TEXT: James 1:2-12
Illustration: (Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm, Word Publishing, 1991, p. 11.)
Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
The problems began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She’d barely said “hello” when “ssssopp!” Chippie got sucked in.
The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie — still alive, but stunned.
Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.
Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.
A few days after the trauma, the reporter who’d initially written about the event contacted Chippie’s owner to see how the bird was recovering. “Well,” she replied, “Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore — he just sits and stares.”
It’s hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . That’s enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.
“Sucked in, washed up, and Blown over” That about sums up how many of us feel at times isn’t? It describes the certainty of trials and feelings of powerlessness that trials bring. An Army Chaplain had a sign on his door that said, “If you have troubles, come in & tell me all about them. If you don’t have troubles, come in & tell me how you do it.”
James reminds us of the reality that even in the Christian life, there are trials. And most of the time, they come unexpectedly, like an unpredictable storm. However, the Christian does not have to be a victim of his circumstance, but can have victory even in times of trials. James tells us No matter what the trials on the outside, we can experience victory through faith in Christ. But the question is how are we going to weather the storm of trials in life?
There are four essential principles in weathering the storm of trials…Instead of whining and complaining about your trials in life, you must learn to:
1. CONSIDER (James 1:2)
The word “consider” is synonymous with the word “count” which is an accounting term…It means to consider carefully. Investigate fully. Line up all the numbers them add them all up.
What are the things we are to consider?
A. Consider the facts about trials
Contrary to those who proclaim a unbalanced theology of health – wealth – and prosperity, the Bible does tell us to expect to run into problems, trials and tribulations. James does not say if trials come, but when they do come. Expect them! Do not hide your face in the proverbial sand. Notice that just because you are a believer, you are not exempt. The Proverbs tell us that rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. Satan fights us, and the world opposes us and makes this life full of battle! TRIALS WILL COME
The backwoods preacher found a small boy all alone, playing in the dirt. “Where’s your father?” the preacher asked. The boy said, “He was hanged last week.”
“Where’s your mother?” “She run off.”
“Where’s your sister?” “She’s in jail.”
“Is there anybody else in your family?” “Yup, I’ve got a brother.”
“Where is he?” “At Harvard University.”
“Well, at least one member of your family is doing well. What is he studying?” “‘Nothin’. They’re studying him.”
Brothers and sisters, that boy had to be discouraged with life! I don’t think anybody’s life could be as bad as that boy’s. BUT WE ALL MUST ADMIT THAT LIFE CAN GET PRETTY DIFFICULT AT TIMES. And certain things happen to us that can cause us to want to give up on life.
A preacher from Columbus, Ohio, wrote an article several years ago entitled, “Would every non-hurting member please stand up?” He went on to point out that people who come to church may put on their best clothes and their best smiles, BUT MANY OF THEM ARE STILL HURTING PEOPLE.
He wrote, “Think your way around the where the saints gather on the Lord’s Day.
- Over there is a family with an income of $550 and an outgo of $1000. (that might be stretching it a bit, but you get the idea)
- There are two children in one family who, according to their parents, are failures.
- The lady in the back pew just tested positive for cancer.
- Sam and Jane just had a nasty fight. In fact, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Each one is thinking seriously about divorce.
- Last Monday Jim learned that he is going to be laid off from work at the end of the week.
- Sarah has tried to her best to cover the bruises her drunken husband inflicted when he came home last Friday night.
- The Smith’s little girl has a hole in her heart and needs surgery.”
Brother Hayden went on to write, “there are the lonely, the dying, the bankrupt, the exhausted, and others who are at the mercy of forces beyond their control. They’re all there. And there are those of us with lesser hurts, but they don’t seem like small hurts to us: tired from being overweight and run to death, an income that barely covers the essentials, an indifferent and un-alert spouse, a boring job, poor grades, a friend who is not much of a friend anymore, parents who don’t understand and don’t seem to care.” Brother Hayden wrote, “You can travel down every pew in every church and find some hurting people.” Isn’t that the truth?
Trials will surely come…Expect it.
B. Consider many different trials.
James says we face trials of many kinds. This can refer to two things. Firstly, it can refer to types of trials. Emotional trials, trials at work, physical trials etc. Or it can refer to the source of trials. Trials generally come from one of two sources. There are the trials that we experience as a result of living the Christian life. In fact this is probably what James had in mind as he wrote this letter. His audience was the “twelve tribes” scattered throughout the earth…” He was addressing those believers who had been uprooted from their homes and families just because they were believers. There are still many in our world who are experiencing persecution for their faith. Christian World Report, says that in China alone, 1100 people are executed monthly just because of their Faith. In some restrictive Nations in the Middle East, to become a believer is an automatic death sentence. We need to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are experiencing such trials. It is a reminder to us to be thankful for our momentary window of freedom we presently have to worship God without restrictions, and to be ready for when the door might one day be slam behind us.
