Well good morning everyone. It’s a blessing and a privilege to be here with you at Christ Reformed, sorry, Christ Heritage Church here in Manila. It’s four years ago I think that I was here last. So it’s a great encouragement to see how the Lord has blessed you and enlarged your gathering and kept you and preserved you over the past four years. It’s a a real encouragement to to be able to come back and see you all here. Can you hear me okay? So the passage that we’re going to look at this morning is from the book of James. James chapter 1 and we’re going to look at the opening verses in particular verse 2 through 4. So let’s read from verse one. James chapter 1 and then we’ll pray together. James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. Amen.
Let’s begin by asking for God’s help and blessing in prayer. Oh most gracious God and Heavenly Father, we thank You for bringing us to the Lord’s day. Thank You for the first day in the week and at the beginning of the week, we can turn aside from the world and all its busyness and distraction and perhaps the cares and the worries of our daily lives that we can lay this to one side and we can come into Your house and we can be still and know that You are God and we have the assurance that you speak to us every… in every line in every word of Holy Scripture that as we read Your word that You are speaking to us through the pages of this book, The Bible. And so we ask now that you would bless us as we listen to the preaching of Your word. Help us in preaching help those who are listening. We pray that Your Holy Spirit may descend upon our gathering and that You would speak oh Lord for Your servants are listening. We ask this in Jesus’ Name, amen.
On July 26th, 1945, the British prime minister Sir Winston Churchill, he suffered an overwhelming election defeat at the hands of the Labour Party having led this country through some of the darkest years of her history and having been the human mastermind behind the victory over Hitler’s fearsome Nazi regime. Churchill had been voted out of power. As the result was announced, his wife, Clementine turned to him and said don’t worry dear, it could be a blessing in disguise. Well he said: “If it is, it’s certainly very well disguised.” And sometimes it can be like that can’t it? Sometimes things can happen to us in life and it’s not always easy to see the bright side and that can be the case not just for politicians and great statesmen but also for Christians as well. Christians too can pass through trials, deep trials that not only cause great pain, but also they can be a source of real perplexity. As we wonder to ourselves why is this happening to me right now. What’s going on here, how am I going to cope with this… and at such times, it can be difficult for us to see the bright side. It can be difficult for us to see how anything good or positive can come out of that situation. We say to ourselves.. well, where is the silver lining in this cloud? If this is a blessing in disguise, well it really is very well disguised. That’s the way that we can sometimes think. And so what do we do then when we’re in a situation like that? How are we to respond if we find ourselves in a situation like that? These verses here in the Book of James are very helpful because James here is speaking to a group of believers in the early church who were themselves is experiencing great trials. And here in this letter, right at the beginning of this letter, the opening verses, he jumps right in and he gives them these words of pastoral counsel here on how to, how to process these trials that they’re going through. How to understand these trials, how to handle these trials and cope with the distress of these trials by seeing something of God’s plan and purpose in these trials. Seeing what God is doing in them, and through them in these trials, to enable them to see that these trials for them and for all believers really are a blessing in disguise. That behind a frowning providence, God really does hide a smiling face. And so that’s one of the things that we want to think about this morning. I’m sure in a congregation this size, there are more than a few people here who are going through some quite serious trials right now. And so I thought it would be good for us just to take a look at a passage like this… this morning James 1: 2-4 in order to help us to see how we ought to respond. How we should view these situations when our blessings come disguised; when they come in the ugly wrapping of a painful trial. Two main thoughts for us here this morning, you’ve got it in your bulletin there, there’s The Calculation To Make and then The Motivation To Maintain.
