Well, let’s turn to the book of James. The words of the apostle Paul are, I think, often lost, some of the most profound and far-reaching statements he makes, brief statements, are often lost to us, because we really don’t - we really don’t examine everything he said with great detail. But he makes one statement, in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, that is so very, very profound; it’s in verse 16 - you don’t have to look it up - but he said this.
He said, “We know no man after the flesh” - he says, “We no longer know Christ after the flesh, and we know no man after the flesh.” What that statement means is, once you become a believer, you never again see anyone as simply flesh, you never see anybody as just physical. And no matter where you are, and no matter what’s going on, when you see people, you don’t see them after the flesh; you see them as spiritual beings. You can never look at people again as simply physical, bound by birth and death.
You see everyone with an eternal perspective, right? You see everyone with the reality of heaven or hell. You see everyone as knowing God, or not knowing God, having eternal life, or not having it. And when I was on a Larry King program a few - I don’t know - months ago, I guess, now, there was an atheist on the program. It was a discussion about life after death, and, of course, as an atheist, she didn’t believe in that and made it very clear.
And in fact, once she said she didn’t believe in life after death, she should have been excluded from the conversation, because what else is there to talk about? But in one of the breaks - Larry, for whatever reason, seems to want to talk to me in the breaks, when we’re not on the air - which is a lot more interesting than what gets on the air. And he said to me, “What do you think of the – of that - that woman, that atheist woman - what do you think of what she said? How do you respond to that?”
And I said, “It’s sad, Larry. It’s just – it’s” - and I used this word – “it’s heartbreaking to me to hear that.” “Well,” he said, “why do you feel that way? Maybe it makes her feel better. Maybe it makes her feel better to believe that.” I said, “This isn’t about feeling; you know that. This is about truth, this is about reality; how a person feels has very little to do with what’s going to happen to them in eternity, and it’s absolutely tragic to hear somebody so absolutely cut off from spiritual reality, and the inevitable reality of eternal judgment.”
And I said, “Larry, you know me well enough to know that I view things from an eternal perspective.” Every Christian does; that’s - we don’t see Christ the way the world saw Christ. We certainly don’t see Christ the way the Jewish population of Jerusalem saw Him; we don’t see Christ the way Muslims see Him; we don’t see Christ the way people who think He was just a man, a good religious teacher, see Him.
We don’t see Christ after the flesh, and we don’t see anybody after the flesh, and certainly, that’s true as we evaluate our own lives, so we - we cannot reduce Christianity to something temporal, something physical, something superficial. We are bound to understand things from a spiritual viewpoint, and to go deeply into those things. I think within evangelicalism today, there’s a – there’s a sad failure to understand this.
There is an expanding and exploding superficiality in Christianity, where people are content with some kind of Christianity that gives them a better shot at a fulfilled life. The design of Christianity somehow is to bump them up a few levels on the success scale; to make them feel better about their circumstances, to make them a little bit happier, to make their marriage a little better, you know, to give them a little more human prosperity, human well-being, etc.
That is not what the Christian life is all about; it’s about an eternal perspective. Whatever happens or doesn’t happen on the temporal level is not the objective and the goal. We can’t view it that way. We don’t see Christ in a superficial way, we don’t see the lost in a superficial way, nor can we view ourselves and those who name the name of Christ in any way as superficial as they are being viewed today. I mentioned yesterday that according to the Gallop Poll, eighty-five percent of Americans say they’re Christians; nine percent read the Bible and have a Christian worldview.
I don’t know how to explain those other people, except to say that, for them, Christianity is something about life here and now, and not something about knowing God, going deeply in terms of spiritual reality, and looking to what is future. It’s really very important for us to get a perspective on our Christian experience that takes us deep, and James helps us to do that - for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to know whether our Christianity is the real deal.
