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Let Trials Accomplish Their Purpose

I gave this sermon a couple of years ago on James 1:2-8, Letting Trials Accomplish Their Purposes.  I recently found my outline and decided to publish it in a series of blog post;  this page has all those blog posts combined into one article.  This was a very personal message, and through it I learned a lot about why we must endure the challenges in front of us.

James 1:2-8 (ESV) 2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  5If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

What’s interesting with this verse is that at first you want to travel back 2000 years and punch James in the face when you read this.  Who is this James guy to tell us that we are to enjoy trials?

Letting trials accomplish there purpose, and letting them run their course is a necessary step in our walk with Christ and the road to maturing as a Christ Follower, and I am sure I don’t have to tell you that trials will come.  In this post I am not going to discuss why bad things happen to us (another subject for later), but more of how we should react when they do happen and why we need to let them happen and learn from them.

In his epistle, James tells us to consider it pure joy when we face trials – What is remarkable about this command is that it applies to a situation in which a joyful reaction would be most unnatural.  Trials come big and small and in between, from Cancer to stubbing your toe.  The pain is there and very real, and somehow we are to find joy.

What trials have you been through?  Sickness, Job loss, divorce to name a few.

One of the biggest trials I’ve had in my life began in February 2002 when I was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer, the same disease that Lance Armstrong had, and had taken the life of my boyhood friend Pat Shallow. Finding out you have cancer is like coming face to face with and realizing your mortality; a moment you certainly will not find joy.

I remember sitting in our bedroom talking to my doctor on the phone, telling me I had cancer and that the treatment would be swift and invasive.  I spent hours researching my disease, mostly in an effort to hide from my fear, but that fear only manifest itself with greater power.

My treatment was to have two different surgeries.  The first was to remove the tumor, the second would involve removing lymph nodes from the back of my abdomen which involved cutting me wide open from sternum to pelvic bone.  My recover was painful and left me immobile, and my fear gave way to depression.

Our trials can make us feel angry, afraid, or sad; all of which can really give Satan a foothold to destroy our lives, integrity, and our faith.

This is why James touches on matters of his readers’ faith.  He is concerned that as Christ Followers we progress to a mature stable faith and to do so, we need to maintain a distinctive Christian attitude toward potential stumbling blocks.

When James wrote his letter, his people were being persecuted; their lives were at stake, and their social status was considered to be anti-social because of their beliefs and refusal to recognize Cesar as a God, and the audacity to make the claim that the messiah was a mere carpenter.

 But James tells us to consider it pure joy when we face trials – What is remarkable about this command is that it applies to a situation in which a joyful reaction would be most unnatural… certainly for the early Christians as well as for us today.

So what is Joy?

Is Joy is skipping along, whistling and being happy? Some warm feeling in side of you?  A dictionary definition I found reads, “The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure”.  In the New Testament, the Greek word Joy is applied to mean suffering, as well as salvation.  My definition for Joy is confidence and comfort that God is sovereign and in control; he has our best intentions in mind.

Just like an athlete – Our faith is tested to develop perseverance.  The testing of our faith builds perseverance so we may grow and mature and be complete, not lacking in anything.  You see, the reason believers should act with joy when faced with trials is that these trials are means of testing us through which God works perfect faith in us

If we lack wisdom, ask the Lord boldly and with freedom and confidence (Eph. 3:12) for it.  The Lord will give it generously without finding fault when we ask, for wisdom is more valuable than silver and gold, for it can be used to gain so much more and given freely.  We need wisdom to find perspective on the trials we are to endure.  When we ask, what is given to us is knowledge of what is true or right.

To quote Proverbs 24:3-4, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”  Solomon is telling us by seeking wisdom from the Lord, our understanding of our situation will be increased, and through our understanding, we are filled with knowledge to enable us to mature.  To put it another way, wisdom is more than just knowing truth; it is skill in living.