So let’s begin with point number one this is The Calculation To Make. Verse two there, my brethren, count it, reckon it, calculate it, count it all joy when you fall into various trials. Let’s just lay the table here and put this in its context. This is a letter obviously written by James. James was the younger brother of our Lord. There are as perhaps you know, there are at least five James mentioned in the New Testament. And this letter was written almost certainly by James, the younger brother, the half brother of our Lord. And the reason we can be fair sure about that is because of his fame. James was the pastor of the Jerusalem Church. He was perhaps one of the most well known, the, well, most well-known members of the church there. Everybody knew who James was. He’s the only person who could really sign a letter and just simply put James. He doesn’t have to write James the this, or James that. He just puts James because everybody knew who James was. This is the brother of our Lord, this is the pastor of the Jerusalem Church. So that’s one sort of giveaway indication of who this is. The other is his style as well. James was a very well educated man. His writing here, the Greek experts tell us this is some of the best Greek that you will find anywhere in the New Testament. It’s also very similar in style to the speech of James in the book of Acts. And so it seems very likely that this was written by James, the pastor of the Jerusalem Church probably around 40 to 50 A.D. making this one of the very first New Testament letters that the church had in its possession. And it’s written to converted Jews. You can see that by the term he uses there, the 12 tribes, verse one. The 12 tribes scattered abroad so that’s a term that takes us back to the Old Testament and to the 12 sons of Jacob who were living in Egypt they eventually became a mighty prosperous people who were divided up into the 12 tribes, each of them bearing the name of one of the the sons of Jacob in that tribe. And over time through their wanderings, sometimes through God’s judgment, they ended up being scattered. They were scattered in their ancient history and also at the time of James’s writing in their more recent history as well. These Jewish Christians, these are Jews who’ve been converted to Christianity. They too have been scattered many of them they’ve been dispersed due to the persecution that began following the death of Steven in Acts chapter 8. Many of them were scattered after that. And as a result, they began to experience great difficulties in their lives: persecution, hardship, poverty, they reached out, they witnessed for the Lord, they tried to win people for the Lord and as a result they began to suffer for that in their families, maybe they might suffer excommunication. They could be ostracised, maybe they might lose their jobs as well. If they had a trade, if they had their own profession they might belong to a trades guild, you had to bow down to a certain idol, to be a part of that trades guild; if you’re a Christian, then you couldn’t do that, you were forced out. Maybe you lost your job, maybe you lost your income.
Many Christians suffered real poverty as a result of that. So that in many parts of the Near East Christian people, often found right at the bottom, right; the lowest end of the social hierarchy. And so James here, he’s a pastor, he’s writing words of pastoral counsel to God’s people to tell them this is what they are to do, this is how they should view the situation. They find themselves in this is how you process these trials and the first thing he tells them to do is that they should count it all joy. They should actually be happy. There is abundant reason for them here to rejoice when they find themselves in that situation.
Now we’re going to think about why he says that and how they can do that more in a moment. But before we even come to that, let’s just look at what he says about trials. He says three things here about the nature of trials that God’s people will face. Three things here. The first is they’re certain… they’re certain. You see that there? He says when, when you fall into various trials. He doesn’t say ‘if’ you fall into trials; he says when. This is something that is inevitable.
There is a certainty about this; there’s a ‘it’s only a matter of time’ about this. It’s going to happen to you.. it will. It’s inevitable. We have to prepare ourselves for this, we have to expect this. There’s no way around it; you can’t get out of it, you can’t say well, only those Christians are going to have trouble, not me. This is something that may happen to some Christians. It’s never going to happen to me. Those Christians there, they may be in for a bumpy ride, but not me.
One of my first visits to the Philippines, this was many years ago. My wife Abigail, her family are from Marinduque. She was living in Manila at the time but the family was still back there in Marinduque. So we went to visit them one time and it used to be the only way you could get to Marinduque from Manila was you’d have to go and catch a ferry. A ferry that would actually take you there but then about I think it was maybe 18 years ago something like, that they started chartering these these flights that you could get from Manila to Marinduque on these small 15 seat twin prop planes. And when you got on there, they they weigh you with your baggage before you even get on there. So that made me nervous to begin with. And, and then we, we got buckled in and the flight attendant got in, and she began to go through the safety procedures. And so that made me feel a little more relieved. But then she got out and she closed the door and she waved to us as we were going down the uh, down the runway. Uh for what was in the end, it was a very bumpy ride. But you know you can’t do that in the Christian life. You can’t say it’s only those Christians there; they’re going to get a bumpy ride but not me. You can’t do that. Every Christian is going to face trials. It’s not “if,” it’s “when”… when you face various trials. There is a certainty about this. Jesus says in this world, you will have, you will have tribulation. Trials will come says Thomas Manton. Thomas Manton, the puritan, says this trials will come, that is a certainty; they fall under the ordination of God. So this is inevitable. It’s determined by God. You’re going to face trials. They’re certain.