For the most part, we have it pretty good in our country. Our trials come from another source. They are the unknown, unexpected experiences of life. For the most part people do not have control over such experiences. No one could have predicted that your car will be broken, you’ll get sick, you’ll get fired, etc. These kinds of trials are unexpected. They find you, you don’t need to make your own trials.
C. Consider your response to your trials.
James says Count it joy when you face them. The Apostle Peter also says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through as if something strange were happening to you. Instead be very glad (rejoice) because these trials will make you partners with Christ in His suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world.”
Warren Wiersbe made this observation that the trials of life are not all alike. They are like multi-colored yarn that the weaver uses to make a beautiful rug. God arranges and mixes the colours and experiences of life. The final product is a beautiful thing for His glory. Take note of that, “FOR HIS GLORY!”
But how can one have a good response in the midst of trials:
- Evaluate your goals and priorities –– old & new
- Live for the things which matter the most.
- Value character more than comfort.
- Value spiritual things than physical and material possessions.
- Live for the future than for the present.
Job 23:10 When God has finished with me, I shall shine as gold. When trials come, don’’t pretend, don’t try self hypnosis, simply look at the trial through the eyes of faith. Outlook determines Outcome –– to end with joy, begin with joy!
But how is it possible to rejoice in the middle of trials?
2. KNOW (v.3)
Faith is always tested
Why? To increase our faith! An anonymous author said, “God tests to bring out our best, Satan tempts to bring out our worst!”
In Luke 17:5 the apostle said to Jesus, “Lord increase our faith.” How do you do that? I’d like to have more faith. I know you’d like to have more faith. If that’s what pleases God then I want to have more of it. The question is how? If faith is what makes my life rewarding and fulfilling and confident how does God build my faith?
Let me ask you this: do you take vitamins for it? No. Is there some kind of therapy you go through to have your faith built? No. Is there some seminar that’s going to build your faith? No, not really.
Here’s the secret. And it’s not really something you’re real excited about when you first hear it. But the truth is God builds your faith and my faith by testing it. He builds our faith by putting it to the test, by trying it. Faith is like a muscle and when it’s stretched and it’s pulled then it develops. When you test your muscles against weights then your muscles develop. And your faith develops as it is tested.
How does God spell testing? –– patience, endurance – the ability to keep going when it’s tough to keep going!
Kids on a long trip to wonderland –– Are we there yet? How long? Children are too immature to understand the journey.
Immature people are often impatient –– they want the blessings of maturity without walking the road of growth.
The only way God can develop patience and character in our lives is through trials! (not reading, prayer, sermons) You don’t develop your faith just setting on your “Blessed Assurance,” “Here I am to Worship” or “Nothing is Impossible” in church. It develops when we go through trials, when we trust God and obey Him – the result is patience and character. James 1:3 says this “The testing of your faith [circle this] develops perseverance [circle “develops perseverance”] so that you may be mature and complete.” He says the purpose of these tests is that our faith, our perseverance will grow and will be mature and complete.
Job says the same thing speaking from experience in Job 7:17-18 “What is man that You make so much of him and that You give him so much attention and that You examine him every morning and test him every moment.” Circle “test him.” Did you realize that God is testing you every moment of your life? Every day you have faith building opportunities. The problem is most of us don’t recognize them when they’re there. We flunk the test because we don’t even realize it is a test and that God is trying to help us grow.
In the Purpose Driven Life book it talks about how life is a test and it is temporary assignment and it’s a trust. These are the facts of life. Every moment of the day your faith is being tested. In fact all this past week it was tested and all this next week your faith is going to be tested. We must know that trials will develop us, mature us and the chief end result will bring Glory to God.
3. LET GO AND LET GOD (A Surrendered Will) James 1:4, 9-11
God cannot and will not build our character without our cooperation. He is a gentleman and will not push, prod, pull or drag us against our wills. If we resist him, the natural consequence will be His chastisement. However, when we submit to him, then He can accomplish His work.
God’s goal for our lives is maturity. It would be tragic if our little children remained little babies. We enjoy watching them grow through the various stages of life. There are times when naturally we want to shelter our kids from the dangers of life. But we can’t.
