Summary: A short treatise on the first few verse of Chapter 1 of James.
Trials and Troubles
Many of you know that I was divorced about 20 years ago after more than 20 years of marriage. Before or since, there has not been a worse trial or difficulty in my life. I honestly felt as if my life was ending and everything I had was worth nothing. I fell into a miserable state of depression and never believed I would feel love, compassion, or any real emotion again. I felt that the world was a dark and evil place where no one could be trusted.
I quit the ministry. I had a full time job at the time, and I even changed that job. I didn’t know what to do. I was angry, furious at God. I did not understand why He would allow a family to split apart and not do anything about it. I spent a lot of time yelling, crying, and begging God for an answer. I honestly felt that no one could ever feel so badly, having to endure the humiliation and pain of something so terrible.
I felt that God had deserted me. I turned my back and tried to put Him 180 degrees behind me. I firmly believed that there was never going to be any more joy or happiness in my life. Within a few weeks, I was actually OK with that. I felt that I deserved to be in this state.
During all that time, I never chose to believe that God didn’t exist. If He didn’t exist, I didn’t have anyone with whom to be angry…except everyone else. I really wanted to be angry with God.
You know what? I believe He was OK with that. Because He knew what was going to happen.
It’s a fact of life. Trials come. Troubles come. Disaster comes. Terrible, awful and tragic things happen. Does God stop them, interfere with them, turn them around? (Show PPT.)
Most of the time, He doesn’t. We don’t know why. This sermon isn’t geared to try to answer that question. It is geared to try to understand that something good can come from trials. Something worth salvaging. In fact, the end result of a trial is often more amazing and blessed than the situation before. We see it time and again in the Bible and I have seen it time and again in my life and in the lives of others.
I would like to spend some time in the book of James because of its practicality and simple outlook on the Christian life. In the Bible I carried to class in college, I have written “practical Christian living” on the first page of the book of James. The professor of that class told us to write a main topic for each book of the New Testament. I chose to write that in my Bible. It has always meant that to me. It is a basic teaching tool for the Christian life.
James, who was the half-brother of Jesus was a major church leader until his death in about 62 AD. He was recognized as the leader of the church even when there were apostles that Jesus had appointed to go into the world. He was considered a leader of the church even though he spent most of his life, until the crucifixion, not believing that his brother was the Messiah. Church tradition teaches that James was eventually killed by either stoning or being thrown off the city wall of Jerusalem. It appears that he never left Israel during his life.
So, a letter from James carried some weight in the early church and we should probably pay attention to it to.
James had some experience with trials, so when he tells us to remain strong through them, he knows what he is talking about.
When James said, “…when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy,” I have to say that it is a little perplexing. It’s perplexing because human beings don’t usually consider trouble as something about which to be joyful.
Remember being a Christian in the time that James was writing was not a preferred lifestyle. It was actually dangerous. There were few groups of people that thought Christianity wasn’t anything more than a dangerous cult that needed to be exterminated. At the time that James wrote this letter, Christianity was probably about 25 years old. It was spreading across Asia Minor, the Levant and had made some inroads into Europe. It wasn’t popular with the Jewish people, the Roman government or any of the temple priests that populated the Greek cities of the day. In short, it was probably better to be a slave in those days than a Christian.
James knew persecution. He knew trials and troubles. He understood what it really meant to be a Christian as he died at the hands of people who hated him. So, I believe when James is talking about troubles, he knows whereof he speaks.