There’s no way around that.
Second thing he tells us here is also they are sudden, they are sudden as well. They can take you by surprise. Count it all joy when you fall into various trials. You don’t expect a fall; a fall is something that just happens to you. You don’t plan to fall during the course of a day, do you? It’s you know, a man is walking along, he falls into a pit, he didn’t plan to do that. That’s what happened. Luke 10:30, we read there about that man who went from Jerusalem to Jericho. And it says there, he fell among thieves. He didn’t plan that for the day, he didn’t have that schedule going to fall amongst thieves today. He fell, it just happened to him very suddenly. And trials can be like that. They can be very sudden, they can be unexpected. Job, he got up one morning and everything was fine; the sun was up, his life was going hunky dory. And then all of a sudden, he gets messengers coming to him, with all kinds of bad news.. that all of his cattle have been taken away and then his servants, all of his servants have been killed. And then all 10 of his children have been killed at a family gathering by a freak storm. That trial came upon him very suddenly. That’s how it can be in life. You’re going along and everything seems smooth, everything seems fine, you go to the doctor, you think it’s just a routine visit and he’s got your test results in front of him and he’s got a very concerned look on his face. And as you listen to him talk to you, suddenly you know your world now is being turned upside down. You hadn’t expected that. Or maybe you’re at work and you take out your cell phone, you’ve got a message and a family member has been involved in a very serious accident and all of a sudden your world is now turned upside down very, very suddenly. These are trials that come. Out of the blue, we don’t expect them. We fall into them. They’re certain, they’re sudden. One other thing here: they’re assorted.. they’re assorted as well. Count it all joy when you fall into various, various trials and that word there, in the original, it actually means multicoloured You know this time some of you, I don’t know if you have a christmas tree; maybe some of you do and you’ve got your christmas tree there and you’ve got one set of lights and maybe they’re white. You got your white lights on the tree, maybe you got some flashing coloured ones as well; all different colours. That’s what this word here means.. different coloured, multicoloured. And that’s what James is saying here about trials. The trials that you can go through in life will be very different. Many different colour shades you might say. James talks about some of them, doesn’t he in this book. A man who dies suddenly verse 11, being an orphan or a widow verse 27, later on chapter 5 you’ve got exploitation there, serious illness as well. Of course as persecution, that these people are suffering ostracism. The opposition they’re experiencing on top. Point is trials are varied for you and me as well. Maybe it’s a trial in your workplace, you’ve lost your job. Or a child born with a handicap so you now have to live with a heartache of knowing that that child is never going to be able to enjoy all the things that you were able to enjoy. That’s a trial. Or a relationship maybe. A friend, a family member, a spouse even who betrays you or you’re the victim of a crime or an attack. You, you have your home broken into. Maybe your life savings are completely wiped out. Could be a health problem, a long-term illness that just never improves, anxiety, a depression that just sort of descends upon you and doesn’t seem to go. A child you know, a spiritual problem. You can have a child maybe who becomes a prodigal and goes away from the Lord ,and it doesn’t look like they’re ever going to come back again. Just so many trials. There’s suffering without, there’s suffering within, there are heartaches that we can go through, there are heart breaks that we experience. Trials in this world, so many different sorts.
