James 004 – Rejoicing in Trials, Part 2James 1:6-13a • Dr. Andy Woods • October 7, 2020 • James
James 1:6 — this is our fourth lesson.
- Who wrote it? James
- What do we know about the author? Christ’s half-brother
- Who was the audience? Believing Jews in the Diaspora, Hebrew Christians scattered outside the land of Israel
- Where was it written from? Probably writing himself from Jerusalem
- When was the book of James written? AD 44-47; earliest book in New Testament; only thing written thus far is the Old Testament
- What was the book’s occasion? Practical righteousness; not a book about how to become a Christian, but about how a Christian should live
- What is the book’s purpose? Achieving practical righteousness; not so much dealing with positional righteousness but how to work its way out into practice
- What is the book about? Practical righteousness; big emphasis on practicality; one of the most practical books you can read, actually, in the Bible
- What is the book’s theme? Daily living
- What makes the book different? Practicality
- How is the book organized? Faith and wisdom
We talked about James 1:1. There is a greeting with James the writer, and he speaks to his Hebrew Christian audience who has been scattered. I tried to explain why I think it was written from Jerusalem to Hebrew Christians in Babylon.
The book is hard to outline, but it essentially has two parts. The first half of it is faith, not saving faith but serving faith. So, the book in its first half, James 1:1-3:12 is about a Christian who is saved by faith continues to trust God as they move into the realms of service and living for God. Because I have to keep trusting God, moment-by-moment, don’t I? Just because I have trusted in Christ for salvation doesn’t mean I don’t trust Him anymore because problems in our lives arise, and God puts those things in our lives to teach us how to trust Him in the midst of trials. That is what the first half of the book is about. So, you can take the first half of the book and divide it into the following sections:
- Faith and Trusting God: (1:1-3:12)
- Trials (1:2-18)
- Obedience to the Word (1:19-27)
- Favoritism in the assembly (2:1-13)
- Faith manifesting works through us (2:14-26)
- Controlling the tongue is ultimately what we need to trust God for (3:1-12)
That is how the first half of the book ends — James 3:1-12. So, we are now toward the beginning of the book, and we are dealing with the whole subject of trials.
How do I live a Christian life that is pleasing to God? My position is already pleasing to Him, but how does my practice become pleasing to Him? I have to learn to adopt the thinking of God on suffering that comes into my life. Another way to say it is that a practical righteousness that pleases God is to learn to rejoice when we come into tribulation or adversity.
What he has done in James 1:2-8, actually backing up for a minute — what he is doing here in James 1:2-12 is giving 3 reasons why we are to rejoice in the midst of suffering. Reason number:
- When we are suffering, God is producing something in us as His children that cannot be produced without suffering, and that is patience and maturity. See that in James 1:2-4. Show me a Christian who never goes through any troubles, and I’ll show you a Christian who doesn’t have patience and hasn’t really grown up. Therefore, when we understand the mind of God, we can say, ‘Well, Lord, you know that I may not enjoy the suffering, but I can rejoice in the midst of it because I have Your promise that through it, You are producing patience and maturity in me as one of Your children.’
Do we normally think like this, ie, when you encounter a trial, do you automatically rejoice? If you do, then please come up and sign my Bible because you are very spiritual. It is just not a normal human reaction; usually we become resentful, bitter, to blame or get upset with God; we don’t normally have a mentality where we rejoice in the midst of suffering. We don’t normally say, ‘Ok, suffering has come upon me, and I know that God is going to use this to produce patience and maturity.’
So, because we don’t normally have His mentality, how do we get it? James 1:5 tells us what to do; it says, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all generously without reproach and it will be given to him.” So, if I don’t normally have a mindset that understands the mind of God and suffering, what James is saying after he described the promise of the development of patience and maturity through trials, is that since we don’t typically have this mentality, so we need to ask God to give it to us.
