Of the Book of James. We’re going to continue that study today. They’re handing those out, so go ahead and get one. Great background material for us to keep in mind as we go through the study of James. And welcome to all of you who are with us today.
It’s great to see a full auditorium. I tell you what, we’re getting back. I thought it was really cool at the summit. Pat Gemple said, we’re back, and I thought that was just a great, great line. And take to heart all of the incredible church news that Marcus shared.
We’re excited about our fall classes. We think it’s going to make a difference. I will throw in a quick spoiler alert. The class that the Mattoxes are going to teach on parenting adult children, I think maybe even some of the children who are adults need to take that class alongside their parents. It will be really good to do that, but all three classes are going to be amazing.
Sign up so that we know what to plan for as far as what we do in the auditorium and in the fellowship hall. Now, before we jump into James, just to remind you, and I’m not going to ask you what I asked for first service, which James wrote, the Book of James. Okay, so anybody knows?
Okay. It was Jesus brother. His younger half brother is the writer of James. But I think it’s really interesting when you look at what he says in chapter one, verse one, he refers to himself as a servant of God and of Jesus Christ. And it’s almost like he didn’t even want to take credit for being the brother of the Lord.
He felt unworthy, perhaps, of really even acknowledging that. Who knows? Maybe it’s because at one point he really wasn’t sold out on Jesus. You remember his family wanted him to go up to the feast, to Jesus to go, and Jesus said, I’m not going yet. They said, well, if you want to be a public figure, then you need to show yourself.
And so maybe once he finally got converted and the cool thing about James, he became a pillar in the church. God used him powerfully. So as Marcus said last week, don’t give up on your family. Don’t give up. They may not be where you want them to be right now, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to stay where they are.
God has a way of working powerfully. So the Book of James is a very practical book of instruction. A lot of straight source stuff, straightforward stuff. One thing that’s been suggested is just do it. I like that James gives a lot of ancient wisdom and some practical, direct commands.
Now, our focus today is James, chapter one, verse two. And I’m going to read that section for you. So follow along as I read or follow along on your digital device.
James, chapter one, verse two. He says, consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let Perseverance finish his work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Such a person is a double, is double minded and unstable in all they do. Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position, but the rich should take pride in their humiliation, since they will pass away like a wildflower. For the sun rises with scorching heat, and withers the plant his blossom falls and his beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. This is God’s word.
I want to take some time to just sort of unpack some things in these verses. There’s a lot here. James has a lot to say about prayer and how we should pray and how we shouldn’t be double minded that we need to come to God with a believing heart. But I want to start where he starts. And that is the part about suffering and trials.
I think we need to start there and see what we can glean from this. My hope is that as we study through this, that God will prick something in your heart and that at least by the end of the service, you’ll leave here with a different view of suffering and hopefully a very biblical view of suffering. He is talking to Christians who are very likely going through some persecutions and some tough times. First century church went through quite a bit, and so he’s trying to address that. And what he says here, he uses this word, the Greek word for these times of testing is peirasmos.
Just so you know. I learned from Google how to phonetically say that, so I know I said it right. All right, so if you didn’t get it, then I’m not going to say it again. But anyway and this word means trials or testing that’s directed towards an end. In other words, you go through something with a goal in mind.
And the end goal for a person to set it like this is that he should emerge stronger and pure for the cause of Christ. And the idea is real simple.
It’s been said of a young bird that the young bird tests its wings, see if it’s ready to leave the nest and be launched. The Queen of Sheba was said to test Solomon with questions. Okay. God is said to test Abraham with the sacrifice of Isaac over in Genesis 22. And the point I want to put before you as we begin here is at times of testing and trial will come, it is part of God’s design, okay?
It is part of his design, and it is biblical. It is very biblical. One of the places that it talks about this is right here in James where he says, consider it pure joy. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the middle of something, I’m usually not thinking, wow, this is pure joy.