Many Christians make the mistake of trying to shelter themselves from the trials of life, and as a result never grow up. How can you tell? Because they keep experiencing the same trial over and over again. God doesn’t work in us without our consent –– we must surrender our will to His! If we face trials without a surrendered will, we will remain immature infants. God’s testing has a way of levelling us all. It is not our material resources that are going to get us through the trials of life, but our spiritual resources. Sometimes God uses a trial to pose the question –– ““Which do you love more – this or Me?”” (immaturity)
4. ASK GOD FOR WISDOM (vv. 5-8)
When the unexpected trials of life land on our doorstep, How are we to respond? How are to pray –– what should we ask God for? James gives the answer, Prayer for WISDOM…Wisdom is more than knowledge. Knowledge is achieved by study, wisdom by meditation on what we have studied. Knowledge is sometimes proud that it knows so much, while wisdom is humble in the realization that it knows so little. Wisdom is applying knowledge rightly. Why do we need wisdom when we are going through our trials? Because wisdom gives us right thinking resulting for a right attitude of mind and heart.
- It is popular in charismatic circles to want to pray for more power or strength or deliverance.
I want to tell you that yes, we need God’s strength and power in times of trials, but all the more we need wisdom so we will not waste the opportunities God is giving us to mature. A person who is spiritually wise is able to see what the physical eye cannot see and hear what the physical ear cannot hear. Many think they are wise until circumstances arise that test their wisdom. With spiritual wisdom we are able to walk through life’s difficulties with confidence and peace because we are able to view our problems from God’s point of view. With His wisdom as our guide, we can know that He is working all things out for our good and for His glory.
James tells us that if you lack wisdom you ask God…God supplies wisdom to those who ask. God is the source of wisdom. In the Book of Proverbs, wisdom is a divine gift. You don’t get it by living a long life or experiencing many different things. You get it from God.
Rather than frantically trying to figure everything out by ourselves or getting our answers from Dr. Phil or Oprah, we need to go directly to the source – GOD.
And rest assure that God will give you wisdom.
- He will give it generously. God is not stingy with this gift. He knows how badly you and I need it. The word James uses here means “without reserve.”
- He will give it without finding fault. The word means without reproach or insult. God will not insult you and make you feel an inch tall for coming and asking Him for wisdom.
Have you ever been in a situation where you dreaded asking someone for something because of all the grief you had to go through to get it? You just knew that they were going to say something like, “OK, I’ll give this to you but if you weren’t such a loser I wouldn’t have to.” God is not like that when we ask for wisdom. Remember God’s attitude toward gift giving. Jesus explained it in Matt. 7:9-11. He pointed out that a good parent never insults the child who comes asking for bread by giving him a stone. He doesn’t give him a snake if he asks for fish. So, if you, who are evil, can give good gifts to your kids when they ask, how much more will God give us good gifts when we ask Him?
Do you need some wisdom today? Ask. Ask. Ask. God will not make fun of you. He will not insult you. He is not looking around at the angels as he dispenses wisdom saying, “would you look at this guy?” He delights to give you wisdom. He wants you to come to Him and ask for it. Ask as many times as you need it (which for me is every day). No need for fear –– God is anxious to answer. No need to doubt –– God is faithful to His promises.
Wisdom is supplied to those who ask in faith. We must ask in faith, not doubt. The word “doubt” means “to dispute with oneself.” It is a kind of “he loves me, he loves me not” that goes on in the heart. The doubter is like a wave of the sea being tossed around by the wind; very unstable and insecure. The doubter should not expect to receive anything from God. The doubter is a double-minded person, unstable in all he does.
The doubt James refers to here is not intellectual doubt. It is not doubting the existence of God or His ability to answer a prayer. It is the doubt of divided loyalties. It is the vacillating Christian who cannot decide from one trial to the next whether he or she will really trust the Lord and follow His wisdom. The on again-off again Christian should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. This is not the type of person who really wants God’s wisdom.
I love the words of Abraham Lincoln who said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day.”
Can you identify with those words today? Do you face a problem which has exhausted your best efforts to solve? Are you looking for answers which seem to evade you? Has your wisdom and the wisdom of those around you fallen short?
There is hope. The One who is Himself All-wise delights to give His wisdom to those who ask with a trusting heart. Have you asked God for wisdom? We need to ask for wisdom for our marriages. We need to ask for wisdom to parent our children. We need to ask for wisdom to help us on the job. We need to ask for wisdom to deal with difficult relationships. We need to ask for wisdom to minister to others. Does anyone lack wisdom here today? Let him ask God.
These is how you can weather the storm of trials in your life: Count, Know, Let Go and Let God, Ask for Wisdom…