Summary: Jesus sustains us through the hardships of life to give us the greatest blessing - eternity
The Greatest Blessing
August 20, 2006
A group of girls on a picnic in Washington State’s Cascade Range had taken a wrong trail. After spending a terrifying night in the high country, they were wandering hopelessly-cold, wet, and hungry, and convinced they would never be found. Some of the girls began crying, certain they were all going to die. Eleven-year-old Evanell Towne stepped forward and said, "I’m not going to die." She remembered being told that if you follow a little stream, it empties into a bigger stream and finally you come to a town. She led the girls back to a stream they had seen earlier, and they followed it for more than five hours, until they finally began to hear voices. The girls began shouting and the rescue team was able to locate them. Clear-headed thinking will get us through life’s most difficult circumstances
Circumstances can cause us difficulty in life. Even when we live upright lives, bad things still happen. Circumstances do not have to control our lives and our service for God. We need to allow God to do His work even in the midst of our difficulties.
Circumstances are beyond the control of man, but his conduct is in his own power. -Benjamin Disraeli
The reality is that seldom do we choose the circumstances that we are dealt. Seldom do we have full control over the circumstances that come to us in life. The only thing that you can always control about the circumstances of life is your response to them. You may not choose the situation but you do choose your response. The reaction that we choose when faced with hardships, reveals our character. It also reveals Christ’s work within us.
It’s not the situation . . . It’s your reaction to the situation. -Bob Comblin
9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. 12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:9-12
I. Financial Hardships and Adversity
James continues his discourse on trials here in verse 9. The discussion takes a different turn into the realm of material hardships and difficulties. The issue of possessions takes center stage in the issue of hardships. Economic hardships are sometimes not of our own making.
A leading economic expert, Professor Irving Fisher of Yale, had this to say about the bright future of the stock market and the American economy: "Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau." (Spoken in early October 1929 just a couple of weeks before the stock market crash that caused the Great Depression.)
As James wrote this letter the Christians were viewed as a dangerous sect and it cost them financially. The reality is that the early Christians were making great financial sacrifice and not in the manner of tithes and offerings. Many believers were suffering from financial hardship for two main reasons
1.) The displacement of believers
Remember that James is writing to the church after they had been displaced. The church had endured a great deal of persecution from the Jews. Many Christians were forced into exile across the region. The displacement would have caused serious economic losses. These believers had lost a great deal.
What would happen to you and your family if you were suddenly forced to flee your home or die?
2.) The Jewish court systems
The Jewish court system allowed and even encouraged the seizing of property belonging to Christians. The courts allowed Jews to sue Christians and take all that they owned. The believers were suffering financially because of persecution. What would happen to you and your family if someone could take all that you owned?
Prosperity discovers vice but adversity discovers virtue – Francis Bacon
When James speaks of position it is in relation to our place with Christ. We are children of the most high, God. James says that those in humble circumstances are exalted and those in wealthy circumstances are humbled. What is he talking about here?
James is giving priority to a believer’s position in Christ. The most valued part of a believer’s life is their place with Christ. There is no concern about wealth because in the end everyone is equal. Those who are in need will be supplied by God and those who are in excess trust in god not to lose everything.