Summary: To see trials as times when God is pruning us and making us more useful for Himself
Consider It All Joy SBC Philippi, Rev. J Simms
Primary Purpose: A primary introduction to James and to discuss how we can be joyful in trials.
Background: This book was written by James, the half-brother of Jesus. He wasn’t a believer through Jesus’ earthly ministry. But, was among those who Jesus appeared to after the resurrection. (1 Cor 15:7) James was among the leaders of the church in Jerusalem. He is probably writing this about 10-15 years after the resurrection. Persecution has already dispersed many of the believers from Jerusalem. (Acts 8:1)
James could have written his letter as a brother of Jesus and boasted of that relationship. Instead, we see him call himself a servant of the Lord. The word servant here is the word doulous which is a reference to slavery, but not bondage. The servant here serves willingly. God doesn’t force us to serve him.
He is writing to those who in many cases have lost nearly everything for their faith. They are poor in the eyes of the world. James wants to encourage them and through them also us that our trials are not for nothing, but God sees them.
James then sees trials from a different perspective. This allows him to say to consider it joy when you go through different trials. The word joy here is the word chara which means joy, delight, rejoice. James is saying that there is a point to what you are going through. We know that Paul also says this in Romans 8:28 when he says that “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose.” It isn’t that God sees that all things happen for the good of the believer, but that God brings out good to those who love God. It means he can bring some good things out of the bad that happen to us. Paul says the same thing that James does in Romans 5:3-5 “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; and hope does not disappoint, . . . .” The end result is what Paul rejoices in not the fact that he suffers.
One of the results of this trial is that of proving patience. We could think of it like gold being refined through a fire. The fire purges the dross and dirt out of the gold and makes it more valuable. Likewise, this is what trials can do to the faith and strength of a believers walk with Christ. It causes us to do away with those things that hinder us and makes us take our walk with Christ more seriously than before. We may realize in trial for the first time that we are not self-sufficient that we need help.
So, James says that this pruning your experiencing produces endurance or the KJV says “patience” which is the word hupomone which means to abide under. I think of what the writer of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 12:1-2 when it says “Let us throw off everything that hinders and thesin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, . . . .” This may be part of what James intends. The suffering of various trials cause us to contemplate the cost and helps us to lay aside those things that entangle us and to fix our eyes on Jesus more clearly.
On January 25, 2000, Australian Gary Parsons, 50 became the world’s longest long distance runner when he trotted into Brisbane with 19.030 charity kilometers on his Nikes. The previous world record of 17.071 kilometers had been held by American Robert Sweetgall since Dec 19, 1999m barely a month earlier.
Gary said, “I wore out about a dozen pair of running shoes- and some I resoled up to forty times.” Under the rules, Parsons was not allowed to miss one day, completing the required minimum of 20 kilometers per day.
With us as believers, the danger isn’t with our sandals it’s with the going of our feet which is in them. We need endurance, to be able to run with Christ even when we may not feel like it. (Sermon illustrations each week, John Gillmartin)
I think of one way trials will cause us to endure is that it causes us to reflect on what we really want in life. If I am faced with a trial for something that I don’t really care to have, but would like to have, then I may give us much sooner. I give up sooner because it really wasn’t that important to me. But, if I am persecuted or asked to give up something for my faith then it may cause we to consider that “yes” it is worth the sacrifice because it is important to me. If a runner like Gary can run 20 kilometers a day till he runs over 19,000 kilometers because he feels like it is important and make those kinds of sacrifices then how much more should we be willing to sacrifice for a faith that will last forever.