“Finding Inexpressible Joy in Inevitable Trials”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of James 1.1-4
Turn with me to the book of James. Chapter 1. We will begin a new series this morning in this most practical book. “Your walk talks, and your talk talks but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”
If any book of the Bible could have this as its title, it would be the book of James. James is concerned about us, because he knows that our life talks louder than our vocabulary.
In a minute I’m going to show you how James is really getting at the heart of things, but first let’s briefly introduce the book.
This letter is written by James. This is not James, the brother of John. That James was killed in A.D. 44. And this letter was written well after that, even though this letter was likely the earliest letter to be written in the New Testament.
The author of the letter is James, the half-brother of Jesus. Matthew 13:55 quotes those living in Jesus hometown of Nazareth as saying, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”
John 7:5 and 1 Corinthians 15:7 both tell us that his brothers did not believe in him and James didn’t until after the resurrection. And later, James would become the leader of the Jerusalem church.
So James, the half-brother of Jesus is the author this letter of James.
And in the first verse of James, we read about to whom James is writing.
James 1:1 1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
That last phrase, he is writing to the 12 tribes who are dispersed abroad. The 12 tribes refers to the 12 tribes of Israel. James is writing to Jewish believers. And these Jewish believers are living outside of Israel. They are, it says “dispersed abroad.” And the reason they are dispersed abroad is because of the persecution associated with Stephen. Remember Stephen was martyred in Acts chapter 8 and after that there arose a great persecution of the early followers of Christ.
So James is writing to persecuted Jewish believers. This means that they are taken advantage of. They are in poverty and they are oppressed.
And that leads us to consider the contents of the letter. What is this letter all about? I’ve taken as the theme of this book, “How to be Spiritually Complete when Suffering.” “How to be Spiritually Complete when Suffering.” But if you want to put down [*right hand*] Walk Talks ‘greater than sign’ Talk Talks, that too would be appropriate.
James is concerned about us being spiritually complete or spiritually whole. He wants to teach us how to be spiritually complete.
And he uses commands, or encouragements, exhortations to instruct us. The Greek language has a verb form for a command. It’s called an imperative. The book of James has the highest concentration of imperatives out of all NT books. A whopping 3% of all the words in the book of James are in the form of command. That’s 55 words out of 1742 words. So he’s going to command us a lot.
This book is inspired. God is commanding us through this book. Are you prepared in the will of God to obey 55 commands in this book?
For example in verse two you are commanded to consider it all joy when you encounter various trials. Verse four, you are commanded to let endurance have its perfect result.
Verse five the one who lacks wisdom is commanded to ask God for it.
Verse six, when you ask, you must ask in faith without doubting. These are some of the examples of the commands that we have in the book of James. So this is the reason for the “how to” of the theme of this book. How to be spiritually complete when suffering.
And he is teaching us how to be spiritually complete. For example as we read already he’s going to talk about wisdom. He’s gonna talk about your speech, faith, doing good works, humility, not showing favoritism between believers, being at peace, how the worldly minded should repent, patience, endurance, and praying for the sick.
These a very practical every day kind of things. So James is teaching us how to be spiritually complete. But this has a context.
How to be spiritually complete when suffering.
Suffering is a major theme in this book. He talks about external testing and trials. He talks about internal enticements to sin, temptations. And is going to talk to us about being oppressed by rich people. And how to handle being oppressed by rich people.
James wants to teach us “How to be spiritually complete when suffering.”
Now, that’s the introduction to the book. Our text this morning is James 1:1-4. Let’s read that together.
James 1:1–4 1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
In this passage, James teaches us how to find inexpressible joy in inevitable trials.
How to find inexpressible joy in inevitable trials. In other words, how to be joyful when in trials…Because trials are going to come.
How do you respond when you’re living in difficult times? Failing health of your parents, drought on your land, losing a job, losing your health, divorce, difficulties with those at work, busy beyond recognition, constant demands from your children, sleepless nights, questionable future… How do you respond to these things?
How do lost people respond when things like this happen? Anxiety, afraid, angry, worried, or depressed. So what do they do? They may escape with alcohol, food, or drink. They can just deal with it by muscling through, by pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, by putting on their game face…. Or they may constantly have a “woe is me” attitude.
