The Christian Way of approaching Adversity
Sunday English Service – 28 FEB 21
As Christians, how should we deal with adversity or suffering. As Christians, how should we approach problems, difficulties, challenges. How should we live in the midst of hard times? That’s what we’re going to talk about today. The whole world is today filled with problems. We are living. You may say in some hard times, more than before. Many face financial hardship, many suffer from sickness and it’s after effects or complications, so many kinds of adversity. Now I’m suffering and entire communities are facing big problems. Challenges like never before. And it is this world that believers are living in. We are also in this world in this time only. And so we face the same problems. We face the same problems. So it’s very important that we believers learn how to live during these times, how to deal with this adversity, these challenges, and even suffering in some cases.
We have to learn how to deal with it, approach it, live in it. We have to learn it. I say that purposely. We have to learn it because if we don’t learn how to deal with it, if we don’t learn how to approach in a Christian way. If we don’t learn how to approach adversity, suffering, we will end up approaching it like the world. We will end up responding to the adversity we face, just like people in the world. People in the world, they have their usual responses to challenges and suffering. Our response will begin to look like their response, but we know in our heart of hearts that our response should be different. There should be. There’s a big difference between the world and us. There is a big difference between people in the world and people in the church, Christians. What is the Christian? What ought to be the Christian approach to suffering adversity? The Bible speaks much about this, the New Testament teaches much about it in several places in detail. This is a very big subject, a lot of teaching and today we’re just going to begin this in a small way by selecting one passage, that passage is James chapter 1, verse 2 and 3.
This is a small, but classic passage on how Christians should respond to difficulties, challenges, problems, suffering. Let’s read James chapter 1 verse 2 and 3, count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness and let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete lacking in nothing. Notice that he is talking about our subject only. How do you deal with problems? How do you respond to problems? He says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Trials means problems is a very broad word, meaning a problem, difficulty, challenge, suffering and he puts it broadly, various trials, when you fall into various trials, everybody falls into various trials. There’s nobody exempt from it. Today, we realize that. When you fall into these various trials, what should be your response? He says, “Count it all joy.” That’s sounds a little extreme, doesn’t it? Joy. You see that in the same verse, he’s got trials and he’s got joy.
When you fall into various trials and it’s going to happen, it’s not if you fall into, when you fall into various trials, how should you respond it? Count it as joy, counted as joy. And not only does he say joy, he says, count it all joy or some translation says, count it pure joy. That means count it only joy. Some people look at that and say, this is crazy. I mean, who will ever say something like that? How insensitive must he be to say, when you fall into various trials, count it all joy. Well, if you know who wrote this, you won’t say that. The author is James, the brother of our Lord. James, the one who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Which was the persecution headquarters. Jerusalem is the persecution headquarters because that’s where persecution of the church began. They killed Stephen in Acts chapter 7, chapter 8, a great persecution rises and Jewish believers. Early Jewish believers begin actually leaving Jerusalem because of the persecution, and James is a great leader in that church.
I mean, think about it. This is a church with Peter and John and these guys towering figures, but James is right there in their midst. He’s a very highly respected. You see in Acts chapter 15 where everybody’s gathered there, Peter, Paul, but then when James speaks, everybody listens and follows such as the respect toward James, because he was the leader in the church at Jerusalem. And he probably never left. He stayed in the persecution headquarters, Jerusalem. And he’s writing to these people, you’ll see in James 1:1 they’ve dispersed it. He’s writing to the people of the dispersion, scattered abroad. They’re away from their home. They’re undergoing persecution. He’s writing to them and he’s saying count it as joy, if anybody else says it, they might’ve just threw it away. What do you mean count it all joy? But now this is James talking, writing from the persecution headquarters undergoing the worst persecution himself, go read how James died, they pushed him from the temple mountain. He fell down and he still wasn’t dead. They came and threw stones at him. And while they were throwing stones at him, tradition says that he was crying out loudly for God to forgive the people stoning him. This is James. The one who knows what he’s talking about. Who is experienced the worst suffering?
And he says he has every right. He has every reason, he has the credibility to stand up and say, count it all joy. It’s strange that he begins a book like that, count it all joy. When you go through trials, that’s a shocking way to begin the book. If I were the beginning it, I would say, if when you go to various trials, just don’t be afraid, don’t worry. We’ll just pat them on the back. Be soft with the people. When you’re going through trouble, guys, just take it easy, it’s okay, God will comfort you. God will help you. That’s what I would say. That’s the approach I would take, but he just approaches it with like, almost like a slap on the face. When you go through various trials, count it all joy. Shocking, beginning to the book. And so people look at it and they say, well, this is extreme, what’s he talking about? But it’s not extreme in the sense that it is extreme in one way, but it’s not extreme in the sense that this is the consistent teaching of the New Testament on the whole. This is not a streamers. This is not James gone extreme or crazy. This is the consistent teaching of the New Testament.
