Good morning, dearest brothers and sisters. How are you all doing today? It’s been more than 4 months since we last met and we do not know how long we will be meeting like this but we pray that God would do a miracle in bringing the situation under control.
Brothers and sisters, I believe each one of us have been going through a very trying season – in one way or the other – and now, much more than ever, we long and yearn for one another’s prayers and support.
Let me assure you, my Beloved Brethren – He who cares for the birds of the air – how much more will He care for you and me – His children.
The Psalmist declares –
Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. Let not your faith bog down during this period of anxiety and uncertainty and pain and sickness and sorrow and fear –
He who fed the prophet Elijah during the famine – sending the ravens with food to eat and provided for the widow to feed him daily –
That same God cares for you too! Let not your anxiety draw you away from the plan and purpose that God has for your life – through this period of trial.
Brothers and sisters, as you all know – lately – we concluded a series on “Abiding faith” from 1 Thessalonians and began a series on “Faith in action” from the book of James. Let us look at our passage for today:
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.
Let us pray.
I read of an incident written by a man named Dr. Parnell Bailey – “I once visited an orange grove where an irrigation pump had broken down. The season was unusually dry and some of the trees were beginning to die for lack of water.
The man giving the tour then took me to his own orchard where irrigation was used sparingly. “These trees could go without rain for another 2 weeks,” he said.
“You see, when they were young, I frequently kept water from them. This hardship caused them to send their roots deeper into the soil in search of moisture.
Now, mine are the deepest-rooted trees in the area. While others are being scorched by the sun, these are finding moisture at a greater depth.”
Beloved, James begins his epistle with a rather strange command – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”.
He felt no need to start with an introduction – because probably the recipients of this letter – who were dispersed across different parts of the world – were all going through some tough times – not just for their faith in Jesus Christ – but also “trials of various kinds” as mentioned by James.
Is it not the same with many of us today – the children of God in this world are indeed going through “trials of various kinds”.
The Psalmist says in Psalm 34:19 –
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers Him out of them all.” Note that the trials of the righteous are not just one or two – but “many” – of “various” kinds.
And James doesn’t say “if you meet trials of various kinds” but he says – “when you meet trials of various kinds” – thus emphasising that each of us would go through trials of various kinds.
But he adds this small phrase – “Count it all joy” – when you go through trials of various trials. That’s where it gets tough.
You are going through a painful trial in your life and the Bible commands us – to count it all joy – not because it is a joyful experience – no
it is painful – it is excruciating – it is taking away all your energy – physically, emotionally and spiritually – yet even through that – the Bible commands us to count it all joy!
Why should I rejoice and be joyful when I am going through a painful experience?
That doesn’t make sense at all to the natural man. For the natural man – moments of joy are only when something nice happens like – getting high grades, getting a good job, having a great house, having a good spouse, getting a kid, buying a good car, getting lots of money, having a relaxed lifestyle.
Well, though these are nice happy things to have – the spiritual man’s joy is not dependent on any of these. That is why he is told to count it all joy when he meets trials of various kinds.
So, why should he count it as joy? –
Let us try understanding that through the passage and if you haven’t been able to count your trials as all joy –
I pray that God would open your spiritual eyes this morning to see His love in allowing us to go through various trials.
I would like to title my sermon as “Why does God allow trials?” And I want to show you through the text how God allows trials in our lives so as to accomplish 3 things:
- God allows trials in our lives so that He may test our faith
- God allows trials in our lives so that through the testing of faith – we may be steadfast
- God allows trials in our lives so that through steadfastness – we may be perfect
And these 3 come – one after the other.
This is the chronology –
Testing our faith -> steadfastness -> perfection
And when we understand the why – we will be able to count it all joy – when we meet trials of various kinds
1. God allows trials in our lives so that He may test our faith
James says – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” When I meet trials of various kinds, God is testing my faith.
When I first read this – I started thinking – Doesn’t God really know me already – doesn’t he know my faith? Yes. Then why does He need to test my faith? And that thought came to me because I had a wrong understanding of spiritual “testing”.
We have a test or an interview (in the natural sense) – to evaluate the other person. But spiritual testing is not for God to evaluate you or to understand how much is your faith.
God knows it already. But spiritual testing is for you to know yourself – your faith? Beloved, we as human beings – even after being children of God – we have a high view of ourselves and our faith.
We think we are strong in faith just like Peter when he told Jesus – “Even if everyone else falls away, I will not fall away.