I would just put it out there. And some of you went through this journey with me. When I got diagnosed with cancer back ten years ago, I wasn’t considering it pure joy. But James doesn’t just say consider it joyful or happy. He says, consider it pure joy.
It’s like God is making a point that you got to see this in the correct way. And I’m going to just give a shout out to my friend. Jackie Salty is here with her daughter Jasmine. Jackie used to work in our church office before she fell away from God and moved to Jacksonville. No, she didn’t fall away from God, but it’s great to have you guys back and home with us.
But Jack and I share similar journeys with our health. And you have a tendency to feel like this isn’t pure joy. And yet in Romans five and I love how Paul puts it, he says, not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings. So you got James saying, consider it pure joy, and Paul is saying, glory in the tough things that are going on in your life. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to look at it that way sometimes.
But here’s something I want you to think about. It’s been said that one of the key ways to know if you’re really a Christian is how you handle suffering.
You can know if you’re a Christian with how you handle suffering. And if you don’t handle suffering well, it may be because there’s a flaw in your Christianity. If you can’t embrace life on life’s terms, and that’s something we say to our daughter all the time when something tough happens. We say, you got to learn to embrace life on life’s terms. But if you can’t embrace life on life’s terms, if your theory of why you’re going through what you’re going through, if all of those things get shattered when you go through a rough time, then there’s something with there’s something false about how you view God and how you view life.
And this will be a message that you need to hear. Suffering in trials are part of the plan of God. That is what we see in the scriptures. And one of the best places where that’s born out is, of course, here in Job. We remember the story of Job, right?
I mean, all in one day, folks come in one after another. They said. Well, guess what? Your kids were partying and the house fell on them and killed everybody. And guess what?
The Sebeans did this and they raided all your cattle and they taken everything. In other words, the guy lost everything all at once. All at once. He even had sores from the crown of his head to the sole of his feet. His health was gone, his kids were gone, his wealth was gone and he was torn up by this thing.
The Bible says he got up, he tore his robes and he shaved his head. In other words, he felt the grief big time. It was a big deal to him. Look at what it says. It says in all this job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
He did not sin. And sometimes we think it’s spiritual when you’re going through something tough that you just say, okay, I’m not going to let it affect me. I’m going to be strong. You take that stoic view, I’m going to be strong and I’m going to show people how to do this, how to go through a tough time. That may take you so far, but that’s not what you see with Job.
He felt that his emotions were all over the place. It’s kind of like when my daughter grew up, she would say, dad, this really sucks. That was just her little line, you know what? And that’s the way life is sometimes. It sucks. And we don’t need to pretend that we don’t feel it.
God doesn’t intend for us to be masochist, to just love pain. And so something tough happens and you say, man, I’m suffering. I’m just loving this. Guys, that’s not even real. It’s disingenuous. We don’t think that way and it’s not being honest. I believe God wants us to be honest. Now, another place where this is expressed about the importance of how we look at this stuff in Mark chapter four, and we read this all the time, the parable of the sower. You’re talking about the different soils and all that.
Look at what it says here about the one soil. It says, but since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, they quickly fall away. Those who do not learn to persevere through difficulties don’t last, they fall away. And some of you here know of people that used to be a part of this fellowship.
They went through a tough time and they’re not here now. But if you don’t learn to deal with persecutions in a godly way, you simply will not last. Suffering is a problem that we all face at some point in our lives, and usually is, because things don’t go quite the way we want them to go or the way we have it planned. Don’t you just hate it when you plan something and then something messes it up? I mean, some of you just can’t get up and go after that.
It’s like, okay, what’s going on? But that’s how we all are. When things don’t go the way we want them to go, we have a tendency to say, things are like this. Why did this go wrong? Why did God let this happen?
Why did this happen to me? This isn’t right. I just not supposed to be this way. I don’t deserve this. This isn’t fair.
This makes my life meaningless. What do we do? We charge God with wrongdoing. We think we’ve done all of our part, and we think God, you’ve fallen down on the job here, buddy.