You look at other passages, for example, the Apostle Paul writing from prison to those outside prison says these words, rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say. Those are the words coming from prison, imagine that. Rejoice in the Lord always. You read the book of Philippians and he, again, and again, talks about himself rejoicing and how they should rejoice so much so that the scholars look at it and they say, this is a book where the main subject is joy. I imagine that a book written from prison, the main subject is what? Joy. Some people like to say, this is the problem with these guys. Paul and James, these people are all, you can’t trust them. They’re a little crazy. They go off on the extreme end here. Okay, what about someone else? Let me read the words of someone else.
Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spun your name as evil on account of the son of man, rejoice in that day and leap for joy for behold your reward is great in heaven for so their fathers did to the prophets. That is Jesus, by the way. It’s not Paul, not James, not somebody crazy. That’s Jesus. Jesus says, when they hate you, when they persecute you, when they revile you, when they do all kinds of evil against you, because of me, what do you do? How do you respond? Rejoice in that day. He takes to an extreme, leap for joy. How? This is the consistent teaching of the New Testament. If it’s extreme, the entire New Testament is extreme. James 1:2 is part of that teaching. It’s not just that consistent teaching of the New Testament, it is also the life experience of these apostles and believers in the New Testament period. They didn’t just teach it. They didn’t just say rejoice. They actually experienced joy in the middle of suffering.
For example, Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in jail, Acts chapter 16. What do they do? They are singing. They are singing. Imagine that. Is that the place to sing or is that the time to sing? But that’s what they do. That’s why you’re in the Christian Church no matter what the situation is, we sing. Have you noticed that? Even when a death has happened, what do we do there? We sing. We declare to the whole world that no matter what happens, even if the worst happens, we sing because we still have joy, it doesn’t take away our joy. Take Peter and John in Acts chapter 4 they threaten them, they go out with joy, example after example, while some people may think this is only for the great apostles. Only they can live with joy in the middle of suffering. Well, no, not like that. Even believers, ordinary believers experienced joy in the middle of difficulty. Joy in the middle of suffering.
1 Thessalonians 1:6. 1 Thessalonians 1:6. This is a very unique thing about Christianity. One of the unique marks of Christianity is joy in the middle of suffering. 1 Thessalonians 1:6, and you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you receive the word in much affliction with the joy of the Holy spirit. He’s writing to ordinary believers. He says, you started imitating us, you received the word in much affliction, much affliction. Again, there’s a persecuted church, much affliction, but immediately next phrase with the joy of the Holy spirit, there’s much affliction, but there is joy. Both together at the same time. The world, if you ask the world, they’ll tell you joy comes when circumstances are good. How can you expect joy to be there when the circumstances are bad? But Christianity says when the circumstances are bad, count it all joy. Not only that you can actually have joy. This is for all believers, all believers. The next verse, Paul says same passage. So that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Asia. He’s saying you were experiencing affliction at the same time joy are an example for all believers in Macedonia and Asia.
So here all believers don’t live like this, but the ones who are an example live like this, this is the example we all have to strive for, strive towards it. This is the model. This is the goal for us today. Joy in the middle of suffering, joy in the middle of difficulty, joy in the middle of challenges. It’s a bit extreme and it’s very difficult, but it’s the goal. A lot of things, the New Testament says is very difficult only. For example, Jesus says, “Be perfect just as your heavenly father is perfect.” How can you be perfect like Him? But that’s what Jesus said. Command be perfect. So that’s the goal. The New Testament puts forth a very high goal, you cannot actually perfectly achieve that goal in this life. And yet that is the goal. Meaning we need to be striving towards that goal. We need to be striving towards that goal constantly, or take another difficult thing, the New Testament says, speak the truth in love, Ephesians 4:15. Speak the truth in love. People have a difficulty just speaking the truth. The Bible says, speak the truth in love.
That’s even more difficult, but that’s the goal. You got to strive toward that. There are many things that the New Testament says that are ridiculously hard. I mean, let’s be honest. This is very hard to have joy in the middle of suffering is very hard in one sense, isn’t it? But that’s the goal. That’s the Christian goal. It’s like in a football match. Everybody knows where the goal is. It’s over there. You can see it. Everybody is clear. And every time they take the ball, they go towards the goal. But have you noticed that they very rarely score, interesting. Every time they take the ball, they take it towards the goal. But very rarely score. Hitting a goal is hard. Getting to the goal is difficult. It’s like that. There’s the goal. We all know that’s the goal, but getting there is difficult. It’s not easy. Let’s be honest, but that’s what we are meant to do. And let me also put it like this. It’s not only hard or crazy hard. It’s still possible. It’s possible meaning we can get closer and closer to it. We can get better and better at it. We can rarely grow in this area in scoring this goal, having joy in the middle of suffering.
