God’s Purpose in Trials of Faith

James

JAMES 1:2-18
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, (3) for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (4) And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (5) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (6) 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. (7) For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (9) Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, (10) and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. (11) For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. (12) Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (13) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. (14) But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (15) Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (16) Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. (17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (18) Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

INTRODUCTION

There are times when, with a healthy dose of human despondency, I consider the various and sundry trials and tribulations under which our congregation has labored. We are pressured by a pagan society to take a lighter stand concerning the Gospel of God’s Free and Sovereign Grace. We are tempted to water down the truth of electing grace. We are shunned by many because we fully believe that the wicked man-centered salvation found in many an area church pulpit is no salvation at all! Beloved, as if it needs be said, our congregation is not immune from what James’ teaches as the inevitable. He writes with certainty, “when you meet trials” not “if you meet trials.” It is safe to say, we have shared in some of the trials common among God’s people concerning the Gospel. And, should the Lord tarry, we will share in many more.

Just like Asaph in Psalm 73, we may come to flirt with the notion that perhaps God has forsaken His own people. God forbid! And just as Asaph was corrected and comforted by the truth of God’s Word as he entered the sanctuary of the Temple, so too are our hearts, the temple of the Holy Ghost, comforted by God’s word concerning the purpose and place of trials in the Christian life. God has not forsaken us, beloved of the Lord! Far from it!

God is intimately involved and in control of every situation of life. In fact, James teaches us that God uses these trials of faith to form and fashion our deeper appreciation and apprehension of His divine mercy and grace in Christ! And despair gives way to worship and peace as we come to terms with the glorious truth that if God uses even the dark seasons of life for His glory, then all things, yes, all things, are completely under His control! Every situation belongs to the Lord Almighty! Praise His name forevermore.
Not only is God’s plan found in the dark trials. He gives us the grace to stand! Truly, “He giveth more grace!” His is the storehouse of wisdom, and He bids us  ask and receive! Wisdom from on high, a heavenly understanding and prospective, this is the necessary empowerment needed to apprehend God’s glory and our good in all of life’s situations.

Trials come… they always come –…no congregation is exempt or excused from them. Yet James teaches us that it is possible to face our trials and be joyous because of them! James exhorts the church to “count it all joy” when we meet trials of various kinds. Why? Because through these trials of faith God is doing a work in us, granting us patience as we grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

No matter the trials that befall us, God’s people have the steadfast security of God’s keeping hand holding us for all eternity. As James teaches, “He brought us forth by the word of truth” by His own will! Praise God!

And so, we can, by faith, grasp the truth of the matter: even the darkest seasons of trial are tools in the master’s hands, good and perfect gifts lovingly granted by God for the purpose of our good and God’s greater glory. Lord, teach us your ways!

Certainly, James has much to teach the church concerning faith in times of trial!

OUTLINE

I. TRIALS OF FAITH WILL COME TO CHRISTIANS (2-4)

James 1:2-4 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, (3) for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (4) And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

A. “Count it all joy” – joy is best defined as a “settled calm delight.” As we stand firm in the Gospel, we can rest assured and confident that nothing has faltered in the plan and purpose of God.

Even in the face of trials, we are exhorted to count it all joy with a patient and steadfast heart!

2 Thessalonians 2:15 So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

B. “for you know” – We are known of God and He has made Himself known to us through the Gospel! Notice exactly what it is that believers know: “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” The trials of faith, those trials that come against us for the sake of the Gospel, are the Lord’s tools used to strengthen our resolve and confidence in Him!

Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

C. “that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” – Our various trials of faith serve as a refiner’s fire into which our faith is plunged time and time again. God uses trials of our faith to teach us as well as to foster our growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Through the trials of faith, we learn to depend on Christ, to follow in His steps. And as we look to only to Christ, the proper object of God-given faith, we lack nothing, being complete in Him.

1 Peter 2:19-21 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.(20) For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. (21) For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

II. GOD GRANTS WISDOM TO APPREHEND OUR TRIALS (5-8)

James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. (6) 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. (7) For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; (8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

A. Ask God for wisdom- As the only source wisdom, God exhorts His people to completely rely on Christ, our Wisdom. It is only through Christ that we can ever hope to endure the trials of faith.

