Summary: The common struggle of all mankind is having trials in your life.
James: Religion That Works
“The Common Struggle”
February 12, 2006
Introduction: Over the next several weeks we are going to be looking at the book of James and the practical message for our lives. As we begin this look at “Religion That Works,” let me begin by giving you a little background of this book.
1) Most likely written by James, the brother of Jesus. James served as the leader of the Jerusalem church.
2) Written to believers with a Jewish background. These are Jewish believers who have left Jerusalem because of persecution and have scattered across the known world at that time.
3) It is written to give some practical advice as to how to live the Christian life. It is not overtly theological, but is meant to be a practical guide.
4) The three major themes in the book that we will be covering are faith as the starting point for being a Christian, deeds which is a life of wholehearted obedience, and maturity which is the goal of our perfection in Christ.
Today we want to begin by looking at two areas that James addresses that are common to all believers. They are universal in their attack against us and they are probably the leading cause of the struggle in the Christian life.
I. The Reality of Trials
There are several truths we want to look at today and then we want to see how to deal with these in a Christ-like way.
Truth #1: Everyone experiences tough times.
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” James 1”1-2 (NIV)
James is writing to people who are displaced form their home because of their faith. He is writing to people who have lost everything. He is not diminishing their suffering, but trying to encourage them through it.
These people were Jewish believers who had now become the target of great difficulties. Look at the account of what was taking place:
“And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.” Acts 8:1-3 (NIV)
This is the account of Stephen being killed by the mob. Now, a persecution has risen up to destroy the followers of Christ. This is the backdrop against which James writes.
The trials of these early Christians were unlike any that we could imagine.
Truth #2: The trials of life require an attitude check.
James tells us to consider trials pure joy. Is there any trial in our lives that cannot be used to glorify God? Isn’t that the purpose of our lives as followers of Christ?
How do we as humans usually respond to trials? Fear, self-pity, anger and denial all are natural reactions. However, God has called us to live a “supernatural” life.
We need to see the trial as an opportunity for God to work.
That sounds great big and spiritual and maybe you say, “You can do that but not me.” I am not trying to suggest that this attitude is easy, but it is a path through the trial. God uses the trials of this life to change us in our deepest parts.
Truth #3: The trials of life have a purpose.
Look at the rest of this verse that James writes:
“because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3-4
Look at how one author describes the spiritual dynamics of trials:
TRIAL TESTING PERSEVERANCE MATURITY
The trial leads to a greater depth of understanding of God.
It takes us to new places and allows us to experience new depths of insight into the character and nature of God.
What is meant by the words of this progression and how do they matter to us?
Trial- Usually refers to external circumstances beyond our control. Here it is specifically the persecution being suffered by the Christians of the day.
Testing- This is to determine the genuineness of the person’s faith. It is not to reveal knowledge, but to reveal character and trust.
Perseverance- It means those who possess perseverance do not give up hope that God is gong to rescue from the circumstance.
Maturity- The outcome of the trial is a “maturity” or “completeness” in Christ.
Trials in this life should draw us closer to Christ.
The ability to endure the circumstance is the evidence of maturity.