June 5, 2011

Responding To Trials With A Christian Mind - Part Two

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: James Scripture: James 1:9–18


Responding To Trials With A Christian Mind-Part Two

James 1:9-18
Sunday, June 5, 2011
Pastor Randy Smith

As we prepare for what I thought would be our final sermon on trials, I want to ask you how you are doing in this area?

Trials are an inevitable part of this life, but God has designed it in such a way that you can find joy even in the worst of times. It is wonderful that as Christians we can rejoice in the good times and still as James says in verse 2 "consider it all joy…when [we] encounter various trials [too]!" That is living the Christian life; having a joy from the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22) that transcends all circumstances!

So how are you doing in this area?

Christians dislike suffering as much as the unbeliever, but the Christian enjoys a hope that is unavailable to the unbeliever. Their suffering is meaningless. Our suffering is intended for our greatest good. Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." And what is that good? It is conformity to the image of Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:29). Or in the words of James from verse 4, trials come that we "may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." When we are in the heated crucible of a trial, God is refining us, hammering us, molding us to Christlikeness.

I trust all believers desire heaven more than earth, but what makes heaven so great? The only acceptable answer is the privilege to spend eternity with Jesus Christ. So if we love Jesus Christ above all others and admire the beauty of His character above all others, shouldn't it be our greatest desire to be like Him? Shouldn't we want to grow in likeness to Him? I think we'd all prefer that to growing in likeness to Satan! So when God desires above all things to make us like Jesus in trials, shouldn't we be thankful? Shouldn't we cooperate with Him in the process? Everything must start here with the right mindset.

Unfortunately we are prone to waste the trial. We still suffer the agony of the discomfort, but we gain nothing to benefit our souls. We are like the college kid who goes to the library to study, but spends all his time complaining about his unfair teachers and overloaded schedule, while the other student puts forth disciplined effort. They both invested the time, but only one received any advantage. Complaining, fear and anxiety are sin because they are clear indications that you are not responding in a godly fashion to the trial. It comes down to faith (as James says in verses 6-8). Will you trust God's love, wisdom and control or will you take matters into your own hands and respond to the trial like an atheist?

Now from verses 9-18, James will list four specific ways we are to respond to trials. I can't imagine many commands being more necessary for these painful and grumbling times. As I said, I originally planned on concluding this material today, but I believe the Holy Spirit wants me to camp-out a little longer on this topic. We will review the first two points from last week and then go as far as we can with the third point today until we need to break for the Lord's Table. Let's examine the wisdom that comes from God as to how we are to respond when going through trials.

1. MONEY AS GOD SEES IT (review - verses 9-11)

Last week our first point was, "Money As God Sees It."

As James says in verse 3 that all trials are a "testing of [our] faith," I believe nothing can bring a greater test than that of money. Are we willing to prove that we love God more than our money? Are we willing to trust God for the money we have received? Will we consider every expenditure a spiritual decision? Will we use the money God has entrusted us to build our kingdom or God's kingdom? Will we, as Jesus commanded, store up for ourselves riches in heaven? Will we allow the money to produce thankfulness, generosity and humility, or greed, discontentment and materialism? If our greatest goal in life is Christlikeness, will we see money as God's tool to get us there?

This is what James gets at in verses 9-11. "The brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position." This teaches that that Christian who lacks money should never suffer from shame and inferiority. What a worldly response! This life is temporary (Jas. 4:14). Rich people, like all people, says James in verse 11 are like flowering grass in the desert that bloom for a moment, but soon gets scorched by the hot sun and are destroyed. Christians know their home is heaven, and even now they are seated with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6). Regardless of their wealth, they have a "high position" (Jas. 1:9; cf. 2:5). Quit following the world. Think biblically. See things as God see them!

Sure the absence of wealth will bring humiliation in the eyes of the world, but who cares what the messed-up world thinks? As James said in verse 1, we are "bond-servant[s] of God." Why do we want to be bondservants to the enemies of God (Jas. 4:4)? And furthermore, is humility really a bad thing? Didn't James say in 4:6, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (cf. Jas. 4:10)? The question is do you want the world's approval or God's grace?

The rich man, says James in verse 10, "is to glory in his humiliation." So how is a rich man humbled by his money? I believe it is when he responds similar to the poor man and understand that all in this world is temporary (Jas. 1:11), and all that he has is to be used for the glory of God. And when that rich man acts in this fashion, no doubt his other rich friends from the world will take notice, observe a different set of values and criticize his spending habits. Such a response will no doubt bring humiliation. But as James says, he is to "glory" in it because it reveals his heart's desire to find favor with God over favor with the world. And he knows you cannot please both at the same time! James agrees in 4:4, "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God."

