The Way of Victory in Trials
June 10, 2008 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
The following is from the new Advanced Bible Studies Series on the Epistle of James.
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways” (James 1:2-11).
James mentions five things that are necessary in order to have victory in trials.
1. Count it joy (Jam. 1:2).
a. Note that we are not told to be joyful but to “count it joy.” The Greek word for “count” is “hegeomai,” which is also translated “esteem” (Phil. 2:3) and “suppose” (Phil. 2:25). It does not describe an emotional experience; it describes the practice of right thinking. It means that we understand that God is in control and that this trial will work for our good (Rom. 8:28), and we stand firmly on this fact and do not allow ourselves to be shaken. We are not expected to laugh in a trial but to stand firm in our faith in God’s promises during the trial.
b. Compare Romans 5:3. Here we see that we are to glory in tribulations. This means to have confidence in God. The Greek word translated “glory” (kauchaomai) is oftentimes translated “boast” (Rom. 2:17, 23; 2 Cor. 7:14; 2 Cor. 9:2; 10:8, 13, 15, 16; 11:16; Eph. 2:9). To glory in tribulations means to maintain one’s boasting and confidence in the Lord and not doubt His promises.
c. Compare 1 Peter 1:3-7. Here we see that trials can bring “heaviness” rather than happiness on an emotional plane. The spirit can rejoice and be confident in God even when the flesh is heavy. When your goods are robbed or your loved ones imprisoned and tortured or your beloved wife or husband or son or daughter dies unexpectedly, it is not a time to laugh. It is a serious time, but even in the midst of the greatest trial the believer can “count it joy.” When Job’s children were killed and his wealth and health taken away in one stroke, it was not a time to be happy, but it was a time to trust in the Lord and to know that He never makes a mistake.
2. Be patient (Jam. 1:3-4).
Patience is necessary in to go through trials successfully. We must be patient and let God accomplish His will in that situation. The trial must be accepted. Patience is mentioned seven times in James’ epistle. 2 Thessalonians 1:4 teaches us that “patience and faith” are united together. You can’t have one without the other. If you have faith you have patience in trials, and if you have patience it is because you have faith.
a. Patience comes through the Scriptures. Romans 15:4 teaches us that patience comes by the Scriptures, and Romans 10:17 teaches us that faith comes by the Scriptures. When we stand on the Bible we know that trials will result in blessing if we remain in God’s will, and armed with this wisdom we can exercise patience and wait on God to do His pleasure. It is therefore necessary during trials to remain in intimate relationship with God’s Word. The devil tries to discourage us and to get us to stop reading the Bible and stop attending church faithfully so that we aren’t hearing God’s Word preached and taught. The most foolish thing one can do in a trial is to yield to this temptation and draw away from God’s Word, because that is exactly where the victory lies. The Bible is the source of our faith and patience in trials, and the neglect of the Bible results in doubt and confusion and fretting and bitterness and even to worldliness and blasphemy.
b. Patience comes by looking to the future. Romans 8:23-25 teaches us to look to the future and to “hope for that we see not” so that we can patiently wait for it.
c. Patience must be allowed to her perfect work. We can grieve the Spirit and quench the Spirit (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thes. 5:18-19). We can resist God’s work by refusing to accept the trials that He has designed. It is possible to let the trial have some benefit but not the full benefit that God intends. By fretting against our circumstances we are resisting the God who has said that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The Jews did this when they were thirsty (Ex. 17:1-2), and when they lusted for Egypt’s food (Num. 11:4-6, 10, 31-34), and when they were afraid of the giants (Num. 14:1-2, 26-27).
3. Pray (Jam. 1:5).
a. The wisdom mentioned here is the wisdom needed to go through trials properly. Observe that the help that we need to go through trials is not strength but wisdom, and it is available through prayer. This is the wisdom to understand God’s promises and what His Word says about my situation and how I should react and what decisions I should make. “We should not pray so much for the removal of an affliction as for wisdom to make a right use of it. And who is there that does not want wisdom under any great trials or exercises to guide him in his judging of things, in the government of his own spirit and temper, and in the management of his affairs? To be wise in trying times is a special gift of God, and to him we must seek for it” (Matthew Henry).
b. God gives to all men who ask in faith.