Why do I say we can grow? We can get better? We can approach? We can reach that goal? In this life, even we can to great deal experience like Paul, like Silas, like James, like Peter, like John, like the believers in Thessalonians. We can experience joy along in the midst of suffering. I say that because we have the same Holy spirit. Joy is a fruit of the Holy spirit. Joy is a fruit of the — where does the joy come from? The Holy spirit. The circumstances don’t give us joy. When the circumstances are good, they can give you joy. But when it’s not good, joy can come from there. Joy comes from within the Holy spirit inside the believer gives the joy. What’s the fruit of the spirit love? Joy. So we have the same Holy spirit as the Apostle Paul and Peter. And so we can have the same joy. Not only do we have the same Holy spirit, we have same word. And in fact, even better word, I would say, Paul only had the Old Testament. We have the New Testament as well. We have the word to lead us toward that goal. That’s why James is giving the word to his people.
He wants his people to get to that goal where they experienced this joy in the middle of suffering. And so he’s teaching them, he’s teaching them and we have his teaching today. We have the teaching of God. So that’s what we’re going to look into. We’re going to look into this today, James 1:2-3. Let’s look at our Bibles, James 1:2-3 because James here actually explains how we can count our problems as joy. He actually explains the logic behind this. In one sense, you cannot explain joy in the middle of suffering, how can you explain Paul and Silas singing after being beaten up in prison? In one sense you can’t explain it, it’s unexplainable, but in another sense. The New Testament gives it a deep logic for why we can have joy in the middle of suffering. Look at the logic of James. Look at the way he works it out and he tells you why we can have it, my brother, and count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
Verse 3 is the key to experiencing verse 2. How is it possible to count problems as joy? Or how is it possible when you have problems to count it all joy, it’s possible if you know something, know what? Verse 3, know that the testing of your faith produces patience. If you have a certain knowledge, if you can think in a certain way, if you can have a certain logic, a certain perspective, a certain way of seeing things. If you’re not something to know something in the Bible is not just to you just hear of it, no, no, to know something is to truly understand it, to truly be convinced of it, to truly receive it. If you accepted it, if you realize it’s true. If you realize that the testing of your faith to produces patience, then you can count it all joy even when you have problems, knowing. Everybody say knowing. That’s the most important word, there.
In verse 2 and 3, knowing, because we tend to think of joy as a mere emotion. We think what, when circumstances are good, the joy comes out automatically. It’s an emotion just comes from within, we can control it. If it comes, it comes. If it doesn’t come, it doesn’t come. We think of joy as from the heart. Just a heart thing. But this passage shows us that it begins where? In the mind it begins. It begins where? In the mind. Yeah, it’s fine when your circumstances are well, the joy will come automatically from the heart. That’s fine. But when the circumstances are bad, the Bible doesn’t say, it’s okay, it doesn’t come, just leave it. No, it’s just counted joy. Use your mind to count it joy. Get something in your head, think in a certain way and count it joy. Knowing that the testing of your faith, it begins on a mental level. The goal is there. The goal is full joy, true joy, including emotion. That’s the goal. But the goal is far off to begin your journey toward the goal, where do you begin? You begin with the mind. You begin with the mind. It’s not just some ecstatic. Some people like to think of Christian joy as just something ecstatic, just something that flows automatically. We don’t know when it will come. We don’t know where will go. We can’t control it. We can’t — no.
James says, “No, count it joy, knowing this.” I mean, stick in this way, know this, know what? Know that the testing of your faith produces patience. The testing of your faith produces — it’s a very simple sentences in it, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience, but it is loaded with stuff. It is loaded with truth, and that’s what we’re going to unpack today, knowing this, if we can know this, if we can understand this, if we can realize this truth deep down in our hearts and minds. If we can be convinced of this, that the testing of our faith producers patience we will be able to count it all joy. So let’s unpack it and break it up, step, step. What should we know?