So that’s what James is telling us about trials: they’re certain, they’re sudden, and they are assorted. But then he also gives us a solution here as well. At the very beginning of this letter, that one of the first letters that the New Testament church has in its possession, he’s telling us what to do here. The book of James is a very practical letter. There are many things he tells us to do in this letter. It has an unusually large amount of imperatives. You know what imperatives are? Commands, things that you are to do because Christianity obviously it’s a religion of faith, but it’s also very practical. If you have faith, there are certain things that you will do. Things that you should do, and in suffering, James says one of the things you need to do is you need to think. You need to think about it, you need to think about what’s going on in your situation.
Christianity is not a religion that bypass the mind. You don’t check your brain in at the door when you come to a service like this. You know we’re all just going to sit together and think warm fuzzies together. Christianity is a religion of the mind; we’re to use our mind. So that’s why he says consider here, think about this, reckon, he said. The word means to calculate actually. It means to evaluate something based on a weighing up facts. So he’s saying think about this. When you’re in a trial, don’t just go by your feelings and your emotions. That can be the temptation when you’re going through a serious trial. You can react impulsively according to your emotions and your feelings. James says don’t do that. Think!
Consider! Also, don’t just switch off and try and blank it out. You know that sort of new age philosophy that you need to meditate and sort of get yourself onto a higher plane so you don’t even feel anything anymore, no. No! Don’t do that.
Don’t reach for the the drink bottle either or the medicine cabinet and try and blot it all out of your mind, no! James says think, calculate, estimate, count it joy! Reckon it nothing but joy. One version puts it or J.B. Phillips, in his modern English translation, he translates the whole verse like this, this is quite interesting. He says this: when all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends.
Welcome them as friends… that’s a strange thing to say isn’t it? These trials, these sufferings that I’m going through, my, my job loss, this, this disease I have, this grinding poverty that I’m experiencing right now, this persecution, welcome this as a friend? Are you sure about this James? I mean I know you’re the pastor of the Jerusalem Church and all that. But are you sure you’ve got this right?
Welcome this into my life as a friend? Is that really even possible to count this joy? It is, the Bible says. And it’s not just James who says this. This is all over the Bible, you know this don’t you? And many examples as well that we get. Just to give a few: Paul for example, with Silas when they were in prison, they’d been arrested and they’d been beaten, and they’v been thrown into prison; and at midnight, what are they doing? They’re singing hymns! They’re singing hymns of praise to God because they were counting it all joy. Or think about Peter and John acts 5:41, they’ve been arrested, they’ve been flogged by the Sanhedrin, by the authorities. That’s 39 lashes; some men died under a flogging. It was a long whip with these leather strips and they had little pieces of bone on the end it would open up the flesh on your back. Some people died even just under a flogging. Peter and John came out of there and what does it say they were doing? They left the Sanhedrin rejoicing. That’s what they were doing.. they were rejoicing because they said they were.. it says they were counted worthy of suffering for the Name. They reckoned it all joy. Or Paul again in prison in Rome.
You know he’s on death row and he’s right, you know. His life could have been taken at any moment. He could have had to appear before Caesar, he could have been executed at any moment. He’s writing a letter to the Philippians and that letter is sometimes called the Epistle of joy because it’s the big theme in that letter. He says to them rejoice! Rejoice and again I say to you, rejoice! What a joyful man he was in his sufferings. Or you know to give an example from church history, think about George Whitfield. I’m sure you, you know about George Whitfield. He was the great evangelist in the 18th century and a man who was used by his preaching hundreds thousands of people came to faith in Jesus Christ through his preaching. People go and listen to him. They would hang upon his every word. He was such an incredible preacher. But what’s not so well known is often there would be these angry mobs would, would follow him around. They hated him, they wanted to kill George Whitfield. Sometimes they would throw these rocks at him and yet he was always irrepressibly cheerful. And he went to America one time and this sort of High Society lady met him and afterward she said, Mr. Whitfield is such a cheerful man, it almost persuades me to become a Christian. And so that was the key to these men in all of their trials. You see, they didn’t blot it out. They didn’t try and get themselves on a higher plane. They didn’t reach for the drink bottle to try and down the pain or anything like that. They simply thought about their situation and reminded themselves of what God was doing in those trials.