But I want to draw you to James 1, and just verses 2 to 4 is a good starting point, because it sets in place what this first chapter is about. James identifies himself in verse 1 as a bondservant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, indicates that he’s writing to believing Jews out of the tribes of Israel who have been disbursed abroad. After greeting them, he says this: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
“And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Now, the subject here is faith, and the goal here is a faith that is perfect; a faith that is complete, a faith that lacks nothing. And if I were to ask you, what does that kind of faith look like; how would you define a perfect faith? How would you define a mature faith? How would you define a believer whose faith lacks nothing? Is that a believer who is able to name it and claim it; is that what perfect faith is, the confidence you can speak anything into existence that you desire?
What is perfect faith? Is perfect faith that which somehow results in a - in a life that is free from trouble, a life that is free from disappointment or distress? What is the real stuff of complete faith, perfect faith, faith that lacks nothing? Well, James is going to tell us, but to note to begin with that this is the objective and the goal is where we have to start. What God wants to produce in your life is a complete, perfect faith that lacks nothing.
He does not want you to experience what it talks about in verse 6: doubting, and being driven and tossed like a troubled sea, which experiences the power and the effect of the wind. This is a call for us to enjoy a settled, resting, confident, strong, unwavering, immovable faith, and the question is, how is such a faith produced? Look at the text again - you can find that the testing of your faith produces endurance; endurance is what has the perfect result.
So, in order for us to have this kind of enduring, perfect, complete faith that lacks nothing, it has to be what? Has to be tested; it has to be tested. How is it tested? Verse 2: “By various trials.” Various trials, then, become a source of joy: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” - not because they are an end, but because they are a means to an end. They produce endurance; endurance produces a perfect, complete faith that lacks nothing, which is the greatest gift that you could possibly have.
I don’t know that we always think about things like that. We - I mean, if we were basically asked, what would we prefer in life, we probably would be prone to answer, “I would prefer a life of ease. I would prefer a life of comfort.” We pray that way, don’t we? “Lord, protect me from this, protect me from that, save me from this, don’t let that happen - you know, when I get sick, make we well, when things go bad, make them better” - I mean, that’s essentially how we work with life.
When we’re, you know, one step into a trial, the response is immediate prayer and intercession to get us out. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anybody publicly pray, “Lord, I am in a great trial; keep me there until You’ve accomplished what You want to accomplish with me.” Do you pray like that? Is that a sort of regular part of your prayers? When you get a list of things to pray for - when you go to prayer meeting and you join with other people - what are the prayer requests?
“Lord, Bill wants more trials. Alice wants You to bring something into her life that is going to draw her away from the love of things that are temporal and worldly.” Do you ever hear people make requests like that? It’s because no matter how we want not to do it, we tend to view things physically, and we tend to view things temporally, and we do tend to know life after the flesh rather than after the Spirit. If we understood what it was to really value the spiritual work, our prayers would be different.
What we should be praying for is a perfected faith. What we should be praying for is a complete faith that lacks nothing, that can only be produced by endurance, which can only be produced by trials, and so what we ought to be praying for is what? T-T-T-T-T - it just doesn’t come out easy, does it? Trials. Without the work of those trials, faith is never perfected, and therefore, we are left spiritually vulnerable and weak.
To understand the value of trials, I want to just kind of give you a list of things; I want to end up kind of where we begin in James, okay? But I want to run through some things, just to have you rethink the value of trials. In the general sense, you should rejoice in your trials because they teach you endurance, which essentially is what produces a perfect faith; a perfect faith would then be reflective of the complete, mature, believer, lacking nothing.
Let me just give you some benefits from trials - I’ll sweep through a lot of things that you can think about with me. Suffering - or trials; we’ll maybe use the word suffering - allows the life of Christ to be manifested in our mortal flesh. In 2 Corinthians 4 - a wonderful passage - verses 7 through 11, Paul says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed” - you know that passage, and he says, “We are given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.”
In the midst of suffering, Christ displays Himself. Another thing to think about in terms of our suffering is that suffering bankrupts our resources, and therefore makes us dependent upon God. Second Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, My power is made perfect in” - what? - “in weakness,” so Paul says, “Therefore I will” – rejoice, or – “boast all the more gladly about my weakness, that Christ’s power may rest on me. The weaker I am, the stronger He is.”