God is in the wisdom business as we have talked about before. You can see this very clearly in the book of 1 Kings 3 where God said one night to Solomon, ‘Ask me whatever you want.’ What would you ask for if God said that to you? Solomon said, ‘The only thing I really want is wisdom to govern your people.’ God was so impressed by that prayer request from Solomon — that he did not ask for riches, nor for a long life, nor for the death of his enemies; he just wanted wisdom to govern God’s people — that God not only granted his prayer request, but He granted all of the other things that Solomon didn’t ask for, such as prosperity and a long life. You can see all of this in the three books that Solomon wrote: the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and prior to those two, the Song of Solomon. You can see the wisdom of God coming out as he writes. The book of 1 Kings tells us that there were many other proverbs that Solomon wrote which were never published anywhere in the Bible. He was a literary genius in addition to being politically brilliant, and he had all of those things simply because he asked God to grant him wisdom.
Again, we learn from 1 Kings 3 that God is in the wisdom business. If we want wisdom, specifically on suffering and God’s perspective, James tells us to ask God and that God will give it to us. Observe in James 1:5 that God gives it without partiality; He doesn’t care if you’re a king or a peasant; rich or poor; male or female; your nationality or ethnicity — He gives without reproach to anyone that wants it. God will give it to you.
Why is it that we should rejoice in the midst of trials? To reiterate, number 1 of 3 reasons:
- Trials produce patience and maturity — ‘But, wait a minute, God, I don’t really like or understand that.’ Then James said to ask God to give you wisdom, and He will explain it to you. If you want the mind of God on suffering, God will give it to you. Once you have the mind of God on suffering, and understand that the trials that God puts us through are not designed to make us bitter, but to make us better, then we have His wisdom, and this allows us to rejoice in the midst of it.
Now, if I don’t have the mind of God on suffering, I will just become a cranky old man; bitter to my dying day, because the world system and the unsaved world hates it and wants nothing to with suffering. We need the wisdom of God to develop the mindset to enable us to actually rejoice in the midst of suffering.
That is basically the last point we made last time we met.
Now you come to James 1:6-8 and we get int the issue of ‘well, when I ask God for wisdom, how should I ask Him exactly?’ That is what verses 6-8 address. They are about the attitude that we are to have before God when we ask Him for something like wisdom in the midst of suffering. The problem with us is that we think that we are heard by God by applying a formula. Most people in their religiosity are very formula-oriented, ‘If I do A,B,C, then God is obligated to hear me.’ I am reminded of Matthew 6:7 where Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, says, “When you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” So the Gentiles, in other words, pagans or unbelievers, think that if they go through some kind of ritual, a formula, then God is obligated to hear them. Jesus is saying that this is not true. What James is saying is that God is not really so much interested in our formula when asking Him, as He is in our attitude.
So we know that God is in the wisdom business; He sits in heaven and He can’t wait to grant us His understanding of things, particularly His mind on suffering, which is what we desperately need in order to be able to rejoice in the midst of it. James says, ‘if you don’t have that wisdom, then ask God. But when you ask Him, make sure you have the right attitude. You aren’t heard because of your formula, you are heard by God as His child because of your attitude.’
What attitude should we exhibit? We should have an attitude of faith, not doubting God. You can see that very clearly in James 1:6 because it describes the attitude we are to have as we pray in this vein. Look at James 1:6; ‘But he must ask in faith without any doubting.’ In other words, ask of God with confidence and trust in Him. Ask as if you know that God really wants to answer. Don’t be so ingratiated into a formula, but really ask out of confidence; as if God is in heaven and He can’t wait to answer your prayer request; that’s the type of prayer that God honors. So many times we go before God and ask for things that He wants to give us, but we are so doubtful that He could ever give us anything, then we don’t have the right attitude, so we are asking without a spirit of confidence in God.
Now, what if I don’t come to God with that attitude? Well, there is a description of that in the second part of James 6:6 — here is what we are like when we are asking for something that God wants to give us such as wisdom, but we aren’t asking with confidence. What are we like? The second half of James 6:6 says, “…for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, drive and tossed by the wind.’
When we first started studying this book, we observed how James uses a lot of examples from the natural world. Shortly I will show you a verse about mist that appears for a little while and then disappears. For some reason, James is into nature, so he uses analogies from nature to communicate his point. So, what are like when we go to God asking Him for something He wants to give us such as wisdom in the midst of trials so that we can rejoice, but instead we go before Him with a fearful attitude, acting as though God will never answer the prayer request? Well, we are just like a wind that is tossing a wave to and fro. In other words, we are unstable; inherently unstable, and there is a better description of what it means to be inherently unstable in James 6:7,8. This is not speaking to unbelievers but to Christians. Notice James 6:7,8 — “For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he ways.”
