“The Wisdom God Gives to Have Joy in Trial”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of James 1.9-12
James chapter 1. The other day, I was sitting at my desk in my office and I was flipping through a series of optical illusions. You’ve seen these pictures… One of them looks like it’s moving but it’s really not. Another has faces hidden in a picturesque background and yet another … is that a young lady or an old lady…or both!
And there that one picture that just drives me nuts; I couldn’t get it… It’s a drawn picture of a duck’s head. In the caption of the picture says, “is this a duck or a rabbit?” And I gather from that that I’m supposed to be able to see both. But for the life of me, I can only see the duck’s head! But … wait a second..I think I see it… there it is! I can see the rabbit; it’s faced the other way!
Sometimes it’s hard to view those pictures correctly and find in them what the author intended. It was hard to see both a duck and a rabbit.
Now, in the first chapter of James, we’ve been discussing trials. Those difficult times of your life. In your trials, it’s difficult to find in them what the gracious Author of your trials has intended. God is in control every aspect of your life. And just like it might be easy to see the duck in the picture, it’s easy to see that the trial is difficult.
But can you also see the rabbit in your trial, sort of speak? Do you also have God’s eternal perspective in the trial? And yes have you walked with the Lord for so long and so close, that you no longer really see the duck, the difficulty… you only really see the rabbit. In other words if you walked with the Lord for so long and so close that yes the trial is difficult, but you’re not looking at that anymore; you’re not glorying in the difficulty. You mainly have in your heart God’s eternal perspective.
When you glory in God’s eternal perspective, you’ll come to find true joy in your trial.
That’s what were going to be talking about today. The problem is, we too often fail to glory in God’s eternal perspective in our trials because we get so wrapped up in the difficulty. When you’re in financial difficulty, when you have relationship problems, when you’ve lost your job, house, or a loved one, we must learn to view our trials from God’s eternal perspective.
In James 1 verse 2, James commands us to have joy when we encounter various trials. And the question is, “how are you going to do that?”
If you lack wisdom in being able to count it all joy, verse five has advice for you. Verse 5, if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God. God gives wisdom generously without reproach…. He doesn’t think ill of you for asking.
If you ask with a life that shows you have faith and without doubting, you’ll get wisdom. Now, if God were to answer that prayer, what would that look like? What wisdom would God give.
He would give you His eternal perspective. And this is verses 9-12. In these four verses, God gives you his eternal perspective so that you can have joy in trial. You asked for wisdom on how to have joy in trial. When you ask in faith, God will give you the wisdom that’s found in verses 9-12.
So I’d like to preach this morning on “the Wisdom God Gives to Have Joy in Trial.”
So if you follow the counsel thus far you’ve prayed for wisdom to have joy in trial and now verses 9-12 gives you God’s answer to your prayer for wisdom.
Let’s read verses 9-12 and study the wisdom that God gives in trials to help you count it all joy.
James 1:9–12 9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. 12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
When in trial, for you to have joy, you’ll need to view things from God’s eternal perspective. And there are 3 things in this passage that help us with that. The wisdom you need in order to have joy in trial is to…
I. Glory in Your High Position (1:9)
II. Glory in Your Vindication (1:10-11)
III. Glory in Your Commendation (1:12)
And we’re carrying that word ‘glory’ from verse 9 throughout the text for clarity. We could have it …
glory in your high position, understand your vindication, and count yourself blessed in your commendation, but for clarity…glory in your high position v.9, vindication v10-11, and commendation v.12.
As we get into the passage, remember to whom James is writing. He’s writing to, verse one says, the 12 tribes who are dispersed abroad. These are Jewish Christians who are dispersed, they are scattered because of persecution. They are in a deep trial. And their trial is one of persecution.
They are Jews, so the Gentiles hate them. And they are Jewish Christians and so religious Jews who have not trusted Jesus, also hate them.
And in that day and age, there was no middle class. Either you were very rich or you were very poor. And what happens in societies like this, is that the rich often take advantage of the poor. And because these Jewish Christians were outcasts by both Jews and Gentiles, they were poor. They were not advantaged materially and experiencing persecution. And this is their trial.
Who’s the Rich Man?
The big question coming to this passage is who is the rich man? Is he saved or unsaved?
I’m going to argue that he is not saved. He is the one persecuting the believers who are poor. Notice in the passage how James describes the believer … he is called a brother. Verse nine, “but the brother of humble circumstances.” He is saved. But when it describes the rich man, there is no indication of him being a “brother.”
