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Count it All Joy (James 1:2-8)
Sermon Notes
Sunday, 26 January 2014 00:00

Last Sunday we considered James 1:2-8. The following is a sermon summary for the passage.
Derek Anthony Redmond is a retired British athlete. During his career, he held the British record for the 400 meters sprint, and won gold medals in the 4x400 meters relay at the World Championships, European Championships and Commonwealth Games. But he is probably best remembered from back in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. The time had come for the 400 meter semi-finals for men. He was a strong contender to win. All he had to do was finish in the top four of his heat and he would move on to the finals. But then – tragedy hit! At around half-way through the race, Derek Redmond suffered a hamstring injury. He had had a career that was plagued by many injuries, and so when his hamstring snapped, there he lay on the ground and staff were ready to carry him away on a stretcher. But he refused any help. He wanted to finish the race. He figured that since he was representing Great Britain, and he had worked so hard for so many years training for this Olympic moment, that he was going to finish this heat. So he struggled to his feet and started hobbling along. Now his father was also Derek’s closest friend. They had talked that very morning about the race and what was upcoming. So his father worked his way down from the stands. The security guards tried to stop him, but he pushed his way to be with his son down on the track. Finally, his father put his hand on Derek’s shoulder, and together they worked their way at a slower pace to get to the finish line. Derek said, “Make sure to get me in my lane, so that I don’t get disqualified. Now normally, nobody is paying much attention to the last place finisher in a race. But the crowd of some 65,000 people were all standing and applauding. Steve Lewis, the American that won first place in that heat, and went on to win the silver medal, said that all of a sudden they were wondering why after the race had finished, the applause kept getting louder and louder and louder and louder until he finally turned around and saw Derek and his father Jim Redmond working their way to the finish line. And then at the last moment the father let the son finish the race on his own.
I think that this is a wonderful illustration of someone persevering under the severest of trial and the father coming to enable his son to get through that which is beyond one’s own ability.
Why is it that believers are supposed to count it all joy when we face trials that test us?
It is because we have a heavenly Father who loves us and will use those times of trial that otherwise would break us down, wipe us out and prevent us from finishing the race. He alone supplies what is needed for us to have a strong finish.
That story illustrates 1:2-8, but it is also a picture as to how the whole book unfolds. James 1:2-18 tells us how to deal well with trials. My response to trials reveals the level of my maturity as God’s child. Trials take the measure of my Christian walk; they reveal my maturity (or lack of it). So the book of James is going to be a wonderful practical study for us to pursue.

REVIEW: Look at the outline on the handout ~ We looked at the salutation (1:1) last week:
(1) Jacobos = James; (2) 12 tribes = Jews; (3) 1:18 ~ believers “us” = James and his readers;
(4) “scattered abroad” (1:1; Acts 8:1 accomplished God’s plan as laid out in Acts 1:8).
These Jewish believers were scattered from Jerusalem and now no longer were living in the zip code they preferred! How awful! But actually God was having a difficult time getting these believers to do what He had told them to do. Acts 1:8 ~ and they stayed in Jerusalem! So this was God’s way of getting them to obey Acts 1:8! God was pushing people out of their comfort zones, where they would not have chosen to locate, but found it necessary to do so under the persecution of Acts 8:1. The apostles remain in Jerusalem and that is why James would be writing from there to the Jewish believers now scattered abroad.
So James writes a letter to encourage them that God has not lost sight of their plight, He was still on His throne, and that He would work through them and on behalf of them.
The book of James is written to people who have suddenly found themselves outside of their comfort zone. They no longer have the zip code that they would have liked to have had for the rest of their life, so they are needing some encouragement.
But James is here to tell us that it’s not automatic that we will have the correct response, by which our faith becomes quality proven and thus our lives become rewardable in the future.
We can suffer and react/respond in the wrong ways and thus fail the test and become unrewardable, but God’s PURPOSE is to bring us to greater maturity and rewardability. How do we advance to the next spiritual grade as students in Jesus’ school of discipleship? The same way we advance to the next grade in our school education – we pass a test! Our Lord is a patient Teacher and is not afraid to re-test us until we pass the course and move on to greater maturity!
Our memory verses this week are James 1:19-20 19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. I encourage you to memorize these because they provide an outline for the body of James’ letter.

1:2-4 When you face trials, welcome them with total joy because you know God’s purpose!
As believers, we ought to welcome trials that the Lord allows into our lives because our quality-proven faith produces endurance which works to mature and complete us, so we lack nothing.

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
Note again that he is writing to fellow Christians, his “brethren.”
The words “count it all joy” are actually the opening words of verse 2 in the Greek text.
These words strike precisely the note of triumph that James wishes to sound for his Christian brothers and sisters. They should be joyful in trials because trials have a positive and highly beneficial purpose in the plan of God. And that purpose is stated here as something known to the readers.

