Gets Its Hands Dirty part 1
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
January 6, 2008
Passage: James 1:1-12
in bulletin notes:
Epistle (letter) of James is one of the General Epistles of the New
Testament. It was a circular letter, meaning it was meant to be passed
around and read in different churches.
James, the brother of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 1:19) and the leader of the
Early Church (Acts 15). James did not support Jesus at first, and only
became a follower after the Resurrection.
James was martyred in AD 62 or 63. This Epistle was written sometime
between AD 45-62. If it was written early in this period, it may be one
of the first New Testament books written.
Whom: The "twelve tribes" referred to in 1:1 were most likely Jewish
believers (see also 2:1) who were scattered from Jerusalem by the
persecution in the early chapters of the Book of Acts.
James would have known many of these Jewish Christians before they fled
from Jerusalem. As a leader in the young Church, he felt responsible
for the spiritual life of Christ's followers wherever they were.
To give practical counsel concerning attitudes and actions affecting
the spiritual life of the church. James wished to expose hypocritical
practices and to teach right Christian behavior.
Play Song – Bad Day by Daniel Powter
Where is the moment we needed the most
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost
They tell me your blue skies fade to gray
They tell me your passion's gone away
And I don't need no carryin' on
You stand in the line just to hit a new low
You're faking a smile with the coffee you go
You tell me your life's been way off line
You're falling to pieces every time
And I don't need no carryin' on
Because you had a bad day, You're taking one down
You sing a sad song just to turn it around
You say you don't know, You tell me don't lie
You work at a smile and you go for a ride
You had a bad day, The camera don't lie
You're coming back down and you really don't mind
You had a bad day, You had a bad day
Pain knocked upon my door and said
That she had come to stay,
And though I would not welcome her
But bade her go away,
She entered in.
Like my own shade
She followed after me,
And from stabbing, stinging sword
No moment was I free.
~ Martha Snell Nicholson ~
words penned by that poet express a deep anguish and hopelessness. They
reveal a life of misery and hurting caused by the trials and turmoil of
life. Pain had entered her life, and simply would not go away.
all had days like that, haven’t we? We’ve all had tough days. We've all
had days when we didn't understand why things were going the way they
were. When we wondered why we were going through a time of difficulty
or trial. Perhaps in those moments we even felt like giving up.
morning we’re going to talk about these tough days. How do we handle
them? Is there any benefit to them? We’re going to try to answer those
questions as part of a new message series based on the New Testament
Book of James.
In your notes this morning, you’ll see a section
giving you some of the basic information about this book… who wrote it,
why he wrote it, who he wrote it to… and you can read that on your own.
But the thing is, the Book of James is a very practical guide to
real-life Christianity. It’s about developing a hands-on faith… one
that’s not afraid to get its hands dirty with the messiness of life.
the very first section in the book of James deals with the trials and
the hazards and the pain that we all face in our lives. Jim just read
those verses for us. So we're going to look at the instruction and
encouragement that James gave to the early church and apply to our own
lives today. Okay? Let’s start by just talking about what trials are…
are external pressures, afflictions, and persecutions that we face.
They are the annoyances and griefs of every day.
we all face them. Some days are worse than others, some of us seem to
get hit harder than others, but ultimately, we all face trials. And
they seem to come at the most inopportune times and in various ways.
This is what James said… in chapter one verse two…
James 1:2 (NIV)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many
you face trials of many kinds. Here’s something I found interesting.
The Greek word used here to express “many kinds” is the same word from
which we get "pok-a-dot." Doesn’t that really describe trials? They
come in all kinds of colours and sizes and they’re sprinkled throughout
our lives. They pok-a-dot our lives.
And they take different forms. In fact, I would say there are three
primary categories of trials…
This would include things like illnesses, accidents, disabilities,
living in poverty… those kinds of things. And then you have…
are the trials that arise in the form of family struggles, or stress,
or loss, or loneliness. And beyond these emotional trials, you find…
Depression… fear… a sense of betrayal. Trials that attack your mental
state of being.
you recognize any of those? Can you identify some of those trials in
your own life? Sure you can, because we all face them. The rich and
poor both experience trials, the godly and the ungodly do, the educated
and the uneducated do… we all face trials.
