Today I'd like to share with you the topic. "Why must we suffer?" You know the Bible, the book of James is probably my favorite book. James is the half brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. James’ mother and father were Mary and Joseph. Imagine what it was like to grow up with Jesus.
To have a brother who never did anything wrong, to have a brother who never would lie to your mom and dad even if you wanted him to, to have a brother who would never fight with you, never argue with you, never cheat in games. James had that privilege. He had first-hand experience of what it was to be with the Lord.
What I like about the book of James is that it gets down to the real nitty-gritty of serving God. These five chapters of James are written specifically to believers in Christ. When James write he deal with function not theory. He wants to know more about our walk and less about our talk. He wants to know how you produce as a Christian not if you just profess you are a Christian. He is concerned about your demonstration of faith not your declaration of faith. He is concern that many of us are satisfied and we settled for milk when we should be eating meat.
These five chapters deal with our responsibilities as believers. You know too many believers expect God to do all the work. Many believers say I guess God is not ready yet to use me. James says, “No, you are not ready yet. You’ve got some growing up to do” We all know that teenage years are very difficult years, but if you hang in there eventually you will reach maturity and grow up. But along the way there will be growing pains. Many people think that growing old is the same thing as growing up. Some of us have been a Christian for 20 years and are still living in a spiritual nursery. Some of us have been a Christian for a long, long time and we handle problems the same way today as we did 10, 15, 20 years ago. We have not grown up.
So with this topic today, Why Must We Suffer, we can consider it as part of the theme of James which is growing pains. Let’s turn to James 1. Now after a quick reading in verse 1, James really gets down to business right away.
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
James doesn’t pull any punches. He says consider it joy when you face trials of many kinds. You know growing up as a child, one of the things I hated the most was when I was watching my favorite cartoon programs on TV and a message would interrupt the program and this message would say – this is a test, this is only a test, this is the test of the emergency broadcasting system - and that message always came always came and happen at the most inopportune time and I really hated that test. You know I find life and trouble in life is a lot like that. There is no warning, nothing tells you that you will be sick or unexpected problems and these tests always show up at the most inconvenient time. Once they come there isn’t much you can do about it.
There are three kinds of people listening to this message today. The first group is those that have just gotten out of a test, the second group is those who are right now in the middle of the test, the third is about to enter in a test and you just don’t know it yet. So when we talk about trials and when we talk about tests it concerns every single one of us listening to this message. Based on James 1, I’d like to give you three biblical principles that deal with the purpose of trials and why we must suffer.
First of all, trials are design to check our attitude. James 1:2, consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kind. Let me tell you what this verse does not say, it does not say – consider it pure joy my brothers if you face trials of many kinds. It’s not if, it’s when. If you are alive and breathing you are going to face trouble and the only way you are going to be exempt of trouble is if you die and go to heaven.
You know my wife has a favorite little sign that she saw one day in a fish market. This sign says, there are only two things in life to worry about – if you are going to be sick or if you are going to be well. If you are going to be well there is nothing to worry about. If you are going to be sick there’s two things to worry about and that’s whether you will get better or if you will get worse. If you are going to get better there’s nothing to worry about. If you are going to get worse there’s two things to worry about whether you are going to live or whether you are going to die. If you are going to live then there is nothing to worry about. If you are going to die there’s two things to worry about – if you are going to heaven or if you go to hell. If you go to heaven, praise God there is nothing to worry about. If you go to hell, you would be busy shaking hand with all of your friends that you won’t have time to worry.
So when we face trial how must we respond? James tells us to consider it joy. When you run into a trial, instead of bickering, instead of complaining, instead of whining, crying, and seeking after revenge, because you know that God is up to something consider it pure joy. This doesn’t mean to feel good about the pain of our problem. Our natural response is to consider the situation and think about it. Why? Why me? It doesn’t make sense. But James said we should look at our trials, evaluate our trials from the standpoint of joy. If we have the right attitude about these trials then we will be about to say, “Lord, I don’t know why this happened, but I know you are up to something. You are trying to teach me something and Lord because I know you are up to something I am going to praise you not because of the pain I have to endure, but because of how I will mature because of this suffering. That’s what it means to consider it all joy. Your outlook determines your outcome. You’re attitude determines your actions. It’s not about our feelings. It’s about our choices. You see, joy is a choice.