So that brings us then on to a second point this morning. That is the calculation to make. Let’s now think about The Motivation To Maintain. And this is what it is that we are to think about if we are going to count it all joy. There are certain things we need to think about and you can see it there in verse three: knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing. So here is the motivation: this is the reasoning that James gives us to help us to count it to consider it all joy when we fall into trials. There are three things he says here: that trials do in us and they do for us that should cause us as we think about this to have great joy. The first is proof. Trials provide you as a Christian with proof or evidence that your faith is real. That’s what Peter says that you know the parallel text we read earlier, Peter says there 1 Peter Chapter 1:7 that you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire, may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. And so trials then, they prove the genuineness of our faith. They’re like a furnace, a hot furnace where the metal goes into that furnace, and the pure metal, the gold remains and all the joss is burnt away. So what that testing does it proves: that the metal is real. And so you do that don’t you? With valuable things, you test them to make sure they really are the real thing. If you go to England, and you have a maybe a 20£ note or even 50£ note and you go into a store and you try to pay for something. Often times, the person at the cashier desk will take that 20£ note and immediately they’ll test it. They want to see if that’s real or they have a pen now or they they put it under a light and they can test that thing is valuable. They want to make sure it’s real. You do that with valuable things don’t you? Air and food, and water, these are important things they need to be tested. A car for example, an engineer, he won’t waste his time testing scrap metal, but he will test a car. Car is valuable. Car is going to serve an important purpose. It needs to be tested and it’s the same with God’s people.
God’s people are valuable. They serve an important purpose in this world. One day, they’re going to inhabit the new heavens and the new Earth so they need to be tested to make sure they’re real, don’t they? That’s very important. How can I know if I’m a real Christian? How can I know if I’m going to spend eternity in heaven or in hell? God tests us in life through trials. So one way you can know is well how do I respond to trial. When I’m going through a trial, do I turn away and say this is too much. This is just too much. I thought the Christian life was all about blessing and now here I’ve got all of these trials. I don’t want this. I’m done with this. No, no.. I don’t want this anymore. I’m finished with this. If that’s the way I respond in a trial, that means I’m a fake, I’m a dud, I’m a counterfeit. That’s not real faith. If on the other hand, I press on, and I say yes, this is hard. This is really, really painful what I’m going through right now. But by God’s grace, I can keep going. By God’s grace, I can be strong, I can grow in grace in the midst of this. I can glorify God in the midst of my trial. Lord, please help me to keep going in the midst of this even though this is very painful. If you respond like that, that’s the real thing. That’s the real deal. That’s 100% pure gold. That, that’s 100% pure Spirit-wrought faith. That’s what that is that’s the real thing. That’s like Job, isn’t it? You know, Job in the midst, in the midst of his trials, he lost a lot pretty much. He lost his, his family, he lost his livelihood, his servants, his wife turned against him. And yet in the midst of it all, he’s holding on. He is holding on to the Lord.
Even though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. After He has tried me, I will come forth as gold, he says. What’s that? That’s the real thing. That is pure gold, that is the real deal. That was a sign that you know the trial that he went through proved that he had the real thing there. And so that’s one of the reasons to count it all joy when you fall into trials. They provide proof for you that your faith is real.
