Summary: God provides everything we need to pass the stressful tests that come our way.
"Excuse Me -- Can I Get Some Directions?"
OPEN: Today we are continuing in our study in the book of James. Last we introduced the book and took a look at the topic just the first couple of verses. James started out by talking about getting a different perspective on our problems. He told us to consider it pure joy when we have problems of various kinds. He's trying to teach us how we can have a different perspective on our problems -- how we should be profiting from our problems.
How do you profit from your problems?
You realize what they are from heaven's perspective -- they are a test. You remember from last week, we looked at a number of times throughout the Bible where it says God is a testing God. Problems situations are ordained by God to test us -- not so he can find how we are doing, but so that we can find out how we are doing.
Let me show you how this plays out in spiritual formation:
"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away." (Luke 8:11-13)
That little phrase "a time of testing" is a very interesting phrase. It is a crucial part of God's design for people so that the reality of their faith, what it really is, can be made manifest. The word "time" here is not chronos which means chronological time, like right now it's 6:35 or so, it's not chronological time in the sense of calendars and watches. It is kairos, that's a different word. That means a destined time, a time of opportunity, a circumstance, a particular season. There is often a time of testing when a person says they receive the word. The test is different for every person -- because the revelation which we need to discover is different for each of us. I think the tests focuses on an area of our life which we are reluctant to give over to Christ's Lordship -- there are areas in which we face problems and difficulties to help us to discover that we have not yet surrendered as much as we claim -- or they are areas in which we are self-deceived into thinking that we have surrendered but in reality we haven't. In this verse there are people who believe they have received the Word but their faith is shallow. Now they may not know that, or they maybe unwilling to be honest about it -- so there is a time of testing to help them discover it. Because there is no root -- they fall away.
So our problems have a purpose - all of them. What are some of those purposes?
Problems Come To Test The Strength Of Our Faith
Problems Come to Humble Us
Problems Teach Us To Find Answers In A New and Different Way.
Problems Help Keep Us Focused On The Glory of Heaven
Problems Teach Us How To Assist Others Who Are Experiencing Problems
Problems Teach Us How To Love God With All Our Heart
Ok so we know that God uses problems to test us and to teach us -- that doesn't necessarily mean that we know how to respond to problems properly. If Problems are a test -- How can I be sure to learn what God wants me to learn?
- Provide An Environment In Which God Can Accomplish His Purpose In Your Life.
Not every student learns the same thing in the class room. And it's not necessarily the fault of the teacher. Sometimes there is something about the student -- it might be his home or family environment - it might have something to do with study habits or it might have something to do with his attitude towards wanting to learn and mature. Every student has a unique personality and temperament. There is an environment in which God works that makes learning from the problems in our life possible. I'm going to call it the Path to Maturity -- because ultimately that what the Lord is trying to bring about in your life and mine -- maturity. That's what it says in verse 4: Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
The Path to Maturity:
Joyous Attitude: Verse 2, "count it all joy...or total joy, or sheer joy, or unmixed joy, or pure joy...when you fall into various trials." James takes joy and trails and jams them together. And something inside of us goes, "tilt" Irrational, right? How in world can James combine joy and trials together? And by the way -- this is something that we are to do before we get to the point of actually being in the trail. If we are considering it considering it joy --we are carrying joy into the trail that facing on the front end of it. We are "in joy" before we get into the trail -- and we carry joy into the trail with us. And as we come out on the other side of the problem -- our joy has not diminished. This is not manufacturing a false joy in the midst of a problem. This is establishing a joyful attitude on the front end and not loosing it as you go through the trail you are facing. If you don't have joy on the front of the trial -- you're not going to find it in the midst of the trail. If I were to rewrite this verse I would have say "Consider it all joy when you avoid problems of many kinds" - it would make me happy if I can avoid facing a trail or a test, right? You remember when the teacher walked into the room and said, "Today's test is canceled." Celebration time, right?