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Summary: The trials in our life are never easy, but God uses them to refine us into better people.

James 1:1-18 January 12, 2003

Trials - God’s Hard Gifts

Last week we looked at the Man James, brother of Jesus. Today, we begin to look at the letter that he left us in the New Testament.

Jesus was prophesied to be a man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief; his brother James also had his share of grief and sorrow.

James became a leader in the church in Jerusalem early on, but almost immediately he begins to experience very difficult times. In Acts 5 the Apostles were imprisoned for their faith, and James may have been in prison with them. The stoning of Stephen in Acts 7 instigates a time of persecution that is so terrible that the whole Christian community except for the Apostles and Elders left Jerusalem to escape imprisonment and possibly death. In Acts 12, Herod has James, Brother of John killed by the sword, and when he sees that this pleases the Jewish officials, he imprisons Peter to have him killed as well. In Acts 11 a there is a prophesy that a famine would come through the land, James and the church live through that famine, and they are likely doubly hungry since they would have been excluded from the economic system. They were so poor that Paul was always collecting money to send to them from the other churches around the region. He was there in Jerusalem to see the great missionary Paul of Tarsus arrested for his faith.

Often times when we read the New Testament, we imagine that it was written in a situation much like our own except for style of dress, and the absence of cars and the Internet. We forget the New Testament was written by a suffering church. Hugh Kirkegard, a friend of mine who is a prison chaplain loves to point out that the majority of the New Testament was written by someone in Jail, some one coming out of jail, or someone just about to go into jail.

When Paul says that he is in chains for the Lord, they are not metaphorical chains.

James is not in jail when he writes this letter, but he is about to be killed for his faith within a few years of writing. And as you see in 1:1, he is writing to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations by which he means the Jewish Christian who had to escape Jerusalem and Judea for fear of their lives. He writes this pastoral letter to the refugee church. They have left their homes, their businesses, their families to live in a land that is not theirs.

This is what he writes to them.

Read James 1:1-18

Consider it pure joy (2-8)

If you didn’t know what James himself had gone through, and would go though, you might think him insensitive in the extreme! But he writes out of suffering to a group of people who are suffering. He is not the only one who speaks this way about suffering.

Jesus himself says it in Matthew 5:11-12: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Paul says it in Romans 5:3-5

…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

"I’ve got enough character thank-you very much!"

Peter says it in1 Peter 1:6-7

In this (hope of the resurrection) you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

The writer to the Hebrews in 12:7-11

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as children. For what child is not disciplined by their father? … 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Often times we think that when we become a Christian, everything should go just fine – it is the end of our troubles – the reality is that the Bible teaches the opposite – that as Christians we should not be surprised if we experience more than the average

Love is not shelter from pain – Mr. Bennett

What the hard times do for us.

They refine us – as Peter says, and James infers, the trials in our life can make us a better person, a better Christian.

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