As I said last week, it is easy for most of us to put ourselves in the "poor category." I believe this is wrong. Many in the world go daily without food and shelter. In America our financial level far exceeds the majority of the world's population. I believe we need to make the comparison between us and the average citizen in Africa rather than comparing ourselves to the average millionaire in Rumson. I believe if James were to evaluate us, he would place all of us in the "rich category."

So again I ask, how are we doing in this area?

There is nothing wrong with having nice things, but are you spending your money in such a way for Christ's kingdom that the world thinks you have lost your mind? And second, are you finding glory in that humiliation (whether rich or poor) knowing that you are putting God first and in doing so opening the lid of your life to be a recipient of His infinite grace?

2. REMAIN UNDER THE WEIGHT (review - verse 12)

Point two: here is a second command necessary if we are to get all we can from our trials. Verse 12, "Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him."

Perseverance is something lacking in our culture, but something that is essential if we wish to make any positive gains. Will a two-day diet accomplish anything? Can studying for five minutes really make a difference? And though the mouth starts burning in the first 10 seconds, instructions say gargling for 30 seconds is necessary if we want our mouthwash to be effective!

Trials are no different. Perseverance is necessary. We have a tendency to feel sorry for ourselves, complain or anesthetize the pain using techniques that prove more harmful. Yet for the Christian, since we know God has permitted the trial and is working in us through the trial, we are to persevere until He has accomplished His purposes from the trial. If you trust Him, God will not allow you to fail spiritually, always giving you the necessary grace whether it be wisdom (Jas. 1:5) or strength (Jas. 1:3) to persevere, to "remain under the weight."

Trials are a test from God to cut off the rough edges and burn off the impurities in our character. Will we pass the test? Will we trust the Scriptures? Will we believe that God is in control? Will we have faith that this is occurring for our greatest good? Will we persevere demonstrating to ourselves and the world that we are those who have and one day will "receive the crown of [eternal] life?" According to verse 12, this gift is only given to those who "love [God]." And what a great way to demonstrate our love for Him as we persevere under the trial believing with all our heart that He really loves us and is seeking our greatest good.

3. KNOWING WHOM TO BLAME (verses 13-15)

The third test in trials comes in the fact that we as Christians know whom to ultimately blame when things go wrong.

So the trial hits. How many times have you heard somebody blame God for his or her misfortune?

The world usually processes it like this: I basically ignore God throughout the day. When things go well, I give myself all the credit. Yet the moment something goes wrong, I believe that God is either unloving or unable to do anything about the situation. I have never heard this more than in the weeks following 9-11. Either God could have stopped those planes, and He chose not to making Him unloving, or God wanted to prevent the tragedy from occurring but was unable to overcome the terrorists making Him powerless. "Why, God?"

Or the sub-Christian response used by professing believers: I have been faithful to my wife. I have attended church every weekend. I have avoided drunkenness and cursing. How can God let this happen to me? This is the debtor's mentality. Because of what I have done, God is obligated to give me what I want, and He has let me down. Again the same conclusion, "Why, God?!"

God is never to be the One blamed for your situation as if He needed to go to you for counsel before He chose how to act. Anger with God over a situation implies that you are more loving and more intelligent than He. What does complaining say if as we have already learned His plan for His children is perfect?

Here is another way people blame God specifically in relation to their sin. "God, if You would have given me a more loving spouse, I would never of had this affair." "God, if You would have given me more money, I never would have needed to steal this item." Or my favorite from the Scriptures: God speaking to Adam, "Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" (Gen. 3:11). Adam's response to God" "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate" (Gen. 3:12). It's Your fault, God!

This is what James is getting at in verses 13-15: "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."

With every test comes an inherent temptation (they are even the same Greek word), an enticement to sin. As we observed already, our use of money is a test, but in that test there are several temptations. Our ability to persevere under trial is a test, but in that test there are several temptations. God brings the test, but something or someone else brings the temptations.

As James says, "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God'" (Jas. 1:13). Why? Because "God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone" (Jas. 1:13). It is God's desire that you pass. He has our greater godliness in mind. Yet there are contrary forces at hand working hard to see that you fail spiritually. The test from God is not evil. Perceiving the temptation on your part is not evil. Giving into the temptations that come upon you is where our problem lies.

So if God is not the culprit as it is a sheer impossibility for Him to tempt us, who is the ultimate source of these temptations, and how do we overcome these temptations that we all experience when in the midst of a trial?

Come back next week as we will continue this practical discussion on trials.

other sermons in this series

Feb 5


Sheep Shepherding Sheep

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: James 5:19 Series: James

Jan 29


Let's Close With Prayer

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: James 5:13–18 Series: James

Jan 15


To Tell You The Truth

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: James 5:12 Series: James