Trials And Temptations

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Series: The Book of James

Sun am 24 January 2016 – Justus Swart

James 1:1-18; Acts 14:22; (Matt. 6:21);
(Phil. 2:14-15); (Matt. 19:24)

James is different to all other New Testament writers. He was a very blunt person and told it like it is. His words make us feel uncomfortable and put the spotlight on us with no escape. He was writing to the Jewish converts, telling them to focus on doing and being Christians. There were Jewish people who converted to Christianity but they were still stuck in their Jewish way of life and the safety of their old ways.

James gives three tips on how to survive trials and temptations. Firstly he says; consider it pure joy (James 1:2). There are many different ways in which we react to trials. One of the ways we react to difficulties is that we rebel against them. We take the route of self-reliance. We try to overcome our challenges in our own power and in our own strength which is similar to how Samson handled his problems. Dealing with problems in our own strength makes us feel better for a little while. We fool ourselves into believing we can handle it but in the end it proves too much. The other common reaction is to lose heart and to fall away from our commitment. Trials can form a pressure around us, and we eventually give in and buckle under the weight. This leads us to questioning if God really cares for us. When you are down it is tempting to go down the route of grumbling and complaining and asking why. Paul urges us to do everything without complaining and arguing, so that we may be blameless and pure (Phil. 2:14-15). It is easy to complain when we are down. You see it in people who are flat-lining under pressure. There is negativity coming out and there is a losing of heart. It is important that we take time to recognise where we are in different phases of our trials, because our reactions affect those around us. There is a difference though between complaining and letting off a little steam. You need to be able to talk to someone and share with someone. Identify where you are and when you need to share with others. Another reaction is self-indulgence and self-pity. This can overtake us when we are overwhelmed and we make ourselves the centre of the universe.

It is important for us to have interaction with each other to enable us to pick up on the signals people are putting out there. Trials are common, do not hide them.

James recommended that we should consider it all joy. He does not mean, “Get over it and be happy.” He is not being insensitive. He is asking you to change your attitude towards the problem. You do not just get over difficulties. Many trials take a long time to work through, like grief or health issues; financial or relational difficulties. James does not ask you to be joyful about the fact that you are struggling. God usually communicates to us through our circumstances. “What are you saying God?” We have to change our attitude towards trials. Somewhere in the flurry of busyness and chaos there is a Voice trying to slow you down so that you can listen. God never abandons us. Consider it pure joy because God is moving you forward towards maturity. He is talking to you and shaping you right now. Are you listening and are you attentive to what God is saying?

In truth, not all problems pass with time. Not all trials are overcome by strength and not all trials just need a little more patience. There are some challenges that God, in His own wisdom, chooses not to remove from us. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (James 1:5). God is not mad at you when you say you need help and wisdom. If you lack wisdom as to why you are going through something, ask, it will be given to you without finding fault. Even if it is because of the bad choices you made, God will still give you wisdom if you ask. Tip number one is to change your attitude towards your problem. God is not trying to punish you; He is trying to form Christ in you.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business (James 1:9-11). James continuing the subject of trials focuses on the rich, as they think they are immune from trials when they are financially secure. People who go through life trusting in their ability to create wealth and finances do not escape trials. The second tip is he encourages those in high and low positions to be humble. It means that when we become Christians we should forget all of our statuses, specifically our economic statuses; rich and poor. Each man stands before God equally. No-one is more elevated because he has more wealth and no-one is cast aside or neglected because he has none. Financial status is a huge part of our security these days. The definition of “rich” is “if you have more than enough”. If you have extra food or clothes in your cupboard, if your car is full of petrol, you have more than enough. The challenge is for both the rich and the poor because most have misconceptions about their identity. Both have to come to terms that neither their possessions, nor lack thereof, determine their worth. Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. When they stand before God they stand to inherit everything. Poverty is not a curse. James challenges them not to grumble but to see that in the kingdom of God they are blessed and elevated. You are not defined by your possessions. It is a lot harder to come to God when you have more material possessions. James tells the rich to take pride in their low position. The more you have the harder it is to let go. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt. 6:21). Riches are unreliable and they can fade as quickly as they appeared. When we place our trust in riches we will always, yes always be disappointed. If we place our trust in God’s unfailing love, there is guaranteed blessing. When you are going through trials, difficulties and hard times, your financial status does not heal your heart, nor feed your soul nor elevate your spirit. Be humble!

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12). The final tip is that we reap the reward of our trials only by persevering until the end. We come out the other end wiser and stronger.

There is no way to escape going through trials and temptations, for only by them is our faith challenged and through them our faith becomes real. Faith once tested and tried and made true, will persevere.

Our faith is loudest to others when we are going through our trials. We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). One of the greatest hardships is throwing off your social status and entering into the kingdom of God. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (Matt. 19:24). The second thing most spoken about by Jesus during His ministry was money. That is because if we go through difficult times and we are depending on that, we are likely to fall. Number one is placing all of our trust in God.

Do not see your trials as punishment but look for the hand of God in what you are going through. Trials are nothing to be ashamed of. If you are going through something and you need help, seek a friend, seek someone in the leadership team. We are called together as a community and a family to lean on each other.