March 31, 2015

Are you struggling?
You may be struggling with any number of difficulties today, sickness, relational issues, financial stress, sin, loss, or persecution. Christians aren’t immune to the trials of living in a world that has been cursed by sin. Anyone who would say differently hasn’t properly understood the story of Job, Joseph, or Jesus. The Bible teaches us that God doesn’t protect His people from difficulty, but He does make some promises to them in the midst of their difficulty. That’s a good thing because trials present a unique danger — the danger of losing faith. Suffering tempts us to think that God is distant from us, against us, or not willing to help us. This seems to be the concern that James felt for his Christian brothers who were experiencing all kinds of difficulties. He exhorts them to be steadfast in their faith through trials. And what’s most helpful is that he gives them a perspective that actually fuels joy and gives hope in the midst of difficulties.

Six perspectives that bring joy in the midst of your trials:
1. Trials produce spiritual maturity. (1:2-4)
2. Trials drive us to God in prayer. (1:5-8)
3. Trials humble us before God. (1:9-11)
4. Trials offer us the blessing of true riches. (1:12) 
5. Trials are not temptations from God to sin. (1:13-15)
6. Trials are good gifts from God to finish what He started. (1:16-18)

To say it another way, difficulties are vivid displays of the nature of God:
1. Trials display the SOVEREIGNTY of God over all things, even the bad things that happen to His people. (1:2-4)
2. Trials display the WISDOM of God who delights to illuminate the path of those who believe His wisdom is best. (1:2-8) 
3. Trials display the JUSTICE of God who exalts the humble and humbles the exalted so that both see that He is the true treasure of life. (1:9-12)
4. Trials display the HOLINESS of God who is utterly set apart from sin, so that He cannot even be tempted by it. (1:13-15)
5. Trials display the GOODNESS of God who delights to give good gifts to His people. (1:16-18)
6. Trials display the GRACE of God that conceived the process of redemption and will bring it to full completion by making the most rebellious of all of His creatures, the best-­fruits of His creatures through the Lord Jesus Christ. (1:16-18)

Do you mind one more perspective, the perspective of the cross?
Our trials point us to the gospel, because Jesus Christ suffered on the cross to accomplish our redemption:

1. Jesus counted his suffering on the cross as JOY because He knew that God was accomplishing His will through it. Our steadfast faith and attitude of joy comes as a result of “looking at Jesus.”
Hebrews 12:2–3 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 

2. Jesus cried out for the WISDOM of God in the midst of His suffering. His cross opened the way for us to come to the throne of grace to find help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:14–16 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession… 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 

3. Jesus HUMBLED himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on the cross and as a result, God has highly exalted him so that we would humble ourselves before Him and confess that He is Lord. 
Philippians 2:8–9 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…

4. Jesus was STEADFAST through his suffering and was raised to life so that He could give the Crown of Life to all who love him.
John 5:25–26 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 

5. Jesus became flesh and was TEMPTED in every way that we are, yet he did not sin, and through his cross, he defeated the power of sin and set us free to live in righteousness.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 

6. Jesus is God’s good and perfect GIFT, sacrificed on the cross, and raised as the first-­‐fruits of the dead so that all those in Christ shall be raised to life. 

1 Corinthians 15:20–23 Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

-Tim White

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