Way too often, born again believers respond this way, too. Too often in trials, born again believers are anxious, worried, depressed … they escape, or they just attempt to do it with their own strength.
But in James 1:2, when you come face-to-face even with the greatest fears of your life, you are commanded by God to consider it all joy.
I. The Command: Consider It Pure Joy
How do you find inexpressible joy in inevitable trials?
See, the trials will come. You will have dark times in your life. You will be down, you will feel defeated, you won’t achieve what you wanted, you will fail, you will have deep and dark trials that are beyond your control.
The trials are inevitable. They will happen. This is what James says in James 1:2 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…
The trials are coming… When you encounter various trials. Not if.
You can see that he is talking here to his brethren. “Consider it all joy, my brethren… when you encounter trials.” These are Christians; those who are born again. A distinguishing mark of believers is the ability to obey this command by the grace of God. Unbelievers have no capacity for this.
They may have what appears to be determination, they may have resolve, but actual joy in trial is distinctly Christian. This is actual gladness, delight, great happiness in trial.
And not just joy …. what does he say … all joy. This is to be all joy. Or you could think of it as pure joy. Consider it pure joy when ? When you encounter trials.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, this word encounter is translated “fall into the hands of.” Luke 10:30 Jesus says … “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and … [here it is…] fell into the hands [that’s translated encounter in our passage…he encountered, he fell into the hands] of robbers, who stripped him, beat him up, and went off, leaving him half dead.”
And that’s the way you feel sometimes when you fall into the hands of trials in your life. You feel stripped-down beaten up and left for dead. And it’s in the midst of that you are commanded by God to be joyful.
!!And this is an intense command … pure joy consider it to be.
But James isn’t some masochist [maso-kist], as if it’s the pain of trial itself that he rejoices in. You are not to rejoice in pain. “Oh, I’m so glad for pain, because I like pain itself. I’m so glad for trials, because trials themselves are wonderful … No …. and neither is Peter saying this when he says … 1 Peter 4:12, “do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you … but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.”
And Paul is in prison when he writes, “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.” So it’s not the pain … In Philippians, it’s rejoicing in the Lord. In Peter, it’s the rejoicing that we are true sharers of Christ and as we see in James, it’s rejoicing in the knowledge that we are being made complete through the trial. It is these things that we rejoice in, not the pain.
ILL: Paul was able to rejoice in the Lord always. Let’s see an example of this in the Scripture. Turn back to Acts chapter 16. Paul and Silas are in jail, they have been beaten and what happens?
Acts 16:25–31 25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26 and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” 29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
You can see Paul and Silas, though they were in a deep trial, they were praying and singing hymns of praise to God. They were praising the Lord. And because of their testimony in the jail, and because they didn’t run away from the trial, and because Paul and Silas were able to have pure joy through this trial, this Philippian jailer and his whole household receives Christ.
Having pure joy in trial is a distinctively Christian response to trial and it can attract unbelievers.
Paul and Silas were going through a trial and were able to consider it joy. And you have the same Lord on your side, working in you. Find inexpressible joy in your trial.
TRANS: But how? But how do you actually do this? How do you find that inexpressible joy in trials? By obeying the next two commands.
First of all, to find inexpressible joy in trial you must know something. You must know that the trial is designed to produce endurance.
II. Knowing that the Test is designed to Produce Endurance
Look at verses two and three again…
James 1:2–3 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 [how are you going to do that? By … ] knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
In order for you to consider it pure joy when you come face-to-face with intense trials, you must, verse three, know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
Testing of Faith
What is going on in times of difficulty, when external pressures are weighing in? What’s happening? Your faith is being tested.
This is true for the original recipients of this letter. There were going through persecution and oppression from wealthy landowners. The early church as a whole was beaten and thrown in jail. And this was directly because of their faith. Their faith was being tested: would they renounce Christ?
But similarly, your faith is being tested in your trials. Pressures of life, financial pressures .. how am I going to pay the bills … , job issues, family, relationship, health pressures … These tests in your life are testing your faith. How do they test your faith?
Are you going to trust God or not? But what promises has He given you for that situation? Think of all of what you have in Christ; what promises has He given you … redemption, adoption, sanctification, justification, forgiveness, cleansing … eternal life?
