By Rev. Chuck Pruitt
New Life Church
The book of James is a book about how faith works. It clearly says that living faith, real faith, is active, it is effective, it is essential to growing in Christ. He charges us in chapter one to have a different perspective than the world when it comes to “trials” or “hard times”. The challenge: “Consider it pure joy when you fall into various trials.” How do we do that? How do we walk through the hard places in life and maintain an attitude of joy? We do this by turning our thought process from the “Why?” of the situation, to the “Who?” We will be frustrated, angry and discouraged if we keep asking ourselves, “Why me?” “Why am I going through this hard place?” What did I do to deserve this?” We need to change our focus to “Who?” What I mean by this is that we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. When we focus on God we will see that he is bigger than our problems and his grace is sufficient for whatever we face! God is more than able to deliver us from our trouble and his grace is more than able to help us endure the trial.
James teaches us some simple truths that can help us maneuver the difficult days we face.
The first is that we can expect troubling times. James does not say “if” you face trials, but “when.” Dear friends, we will have battles. Jesus himself made it clear in John 16:33 that we will experience trouble in this world, but that we can find peace in the storm as we “take heart” and look to him.
A missionary whose son has muscular dystrophy explains it this way, “My son is not dying. My son will die one day just like the rest of us. In the meantime, he is living. And we are going to enjoy life together. Here and in eternity. My story and his story will not be one of death, or dying but of living till we die. We see movies, take walks, go on trips, he might want to hunt, he likes to fish. He loves to laugh. We are going to live. That’s my manifesto today.”
This is the attitude we all should have about life.
Another truth that we can learn from James is that we need to look beyond our circumstances and to trust God will use it for our benefit to grow us. James says trials develop endurance and endurance develops spiritual maturity. God can bring good out of our trouble.
Rom 8:28 (NIV) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Consider for a moment the apostle Paul who was imprisoned, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times he received thirty-nine lashes. Three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned and left for dead, three times shipwrecked and many times was rejected by his own people (2 Cor 11:23-28), and yet, in Acts 16 we see Paul and Silas while in jail, kept their hearts turned to God in prayer and with singing while other prisoners listened.
Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus chose joy in the midst of his suffering. He kept his eyes on the prize, the church. He stood strong, knowing that God was going to use the cross to win the lost, to win us.
The Apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus have modeled to us to change our focus from our situation and on to the goodness of God and know that he is using it for good.
God is not the author of trouble, but he can, as we yield to him, use our hard times to make us stronger and more spiritually mature.