James deliberately does not use the word brother here to refer to the rich man.
And secondly these rich men are not saved because of how the verses describe him.
Notice in this passage…end of verse 10 … he will pass away. Verse 11…the flower, describing the rich man, falls off. The beauty is destroyed…he will fade away. Pass away, fall off, destroyed, fade away. Does this sound like a believer to you? Do believers in the end get destroyed? No! Believers get eternal life no matter what financial situation they’re in.
So these verses clearly teach that the rich man is not saved. Let me get you to turn over to James chapter 2. Really, just a few verses later in James chapter 2 verse six were James asks the question, “Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?”
The rich are oppressing the poor believers. Does this rich person remind you of a believer? Rich person who drags poor people into court. This is not describing someone who trust Christ.
Last passage in James chapter 5 and the first verse. James 5:1-6 … see if you think the rich here describes a believer.
James 5:1–6 1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! 4 Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. 5 You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.
“Fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.” The riches will consume their flesh like fire? “Putting to death the righteous man.” Does this sound like a believer? Like someone who trusts Christ, turns from their sin God causes them to be born again, will that person ever experience the future day of slaughter and have their flesh consumed by fire? No! This is the rebel, the one who fails to trust Christ for salvation.
And so by itself, there’s nothing wrong with having material possessions and being wealthy with stuff. But to oppress others and even kill them… is the issue. And this is what James readers are experiencing: oppression from rich people.
And so James is addressing the rich oppressors but he’s doing so to encourage the poor believers. “Weep, howl you rich. You’re fattened for the day of slaughter.” That language encourages these poor believers by telling them God will vindicate these poor believers.
And so back now in chapter 1, the rich oppressive man, the unbeliever, will pass away, fade away, wither under the pressure of the scorching wind.
James specifically mentions the rich and the poor because this is the poor’s trial. They are oppressed by the rich. James is helping them to think of God’s perspective in their trial.
So what is God’s perspective for these poor believers who are being persecuted by the rich?
They are to glory in their high position, they are to glory in their vindication, and they are to glory in their commendation. This is God’s perspective for these believers in trial.
And this is to be your perspective as well. In the various trials you go through in your life, these verses contain the wisdom you need to have joy, even in the midst of trial.
In these verses, we have two paradoxes. Verse nine, the brother of humble circumstances… in other words the low brother, the poor brother is to glory in his high position, literally his height. The low is to glory in his height! The poor believer is to glory in his high position.
That’s one paradox. The second paradox in verse 10 the rich man is to glory in his humiliation. The poor brother rejoices in his high position but the rich man in his humiliation, because the rich oppressive man will one day be destroyed.
As regular readers of Scripture, we are used to these paradoxes. You member Jesus said to save your life you must… what?… lose it. Paul said when I am weak, then I am …. strong. And so in verse nine we have the rich, poor believer. But in verse 10 we have the poor rich man.
So James is giving perspective in trial for these believers. In the end those rich unbelieving oppressors, though they appear to be winning now, in the end they lose. And the poor believers, although they seem to be losing now and they are oppressed, in the end, they will win. The first shall be last …. and the last first. So there is this role reversal. The humble will be lifted up and the proud will be cast down.
God will eventually show the true nature of things. The poor brother will experience his high position, the rich oppressive man will experience his destruction, and the poor believer who perseveres in the trial will be approved and will receive the crown of life.
TRANS: So first of all this morning, to receive joy in trial, glory in your high position.
Glory in Your High Position (1:9)
James 1:9 9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position;
You could imagine being persecuted like these believers were and feeling humbled by your circumstances… the brother of humble circumstances. And James’s counsel to them is to glory … to boast …to take pride in their high position.
APP: are you feeling humbled by your circumstances? You may not be oppressed by rich people, but one of your trials may be your health, or financial troubles, or job troubles, family issues whatever it is, if you feel humbled by your circumstances James’ counsel to you is the wisdom that you would receive if you prayed for it. It’s this perspective: that you glory in your high position.
But so often, we don’t do that. We boast in our low position. We get so fixated on the duck in the picture and forget that there’s also a rabbit! Woe is me I am so distraught I am thinking about the bad I have issue after issue going on in my life … if it’s not one thing it’s the other… Grumble grumble grumble.