So, God wants to answer our prayer request, which is very clear, because He wants to give us wisdom in the midst of trials, but we are too fearful to believe that He will answer our prayer request. And what are we like? We are just like a wave that is being tossed around by the wind. Beyond that, we are double-minded. Why? Because we trusted the Lord for salvation, but we won’t trust Him for this? That is being double-minded. If we can trust the Lord to save our souls from hell, we can certainly trust the Lord to give us His wisdom in the midst of adversity, can’t we? If we aren’t willing to trust Him even for that, then that makes us essentially double-minded.
Also, I am unstable in everything that I do. In the gospel of Luke 16:10, it says, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” So, we have a mindset where we don’t think the little things matter, but to God, the little things are actually big things because if we can trust God being faithful in something small, then we have the right character, whereby we can trust God with something big. Then God can trust us with something big.
The reality of it is that if we are not even willing to trust God to answer a very simple prayer request such as to give us wisdom in the midst of adversity so that we can rejoice in the midst of tribulation so that we can manifest a practical righteousness that is pleasing to Him; if we can’t even trust Him for that, then we really can’t trust Him for anything. That makes us double-minded and unstable in all our ways, and we are basically like that wave that is being thrown here and there by the wind.
We become much like what Paul describes in the book of Ephesians 4:14, where he says, “As a result [maturity, in other words], we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.”
So we can easily devolve as Christians into people who are just thrown about by the waves and tossed here and there. That is the danger of what we become when we don’t trust God for something so simple, which He wants to give to us — His wisdom in the midst of adversity.
So all of that to say about James 1:2-8, ‘Why in the world should we rejoice in the midst of trials?’ Because trials are producing patience and maturity in us. ‘Well, I don’t understand that perspective.’ Well, God will give you that perspective if you ask Him, but when you do ask Him, ask Him with confidence; as though He is somebody who wants to answer, and who has the ability to answer.
- Now, we come to James 1:9-11 which is the second reason why we should rejoice in the midst of tribulation. Trials should be endured by the Christian with joy because they humble us, giving us greater intimacy and dependence upon God. So, trials produce intimacy and dependence upon God in a way that can never be produced in times of prosperity. It is much easier to trust God in the valleys of life than when on the mountaintops. When we are on the mountaintop, we are deceived into believing that we don’t need God. ‘God, I will check in with you when I need you,’ but when going through a valley, it is different, because every step of the way, we need God. So, trials put us in that position of need, consequently, when we encounter a trial, we should rejoice in it so that we can see it as an opportunity to get even closer to the Lord.
Take a look at James 1:9, “But the brother,”…[see the word, ‘brother,’ so he is obviously speaking to believers] — “But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position;…” So trials humble us, and when they do, we should glory in our high position, because as we are being humbled, we are in a state of need and dependency upon God. So if we are going through a trial, James says that we are actually in a very high position because now we have to depend upon God, and that is a good place to be.
James 1:10 — the contrast in the first part of the verse — “And the rich man,…”[referring to a rich man who has no problems and because they’re rich, they are at a disadvantage because they’re used to buying their way out of their problems. If they can buy their way out of your problems, then they really don’t need God, so in that sense, if they’re rich, they are in a low position. The brother in a valley is in a high position; the rich is in a low position. What a different way the world thinks — the opposite. If you are poor, you are to be pitied; if you’re rich you are to be envied, and the Bible actually says that it is the exact opposite in the life of a Christian]. “…And the rich man is to glory in his humiliation.”
So, the rich man who believes he is exalted should actually glory in his low position just like the poor man should glory in his high position because the poor man needs God; the rich man doesn’t need God. We tend to not need God when things are going well, so rather than seeing that as a high position, that actually becomes a low position. It is amazing how much of the Bible speaks to this. Jesus talked about this over and over. He talked about how it is difficult, if not impossible, for the rich to enter. Remember how He said things such as ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle [an impossibility] than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” I jotted down verses that affirm this; here are some:
Amos 6:1 says, “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion And to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria,…” So, are you at ease and do you feel secure in life? Then Amos says, ‘Woe to you.’ You are actually in a precarious place without even realizing it because you are like that rich man who ought to revel in his low position because you really don’t need God.
