August 23, 2020
Pastor John Hering
2 Consider it complete joy, my brothers, whenever you fall into various kinds of trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces patient endurance. 4 And let patient endurance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
5 If any one of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives it to all without reservation and without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, without doubting, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 In fact, that person should not expect that he will receive anything from the Lord. 8 He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
12 Blessed is the man who endures a trial patiently, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God promised to those who love him.James 1:2-8
I had a chance to be in the pool with my two grandsons this summer. The question was this: how far away should I stand when they jumped into the pool. “No, Grandpa, that’s too far!” “No, Grandpa, that’s too close!” Our kids grew up in Japan with a bathtub deep enough that they could actually learn how to go under water while taking their bath. None of them are afraid of the water. When trying to teach them how to swim in the big pool I wanted to teach them how to use their body and arms to get their heads up above the water for another breath. Sometimes they would swim to the edge of the pool and I would be right there with them, and if I didn’t think they would make it to the edge in time to get their next breath I would give them a little push. But they’d finish and get after me for helping them when they didn’t think they needed it. How far away should I be from my grandkids? The answer was found in a balance between my faith in their ability and my fears with their ability.
After feeding the 5,000, Jesus finally got his private time to pray, after sending the disciples home in the boat. The disciples were struggling against the storm on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus came walking on the water and announced, “Take Courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid! 28 Peter answered him and said, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” (Matt 14:22). How far away should Jesus stand from the boat when he allows Peter to walk to him on the wavy sea? Jesus doesn’t way, “Wait, Peter! I’m not close enough yet.” Jesus know what faith does. Faith receives what God grants. And how many blessings we miss without faith. Jesus knows it’s his power and not Peter’s faith that allows him to walk on water. Jesus said, “Come.” Now Peter would face this impossible feat with his feet with faith in Jesus.
Faith is a mighty and victorious thing because Jesus is a mighty and victorious King! If we had been in the boat viewing this scene of miracle and might and victory we’d be encouraging Peter, “You can do it!” But, we also know our lives are stained with sin, afflicted with doubt and having our faith challenged. There is a balance between our faith in Jesus’ ability and our fears with our ability. How do you view Peter’s walk? Is it a march stepping through puddles on the lake, or gingerly and cautiously tip toeing to Jesus? His sinking gives the answer. Faith receives what God has to offer and doubt will sink you every time.
So, today we hear James say, “2 Consider it complete joy, my brothers, whenever you fall into various kinds of trials,” like a wave about to overtake you, and to
Face Your Trials With Faith
Rejoicing in the Victory You Have Now
Listen again to James: “2 Consider it complete joy, my brothers, whenever you fall into various kinds of trials, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces patient endurance.” What is the victory you have now? When you read this don’t his words seem crazy or even a little heartless? If you tell your friends, “I’m going through this really tough time and love it!” won’t they think you’re crazy? Then let’s be clear. Trials are not joyful. It hurts to be in the hospital. It hurts to be standing in the grass next to a grave of a loved one. It’s no fun when you can’t find work and save up finances like you’d hoped. Trials in relationships, marriage, and friendships become burdens that pile up in our hearts and can often lead to destruction. The more you think about it, the worse it gets! Like a wave about to crash over you! Don’t the trials of life cause you to think, “What good can come of all this?”
True, the burdens that weigh us down and the situations that beat against our boat of life cause our knees to knock and our confidence in God’s promises to melt. Call it what it is—doubt! We become unstable and unsure of the foundation between our feet and our faith is tested. So, James is speaking to us because we are in the family of believers, “3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces patient endurance. 4 And let patient endurance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Faith is trusting in something you can’t see. When I’m with my grandkids in the pool I have faith that I can scoop them up for air if they get into trouble. I have quite a strong faith that I can do that. The kids—not so much at first. But, after several jumps off the side of the pool (the 1st one being the most scary) then their fear is replaced with faith because their “patient endurance finished its work” being able to trust in “victory jumps” off the side of the pool! James is not telling us that we always have to be happy when we’re in trouble, but reminds us that our joy is not dependent on the circumstances of life, but on what Jesus Christ has done for us on the cross! What we lost due to sin, Jesus regained through his life, death and resurrection. Sin, death and Satan and conquered. The victory is ours right now through faith. There is no wave that can wipe out Jesus, so there’s no wave that can wipe out you. Therefore, every trial that comes your way happens in the safe zone of God’s kingdom and under the umbrella of his eternal victory.
So, now can you see what James is talking about? James tells us that in God’s kingdom trials are not just trials. They are not just big consequences of living in a sin infected world of destruction, pain and suffering. We are also living in the victorious consequences of Jesus Christ who overcame the curse of sin for us. So, waves are not just waves and trials are not just trials, but God uses them to test and strengthen our faith. God uses all things for the good work of showing his love and mercy to you. The writer to the Hebrews says the same thing, “7 Endure suffering as discipline. God is dealing with you as sons” (12:7). You are living under the victorious love of God for Jesus’ sake! So Face Your Trials With Faith in the Victory you Have Now In Christ!
This would be enough to hear in order to rejoice, even when facing trials, but James takes us to the next level. He also want us to Face Trials with Faith
Rejoicing in the Victory You Have Forever
James shares the source of the victory we have now and forever. “5 If any one of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives it to all without reservation and without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, without doubting, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 In fact, that person should not expect that he will receive anything from the Lord. 8 He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” When teaching your grandkids the joy of swimming instead of them living in the fear of swimming, they grow in confidence and play time. In our Christian lives, God deals with us ever so patiently and carefully so that we can mature and become strong. Some have young faith that sees the waves and braces for impact by turning away and just hoping to survive. Jesus uses that opportunity to drive you back to his Word. There you hear the promises meant for you in exactly those situations and trials. When we put on God’s promises, it is as if we were putting on a wet suit, goggles and scuba tank so we’re ready for the next wave—that’s perseverance.
Perseverance is the staying power of God. It is faith in God’s promises that says, “I don’t have to turn my back when trials come. I face them with faith to receive what God has to offer.” This dependence on God comes from knowing Jesus who said, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace in me. In this world you are going to have trouble. But be courageous! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Since Jesus has overcome the world for us, that means we have the eternal victory now through faith. Listen: “12 Blessed is the man who endures a trial patiently.” The trials of life can make you feel lost, wondering where the road of life you’re on will lead. What should I do next? Where should I turn? This is a most difficult part of living in this world. You want to know the outcome. Jesus gives us that answer: “because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God promised to those who love him.” We endure the trials of this life patiently because we know what’s coming. It is the eternal light of God’s glory at the end of the tunnel of living in this world of waves, worries and wondering. You are blessed because God has made you his very own in baptism. He has already promised you the crown of life in heaven. Love him and love his promise as you rejoice in the victory you have forever!
How far away should I be from my grandkids in the pool? The answer was found in a balance between my faith in their ability and my fears with their ability. How far away do you think Jesus is from you? He promised to be with you until the end of time. So, he will allow trials in your life to strike a balance between faith and fear. And when fear causes you to start to sink, Jesus reaches down with the promises of his Word. Through faith you will receive what God has to offer. So, Face Your Trials with Faith in the Victory you have Now and Forever! Amen!