Christians are too often tempted in trial to think … “God I’ve been reading my Bible and am basically obedient, why did you let this happen?” As if reading the Bible keeps you out of trial. Ha! That’s a false and superficial view of the Christian life.
No, James says when you encounter various trials. It’s going to happen. Don’t be surprised about it, says Peter. Even Jesus went through trial and he learned from it! …You’re not above him, are you?
Hebrews 5:8 Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.
It says Jesus learned through suffering … and He was perfectly in the will of God. You are to learn as well through suffering.
Endurance…Now, what do you learn?…
What do you gain? What does James say? You gain Endurance …
This is the ability to remain unswerved from God’s purposes in your life. Christian endurance is remaining loyal to God even through the greatest trials and sufferings. It’s the ability to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances.
It’s fortitude, guts, determination, a “nothing can stop me; I’m going to keep going with my head held high” kind of attitude.
But the problem is you don’t have joy in trial and that’s because you really don’t know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. That’s your problem. You really don’t know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. You say, “preacher, you just said it and I got it. Of course I know that the testing of my faith produces endurance.”
Are you sure you know this? Believer, you know that Jesus is Lord. And you know that you have eternal life. And you know God is at work today in the world… You know that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and you know God raised him from the dead. All these things are real for you to the point that you’ve acted upon them; you care about them … they affect who you are, your very identity as a human being. You are a Christian.
God wants you to go beyond now. He wants you to know something else, just as intimately. He wants you to know… He wants you to be so intimately aware to the point that it affects your being … it affects your identity as a human being … he wants you to know it to the point that you get joy out of it and that you appreciate it… He wants you to really know this: that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let that move you to action. Let that truth affect you; let it affect your very nature as a person and accept it, receive it, embrace it… the testing of your faith produces endurance
This word for knowing is intimate knowledge. It is an experiential knowledge. It is life changing knowledge. It’s the knowledge difference between what’s in your head and what’s in your heart. You might know academically that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And I assumed that everyone of us here knew that academically when you came here this morning. God wants to get that truth down deep into your heart so that you know it in your heart … so that you appreciate it and you care about that and let it affect your very nature as a person and you accept it, receive it, embrace it.
This is what you want.
You want endurance. And so you embrace the truth that the testing of your faith produces endurance. In other words, you must gain an appreciation for the purpose of trials in your life.
ILL: This is where athletics can be helpful. When you train for an athletic event, it hurts. It’s a trial in the sense. You are putting yourself through pain in order to achieve a greater end. I remember training as a track athlete. And the burning in the muscles, the weakness, the exhaustion … And I had to keep going, I had to keep pushing, or I wouldn’t make it and I wouldn’t win.
I knew that the testing of my muscles produced endurance in those muscles. And I wanted it; I rejoiced in it, because I knew I was getting stronger, I knew I was getting better, I knew I was more likely to win. I loved it. I was determined the next time to train harder.
It’s the same way with your character. God is interested in making you like Jesus Christ. And he’s gonna put you in the fire. And it’s going to hurt, but like a good coach, God is doing it for your good. A coach will make his athlete train harder and smarter and longer to produce greater athletic ability. It will hurt the athlete; there will be pain, there may be injury even. But in the end, it will be good for him to go through the training because he will get better and better.
God is training you. He’s using trials to make you stronger and to give you endurance to get through any other trial in your life.
Desire that endurance, be the champion in Christ you’re called to be. Desire and care about the fact that the testing of your faith produces endurance…want that endurance in the Christian life…so much you can taste it.
It’s when you love the endurance, you’ll find joy in trial. The pain in lifting weights is worth the endurance and strength gained. Just like that, the trial hurts, but the endurance gained is wonderful. But if you want to remain a wimpy Christian, go ahead and question God and balk at him. But if you want to be a champion Christian, embrace trials b/c they produce endurance.
And so the joy produced in trial contains in it a sense of sacrifice for the attainment of a future greater good.
To get joy in trials, you must know that trials produce endurance. Pray over that; ask God for wisdom in that.
TRANS: And you are getting endurance. When your faith is tested you get endurance.
It’s when you really know this to such an intimate degree and you love it, it’s then that you’ll get joy in the trial. You’re sacrificing, you are doing whatever it takes to please God, and you get endurance … there’s joy in that!
