Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Christian's Response to Trials--James 1:2-12 (Part 3)

Finally, if we are to truly glorify God in the midst of life's inevitable trials and demonstrate to the world the superior value of knowing the Lord Jesus, we must...
GLORY (1:9-11)

"Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits."

The verb translated “boast” (ESV) or “take pride” (NIV) can also translated, “glory”. This word refers to valid glorying or boasting; “the boasting of a privilege or possession” (MacArthur Study Bible).

What James is getting at in these verses is that believers cannot let their circumstances (brought about, no doubt, by the trials they were experiencing) dictate their moods. As you all know, circumstances change. You can be up today, and down tomorrow.

You can have a job today, and be jobless tomorrow.
You can have your good health today, and lose your health tomorrow.
You can have your possessions today, and lose everything tomorrow.
You can have your family today, and lose those you love tomorrow.

If our joy rests in things like these—in temporal, earthly things—we’ll eventually be in for a huge let-down. That’s why James tells us we must boast—we must glory—in our position in Christ. Who are we are and what we have in Christ is eternal—it’s stable and it won’t fluctuate with the passage of time. Who we are and what we have in Christ is secure because it’s rooted in God; it won’t fade away.

So, to the poor Christian or to the Christian brought low by suffering, James writes, “You may be brought low by your trials, but take pride in your exalted position in Christ.” To the rich Christian, James writes, “Don’t trust in your riches which, in the time of persecution, may suddenly vanish as a flower of the desert: boast in your humble position in Christ.”

The boasting James is urging is valid because it is not centered in the individual and what he’s done or earned. Boasting is sinful when it is self-centered, because such boasting attempts to steal the glory that belongs to God alone. It is sinful because, in ourselves, we have nothing to boast about. By contrast, the believer should boast in what, by grace, God has done for us in Christ.

The apostle Paul wrote (1Corinthians 1:30, 31),

"[God] is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written [quoting Jeremiah 9:23, 24], “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Are you experiencing trials, difficulties, hardship, pain, suffering, persecution? Then, I urge you, get your eyes off your circumstances and look at who you are and what you have in Christ! “Boast in the Lord!”

Just listen as Paul tells us about all we have in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14):

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

"In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory."

In addition to all that, you are a child of God (John 1:12):

"To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

You are clothed in the righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21):

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Because of Christ, God will never condemn you (Rom. 8:1):

"There is…now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Because you belong to God, know that He will keep you (Psalm 121):

"I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore."

I ask you, do we have any reason for despair? Is there any reason to remain under a pall of depression? Glory/boast in who you are and what you have in Christ Jesus!

We have seen that the apostle James outlined for us three ways we must respond to life’s inevitable trials if we are to truly glorify God and demonstrate to the world the superior value of knowing the Lord Jesus:

We must rejoice: “Count it all joy…”
We must pray: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach.”
Don’t doubt God; trust Him!
We must glory: “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation.” “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Look at all that is yours in Christ Jesus.

Finally, James writes (Verse 12):

"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."

There are three things to notice, as I conclude:

First, in verse 2, we were told that it is “the testing of your faith [that] produces steadfastness.” Here, in verse 12, we’re told that the person is “blessed” who remains steadfast under trial. It seems, then, that the act of enduring trials is what God uses to develop in us the character trait of steadfastness. Much the same way that an athlete or musician develops physical or technical endurance through the physical strain and discipline of practice, so steadfastness comes about as we endure. There are no spiritual shortcuts to perfection and completeness in the faith. It’s not an easy road the Christian travels. We must remain steadfast.

Secondly, we never reach perfection and completeness/wholeness in this life. James says, of the one who remains steadfast under trial, that “when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life.” This “crown” is the victor’s wreath received at the conclusion of the race. It is at the end of the race, when Christ returns, that we receive the “crown of life”, having stood the test and passed. Jesus, through John, told the Church in Smyrna, a church which was facing severe persecution (Revelation 2:10), “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” The “crown of life” is not salvation (which is already ours through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ) but, rather, the eternal enjoyment of that eternal life which is ours in the very presence of God.

Thirdly, this word “blessed” can be translated “happy”, but it means more than just being merely “happy”. This word describes “one whom God makes fully satisfied”, or the state of “having God’s kingdom within one’s heart.” The meaning here is significant. The “blessed” person is one who “remains steadfast under trial” and can rejoice in spite of the trial because he has come to find his true satisfaction in God. Perhaps, this person is “blessed”, not because he remains steadfast but, rather, this person remains steadfast because he is “blessed”—because he has found a deeper satisfaction in God which triumphs over the trials of life.

Perhaps this deep satisfaction in God is the key to a right response to our trials. Notice, James writes that the blessed persons, the ones who remain steadfast, who stand the test and who receive the victor’s wreath, are the ones “who love him.”

This is salvation: loving God as our supreme treasure. Read carefully these words of the apostle Peter (1 Peter 1:3-9):

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this [salvation] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."

This is why we must do what James has told us.
To "love him", "believe in him" and "rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory" is the only legitimate response to trials for those who know the Lord Jesus.

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