Persevere when our Faith is Tested (James 1:2-12)
Testing of our faith produces perseverance and holiness
I was listening to one of my favorite preachers. His name is David Jeremiah and he can be heard on the Moody Bible radio station which is 103.3 around here. David Jeremiah talked about a time when he was in China. In China he was speaking with some Chinese Christians. The Chinese Christians said “we pray for the American Church.” David Jeremiah asked, “how do you pray for us?” The Chinese Christians responded, “We pray for persecution.” Let me make sure you understand this, the Chinese Christians pray for the American Christians to face persecution. Why? Why do you think that is? We’ll come back to this in today’s sermon.
In a minute I want you to turn to James 1. We will talk today about James 1:2-12. These verses are written specifically about trials and persecutions. As we talk about this passage I want to show you that James challenges his audience that perseverance in trials will build them up in maturity and holiness and give them a reward in Heaven. Let me repeat this theme for emphasis: James challenges his audience that perseverance in trials will build them up in maturity and holiness and give them a reward in Heaven.
Now let’s read James 1:2-12
Read James 1:2-12
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
- In verses 2-4 and then again in verses 9-11 James writes about trials and temptations, let’s look at those.
- James says that you should consider it pure joy when you encounter various trials and temptations. This doesn’t make sense.
- Have you ever considered it joy at the time when you were going through a trial or temptation? Really, have you?
- Okay, think of it another way: have you ever considered it a good thing after you have gone through a trial or temptation?
- I bet that we all have. I bet we have all been thankful for what we learned through a trial or temptation. I know I have.
- Chuck Swindoll says, “I am thankful for the mountaintops in my life as well as the valleys, for without the valleys I wouldn’t appreciate the mountaintops.
- Now, what type of joy is he writing about? This is not meaning mere worldly, temporal happiness, but rather spiritual, enduring, “complete joy” in the Lord who is sovereign over all things, including trials.
- Notice this says “pure joy.” This is not partial joy, this is complete joy.
- Now, what type of trials is he writing about?
- Well the text says trials of many kinds. One of my sources says that he is talking about the trials of the rich oppressing the poor. That is possibly quite likely as the rest of James has several passages dealing with the rich oppressing the poor.
- However, I don’t want to limit this passage to the trials of rich oppressing poor. The rich certainly did oppress the poor in this area. However, this area certainly did face persecution.
- It was around 33 AD that Paul the apostle stood as a witness to the stoning of Stephen. It was around this same time that Acts 9 records the Christians fled the Jerusalem area because of persecution. It was prior to this time period that Peter and James were persecuted in Jerusalem. James was written from Jerusalem.
- The text says “many kinds of trials.”
- So, we also must consider it joy when we face persecution.
- Why would we consider physical persecution pure joy?
- Why would we consider verbal persecution or other types of persecution as joy?
- Why would we consider the persecution of the rich oppressing the poor as joy?
- Why would we consider life’s struggles as joy?
- The next two verses clue us in.
- When our faith is tested this develops perseverance. This perseverance carries the idea of patience, or steadfast hope expectantly waiting on Christ. But this is not all. The text continues.
- Verse 4 says that this perseverance finishes its’ work by making you mature and complete.
- This completeness has the idea of holiness.
- Through our trials; whether verbal persecution or physical persecution, whether oppression, or other trials of health or finances; God is building us up in holiness.
- And that is why we rejoice. That is why we count it as pure joy.
- Why would the Chinese Christians pray for persecution in the United States? This is because they are facing persecution and they know it builds them up as a church. listen to this:
The following prayer was prayed by an Ethiopian at Soddu, Walamo, Ethiopia: “Almighty God, from the depth of my heart I plead with thee to send us trouble. When our king was exiled we were in much trouble with the foreign [Italian] rulers. We had to meet in secret and were in constant danger of our lives. That was the time when we worked in harmony with our fellow Christians.
“Many a night after I had locked my door and gone to bed, tired from a day’s long journey of preaching and teaching, there came a persistent knocking. Lord, how I wanted to sleep, and surely but they wouldn’t want to be baptized at night and be hunted and chased and put in prison and beaten, but they said they had seen the Christian’s joy and they too wanted that religion. Every night there were more and more.
“We read Thy Word and talked about it and prayed through the nights. We shared our joy in the Lord. We worked side by side with only one desire, to preach and teach the Gospel. Then, Lord, our king came back. The foreign rulers were forced to leave our country …
“We have peace in our land. We baptize in the daytime. We are not beaten. We meet and pray, yes, but we are beginning to grow careless in our zeal for Thee. Jealousies creep in and spoil the harmony. Petty troubles take on in large meetings. We are selfish in our ambitions. Dear Lord, send us more trouble, I pray Thee, that we may forget ourselves and be so dependent on Thee that we have no time to become selfish and jealous of our fellow Christians. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
- Now skip to verses 9-11: In verses 9-11 the text will come back to the idea of trials, this time it is specific to the trials of the poor and the rich.
- Verse 9: the brother in humble circumstances…. This means they have a low social status and/or financial status. How can someone in that type of status have pride?
