Summary: The theme of this sermon is that as we "keep our eyes fixed on Jesus" we will persevere through all our trials and as a result be enabled by the Holy Spirit to minister to others.
“PERSEVERING THROUGH TRIALS”
Gianni Poli of Italy won the 1986 New York Marathon in 2:11:06. On March 2, 2003, Mark Yatich of Kenya won the Los Angels Marathon in 2:09:52. To me, however, the real hero of both marathons was the man who finished dead last in both. He is fifty-seven year old Bob Wieland. In 1986 he finished the New York Marathon in a time of 98:48:17. His time in Los Angeles in 2003 was 172:45. On June 14, 1969, Bob lost both his legs in Vietnam. After his 2003 Los Angeles finish Bob gave this testimony, “This was not natural. This was supernatural. It was only done by the grace of God.” [--Associated Press, “Disabled Runner A Winner, Hands Down,” (New York: The Associated Press), 09 March 2003.].
Bob was a combat medic in the twenty-fifth infantry division serving in Vietnam in 1969. In attempting to save a fallen buddy, he stepped on an 82-mm mortar round designed to demolish tanks. He sent the following note to his parents: “June fourteenth, nineteen sixty-nine. Cu Chi, Vietnam. Dear Mom and Dad. I’m in the hospital. Everything is going to be OK. The people here are taking care of me. Love, Bob. P. S. I think I lost my legs.” [-http://www.boeing.com/companyoffices/aboutus/advertising/radiospot/2004/040426_wiel]. Between 1982 and 1986 Bob walked across America on his arms in three years, eight months, and six days. He is the only double amputee to complete the Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii, without a wheelchair. To do so he had to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and then complete a 26.2 mile marathon, all three events consecutively and non-stop. Our late President Ronald Regan proclaimed, “Truly, Bob Wieland is an inspiration for all of us.” [--Associated Press, “Disabled Runner A Winner, Hands Down,” (New York: The Associated Press), 09 March 2003.]. Bob Wieland is truly a prime example of perseverance.
Our text today assures us that through the power of the Holy Spirit living and working in us we can “Persevere through all our trials.” Recall with me verses two through four and twelve in our text this morning: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. . . . 12Blessed are those who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James shows us: (1.) As Christ’s disciples, we will face trials of many kinds. (2.) These trials are tests that develop Christian perseverance. (3.) Perseverance produces mature Christians.
The word trial in the New Testament is the same word used for both temptation and testing, and these three words overlap, complement, and help define each other. The word trial in our text is the same word translated temptation in I Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to us all. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” The text could as easily read: “No trial has overtaken you except what is common to us all. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tried (tested) beyond what you can bear. But when you are tested (tried), He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
As Christian disciples we are going to have many trails. We can expect difficulties and hard times. We will face many failures in life. We will become discouraged and face times of pain, tragedy, suffering, sorrow, sickness, pressure, stress, heartbreaks, tribulation, and perhaps even persecution. There will be days we all seem to fulfill “Murphy’s Law”: “If anything can go wrong it will,” troubles, trials, and hardships are just a part of life.
James does not leave us in despair and defeat. He assures us that our trials or tests develop Christian perseverance. THE UPPER ROOM in the last few weeks has had a couple of fantastic devotionals on Perseverance. A Texas lady by the name of Lou Storm wrote the devotional for September 15, 2004. I could relate 110 per cent to her situation when she began by proclaiming:
“Pastor Don’s sermon Sunday emphasized a theme that spoke to me: ‘Sometimes persevering means we just show up every day.’” We have all faced days like that, and we can be certain we will face many more before Jesus either calls us home or returns. There will be those days that perseverance for us means “just showing up.”