Finding Joy in the Face of Trials

Dr. Rob Green November 14, 2021 James 1:1-12
Outline

Four Factors of Stewardship

1. God owns everything, you own nothing

2. God entrusts you with everything you have

3. You can either increase or diminish what God has given; He wants you to increase it

4. God can call you into account at any time, and it may be today

3 truths that help us have joy in trials

James 1:2 - Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…

I. He Is Making Us Perfect/Mature (v. 3-4)

James 1:2-4 - Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

A. By using various trials

“‘Why does God allow the righteous to suffer?’ is, indeed, one of the most perplexing and difficult questions that God’s people can ask. James gives no complete answer. But implicit in what James says is a conviction that the suffering of believers is always under the providential control of a God who wants only the best for his people.” (Douglas Moo, The Letter of James, PNTC P. 52-53)

B. By using testing to produce endurance

James 1:3 - …knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance…

C. Endurance leads to maturity

James 1:4 - And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Romans 5:3-4 - And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope…

“We are not to pretend trials and grief do not hurt us; it is natural and normal that they do, and it would be a denial of our humanity to think that we should be immune to the pains of hardship in our lives and the lives of others…James is saying that it is what God can accomplish through suffering that is good, not the suffering itself. Suffering is an opportunity to gain the most valuable thing on earth.” (Sam Allberry, James For You, p. 15)

II. He Gives Us Wisdom (v. 5-8)

James 1:5 - But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

A. Generously

B. To those who ask in faith

James 1:6-8 - 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 person ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

III. He Offers Us a Great Future Reward (9-12)

A. Better than the pleasures of this life

James 1:9-11- Now the brother or sister of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; but the rich person is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so also the rich person, in the midst of his pursuits, will die out.

B. For all who persevere under trial

James 1:12 - 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.

Stewardship month has been a long-standing tradition at Faith. We have discussed stewardship from many different perspectives over the years, but it all comes down to the basic beliefs that:

  1. God has a purpose for us
  2. God wants us to glory him by becoming more like Jesus and by living consistent with his word.

Those basic beliefs impact everything. That is why stewardship impacts everything.

  • It is about our character, our thoughts, how we use our tongue, our time, our relationships, our evangelism, our love for neighbors, our work, our money, our family, our spiritual disciplines, our willingness to follow through on commitments, etc., etc.
  • It is about everything.

You received the stewardship commitment card in the mail or in the bulletin at the beginning of our series. This is your friend.

  • It is a tool to help you think about personal growth, giving, and serving. If you take it seriously, then the Lord might use it to help you take some specific and concrete steps of growth this year.
  • I hope that you will get your stewardship tickets (they are free, but we need to give the caterers a number tomorrow) and plan to praise the Lord for all he has done.

Our 4 factors of stewardship are:

1. God owns everything, you own nothing.

2. God entrusts you with everything you have.

3. You can either increase or diminish what God has given; He wants you to increase it.

4. God can call you into account at any time, and it may be today.

It is not hard to see how that applies to everything.

The past two years have been hard on many.

  • One member of our church told Stephanie that she has lost 13 family members in the last two years. That is a lot of grief.
  • Our seminary students did 50% of their internship during a pandemic. Their internship was not the same as the other cohorts.
  • Health care workers had more pressure on them than ever from different sources.
  • Some, in our church family, have experienced intense personal suffering.
  • All of us have experienced various levels and kinds of difficulty.

I was personally impacted hearing Jamie Johnson pray during communion last week. He thanked the Lord for the blood of Christ, how that paid for our sins, and offered us new life. His wife is battling cancer for the second time.

We have dealt with some heavy issues in counseling. People are genuinely hurting and suffering.

These facts led us to decide to make this year’s stewardship month about Stewarding Challenging Times.

Pastor Viars opened our study by looking at Hebrews 12 and considering how challenges may be the loving discipline of our heavenly father.

  • The exhortation was to receive the discipline, to learn from them, and to be grateful that our Father loves us enough to correct us.

Then Dr. Svennson spoke about honoring God through suffering.

  • The Bible says two times that Job did not sin against God related to his suffering.
  • That is a powerful passage considering the depth of his suffering.

I think that suffering can seem so dominant. If we are not careful, we can allow suffering to shrink our world down to the size of our suffering.

  • Our first message, said “look up, behind that suffering could be loving discipline from a loving God. Our second message reminded us that we can still honor the Lord in our suffering.

Today, we are going to add another element. Stewarding Challenging Times by Finding Joy in the face of Trials.

I know that the words joy and trials are difficult to put together. I want to be sensitive to everyone going through deep waters.

  • I do not want to be flippant with my words.
  • I want to lovingly encourage all of us to consider how joy and trials can honestly go together.

For that, I ask that you join me in opening your Bible to James Chapter 1. It is on page 177 of the back section of the Bible in the chair in front of you.