Number 1, we should know that our trial is not just a trial. Our problem is not just a problem, but rather it is the testing of our faith. Know that your problem is actually a testing of your faith. See your problem, not just as a problem, but see it as a test of your faith. Look how James changes the language. In verse 2, he says, “When you fall into various trials.” And then in verse 3, he doesn’t use that word trial anymore. He says, “The testing of your faith.” He jumps from trial to faith testing. Why? Because he really believes that the most important thing about your trials that you should know is your faith is being tested. What’s the most important thing happening in your trial? How should you view your trial? What’s the number one thing you got to get about your problem? It’s this. Your faith is being tested. Your faith is being tested. We tend to notice all the other details about our problems, except this many times. Have you noticed?
Suppose I’m going through a problem. People looking from the outside, when they look at my problem, they will notice all its external causes. Oh brother, he is suffering from such a big problem, such as sickness, such a — he can’t find a job, such a financial hardship, such a family trouble. We’ll focus on all these external causes. We’ll look into its details. Describe it in a detailed way. Me, myself, if I’m the one going through the problem, I may not look at all the external details, I look at the internal effects, what these causes the sickness or the financial hardship does to me, internally it pulls me down and it destroys my peace and happiness and just fills me with worry and fear and I’m just confused. So when I go to prayer or something, this is the way people say it. I’m in a big problem, lost all my peace. Pray that I’ll get peace, pray that I’ll come out of the problem.
So we’re either focusing on the external causes, it’s details or the internal effects, it’s details, but we miss the most important thing that is happening in the background behind the scenes. What is really happening is our faith is being tested. James doesn’t pay too much attention to the external causes or the internal effects. Did you notice how he puts it? He just kind of lumps the problems together and he says, when you fall into various problems, various whatever it is, various, the details of it are not so important. Various, as people we like to have somebody who is sensitive to the details of our problem and all that is good, but that’s not number one. It doesn’t matter what the details of your problem is. What matters is that you understand that what is really happening in your problem is that your faith is being tested. Yeah, it may do this and that on the inside of you, but what you really need to be aware of and be acutely aware of is that your faith is being tested. James looks at the problem, not as a problem, but as a test. Everybody say not a problem, test.
Do you realize that your faith is tested during trial? Really our faith is tested during our trial, whether we realize it or not. For example, if we believe in certain things, for example, we believe God is good. We believe God is good all the time, He’s good. Now, easy to believe that and say that and sing that when everything is going fine, but when everything is not so good to say it, to sing it, to believe it becomes a little challenging, isn’t it? The problem puts pressure on our faith. It tests our faith. He says, do you really believe God is good? You sure about that? There is a real test of faith in various problems, various kinds of problems. Do we recognize that? Do we see it in that way? That’s the first step. We need to see it in that way. Now, how do you know whether you’re seeing it that way or not? How do you speak about it? Do you speak about it like James, or do you speak about it only as a problem? That’s why I say open your mouth and say, not a problem, but a test. Everybody say not a problem, but a test.
We’re not denying anything. We’re not denying there is a problem. We’re saying see it in a different way, see it in a Christian way, the Christian world sees it as only a problem. Christians are to see it, not just as a problem, but more importantly, as a test of their faith that we have speaking must be there. Like James, we need to speak in that way. Interestingly and I was preparing, I was looking at this verse, studying this verse and spending time with verse when I received a phone call from some members of our church and they said they want prayer because they’re going through some problems. But when I spoke to them, they brief quickly, very quickly, they described their problem and very quickly they used this exact word. I’ve just been looking at this passage. I receive a phone call and they tell me our faith is really being tested. I was amazed. I could see that, what James realizes, those people realize, that it’s not just a problem. They said our faith is really being tested. They saw it, they saw what’s happening in the spiritual level.
It was amazing for me to see that people are using that kind of talk. That’s how Christian should be. We should not just describe our problem as a problem, but as a test of our faith. Our faith is being tested. We should talk in that way. We should refer to our problem in that way as a test. Again say not a problem, but a test. This is the first step. I’ll give you another test whether you first of all need to check whether you’re seeing the problem as a problem or a test. So I’ll give you a little checking method. How do you pray about your problem? When you pray, do you just say, God deliver me from the problem? Is that it? Or when you pray, do you say, God, even while I’m in this God, my faith, I don’t want my faith to go down. I want my faith to only go up, increase my faith in and through this, let it never decrease. Do you pray like Jesus prayed for Peter; Luke 22:32, Jesus said, I’ve prayed for you that your faith may not fail, that your faith may not fail. That’s the most important thing to be concerned about in the middle of the problem. Do you see it? Do you see your problem as a test? Everybody say not a problem, but a test.
