Summary: 2nd message on James. Troubles and trials are part of the core curriculum of life. James shows us how to deal with them.
Lucy offers one of her unsolicited observations about life in a “Peanuts” cartoon. “Life,” she muses to Charlie Brown, “is like a deck chair. Some place it so they can see where they are going. Some place it so they can see where they have been. And some place it so they can see where they are at present.” Poor Charlie Brown says, “I can’t even get mine unfolded!”
Scott Peck begins The Road Less Traveled with the statement: “Life is difficult.” He continues:
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it has been accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
Most do not fully see this truth.... Instead they moan more of less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties, as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy. They voice their belief … that their difficulties represent a unique kind of affliction that should not be, and that somehow has been especially visited upon them. [M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1978), 15].
Trouble and difficulty come to everybody. People at every level of society live life in a minor key. Sickness, suffering, disease and death afflict both rich and poor. Job suffered deeply and cried, “ … man is born to trouble” (Job 5:7). The psalmist said, “… You have made me see troubles, many and bitter (Psalm 71:20).
Any pastor can confirm this pessimistic diagnosis. I once counseled a young family whose child was dying with AIDS. Another family confronted the loss of mother and wife from cancer. Others have artificial knees and elbows, and some even envy them because their physical discomfort is so great. I see these things and must agree that there are “troubles, many and bitter.”
Chapter 1 of James deals with the practical problem of difficulties and troubles. Problems abound that cause us to ask, “Why me? Why this? Why now?” James challenges us with the amazing admonition, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds …” (v. 2). In verses 2-12 he deals with trials faced in daily life, and then in verses 13-16 with temptations to evil. We must distinguish between tests and temptations. God does not always cause our trials, but He allows them to strengthen our faith. Temptations often come from Satan to cause us to sin.
WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TROUBLES - vv 2-4
Two truths must be understood about troubles:
Troubles are Inevitable
James says, “‘Whenever’ you face trials,” not “if.” Troubles are not electives, but a part of the core curriculum of life. There are “trials of many kinds.” James used a word meaning “multicolored” because of the intensity and variety of problems. They may involve the pain of a lingering illness or an untimely death. Some know the heartache of a broken marriage or a short-circuited romance. Trouble may come from a rebellious child or an alcoholic loved one. Some struggle with problems in business or with health. Others combat lingering depression or habits that seem unbreakable. Our trials are many-colored indeed.
Troubles are Purposeful
We don’t know the purpose in much of our pain. In times of trouble we even feel abandoned by God. But James says that trials are the evidence that God is at work. Paul agreed, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Trouble is working for us not against us.
The specific purpose is that “the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (v. 3). The Greek word (hypomone) means literally “to remain under.” This is the ability to remain under pressure without collapsing; to cope successfully with the strain of stress.
Such perseverance requires time. Don’t interfere with God’s plan for your life. Hang in there, so that His plan for you will be complete. This is the difficult part. When God’s fingers squeeze they hurt. But they shape and mold us to mature faith.
Our goal as growing Christians is spiritual maturity. We don’t seek troubles, but we rejoice in them because their dividends are greater than the discomforts they bring. God is much more devoted to our character than our comfort. We will eventually leave behind everything we have except our character.
Warren Wiersbe says, “Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to ‘count it all joy.’ If we live only for the present and forget the future, then trials will make us bitter not better.” [Warren Wiersbe, Be Mature (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1978), 22].