Sunday, March 19, 2006

James 1:1-4 Responding to Trials (part 1)

James 1:1-4
James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
[2] Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, [3] knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. [4] And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Yesterday’s message was so important I feel like it’s worth revisiting in this week’s devotion.

In the first chapter of James, the writer deals with a subject that is relevant to every one of our lives. He deals with the subject of trials. I’ll never forget the first time I preached this passage. It was in 1989. As I walked from the parsonage to the church the Holy Spirit said to me, “Get ready you are going to live this passage.”

I had no clue what that would mean at the time. But for the next seven years our lives would be marked by one trial after another. We had already been struggling with my wife Melinda’s illness. In two short years she went from being relatively healthy to wheel chair bound. In the years that followed we would experience trial after trial. Melinda would make numerous trips to the hospital for illness (some life threatening) and arthritis related surgeries. Shortly after one of those surgeries, they discovered her neck was broken and she spent several weeks with a halo.

During this same period our apartment was burglarized and our car was stolen. I was forced to resign from my church and later on I was laid off from my construction job. Then in January of 1995, Melinda passed away due to complications from minor surgery.

I wish I could say that my response to these trials was always biblical and Christian. Unfortunately I can not. In the beginning I was frustrated and angry. I wrestled with bitterness and there were times when I wanted to walk away from the Lord. Thankfully, the Lord was patient with me and I eventually learned many life-changing lessons.

How should Christians respond to trials? People in the world often respond by complaining, grumbling, blaming and medicating. In contrast, the Christian’s response to trials should be spiritual and not worldly. James teaches us in James 1:1-4 how Christians should respond to trials.

The first lesson that James teaches us from this passage is in verse two. We must understand that trials are the norm for the Christian life. Notice, James says when, not if you encounter various trials. James is simply agreeing with Jesus who told us in John 16:33 that in this world you will have trouble.

The people James wrote to were suffering persecution because of their faith. They were Christian Jews who had been run out of Jerusalem after the stoning of Stephen in Acts 8. Most of us have never experienced real persecution, but we all know about trials. We know by experience that the trials of life are definitely not limited to persecution. James understood this also. In fact, he uses a Greek word to describe trials that means variegated or multicolored. In other words, trials come in all shapes and sizes and they come from various sources.

Some of the trials we experience are due to the fact we live in a fallen, sinful world. Lost people hurt others and cause them pain. Death and disease are the norm and the natural result of sin. They cause every human pain.

Other trials we encounter are due to the enemy. The Bible says that Satan runs around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. When you decide to follow Christ you automatically become his target. Job is a prime example of this phenomenon, although we must never forget that Satan had to have God’s permission to attack him. In fact, Satan cannot touch a believer without God’s permission. Folks, there are times when God gives the devil permission to sift us like wheat, just like He did with Peter.

Many of the trials we experience are due to our own sin. If we are honest we would have to admit this is true. Nevertheless, our sovereign God uses them to accomplish His purposes for our lives.

In short, trials are the norm for the Christian life. No matter what their apparent origin, our sovereign God uses them. We will discover this week that trials are the key to our Christian growth! That’s why we need to embrace them with joy. We’ll save that discussion for tomorrow.

No comments: