Summary: This is the 1st sermon in this series.
The Message of James:
"The Festive Sufferer"
*Illustration- Do you remember Harold Kushner’s book titled When Bad
Things Happen To Good People? R. C. Sproul had a great answer for that.
Someone asked him on one occasion, "Why do bad things happen to good
people?" His answer was classic. He said, "I don’t know because I haven’t
met any good people yet."
*James opens his candid-style book with an abrupt statement about trials
and what our response to them should be. No statements about his personal
state or statements about the progress of the churches. He simply begins
quite quickly into his message. And James’ message again confirms for you
and I that the Bible speaks on those things that you and I wrestle with
in life every day. The Bible is not an out-dated book, but speaks
relevantly and courageously about very difficult topics.
*This book poignantly addresses the harshness of poverty and oppression
which was experienced by many Jewish peasants in his day. But that does
not negate its import for you and I today in 1999. We must hear clearly
the message and understand what it is that God is trying to get through
to us via has servant James.
I. There is something about life that you need to know.
A. You will face trials.
*You should note that there is a word that it’s absence speaks louder
than it’s presence. The word is "if." That word is not employed by James
in verse 2. He chooses the word "whenever." Do you see the implications
in that subtle choice of grammar? There is no question as to whether you
will or will not face trials - it is already a concluded matter. You will
*There will come events too impossible to face. Canyons will appear too
wide to cross. There will be heartache, sorrow, and pain. You will face
*Illustration - I do not claim to know much in the realm of engineering
but I was watching an interesting documentary on the Golden Gate Bridge.
The show said that, as with all bridges, the engineers had to take into
account three loads, or stresses, while designing the bridge. These are:
the dead load, the live load, and the wind load. The dead load is the
weight of the bridge itself. The live load is the weight of the daily
traffic that the bridge must carry. The wind load is the pressure of the
storms that beat on the bridge. The designer plans for bracings that will
enable the bridge to bear all these loads.
*God, the supreme architect and engineer of the universe, has provided
bracings for our lives as well to carry the dead load of self, the live
load of daily living, and the wind load of emergencies. You see at issue
is not "if" the trials will come, but when. And whether or not we have
put our trust in Christ to face the various trials that come our way.
*Illustration- I read once that logging companies that collect tress
from mountainous regions will separate trees that weathered storms from
trees that were protected from storms. Apparently the trees that are
protected from storms have a courser grain than the trees that endure
*Now I don’t know trees or bridges, but I do know life my friend. And it
can be hard and harsh. I can’t imagine enduring the loss of a child. I
can’t comprehend being told, "You have cancer." I can’t imagine not
knowing when I will eat again. I can’t imagine having my wife tell me she
doesn’t love me anymore.
*The point is - we will face trials. And so this connects the next
B. Your Faith Will Be Tested.
*Illustration- I heard a story about when Mount Vesuvius erupted over
Pompeii, burying the city in ash, that people were found everywhere. Some
were found in their cellars, some were found in upper rooms, some were
found cowering outside. But there was one that was found at the city
gate. It was the Roman Sentinel who had been placed there by his captain,
he was still grasping his weapon. As the earth shook, he stood faithfully
at his post until the end.
*Now, to be honest, this story doesn’t apply to me very well. Because if
I had been one of Pompeii’s residents then, I would have not been the
Stoic Roman Sentinel standing guard faithfully. I would have been one of
the ones found cowering in the basement cellar.
*I guess all of us are supposed to be the Roman Sentinel standing at his
post, but we begin to wonder why the General put us at the post when the
city was being destroyed.
*Why is it that God allows such horrible tragedies to occur to His