To get inexpressible joy in inevitable trials, you must intimately know that your trial of faith produces endurance. Learn to care about that by praying and asking for wisdom for it. Don’t refuse that knowledge; God commands you to grow in your appreciation of this. If you do, you get joy.
To get that joy, secondly, you must also allow endurance to complete you.
III. Allow Endurance to complete you
James 1:4 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
The idea here is to “Allow endurance to perfect its work in you that you may become perfected.” The idea of being perfect here is to be complete. Not to be sinless, but to be a mature Christian growing in every area of your life.
The problem is, you will be tempted not to let endurance have that work in you. You will be tempted not to allow endurance to perfect its work in you. Endurance has a work to be done in you. And the question is, are you going to allow endurance to do that perfecting work?
Are you going to submit to God in the trial or you going to fight against Him in the trial? It’s a matter of submitting to God in it. Being thankful for what God is going to do through it.
ILL: Allow endurance to perfect its work in you, don’t rebel against God in it. It’s like an athlete who wants to win, but he complains against his coach but his coach is simply doing right trying to help him get to be a better athlete … the rebellious athelete might say … “Aw come on, coach, not another suicide run … not another set of finger-tip push ups, not another 400 meters … not another set of squats … ” No champion says that.
No, the champion says, “I’m going to take it, so I’m gonna bring it.” Nothing’s gonna stop me; you aren’t going to get me down…
In the same way the Christian says with Micah 7:8, “do not rejoice over me, O my enemy, for when I fall, I will rise.”
And just like the athlete shouldn’t complain against his coach, the Christian shouldn’t complain against God in trial. You submit to Him; allow God to keep working; let that endurance have it’s work. Submit to God!
Just like no champion complains against his coach, no Christian should complain against God. God has brought the trial to give you endurance and that endurance is going to perfect you, to make you more like Christ.
ILL: Rebellious Christians in trial remind me of Eeyore the donkey in the Winnie the Pooh series. One time, Eeyore looks at his tail says, “It’s not much of a tail, but I’m sort of attached to it.”
Another time, Winnie the Pooh asks, “Lovely day, isn’t it?” Eeyore says, “Wish I could say yes, but I can’t.”
On another occasion, Christopher Robin gives him a red balloon. Eeyore says, “Sure is a cheerful color. Guess I’ll have to get used to it.”
“Nothing to do and no hope of things getting any better.”
Aw, “there there” you poor thing! And you know, things might be that bad, but if you submit to God and allow his work of endurance to perfect you, you’ll find inexpressible joy.
You’ll actually be thankful for the trial. But you have to love growing in Christ. If you don’t love growing in Christ, or you will be a miserable Christian in trials. If you have no desire for being complete in Him, you’ll know it because you’ll be talking like the rebellious athlete, “God, why do you have to put me through this?”
But if you nurture growing in Christ today, and want to grow in everything no matter what it takes, when you get in the trial and you can’t pay your bills, you won’t wonder what God is doing … you’ll know. He’s training you and giving you endurance to complete you.
ILL: You’ll be like Noah. We talked about Noah a couple weeks ago. You remember he was called of God to build a boat for 70 years with no power tools all the while being persecuted and scoffed at. He could’ve thrown in the towel. He could’ve said “you know what, this isn’t worth it. This has been a horrible 70 years and I’m done! God why are you doing this? Why do I have to be persecuted by these people and why is it taking 70 years to build this boat. I’m so discouraged …”
But no! Here’s the record of Noah’s life:
Genesis 6:9 9 These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.
In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, in the LXX, that word blameless is the same word translated perfect in James 1:4. Through all of that, God was producing in Noah completeness. Wholeness, likeness to himself.
Jesus said, “It is enough for the disciple to become like his teacher.” And you are designed and your life is all designed and planned out so that all the events … all of what’s happening for you and to you is that you become like your master, Jesus Christ. Are you fighting that or submitting to that? “Allow endurance to perfect its work in you!”
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of James 1.1-4
I think you know this, but life isn’t all about red ballons and ice cream cones. The American dream has taught us to pursue our comforts, our pleasures, and our relaxation moments. And I fear that we are too much taught by the American dream and not taught by endurance. Yes, times get tough, and you can cry of course…but if you are responding correctly, you will also notice that joy in the midst of it all. You’ll notice the sacrificing spirit that you have in order to gain what could not have been gained otherwise.