Luke 12:15-21 where Jesus is speaking, “Then He said to them, 15“Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
16“And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.
19 ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”
Now, if the verses stopped there, we would probably give that guy a thumbs up; he prospered in life; he obviously planned well for his retirement. The best I can tell is that this guy had achieved the American dream; that’s what everyone in the US is striving for — to be a person like this, but the problem is that the paragraph doesn’t stop there. Jesus keeps commenting on it:
20 “But God said to him, “You fool!… [isn’t that amazing; this guy is at the top of the world, and the Lord is calling him a fool]! …This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’
And then Christ sums it up in Luke 12:21:
21 “So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
So that’s another illustration of this rich man, James 1:10, that should really revel in his low position.
Another example that came to mind is the church at Laodicea, Revelation 3:17-19. In the word, ‘Laodicea,’ you will recognize the word, ‘laity’ as in ‘people,’ and recognize the word, ‘diocese’ as in ‘ruling.’ Laodicea literally means ‘the people ruling.’ This church was so rich that the people were running the show, and remember from the book of Revelation that the Lord was outside the door of the church knocking, trying to get in. They were in that position totally blind to their need because of all of their prosperity. So Revelation 3:17-19, Christ speaking to Laodicea says ‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,”…[Now, if you are a Christian today and in a position where you are really in need of nothing, you (or we) may think you have arrived, but you are actually to be pitied, if all of these verses accurate, which they are because they come from God’s Word]…and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked…”[You aren’t even aware of your low position because you think you’re in a high position because you don’t need God].
18 “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire…[Now what is gold refined in the fire? 1 Peter 1:6,7 describes gold refined in the fire as a trial, and what Christ is saying to the church at Laodicea is that they need a trial; a problem, which will force them into recognizing their need before God, which currently, because of their prosperity, they do not recognize]…so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. [In other words, they are blind to their own condition].
19 ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.’
These are just many examples of what is being dealt with in James 1:10 where the rich and those who have no problems are really in a low position versus the believer who has trials should exalt that he is actually in a high position.
This is why the apostle Paul was given, per 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 ,— ‘a thorn in the flesh.’ I don’t know what this thorn in the flesh was; I know that it hurt as that’s the definition of a thorn; it was bad enough that the great apostle Paul pleaded with God not once, not twice, but three times for it to be removed. I guess God could have taken the pain, adversity away. But God loved Paul too much to take it away, and we have that explanation as to why God did not take it away in verses 7-10. Paul writes, “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, [the revelations are described earlier in the chapter where he was caught up into the third heaven 14 years earlier, and he heard things that a man is not fit to hear. He knew things that other people did not know because of this — he says], ‘was I in my body, out of my body, I don’t know, I just know that 14 years earlier, I was caught to the third heaven, and I heard things other people don’t hear.’ So that no doubt would have puffed him up with pride and independence from God. So, to keep his pride in check, God gave him (an interesting choice of words about ‘giving’ — same word as ‘a gift.]’ ‘Gee God, give me a gift.’ God says, ‘Ok, here’s your thorn in the flesh.’ [A completely different way of looking at suffering]…“for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored [that’s strong language, by the way, he is begging God to remove this adversity from his life, whatever it was] “the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”
Now you won’t get this perspective on ‘Christian’ television, and I put ‘Christian’ there in quotations marks because a lot of what they teach is not at all Christian. They basically teach that God wants to get rid of all of your suffering. Now the day in history will come on the other side of the Second Coming where God will remove all of our suffering, but that is not promised at all this side of eternity. What God does promise is grace in the midst of it. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly…, [you can hear the mind of James]… “therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ might dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
That mindset is what allows us to rejoice in the midst of difficulty; that understanding because had Paul not walked through that, he would have been inflated with pride on account of his revelations. He would not have been the poor man exalting in his high position; he would have been the rich man exalting in his low position. It is a completely different mindset about suffering.
