Trials, Trust, & Triumph (James 1:1-8)

In a day when professions of faith abound and the common question is, how can I know I am saved? The book of James helps us answer that question by giving us several ways to examine our lives to test whether our faith is genuine or not. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 13:5 NKJV “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified.” We will take this admonition from Paul and use it as our approach in the book of James.
James is the earliest written New Testament book penned in A.D. 45-50 by Jesus’ half brother James who was martyred in A.D. 62. James is a book of practical advice on how to live your faith. There has been debate throughout church history about the contents and direction of James. Some say James’s emphasis on works is an attempt to nullify grace but that is a mistake. A fruit of our salvation is good works, to be obedient to the teaching of Scripture and that is how James instructs his readers.
James is commonly called the Proverbs of the New Testament because of its practical teaching. The book of James also has several parallels to Jesus’s Sermon on the mount (for parallels consult The MacArthur New Testament Commentary on the book of James as well as the Life Application Bible Commentary on the book of James).In today’s teaching we will be focusing on trusting God during times of trial and staying in faith knowing we can triumph over the enemy. James 1:1-8 NKJV “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

The word bondservant is the Greek word Doulos meaning slave. The Life Application Commentary describes this as a position of complete obedience, utter humility, and unshakable loyalty. As Christians we are all slaves to Christ; He is our Lord and we serve Him in complete obedience, utter humility, and unshakable loyalty. As a Christian I don’t have the right to pick and choose what Bible verses I want to live by, if I truly belong to Christ I am His slave. In our culture today we have a very negative connotation to slavery but in the Old Testament it said if a slave loved His master, he could remain in the house. Masters were typically good to there slaves, and no one is a better Master than God Himself. As we approach this study of the book of James let us approach it with a heart of humility saying I want to be obedient to what the text teaches. James 1:22 says we are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Let’s determine at the very beginning of this series, we will submit to Jesus as slaves to Him.

James 1:2-4 NKJV “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

When we read count it all joy, we tend to scratch our heads but as we continue reading we understand that trials and tests serve a purpose. When we acknowledge that everything we go through serves a purpose it enables us to count it all joy. The Vine’s Expository Dictionary notes that the joy described in James 1:2 is “associated with life and that experiences of sorrow prepare for and enlarge our capacity for joy”. Right off the bat, James is forcing us to see things from God’s perspective. He’s not going to allow the reader to throw a pity party and just wait till he deals with our words in chapter three.

Here’s the question though, how do we have joy in the middle of tests and trials? Our natural response to a trial is not joy and James isn’t talking about a human emotional joy either but a deep settled peace, a trust in God that everything is under His control. To consider it all joy means we are to evaluate things in light of God and His purposes. One of the best encouragements during a time of testing is to read Job chapters thirty eight through forty two. Here are just a few of the things God asked Job; “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”, “Have you commanded the morning since the days began?”, “Have you comprehend the breadth of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this?”, “Have you entered the treasury of snow or seen the treasury of hail?”, “Can you send out lightning?”, and on and on the questions go. Could you imagine being questioned by God like that? You would think after all Job had gone through God would be more compassionate, how dare we bring up a charge like that against God. Maybe we should read these few chapters in Job once a week to keep us in our rightful place. God is God, we do not even come close.  Look at Job’s responses to God. Job 40:4-5 NKJV “Behold I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth. Once I have spoken, but I will not answer; Yes, twice, but I will proceed no further.” And again in Job 42:2-6 NKJV ““I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.””

Why do I share from the book of Job, to give us a correct perspective on trials. Job never brought an accusation against God, yet look at the questions he was asked. How many times have you heard a preacher say God has big shoulders, he can take your complaints. God’s big, you won’t hurt His feelings. Friends, we need to be careful. God is Holy, God is Creator, we are finite creatures, let us not dare presume to question God. Isaiah the prophet, standing in the presence of God said, “woe is me for I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips and dwell among a people of unclean lips. How do we count it all joy during trials? By honoring the Holiness of God, by trusting in His sovereignty, by rehearsing His goodness and remembering the words of Paul in Romans, ” for I consider the suffering of this present time not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be”. Your test, your trial, and your circumstance has an end date. It may be bad now but a brighter day is coming. One more Scripture of note before we move to verse three. Ecclesiastes 7:14 NKJV “In the day of prosperity be joyful, But in the day of adversity consider: Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, So that man can find out nothing that will come after him.” How can we count it all joy? By trusting in the sovereignty of God.

We note that in verse three that trials test our faith, our trust in God. Sometimes we may wonder why an answer is taking so long, why we haven’t moved to the next phase in life, the testing of your faith, the testing of your trust in God produces faith.

James 1:4-8 NKJV “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

Patience defined by Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon is “steadfastness. The characteristic of a man who is unswerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty and piety by even the greatest trial or suffering.” Even our patience goes back to trusting God in every situation. The Strong’s Concordance defines patience as cheerful, hopeful, endurance, and consistency.

I am giving us all of these definitions so we can see things from God’s perspective and not our own. The carnal mind it enmity against God and does not understand the things of the spirit. We have to approach things from God’s perspective, from how the Bible says to look at things. That’s why James says we have to ask in faith with no doubt because a double-minded man is unstable in all of his ways.

Faith according to Thayer’s is “the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things” that would include ruling over our trials, remember, it has a purpose, to produce endurance in us. “The provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ.” We must believe God and not doubt, to withdraw from God. We can’t be doubleminded, we can’t vacillate in our opinions, we must fully trust God. When we come to that place of faith and when we abide there we will make it through every trial and pass every test.

In wrapping up these first eight verses let’s look at Psalm 91:1-2 AMPC “HE WHO dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]. I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!”

That is how we stay in an attitude of joy in the middle of every trial, that is the proof of trusting God, not to waiver, but to believe that all things work together for the good of those who love God, and that is where our triumph comes from.

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