I said this before that joy and happiness are two different things. Happiness is based on circumstances. You get a raise, you are happy. Your favorite team wins, you are happy. But joy is not related to circumstances. It is related to the decisions that we make. So even if the circumstances in life leave us sad, you can still consider it joy. In your Bible, please refer to Hebrews 12:2
“looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
He wasn’t happy about going to the cross, but Jesus has joy. Why? Because He knew that there was a purpose in it all. He knew that resurrection was coming. It was Friday and he was so sad, but he still considered it joy because His resurrection was on its way.
“knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”
Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance or patience. Confidence comes with knowing. Having the right attitude about trials means to know what you are facing. Some people do not know that God is trying to teach them something and therefore they lose perspective on the whole thing. When you are able to put trials into the proper perspective, then you are able to leave your situation on top of your trials rather than having your trials be on top of you. But to do that you must know what’s going on.
A trial is when you take the training wheels off. When those training wheels come off it’s hard and sometimes we even fall down. The problem today is that there are too many spiritual babies. Too many cry babies, when things don’t go their way they throw a fit and they cry and they walk out on God. Trials take us to a new level of spiritual maturity. Trials are the launching pad for your next level of your spiritual growth. Verse 3 says you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. So the Bible says that a trial is the testing of your faith. “It’s a test, but it’s only a test.” Now all of us, when we were in school we face tests. How many of you enjoy taking tests? None of us do. Maybe the nerds did.
Why didn’t we like to take tests? Because that meant we had to study. The teacher knew that the only way to get you and I to learn the material was to give us a test. If we were never tested over that material, then we never study. When teacher gave me a study guide a couple days before the test, you better believe that I studied every item on that study guide but I didn’t bother to study anything else. If that study guide says read pages 35 to 55, I’d stop on 55 and did not go a page further. If you are going to go through a trial that means God already supply you with the information that is necessary to pass the test. If He is going to test you on it that means it has already been taught to you.
In school you will be tested, whether you study or not you would be given a test. In life you will be tested, whether you learn the biblical principles of life or not you will be tested, and it is your responsibility to pass the test. Teachers design test to help us learn. The joy of the teacher is for the student to be able to pass the test. If the student passes the test that means he has learned the material.
The reason why some of us are still taking the test while many others have finish the test and left the room is because we haven’t passed it yet. If God has you in a test right now, He will not let you out of it until you score a passing grade. God wants to take you to the next level, but you must pass this test first. God wants you to graduate, but it will not happen until you first pass the test.
Now why does God give us tests? Three reasons: Tests improve our weaknesses. It points out the areas we need to improve and strengthen. The second, tests remove impurities. When a goldsmith tests the gold they would put it in the fire. The impurities rise to the top and the goldsmith can remove all the impurities and they keep it in the fire till the goldsmith can see his face in the reflection in the gold. When the Lord Jesus Christ tests you, His goal is to remove your impurity and then to see Himself in you. When you begin to look like Christ, everyone will know that you have been through the fire and you have been tested. The third reason, He gives us test because test develops perseverance.
“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.”
This means that we must endure the trial until its purpose has been made complete. We must yield to the process just like a doctor preparing us for surgery. You lay down on the operating table. The nurse comes in and preps you. They take your blood pressure and then they slide you over to bed and then you are wheeled down the hall to the operating room and they place you under a series of shining lights over your head. The nurse comes in with her mask and with all these needles and utensils that are very, very sharp. The doctor washes his hands and puts on his rubber gloves and is ready to slice you open and he asks you, “How are you feeling?” You say, “Alright.” Deep down inside you are afraid and although you are tempted to jump out of that bed and run out of that room you don’t do it. Why? Because you know that even though you are scared and are afraid, this procedure must be done because the doctor knows what he is doing.