God is no respecter of persons. He is kind and gracious, ready to help all who sincerely seek Him.
James is speaking from the context of those who are brethren in Christ through faith. It is sin that has separated man from God, and the only thing that can remove that barrier is the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:22-28; 10:19). An unsaved sinner cannot expect God to answer his prayers as long as he rejects God’s salvation in Jesus Christ.
That God is merciful and gracious does not mean that he offers “unconditional” grace. He requires faith (Jam. 1:6-7) and repentance (Acts 17:30).
God gives liberally. He is not stingy with His blessings. He is ready to give all of the wisdom that we need in any trial.
God does not upbraid when we approach Him in faith. The Greek word translated “upbraid” (oneidizo) means to chide or rebuke. It is also translated “cast in teeth” (Mat. 27:44), “reproach” (Lk. 6:22) and “revile” (Mat. 5:11). God does not reproach us for coming to Him as needy sinners and asking for His help, but He does upbraid us for unbelief and hardness of heart (Mk. 16:14). Christ also upbraided unbelievers for their lack of repentance (Mat. 11:20).
4. Be steadfast (Jam. 1:6-8).
a. The warning against doublemindedness is given in the context of trials. To be doubleminded is to waver in faith because of a trial, to let the trial control me and toss me around (Jam. 1:6). Israel committed this sin repeatedly (1 Cor. 10:9-10; Ex. 17:1-7; Num. 21:4-6). The doubleminded person is not stedfast in faith. He believes God one day and doesn’t believe the next. He is like the man Jesus described in the Parable of the Sower. “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended” (Mat. 14:20-21). “The doubleminded is tossed about from within, by its own instability. At one time cast on the shore of faith and hope, at another rolled back into the abyss of unbelief; at one time raised to the height of worldly pride, at another tossed in the sands of despair and affliction” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown). “All this necessitates childlike faith, which means counting on His faithfulness and on an answer from Him. If we doubt His faithfulness or question His answer we cannot receive anything from Him. Hesitance about God, a doublemindedness, depending upon something else besides God is in reality unbelief” (Gaebelein).
b. The doubleminded person will not receive anything of the Lord (Jam. 1:7). Observe that the Bible does not glorify doubt as some, such as those in the “emerging church,” do. For example, Rob Bell says that God gives men “the invitation to follow Jesus with all our doubts and questions right there with us” (Velvet Elvis, p. 28). He says, “We sponsored a Doubt Night at our church awhile back. People were encouraged to write down whatever questions or doubts they had about God and Jesus and the Bible and faith and church” (p. 29). But James tells us that if we do not approach God in faith we will not receive anything from Him. The Bible does not exalt doubt. It says that faith is necessary to please God (Heb. 11:6). Jesus rebuked those who doubted (Mat. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8) and praised those who had faith (Mat. 8:10; 15:28). He taught that faith is one of the weightier matters of the law (Mat. 23:23) and exhorted the people to have faith in God (Mk. 11:22). Zacharias was judged for doubting (Luke 1:20). Christian men are instructed to praise God without doubting (1 Tim. 2:8). To doubt is sin (Rom. 14:23). The Bible teaches us that we must come to terms with doubt; it must be dealt with; it must be resolved. The Psalmist doubted in Psalm 73, but his doubt was resolved in the same Psalm and he compared himself to a foolish beast for doubting God.
c. The doubleminded person is unstable in all his ways (Jam. 1:8). The doubleminded person wavers in his faith in God during trials and is uncertain that God will hear him, and he is unstable in all other things. He is inconsistent, peevish, changeable, restless, undependable. “He is confused in his mind; restless in his thoughts, unsettled in his designs and intentions; inconstant in his petitions; uncertain in his notions and opinion of things; and very variable in his actions, and especially in matters of religion” (Gill).