What is the rich man like? Can we get a further description of what he is like as he is not experiencing any problems, and he is far removed from God. James says, ‘I’m glad you asked’ because look at the second part of James 1:10 where it describes what that rich man is like.’ It describes what the Christian is like without adversity. The second part of James 1:10, “…and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass, he will pass away. 11For the sun rises with scorching wind and withers the grass and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed;”… [notice another example from nature]… “so too, the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.”
Actually, we should feel sorry for the rich man because he is wrapped up in the world, and about the world system is that the world is passing away. The rich man doesn’t even understand that. He just thinks that he has achieved the American dream; everything is fine. He is actually in a very dangerous position, a very low position. It is the poor man who is in the high position.
Now, James likes all of these analogies from nature; I have very little doubt that James is probably thinking about a particular psalm in the Old Testament. Psalm 103:15,16 which says, “As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer.” That is the problem of having a problem-free life according to the pattern of the world; you are yoked to something that is fading, and if you only had a problem, then you would be yoked to God’s perspective, which is eternal — see the difference?
1 John 2:15-17 — of the world system, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father but from the world. 17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
That poor rich man thinks he has arrived, that he is safe, secure; has no need for God, yet he is yoked to something that is almost like sand slipping through his fingers, and he doesn’t recognize it.
In James 4:14, which we will get to at some point, James uses another analogy from nature, saying, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” That is the problem of being far from God as a Christian, because you have no problems; there is nothing to drive you to God, so you are taking your primary cues from the world system which operates independently of God, yet you are yoked to something that is disappearing.
So why in the world would I ever rejoice in the midst of trials? A strange thing to ask of me. Three reasons:
- Trials produce patience and maturity. ‘Well, I don’t understand that perspective.’ Ask God to give you that perspective. And when you ask Him, ask Him in confidence, not focusing on a formula, but on the right attitude, and God will give you the right perspective.
- Trials by their very nature produce intimacy and dependence upon God. So, if you’re in the midst of some kind of suffering, then you should actually rejoice in your high position. You should pity the person who doesn’t have trials because they are really in a low position.
- Rejoicing in the midst of trials will consequently produce a righteousness that pleases God in daily life. Trials should be endured with joy since those who experience trials in this life will be rewarded in the next life. Every suffering that a child of God is currently experiencing is accruing for that child of God a reward in the next life. Notice James 1:12 — “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive…” [look at this; here comes the reward]… “the crown of life…” [that isn’t salvation; you don’t get salvation by going through trials. Salvation is a free gift given to you the moment you exercise faith alone in Christ alone for your eternal destiny and the safe keeping of your soul. This is not dealing with how you need to get salvation; this is talking about you who already have salvation and a reward coming to you in the next life because you’re walking through a trial in this life]…verse 12 again: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial…” [how do you not persevere under trial? You start doing what you are instructed not to do in verse 13; you start to make reckless, foolish charges against God; that God is out to destroy you. That is an example of not persevering under trial and more on that link shortly]. Verse 12 again: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life [not salvation but a reward above and beyond salvation at the Bema Seat Judgment]… “which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
Now we have done a lot of teaching at this church on the different crowns to be given at the Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. By the way, Paul says we are destined; we will all stand before the Lord at this Bema Seat Judgment of Christ. We won’t stand before the Lord to determine if we are saved; that issue was settled the moment you trusted in Christ for salvation. This is a judgment for rewards that will be given above and beyond salvation. ‘Oh, I don’t care about rewards as long as I get into those pearly gates, that’s all I care about]’ — assuming there will even actually be pearly gates. You need to care about rewards because first, the New Testament tells you about rewards and God, apparently, thinks it is important. Secondly, per Revelation 4:10: what do we do with our crowns? We cast them at His feet every time He is praised. I used to think it was a one-time event where I threw my crowns at His feet and it was a done deal. No. It is my crown, and every time He is praised, I have the potential of casting the crown at His feet, not to add to my salvation, of course, I cannot add to that as Jesus says, “It is finished.” It isn’t to pay Jesus back; I can’t pay Him back as the price has been too big; I can’t pay Him back. It is the capacity to worship the Lord to a greater extent than another Christian who is unrewarded who didn’t persevere under trials and began to charge God foolishly in the midst of trials.
