Why? (part 2)

James 1:1-12
Testing Your Faith

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”   


Why does God allow difficulties into the lives of His children? In Psalm 42:9-10 David writes, “I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” The ongoing question before us is: Why? It is a difficult question and one that will require several more devotionals in this series to fully answer.

Shortly after the death of their daughter Robin, who died from complications associated with down syndrome, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans met a pale little boy who stuck out his hand and said, “Howdy, pahtnah!” He had been abandoned in a Kentucky motel, and was physically and mentally disabled. Roy and Dale adopted him, calling him Sandy in honor of his sandy-colored hair. He was bright-eyed and good-natured. During a Billy Graham Crusade, Sandy became a Christian.

Roy and Dale enrolled him in military school and he loved it. At 17, he enlisted in the army, “to prove myself,” he said. Sandy worked hard and won respect. He was sent to Germany, then he volunteered for Vietnam. “Put your faith in the Lord,” he wrote home to his Mom and Dad, “because (as I have found out) He’s always around when you need him. All He asks in return is your devotion.”

Then one day, Dale Evans, returning from a trip, was met at the airport by her daughter. “It’s Sandy, Mom. He’s dead.” Sandy had returned from 26 days of maneuvers, dog tired. His buddies had taken him out for the night, needling him to “prove you’re a man.” Sandy, who couldn’t tolerate alcohol, had given in. They fed him hard liquor until he collapsed. He was found the next morning dead in his bunk.

Roy and Dale were both committed Christians. Dale said that she survived the sorrow of losing Robin and Sandy only by drawing strength from Scripture, particularly Job 13:15. In her journal she wrote, “Tragedy in a Christian’s life is a refiner. God has not promised an easy way, but peace at the center of the hard way. The clouds of sorrow have been heavy, but I have reached the point of no return in my Christian experience, and with Job I can cry, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.’”

This series will reveal five essentials that are required to turn your trial into victory. Here is the first one: If you want to turn your trial into victory, then you must have a joyful attitude. Now that is probably not what you wanted to hear, is it? “Well, just have a joyful attitude!” Let’s focus on verses 1 and 2: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

James, the half-brother of Jesus, is the author of this letter. Eventually, James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Tradition tells us James was martyred in A.D. 62. According to the story, the Pharisees in Jerusalem so hated James’ testimony about Jesus that they had him thrown down from the temple and when he didn’t die from the fall, he was beaten to death with clubs. Tradition holds that while he was being beaten, he prayed for his murderers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Talk about a fiery trial! Before his death, he penned this letter to the Jews who were scattered throughout the land. Do you know why they were dispersed? Because they were being persecuted! And God had His hand in it! The Bible makes it clear that God is in control! God is still seated upon the throne. God’s desire was for the gospel to spread, so He sent a great persecution. These new Jewish believers were scattered and, as they fled, they took the gospel with them.

Tertullian, one of the early church fathers, said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church!” Persecution pushed the early Jewish believers out of Jerusalem, and they carried the message of the gospel with them. It was to this group of persecuted believers, undergoing all kinds of difficulties, that James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds.” 

If you are presently in the midst of some trial, then here is my challenge to you: “Consider it all joy.” The word “consider” is in the imperative tense which means it is not a suggestion, but rather, a command. Consider it! It is also a financial term, meaning “to evaluate.” In other words, we are commanded by God to evaluate life’s trials and storms in light of His Word.

Trials are going to come. We know this both from the Bible and experience. We live in a fallen world. Death entered the world when man first sinned, and we have been dying ever since. In John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” In Matthew 5:45 Jesus said, “He [God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Thus, here is part of the answer to the why question: Christians are not exempt from trials and hardships because we live in a fallen world. Therefore, it is not a question of if we are going to encounter trials, but rather when.

For this reason, James writes, “When you encounter various trials, consider it all joy.” We need to learn to evaluate trials in light of God’s Word. We need wisdom, and we need to understand the purpose of God in them for us. You may think to yourself, “Russ, it’s easy for you to say — you don’t know my circumstances. How is it possible to rejoice in the midst of this trial that I am enduring?” To understand how to rejoice in the midst of trials, we must investigate this passage of Scripture more thoroughly. Stay tuned. Amen