I mean, I’ve been righteous, but, man, you just messing up right and left. James said, you need to ask God for wisdom. It may not be easy to understand, but you need to ask God for wisdom. And then you got to believe that he will answer and not doubt that. Different things come our way. Sometimes it’s health issues.
I refer to that it could be the loss of a great job. You could have been deserted by your spouse. You could just have a really bad professor for this fall semester, and you’re already struggling and you hate your teacher in high school. Okay, those are the trials that’s just life. And we’ll talk about that in a moment as well.
But maybe stuff more difficult, like desertion by a spouse. I know people for whom this happened. Maybe it’s a severe illness. Maybe it’s the death of a close, someone close to us. On Tuesday I was on the telephone with Gene Branigan.
Gene is an elder for the church in Tallahassee, and he was telling me about a young man who’s moving here. He was trying to look out for him, help him find a place to stay. I said, Gene. I’m on it. Let me see what I can do to help out.
Two days later, I got a text from my daughter. Did you hear that Gene Brannigan died?
And I thought I was shocked. I was truly shocked. But I just talked to him, as if my talking to him is going to somehow prevent it. I still don’t know the cause of death. But, guys, when that kind of stuff happens, we tend to go there.
We tend to charge God with wrongdoing. We worry. We wonder, what’s up? What’s going on? And that’s why I want us to talk about this.
Truth be known, even for myself, I’ve been around a long time, but even for myself, there are times when I think, God, really? I mean, I made some stupid decision. I made a decision, I don’t know, 25 years ago financially. Now that I’m an old man, I look back and say, boy, that was dumb back then. But it’s really easy to question. It’s really easy to question.
So why do such terrible things happen? What can we learn from this? I believe there are at least four reasons for suffering, okay? At least four that are given in the Bible. And I want you to think about this.
And as I go through them, you’ll probably think of things where, yeah, I remember going through that. I remember going through that. So let’s talk about this for a few minutes. Some suffering is simply common to man. It is common to man.
Job, chapter five, verse seven. Job says, yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward. Jesus said, in this world, you will have trouble. There are just some troubles that are just part of life and part of being here. We live in a fallen world.
God doesn’t tell a person, he doesn’t will a person to go into a nightclub and shoot up a bunch of innocent people. He doesn’t will a maniac to go into a school and kill innocent kids. And I don’t even want to get into that one because that one still messes with my mind. But there are a lot of things that are just common, that just a part of life. And really I don’t think it’s necessary to spend a lot of time trying to find some great meaning in the trouble you’re going through.
It’s just some stuff is just common and sad in this life. I think another reason for suffering is that it’s corrective. Psalm 119, verse 67 says, before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I obey your word. Now notice what he said. He’s going astray, messing up, not doing what God wants them to do, going in the wrong direction.
And then guess what? God brought a little bit of affliction into his life. Sometimes God will see us doing something really stupid and he’ll just bring a little bit of affliction in your life to get you back on track. Sometimes that’s the reason for our suffering. A third reason is that it’s constructive.
And that’s the text that we’re looking at today from James about how we need to consider pure joy and how suffering leads to perseverance and all that. The passage in Romans says, not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. So sometimes what God allows is intended to be constructive, to develop our perseverance and our character and our hope. But then I think another way that suffering shows itself is it’s cosmic.
Something that cosmic is extraterrestrial, it’s bigger than you realize. Some of the things that we go through simply are the will of the God of the universe. It’s that big. It’s that far beyond you and me. Isn’t that what we see in the story of the man born blind in John Nine? You remember how they asked Jesus, well, Jesus, who sinned? This man or his parents that he was born blind?
Jesus said neither. This is for the glory of God. And even that we can struggle. Well, God, why did I have to be born blind? Why did this debilitating thing happen to me?