ILL: But think about God’s perspective on your trial. Take up his perspective. You know sometimes children can get all bent out of shape over, what we would consider to be, the smallest of things.
At our services, our children make crafts… Which might be a picture that they drew or painted or something. But sometimes you know what … ? They lose their craft! Or worse … their craft breaks!
And they might cry and cry and cry. But now get this … little do they know what happened to last week’s craft… If you’d asked them, “where did last week’s craft go?” They need perspective on that. Unless it doesn’t decay, it’s probably in the garbage.
And adults are no different. We lose this thing or that or this thing breaks or this financial thing or whatever trial it is, and we lose perspective too.
And the perspective is this: glory in your high position. What does that mean? When your in a trial and when you feel humbled by your circumstances, you don’t feel like you have a high position. “I ain’t got no money, I ain’t got no friends, I lost my job, my health is bad, boy am I going through the thick of it right now! What do you mean, ‘my high position.’”
2 Corinthians 8:9 9 For …you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you, through His poverty, might become…. rich.
Jesus Christ, the Lord, left His throne above and for your sake, he became poor… He did not regard equality with God thing to be horded, but he humbled himself to become man … a poor man … and even to die on a despicable cross. He became poor.
And in his death on the cross, he paid your entire penalty of sin so that you through his poverty you might become rich. That if you would just lose your life for Christ’s sake … Trusting in him turning from your sin turning from your own life, desires and ambitions … Desiring to submit all of who you are under Jesus’ authority… And when God saves you, then you to like Jesus, will be raised up from the dead and you would become a new creature in Christ Jesus. What a high position!
Let’s continue glorying in our high position this morning … turn back to Ephesians chapter 2. Ephesians chapter 2. Let’s read verses 1-9. We’re going to glory in our high position. When in trial and difficult times, glory in your high position in Christ.
Ephesians 2:1–9 1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. [how did it all happen?…] 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Though dead in sin, when you trust in him and God saves you, he has made you alive together with Christ … he has raised you up with him and he has even seated you with Christ in the heavenly places. What grace! What a high position! A seat with Christ!
I tried to think of how to illustrate this… this spiritual rags to eternal riches story … but how can you and do it justice?! In our sin, we were the lowliest of the low, headed only for eternal destruction, and now…a seat with Christ in the heavenly places. That’s the grace of God. That’s our high position. And James says…. now back in James chapter 1 verse 9… James says that we are to glory in this, our high position. Not just think about it, not just know it to be true, or trust God for it, but to glory in it, rejoice in it, boast in it. “Ha ha, trial…you ain’t got nothing on me! I’m a child of God, I’ve got a seat with Christ!” Do you have that confidence this morning?
If you ask in faith for wisdom to have joy in trial, God’s going to answer that prayer by empowering you to boast in your high position in Christ. Pray for wisdom in trial to boast in your high position in Christ.
TRANS: To get joy in trial, not only must you glory in your high position, you must also glory in your vindication. Glory in your vindication. This is verses 10-11.
Glory in Your Vindication (1:10-11)
James 1:10–11 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
Remember the context. These poor Jewish believers are being persecuted by the rich. That’s their trial. And James is giving them the eternal perspective on their trial. James is giving them God’s eternal perspective. He is teaching them how to view this trial.
The point is here in verses 10-11…all of the wrongs will be made right. And James’ readers would have been glad to have heard these words in verse 10… that “the rich man is to glory in his humiliation because like flowering grass he will pass away.”
The gives encouragement to these poor believers, who are rich in Christ. All of the wrongs will be made right. The rich oppressors will be judged for their sin; they won’t get away with it. God in heaven is looking on. Verse 11 …
James 1:11 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.
Like a scorching hot wind destroys grass, so the rich man will be destroyed. James may be talking about the Sirocco winds.
In southeastern end of the Mediterranean Sea from early-May to mid-June, there is a transitional season from the wet winter months to the dry summer ones. The si-rocco winds blow in from the desert. When that happens, the humidity drops dramatically and a fine dust can fill the air and it can easily wither the grass and make the flowers fall off, destroying its appearance.
James is saying, that’s exactly what it’s going to be like for the rich man. These oppressive rich men, unless they repent and trust in the Lord for salvation, the Lord of all the earth will, with his scorching judgments and cause the beauty of the rich man’s appearance to be destroyed and even while he is in the midst of his business pursuits and oppressing others, he will fade away.
And so is the one who does not trust in the Lord.