Suffering also teaches us humility. Paul says it was given to him a messenger from Satan, a thorn in the flesh, to keep him from exalting himself, and he says it twice in 2 Corinthians 12:7. Suffering teaches us that God is more concerned about character than He is about comfort - Romans 5, Paul says that “we rejoice in our sufferings, because suffering produces character” - God is much more concerned about your character than He is your comfort.
In fact, Hebrews 12, I think it’s verse 10, says, “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness” - the ultimate essential of character. Suffering teaches us, also, that the greatest good in the Christian life is not the absence of pain; the greatest good in the Christian life is not the absence of pain - this is not about living a pain-free life. In fact, the greatest good in the Christian life is being like Christ, right?
Christlikeness, and as 2 Corinthians 4 again says, “We carry around in our body the dying of Christ so that the life of Christ may be revealed in us.” We also learn that suffering is necessary as a chastening for sin, so that we don’t go down that path repeatedly. Suffering, then, chastens us for sin, that it might produce the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Suffering produces self-control - Psalm 119 and verse 67: “Before I was afflicted, I went astray” - what a great statement.
“Before I was afflicted, I went astray. Now I obey Your Word.” “Once I felt the affliction that my sin produced, I wanted to go another direction” – so, suffering produces self-control and obedience. Suffering is just part of the struggle for the Kingdom of God. Second Thessalonians, Paul reminds the Thessalonians that all their suffering was because they were counted worthy to be a part of the kingdom of God, and to be a part of the kingdom of God in the world, and be in collision with the kingdom of darkness, inevitably produces suffering.
Suffering - another way to say that: suffering is part of the struggle for the gospel, it’s part of the struggle for the cause of Christ, it shows that we’re engaged with the enemy. “All those who will live godly in this world will suffer,” says the apostle Paul. Further, suffering is the cause of eternal reward. You remember when James and John, with their mother, came to Jesus, and asked if they could sit on the right hand and left hand in the kingdom?
He said it’s not for Him to give, but the Father - and then He said this: “Are you able to drink the cup that I will drink?” and He connected glory to suffering. “Our light momentary affliction achieves for us” - as Paul, again, to the Corinthians, in 2 Corinthians – “an eternal weight of glory.” Suffering also binds us together in a common life as believers. I love what Revelation 1:9 says: “I, John, your brother and companion in suffering” - there’s a camaraderie that we experience in this mutual suffering and patient endurance in the cause of the gospel.
Suffering produces a broken and a contrite heart, which delights God, according to Psalm 51. Suffering increases our anticipation of heavenly glory. Those are a few things to think about; let me just give you a few more. Suffering weans us from the world - and that’s so important - suffering weans us from the world. Suffering reveals what we really love. Suffering is a test of our love, in the end - and we’re getting more to the sort of overarching byproducts of suffering.
Listen to Deuteronomy 13:3: “Your God -the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” In other words, do you love anything as much as you love Him? Is anything dearer to you than God? Or, the words of Jesus: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, follow Me. Are you willing to hate your father, your mother, and your own life?” Suffering takes us down to the real bottom line.
Suffering teaches us to value the favor of God. Reason teaches us to value the world, sense teaches us to value pleasure, trials teach us to value the favor of God - ’cause in the midst of trials, that’s the only thing that we cry out for, is the lovingkindness of God. The Psalmist in Psalm 63:3 said, “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.” How did he know that? Because life got down to the bare level of existence in the midst of all his anguish, and he found there the lovingkindness of God was enough.
Suffering enables us to help others in their trials. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 1, says that he was comforted with the comfort of God so that he could comfort them; comforting from God comes to us, enabling us to help others. All of that sort of litany brings us to where I want us to be in James. Trials produce a perfect faith. The synonym for faith is believe, right? To believe perfectly, to believe completely, to believe without any lack, to believe without any doubt - strong faith - this is a this is a - this is the best of gifts; really, the best of gifts.
