Lesson Two: Profiting From Problems
Trials put our faith to the test. They demonstrate the quality of our faith. Have you ever picked up a sack of groceries and had the bottom fall out of the bag because it couldn’t stand the strain? Something similar happens in the lives of many Christians. When they encounter the pressure of problems, the bottom falls out of their faith and they lose their joy, their peace, and their confidence in God. A bad temper may spill out for everyone to see. They become grouchy and irritable, or walk around as though a dark cloud was hanging over their head.
Often people feel victimized when they encounter problems. They feel as though they don’t deserve the kind of problem that has come their way, or the amount of difficulty they are experiencing. They ask, "Why ME, Lord," "Why THIS, Lord," and "Why NOW, Lord." Yet James writes, "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations." Instead of feeling victimized by trials, Christians are to find value in them.
James wrote these words to a group of Christians who were experiencing unbelievable hardship. They had fled Jerusalem to escape the persecution triggered by the martyrdom of Stephen. This meant that they had abandoned homes and occupations that had been in their families for years. New housing and employment were difficult to find. To get by, many were forced to take the lowest-paying jobs – becoming little more than slaves – and were reduced to living in extreme poverty. That was the price they paid for being a Christian.
James tells them how they were to respond to their trials. Rather than feeling victimized, they were to find value in their difficulties. They were commanded to count it all joy. Obviously, that is not our natural inclination. But let’s ask a tough question, the first of many that will confront us in this little book. What good is faith in God if it’s only visible when, in our estimation, things are going right?
I. Our Vulnerability to Trials – Verse 3
- The Nature of Problems – "Fall"
- Many problems are avoidable.
If you misspend your money, you may experience a trial of unmet need. You "fell" into that problem, but you dug the pit yourself! Many problems fit into this category.
- Most problems are unexpected.
- The word "fall" means to encounter suddenly or unexpectedly, like the man who "fell" among thieves in the story of the Good Samaritan.
- It reminds us that our problems usually hit us from our blind side. We had no idea they were coming, and there is nothing we could have done to prevent it.
- The Nearness of Problems "When"
James didn’t write, "Count it all joy IF…" but WHEN. We live in a world in which the potential for problems is always present. (See John 16:33)
- Because our world is under the curse of sin. Romans 8:18-22
- Because Believers are God’s children living in enemy territory. 1 Peter 5:8
- The Necessity of Problems "Count"
- It matters how we evaluate our problems.
- The word count means to regard, to consider, to evaluate.
- We can face problems with an attitude of joy when we look to profit from the experience.
- To find the profit in a problem, we must understand God’s reason for allowing it.
- God’s main purpose for our lives is not to make us happy and comfortable.
- God’s main purpose is to make us like Christ so that our lives will be a powerful witness to others that He is real.
- God doesn’t send us the problems we WANT, but that we NEED to fulfill His purpose, display His glory, and convince others of His reality.
II. The Value of Trials – Verses 4-8
- We profit from problems when we display a patient trust in God (3)
- Patience is the result of trusting God during difficult times.
- When problems come, we can respond in a number of ways
- We can panic
- We can fall to pieces
- We can rest in the fact that God is in control, displaying confidence in His goodness, wisdom, power, etc.
- When we put God in control of our circumstances, patience MUST be the result because God is never irritable, restless, or stressed.
- Patience can be a powerful witness to the faithfulness of God.
- God may let ME experience a problem to show SOMEONE ELSE that He is real.
- One reason God allows trials in OUR lives is that through our patient trust in Him, OTHERS may see that He exists.
- When we fail to trust Him and become distraught and distressed, the one whom God was trying to reach through our problems remains unconvinced.
- Patience in our lives during times of difficulty can be the tool God uses to persuade an unbelieving world of its need of Him.
- We profit from problems when we allow them to accomplish the purpose of God (4)
- God uses problems to develop areas in our lives in which we are spiritually deficient.
- Verse 4 reminds us that God doesn’t allow problems to deny us things, but to insure that we lack nothing that His grace can provide.
- Through problems, God creates needs designed to cause us to get from Him the things we require.
- The more we get from God, the more we recognize that He can and will provide all our needs.
- In time, we become perfect (mature) and entire (complete), wanting nothing!
- In order for us to benefit from our problems, we must cooperate with the work God is attempting to do.
- The tiny word let is very important in this section. It means to allow, to submit to.
- When problems come, we must yield ourselves to the perfect work God wants to accomplish in our lives.
- When we gripe, complain, and do everything we can to escape our trials, we hinder the perfect work of God and remain spiritually inadequate.
- We profit from problems when we see them as an opportunity to get more wisdom from God (5-8)
- To get wisdom from God during our trials, we have to ask. (5)
- There are many definitions for wisdom, but in this context, wisdom is knowing what to do so that God’s purpose is achieved.
- When we are faced with a problem and don’t know what to do, we need to ask God for wisdom.
- We are to ask God because He wants us to know that He can supply the answer we need.
- This builds our confidence in God’s ability to do a good work in our lives and proves to others that God’s way works.
- It also insures that we don’t waste the opportunity God has given us to grow in our faith.
- To get wisdom from God during our trials, we have to ask in faith. (6-8)
- This means we must believe that God has the answer and that He will supply us the wisdom we need in our trials.
- As long as we doubt God’s ability, He will be unable to do a complete work in our lives.
Hebrews 11:6 declares that without faith it is impossible to please God. The person who comes to God must come with confidence that God can be trusted. Otherwise, James says, he is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. Instead of resting in the Lord’s ability, he is driven by uncertainty and desperation. That kind of man, James tells us, should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Why? Because he wouldn’t have the assurance that God had provided the answer. God was just one of many things he tried in his desperation.
James declares that this kind of Christian is unstable in all his ways. He is going his own way, living by his own wits, and he’s headed for greater problems. Until he comes to the place where he completely gives up hope in anyone or anything except God alone, he will continue to be an unstable Christian – pinning his hopes first on one thing, then another.
III. Two Views of Trials – Verses 9-11
James frequently reminds us that he regards his readers as genuine Christians. There is no reason to assume otherwise in the final verses of this section. James contrasts a brother of low degree with a rich [brother]. As noted earlier, the flight from Jerusalem had caused many of the Christians to become impoverished. However, some that were more prosperous to begin with had handled the transition better – but even they had not avoided problems altogether.
- Assurance for the suffering Believer
It is easy to feel victimized when a person who is already struggling in life encounters new problems. When further demands are made upon already meager resources, we are tempted to accuse God of being unfair. At such times, it’s easy to become discouraged or bitter.
How can a believer in these circumstances count it all joy when new problems mean additional hardship? By rejoicing in his exalted position. This world is not our home. It’s treasures and pleasures will not last. But as children of God, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, we can lay claim to all the wealth of our heavenly Father. And that’s cause for rejoicing.
- An Admonition for the prospering Believer
When a prosperous Christian encounters problems, he faces the danger of looking to his wealth for security. He is more likely to rejoice in his bank account than to find assurance in his relationship to God. He needs to know that trials serve to remind him of the inferiority of earthly riches and the uncertainty of his own existence. Severe trials can bankrupt even a wealthy man and strip him of his health and means of making a living like the flowering grass that withers under a burning heat.
James tells the prosperous believer that he should rejoice in his trials because they remind him of his humble position in this world.
- He still needs to ask God for wisdom.
- He still needs to submit to God’s purpose for his life.
- He still needs to display a patient trust in God to work things out.
James reminds us that the kind of faith that honors God is one that remains stable and sure, when life is easy, and when it is hard. In every trial, there is a purpose. In every problem, there is profit. When we live by this truth, then we powerfully witness of the reality and reliability of God.