Poor believers will be vindicated. All the wrongs will be made right. But if you are listening in Western Canada this morning, this is not your trial. You’re not being oppressed by rich people who are taking your money, taking your property, or even killing your people. That is going on in the world today and if that is you, glory in your future vindication. Those persecuting you will be destroyed and you will receive the crown of life.
But no matter what your trial, God will vindicate you. He will make the wrongs right. What is going on in your life? Are you struggling with your health? If you trusted Jesus, one day you will have a glorified body. Do you have financial troubles? Glory in the fact that you do have and will one day experience all of God’s spiritual riches for you in Christ. Have you lost a saved love one? You will one day meet them in glory.
What could possibly be so wrong that God won’t restore?
James will say in James 2:5…
James 2:5 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
Heir of the kingdom …and not just any kingdom, the kingdom of God!
Romans 8:16–18 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
We sang Thursday “when all get to heaven” and in that hymn we have the line …
Let us then be true and faithful,
trusting, serving every day;
just one glimpse of him in glory
will the toils of life repay.
APP: Now, I can’t help but to mention this morning that we must not be like the rich man, pursuing riches as a primary goal. “You cannot serve both God and wealth.” Jesus said, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
How hard it is for a rich man to forsake his sin, his life, and come to God as a beggar! All because the rich have been sucked into the deceitfulness of riches. They say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” but they do not know that they are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
All flesh is grass and all it’s glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower will fall off…and then who shall these things be?
Let us who trust in Christ be careful lest we get duped by the deceitfulness of riches, thinking, “if only we had _____, then we’d be happy.” That is not the path to true joy.
Eternity is coming; judgment is coming. Are you living for this life? “What is your life?” James will ask later. It is but a vapor…and poof, it’s gone. Pursue eternal riches, lay up treasure in heaven.
TRANS: To get joy in trial, glory in your present high position in Christ, glory in your future vindication when all your toil will be made right, and now lastly, glory in your future commendation, your future reward. Verse 12 …
Glory in Your Commendation (1:12)
James 1:12 12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
Here’s motivation to be faithful in trial. The Lord will reward you for your faithfulness to him in the midst of your difficulties. The man who perseveres, who endures while in trial is blessed. He is spiritually prosperous. Why is the man who endures in the trial spiritually prosperous? For, or because, James says … once he has been approved, once he passes the test … here is our gracious Lord’s response… “You will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him.” What a great promise!
The crown of life. What is that? The crown is not a king or a queen’s crown that we think of. What James has in mind is a laurel wreath around the head. It’s the reward of an athlete when he wins an event in the ancient games.
And so the crown of life is… a reward. You persevere in trial and you continue loving him and you are faithful to him not denying him, you receive eternal life.
Think of what was going on for James’ readers. It would’ve been very tempting to deny Jesus under persecution. To save your life and property, all you’d have to do is to forsake the Lord, to disregard eternal life in Christ, and to turn your back on Jesus’ Lordship and death and resurrection. Those who do, it’s clear, that they are not saved.
It’s like what Jesus says to the church of Smyrna in the book of Revelation…
Revelation 2:10 10 ‘Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison [they experienced persecution], so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Even in the midst of trial, even in the midst of difficulties, the love of Christ constrains me…it squeezes me to be faithful to him. And if I don’t forsake Him and deny Him and turn my back on Him and I continue trusting Him, I will be approved and will one day experience eternal life.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of James 1.9-12
There is God’s perspective on your trials. If you are having a hard time in life, the cards are stacked against you, … are you only seeing the duck? Are you only seeing the difficulty? Are you so focused on that … that it could be said of you, you are glorying in it? Don’t glory in your difficulty! No grumbles!
Glory in your high position in Christ! You’ve got a seat with Him in the heavenly places.
Glory in your future vindication. No matter what it is, God will right every wrong. He will more than repay for all the toils you endure.
And glory in your future commendation. Once approved through your trial and shown to be truly His, you will experience God’s eternal life.
So pray! Pray about these things; purposefully glory in these things while going through difficulty. Study them in the Bible to get the joy you need.
There is coming a day when you’ll sit with Christ…there’s coming a day when bodies of the saints will be raised from the dead and every tear will be wiped away and He’ll give to us the crown of life! No more crying or pain, all distress and stress will be gone and you’ll find your eternal home, dwelling forever in fellowship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. This will all be true in the Sweet By and By, number 637.