Why? Because it’s the source of the greatest joy. I’ll use an extreme illustration of what I mean - extreme in the sense that it takes you to the final end, to the limit. I do not understand how Christians can deny the doctrine of eternal security and experience joy at any point in their lives; I cannot comprehend that. If I believed for a minute that I could lose my salvation, I would never experience any permanent joy; never.
Because if I could lose it, I would lose it - do you understand that? If I have anything to do with maintaining my salvation, I will lose it. If I could lose it, I would lose it - every day, probably. If it’s possible, then it’s real; if I can, I will. It was Spurgeon who gives the testimony that he had heard the gospel, he had heard all of the elements of the gospel, but it wasn’t until he heard of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints that he was so overwhelmed as to be saved.
When he understood that it was forever, and that it was a faith that could not die, he said at that point, he rushed to embrace the gospel. Let me point it up another way. If you were to take the panoply of doctrines regarding salvation, and you were to lay them out, probably at the top of your list - you know, if you’re thinking in any sense in terms of reformed theological terms - you’d come up with the doctrine of justification.
And you might talk about the doctrine of substitution or imputation related to it, you might talk about regeneration, you might talk about the doctrine of ransom, the price being paid. You might talk about the doctrine of sanctification - which, of course, is part of salvation, as well as the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit - you might talk about the doctrine of redemption, you might talk about the doctrine of propitiation.
There are so many wonderful, wonderful aspects to the doctrine of salvation, but the greatest, most wonderful, most captivating and most important of all the doctrines in the panoply of soteriology is the doctrine of perseverance, because without perseverance, all the rest are diminished. They’re all diminished into some temporary event, and if you’re telling me to deny myself, and take up my cross, and follow You, and hate my father, and hate my mother, and hate my own life, and be willing to die, and abandon everything, and then you’re telling me, “And, by the way, I’m not making any guarantee that this deal is going to last,” that is a hard sell.
That is a very hard sell. And then, if you tell me, “Well, if you work hard enough, you can hang on,” that is no help; that is no help. Then you have to play games with me if you teach me that, and if somebody comes to Christ under those terms, you have to play games with me, to minimize the reality of my own inability to keep myself saved. No, the greatest doctrine in all the doctrines of salvation is the fact that this is forever, that this is eternal; otherwise, you’ve diminished them all, and you have stolen the glory of God.
So then, what would be the greatest blessing, the cause of the greatest joy, in the life of any believer? It would be this: to have a perfect faith that never doubts; that is to say, to enjoy your perseverance. Do you understand where I’m going with this? That no matter what comes, what goes, what happens, it never touches your eternal hope - that’s what James is talking about. You ought to rejoice in all your trails, because all those trials that you experience are producing confidence that your salvation is forever, and that your faith is a persevering faith.
You were saved by faith, and you are kept saved by faith. The faith that saved you was a gift from God, and the faith that keeps you is a gift from God. It’s not that God sovereignly saved you, and now you have to keep yourself saved; it’s the same God who saved you who keeps you, right? But He saved you by faith, and He keeps you by faith, and that’s where perseverance and security come together. So, James is saying, “Consider it all joy.”
I believe that the most joyous thing in my life is the confidence that my salvation is forever. Is there anything that matters as much as that? Nothing matters as much as that; nothing. And so, now, all I’m really concerned about is living in the light of eternity, and so, I don’t view my life temporally. I, as you know, just went through the experience of being by the bedside of my father as he was dying, and for me, I’ve always seen my father spiritually.
Of course, I know him as a man and as a father, but I always knew him as a child of God, and I always knew that he possessed eternal life, and so, the perspective that I had was that this isn’t the end, this is the beginning; this isn’t a going alone, this is a going in the presence of Jesus Christ, and I sat down to write out my thoughts in a letter, and all I could think about was that he was seeing his Lord face-to-face. That’s how - that’s how he lived his whole life, in that full anticipation of that.