I am ready to go with you even to prison and to death” – and what did Jesus reply – “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me thrice”.
Well, Jesus knew Peter very well and the depth of his faith but Peter didn’t know himself and God allowed Peter to go through the trial of temptation so that Peter could see his own frailty. Brothers and sisters – “God’s will for us is our sanctification”.
And Sanctification can truly happen only when you understand how inadequate you are and how weak your faith is. Without knowing your own wretchedness, you will not be able to depend upon God – who is our source of sanctification and holiness.
And how does God make you understand your frailty – by testing your faith. And how does he test your faith – by allowing you to meet trials of various kinds.
When you go through persecution for Christ’s name sake – you see your own fear and anxiety and depend on God for boldness. When you get a sickness – you see your own need for depending on God for strength.
When you get a tough boss – you see how much your heart hates to submit to authority and how restless you become. When your work gets too pressurizing – you see how you lose all your rest and peace.
When you lose your job – you see how dependent you were on your job instead of God – who takes care of your future and your career. When you lose money – you see how much you loved money.
When you meet a difficult brother or sister – you see the lack of love for him/her in your own heart. When your partner does a mistake or your kids do something wrong – you see how easily you get angry.
When Jesus and his disciples went in a boat to cross over from one side to another – there was a storm and the boat seemed to be toppling. Jesus was fast asleep. But his disciples became black and blue.
They frantically called Jesus to wake up. He woke up and silenced the storm and then turned to the disciples and asked –
“Why were you so fearful? Where is your faith?”
That was a test – to show them their own hearts that even though they had the creator of the seas and the storms with them on the boat – yet their faiths were so shallow and fear ruled their hearts during trying times.
Beloved, God allows trials to show how weak and fragile and sinful you are in yourselves and how much you need to depend on God and His faithfulness.
Let me add one more thing here – testing of your faith is not just to show you how much your faith is lacking – but also to show you how much your God is faithful when you cling to Him.
Think about the same storm in which the disciples were so fearful – in the midst of their helplessness and hopelessness and fear – they saw that Jesus with one word silenced the storms and that the storms and seas were subject to Him.
There is a beautiful song which I love to sing time and time again – “Through every trial – each test and temptation – one thing is sure every time – Over and over – again and again – God is faithful!” God allows trials in your life so that through the testing of your faith – you would grow in your knowledge of the faithfulness of God! Now does it make sense why James says – Count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds? But let me go on to my next point –
2. God allows trials in our lives so that through the testing of faith – we may be steadfast
James says in verse 3 – “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness”.
Beloved, through the testing of our faith – a wonderful nature is developed in the heart of a Christian maturing through trials – steadfastness. When you google steadfastness – it gives you this meaning – resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.
This again gives a wrong picture of Biblical steadfastness. This dictionary meaning of steadfastness makes us imagine a huge giant like man – who is firm and unwavering and ready to take every fight in the face.
Sadly – such giants fall off in this spiritual battle like Goliath who fell down on his face. The true picture of spiritual steadfastness is a weak man hidden behind a huge fort or a refuge.
His strength is not in Himself but in that which he takes refuge in. He is steadfast – firm and unwavering – because he has learnt through his tests and trials and temptations to rely not on the arm of flesh but on the arm of the Almighty God.
Hallelujah! God tests us time and time again – and when we think we won’t fall – He allows us to fall on our faces and then He picks us up and dusts us and cleanses us and then says – “Try again – but this time – trust in Me.”
Beloved, that is true steadfastness – learning through each trial, each test and temptation – to rely on God and draw strength from Him. Think about that little boy David when he came to fight against Goliath – David had no trust in sword and shield but his trust was in the name of the Lord.
He says in Psalm 91:2 – I will say to the Lord “You are my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” And indeed, such a man or a woman – will be firm like a mountain – steadfast – even when trials rock and roll – even when storms beat all around – His heart abides in the Lord.
Brothers and sisters, we need more such steadfast men and women in our midst. Men and women – who trust God unconditionally! Those who don’t run away after a failure!
Those who don’t give up after a string of failures in their sanctification journey! Those whose roots keep growing deeper and deeper into God – until God is all that they have!
Their joy no longer stems from the things of this world – the temporal blessings of this life – but their joy is from Him – rooted and grounded in Him – madly in love with the person of Jesus Christ.
Ah! How will we get such steadfast men and women? Only through trials and tests!
Much before our marriage, I fell in love with Abiah – my wife – and I felt nobody in the whole world could love her as much as I could. And I felt there was no greater love than that which I experienced for her before my marriage.