1 Peter 4:12 (NLT)
Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going
through, as if something strange were happening to you.
nothing strange or bizarre about having trials in your life. Everyone
encounters them. They are a part of life. Sometimes they’re small and
relatively easy to handle; sometimes they’re of the larger variety. But
we all face them. So when we do, how should we handle them?
Two things we should do…
Should we Handle Trials?
Persevere. Press on. Patiently endure it until you come out on the
James 1:12 (NLT)
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation.
before you get the wrong idea, the point here is not to just grit your
teeth and bear it. It’s not just about allowing things to run their
course. It’s not about passively sitting back and taking it on the
chin. It’s about taking what life throws at you and turning it around.
It’s about using it to your advantage. It’s about converting your
greatest trial into your greatest triumph. Perseverance is the ability
to absorb the trial and move on despite it.
So you’ve got to persevere when trials come. And the second thing
you’ve got to do will seem a little strange…
James 1:2 (NLT)
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an
opportunity for great joy.
can be hard to understand how we can rejoice in the face of difficulty,
but James tells us to consider it pure joy when we face trials.
is that possible? How is it possible to have joy in the face of trial?
Well, I think that it's important first of all to realize that joy is
not the same thing as happiness. Happiness is dependent on the things
that are happening in our lives, on our circumstances. The
circumstances of our lives dictate whether we’re happy or not.
joy is not dependent on circumstances. Joy is a realization that
whatever life may throw at you, you’re all right with your Saviour,
you’ve got a future full of hope and promise, and even in the midst of
trials you can see that God is using them to build your character. We
just looked at verse two where James told us to rejoice. Now let’s look
at the next couple verses where he explains why…
James 1:3-4 (NLT)
you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to
grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you
will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
He says, “Rejoice, because your trials are actually good for you.
They’re helping you. They’re shaping your character.”
trials are not worthless. We can grow through our trials. We can learn
from them. And we can grow closer to God because of them.
So let’s go with that. What can we actually gain because of our trials?
How do they help us? Well, the first thing we gain is…
Can We Gain from Trials?
We Develop a Stronger Character
That’s what we just talked about. One thing that you can gain from
times of trial is a stronger, more mature character.
James 1:4 (NLT)
…when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and
complete, needing nothing.
you know, that’s not always true. It’s not an automatic result. You
have a choice in the matter. You choose whether you will become
resentful or if you’ll become stronger. You choose whether you’ll
become bitter, or if you’ll become better.
But if you choose to respond with perseverance and with joy, then you
will grow stronger in your character. You will mature.
how does this happen? How do trials help us grow? Well, they cleanse
and purify our faith. They make us confront our doubts. They force us
to establish what we believe and where our faith lies. They help us to
sort out the important from the not-so-important in life. And they help
us to set goals to strive for.
Think about it like a
weight-lifter. When you’re just starting out, you can't lift very much
weight. And what you can lift, you can’t do it for very long. You get
tired quickly. You get sore. You wake up stiff the next morning. But
after a few work-outs, you notice that you're improving. You can add a
few more pounds to the dumb-bells. You can do a few more reps. You're
gradually getting a little better and becoming stronger. Why? Because
you persevere through the difficulty and the pain because you know the
end result is worth it.
What happens when you’re lifting
weights? Well, you’re tearing muscles. And then those muscles grow back
stronger. Their trials make them stronger.
Now, when you first
become a Christ-follower, you’re excited about it, you’re focused,
you’re intent, you’re enthusiastic… and all that’s great. It really is.
And you’ve got an inner drive to become stronger spiritually. But the
thing is, it's going to take a while. You’ve got to exercise your
spiritual muscle. You'll need to undergo some pressure and some pain.
But as you do, you will grow stronger a little bit at a time until you
are fully mature and complete before God.
So one of the things we can gain through our trials is a stronger
character. Something else we gain is an awareness of our…
We Become Aware of our Dependency on God
That’s something our trials do very well—they make us aware of our need
a particularly trying time in my life I wrote a song, which was simply
an expression of my prayer to God. These are the words I wrote…
Here I am, coming before You,
Feeling so alone, so abandoned.
