Summary: This message details how Christians can view the hardships of life positively in the light of the fact that God uses them to help us mature spiritually.
“The Bright Side to Dark Times”
Having lost in a fire virtually everything they owned, the Spafford family made new plans, including a move from Chicago to France. Horatio Spafford planned the trip for his wife and four daughters to be as trouble-free as possible. To transport them from America to France, he booked passage on a huge ship, and made sure they had Christians with whom to fellowship in route. He planned to join them a few weeks later. In spite of much careful preparation, Mr. Spafford’s plans suddenly dissolved when the ship carrying his loved ones was rammed by another vessel and sank, carrying his four beloved daughters to the bottom.
Anyone who has ever had their plans disrupted by the hand of God can understand Spafford’s plight. The words to the great hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul" were penned by him as his ship passed over the watery grave of his four daughters!
“When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”
When trials come into our lives, times seem dark and bleak. It feels as though there is just a dark cloud hovering over our heads. What is God up to…? Is there anything bright about this whole dark subject?
Who is James? Most likely the half-brother of Jesus, who became a believer after Jesus’ resurrection and became a prominent leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15).
When was the book written? Probably around 45-50 making it along with Galatians the NT’s earliest books.
Written to? The twelve tribes dispersed abroad. The church was predominantly Jewish in its earliest days. Jews who became Christians were not welcomed in Jewish culture. But the book was written for both Jews and Gentile believers of the early church. And they were facing many trials in their lives…
I. God is making us more like Jesus. (1:1-4)
A. Trials will come (v. 2b)
(KJV translates “trials” as “temptations.” This is a poor translation. Although they are the same Greek word, one carries the connotation of testing to prove the strength of one’s faith, the other means to entice to do evil. The meaning is determined by the context.)
Notice that there is no Scriptural premise for the notion that Christians won’t have trials in life.
Trials come in various sizes, colors, and shapes – Loss of a job, cancer, loss of property in a fire, flat tire on Mopac, poverty, failing health, etc.
B. Trials serve a Divine Purpose (vv. 3-4)
And to the one going through a difficult time, it often seems as though there really is no purpose to them. They are irritating inconveniences to our lives that interrupt us, rather than make us feel good.
God’s design for our lives isn’t necessarily to make us happy – but to make us holy.
Trials do have a purpose. That we may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. God is sculpting us to be conformed to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren. (Rom 8:28-29)
But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (II Cor 3:18)
And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (I Pet. 5:10)
African proverb: “Smooth seas make for poor sailors.”
Illustration - Trial By Fire
A clay pot sitting in the sun will always be a clay pot. It has to go through the white heat of the furnace to become porcelain. - Mildred Witte Struven
F. B. Meyer explained it this way: “A bar of iron worth $2.50, when wrought into horseshoes is worth $5. If made into needles it is worth $175. If into penknife blades it is worth $1,625. If made into springs for watches it is worth $125,000. What a ‘trial by fire’ that bar must undergo to be worth this! But the more it is manipulated, and the more it is hammered and passed through the heat, beaten, pounded, and polished, the greater its value.”
Friends, are you wondering about the trials through which you are passing? With impatient heart are you saying, “How long, O Lord?” The heat of the flame and the blows of the hammer are necessary if you are to be more than an unpolished, rough bar of iron. God’s all-wise plan, though it calls for the fire, produces the valuable watch spring of maturity. God’s very best for your life has behind it God’s perfect timing.