We see in scripture that God is calling us to seek his wisdom:

– Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

– Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Trust in the Lord

When wisdom is given, we must trust that the Lord has our best intention in mind.  In the story of the fiery furnace from the book of DanielKing Nebuchadnezzar wants Daniels three young friends to worship his golden statue.  The youths refuse and this really ticks off Nebuchadnezzar, who then threatens to throw them into a furnace.  Chapter 3 verses 16-18 records what the youth’s reply was to Nebuchadnezzar: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

What they were saying was even if they do not survive the furnace, they would consider it joy to be delivered into the hands of the Lord.  Nebuchadnezzar was furious with them and ordered them tied up and thrown into the furnace.  The point of this story is even if your trials get the best of you as a Christ Follower, you will be delivered into the hands of the Lord.  The youths trusted the Lord so much that they didn’t care what happen to them.  They knew the outcome would be pure joy whether they lived or not, and used the opportunity to make this statement to Nebuchadnezzar.  To complete the story, the three youths leave the furnace unharmed and Nebuchadnezzar is a changed man because of the example they showed.

You see, James tells us to find joy during times of trial, not only for our own well being, but as an example we can show others by showing our trust and love for the Lord.

Cancer, yet again…

It was because of my first trial with cancer that I gave my life to the Lord.  In 2005, I was diagnosed a second time with testicular cancer.  Changed and mature from my previous trial, I learned that the Lord had a plan and purpose form my life.  As I was sitting in the chair at my doctors office getting chemotherapy, I had no doubt in my mind that I would be fine, and if my time on earth was at an end, I would consider it pure joy to be delivered into the arms of Christ.  My second bout with cancer was contrast to my first.  During my first diagnosis, I doubted the Lord.  But he took pity on me nonetheless and helped me mature.

Consequences of doubt (James 1:6-8)

God’s meeting our request is not limited to a number, but is limited by the manner in which we ask.  It is not any request, made selfishly or foolishly that God grants, says James, but that we make it in faith and without doubting.

The one who lacks faith receives nothing from the Lord.  When we ask for wisdom, we are not to doubt what we will receive from the Lord. It is literally all or nothing.

James uses imagery of the sea to describe the effect of doubt.  He describes the person who doubts when asking the Lord for wisdom as a wave in the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  Those of you who have been to sea know what this looks like.  A wave will literally go back and forth seemingly going nowhere and without purpose.  This is why James tells us that when we ask for wisdom, we must believe and not doubt the plan the Lord has for us; to grow, mature, and that we have purpose.

I believe in times of trial, as we saw in the video clip, the lord is down on his knees yelling at us, encouraging us.  And when it is all done, the Lord is there with a kind voice to show us what we have endured, to show us how we have matured and to lift us up from the ground.

Lets look at Hebrews chapter 5:7-9:  “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him”

You see, Jesus faced a massive trial by going to the cross.  Not only was his life on the line, but he was to endure all the sin of humanity.  But Christ obeyed the Lord and went to the cross and as a result of his trial; he became the source of eternal salvation.

How are we to react when our trials come?  We are to follow the example Christ has set for us: we are to act with faith not doubt, we are to learn from our trials and we are to persevere through our trials.

Now What?  Life will get rough… That I will guarantee

As crazy as this sounds, let trials accomplish their purpose and go to God to seek wisdom to help you through.  God will not reprimand us for our past, nor remind us endlessly of the gifts he gives.  Like a good parent he wants the best for us. To grow and mature, he will test us and refine us through the fires, letting the impurities be burned away, and give us every opportunity to mature.  Whether we learn from our trials or not is up to us.

God has a plan for us, and wants the best for us.  To quote the author and speaker Chip Ingram, “God will bring about the best possible results, by the best possible means, for the most people, for the longest amount of time.”  To achieve that plan and the result the Lord will bring, he will need us to mature.  This is why we should consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds.


 

Written by Chris

July 20th, 2011 at 7:15 pm

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