1 Corinthians 1:30-31 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, (31) so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 John 5;14-15 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

B. “Let him ask in faith” – James limits the wisdom of God, Christ, to those who have been granted the gift of faith! Consider the words of Robert Hawker on this very passage:

But let him ask in faith. Yes! it is a blessed thing, when from the grace of faith from the Lord, we are enabled to go boldly to the Lord. And surely, every regenerated child, of God may find confidence in that grace, to seek grace. Could we always keep in remembrance past mercies, they would never fail to beget the desire for new ones. Even among men, old friends, and long proved friends, furnish confidence. And shall a child of God go to Jesus in bondage-frames, doubting, fearing, and questioning, whether he shall succeed? A double minded man! what a foolish character, to say no worse of it.

(9) Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, (10) and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. (11) For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.

A. “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation” – Those who already thought themselves lowest of the low can boast in the uplifting grace of God in Christ!

B. “and the rich in his humiliation” – Those who already had worldly influence and wealth may very well have to forsake it for the sake of the Gospel. They, too, are called to make their boast in the Lord, understanding that worldly wealth will vanish with time.

Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. (12) I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. (13) I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

IV. PERSEVERANCE THROUGH TRIALS OF FAITH (12-15)

James 1:12-15 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (13) Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. (14) But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (15) Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

A. “Steadfast under trial” – Do you believe Christ and His promises? Or are you only feigning belief for the approval of others? When faith is tried, those who know the Lord in pardoning mercy cling to His promises, believing the Christ of Scripture. Those who have no faith quickly disabuse themselves of Christ for the sake of expediency. The sheep of the Lord “hear his voice” and “follow him.” Should there be another shepherd calling them, they will not follow. They remain steadfast under the trials of faith because the object of their faith is Christ alone.

B. “he will receive the crown of life” – All of God’s people, of those who believe the true Gospel of God’s Free and Sovereign Grace, will remain steadfast under trial because the voice of another they will not follow.

John 10:1-9 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. (2) But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (3) To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (4) When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (5) A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (6) This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. (7) So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. (8) All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. (9) I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

C. “Let no man say.. I am tempted by God…” – That is, to sin. God need not tempt us to sin. Neither does God command us to sin. We need no assistance in the matter. We are poor and needy sinners by nature, prone to wander from the fold. God’s trials of faith are always designed to build us up in the grace and knowledge of the Lord.

D. “fully grown sin brings forth death” – descriptive of both the earthly climax of a life filled with bad decisions, as well as a spiritual life lived entirely in God-rejecting self-righteousness: sin culminates in death. Christian are exhorted to live lives in opposition to sin.

Paul writes admonishing God’s people concerning the final outcomes of sin:

Romans 6:15-23 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (16) Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? (17) But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, (18) and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (19) I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. (20) For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. (21) But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. (22) But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. (23) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

V. GOD GIVES ONLY GOOD GIFTS (16-18)

James 1:17-18 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (18) Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

A. “every good and perfect gift is from above” – Christ and all of His perfections and benefits are perfect in every way, shape, and form. He is the embodiment of every perfect blessing from God. Christ is our all in all.

B. “of His own will” – Salvation comes to God’s people in accordance with His will and way. No one is saved apart from Sovereign electing grace. Since God only gives perfect gifts to His people, we have confidence that each and every soul Christ saves will be presented faultless before the Lord on the Last Day.

CONCLUSION

When the trials of faith come our way, take comfort in knowing God is in complete control. He will use these trials to deepen our faith in Christ and His finished Work. God calls on His people to ask for wisdom, to seek wisdom from above. We can and should cry out to the Father of Lights to show us His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. And, beholding the face of Christ, we find assurance and comfort through trials that God’s will to save us is forever settled in heaven.

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.


Jason K. Boothe serves as Pastor of Horizons Baptist Church of Piketon, Ohio. For more information concerning the ministries of the church, please visit www.horizonsbaptist.org.

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