Summary: Problems are the path to perfection.
Problems are the path to perfection.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like having problems in my life. In fact I’ll do just about anything to avoid them. But avoiding problems doesn’t make them go away. Instead often they only get worse.
Neville Chamberlain became the prime minister of England in 1937, during the time when Nazi Germany was coming into power. After the horrors of the first world war, England had no stomach to fight again. Chamberlain made concession after concession to Hitler to avoid war at all costs. It came to the point where Chamberlain effectively gave control of Czechoslovakia to the Germans. In return, Hitler gave Chamberlain a signed document guaranteeing that Germany would not go to war against England. When Chamberlain returned to England after his conference with Hitler, he was largely regarded as a hero. On the steps of the prime minister’s residence, he held up the paper he got from Hitler and announced:
"My good friends, this is the second time there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time."
Of course we know what happened. There was indeed a war. Less than a year later Hitler broke the agreement by invading Poland, an ally of England and England was forced to enter the war. Chamberlain’s actions proved to Hitler that England had no courage to fight and the false treaty gave him more time to build his armed forces to invade the rest of Europe. Trying to avoid problems only makes them worse.
Did you know that’s true in our spiritual lives as well? God has a purpose for problems in our lives. He wants to use hard circumstances to change and shape us. So instead of trying to avoid trials, we need to welcome them, to see them as opportunities for us to grow closer to God. Problems are the path to perfection.
That’s exactly the message of the passage this morning. Look at James 1:1-18 (read verses). Problems promote progress in our pursuit of perfection. Instead of running away from problems and trials, we need to pursue them. We need to rejoice over them. Why should we develop this attitude? Because trials are valuable. Take a look again at verses 2 (read verse).
James commands us to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds. Now you notice that this is a command. It’s not natural to look forward to problems. But we need to train our minds to think in this way: trials and problems are welcome in our lives. In fact, not only should we welcome them, but we should be happy, joyful, that they have come. Now why in the world should we learn to think in this way? We need to have this 180 degree change in attitude, because trials are very valuable. Look at what verses 3 and 4 say (read verses). Trials are so valuable, because they are the only way, we will become all that God wants us to be. Through trials God perfects us. We become mature and complete, not lacking anything. And it’s the only way we can really come to know and love God with all our hearts. Someone said this: You’ll never know that God is all you need until God is all you’ve got.
Think about all of the major characters in the Bible, everyone who was close to God and made a difference for God’s kingdom. How many of them went through suffering, problems and trials? Think about Moses. He was chased out of Egypt after killing a man. He lived in the desert for 40 years before God called him. Then he had to lead the people out of Egypt. Did his problems stop after crossing the Red Sea? No the people rebelled and would have kicked him out if they could. And this man was called the friend of God. How about King David, did he go through suffering and trials? You bet he did. After killing Goliath and becoming famous, King Saul became jealous of him and tried to kill him. David escaped, but was a fugitive, hunted by Saul until Saul’s death. After Saul’s death and being crowned king, was his life all peaches and cream? No, his own son conspired against him and tried to kill him. Yet David was called a man after God’s heart. And what about Paul the apostle, did he have an easy life? Not on your life. As he went and preached the gospel he faced unrelenting opposition. He was stoned, beaten, whipped and imprisoned. And as tradition tells it, he ended up dying, burnt alive at a stake. But through this man, the Word of God spread throughout the Greek speaking world. And of course there is Jesus Christ Himself. Did Jesus suffer? Of course He did, and later on this morning we will be remembering His sacrifice for us on the cross.