I look at my dear friend Simone Uwan. Simone is a great, incredible woman and you don’t mind me saying your disease, because I think you said publicly. Simone has sickle cell. And she’s had to live with that for year after year. It would be easy to say, God, why me? And we say that. We charge God with evil, but guys, sometimes it’s beyond us. We don’t know. We don’t understand what is going on.
And that really is the point behind the book of Job. I don’t know that Job ever understood why God took him through all of that. Now we know everything got restored and one says he couldn’t get the same family back, but he got a family again, God blessed him. It was amazing and all of that, but I don’t know if you ever really got it, if he ever really understood. And so I think a natural next question we might ask is how do you know which suffering you’re going through?
Is it corrective? Is it constructive? Is it common? Is it cosmic? I mean, what’s going on?
I don’t know that we can necessarily know the answer to that, and I don’t know if it really matters. At the end of the day, you need to learn from whatever you’re going through if you’re going to be what God wants you to be. And so we may not know right away, but I really believe if we pray and we’ll talk about this in a moment, God will answer. Sometimes he gives you a direct answer quickly, but sometimes it may be quite a while, you may be waiting on that answer. But I think in the meantime, we need to ask God for wisdom.
That’s what James talks about. He said if you lack wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously without finding fault, and it will be given to you. God may not give the answer right away, but he may give an answer right away. God will always answer. It may not be on the time frame that we’re working with, but God will always answer.
You got to have that confidence in our God. And it says here that God gives generously. Why? Because this is nature to give. John, chapter three.
For God so loved the world that he gave. We know the Word. I know you online know that his way. God’s nature is to give, so we know he will answer. But we need to understand and acknowledge both the power of God to give and his desire to give to each one of us.
Second thing besides that wisdom is you got to recall God’s goodness. And I want to read this for you. James, chapter one, verse 16 through 18. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created. If God doesn’t explain the reason for what’s happening to us, then there’s still something we can know, is that God is good. Okay? Every good and perfect gift is from above. God is good and we can know that.
And he goes on to talk about how he wants us to be a kind of first fruits of all that he created. God chose to give us birth through His Word so that we’ll be the first fruits of all that he created. So not only is God good, but we are a treasured part of his creation. You cannot let yourself forget basic truths of God when you suffer. We have a tendency to forget.
I have a tendency to forget in the moment until I step back and get where I need to be.
God is present with you, and he cares deeply for you. Will you remember that the next time you’re in trouble, the next time you’re in trials and in suffering? So what happens when we approach times of testing in the right way? Well, when our faith is tested, the Bible says the result is perseverance. The result is perseverance.
And it says in verse three, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. God wants us to learn to persevere. And the Greek word there, let’s see. We’re not moving, so click for the next slide. Okay, there it is.
Okay. And Google told me how to say this one, too. Dorkimion. Okay, I’ll tell you guys the secret. Marcus Overstreet just started learning New Testament Greek this past week.
He is in school. So Marcus will vouch that I said that correctly because he knows all this stuff now. He learned it all in one three hour session. I don’t see how anybody can sit through 3 hours of Greek. But you’re a good man.
But I love what it says. It says this word means it’s the proving or that by which something is tried or proved. A test. It says the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Much like an athlete.
An athlete learns endurance. How? Through enduring. He has to learn through enduring. Same thing for us.
We learn to be what God wants us to be by learning to persevere and to keep on going. And then perseverance, I said, must finish its work so the characters develop and we can become mature, not lacking anything. Now, the alternative, and this is very important, the alternative is a personality. If you don’t learn to persevere, then you end up with a personality that learns to love the Lord when everything’s going well, you love the Lord when the sun is shining.
You can go out in Florida today and you can feel the cool summer rain and everything is wonderful. You can love the Lord during that time, but you don’t know how to love the Lord and how to be steadfast under duress. You don’t know how to be content when all the physical comforts are withdrawn. You don’t know how to have that quiet confidence in God in spite of persecution. You don’t really understand how to have that stability in the midst of a frenetic pace of life.
