Summary: God takes the hard times of our lives and will use them to change us into the image of His Son if we will give them to Him.
Read Text: James 1:1-4, 12
Patriotic pride is at an all time high lately, and as we come to the 226th celebration of our nation’s birthday, you are going to be seeing the symbols of the US everywhere. Stars and stripes, fireworks and eagles are going to be all over the place in the weeks to come. Let me tell you a little about the bald eagle so that when you see it you will be reminded of something. The bald eagle is a bird used by our nation to represent power and beauty, grace and courage. Particularly fascinating to learn about is its early life as an eaglet. The birds are absolutely helpless right after they hatch. The mother eagle builds a nest, usually high on a rocky cliff, then lines it with soft down so that her babies are warm and comfortable. Then she cares for their every need, returning to the nest to bring back food that will nourish the 2 or 3 gaping eaglet beaks awaiting dinner.
When the little eagles are about 6 weeks old, the mother eagle stands on the edge of the nest and puts her large, stately bald eagle head down in the nest. She pushes it up against the secure, warm eaglet snuggled into its down bed. At first that eaglet must get warm all over thinking that momma is snuggling. But the mother nudges the baby eagle over a little, first gently, then a little more firmly. “Hey, what are you doing mom?” Before long she has pushed that little eagle to the edge of the nest. As the eaglet stares over the edge at the drop of several hundred feet to the jagged rocks below, there is one last nudge, and there goes the little eagle, careening down the face of the cliff.
This morning we begin a study in our morning worship services of the letter that James wrote to Christians all over, and that includes us. The theme of James’ letter could be summed up in the phrase “Everyday worship.” Throughout this letter, James is not interested in talking about the kind of worship that goes on Sunday morning. He is more concerned about the way we worship God when we aren’t in the church building. For him, worship isn’t a weekly activity it is a lifestyle. And James doesn’t waste any time before he cuts right to the chase. What we read was the beginning of his letter. In the letter writing style of his day, he writes a return address, a salutation, and then he jumps right into the deep end with a statement that drops our jaw. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds…”
Now that statement has to shock you if you really listen to it. Hear what James is saying. “Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” The language he uses is jolting. The phrase “pure joy” could be “whole joy.” (KJV “All joy.”) He says don’t mix in any grief, but consider it pure joy when you go through trials. It’s almost like James wants us to be thrilled with the prospect of suffering through the trials of life. Now that might sound good in the abstract, but in reality it’s no thrill to think about facing the trials and hardships of life.
You remember our little eaglet don’t you? I’m sure he would have loved to watch a video about flying, learned the details about swoop fishing and gathered the information about lift and trajectory all from the safety of the nest. But real life doesn’t work that way. When the hard times hit you, it feels a lot like that helpless eaglet dropping hundreds of feet to certain death. So when James says to consider trials your joy, that’s a pretty hard pill to swallow. But since James is the brother of Jesus, and since we believe that God inspired him to write these words, let’s look at them a little more closely.
When you look at verse 2 you will notice something about the way he words it. Pay close attention as I read it again. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” Maybe you noticed that he didn’t say “if.” It’s “whenever you face trials.” You see, it’s a fact of life that you and I are going to go through hard times. In case you need that confirmed, Jesus told us that in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Paul testified to it in Acts 14:22 when he said, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” They aren’t telling us anything we don’t know, or are they.