That’s how I live my life. I never want to - I never want to see that diminished. I don’t want to live with doubt, I don’t want to live with fear, I don’t want to live tossed to and fro, and carried about by everything that comes along, and blow me off that confidence. And I just tell you this: that the greatest theft that’s ever happened in the history of the church is stealing the doctrine of perseverance; robbing people of the confidence of an everlasting salvation.
But even though you have it, you may not experience the joy of having it, and the confidence of having it, if you don’t live your Christian life the way you should, because – listen - this kind of strong, confident faith, this enduring, complete, perfect faith that lacks nothing, isn’t necessarily automatic. While your salvation is forever, you may not enjoy it, unless you get your perspective where it should be. So, James is going to help us, in this first chapter, to understand how we can enjoy our persevering faith - and it will be tested.
It’ll be tested - your trust in God, your faith in Him, your perseverance - it’s going to be tested. It has been tested, it will continue to be tested. You may have a financial crisis in which you lose everything that you have. You may lose your job, find that you don’t have income to support your family. You may get an announcement from the doctor that you have to have a triple bypass immediately, or even worse, that there’s nothing that can be done for the problem you have - it might be cancer, it might be a massive brain tumor, it might be a heart problem, or it might be in your spouse or one of your children.
Or you may get word someday that there’s been a terrible accident, and one of your children has been killed; someone you loved has been raped and murdered - we hear so much about that today, it’s just amazing - the death of a child. The list goes on and on and on, and the question is, what’s going to happen at that point in your life, or what is happening at that point, if you’re there in your life? God has a purpose in these trials, and if we respond to these trials the way God wants us to, what’s going to come out of them is the opposite of what the world might think.
What’s going to come out of them is this perfected, mature, complete, undiminished confidence in the eternal purposes of God being fulfilled in your life. This, then, should be our greatest source of joy. A jeweler I read about one time had given as one of the tests for a true diamond what they called the water test. When a stone is tested to determine if it’s an imitation diamond or a real diamond, they put it under water - that’s one of the things they do.
A genuine diamond sparkles more brilliantly under water, whereas a fake one - at least whatever kind of fake they were dealing with - had its brilliance diminished by the water. And I think that simply illustrates for us, at least in a simple way, that it’s when God sort of buries us in the waters of adversity that the brilliance comes through, so that this becomes not only a test of our mature faith, but also, initially, a test of our real faith.
And as I said in the opening sessions last night, James is going to lay out for us here how to know you’re really a real Christian. How you respond to adversity is part of it, how you respond to sin is part of it, and how you respond to the Word of God is part of it as well. So, this is very basic, as well as running all the way to producing that powerful, confident, full and complete faith, that lets us live in joy no matter what’s going on in our lives.
Just some scriptures to think about - we should expect trials because of what the Bible says. Job 5:7: “Man is born to trouble as sparks fly upward.” Job 14:1: “Man is born of a woman and is a few days and full of trouble.” That’s how it is. Psalm 22:11, David said, “Be not far from me, for trouble is near.” That’s always going to be that way. Isaiah 8:22, God speaks through Isaiah, speaks about judgment, and says this, that “Men look to the earth and find only trouble and darkness and dimness and anguish.”
That’s how it is in life; it always has been, it always will be, and James wants us to get a grip on how we respond to that trouble. Now, let’s begin by going back and taking a look at verse 2, just to set some of the terminology here. “Consider it all joy” - I think that’s pretty obvious to all of us; we don’t need to explain that - “when you encounter various trials” – poikilos, various - just means that - multi-colored, really; it’s an emphasis not for the number but for the diversity - all trials of all kinds.
They are external trials, there are internal trials; no distinction is made here, life is just filled with all kinds of trials. Trials is peirasmos – again, it’s a very generic word that doesn’t denote in this context any solicitation to sin at all; it’s just simply trials, challenges, tests - various kinds of difficulties that come into our lives, on the inside and the outside. They can be illnesses, etc., things we talked about, calamities, or they can also be internal - disappointment, distress, disillusionment.