  • Let me pray quickly before I go further.

Please follow along as I read. This is the Word of the Lord: James 1:1-12.

I would like us to take consider 3 truths that help us have Joy in Trials

I want us to start by talking about the word “consider.”

James 1:2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,

Sometimes around here we say consider serving the Living Nativity. We might say in a strategic planning document, “consider building a children’s ministry wing at Faith East.” In both cases, the word “consider” is a request.

  • We are asking a person to think about it and tell us what they decide.

That is not what James is doing. He commands us to consider. In that sense, it is much closer to “have the opinion” or “determine in your mind”

  • One lexicon puts the meaning of this term alongside words like “to have” and “to judge.”
  • The evaluation is already done. It is not “consider” with the potential of coming to the conclusion that joy is one outcome out of a series of possibilities.
  • It is instead, Have the opinion or Determine.

Many Bibles use the phrase “all joy,” but again it is possible to miss that James is not saying your only emotion in trials is joy.

  • Rather all joy or pure joy is the overarching emotion in trial.

This allows joy and sorrow, joy and grief, joy and anger, joy and despair to exist in the same heart at the same time.

  • When I encounter trials, I know I have a heavenly Father who loves me, I know that I can honor the Lord by his grace like Job, and now I know that I can decide to choose pure joy in my hardships.

How can this be true? Truth #1.

I. He is making us Perfect/Mature (v. 3-4)

James 1:2-4 - Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The Lord is talking about purpose. Suffering is not just for suffering’s sake, to be miserable, or injured. The Lord has a purpose in mind and he was kind enough to tell us.

James writes to “my brethren,” this was a term to refer to others who had placed their faith in Christ.

  • This is a good time to mention that if you have never admitted your sin and placed your trust in the finished work of Jesus, then James 1:1-12 was not written for you. But your trials may be for a different purpose.

God may be using trials to get your attention, to show you there is more to life than work, eat, have fun, and sleep.

  • There is an eternity coming and whether you spend it in heaven or in hell will be based on your willingness to understand that your sin separates you from God, that you need a savior, and that Jesus’ work on the cross made it possible to be right with God.

If that is you, then I challenge you to obey the gospel, admit your sinfulness and request God’s forgiveness. I challenge you to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.

Your eternal destiny is important to us. We would be happy to talk with you more.

For those who know Christ, then James says that God is going to make us mature or perfect, lacking in nothing. I may not like the trial. It might cause tremendous pain and grief. But the end product is Christian maturity.

Truth #1 is that I can choose joy in trials because God will use them to make me mature.

  • I have often wondered … Lord, can you grow me through blessing, please.
  • If I get a choice, then help me grow through blessing! That is not how it works in James 1. Okay, now for the trials part.

The text says …

By using various trials

Commentator Douglas Moo states:

Why does God allow the righteous to suffer? is, indeed, one of the most perplexing and difficult questions that God’s people can ask. James gives no complete answer. But implicit in what James says is a conviction that the suffering of believers is always under the providential control of a God who wants only the best for his people. – Douglas Moo, The Letter of James, PNTC P. 52-53

He says something so important here … “God wants only the best for his people.” That is why our messages on Hebrews and Job were so important. If I believe that God is interested in the best for his people, then I can, as Job said, take good and adversity.

  • If I believe that God hates me and is trying to jam me up, then I will not be joyful about the trials. I will not value the maturity.
  • I will stubbornly resist his desire to move me to a better place.

James tells us that the trials are various … that is not surprising. A short run through biblical history provides lots of examples, but here are a couple:

  • When Israel was wandering in the desert, food was not easy to find. How would the nation respond?
  • After giving Abraham a son, God asked him to sacrifice him. How would he respond?
  • When Paul received the thorn in the flesh, how would he respond?

Different kinds of trials in different people’s lives. It is impossible to understand why everyone has a different trial package.

  • Why, for example, do some believers have a very difficult time learning?
  • Why do some believers struggle physically with one challenge after another?
  • Why do some believers have skills that do not produce living wages on the market place?
  • Why do some believers grow up in chaotic homes?

Dr. Craig Svennson spoke last week. Those who know Craig well know that he has struggled with chronic pain. Daily life can be difficult.

  • He wrote a book on dealing with pain that will not stop.
  • Many also know that he and Sue lost one of their sons.
  • He was not just talking about Job 1-2, he was also sharing as one who experienced a lot of trials.

Why are those things his package of trials? My package of trials and your package are different. Why?

James does not tell us every aspect of the mind of God. He tells us that God has an overarching purpose of making us mature, lacking in nothing. I must believe that is true and choose joy … let it accompany my grief, sorrow, and pain.

We know the end result is maturity, but notice that the text has a couple steps. He will produce maturity first …

By using testing to produce endurance

Tests expose. That is kind of scary. On the other hand, they tell you where you are. In that sense, they are very good.

