Summary: Why are there so many times when we pray for wisdom and then end up making unwise choices?
I hope these last few weeks that we have spent together in James 1 have been as helpful to you as they have for me. God has really spoken to me in some powerful ways through this text. I was gone last week so I’ll just refresh your memory a bit. When you face hardship in your life, just remember the first two commands in the book of James:
1) Consider it pure joy because of what you know about trials
2) Let perseverance finish its work
The way you consider trials pure joy has to do with what you know to be true about trials. Please don’t confuse this with the world’s ideas of positive thinking. This is not just looking on the bright side. It is not saying the glass is half full instead of half empty. It’s not about that. It is about understanding what is big and what is little. What man is doing is little; what God is doing is big. James is not saying, “Hey, when you suffer – think of your glass as half full instead of half empty.” What James is saying is more like, “When your glass is half empty, stop thinking about the glass and remember that you have a giant reservoir in your backyard.” The bad things that people are doing – that’s small. The good things that God is doing – that’s big.
So command #1 is to consider trials pure joy because of what you know. Command #2 is to let perseverance do its work. Stay in the furnace until God gives you a way out that does not involve unfaithfulness to Him. Persevering means enduring the trial without reverting to a sinful response, like anger, or self-pity, or bailing out on responsibilities, or complaining. And that last one is really one of the hardest to ever get under control once you start the habit. There is no possible way to obey James 1 and consider trials pure joy and let perseverance do its work while you are complaining – no possible way. We are never obeying this passage when we are complaining.
So when things don’t go the way you wanted, instead of complaining, instead of getting mad, instead of running away, just stay there in the furnace and let perseverance do its work. And while you are in the furnace, give your attention to what God is doing. Back in verse 2, I told you the definition of the word trial: any event that cause grief, sorrow, or pain. That is a dictionary definition of the word, but let me give you a theological definition. The theological definition of trials in Scripture is this: A trial is any event that causes grief, sorrow, or pain, sent or allowed by God for the purpose of changing you. Everything that happens to you that’s hard, remember, “This is to change me. I am one way, this is to make me a different way.” We are being molded and refined and shaped by the Potter’s hand. Or to use the language of Hebrews 12, God is training us. Nobody trains to be the same. Training is for changing. If you want to change from being weak to being strong, you get a physical trainer and go through the workout regimen. If you want to go from being unskilled at a job to being skilled at that job, you go through the training. All training is for growth and change. That simple principle has really revolutionized the way I have interpreted my trials the past couple weeks. I tossed and turned all night and was dead tired in the morning because I hadn’t gotten any sleep, but instead of just thinking, “Now it will be hard to do my work,” or whatever, I think, “God let that happen to change me. He wants my character to be more like Jesus today than it was yesterday, so He kept me from getting rest last night.” Someone sent me another email criticizing my work and assuming bad motives on my part and telling me they are leaving the church. And the reason I got that email is because God wants me to change from the old Darrell with the weak, wobbly faith and selfishness and pride and self-confidence and bad attitudes, to a new Darrell who can respond to something like that with humility and love and trust in God. The email really came from God. (And when I hit reply, God will be copied on my response.) I have found myself praying the prayer each time some unpleasant thing happens in my life, “God, let me be trained by this. This dinner that I was looking forward to turned out to be a disappointment, let me be changed by it. Thank You for sending this trial; let it do its job in me. Let it refine my faith.”