away for the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass and its flower literally its petals fall off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed so to the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
The point of this illustration is to give us a little perspective. These are both believers. You have a poor believer and you have a rich believer but they're going to recognize that suffering levels the ground and both of them need to recognize their status and their sufficiency in Christ. The poor man needs to consider his high position as a prince of God even though everything in his life says the opposite. He needs to glory in his exaltation in Christ. The rich man needs to remember that his trust is not what he sees around him.
His wealth it can be like a flower with a hot dry scorching wind knocking the petals right off it. Both need to recognize their sufficiency is in their master and Lord whom they serve. And then James moves to the promise. Here's the truly happy man verse 12. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial for once he's been approved that is tested he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised those 11 verse 12. By the way is the concluding statement of James discussion on trials is not the beginning statement of more things he's going to change the context to temptation as we explore the nature of sin. This verse is a verdict. You are blessed.
You are fulfilled. Later James writes in this verse you're going to experience the culmination of that fulfillment and that satisfaction when you receive the crown of life. By the way James is not implying that you earn eternal life by enduring suffering. What he is saying is the believer earns crowns from persevering. You don't choose your crosses.
You choose your responses. James says one day you'll be rewarded every time you chose to respond with trust humility and a request for wisdom and the sum totaling of it up as joy because you understood God had a product in mind your spiritual maturity. John Phillips recorded in his commentary a story that he heard Howard Hendricks deliver at Moody Bible Institute's annual Founders Week conference and he recorded that story in his commentary exploring James.
Let me just kind of read through it for the sake of time as we wrap up our study. He said Howard Hendricks told how he once had the opportunity to play the town's champion checkers player. Hendricks was a young fellow at the time and he was so confident he believed he could take on the old veteran. He was offered the first move which he gladly took and he decided to set the pace. After a few moves his opponent put a piece in the line of fire which Hendricks could jump in. The man said well I guess you ought to jump me and Hendricks did so scooping the piece triumphantly off the board. He thought then he had the game in the bag when his opponent did it again and then again putting another piece in jeopardy saying well you're gonna have to jump me again. Hendricks happily took the piece and then it happened. The old man picked up one of his checkers and jump jump jump jump and the old man's checker landed at that final jump in king territory and he announced crown me. It's a wonderful thing to say. After that young Hendricks didn't have a chance as piece after piece was pounced on until he had lost them all.
Then Hendricks made the point. No good checker player minds losing an occasional piece and he can with joy so long as he understands he's heading for a crown. You cannot choose your crosses but you can choose your responses. What better way to encourage us all at the end of this discussion than to have here James effectively saying to us one day your crosses will be exchanged for a crown.
So play on. Crowning day may soon be here. Thanks for joining us today. This is Wisdom for the Heart the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. Stephen is the pastor of the Shepherd's Church in Cary, North Carolina. Today's message comes from the book of James and a series Stephen is calling Bringing Faith Down to Earth. This lesson is entitled The Truth About Trouble. Please consider sharing it.
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