God’s Purpose for Trials (James 1:2-12)

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God never promised that He would keep you from trouble and trials; He promised to keep you through trouble and trials. What is a trial? According to James 1:3, trials are the testing of your faith. When we embrace that God’s good purpose for trials is to mature us in the faith, we will find joy in the midst of trials. But, if we believe that God does not have a good purpose for trials, we will grumble and complain. Trials reveal the genuineness of your faith. In our sermon today we will learn more about God’s purpose for trials.

  1. Proper Perspective of Trials (2-4). The proper perspective we must have of trials is joy. We understand being joyful when our trials are over, but how can we have joy in the midst of trials? Because God uses trials to test our faith (James 1:3, 1 Peter 1:7). Genuine faith endures during trials and emerges stronger. Whereas, false faith is exposed by trials. God blesses His children with trials because He wants them to see the vanity of idolatry and to trust Him wholeheartedly. Knowing that God uses my trials to draw me closer to Him results in great joy. Milton Vincent writes, “The good news about my trials is that God is forcing them to bow to His gospel purposes and do good unto me by improving my character and making me more conformed to the image of Christ.” Having this perspective of trials helps you to “count it all joy.” We can have joy in the midst of trials because we know that God is giving us endurance so that we will “be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”
  2. Proper Prayer during Trials (5-8). Admittedly, this is a hard truth to receive. This is why we must pray and ask God for wisdom so that we may receive it. James instructs us to ask God for wisdom, believing that He will give it generously and not grudgingly. We are to ask in faith and not with doubt. We must not be double-minded. Literally, this means a man of “two souls”; someone divided between love of God and love of the world. James says this man is “unstable in all his ways.” Christians must believe that God is trustworthy and have a single-minded trust in Him. We must believe that God is working in us during our trials and not doubt that God will grant us wisdom in our trials.
  3. Proper Results of Trials (9-11). God designs our trials to draw us closer to Himself. The intended result of trials is to bring everyone to dependence and trust in Jesus Christ. This process exalts the humble and humbles the proud.
    1. Trails Exalt the Humble. God uses trials to exalt the humble. James says that the brother “of humble circumstances” should “boast in his exaltation.” What is his exaltation? The brother of humble circumstances should rejoice that—even though the world looks down on him—God loves and cares for him. Later in this letter, James writes, that God “gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). The poor brother is not to be pitied because he is lowly, but respected because God exalts him. The poor brother knows not to boast in his wealth or accomplishments because they are trivial. He must instead boast in knowing and being known by the Lord Jesus Christ. The exaltation of the poor man is very important in his pursuit of spiritual maturity.
    2. Trials Humble the Proud. God uses trials to humble the proud. James then tells the “rich to boast in their humiliation.” What is his humiliation? The brother of rich circumstances should rejoice that—even though the world may look up to him—he is dependent upon God. In terms of possessions, he has no need. But, spiritually, he is very needy. God uses trials to remind the rich that “he will pass away like a flower of the field.” Trials help break those of rich circumstances of their dependence on their abundance. James uses the image of a flower that shows the fleeting nature of our life. Later he would mention that our life is “like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes” (James 4:14). Therefore, he must utilize his riches for the sake of Christ. He will “wither away while pursuing his activities”, but will prosper while pursing the kingdom of God. The humbling of the rich man is very important in his pursuit of spiritual maturity.
  4. Proper End of Trials (12). James concludes this section by pronouncing a blessing upon those who endure trials. Notice that James does not say that a man is blessed when he avoids (or escapes) trials, but when he endures trials. Remember, God uses trials in order to test our faith. Enduring trials means you have “stood the test.” This phrase was used in this time of the authentication of coins. Coins would be examined with the counterfeit being discarded and the genuine being authenticated. James’ point is that God examines our faith through trials. Those with counterfeit faith are discarded and exposed as frauds. Those with genuine faith are authenticated and rewarded. The reward is “when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” What is the reward? We must remember that we are “saved by grace through faith, not of works” (Eph 2:8-9). We do not earn eternal life because we endure. Rather, we endure because our faith is genuine. The crown of life is promised to those who love God. Those who love God have genuine faith and will live with God for all eternity.

Elisabeth Elliot’s husband Jim was killed in Ecuador in the 1950s while attempting to make contact with an unreached tribe. After her husband was killed, she continued to work in this particular area and eventually lived among the tribe that killed her husband. She wrote, “Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering…The love of God did not protect His Own Son…He will not necessarily protect us—not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.” Let us receive the trials God allows our way with joy. Knowing that God uses every bit of it to make us like His Son Jesus.