Summary: This sermon looks at the first key to passing the affliction test--the individual key.
1. When experiencing affliction, your first individual responsibility is to pray (13)
2. When experiencing affliction, your second individual responsibility is to call (14)
A few weeks ago, our family went to see a movie called National Treasure. I won’t go into all the details with you, but it was basically a big treasure hunt. And in order to find the treasure, the main characters had to decode all these different encrypted clues. They had clues in books. They had clues in statues. They had clues in furniture. They even had clues in rocks. As a matter of fact, the movie starts with a historical flashback to a person being asked to decode a clue from the pages of a diary. He says that it’s impossible to decode unless he has the key. Of course it’s a movie, so they figure out the key and are able to decipher the code. In real life, the mysteries aren’t always that easy to decode, are they? In the movies, they can figure out any mystery in under 2 hours. On TV, they’re even better at it. They can figure mysteries out in one hour or less. But real life isn’t like that, is it? Real life has some mysteries that we will never solve. Mysteries like: Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do the wicked prosper? Why is that fine Christian saint dying of cancer? Why am I depressed, or lonely, or sick? Affliction is a mystery that’s hard to figure out, isn’t it? The only thing that’s not hard to figure out about it is the fact that it is going to come. How do I know? Because the Bible says it will. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Himself said that the sun rises on the evil and the good and God sends rain on both the just and the unjust alike. Bad things do happen to good people. If you don’t believe me, just look around. That’s what this whole book of James has been about. It’s been about the fact that trials and testing will inevitably come. James certainly isn’t preaching a health, wealth and prosperity gospel here. As a matter of fact, if he saw all the health, wealth and prosperity preachers in the world today, I’m sure he would have been tempted to take the whip to them that his half-brother Jesus used to clear the moneychangers from the temple. James knew that health, wealth and prosperity are not the goal of the gospel. The goal of the gospel is quite the opposite. The goal of the gospel is to be so satisfied with Christ, that our circumstances don’t really matter. The goal of the gospel is to experience joy in Christ no matter what trials we’re going through. No matter what tribulations we’re going through. No matter what afflictions we’re going through. That’s why he gives us this final test of our faith. That’s why he gives us this affliction test. This morning, I want each of us to be able to pass the affliction test when it comes. Notice I said when it comes—not if. Whatever the nature of our personal affliction, I want us to faithfully pass the test. And I don’t want us to just barely squeak by. Barely squeaking by might be fine for 9th grade Algebra, but it’s not fine for the life of a Christian. I want us to pass the affliction test with flying colors. I want us to pass it with joy. But the only way we can do that is if we use the keys James gives us here in our passage this morning. He gives us two keys. He gives us an individual key and a corporate key. We’re only going to be able to get to the first key this morning. Now, even though we’re only going to get to the first key this morning, you need to understand something about both of them. They work together. These keys aren’t keys on a key ring like we use to open our house and start our car with. Instead, these are decoding keys. They are the kind of keys that will decode the mystery of the affliction test so that we can pass it with joy. In order to pass the affliction test, we can’t use just one of the keys—we have to use both of them. We can’t just use them one at a time and we can’t just use them once. Using both the individual key and the corporate key at the same time, and using them all the time is the only way they will work the way God designed them to. Next week we’ll look at the corporate key. This morning we’re going to look at the first key to passing the affliction test—the individual key. The individual key is the key that is yours and yours alone. It is the key that you have to use by exercising certain responsibilities that James lists here. The first of those responsibilities is to pray. Look with me at verse 13: