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Triumphing Over Trials

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*#1 in James Series 

TRIUMPHING OVER TRIALS

James 1:1-12

Introduction:

1.      This book was written by the Lord’s brother, James, who was in charge of the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) and also the Senior Pastor of the Jerusalem Church.

2.      The Book of James is a letter written to counsel Christians who were afflicted by many problems.

3.      This book is very relevant for us today in our society.

4.      I believe everyone here has faced trials of various kinds.

Proposition:  We can all be victors instead of victims in our trials.

How?

There are three strategies we can employ in our trials to make us victors instead of victims.

I.       MAINTAIN A RIGHT ATTITUDE IN TRIALS:  v. 2 

A.     Celebrate the Reason For Your Trials:  verses 2-4

1.      James is writing to Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire.  The Jews were first scattered in 722 BC by the Assyrians, 586 BC by the Babylonians, and then during the new Testament persecution in Acts 11:19: “So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone.”   

2.      The early New Testament Church was persecuted wherever they went, especially by the Jews of Judaism.  Paul is one of the outstanding examples of a religious zealot, pursuing the death of Christianity.

3.      This is the context for James’ letter.

4.      For the Jewish Christians, their trials were persecutions.

5.      For Job, the battleground of faith involved lost possessions, lost family members, and lost health.

6.      For us today, they could be the loss of a job, a divorce, trouble with our children, severe financial strain, illness or death in the family, or problems over which we have no control.

7.      In verse 3, James did not say if trials come, but WHEN trials come.  It is inevitable that trials will come.

8.      James says, Consider it all joy.

9.      Jesus taught this in Matthew 5:10-12:  “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, FOR your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”   

10.   Peter also taught this in 1 Peter 1:6: “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 

11.  This is teaching that when faith is hardest and least likely, then faith is most needed.

12.  1 Peter 4:12: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.”    

13.  Rejoicing in suffering does not mean that Christians should act happy about tragedy and pain when they feel like crying.  This would be dishonest and distort true feelings.  However, the Bible’s spotlight is on the end result, how God can use suffering in our lives.

14.  Illustration:  We are the branches, Christ is the vine, and the father is the vinedresser (husbandman).  The vinedresser tends to the soil and to the plants.  Frequently, he prunes the branches in order that more physical energy will go into the production of fruit.  That which does not produce fruit is of no profit and must go, because it saps the life energy from those parts which are producing fruit.  Sometimes the vinedresser must cut back the plant very severely in order to revitalize growth.  Sometimes God must prune certain areas in our lives, in order that more profitable fruit will blossom in other areas.

B.     Consider Your Reaction to Your Trials: vs. 9-11

1.      A lowly Christian should glory in his exaltation:  verse 9.

2.      David Jeremiah’s commentary on the book of James quotes (p. 23) R.W. Dale in reminding the poor man of his true position in Christ:  “Let him remember that he is a prince, and glory in it.  He is a prince on his way to his kingdom, travelling by rough roads, enduring many hardships, suffering from hunger, cold, and weariness, and the people among whom he is traveling do not know anything about his greatness; but he knows; let him glory in his high estate!”

3.      A rich Christian should glory in his humiliation: verse 10.

4.      Riches are not permanent, and many times those riches will fail you.  Consider the Stock Market Crash in 1929.  Verse 11.

5.      Both rich and poor can glory in the riches they have in Christ, which cannot wither or fade away.

6.      Philip Yancey, in his book Disappointment With God (p. 184) gives a profound statement from a man named Douglas, whose wife was dying of cancer.  And as he was driving down a city street with his wife and twelve-year-old daughter, a drunk driver smashed head-on into their car.  His wife was badly shook up, his daughter suffered a broken arm and facial cuts, but he had a massive blow to his head.  As a result, he had to live with almost constant headaches, and his vision was permanently affected.  He developed double vision, and one eye wandered at will, refusing to focus.  When Philip was interviewing Douglas for his book, he asked him about disappointment with God.    Doug said, “To tell you the truth, I don’t feel any disappointment with God.”  In the interview, Douglas gave this profound statement, “If we develop a relationship with God apart from our life circumstances, then we may be able to hang on when the physical reality breaks down.  We can learn to trust God, despite all the unfairness of life.  Isn’t that really the main point of Job?

7.      We then move from a “contract faith” – I’ll follow God if He treats me well – to a relationship that could transcend any hardship.