Secondly, they ensure progress in the faith as well. Verse three, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. That’s a very important word, that word patience. It’s also translated as endurance. It’s the Greek word “hypemeno.” Hyper, a word which means super or intense, meno means to stand. So you put those two words together, it means to “hyper-stand” if you can put it like that. It means to stand and really keep on standing. Be determined that you’re going to stand, enduring, patiently enduring. I’m going to stand, I’m going to keep enduring this. So that for example, if you were trusting in the Lord before your affliction came, you are determined to keep on trusting Him. If you were a praying person before the affliction came, you’re going to keep on praying. If you were walking obediently before that trial came, you’re determined to keep on walking obediently before the Lord. Don’t stop, don’t don’t slip, don’t slide, stand your ground. It’s going to be harder now of course, isn’t it? Because you’ve got all the discouragement of having this trial come into your life. Or maybe you’re facing opposition. It’s not easy to keep going when you’ve got a trial in your life. There’s pressure on you to stop and just to give up and to let go. But that’s how faith becomes strong, you see. It’s holding on, it’s standing up in the face of a force or a pressure that makes you want to let go. No, I’m going to keep on standing. That’s how you build spiritual strength. You know to give you a different example, imagine an athlete who wants to build, build strong muscles. I mean this is very simple explanation. But he’s holding up weights, isn’t he? And there’s tremendous weight. Everything in his body makes.. wants him just to throw it down, to let it go. But he stands there, doesn’t he? And as he’s standing there under that weight, what he’s doing is building tremendous strength into his arms. That’s what athletes do and it’s the same for the Christian. When you stand strong against the weight of a trial for an extended period of time and you keep on holding on, what that is doing is building spiritual strength or endurance is what James calls it. That’s what we need, isn’t it? And there’s a very simple way, a practical way that you can do this on an everyday basis, um you know sometimes in our lives, just irritations come along in the course of a day, minor annoyances, they’re only small things. They’re only minor aggravations. But sometimes we react badly, we can fly off the handle, we can lash out at people in that situation. Whereas the thing we need to do when those smaller irritations come into our lives, is we need to learn to cope. Learn to cope with it isn’t it? Learn to to deal with it with God’s help and by His grace, to cope with that small irritation, because if you can’t cope with the small ones, how are you going to cope when the big ones come into your life? So you begin to prepare for that by dealing with the smaller ones. The everyday annoyances in that situation, you train yourself every day when they come along, say I can cope with this! This is no big deal really. This is actually just a very small thing. With God’s help, I can deal with this and you start to think in that way every day when trials come, I can cope with this. God can help me and as you do that day by day by day, you’re building strength, you’re building spiritual endurance.
So there’s an important application there in the short term. There’s also a long-term application as well. And that is the importance of endurance and staying power in the life of a church. It’s the importance of having people in a church who have developed this endurance. One of the writers I read on this gives the example of a soldier. You know a battle-hardened soldier; he’s been out there, he’s been in combat, he’s been on tours of duty, he’s seen battles won, he’s seen battles lost. That soldier has something the new recruit doesn’t have.
You know the new recruit, he’s got energy, he’s got zeal and all of that. But he doesn’t have what the battle-seasoned soldier has, who has been through it and he’s faced crisis and he doesn’t panic. He knows what to do. You need people in the church like that. You need older battle-seasoned saints who’ve been in the way for many years; they’ve faced trials, they’ve stood up under trials, they’ve come through, they’ve proved the Lord. You need people in the congregation like that. And we need to value them and esteem them, appreciate them and also we need to realise how it is that God produces them. How does He make people like that? It’s by allowing them to pass through seasons of trial where they have built up this endurance. You know imagine, imagine for example, you got a young couple in the church just married and suddenly they have a tremendous trial coming to their lives. And maybe you look at them and you think I really wish they didn’t have to go through this so early on in their marriage. And of course that’s the right response, isn’t it? We are to be sympathetic people and all of that. But at the same time, we need to recognise in the providence of God, the economy of God, it may well be that God is allowing them to pass through that trial because that’s going to be the means of strengthening them and equipping them for a great work that they may have to do in the future. They’re going to be those battle-seasoned saints. They’re going to be the tried and tested pillars of the church in years to come. And so they need to go through that process at this particular point to equip them, like that.