Now, once you make that shift from problem to test, you can start to see the value of it, because test has a value. That’s my second point. First thing is see your problem not as a problem, but a test. Second thing is understand the value of a test. Understand that a test has value. It is beneficial. It has certain users. It is useful. Tests are necessary and useful, necessary. Students don’t like exams or tests, but it’s necessary if I’m walking into an airplane and I know that I just heard that this airplane has never been tested and the pilot has never been tested on this kind of airplane that such a big plane. It’s just been sitting in a flight simulator. And that’s where he is. He’s never actually been tested in a real airplane. Are you going to get into that airplane and fly that plane? People don’t like test, but tests are necessary. If they just gave medical degrees to anybody without passing exams, you can become a doctor. Will you go see that doctor. We understand that tests are values, it’s good. Yeah, it’s sometimes it’s painful for the pilot at that time, but it’s good. Both for him and for everybody else, it has value. It is useful.
Similarly tests in the Christian life is useful. Notice my language, once I’ve put it like this, I can say it like this. Now, if I said the same thing, using a different word, you’ll look at me like differently. If I say problems in the Christian life are useful and you can see there that’s a problem. That’s why I said change your language, change your perspective. It’s not a problem, but a test it and test in the Christian life are useful. Why? Because your faith, my faith needs to be tested. My faith needs to be tested. Why? Then only I will know the true condition of my faith. Let’s talk about the benefits of a test.
Two benefits, I want to mention specifically. Benefit number one, test reveal what is really there. What’s really inside you. Only the test reveals that. Example, the student going to an exam. He thinks he knows everything, but only the exam proves what he really knows. Only the exam shows how much he really paid attention in class and understood the concepts. The exam only shows, proves the knowledge that he has inside. Similarly, test prove the true condition of our faith. Sometimes we think we have great faith. We think we have deep faith. We think we are — but then when the problem comes, that’s when we realize sometimes, I’ll buy more than the faith is more doubt and worry and this and that and — These things creep up, reveal themselves. That’s good because we need to know the true condition of our faith. We cannot be deceiving ourselves. Without a test, we will deceive ourselves. The heart is deceitful, the Bible says. Your heart makes you think you’ve got a lot of faith, but the real proof is in the test. When the test comes, if there’s real faith, it will show, if it’s not there it’ll also show.
In any case, whether it’s shows or not the test is good. Even if you discovered you didn’t have as much faith as you realized in the beginning, I say, it’s still good, but because at least now you know the truth. Even if the pilot fails a test flight, in the long run, that is good because at least now he knows he didn’t know as much as he thought he knew he can go and work on what he didn’t know, get better, come back and pass the — What I’m saying is even if you end up in a bad result in a test, it is still useful because it reveals the true conditions so that you can improve. And if you end up with a good result, great, you have an extra proof that the fate you thought is there is really there. So that’s the benefit number one, it shows the genuineness of your faith, the depth of your faith, look at a passage here related to this 1 Peter 1:6, very similar passage, 1 Peter, 1:6, like I said, the New Testament teaches about it. Many places, 1 Peter, 1:6 in this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials. Notice joy, problems, trials. So that the tested genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold, that perishes though it is tested by fire. Maybe found a result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
He’s saying you’ve got trials, but you’re still rejoicing. So that what’s happening. The tested genuineness of your faith. You know it’s genuine, only if it’s tested. The tested genuine, and then he gives an example, more precious than gold that perishes though is tested by fire. He’s saying the world thinks gold only is very precious and gold is tested. So that only what is truly gold remains and the other impurities go away. Gold is nothing, he says. More precious than gold is your faith. Everybody say more precious. The most precious thing you have today is your faith. The most valuable thing in your life you have, it’s not gold, money, wealth, house, property, work, skill, job. The most valuable thing you have is your faith. You know why I say that? Because your faith is in Christ and Christ is the most valuable treasure you got. Jesus is the most valuable treasure you got. Your faith is basically holding him.
And so your faith then becomes the most valuable thing you have. So that even if you lose other things, if you’ve got this one thing, you can gain everything. But if you don’t have this one thing, you have everything in the end, you’ll lose everything anyway. Isn’t that strange? But strong. Without faith in Christ in the end, people lose everything. That’s the truth of the Bible. The most precious thing you’ve got today is your faith, your faith in Christ, more precious than anything. And so it’s very important you realize what is the true condition of your faith. That’s benefit number one. Benefit number two. What is the benefit of a test? That’s what we’re talking about. Test has value, benefit, usefulness. Benefit number two, test not only reveal what is there, but they produce what was previously not there. They produce what was previously not there. Have you noticed that there’s something about exam, test. Going back to the student’s example. The exam proves the knowledge that the student already has, but not only that, in the process the student ends up gaining new knowledge.