5. Be content (James 1:9-12).
a. Again, this is stated in the context of trials. The poor man and the rich man face different trials. The poor man’s trial pertains to his poverty. He lacks many things that he desires. He doesn’t have the choices and opportunities that the rich man has. He has a lowly station in life and a lowly occupation and is looked down on by the wealthy. The poor is faced with the temptation to covet and lie and steal and dissemble. The rich man, on the other hand, is the faced with the temptation to squander his wealth on himself and to be proud and selfish and indifferent to spiritual matters. “Let the poor Christian rejoice, in that he is spiritually exalted, and the rich man rejoice, in that he is spiritually humbled; a rich man's humility is his glory” (Burkitt).
b. The believer of low degree should rejoice because he is exalted in Christ (Jam. 1:9). Though he doesn’t have much in this world, he is a child of God and will reign with Christ forever. He has been adopted by God (Gal. 3:26). He has all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3). He has an inheritance reserved in heaven (1 Pet. 1:4). He will reign with Christ in glory (Col. 3:4). And even in this present life, though he is poor, he has the indwelling Holy Spirit and all of the promises of God to encourage and satisfy him.
c. The believer of high degree should rejoice because God has humbled him (Jam. 1:10-11).
The wealthy believer should rejoice that he has been brought into the light and that he sees life through redeemed eyes. The rich unbeliever is proud and trusts in his riches (Prov. 18:11) and it is more difficult for him to be saved than for the poor man (Mat. 19:23; Jam. 2:5). In contrast to the unbeliever, the wealthy believer knows that he is a sinner and that he is not better than others. He learns not to trust in uncertain riches but to be ready to distribute (1 Tim. 6:17-19). He lays up treasures in heaven (Mat. 6:19-20).
The way of the rich man will soon pass away (Jam. 1:10-11). This reminds us that life is short. Compare James 4:13-15. Therefore we must live for Christ and be ready to meet Him. Since life is short the rich man must use his wealth to further God’s business more than his own. He must be “be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate” (1 Tim. 6:18).
The way of the rich man that will pass away is the way of the unsaved rich man--the way of pride and self-sufficiency and selfishness and unconcern for others and rebellion against God’s laws and bribing and perverting justice. It is the way described in James 2:6-7 and 5:4-6. There will be incredible wealth in the kingdom of God and we are even encouraged to lay up treasures in heaven (Mat. 6:20), but wealth in God’s kingdom will not be in the hands of the wicked and will not be used in an unrighteous manner.
d. James concludes this section by encouraging his readers that enduring temptation brings a crown of life (Jam. 1:12). The crown of life is the believer’s position of authority with Christ in glory.
See 1 Peter 4:13. It is also called a crown of righteousness (2 Tim. 4:8) and a crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:4).
The crown of life is promised in Revelation 2-3 to the overcomer (Rev. 2:10; 3:21). The overcomer is the one who is born again through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ and who exhibits this in his life by his testimony and his willingness to suffer for Christ (Rev. 12:11; 1 Jn. 4:4; 5:4-5). According to Revelation 2:26, the overcomer keeps Christ’s works unto the end. This is a description of a truly regenerate Christian. He does not believe for a time only. He is fully convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and trusts Him exclusively and confidently. When others turn away, the true believer shows his character by keeping his faith (John 6:66-69). The just are those that live by faith and do not draw back unto perdition (Heb. 10:38-39). Those that turn back are those that do not have true saving faith and never did have. There are “things that accompany salvation” (Heb. 6:9), and one of those is that the saved continue in the faith. Those that continue in God’s Word thereby prove that they are Christ’s true disciples (John 8:31). Christ’s true sheep, which have eternal life, hear their Saviour’s voice and follow Him (John 10:27-28).
The overcomer will sit with Christ in His throne. Christ will rule the world at His return and kingdom, and the saints will rule with Him (Psa. 149:5-9; Dan. 7:22, 27; Mat. 19:28; Rev. 19:15). We see the greatness of salvation in that the believer will sit with Christ in His throne. What an exaltation of lowly sinners! What a thing to look forward to! What a motivation to live for Christ in this present world!
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