Our son Samuel is a freshman engineering student at Cedarville. One day his prof walked into class, got them into groups of 4 and gave them this assignment like this (I may not have all the details perfect). You have 12 popsicle sticks, 2 rubber bands, 3 feet of thin cloth, 2 straws, and 6 pieces of tape. Build the tallest tower you can that can support a 5 pound weight.

The weight was the test of what they had learned about engineering principles. It was a valuable and productive test.

I have been exercising so a week ago I gave myself a test. I created a course and I set a goal and I went out for my exam. My run exposed the level of my fitness, the quality of my training, and it established my next goal.

Our gracious God says that he is going to use trials to test our faith … not crush it.

James 1:3 – knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance

It is through the testing, that our faith is made stronger. The Lord wants us to rely on his grace, ask his forgiveness, learn what we need to learn, and make a difference in the lives of others.

What is this first thing it produces? Endurance

It the opposite of quit. The testing is not designed to make people hate God and quit. It is designed to strengthen us … to produce endurance. Our faith gets stronger through the trial. We choose joy because God is strengthening our spiritual muscles.

When we endure a season of trials with our faith stronger than before, we praise the Lord. I know that as a parent and a pastor that watching you or my children go through trials is hard to see. But a reason for great rejoicing when I see you stronger on the other side.

Endurance is good, but not the end.

Endurance leads to maturity

James 1:4 - And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Carrying a load of trials with joy is the picture of endurance. But as one carries, their character is refined. The ending product, assuming that we have borne the weight properly, is Christian maturity.

Recently a man named J.I. Packer died. He wrote the book called Knowing God. It is one of the most significant Christian books written. It is full of deep thought and reflection on God character, actions, and our proper response to him.

Somewhat recently I learned more about the man J.I. Packer. Like many young boys, he loved to run, play, get in the dirt, and be with friends. But around the age of 10 Packer was hit by a truck while he was playing. He skull was fractured.

  • He asked for a bike for Christmas, his parents bought him a typewriter because he would never be allowed to play sports or ride a bike.
  • He became one of the most prolific Christian writers in history.

When I heard him speak, he sounded like a man who had spent much time with Jesus. He had allowed that trial to produce Christian maturity.

Friends, Paul said a similar thing in Romans 5

Rom 5:3-4 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope

When I saw that I was speaking on James 1, there was a bit of fear. For me: is this what I need because something is coming and I just don’t know it yet?

  • For you: Lord, help me speak the truth in love. I want your people to choose joy in trials. But I do not want to minimize the pain and challenge of trials.

Sam Allberry in James For You strikes a nice balance:

“We are not to pretend trials and grief do not hurt us; it is natural and normal that they do, and it would be a denial of our humanity to think that we should be immune to the pains of hardship in our lives and the lives of others…James is saying that it is what God can accomplish through suffering that is good, not the suffering itself. Suffering is an opportunity to gain the most valuable thing on earth.” - Sam Allberry, James For You, p. 15

I can steward the trials God has for me by choosing joy in them knowing that God is using a process to refine and strengthen my faith and Christian character.

Okay, we get it choose joy knowing that our loving God is using the trials to refine and strengthen our character. Great. Now what does that look like?

That brings us to truth #2.

II. He gives us wisdom (v. 5-8)

Praise the Lord that wisdom is available. Our trials are unique. We just saw that they are various, and practically speaking it means that each person, marriage, family has its own set of trials.

We know that we choose joy rather than bitterness. If we are bitter, then the answer is repent. If we are stubborn the answer is repent. Let God use the trials to mold us and shape us to the image of Jesus.

But once I commit to that thought … I have decided. I will, Lord, follow you.

  • I will choose joy when life is hard. I will Lord, by your grace, choose joy, when I am hurting.
  • I will Lord, choose joy, when I wonder why.
  • I will Lord, embrace what you have for me knowing that you have my best interest in mind.

But what does my daily life look like now?

  • Have you been there?
  • Have the trials drove you to your knees before the Lord fighting for joy and still wonder what to do?

Let me tell you a brief story. In December 2016 I got what I thought was a common cold. To this day no one knows what it was, but the sickness lingered for months. There are still a few consequences that remain. That sickness changed my life. I have never felt so weak (physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) in all my life.

I believe the affliction was good for me. I am gentler than I used to be. I know better what it means to despair. It was a time to fight for joy and a time for God to refine me.

  • But in the 6 months of intense hardship there were honest practical questions.
  • I was scheduled to speak about 17 times at the BCTC in Feb 2017. I was not sure I could do it.
  • I was scheduled to speak at out of town events in March. I was not sure I could do it.
  • In fact, in my darkest moments, I was not sure what my future held for ministry or life.