God wants you to learn that. He wants you to have that kind of stability. The goal of God, with the suffering that we go through when he puts us into that furnace, the goal of God is to burn away all the impurities, all of the dross, all of that bad stuff. Guys, whether you realize it or not, Mark 7 teaches this from out of the overflow of the heart comes a lot of yucky stuff. Our hearts are filled with stuff that God’s trying to work out.
And so he’s going to take you through stuff till you get it. As long as you want to be his child, he’s going to take you through stuff till you get it. And I think that’s what a good parent is all about. Is that, okay? I don’t like where you’re at. I don’t like your attitude. We’re going to work on that. And if tomorrow you come out and you’re still in the same place, guess what? We’re going to work on it tomorrow. We’re going to get you where you need to be.
God wants to burn that stuff out. And when we allow him to do that, here’s the beauty of it, man. We come out of the thing more happy, more compassionate. We have more humility. We’re loving life.
We are in touch with our purpose. And guys, when you learn to go through something tough and guess what? You can now be a comfort to someone else who’s going through some tough things. That’s what God wants. Now, on the other hand, if you complain and just talk about, well, this isn’t fair.
I don’t like this. The one slide with all the things that we say, if that’s the attitude you have, then you come out perpetually sour. There are people that you can see that, and I’m not talking about anybody in particular. Let me look around. Okay, let me just check looking at you folks online, too, but there are some people you see and you think, gosh, have you been sucking on a lemon all your life?
I mean, come on, man. Yeah, I know things are hard and yeah, I know you’ve been through some rough stuff, but doggone it welcome to the NFL. Everybody goes through something, but we don’t have to go through life making sure everybody knows it. It’s like, come on, get a grip, get a life.
Did I say that out loud? Okay.
There’s only one hope that can bear the sufferings that life brings. The only hope that will survive is God’s love for you and your love for him. That’s all God wants in there. That’s all he wants in your heart. When we can rejoice in suffering because we know what God is up to.
We know he’s trying to refine us and make us more like Jesus. And so we don’t run away. And that’s why we have unswerving consistency. We hang in there. Even though things are difficult or challenging, we hang in there.
And then we realize that it’s not just a matter of gritting it out. Like I said, it’s not being a stoic, okay? I don’t feel this. I’m not going to let anything impact me. No, you learn to embrace your suffering, and you get to a point where and I read this in one commentary, it says of the early disciples, even when they were martyred, it would talk about some of these people smiling as they burn in the flames.
Wow, how do you do that? And it’s this idea of really understanding what God is doing. And once you’re in touch with that, it’s a little easier to go through. And here’s the thing. The person who’s been in this furnace, in this crucible where God is burning away stuff, they’ve been at it for ten years, 20 years, 30 years, and they have consistently made the right decision.
I’m going to hang on. I’m not going to give up. I don’t understand. I don’t know where you’re going here. God, I’m not liking this.
This isn’t fun. I’m tired of scratching the sores and having pus on my fingernails from all this. I’m tired of this. But, God, I’m going to hang on. The person who’s learned to do that, there is a wealth of security and hope that just enables you to do even more.
And that’s what God wants from each one of us. So what does testing when born correctly do for us? Okay, three quick things. It makes a man perfect, and this is perfection towards that end goal. In other words, in the Old Testament, a sacrificial animal was considered to be the Greek word is Telios. It was fit to offer for God, so God wants you to be fit for his service. The second thought is that it makes you mature and complete. That means your whole, your entire, every part is perfect. You’re in place. In other words, there’s no blemish.
In the Old Testament, when God would talk about them offering a sacrifice, he says, I want a one year old male with no blemishes. God is burning away the stuff in your heart he’s burning away so that you become an unblemished offering for Him. And then thirdly, it means you’re deficient in nothing. Remember second, Peter, one, it says if you keep these things, you’ll be productive in the Lord and you’ll not be missing anything. Two, Peter one, verse five through eight. Great passage. God doesn’t want you to be deficient at all. In other words, perseverance is a necessary ingredient of genuine Christianity. It’s a necessary ingredient, and you don’t get there until you learn to suffer and keep going. If your highest goals are the things of this world. I want a girlfriend. I want to get married. Now, hear me in the right way. I’m not saying any of these things are wrong. I want to get married. I want to have financial security, a boatload of money somewhere.