It’s like boys and girls if you ever see a butterfly, and the butterfly is trying to break out of the what is it the chrysalis is it called something like that. The chrysalis and maybe you see it struggling there and the temptation is I want to help it. I want to break away that chrysalis so the butterfly can fly free. But actually the butterfly needs to go through that process of breaking out the shell. To get the strength, they will need eventually to fly. And so trials then, painful sudden trials, we have to count them all joy because this is what they do. They prove us, and also they enable to make progress like this to build spiritual endurance.
Then also one final thing here, they also perfect us as well. Look at verse four.. let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing. So do you see that? There’s another imperative there. This letter is full of imperatives. Let patience have its perfect work. Let it, don’t hinder it, don’t get in the way. Don’t short circuit the process. If this work of testing and trying your faith is producing endurance in you, don’t hinder it. Don’t get in the way of it. That can be the temptation can’t it? You know, I’ve had it with this, I’ve endured this for long enough, I don’t want this anymore. James says no, don’t think like that. Stick with the program, don’t run away from things the moment it starts to get tough. Don’t give up on your marriage when the first trial comes along. Don’t leave your wife if a handicapped child is born. Don’t give up on College when you’ve only got one year to go. Don’t resign from the church because there happens to be one family there who’ve got a slightly different view to you on a certain subject. Now stick with it, stay the course!
Donald Grey Barnhouse, he was a a pastor in the United States and wrote a number of books as well. And he gives the example of a fellow called Junior who escaped from prison in Alabama many years ago. And he had only 23 days left. But he was outside on a work detail and he was able to jump the fence and he escaped and he eventually got back home only to find that his mother put him in the car and drove him straight back again. He got another five years. He had 23 days to go, he ended up getting another 5 years. The point I’m making is stay the course. Don’t duck out. Why? He tells us there, doesn’t he. That you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing or all together. One translation puts it, it’s referring to a state of wholeness and being rounded, being spiritually mature, not lacking anything. A full orbed Christian character. One commentator called Davids puts it this way.. he says the word complete stresses the incremental character of the process, that is perfection is not just a maturing of character but a rounding out as more and more parts of righteous character are added. So this is what trials do for us. They, they perfect us, they, they develop a wholeness of character, they’re fashioning us into the men and women that God would have us to be. Another man says this trials are like a sculpting knife in the hands of God ,smoothing out the rough edges to transform us into the image of Christ.
Now the man who wrote that words is a fellow called Anthony Salvaggio, you may not have heard of him. He’s an American pastor and commentator. He lives in a place called Pennsylvania not far from Pittsburgh and it used to be known as the steel capital of the world and he uses steel as an illustration of this. Because he says steel is an incredibly strong metal, but it’s a metal that can be made even stronger by subjecting it to a process called tempering. Now what happens in tempering, maybe some engineers here you know this better than me. But tempering, where a metal alloy is heatedly, is heated repeatedly to a near critical temperature and then it’s immediately brought back down to room temperature and the effect of that is the intense heat removes all the unwanted properties and the immediate cooling process stops them from being reabsorbed back into the metal itself. Now it’s a process that puts that metal under incredible stress.
But it’s also a process that produces a metal that is incredibly strong. Tempered steel, it’s known as one of the strongest metals that you can get. And Salvaggio likens this to what God does with us in trials. He says the Christian life is basically a tempering process, quote “God places our lives in the fire of trials in order to make us mature and complete, not lacking in anything. James teaches us that God often places us in the heat of trials to expose and remove our sinfulness. Each time we suffer a trial, we emerge from the heat even stronger, he says, like tempered steel the pathway to perfection in the Christian life is paved with trials.”
And so as we finish up here, this is what God is doing. He’s testing our faith to prove it’s genuine, He’s testing our faith to produce endurance and He’s testing our faith because what He does in this process is He develops very strong character and He’s molding us more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. So think about that. Go away for the rest of the day, think about that. Isn’t that something that should make us rejoice? Isn’t that a good reason for us to count it all joy when you fall into various trials because we can think about this we can consider this and we can know, we can know for sure this is what God is doing in us and for us in our trials. This really does give us abundant reason to rejoice as Christians here this morning. What if you’re not a Christian here this morning and maybe listening to this, you’re thinking I’m glad I’m not a Christian.
