Summary: How do you handle the pressures of life? How can we make sure the pressure cooker of life doesn't cause us to explode?
“Faith That Works: Pressure Cooker Living”
Pressure cookers are wonderful. They are manufactured to help bring food to a proper tenderness and fitness. It’s an amazing process in which the pressure inside the cooker is intense – so much so that if the cook is not careful, the pressure will be released in the wrong way and there will be an explosion. In fact, I well remember trying to clean a messy kitchen ceiling one day when the top blew off in just such a manner!
I’ve also cleaned up tougher messes when pressures in someone’s life led to an explosion. How do you handle the pressures of life? How can we make sure the pressure cooker of life does not cause us to explode? James begins his practical letter by addressing this very issue.
He begins by stating that THERE IS A PRODUCTION UNDERWAY (2-4).
In verse 2, he jumps right into the issue by stating, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” Whenever you face trials of many kinds; whenever. Not if, but whenever. SUFFERING IS NOT AN ELECTIVE OR CHOICE. Peter said the very same thing (1Pt. 4:12): “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” To be alive is to undergo trials and suffering.
So he said we ‘face’ trials. James uses the same word Luke used in sharing Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan who “fell” among thieves. The word ‘face’ means to 'fall into', to encounter, to come across along the way; it means to be attacked and ambushed by trials, to face situations and circumstances that threaten to rob us and beat us down. The 'TRIALS' COME FROM OUTSIDE OF US AND THEIR ARRIVAL IS NOT UNDER OUR CONTROL.
And there are 'many kinds' of trials. The trials that attack and ambush us are diverse and various. Trials can be losses - financial, physical, or of loved ones; they can be a love rejected; they can involve abuse, bullying, ridicule – anything that causes pain, suffering, or discomfort. As you reflect upon your life, what are some of the trials you’ve faced, or perhaps are even facing now? What pressure are you under?
James understood that since we will suffer, OUR ATTITUDE IS IMPORTANT. James was writing to Jewish Christians who had been persecuted, who were suffering for their faith, and had been driven from their homes, separated from their possessions, and slandered for believing in the name of Jesus. His first admonition was to consider it all joy. Our outlook determines our outcome – our attitude determines our action. So he gave us proper attitude: consider it pure joy. “Consider” is a financial term which means to count or evaluate. James is saying we are to EVALUATE THE TRIALS OF LIFE IN LIGHT OF WHAT GOD IS DOING FOR US. Our values determine our evaluations. Job (23:10) said, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” Job was willing to trust that God was at work. Heb. 12:2 refers to Jesus trials and suffering: “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame…” Jesus knew God knew best so endured the trial of the cross. James recognized trials as a place to experience “God with us.”
William Cowper, a gifted saint, lived a life dogged by trials and sufferings that led to many periods of prolonged depression and perhaps even some insanity. Yet he was able to write numerous poems, one of which is the wonderful hymn, “God moves in a Mysterious Way.” Tradition says he wrote it some months after failing a suicide attempt.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.
Cowper evaluated his difficult trials in light of what God was doing.
But let’s be clear here. James was not commanding that we take great joy that the job we wanted which was given to someone else (someone we’re sure is less qualified than us), or that the neighbor child was killed in an accident, or that your best friend’s spouse is adulterous. Rather, James says, “Consider it pure joy,” which means to make a deliberate and careful decision to experience joy even in times of trouble by focusing on the work of God.