Here I am. I hasten to your feet.
Staring at defeat, I'm incomplete.
You're my Refuge and my Strength,
I need You now more than ever.
I've been stretched out past my length,
I cry to You to deliver.
For You are God.
You will not let me fall,
Though the earth give away.
So here I am.
was a time in my life when I felt like I had hit rock bottom. My dreams
had been destroyed, I felt betrayed, and I didn't know what to do. But
during that time, I became more and more aware of my need for Christ in
my life. I knew that I needed God.
Psalm 46:1 (NLT)
God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of
years ago, Andre Crouche wrote a song that quickly spread to churches
throughout North America. And I think the popularity of the song is due
to the fact that people identified with it. This is what he wrote:
I've had many tears and sorrows,
I've had questions for tomorrow,
There've been times I didn't know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation
That my trials come to only make me strong.
Through it all, through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus, I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all, through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.
trials make us aware of our dependency on God. What did James say?
Well, he said that we need to persevere through our trials, and if we
lack the wisdom to know how to do this, this is what he said to do…
James 1:5 (NLT)
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you.
And again, you’re learning about your dendendency on God. The third
thing you gain through your trials is…
We Gain a Clearer Perspective on Life
During his discussion about the trials we face, James said…
James 1:9-10 (NLT)
who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them.
And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them.
put us all on equal footing. They help us to recognize weaknesses in
our lives. They also help us to see strengths. They keep the rich and
powerful from becoming too prideful, and they keep the poor from
wallowing in despair because they learn that God is there to help them.
R.C.H. Lenski wrote a commentary on this passage about how the trials
of life bring perspective for both the rich and the poor…
the poor brother forgets all his earthly poverty, so the rich brother
forgets all his earthly riches. The two are equals by faith in Christ.”
~ R.C.H. Lenski
our trials give us the opportunity to develop a stronger character, the
remind us of our dependency on God, they leave us with a clearer
perspective on life, and the fourth thing we gain is…
We Receive the Promise of Heaven
James 1:12 (NIV)
is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the
test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those
who love him.
“...When he has stood the test...” Back in Greek
culture, that phrase right there referred to the testing of coins to
determine if they were genuine or counterfeit. Kind of like today when
you go to some stores, you see signs telling you that they have
counterfeit detectors on the premises. Well, James is saying that the
trials we face in life test the genuineness of our faith. Is it real or
is is counterfeit?
So James says, “If you persevere through your
trials, if you grow through them, if you keep your eyes of Jesus and
continue to depend upon Him, and if you prove yourself to be genuine…
He will bring you through victoriously, and when all is said and done
you can experience eternal life in Heaven.”
That’s the crown of life. That’s the promise of God. That’s why we look
forward to the day that we hear our Saviour say…
Matthew 25:21 (NLT)
“Well done, good and faithful servant! …Come and share your master's
Our tests prove that we are genuine and worthy of the crown of life.
is the first Sunday of 2008. And of course one of the things that we
have to look forward to this year is the summer Olympic games. Well, as
you all know, the Olympic Games have their roots in ancient Greece. (I
have some of that under my kitchen counter.)
In those days, when
a competitor won a race or a contest, they would be presented with a
crown of olive leaves. Those ancient Olympics were first started around
the 8th century BC and continued until about the 4th century AD. So
they were still going on right about the time James would have been
writing this letter. He would have been familiar with the Olympic
Games. So that’s the imagery he uses here… he says, “Once you have come
through all the trials of life victoriously, you will be presented with
a crown. But not just a crown of leaves; you will receive a crown of
So what does all this mean for you and for me? Well,
it means that we don’t have to be discouraged or defeated by the trials
of life. Instead, we can realize that trials do more than just
complicate our lives and present us with hardship and frustration. They
bring us opportunities - opportunities to learn, to grow, and to
rejoice. They help us get life in perspective, they help us grow
stronger and mature. And as you prove yourself in the face of trials,
you will gain the crown of life.
series uses a variety of source materials, primarily "A Faith that
Worls" by Rick Warren, "Faith for Pedestrians" by Laurence Croswell,
and "James: Hands-On Christianity" by Charles Swindoll.]