All kinds of human things that go on in our internal struggles - frustrations, misunderstandings, unfulfilled dreams, unmet expectations, loneliness, loss, you name it. It’s just the way life comes. And when you think of all those things sort of wrapped up, and you connect them with this command, “Consider it all joy, my brethren,” you know you’re hearing something that’s contrary to the normal flow of conventional wisdom and what seems reasonable.
Drop down to verse 12, and you get kind of an insight into why we consider it joy: “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial.” This is a beatitude, by the way - a blessing, a declaration of blessedness, reminiscent of what Don’s dealing with in the mornings in Matthew 5 - “Blessed is the man” - and blessed is satisfied, fulfilled with inner joy, a state of joy in the soul; doesn’t reflect some kind of superficial happiness, but something very deep.
“Blessed is the man” - verse 12 – “who perseveres under trial” - who endures testing. Again, this is the source of true blessing; why? Because you see your - you see your faith tested, and you see that it perseveres, and you therefore know you have a permanent, lasting gift from God; it’s a great gift from God, to prove to us that we have a persevering faith, and you can rest in that faith no matter what happens. “Blessed is the 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 that love Him.”
Again, this is - this is a view that goes past what’s going on here and the good that might come out of our trials - we talked about that, I gave you a whole list of things that come from our trials - but this is looking to that ultimate thing which James has in his mind: that the blessing and the joy comes because we learn that our salvation is permanent, because no matter what trial comes, nothing ever kills that faith. Jude - do you remember verse 24 of Jude?
“Now unto him who is able to” - what? – “to keep you” - from what? – “from falling” - or stumbling – “and to present you faultless before His glory” - God is able to keep you from falling - that is - in the context of Jude. Look at that context for just a moment - as I think about it, it’s a very important context to look at. The theme of Jude - I just finished the commentary on Jude, 2 Peter/Jude, it’s going to be one volume, just finished it - but the context here is quite interesting.
Context all through Jude, as in 2 Peter 2, is false teachers. False teachers are very dangerous, extremely dangerous; in fact, verse 3 talks about “earnestly contending for the faith, once for all delivered to the saints,” against the assault of these false teachers. Verse 4: “They creep in unnoticed” - they are surreptitious, they are secretive, obviously clandestine. They twist and pervert, by their ungodliness, the grace of God into licentiousness. It goes on to talk about how subtle they are – “they are hidden reefs in your love feasts” - he says down in verse 12 - and they’re very, very dangerous; they do these ungodly things, etc., etc.
And when he’s given this explanation of the deadly danger of false teachers, and he comes down to the final part of this thing in verse 20, and here comes instruction about what we do to protect ourselves. “But you, beloved” - verse 20 - “build yourselves up in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.” In other words, make sure that you’re strong in the faith, prayed up in the Holy Spirit.
Stay in the place of love, of the expressions of love - which essentially means be obedient to God, in which you experience the outpouring of His love - and keep your eyes on the future glory. We have another problem, however, because while we’re trying to make sure we keep ourselves separated from the deadly influence of Paul’s teachers, we do have a mandate to reach them with the gospel, right?
I mean, we can say we want to stay away from the cults, we want to stay away from false religion, we want to stay away from anything that is ungodly, unbiblical, etc., etc., because it’s the enemy and it’s potentially dangerous, but at the same time, that’s the mission field, right? That’s a mission field, so what’s the balance? He gets into verse 22; he says, “Look, have mercy on some, who are doubting” - you’re going to run across people who are - who are doubting, and you want to show mercy to them.
They’re in these religions - maybe they’ve heard something about the gospel, they don’t know where they stand - you’ve got to show mercy to them; that’s one level of person you deal with. And more serious even than that, verse 23: “Save others, snatching them out of the fire” - these aren’t the people who don’t exactly know what they believe, they can’t kind of make their mind up; these are people who are in the false religion, and you’ve got to go after these people and snatch them out of the fire without getting burned.
And there are some even worse, verse 23: “On some, have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” – there are - you’re getting now into the purveyors of false religion, and when you begin to interact with these people, you have the potential to get polluted by their influence. It’s one thing to meet somebody who is doubting; it’s another thing to meet somebody who is a victim of a false system; it’s quite another to engage the propagators of that religion, whether you do it in print or in person.
