Scripture: James 1:2-8

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.


Sermon: "The Testing of Your Faith"


Why me?  These words were uttered by Nancy Kerrigan on January 6, 1994, when she was clubbed in the right knee at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, an assault planned by rival Tonya Harding and her ex-husband.  Kerrigan was captured on camera after the attack grabbing her knee and wailing "Why, why, why".

 

When bad things happen, is this not an attitude we take?  Trials come in many forms.  And that is certainly something that James affirms here in this passage.  They may be everyday trials of family relationships and lots to do at work.  For the student, they may come in the form of final exams, papers, and projects. They may come in the form of exceptional, dramatic, catastrophic events, whether they be medical issues, financial troubles, or natural disasters.  Sometimes, they just happen but other times we know that we are to blame.  What trials have we faced recently?  They certainly do test our faith.  How did we respond?

 

Notice the attitude we are to take in view of trials. (verse 2)

 

James calls the church to "consider it all joy."  When you first hear this, you have to be wondering, "What is wrong with James?"  or "What is wrong with God?"  This is appropriate to ask if we focus on the trial itself.

 

When we focus on the trial, joy would be the last thing on our mind.  We may be angry or bitter, for the trial seems unjust.  We may be resigned, perhaps believing it to be some punishment for a wrong that you did.  Some of us over-dramatize our trials while others totally downplay them.  But how many of us, in our right minds, "count it all joy"?

 

"James, with all due respect, you don't know what I have to deal with!"  I would say, in contrast, James would be one of those guys that hears our trials and scoffs, "You call that trials?"  James was speaking to a group of people who were going through persecution, many of whom living in poverty because of their faith.  They didn't know what it was like to have an Education Center.  These Jewish Christians in house churches were saying, "This stinks!"  James himself was martyred, executed for his faith.  He speaks truth from an intimate understanding of trials.

 

How can we consider trials all joy?  By focusing on God and his purposes for us.  His purposes go beyond the results of our trials. 

 

Charles Colson, respected evangelical leader and former President Nixon adviser, died Saturday afternoon at age 80 from complications resulting from a brain hemorrhage.  Over the span of several decades, Colson became one of evangelicalism's most influential voices within the movement and to the broader culture. Before his conversion to Christianity, Colson was described as an aggressive political mastermind who drank heavily, chain smoked, and smeared opponents. He served as special counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973 before he was indicted on Watergate-related charges, which led to a 7-month prison term. After his conversion experience, he published Born Again, helping popularize the term many evangelicals use to self-identify.  Colson's public commitment to his faith drew initial skepticism from those who wondered whether he was attempting to profit from a conversion narrative. Criticism faded over time with his 30-plus years of commitment to prison ministry.

 

Chuck Colson was tried and convicted for his part in the Watergate scandal, endured the trial of a tarnished reputation and prison record, dealt with the trials of ministry, having established a prison ministry and Christian worldview teaching ministry, and died bearing the trials of health failure.  Now we have the trial as Christians carrying on that mantle of faith - burden that I hav  Can we step up and deal with the trials of faith, as those ahead of us did?

        

We also see aim of taking this attitude of joy. (verses 3-4)

It builds steadfastness, perseverance.  God's purpose is character-building.  But it isn't just any character-building.  These are qualities of God; God is shaping his people to truly be in his image. 

 

Christ endured hardship.  Hebrews 12:1-3: "1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted."

 

God is characterized by steadfast love for his people.

 

We lost our godlike character with the fall, but the gospel is about restoring them until we are perfect in these qualities.   

 

The aim is also maturity, completion.  Take something like exercising - it is tough and painful.  But there is a purpose.  Similarly, we cannot be lazy Christians.  God's will for us is to mature.

 

Finally, as trilas are not easy and can be overwhelming, there is an action to take in view of trials. (verses 5-8).

 

Ask God for wisdom.  We lack in wisdom.  However, God is infinite in his wisdom.  We need wisdom in dealing with trials.  It may come in the form of having the right perspective on the trial.  You may not know why you are going through that trial and may never know.  But you can have the right perspective about how to deal with that trial.  It may come in knowing what actions to take.  We might otherwise be overwhelmed.

 

We ask in faith.  When we pray, it is not just a mechanical procedure.  Prayer is not some magic spell, where you say the right words with the right emphasis, you get a result.  What is infinitely more important is recognizing who you are praying to.  Faith is about knowing the object.

We are also not to doubt.  We doubt because we don't know the object of faith.  But if you know God, how can you question him?  James has some harsh things to say about the one who doubts.

 

Doubting is when we lift up hollow prayers.  We express doubt when we pray for results but we do not take steps of obedience.  We pray for riches but do not work.

 

James was a man who knew prayer.  It is said that he prayed on his knees, worshipping God and asking for the forgiveness of people so often that his knees became numb and calloused, like a camel.  Because of his prayer life, he was known as "James the Just."  It is said that when he was struck dead, he died praying for the forgiveness of those who were persecuting him.

 

We will lament over the trials of our lives.  However, God cares about us far more than whether or not we rise the corporate ranks, get good grades, or become influential to others.  He cares about our salvation, that we truly live the abundant life.  He cares for our perfection, which he works out through trials.  Let us live turning and trusting God as we are tested and tried in our faith, knowing that when we pass this test of life, we have an eternal crown of glory awaiting us.