- They can have pride as they don’t have the temptation to depend upon wealth rather than God. Look at the next verse.
- There is a contrast. The rich, low position—huh? What he means is that the rich are more likely to depend upon their wealth rather than God.
- Come back to my example about the Chinese Christians praying for persecution in America. In China many Christians are persecuted. In China many of the churches are underground. So, they know what it is like to depend upon God. Now, what about America we have many excuses not to depend upon God. We have financial help at our finger tips. We have medical help at our finger tips. We have…. We have… we have… But we are lacking in dependence upon God.
- Please don’t get me wrong. I love America and I am not attacking America. I also know that many of you have had times when you definitely depended upon God. I am not discounting that.
- I am merely saying that the blessings of America are exactly what hurt us spiritually; the blessings of America are exactly what hurt us spiritually.
- I was reading a book called 1776 a few years ago and the historian David McCullough says that in 1776 America was already the richest country in the world.
- So, many haven’t had to struggle for finances and I believe this is hurting us today. We aren’t compelled to depend upon God and move to spiritual maturity.
- In verses 10-11 James uses an analogy to say that our wealth passes away. At death we are all on the same playing field.
- It says that the sun rises and the heat withers a plant. In the NASB it says scorching wind. The “scorching wind” (NASB) might refer to the sirocco, an especially devastating hot wind blowing into Palestine from the southern desert. But the summer sun by itself was also quite effective in wilting Palestinian flowers, which were then useless except as fuel.
I read of a man in California who had two daughters in their early teens. One was more attractive; the other was rather plain.
One day as they were getting ready for school the better- looking girl looked into the mirror beside the face of her less attractive sister. The latter complained to her father that this was done as a reflection on her lack of looks. Instead of growing angry or taking sides, the father called both girls to himself and gave them this excellent advice: “I want both of you to look in the mirror every day. You who are more attractive that you may be reminded never to dishonor the beauty of your face by the ugliness of your actions, and you who lack beauty that you may hide your lack of it by the superior attractiveness of your virtue and beautiful conduct.”
- Now let’s go back and have a looksee at verses 5-8. In these passages wisdom in faith are contrasted with doubting.
- If you lack wisdom ask of God. Who gives out wisdom? God gives out wisdom. Where does wisdom come from? God is the provider of wisdom.
- There is an amazing passage in 1 Kings 3. Solomon is now the king of Israel and God comes to him in a dream asking him what he wants. Solomon doesn’t ask for riches but for wisdom. Wisdom comes from God.
- Verse 6 says when you ask believe, don’t doubt. Now, why does this matter? This is why: when we ask God for something but we really don’t believe He can fulfill it this dishonors God. This undermines God’s ability. The text goes on to say that this makes the man double minded. Why?
- This is because on one hand you call yourself a Christian. You are trusting in God for eternal life. But on the other hand you are not trusting God with other matters.
- I remember when I was a child; I thought my dad could fix anything. He really did fix most things. A toy would get broke and my dad could fix it. There was not a doubt in my mind that when my dad got home, he would be able to fix what was broke.
- But you know what else? My dad wanted to fix things for me. He cared about me.
- God can fix things for us, God cares about us.
- But sometimes we must go through some trials in order for something to be better.
- Now, how does this wisdom and faith relate with trials and tribulations. This is how: We need wisdom to know what choices to make in our trials. Then we need faith to trust God to guide us.
- The passage also is written about a reward. This is found in verse 12.
- When we persevere in our trials. God gives us the crown of life. I believe he is talking about eternal life. But the image in mind is the crown that people would receive when they won an Olympic contest.
- See 1 Cor 9: 24-27.
Dr. Lambie, medical missionary, formerly of a place in Africa, has forded many swift and bridgeless streams in Africa. The danger in crossing such a stream lies in being swept off one’s feet and carried down the stream to greater depths or hurled to death against the hidden rocks. Dr. Lambie learned from the natives the best way to make such a hazardous crossing. The man about to cross finds a large stone, the heavier the better, lifts it to his shoulder, and carries it across the stream as something that weighs him down. The extra weight of the stone keeps his feet solid on the bed of the stream and he can cross safely without being swept away.
Dr. Lambie drew this application: While crossing the dangerous stream of life, enemies constantly seek to overthrow us and rush us down to ruin. We need the extra weight of a burden, a load of affliction, to keep us from being swept off our feet.
Look, we all will continue to face trials and troubles in life. Some have trials that relate to health. Some have trials that relate to finances. Some have trials that relate to children. Some have trials that relate to verbal, physical or other forms of persecution for their faith. God never promised that these will go away but that He will support and guide us and make us stronger for going through them. Someone once said: “Are you praying for lighter burdens or a stronger back?” When we persevere we gain an eternal reward and when we persevere God builds us up.
So, how are you doing? Are you being built up? Are you staying strong in your struggles? I pray that you will. Please pray that you will. Pray that you will stay strong in your faith no matter what the circumstances. Pray that you will stay strong when, not if, but when Christians are persecuted. Make this a matter of prayer.
We are all in process. God is crafting us.