We have now completed 3.5 years and I now feel that that love before marriage was very shallow. Today – that love seems like nothing. Because that love was untested! It hadn’t faced the day by day trials and failures that every relationship and marriage goes through.
But through every trial and failure, God helped us to love each other and trust each other more and more and even understand each other even in silence and storms.
The trials and struggles we went through led us into greater steadfastness and dependence on God. But the point that I wish to emphasize is that our love 3.5 years ago was an untested love – and that untested love is very shallow – even if it has a lot of words and show and pomp.
Similarly an untested Christian is an unstable Christian even if he sings the best songs and preaches the best sermons. That is why in the verses that follow – James talks about an unstable man – who doubts and wavers like the waves of the sea – such is the condition of an untested man – whose roots have not gone in deep and hence there is no steadfastness.
Therefore my dear brothers and sisters – count it all joy – when you go through trials of various kinds – for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness – a resolutely firm and unwavering steadfastness in God. Let me hurry on to my last point –
3. God allows trials in our lives so that through steadfastness – we may be perfect
James doesn’t stop with steadfastness – rather he says in verse 4 – “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Through testing of our faith – we understand our frailty and God’s faithfulness. It then leads to steadfastness in trusting God and depending on Him. But steadfastness can have its full effect when we become perfect and complete – lacking nothing.
What is this perfection and completeness that James is talking about? It is that perfection which God brings about in our lives through the trials that He allows us to meet with.
And that perfection doesn’t mean absolute perfection but perfection in that which the trial was intended to test. When a student passes a test in the 3rd grade – he is perfected according to the standards of a 3rd grade child.
He then goes to 4th grade and will face a bigger test according to 4th Grade. Hence, let us not assume this as absolute perfection but a perfection in that which we were tested in.
And this perfection which James is talking about – I believe – refers to spiritual maturity. The maturity that comes when we meet with various trials. Beloved, God perfects his people in holiness and purity and spiritual maturity through the trials that we meet – day by day.
And it is so very amazing to see fellow brothers and sisters who have come out of a time of extreme trying. We think they will be frustrated and discouraged. No. Not at all. They would be the ones who through their trials have their roots gone deeper into God.
Those who – through their brokenness and constant struggles – have learned to trust in God. And they are the ones whom God can work through. Think about Moses in the Old Testament – you would think that the best time for God to work through Him for His people’s deliverance was when Moses was the Prince in Pharaoh’s house.
And Moses himself thought the same. He went out and killed an Egyptian who was trying to beat a fellow Israelite. But that led to more problem. He had to run away from Egypt. He finally landed up in the house of Jethro and fed sheep for 40 years until he became an old man – broken and bruised through His trials and struggles.
When God meets him at the burning bush – he is a man who is so aware of his weaknesses – “I am a man of stammering lips. Why will people believe me now? Can you not send someone else instead of me”.
And God looks at him and goes – “Ah, here is my perfect candidate – a broken man – who has no trust on himself – now I can show him My power.”
Isn’t that the same case with all the men and women of God whom we know throughout history – the apostle Paul said that he asked God 3 times to take away the thorn which was there in his flesh? But God said – “No, Paul – My Grace is sufficient for you.
My strength is perfected in your weakness.” Beloved, the world’s definition of strength and maturity is warped and unproductive. In God’s eyes, a perfect man or a perfect woman is one who has had his/her faith tested so much so that he/she is now steadfast in the Lord and through steadfastness is now being perfected in God.
And that is why dear brothers and sisters, even though our trials seem painful – James encourages us to count it all joy knowing that through the testing of our faith we may become steadfast and perfect.
Beloved, I am sure many of those who are hearing me are going through various trials and I know not what are you going through this morning – but I want to plead with you – to ask God to make you steadfast in Him and perfected in Him – through what you are going through.
When you suffer, remember this – you suffer trials in the presence of God – He knows exactly what you are going through – He is there in your boat – apparently sleeping while you struggle – but that’s not true.
He is the 4th man who enters the fire when 3 of God’s servants were being burnt. He allowed that trial in your life – because He loves you!
Oh – how I wish I could scream that out to you – He allowed that trial in your life – because He loves you – and whom He loves – He chastens – not to destroy you but to make you steadfast and to perfect you.
Beloved – count it all joy! Rejoice! You are suffering before the face of God orchestrated by the purpose of God for the purpose of your sanctification and perfection.