3 (because of) knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
God’s intention in allowing faith to be tested is to produce patience (more accurately endurance, perseverance, Greek hupo-mone).
God is in the business of building up strong Christian men and women who can persevere in hard times without fainting.
We could refer to this verse as “faith in the crucible of life.”
51 min mark – The idea of the word translated “testing” is that of gold in crucible, where the crucible is heated until the impurities get boiled off.
The NKJV translation takes the word dokimion as a noun, but it could be the neuter singular of the adjective and can literally mean, “the genuine [thing] of your faith.”
Thus, we could translate verse 3 this way:
knowing that “your quality-proven faith” produces endurance/perseverance.
The word endurance/perseverance is Greek word hupomeno [hupo (= under) - meno (to remain)]
What happens in our lives as Christians is that we believe various truths.
We read our Bible or are in Bible class and we learn a truth of the Bible.
But now we have testing.
And the question we have when we have testing is: Do we depend on what the Word says?
Or do we kind of say, ‘That’s for other people at other times in other places. I think I’ll handle this one in my own way.’
What James is looking at here are the truths that survive that become part and parcel of our lives – that is the proven faith he’s referring to here.
The truth that remains as a part of my life is the proven part of what I believe. There are things that we believe, that when things start getting difficult, we tend to start wandering away from those convictions.
The heat of trials burns off the dross and there is not as much truth left that is part and parcel of my life as was there when the going was easy. There are certain truths we depend on and others that we are not so focused upon. But that which remains, that pure gold part of what we have believed, that truth in our lives that remains intact despite the trials, that is what produces God-given patience (ie, endurance/perseverance).
The reason that we should count it all joy when we fall into various multi-faceted, multi-colored (the whole spectrum of the rainbow!) trials is that the proven part of our faith, which was tested in the crucible, that is what produces patience. It is that which we use during times of difficulty, that is what brings God-produced patience.
We’ve all heard about the guy who prayed for patience and said, “God, I want it right away!”
But believers must not be impatient. We must not try to escape our trial at all costs. To do so would be to fail to endure (remain under) it and thereby short circuit God’s purpose for the test.

This is the thrust of verse 4 ~ 4 But let patience (endurance, perseverance) have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
When James urges his readers to allow “endurance” (patience) to have its perfect work, he means that they should allow the Lord to accomplish a complete work of endurance within them.
Of course, by perfect James does not mean sinless perfection.
Both Greek words, perfect and complete, mean much the same thing, but they might be rendered this way: “that you may be complete and intact, with no deficiency.”
One of the deficiencies that trouble, trial and testing often exposes is a lack of wisdom.

Verses 5-8 provide a brief parenthetical discussion on asking God for wisdom.
5 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.
Thus, if “endurance” is to accomplish its “complete work,” the deficiency in believers’ wisdom needs to be supplied.
In this context, James is speaking of that particular wisdom needed to cope with the various trials they are experiencing.
So if the trial exposes a particular lack of wisdom in some area, what should a believer do?
James’ answer is that he should pray for this wisdom.
God loves to bestow wisdom and He bestows it bountifully!
Ask, James reiterates, and it will be given (cf. Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9).
There is ONE stipulation, however.

6 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.
The request for wisdom must be made in faith.
This also means that the request must be made with no doubting.
Faith and doubting are opposites, of course.
When one doubts, he is not believing. When one believes, he is not doubting.
(see Matthew 14:31; 21:21; 28:17; Mark 11:23; Romans 14:23)
The Christian who comes to God for wisdom must come with a calm confidence in the Lord.
If his heart is buffeted by doubts about God’s willingness or ability to grant the request, then this Christian is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
That is, he is in the grip of uncertainty, perplexity, instability.
The failure of a Christian to trust the One to whom he comes in prayer is a serious matter.
It could be said to be an insult to God Himself!
Such a man or woman should not think that he or she will receive anything from the Lord.

7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
Just as the Christian life begins with confidence that eternal life is by faith in Christ, so also the believer’s ongoing need for wisdom must be sought from God with a similar confidence.
On the other hand, it must not be assumed that the answer to a prayer for wisdom will come like a bolt of lightning at the moment it is requested.
Such a conclusion would ignore the context of James’s thought here.
James has just said, in vv. 3-4, that God’s goal in our trials is to furnish those spiritual assets that are lacking.
Thus one can expect that God would answer his prayer for wisdom through the very trial itself, as he endures it until God’s perfect work in him is done.
So then, an appropriate prayer might be, “Father, help me to gain from this trial the wisdom that You want me to have.”
The Christian who cannot make up his mind to leave his need for wisdom confidently in God’s hands is spiritually unstable. He is, in fact, double-minded {dipsychos, two-souled), a kind of “split personality.” 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
One part of him knows that he must leave this need for discernment with God, while the other part still feels that he can, and must, solve the puzzle by himself.
The result of such an inward division in perspective is likely to be a zigzag course of action filled with mistakes and false starts. Trials can throw us into a dilemma. What shall I decide to do?
We don’t yet know what we’re supposed to do, but we’re supposed to ask in faith. What James is telling us here is that when we ask from God, we’d better not say, “Well, if I like the advice that I get from the Bible, I’ll follow it. But if I don’t like the advice that I get, then I’m going to do it my own way. We have to know that God’s truth that is applicable to the situation is what we need. And James is saying that the person who approaches God for wisdom but is saying, “If I like it I’ll follow it, but if I don’t like it I won’t,” – that believer won’t receive wisdom from God, if that is the way he approaches it. “Give me Your thoughts but let me be the final arbiter.”
If that is what we do, we can expect to be tossed and turned like the wind-driven sea until we come to our senses, and say, “Okay, God, I think I’d like to just find out what You have to say so that I can simply obey You!” Remember Jonah?!
Like the Pagan Roman god Janus, who looks both ways at once – James is telling us not to be double-minded, not to be going in two directions, not saying, “Well, I’ll see what God has to say, then I’ll consult myself, and decide.” Such a one will not receive any wisdom from God.
James is telling us that we have to have a fixed certainty that what God has to say on a matter settles the matter!
The Christian who combines a lack of wisdom with the spirit of a “doubting Thomas” is a prime candidate to make a mess of things. Or, as James puts it here, he is unstable in all his ways.

 

 

 

 

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