What I am trying to show is that we must start by saying yes, Lord I will determine, I am convinced, that pure joy is possible in trials because you are a loving heavenly Father using a tailored set of trials for me to develop the proper Christian character. But since I am in the trial right now and I experience true and genuine human weakness.

  • I feel that whatever strength I have in my frail body is consumed by the trial.
  • What, O God, do I do?

James 1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Know that God wants to give you wisdom. He is not ignorant of your challenges. He is not confused by your questions. He knows that your next step and the one after that is not always clear. So you go asking God for wisdom believing that he wants to give it to you …

A. Generously

God is a generous giver. When we ask for what he already wants to give us, then he pours it out upon us. This is a request according to the will of the Lord.

He is not tight-fisted with his wisdom.

Now, some of you might say in your mind, I asked God for wisdom and I did not get an answer. Before we go down that road too far, let’s consider some of the ways the Lord gives wisdom.

  • Most importantly is directly through his Word. Do I pray, then open my Bible, point my finger and expect that to be the exact verse I need? But the Lord’s wisdom comes as we read and listen.
  • Sometimes the Spirit brings to remembrance a passage we forgot about. Sometimes we walk in the service and God arranges a divine appointment.
  • Sometimes the Lord provides a person to deliver some truth.

In fact, without reproach reminds us that he is not criticizing us for asking. “You should know this by now,” “I told you yesterday, get with the program,” “No, do you know how many times you have asked this exact same question … the answer is the same.”

  • Our heavenly father does not condemn us for asking.

I find that those who talk most about God not giving wisdom when they ask are those who do not read their Bible, they do not listen to Christ centered music, they do not faithfully attend services, they do not ask for godly counsel, and they have virtually no Christian influences. In other words, they do not put themselves in a position to receive wisdom.

  • By their actions, they live in vv. 6-8.

God wants to give wisdom generously …

B. To those who ask in faith

James 1:6-8 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. 7 For that person ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

We are not talking here about faith generally. We live in a broken world. Some of God’s people occasionally struggle with their faith. Even some of the great individuals listed in the hall of faith in Hebrews 11 had moments of doubt and discouragement.

  • Even Abraham was looking to help God solve the child situation.
  • Job, as we learned, wavered as his suffering lingered

But what is at issue here is the believe that God wants to give wisdom for God’s purposes. I mentioned that one way we ask without faith is that we refuse to put ourselves in a situation to receive wisdom from the Word or his people. But there is another potential pitfall – wanting wisdom for different purposes.

God uses trials to produce endurance and endurance produces godly character. The purpose of God’s wisdom is godly character. If I am asking for wisdom for me to do something that is contrary to the will of the Lord, then I should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

As we ask for God’s wisdom, let’s remember that the wisdom is designed to move us in a direction … toward Godly character. Let’s ask for that purpose believing that God wants to give us wisdom to maturity.

Our final truth …

III. He offers us a great future reward (9-12)

The Christian life always has one eye on the future. We care for our responsibilities today, but we also look forward to our home in heaven. God continually reminds us of the future rewards to soften the blow of living in a broken world.

When James speaks of a great future reward he reminds us that our future is …

Better than the pleasures of this life

James 1:9-11 Now the brother or sister of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; but the rich person is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so also the rich person, in the midst of his pursuits, will die out.

This discussion of rich and poor is a reminder of the temptation to ask God for wisdom to get out of trials and to focus on the pleasures of this world. So James highlights that even if one has the glory of this world, it is not much different than grass and flowers. They both disappear.

The humble person glories because he is free from the temptations of the world and commits his heart and mind to the Lord.

That leads us to our final verse his morning.

For all who persevere under trial

James 1:12 - 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.

Endurance, character, seeking wisdom, and looking forward to Christ’s coming leads to the God approving that person and receiving the crown of life. This third truth emphasizes the blessing received tomorrow for the proper handling of trial today.

Sometimes relief, ease, or comfort does not look very near or promising. In fact, the final trial is the one that takes us home. But even if that were the case, our loving Father reminds us of our future glorious home.

  • Hope for an easy situation is not what the Lord requests. Instead, he wants us to choose joy knowing that our loving Father will use trials to grow our character, he will grant wisdom to those who want it for his purposes, and he promises a future reward.

Experiencing trials is not easy, but it is rewarding.

Stewardship touches everything --- including trials.

  • Let’s choose joy as our overarching attitude. Let’s ask for wisdom to know how to biblically respond to the trials to please Christ.
  • Let’s remember that God rewards those who persevere under trial.

Authors

Dr. Rob Green

Roles

Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries - Faith Church

MABC Department Chair, Instructor - Faith Bible Seminary

Bio

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Dr. Rob Green joined the Faith Church staff in August, 2005. Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the Council Board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. Pastor Green has authored, co-authored, and contributed to 9 books/booklets. Rob and his wife Stephanie have three children.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.