James, the half-brother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is the author of one of the most commonly read New Testament exhortations to believers concerning trials.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
Yesterday, our guest preacher, Paul Whitt, highlighted for our congregation three specific desires that “Pastor James” had for his suffering readers, which are expressed in these few verses. Let me share the scribbling from my notesheet.
Desire #1: Believers would possess a right response to trials (v. 2). We can choose to rejoice in trial, not because of the pain of the trial, but because of the Author of the trial. We often lack joy in the midst of our trials because we are so “caught in the middle of it all” that we are unable to view our trial from the heavenly perspective. The faithful Christian life is a trial; we should not forget that (2 Tim. 3:12). But joy is ours when we learn to trust our sovereign God who always has the big picture in view.
Desire #2: Believers would possess a faith that is real (v. 3). An untested faith is a faith not worth trusting. God desires for our faith to grow and to be proven genuine. Faith cannot be proven to be genuine without testing.
Desire #3: Believers would possess spiritual maturity (v. 4). God’s plan is to sanctify us through the trials of life. Our role in the trial is to submit to God by submitting to the trial (Cf. James 1:12).
WHAT IS NEEDED: For these three desires to become reality in our Christian lives? James answers this in verses 5-8.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Divine wisdom—not earthly wisdom—is needed for us to be able to discern the right response to trial. The wisdom of God is needed to discern trials as a means of enjoying God. Trials drive us to God where we find our true source of joy. Wisdom is not to be equated with possessing knowledge, obtaining theological degrees, one’s teaching ability, or being able to understand the “why” behind our trials. Wisdom is the ability to take the commands and knowledge of God and apply them to the details of our lives. To Wisdom is the ability to make a right choice---right now.
How can we gain this wisdom? Pastor James says, “Ask for it.” We must confess to God that we don’t have it and then receive it by faith. Only then will we benefit fully from the trials that our good, sovereign, and wise God ordains for our lives so that we may become like Jesus Christ.
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