8.      Hudson Taylor, founder the China Inland mission, was talking to a young missionary who was about to start work in China.  “Look at this,” Taylor said, and then proceeded to pound his fist on the table.  The teacups jumped and the tea was spilled all over the table.  While the startled young man was wondering what was going on, Taylor said, “When you begin your work, you will be buffeted in numerous ways.  The trials will be like blows.  Remember, these blows will bring out only what is in you.”

9.      Like Yancey states (p. 249), “If we insist on visible proofs from God, we may well prepare the way for a permanent state of disappointment.  True faith does not so much attempt to manipulate God to do your will, as it does to position us to do His will.”

10. The first strategy for us to be victors in our trials is Maintain a Right Attitude in Trials and the second strategy is:

II.    UNDERSTAND THE ADVANTAGES OF TRIALS:  verses 3-4, 12

A.     Calculate the Results of Your Trials (Christian Character): verses 3, 4 

1.      Illustration on the necessity of trials:

a)      Incense does not give off its fragrance until cast into the fire.

b)      The flag does not show its colors until ruffled by the breeze

c)      The bell is cast in a fiery mold, but still the bell must be struck to see if it rings true.

d)     Calm seas do not make a good sailor, neither do easy times make a good Christian.

2.      Trials produce patienceverse 3 - or durability, steadfastness, perseverance or brave endurance.  Romans 5:3-5; James 5:11.

3.      Illustration of Never Giving UpSpeaking to a group of graduating University students, Sir Winston Churchill once gave the following nine-word address.  His enter speech consisted of one simple sentence repeated three times: “Never Give Up!  Never Give Up! Never Give Up!” 

4.      Trials also produce maturity – verse 4.  The Amplified Version says, “But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed (with no defects), lacking in nothing.”   

5.      Illustration of Christian Joy and Patience: A remarkable testimony to the Christian spirit was given by Aristedes, an Athenian philosopher early in the second century.  He wrote, “They observe scrupulously the commandment of their Messiah; they live honestly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them.  Every morning, and at all hours, on account of the goodness of God toward them, they praise and render Him thanks.  If any righteous person of their number passes away from the world, they rejoice and give thanks to God.  And if it chance to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily, as for one who had passed through this world without sins.”  (Scripture Press quarterly, December 1979 – February 1980, p. 69-70).

6.      Trials produce God’s love being poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit:  Romans 5:3-5.

7.      Trials deepen the love of God for others in your heart, and also your love for God is deepened.

8.      God desires not the clinging, helpless love of a child who has no choice, but the mature, freely-given love of a lover.  We are the Bride of Christ:  Ephesians 5:25-27.

B.     Contemplate the Rewards of Your Trials (Christian Comfort):  verse 12

1.      James 1:12crown of life.

2.      2 Timothy 4:7-8 – crown of righteousness

3.      Revelation 2:10crown of life

4.      Revelation 3:10, 11 - crown

5. The first strategy for us to be victors in our trials is Maintain a Right Attitude, the second strategy is to Understand the Benefits of Trials and the third strategy is:

III.  APPROPRIATE THE ASSISTANCE FOR TRIALS:  verses 5-8

A.     Call Upon God’s Resources in Your Trials (Wisdom):

1.      God has wisdom to give us in our trials.

2.      What is wisdom?  James describes wisdom in James 3:13-18.

3.      In our trials, when we pray for wisdom, we will receive God’s wisdom, which will give us the victory.

4.      God gives to all men generously, liberally or freely.

5.      God also does not scold us or upbraid us.

6.      Because God is good, generous and gracious, no seeker should approach Him with doubt.

7.      To doubt in prayer is to cause one to go two ways at once:

a)      A wave of the sea – is out of control

b)      Is driven by the wind – outside influence

c)      No will of its own – no backbone

d)     Goes this way and that way, up and down.

8.      Paul uses this analogy in Ephesians 4:14.

9.      Doubting faith is insulting to God.

10.  The word “faith” is only found twice in the OT in the KJV, but it is found 16 in the book of James.

11.  Also Hebrews 11:6.

12.  Faith is the best way for us to express our love for God.

13.  Faith knows that God will act.  In this way, it becomes the substance of our hope and the evidence of what we do not see.

14.  Illustration:  Wesley Parker – parents Larry and Lucy – didn’t pray for wisdom.

CONCLUSION:  

1.      Every believer can experience victory over outward trials.

2.      Our victory is realized by:

a)      Maintaining a right attitude in trials

b)      Understanding the advantages of trials.

c)      Appropriating the assistance for trials.

3.      Be a Victor, NOT a Victim!

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