If they have to go through all of these, all these sufferings, all these trials and falling into pits and into furnaces, and all of that kind of thing. I’m really glad I’m not a Christian. Well let me just leave you with a couple of thoughts. One is non- Christian suffer these things too. Non-christians get serious illness, non- christians fall victims to crime, non-christians die in car crashes, non-christians can have their spouses run off and leave them. All of the things we just said, they all happen to non-christians too. The difference is the unbeliever becomes very angry. He becomes very bitter in those trials, he shakes his fist towards heaven he says: oh God, if you’re there, how could you do something like this to me? The non-Christian still experience his trial. He just becomes angry and bitter. But also think about this as well.. and that is we need to say that there are those individuals and we see some of them in the Bible who when they suffered serious trials in their lives, even as unbelievers, that was used by God to bring them to Jesus Christ. The trials they experienced were the means God used to bring them to Jesus Christ. You see that don’t you as you go through the gospels?
Maybe it’s somebody who’s blind or a man who’s lame, stricken with Leprosy, parents, they’ve got a child who’s stricken with a demonic spirit. It’s only as they experienced that trial that they were then led to Jesus Christ. They realised no one could help them but Jesus. None but Jesus, none but Jesus can do helpless sinners good and their trial brought them to Jesus Christ where not only did He have mercy upon them but also they receive forgiveness of their sins: new birth, new heart, new mind, everlasting life. God used that trial to bring them to Jesus Christ. Maybe that could be the case with you my unsafe friend, if there are any here this morning. The Lord still deals with people in the same way C.S. Lewis, he once said that suffering is the megaphone. It’s the megaphone by which God gets our attention. He sends trouble into our lives because suddenly we’re looking, suddenly we’re now, we’re we’re listening. We’re ready to hear what God will say. He uses trial and trouble to get our attention. Trials are the means He uses to bring us to Him. Maybe that could be the case for somebody here this morning. Just as I finished, I remember preaching at a church in England many years ago and I preached in the morning service and afterwards I went to the the pastor’s house for lunch and he was telling me about a couple in the church who were there that morning and he said they used to be his next door neighbours. And for a while, you know, they were very nice, very nice couple and he and his wife would invite them to come to church. They would never come, always very polite. They would always refuse. They would never ever come to church with the pastor and then they decided they were going to move away.
They’re going to move to the north of England. They were going to start a business up there and so off they went and they went there and the business was a complete disaster. They faced almost financial ruin. It just fell completely flat and they came back again after about a year. And they came back and as soon as they came back, the wife came to see the pastor and his wife she was in church for the first time the next Sunday, and the Sunday after that, and the Sunday after that, and then the husband started coming along as well. And then they were both converted and they were there in church when I preached that day and he told me they are now that couple and now they are like the pillars of this church. How did they come to faith in Jesus Christ? It was that trial. They were broken by that trial and it brought them to Jesus Christ. And so I don’t know, maybe somebody here this morning and you’ve fallen into a pit. You’re in some deep trial right now. Well I say to you, don’t despair, don’t lose hope. Because if that trial causes you to turn away from your sins and turn and embrace Jesus Christ by faith, then that trial will be for you as well. It will be a blessing in disguise.
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, we thank You for the truth of your word. Please help us to store this away in our hearts this morning if we are not going through trials at this present time, help us to realise chars are on their way. And may we store this teaching away like ballast in the hold of the ship for when the storm comes to keep us from being capsized, help us oh Lord to store this teaching away in our hearts. And if we are going through trials right now, Lord we pray this would be a comfort that You’d help us to endure, that we would develop spiritual strength through this trial, that You would sanctify the trouble to us. So Lord, we thank You for the word this morning would You bless it to us and give us faith to receive and to seek to live in the light of these truths as we ask this in Jesus’ Name, amen.