Let me explain that, students study just because the exam is there. If the exam is not there, they won’t study. So the exam is coming up in a week just before that they’ll start studying. If because of the exam, not only they’re picking up things that they did not pick up in class, they didn’t pay attention in class, but now because of the exam they’re going and studying and asking their friend and clearing that doubt, and they’re gaining new knowledge by preparing for the exam. Not only does the exam show what knowledge they already had, it actually leads them to new knowledge. It gives them something new. James is talking about something like that. Look at verse 3, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. Everybody say produces. He doesn’t say the testing of your faith proves, no. The testing of your faith produces. He is saying, there’s a production going on. There’s a manufacturing here. The testing of your faith that process ends up producing, manufacturing, assembling together from raw materials and putting together and so that you end up with something that was previously, not that it produces something new. The testing of your faith produces, produces. What does it produce? Something new.
What is that something new? It is patience. That’s a very deceptive word. Patience. Why do I say that? Because sometimes we use that word very lightly and just be patient. We think of patience as just waiting in a line calmly without complaining, waiting for our turn. Or we think of patience like this, we’re going somewhere, taking our kids with us and our kids keep on asking us, have we reached? Have we reached? Have we reached? Parents with kids, young kids know what I’m talking about. It gets so tiring. And you say, no, just wait. I mean, we are going to reach, just be patient. So we think patients is just calmly waiting, for something to happen, just peaceful like that. No, no, no, that’s not. Patience, the word patience here is used as a — in the old philosophical writings patience is sometimes a virtue, a great virtue to have. Patience is something very much more deeper. So many English translations use different words to describe that because James is trying to say something far more than what we mean by patience today.
He has another word, endurance. Now we understand that word, endurance. What does endurance. To endure is to suffer. To endure is to go through suffering patiently without giving up, reaching the destination. Go through suffering patiently without giving up, and you reach that destination. Or here’s another word, perseverance to keep on doing something, continue doing something despite difficulty, despite delay in achieving success. Here’s another word. Steadfastness. The ESV uses the word steadfastness, what does that mean? Steadfast means firm. You’re standing on one place without moving, immovable, unshakable, no matter what hits you, what comes against you. You just stay the course, no matter what. Steadfast. Here’s another word. Fortitude, courage in the midst of pain or adversity. An inner strength and courage, which says no matter what comes, I will see. I’ll stay in my course. I’ll stand my ground. I’m not going to move from my ground. I believe in God. I believe in his word. I believe in his promises. I’m just going to stay right here, no matter what happens, I’m going to remain here firm in this place. Nothing can shake me. That’s what the word that’s what the word is talking about.
Another one scholar describes it like this, staying power, staying power. The ability to maintain, just stay right there despite fatigue or difficulty or suffering or pain, stamina, an inner stamina. That’s what he’s talking about. What is James saying? The testing of your faith produces something new. What does it produce? It produces an inner strength that was not there, an inner fortitude, a courage on the inside. A perseverance that was not there before, it makes the person tough. Makes a man out of you. That’s what it means. Really testing of our faith, it does that. When our faith is tested, when the pressure is exerted on our faith, what happens? We say, we believe God is good, but then the problem comes and the problem speaks to us and says, is God really good, you really believe it. It sets pressure on our faith. What do we do? We say, no, I believe God is good. No matter what happens, I believe it, I’ll stay with it, I will continue believing it. I will be pushed back. The problem pushes against our faith and we push back. And in the process, our faith is revealed, not only that our faith grows and something new is produced on the inside, an inner strength that was not there before. If I can give you an example, it’s weightlifting.
It’s one thing to go, and just show you a muscle like this in front of the mirror and say, wow, I got something here, but your muscle is not going to grow by just showing in front of the mirror and admiring yourself. Your muscle will grow only if you go to the gym and pick up those weights. And what do those weights do? Have you thought about that? When you lift those weights, they exert a pressure on that muscle. They push and you’ve got to push back. This is not like pausing in front of the mirror. This is the — I mean, that’s pushing against the, you got to push back. And in that process, through that process, as it pushes, and as you push back in the end, you keep doing that, you keep running the process again and again, lo and behold, that muscle grows. It’s the resistance. It’s the pushing and the pushing back that leads to the growth of that muscle. The same thing in a spiritual way, in an inner way. We believe God, we believe God’s word. We believe the promises. We have faith. All that is there, but that’s not enough for big growth, real growth.
