Summary: James is calling us to a new way of thinking when it comes to trials and temptations. He's calling us to a way of life that will bring us through to maturity and completeness. It's a call to recognize that our faith in Jesus Christ is being tested.
LIFE GIVING TRIALS
How many here have ever seen a golf ball...or held one in your hand? Probably all of you. Well, did you know that when they first manufactured golf balls, they made them smooth. But later on it was discovered that after a ball had been roughed up, they could get a lot more distance out of it. So they started making them with a dimpled cover.
That's just the way it is with life...it takes some rough spots in your life to make you go your farthest. That's what we will discover today from the book of James. But just going through tough times doesn't mean anything if we don't make proper use of those trials.
There was once a gardener who took great pride in his lawn. But one year it grew full of dandelions. He tried every method and every product on the market to get rid of them...but nothing worked.
Finally he got so frustrated that he wrote the Department of Agriculture explaining what he had done and asked them, "What do I try next?" The reply came back with a simple answer..."Try getting used to them."
That's not the kind of answer I'd like to hear in that situation...and its not what I'd like to hear when it comes to the many trials I face throughout my life. I need to know how to handle them and what I can do to overcome and see victory. Trials are a fact of life...but instead of being entirely negative....they can be the very thing that will take us where we need to go.
READ James 1:2 4
The book of James points out to us the balance of teaching which we began to see in our introduction 2 weeks ago. The first priority for the church...for those who are under the Lordship of Christ..is that Christians must look after themselves. Not in self centeredness...but in moving ourselves toward the goal of maturity.
This is what James strikes away at right from the beginning. The goal for us, as Christians, is to become mature in the faith...not lacking in anything. And the pathway to that maturity is through testing and trials. Now that alone is enough to get many to dislike the book of James right off the bat. But it gets even worse because he says the rocky road that we travel on this journey to maturity is to be one of joy.
Now I don't know about you...but I don't get a great deal of joy from going through difficult times. And this whole idea of joy...pure joy when facing trials sounds a little crazy. I can understand the idea of not letting troubles destroy us...but to consider it pure joy...that can seem like a little much.
But James is not saying we should have some kind of superficial party when adversity comes...or that we should plaster a fake smile on our faces to look religious to the world when we're hurting deeply inside. But he does say that we should consider it pure joy because there's something here that is greater...something very important taking place that is for our benefit.
Now in verse 2, where it says trials of many kinds...it means just that. Anything and everything that can happen would fit into this category. And James seems to hit the nail on the head because this is an accurate picture of life in the '90's where anything and everything negative than can happen often does! AMEN?
James is a realist when he recognizes the fact that trials of every shape and size will come...but along with that is the conviction that there is a meaning behind all these experiences. And to James, it's these trials that hold the clue to the meaning of life.
But this meaning of life is not a clue that James uncovered after years of research and study...this is a truth that was common knowledge to all Christians...at least as he sees it. In verse 3 he says, "Because you know " C'mon, you know that!
So what is the vital truth that we are to rely on to help us as we face our trials? There are 3 statements that stick out of verses 3 & 4 that will show us some very important truths. (Read verses 3 4)
First...in the trials of life our faith is being tested for genuineness. Our faith is being put to the test. But it's important to realize that this is not referring to the faith we have that somehow our circumstances will change for the better. He's not talking about faith for individual trials or difficulties. James is talking about our Christianity...our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
And James takes for granted that the natural effect of trials is to put a real strain on our ability to keep our faith and trust in God. We've all met people who would agree with the words of one elderly man who said this, "I used to go to church, but 5 years ago my wife and my only daughter died within 6 months of each other. After that it didn't seem worth the bother."