There is a popular teaching in some Christian circles which views all suffering as being outside of God’s will for God’s people. They believe that all suffering is related to sin in that person’s life; it is deserved. This teaching is both unbiblical and dangerous (Job, for example, suffered because he was godly). Suffering is part of life in a fallen world (1 Peter 4:19). Some of you are overwhelmed by suffering; all of us have been touched by trials. Today we will learn how to turn trials into triumphs! (James 1) Throughout the Bible we find men and women who turned trials into triumphs; instead of being victims, they became victors! No matter what the trial (v. 1-12) or the temptations (v. 13-27), through faith in Christ we can grow through trials and not just go through trials. James 1 gives us four principles, each one tied to a single word. Please underline the following words: in v. 2, underline the word “consider”, in v. 3, the word “knowing”; in v. 4 the word “let”; and in v. 5, the word “ask”.
Cultivate a positive attitude toward trials (v. 2). How we perceive trials will inevitably influence how they impact us. If we view them as intruders they will rob us of joy and negate the positive contribution that God has designed them to have. God wants to use trials to mold you into the person He wants you to become. And so if we are going to turn trials into triumphs, we need to begin to view trials differently than we commonly do. So don’t resent trials as intruders, but welcome them as friends.
Trials are inevitable. V.2 doesn’t say “if” you encounter various trials, but rather “when”. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33). Some trials come simply because we are human and we live in a fallen world; others come through spiritual battle. It’s natural to shun trials, so we need divine perspective. This principle is linked to the key word “knowing”. Realize (know) that God uses trials to test our faith and develop our character (v. 3). Trials serve a divine purpose. They are not obstacles, but opportunities.
I used to play football in high school, and come August we started “two-a-days”. We had practice at 6 am and again at 6 pm. Those practices were brutal. None of us would have showed up for practice at 6 in the morning to suffer for two hours, unless we were convinced that it served a constructive purpose. When trials come your way God wants you to “know” that He is not picking on you. Your faith is the target, not you personally. Trials aren’t meant to destroy your faith, but to refine it (v. 3). God is more interested in developing your faith than he is in promoting your pleasure. God uses trials to reveal the depth and genuineness of our commitment to Him. Trials strip away that which is superficial and tenuous, leaving that which is genuine and enduring. When you face trials, do you tend to turn to God, or do you tend to turn on Him?
The Greek word translated “endurance” (v. 3) refers not to a passive acceptance of circumstances, but rather to a courageous endurance in the face of suffering and difficulty. It describes a person who bravely faces adverse circumstances, without collapse or cowardice, who refuses to give up on God in the midst of troubles, a person who clings to God despite their doubts. Daniel 3:16-18 gives us a fine example of courage born out of spiritual conviction. What impresses me is not the fact that God preserved their lives—after all, God can do anything. What impresses me is their heroic endurance in the midst of trials, even life-threatening trials.
If we are to grow through trials rather than just go through them, we must cooperate with God in this process of character development (v. 4). Don’t fight God; humbly submit to him. God’s goal is that you might become like his Son Jesus. But we lack wisdom and faith, so in order to avoid being overwhelmed by life’s trials we need to pray (v.5-8). James contrasts faith with double-mindedness. A double- minded person vacillates between God’s will (Christlikeness) and his own will (comfort, pleasure, worldly success). Genuine happiness and an abundant life are promised to those who handle trials correctly (v. 12). Learn to look beyond the present pain of trials to the final product they are designed by God to produce. Then you have an eternal perspective, and not just a temporal one. It is love for God which enables us to rest confidently in Him as we undergo trials.