Meeting Trials in Faith
Our study today is based upon a devotional in chapter 1 of my book, Flourish in Faith: A Study for Personal Christian Growth in the Epistle of James.
Today we’re looking into the topic of “Meeting Trials in Faith” in James 1:2-4.
(James 1:2-4): Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face (“fall into”) trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
The phrase “fall into” means “to encounter or come across.” It provides a picture of the Christian walk along a pathway of life that includes various encounters – some pleasant and some unpleasant. When such encounters occur, it is important to “count” (i.e., to evaluate) these situations in light of a joyful attitude. It is important to note here that our values determine our evaluations – so we must value having a “right attitude” each day so that our evaluation of trials in life with result in a joyful outlook.
In v3, James uses the word “knowing.” In order to “know” something, one must have an understanding of it in the mind. So what should we “know” when we face trials? James gives us three important realizations:
1) Faith is always tested – God’s tests are to bring out the best in us; while Satan’s tests are to bring out the worst in us.
2) Testing works for us – not against us. Consider these verses: (1Peter 1:7; Romans 8:28; 2Corinthians 4:17)
3) Trials, rightly used, help us to mature. Patience, endurance, and the ability to keep going when things are tough (Romans 5:3-4). “Patience” is not being passive, but is a courageous perseverance in the face of suffering and difficulty. An immature person is impatient; but a mature person realizes that the only way God can develop patience and character in our lives is through trials. Consider these passages: (Hebrews 6:12, 10:36; Isaiah 28:16).
In v4, James uses the word “let” – referring to a surrendering of the will (also used in v9). God cannot build our character without our cooperation. And it is easier to cooperate when we understand that God’s goal for our lives is maturity (i.e., being made “perfect”). The Apostle Paul alludes to this process by noting three works that are involved in maturing a Christian (Ephesians 2:8-10):
1) The work God does for us – salvation. Jesus completed this work on the cross.
2) The work God does in us – sanctification. God builds our character in a continuous process throughout our life of faith.
3) The work God does through us – service. God begins building our character before He calls us to service (i.e., He must work in us before He can work through us).
Trials WILL come… so what do we do? Let’s look to (2Co 1:3-11)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on your behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
When you’re going through trials,
· don’t look to the NY Times Best Sellers List for books on how to overcome
· don’t look to the psychic hotline or your local neighborhood psychic reader for premonitions on when better days are coming
· don’t look to your local neighborhood positive thinker for advice about how it’s all in your mind and if you change your thinking, you’ll change your circumstances
· don’t look to your favorite celebrity’s book of the month selection or the latest fix-it-yourself psychology book
· look to God’s Word! It’s in those pages that you’ll find God – the God of all comfort. His comfort will last; His peace will last; and only God gives all the strength you’ll ever need for all the storms you’ll ever face!
How can we lay hold of this and apply it to our lives? God’s Word gives us three things to consider when we need to find the encouragement, strength, and comfort that only God can give:
First, think about who God is to you (2Co 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion & the God of all comfort). Praise is an important factor in achieving victory over the discouragement and depression that often accompany fierce trials.
Praise Him because He is God (1PT 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead): We should rejoice and praise Him not only for past and future blessings; but also for how He is blessing us here and now. He has blessed us in the past and we are assured of blessings in the future (including Heaven itself). But when we’re suffering, we often get so wrapped up in that suffering that we miss the blessings He’s giving us right then – in the present. Take the time, make the effort, and praise Him with your whole heart and He’ll make those blessings known! “When upon life’s billows, you are tempest-tossed; when you are discouraged thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!”
Praise Him because He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (COL 1:13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves): Whatever the Father did for Jesus when He was ministering on earth, He is able to do for us today. We are dear to the Father as His Son is dear to Him and He will see to it that the pressures of life and the attacks of Satan won’t destroy us. Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world!
Praise Him because He is the Father of mercies (LA 3:22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.): God is the Father of mercies because all mercy originates with Him and can be secured only from Him. His compassions never fail!
Praise Him because He is the God of all comfort (PS 121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.): He puts strength in our hearts: so we can face our trials, so we can face our troubles, so we can face our disappointments, so we can face our losses, so we can face our sorrows AND triumph over them! Oh, victory in Jesus, my Savior forever…!
Second, think about what God does for you.
God provides comfort so we can comfort others 2CO 1:4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God: Sometimes we feel boxed in by our trials and in those times, the only way we can look is up. God is in control, though, and if we trust Him, then we can overcome circumstances with His help.
God is in control (2CO 1:8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life.): God knew how much Paul could take and He kept the situation in control. We don’t know what the specific trouble was, but it was bad enough to make Paul think he was going to die. Whether it was peril from his many enemies, serious illness, or special satanic attack, we don’t know; but we do know that God controlled the circumstances and protected His child.
God enables us to bear our troubles (2CO 1:9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.): The first thing God must do is show us how weak we are in ourselves. God wants us to trust in Him – not in our gifts and abilities or experience.
God delivers us from our troubles (2CO 1:10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us): Paul saw God’s hand of deliverance in his past, present, and future. God doesn’t always deliver us immediately, nor does He deliver each of His children in the same way.
Finally, think about why God allows troubles upon you (2CO 1:4b so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort)
For every time there is a season. And for every season there is a reason.
One reason for trials is so that we might learn to be channels of blessing to comfort and encourage others. It’s important to note that we don’t need to experience exactly the same trials in order to be able to share God’s encouragement. If we have experienced God’s comfort, then we can comfort them which are in any trouble.
Also, God is perfecting us through our trials (JN 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes (cleans) so that it will be even more fruitful.”) – sometimes God allows us to suffer because He is perfecting our Christian character (1PT 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.) And sometimes God allows us to suffer because He is preparing us for ministry to others as we noted in 2Co1:3-4.
God is also glorified through our troubles (2CO 1:11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on your behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many): We rejoice and bring glory to God when He delivers us from our trials and so we point others to Him through the witness of our suffering.
Conclusion: When an unbeliever goes through suffering, he loses hope; but to a believer, suffering increases hope (RO 5:3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.)
God builds character and brightens hope when a believer trusts and depends upon His grace.
· The result is that God receives glory.
· The result is that we grow stronger
· The result is that we have a closer walk with Him
Remember that God is the God of all comfort. His comfort is complete and all “other comforts” are incomplete.
Trials WILL come; but you can receive comfort from the God of all comfort and the Father of all compassion
Think about who God is to you
Think about what God does for you
Think about why God allows trials upon you
And you can meet every trial through a conquering and living faith in Christ Jesus.