I want to have a great job. I want to have great neighbors. I want to have a better home. I want to have a better kid. Now, you can’t change your kids.
You can’t do that. But you can have all of these things that are stored up in your heart that mean a ton to you. And guys, when God puts the pressure on it, it will be exposed. You’ll show that your focus is wrong. Our focus needs to be to have the character of Jesus Christ.
And I will tell you a secret. God will use your kids. He’ll use your spouse. He’ll use your professor. He’ll use your neighbor.
He’ll use financial ruin. He’ll use job loss. He’ll use whatever you give him to refine your character and make you like Jesus. And guys, we need to learn to embrace that. Bottom line is, a real Christian sticks it out for the long haul.
That’s just the way it is. And I’m not saying that because I’ve been around a long time, but a real Christian sticks it out for the long haul. There’ll be ups and downs. Things won’t be right. And when there’s that down period, what do you do?
We repent. We get right with God and we keep going. But you don’t give up. You keep on going. Real Christian stick.
Because the Bible says that God is able to keep what we’ve entrusted to him against that day. Only way it’s not kept is that you give it up and walk away. God says that’s what being a real Christian is all about. Before we close, let’s look at one. Peter, chapter one.
Peter, chapter one, verses three through seven. We’ll read this together. Praise be the Gods 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 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power into the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this, you greatly rejoice. Though now for a little while, you may have had to suffer grief and all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire, may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Brothers and sisters, family, friends, your faith will be refined in the fire. It’s coming. It’s been said you’re either in a struggle, coming out of a struggle, or about to go into a struggle. You’re going to be refined in the fire. God is going to turn up the heat, and he’s going to refine your character until you become like Jesus.
That’s what we signed up for when we got baptized. We said we wanted to be like Him. God’s going to keep doing that. And as I said, he’ll use your marriage, your kids, your job, illnesses, both physical and mental. He will use all of that.
He’ll use job loss, challenging relationships, inflation, financial losses, a change of administration, and we vote on Tuesday. Get your hearts right before you go to the polls. If you haven’t done absentee voting, get your hearts right. But we got to make sure that God is able to work through us with all of these things. And here’s your Living Water challenge for this week.
I want you to think about the challenges and troubles that you are experiencing right now. You know what you’re going through. And I want you to take some time to meditate on what God is doing. What is he teaching you? How is he seeking to refine you?
Because, guys, you will be in the heat. It’s coming. But the good news about our God is that he promises to be with us in the fire. Let me reach Isaiah 43. It says, when you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. The flames will not set you ablaze. Guys, when we go through the fire when we go through the fire, god says, I will be with you. And what he’s going to do while you’re in that fire is he’s going to work on you and mold you and refine you and get you to be more like Jesus.
That fire is going to be a pleasant experience in what it produces. God promises to be with you. And we saw that you remember the story Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Old Testament, how they were thrown into the furnace? And the Bible says the furnace was so hot that even the guys who threw them in were consumed by the fire. And so the king said, well, wait a minute, I thought we threw in three guys. I see four, and the fourth looks like the Son of God and all this. And so three men came out, but God was there with them in that furnace. But I want you to think about Jesus for a second. When Jesus went to the cross, he went to the cross alone. When he took on your sins and my sins. He did that alone. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could talk to Jesus while they were in their fire. Jesus looks around and there’s no one there. And that’s why in Mark 15, he says, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Jesus lost his life so that we could be here today.
And I pray that as you take communion and if you need communion, the ushers have that. As you take communion, as you peel away that top layer and you take the bread and you open it up and you take the wine, remember how he loves you. Oh, how he loves us. God has been good to us.