Passing the Test

Peninsula Community Church
January 13, 2013
Practical Faith For Endurance

James 1:2-4 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.

As we look at this passage, we should note that James does not use the usual pleasantries nor does he waste any time on the usual introductions. Instead, he goes to work presenting the message that was on his heart. He knew the people he was writing to were facing severe religious persecution and they were facing an extreme set of circumstances.

As we review this passage, we must realize there are two types of trials. There are those trials we bring upon ourselves and there are those trials that come from an external source or circumstance. How do self imposed trials come? Self imposed trials occur when we disregard God’s word or we live in disobedience to the commands of God. Disregarding God’s word and disobedience causes one to face unnecessary trials and tribulation. I don’t understand it but for some reason some Christians seem bent on asking for trouble. They rebel against the divine standard and when life takes a turn for the worse, they complain to God about the “trial” He sent them when in reality it is a trial of their own making. For that reason, those who sow seeds of disobedience shouldn’t be surprised when sprouts of discouragement and despair appear. The trials you cultivate through rebellious behavior can yield a very different and disastrous outcome.

James begins by stating that we should “count it all joy when we face various kinds of trials.” As you might guess the word “count” is an accounting term which means “to evaluate.” The idea presented is that we must evaluate which side of the ledger we will post the trials of life. Will the trial be an asset or will it be an expense? Will we allow God to use the trial as an opportunity to grow us to be more like Him or will we become bitter and angry? This decision is a function of the mind. It is here that I am reminded of the words of Isaiah. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3). When we look at hardships from God’s perspective and place the proper value on them, we can rejoice in the beneficial outcome, even while experiencing pain. Humanly speaking, trials hurt; but from the Lord’s point of view, they help us grow in the understanding of ourselves and of God. How you respond to problems in your life will reflect who you are and where your faith is. They will reflect your attitudes and what side of the ledger you are placing the trials of your life.

To “count it all joy,” may seem like an impossible task to some but we must recognize that there is a difference between joy and happiness. It should be noted that the root word for “joy” in the Greek is the same root word for “grace.” Joy is a mindset established by the work of the Holy Spirit. Joy is a gift of grace to those whose heart and mind are focused on the One who can bring all joy and peace. After all joy is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22).

Happiness on the other hand is an emotion triggered by circumstances. It describes that bubbly feeling you get inside when everything is going your way. If I were to give you a million dollars this morning with no strings attached, you would most likely experience an emotional happiness. While a million dollars may make you happy for a while, it does not bring permanent joy. Joy is more than an emotion; it is a life-changing mindset. Joy is a deep, abiding sense of well-being that can sustain you even if you lose a million dollars. Therefore, joy is unmoved by one’s circumstances.

When we understand the difference between joy and happiness, we will understand that we do not have to face trials as victims but can do so with purpose, wisdom and an overcoming spirit. Circumstances can rob one’s happiness but it cannot rob one’s joy. Trials will obliterate our happiness but trials will enhance our joy. Why, because we understand that joy is a God-given supernatural attribute of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we choose to walk in the supernatural grace. Someone has said, “Our attitude will determine our altitude.” How and what we think will determine the effect of joy on our lives. When we consider this, we must recognize that God is calling us to navigate these things with patience and not passion. We are not to pray so much to have the affliction removed as much as we should pray for the wisdom on how best to use the trial for our growth and to make the right use of the trial we have been given.

Trials test our faith and this testing produces steadfastness in our spirits. The testing of our faith produces in us a steadfastness that is unmovable and unshakeable. Tony Evans says this about trials. “Remember in school when the teacher announced that you were going to have a test? If you have accepted your assignment, studied the material and prepared properly, the result of the test was a foregone conclusion: you received the reward of a good grade and advancement. If you’re prepared, your trials and preparation provide you with an opportunity to “strut your spiritual stuff” so to speak.”

When circumstances turn against you and the deck seems stacked in favor of the enemy, it is just as though God is saying, “Clear your desk and grab your pencil. Here comes a pop quiz.” God wants to know the same thing that your math teacher wanted to know: has the information that he gave you to study been assimilated? Better yet God wants you to know that you have assimilated the information given so you will remain steadfast in whatever comes. The fact is, exams make people nervous. Trials cause pain but there is nothing like the rush you feel when you know you’ve scored big.

James says that trials will produce the effect of steadfastness and patience. To let patience have its perfect effect means that we must not lay down our pencils halfway through the exam. Even if you have answered each question correctly, quitting at the halfway point limits your score to 50%, an F at most schools.

We do not stop in the middle of the test but we complete it. The Lord gives us a precious promise in I Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation [test or trial] has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide a way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” God made you. He knows when enough is enough. The trials you face will be appropriate and within your power to endure. James stated “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” (James 1:12).

The result of allowing trials to have their work in us leads us to understand that we are being perfected in Christ, that we are complete in Christ and that we lack nothing. We are empty and lacking because we fail to apply what God has taught us and allow the truth of God’s word to penetrate every area of our life. Life is perfect, complete and satisfying when we trust God. Why is this? It is because God looks at your situation today, breaks through your wall of trials, invades your experience and single-handedly turns your circumstances around. That’s life.

It could be that job you have been looking for or the desire to see your unsaved spouse or family member come to know Christ. You’ve prayed for years that they would become the man or woman God wants them to be. Faithfully, you applied the principles of submission and love. Then, suddenly, your stubborn spouse, son, father or sister confesses his or her sin and seeks a Savior. That’s life. There are few experiences on earth that match the excitement of seeing God turn trials into triumph, but that transformation is a process, not an event.

We must remember that it takes the fire of the furnace to produce hardened steel. Only the intense pressure of the earth can create the precious diamond. Only our trials can produce the kind of Christian character God wants to build within us.

When God wants to drill a man, And thrill a man, And skill a man;
When God wants to mold a man To play the noblest part,
When He yearns with all his heart
To create so great and bold a man That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways How He ruthlessly perfects Whom He royally elects.
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows, converts him Into trial shapes of clay Which only God understands, While his tortured heart is crying, And he lifts beseeching hands.
How He bends but never breaks When His good He undertakes.
How He uses Whom He chooses, And with every purpose, fuses him;
By every act, induces him To try His splendor out.
God knows what He’s about.

You may be here today and you may be facing intense trials. Know this, God knows where you are. He knows your needs. He has a plan to strengthen you and cause you to survive but not just survive but grow in His grace and His wisdom.

Let’s pray.

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