So, as you go through the New Testament, you will see that there are five crowns given per slide on Scripture’s Five Crowns:
The Incorruptible Crown for gaining mastery over the flesh for the believer who isn’t sinless but who is sinning less in their progressive sanctification, the middle tense of their salvation — they’re rewarded 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
Then the Crown of Rejoicing for the soul winner —
1 Thessalonians 2:19-20.
Then, jumping down to the last two Crowns, there is the Crown of Glory, which is unfading, by the way, for shepherding God’s people — 1 Peter 5:2-4.
And then, the Crown of Righteousness for longing for His appearing — 2 Timothy 4
What does Paul say about Demas in 2 Timothy 4, the very last chapter that Paul wrote in all of his 13 letters, just before he died. ‘Demas, having loved this world, has deserted me.’ ‘Well, Demas wasn’t a Christian then.” Yes, he was. The reason that Demas was a Christian was because Paul put Demas into his missionary team. It would have been unthinkable for Paul to have done that for a non-believer.
“Demas, having loved this world, deserted me.” Demas became intoxicated, I believe in 2 Timothy 4:10, with the things of the world, and the things of God became less and less important to him to the point where he bailed out of Paul’s ministry. So, Demas is in heaven, but he won’t receive that Crown of Righteousness for longing for His appearing.
And then, right there in the middle of the list of Crowns, is the one we are discussing — James 1:12 — the Crown of Life for the Christian who endures trials; perseveres in the midst of trials; who doesn’t bail out on God because of trials. This particular Crown is not given to every Christian, because it says, ‘if you persevere under trials, you become a candidate for that Crown, and it is given to the believer who suffers.’
The only other time it is mentioned in the New Testament, is in the book of Revelation 2:10 where Christ is speaking to the suffering church at Smyrna. By the way, from Smyrna, we get the word, ‘myrhh,’ a particular type of flower that gives a beautiful aroma after it has been crushed. That is a different way of looking at suffering. Sometimes, we have to be crushed for God to produce this beautiful aroma in our lives, but Revelation 2:10, the Lord speaking to that church says, ‘Do not fear what you’re about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful unto death and I will give you the Crown of Life.’ This is the same crown that is spoken of here in our passage, James 1:12, so what this communicates to me, is that all suffering in which we persevere in this life, is rewarded int the next life at the Bema Seat Judgment through the manifestation, or the giving of this precious Crown of Life.
It reminds me of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:11,12: “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of things against you because of Me.” So, are you at your job being insulted because of your Christianity; persecuted with people saying all kinds of things about you that aren’t true? What do we do in these circumstances? Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, says that you are blessed. Then Matthew 5:12 says to rejoice and be glad when that happens. Why? Because your reward — what we are dealing with in these Five Crowns. Because ‘great is your reward in heaven,’ “for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
By the way, that is what they did to Isaiah; they sawed him in half according to tradition; that’s quite a way to die; they did that to Jeremiah — they threw him into a pit; with Joseph, his own brothers left him for dead. We can go through the Bible and see that when we are mistreated, we are just fitting into a pattern that God has for all of His people. The fact of the matter is however, per James says to rejoice! Jesus says in His Sermon on the Mount to rejoice! Why? Because your reward is very great.
So you may have forgotten about suffering that happened to you ten years ago, but God remembers it. The Bible says that He has actually kept a record book of your suffering. He will reward you for it in the next life.
Psalm 56:8, the psalmist says, “You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?”
So, every time I have shed a tear because of unfair treatment and suffering on account of Christ, God says, ‘Ok, that goes in My bottle; in My book,’ and in the next life, we are rewarded for it. Wow. What an amazing chapter that is. How do we manifest a practical righteousness that pleases God?
- We develop the rejoicing mindset of God in the midst of trials. ‘Why should I do that?’ Because the trial is producing patience and maturity. If you don’t fully understand that ask God for wisdom and He will give it to you.
- That trial is actually placing you in a high position, unlike the rich man who is in a low position.
- You will be amply rewarded in the next life for all suffering that occurs in this life.