Where does the big growth come, when the problem comes and the problem pushes against your faith, and when you push back in a good way. Now, the whole point is here. You’ve got to push back correctly. Only if you keep pushing back correctly, the faith will grow and the inner strength will develop. The fortitude will come. We’re not saying the problem will make you grow. No. When the problem exerts pressure on your faith and you push back against it, showing your faith and you keep doing that, that’s where the growth, that’s where the growth comes from. In the end, where does that lead to? If you run the process like this, where does that lead to? That’s the third point? Let’s go to verse 4. If you run this process, if you allow this process to continue, where does it end? It has a good ending. Let’s look at that. That’s our third point. So the first point is, it’s not a problem, it’s a test. That should be your thinking. That should be your speaking. That should be your praying. It’s not a problem, it’s a test.
Secondly, understand that a test as value. It actually ends up producing an inner strength of fortitude. Thirdly, this has a good ending. If you run, if you allow the process to continue, it has a good ending look at verse 4, but let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing. You see what is says? But let means, but allow, let it, allow patience to have its perfect work and if you allow, what will happen, you maybe perfect, and complete lacking nothing. If you keep running the process, what happens is you will lack nothing. You will come to a place of completion. What does it mean? What’s he talking about? You lack nothing. You’ll be complete. You’ll be perfect. What’s he talking? He’s talking about character development. He saying you’ll allow this process to continue. You approach your trial in this way as a testing of your faith, respond in the right way, it will produce that inner strength. It will produce that endurance. You allow the process to continue all the way to the end. Where will this end? It will end in you becoming perfect, complete, lacking nothing. That’s the goal.
One day, God will actually achieve that goal, not in this earthly life, but one day we will actually be perfect in character. This is talking about character, by the way, character. Everybody say character. I say that because that’s the emphasis here. Not, when it is lacking nothing, it doesn’t mean you’ll just have everything you need, no character, your character will be well-rounded. It will have every attribute needed. It will be become like the character of Jesus. That’s what it’s talking about. God is interested in our character development. Sometimes we are only interested in a comfort. But God says, I want your character. I want your character. We are just saying, God, I just want to be comfortable here, no problem, safe, just leave me in this place, comfortable. God says, no, that’s not enough for me. I want your character to be developed. And what am I going to use to develop your character? One of the things that God uses to develop our character is what? Test. Problem. Yeah.
The problem is not given by God, but the problem is used by God to develop our character interesting. James does not say count it all joy when you fall into the trials given by God. No, he says, count it joy when you fall into the various trials, the trials are there. You will find. It’s there and you’ll, they’ll come in your path. It’s unavoidable. That’s the nature of this life, the enemy and sin, and these things result in us facing trials, that’s unavoidable. In this world, you will have tribulation, but the thing that the enemy brings into your life with the goal of destroying your faith. The devil brings problems. The enemy brings suffering tribulation because his goal is to destroy our faith. Did you know that? He knows what believers don’t know? He knows that our faith is the most valuable thing. He’s not just interested in spoiling our life and destroying this and that and making us lose this or that. No, no, no. He has a higher goal. He wants our faith to become nothing. He wants us to give up our faith in God, give up our faith in His promises, give up our faith in Christ, give up our faith in the word. That’s his goal. He’s working with a very high goal in mind. Believers are the ones sometimes who don’t recognize that what’s at stake here is more than what they have or don’t have what they’re losing and not losing. What’s at stake here is that faith, is a test of their faith.
Patience. That patience have it’s perfect work that you may be perfect and complete. So what he’s saying is, this problem’s coming because of the enemy because of evil in this world and the goal of that problem, the goal of the enemy is to destroy your faith. But what God does is wonderful. He takes the same problem, brought by the enemy intended to destroy your faith. He takes that same problem, uses it as an opportunity to actually increase your faith, develop that inner strength and he keeps continuing this process until you develop full maturity in character in inner character, verse 3 says this process produces patience. Verse 4 says more than patience. Verse 3 says produces patience. Verse 4 says, if you allow the process to continue, you will get more than patience. What does that mean? You’ll be perfect, lacking nothing. It means your entire character will develop character is more than just patience, character is more than just endurance, character includes love, character includes forgiveness, character includes humility, character includes self-control, character include so many things. And character is developed in the furnace of trial many times.
When trial comes, when problems come, when the pressure is on you, you can react in one of two ways. One way to react is you’re just filled with bitterness and anger and unbelief frustration. Just let it show like that. And then you yourself are shocked by what just came out of your mouth in anger or frustration. You realize you’re not as strong on the inside, as you thought you were. That’s one way to react. That’s not going to make you grow. But even that is good. Why do I say it’s good? At least it shows the true condition. At least it shows what is truly inside. And so from here you can grow next step, but the other way to react is what? When problem comes, when the pressure is on you, instead of getting frustrated or bitter or angry or showing it out, you can take it as an opportunity to exercise patience, to develop that endurance, that inner strength, that fortitude you keep on exercising that, not just patience, not just endurance but in the middle of the problem, you show love for example. Easy to show love in ordinary circumstances. But in the middle of your problem, you show love to others. In the middle of your problem, you help others. In the middle of your problem, you show real humility. In the middle of your problem, you show great self-control. What happens? All the facets of your character develop over time, blooming into a full mature, lacking in nothing character. This is the goal.