If you are a Christian, I know something about you even if I don’t know you. The Holy Spirit dwells in you … “Christ liveth in me.” And He is great in you. Because of him, in the will of God, you can do all things through him who strengthens you. Things that you couldn’t even imagine that you could do, within the will of God as he brings hard times into your life, you, by his power, can accomplish what the world would call the impossible.
He is going to bring out Christ, the best in you. And you’ll have the ability to overcome the impossible.
As the hymn title says … “The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory.”
When you work hard during your trial… when you work hard to overcome …when you work hard to submit to God and trust him through it and allow that endurance to perfect you … You are becoming the person He’s called you to be. He’s building in you character… he’s building in you courage … he’s building in you faith.
Every morning you get up and you look into the mirror of the word of God and you see who you are and you see who he is and you choose him over yourself …then you will become like him and you live a different life and your walk will talk louder so that all can hear that you have gained the victory in Christ.
But easy is never an option. Life is difficult. Are you ready…you say, “I’ve already blown it; I’ve messed up so many times in my trials, you have no idea! I keep failing, I have no endurance.”
Is this God’s design? What about a comeback?
You might think of the great comebacks in the history of the world. For example, the sports world. Take boxing. The Christian life is compared to boxing in 1 Corinthians 9: Example, take Castillo vs. Corrales. Both men are standing squared up in front of each other beating each other with magnificent combinations throughout the fight. And Castillo, finally, in the 10th round knocks Corrales down. But he managed to beat the count. And once back on his feet, he rises but Castillo knocks down Corrales again… It looked to be all over.
But he arose once again and connects with a perfect right hand that shakes Castillo and then he lands numerous punches so fast that it causes the referee to stop the fight. Corrales had an amazing comeback.
Or take Ulyssess S. Grant. He went to West Point and entered the US Army as an officer. But he didn’t like his post and he was separated from his family. He began to drink too much and became depressed and quit. No endurance. And then he went home started a business … but it failed.
It looked to be all over. But when the Civil War broke out he rejoined the Army and performed with such valor that he was promoted to being the top general of the Union forces. He led the union to victory and was elected twice as president of the United States and his comeback was recorded in his book “Memoirs” which at that time became the best-selling book, other than the Bible, in American history.
All of these stories may be motivating, but only one comeback in history is actually empowering to the Christian.
He was poor and extremely kind. He was guilty of no crime, yet his enemies relentlessly persecuted him. His friends abandoned him. Falsely accusing him, they cruelly killed him.
It looked to be all over.
But 3 days later, he came back! What greater setback could you have than to be killed? But on that third day, Jesus Christ proved himself to be the greatest champion over our greatest enemy, death.
And nothing could stop him, not even death itself.
And his comeback resurrection doesn’t stop back there; it’s power is manifested every time someone comes to Christ. And his powerful resurrection is manifested in your life. You have nothing less then infinite power directed towards you every day, to enable you to live to be the person God’s designed you to be. Are you tapping into that power every day? Are you pursuing him and submitting to him, coming underneath his mighty hand?
In all of your life, he’s testing your limits and expanding them. He’s testing your skills and endurance and your character and he’s out to make you stronger … and with Him on your side and with His Spirit in your heart and with His Son at your side, God knows nothing can stop you. Are you gonna trust him or not? Will you pursue knowing that this test your in is a test of whether or not you’ll trust God and that it’s designed to produce endurance? Will you pursue that? Will you allow endurance perfect you? This God’s design, submit to it.
Say with Pro. 24:16 … “I am a righteous man … though I fall seven times, I will rise again. I will not be like the who wicked stumble in time of disaster.” There is no enemy that’s gonna rejoice over me. I overwhelmingly conquer through him who loved me … what could possibly stop me?
By the grace of God I will be what He wants me to be no matter what it takes … I will work harder I will grow faster and nothing is gonna stop me. Ain’t nothing gonna get me down … any enemy of mine who messes with me, he is messing with the wrong guy. No enemy shall hold back my might not even if it’s with giants that I fight.
By His grace, you can do anything you’re called of God to do. Find inexpressible joy in inevitable trials by knowing, intimately knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And find that joy in trials by allowing endurance to perfect you.