Now, James comes to the second part of this section on trials, and after dealing with the theme of rejoicing in the midst of trials, now he says to be careful in the midst of trials not to charge God recklessly. I think that is what he means by persevering under trials. You’re persevering under trials, not uttering inaccurate statements about God; not becoming hostile to God; not developing a wrong attitude about God that He hates you and wants to wreck your life. When you go through a trial, it is easy to get into that mindset, and when we do that, we really aren’t persevering under trials, and when we aren’t persevering under trials, we don’t lose our salvation, we become disqualified for the prize or the Crown that He wants to give to us.
That is why, after verse 12, there is a paragraph with not charging God recklessly in the midst of trials. How do I persevere under a trial? Well, one way is by not charging God recklessly; by not making statements that God is trying to ruin your life, that He hates you; that God is trying to destroy you. The children of Israel were saying these kind of things when they came out of Egypt. Remember? It is amazing: God kills off all of the first born throughout all of Egypt except for the Jews’ as they had the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorposts. So, God brought on the Ten Plagues, then He parts the Red Sea, and when the Israelites get to the other side of the sea, He closes the sea on the pursuing Egyptians. In Exodus 15, there is a huge worship service praising God for what He has done. Then when they run into the first little problem, they begin charging God foolishly.
The generation who saw all of that in Exodus 14:11 said, “Then they said to Moses,…” [this is very important because they were attacking God through His representative, Moses, and when you attack the representative of God, He takes it as though you are attacking Him]… Exodus 14:11 said, “Then they…” [the crowd that saw all of these signs and wonders]… said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?” In other words, ‘You brought us out here to kills us.’ If God was trying to kill them, could He not have killed them in the Red Sea? If God was trying to kill them, why would He bring them through the miracle there of the Red Sea? If God was trying to kill them, He would’ve left them as slaves in Egypt.
So, they got into the Sinai, the actual location is debatable, they had a problem with water, “Oh, You brought us out here to deny us water,’ even though He had just parted the Red Sea. You know the story, the water appears. ‘You brought us out here to starve to death,’ so the manna starts to appear on the ground. These are examples of charging God recklessly, of not persevering under trial, attacking the character of God, to start making it look as if God is trying to destroy your life.
So, it is very easy for us to do that in the midst of suffering, thus this paragraph in James 1:13-18, the command not to charge God with temptation. James 1:13, the first part of the verse: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God:” [A temptation is designed to destroy you; to prove you to be a failure, and what James is describing here is that God doesn’t tempt anyone, satan tempts. God tests, and the test is not there to make you bitter but to make you better. We get our thinking backwards here, when we get a test and charge God with trying to destroy our lives when it is contrary to God’s nature to do that. James now gives three reasons why God doesn’t and can’t do that:
- Temptation cannot come from God (second part of James 1:13).
- Where does temptation come from? It comes from ourselves, not from God; from our fallen nature (James 1:14,15)
- The only thing that God can ever give to you is a good gift. It is impossible for God to give you anything different than a good gift, (James 1:16-18). By the way, the good gift that He just gave to you is your trial. ‘Paul, your thorn in the flesh is My gift to you;’ don’t look at that as a temptation, look at it as a gift because of reasons already discussed.
So one of the things so endearing about Job is that he went through his adversities, and he never made a reckless charge against God:
Job 1:22, “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.”
Job 2:9,10, “Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your
integrity? Curse God and die!!” [How would you like
that as your support system?] You’re going through
your worst trial, and your spouse is saying to curse
God and die! But in verse 10, “But he said to her,
“You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall
we indeed accept good from God and not accept
adversity?” [He is persevering under trial because he
recognizes that it is all good]. In all this Job did not
sin with his lips.”
So when James 1:13 gives us this command, 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God;” James is saying to imitate the pattern of Job because our proclivity is to charge God recklessly in the midst of trials and not to persevere in the midst of trials.
So how do we develop the mindset where we don’t blame God in the midst of trials? James 1:13 gives three reasons concerning that, and that is the transition into the next paragraph, so we will pick it up there next time.
Let’s pray: Father, we are grateful for Your Word and Your truth and the wisdom that it brings to us. I just ask that You will help us to be strong in You in the midst of suffering that You have ordained for us to walk through. We will be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name, Amen.