Like I said, impossible to achieve it perfectly in this life, but that’s the goal. And that’s where we got to go. That’s where we got to head towards every day throughout our life. What James is saying is look at your problems in a whole new light and see it differently. See it as a test of your faith, realize the value of this test, that it will produce something not there before, an inner steadfastness and a courage and allow this process. Thirdly is very important. Allow the process to continue so that you end up with a full rounded, well developed character. Character is very important for God. Our agenda is very small. Our agenda is very simple and small. What is our agenda? God, you just save me from this problem, that’s it. God, just get me out of this problem. God says, unfortunately, that’s not my agenda. I want to get you out of the problem. I want to get you out of it. I want to deliver you out of it, but my agenda is more than just delivering you out of the problem. When you come out of the problem, I want you to be a different person. I want you to be a stronger person, a more courageous person, a more loving person, a more well-developed well-rounded person in character in inner fortitude. I want you to become more like Christ. The way you went in, must be different from the way you came out. If that doesn’t happen and only a deliverance happens, God purpose is not fulfilled. God’s purposes are higher. He’s agenda is higher.
James was saying, see your problems in light of God’s perspective. See it like how God sees it. See it as an opportunity where you will actually grow in faith, develop that inner courage and develop your character itself, see it that way. And James knows it’s difficult to see it. How many of you realize that it’s difficult to see it like that? Some people may think, you know, brother, you may preach one hour, but you know, when I go back, the problem is still the problem. No problem is not just the problem, it’s test. It’s difficult to see it, isn’t it? Let’s be honest, it’s very difficult. And that’s why James continues in verse 5. Let me read this. And then I’ll close. James knows how difficult this is. It’s very difficult to see it this way to accept this truth. And so what does he say in verse 5. After saying this, he says, if any of you lacks wisdom, why does he say that? We look at this verse many times, but we don’t realize it’s context. You got to read the Bible in context, you got to read it in light of the previous verse. What James is trying to say is, you stand and say, guys, you’ve got to see a problem in a new way only then you can count it as joy. And if you can’t agree with me, if you don’t understand what I’m talking about, if this is too much, if you say I it’s very difficult to see my problem in this way. If you say, I’m not convinced about this. If you say this is still hard, that means you lack wisdom. That’s what James is saying. If you’re not able to accept this logic, you lack wisdom.
That’s why he says he realizes that we all in many ways, lack wisdom. And he says, if any of you lacks wisdom, if you can’t see your problems, like how I’ve been talking about. If you can see your problems as a test, which will end up with a good ending and through that, if you can count it joy, if you can’t do it, if you’re not able to accept this reality, this spiritual reality, this divine reality. If that means you lack divine wisdom, wisdom is the ability to see things, God’s way. Wisdom is the ability to understand life, including problems God’s way. And he says, if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach. And it will be given to him. That’s what we all need today.
So I’ll close right here, by again just emphasizing. How do you count all it joy when you go through problems? By seeing it totally different, like you, you’re not rejoicing in the problem. You’re not the — your joy is not because of the problem. No. The Christian teaching is not sadistic, pleasure in pain. No. What the Bible is saying is see where all this ends, see how God will use this to develop your character, see how God will use this to make you a stronger man, take you from being a boy and turn you into a man, a real man on the inside with spiritual courage, with fortitude and see how God will develop your character. See all that.
And looking at that, count it joy when you go through problems. And if you don’t, if you can’t do this, if this is too difficult, ask for wisdom. Say God helped me. Let’s all pray. I want us to do that because I think we need wisdom to live in times like this, you need God’s wisdom. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God. If you’re not able to see a problem that way, if you aren’t able to really accept this deep down into your heart. Know this, only if you know this, you can end up with joy. And if you’re not able to do, if it’s too difficult, if it’s just too far-fetched, ask God who gives to all liberally generously without reproach, he will give, he will fill you with his wisdom. He will give you eyes to see. He’ll give you a new perspective on your life. He will lead you forward. Let’s all pray. Let’s all. Just ask a moment. I’ll give you a moment. Just ask God. If you want this wisdom, ask God, say, God, fill me with your wisdom. Open my eyes so that I can see the problems from your perspective. Help me to count it joy, today.
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