And so, the question arises in the mind of the believer, “Look, this evangelism stuff is pretty dangerous. On the one hand, I’m trying to keep my own life pure; on the other hand, you’re telling me to go in and snatch these things out of the fire, and go in and engage these false teachers because they too need to be redeemed, and to do it without getting my own garment polluted by the flesh; you know, how dangerous is this? How dangerous is this?
Could I apostatize? Could I defect? Could I get so twisted and perverted that I would be confused about the faith and abandon it?” And immediately comes this benediction, in verse 24: “Now to Him who is able to” - what? – “to keep you” - so, you don’t have that ultimate fear; if you’re a true believer, it’s not going to happen. He’s going to keep you, and He’s going to present you faultless. The confidence that we have in the great doctrine of perseverance is what gives us the courage to invade the kingdom of darkness.
Why do trials come? To validate the strength of our faith - that is what James is saying - so that we could be the blessed and the joyful. In Deuteronomy chapter 8 - I’ll close with a couple of scriptures - verse 2: “You shall remember all the ways” – you remember now, they’re on the edge of the promised land after 40 years in the wilderness, and they’re getting the law again, and they’re being instructed as they go in the land with what God wants them to do again.
And he says, “You shall remember all the ways the Lord has led you in the wilderness these 40 years, that He might humble you” - listen to this - “testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” Now, who was that test for, God? No. Did God know what was in their hearts? Of course. Who was the test for? For them, because their response to all those tests was showing them what was in their heart.
You could have no greater benefit from God than to have test, after test, after test, after test that validates your persevering faith. You think Paul was a happy guy when he wrote Romans 8, at the end; “What shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Do you think it was a pretty exciting moment for him to be able to say, “Neither life nor death, principalities, angelic beings” - goes through that whole litany?
And he recites all the things, and it’s - that’s biographical, by the way, all the things that happened to him, everything he had suffered - and in the end, nothing could do it, and this wasn’t theory with him. You read Romans 8 next time, that’s biographical; every single thing that he says can’t separate him, everything that he says can’t bring accusation against him, everything that cannot condemn him, he had fought through and experienced.
This is triumphant faith, that produces joy and blessing - whatever the price needs to be to experience that faith, it’s worth it; it’s worth it. And the great joy of testing is, that in the midst of all of it, you find out that the faith you have is the real deal. I remember when Patricia had her accident - many years ago, now - how many, honey? Eleven? Twelve, this summer.
And when you lose the most precious person in your life, which I thought I had - I got garbled messages, and I’m driving, trying to figure out what’s going on in my mind, without the information - I just arrive, and she has a broken neck, and all of that. The trial was severe - and more severe for her, obviously, from the physical side - but in the midst of that trial, there was never for one split second a question about where I would turn.
I never questioned God; I never questioned His wisdom, or His mercy, or His grace. I only pled for His wisdom and His comfort; I never questioned or doubted Him. So, you come out of a trial like that, and your faith has stood the supreme test, in a sense. When my son, Mark - it was reported to me that he had a brain tumor, it could be terminal - what did that do? Did that drive me away from God? No, it drove me to Him; it drove Patricia to Him.
There are just endless issues in life that come up that God uses to produce the endurance to demonstrate the real saving faith, so that we now live our lives in this joyous, blessed, happy, fulfilled, satisfied reality that we have the real thing. And why should any Christian live any other way? I thank the Lord for the trials. I thank the Lord, because through those trials, that faith, which He gave me by grace, has been proven to be the real faith; and the trials have produced perseverance, and endurance, and an unwavering, strong faith, without doubt.
This is God’s greatest gift to me, and it fills me endlessly with the hope, and the joy and anticipation, of heavenly glory. Father, we thank You for our time this morning in the Word and refresh us as we think through these things and give us a wonderful week together. We thank You in Christ’s name. Amen.
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