I can take this moment to share with you a testimony. In November 2001, I needed to have a back surgery. I needed to have two discs removed. Prior to the surgery, the doctor had told me that he would prefer to cut me open from the stomach because the healing process would be quicker and it would be a lot less painful for me. But because the spine has narrowed, he wasn’t quite comfortable with that so the most likely he would have to perform the surgery through the back. However, when I got to the hospital and I was in the pre-operation room, the doctor came in and said, “You know I looked at the MRI, and I think I may have enough room to go through the stomach.” I asked him again to explain to me the difference and he said going through the stomach would be a lot less painful and quicker healing but going through the back was more risky, a lot more painful, and the recovery period would be a lot longer.
I ask him, “Could you give me 5 minutes?” So he said, “Sure.” He left the room and I simply closed my eyes and I simply prayed to God. Lord, let whatever decision whatever words come from my mouth be your will. So when he came back in the room. I told him go through the back. God is such a wonderful physician. He knows everything. During the surgery which was only supposed to take 3 and half hours. I spent 11 hours on the operating table because my heart stopped twice. Because I was laying on my stomach, they had to staple me up, flip me over and shock me. This delayed the surgery quite a bit.
That really wasn’t the remarkable thing, although I thank God so much for sparing my life. The doctor came to me in the special care unit two days later. He said to me that was a very wise decision that you made because once I got in there I realize that the spine was too narrow and not only would you have been cut open in the belly, but you would have been cut open in the back, and given the fact we had to tend to your heart problems, that most likely you would not have survived. I give all the praise and glory to my Lord Jesus for saving my life during that surgery and giving me the wisdom to say the right words and make the right choice.
You see God performs spiritual surgery on you and I. These surgeries are called trials. We don’t have to run from them. The Almighty Physician, He knows what He is doing, even though you don’t want to be there, this procedure must be done because it’s for your own good.
We go to the gymnasium and we all know the story of no pain no gain. Each time you go and you work out you get stronger and get better. The pain becomes less and less. You don’t want to stop working out because you know that if you stop working out the pain will return when you start off again. In the trials of life, don’t quit. Because if you quit and you walk away, you know it’ll be so much harder for you when you have to work your way back to where you should be. Don’t walk away from the tests that you are facing today because it would do you more damage tomorrow. Don’t quit, just keep pumping. Just keep going.
Verse 4 “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” You know the butterfly when it is ready to leave the cocoon, you know it has to fight, it has to struggle. If you were to cut that cocoon too early, then it will never grow up. The pain that it endures to get out of the cocoon is what makes the butterfly beautiful and enables it to fly. Let the butterfly go through the trial so it can become beautiful. Just as God wants us to go through the trial so that we can become the beautiful image of Him. You know trials direct us to God. When you and I face a trial the first thing we should do is turn to God.
James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Do you ever ask yourself what is wisdom. Wisdom from above helps us to respond the right way. Most of the time there is nothing you can do to change the circumstances that had led up to that trial that you are facing, the suffering that you are going through, but you can be sure that you can do something about how you respond to it.
Going back to working out in the gym, weight lifters, weight lifters use what they call spotters in the gym. As the weights get heavier, that spotter keeps his hands underneath that weight not picking it up, but just there ready to catch it if it becomes too much of a burden or too heavy as not only is there the spotter, he is there to encourage the person making sure he doesn’t get hurt, but come on you can do it, one more one more. When the lifter cannot lift anymore, he takes that weight and puts the weight back on the rack. That’s what God does. When the weight of our trials are so heavy and we can’t keep it up, our arms are trembling and we’re making all kinds of noises. O merciful God, He steps in to take the weight off of our shoulders. You call our God and He lifts it up and puts it back on the rack. That’s what God’s grace would do in the middle of our suffering.
James 1:6-7 “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;”
You know trials bring us to the point of decision. James talked about this issue of doubt. What is doubt? Faith says, “Yes, I can.” Unbelief says, “No, I can’t.” Doubt says, “Yes and no.” This is a double minded man. This is a split personality Christian. This type of Christian is unstable and confused. This is the Christian that wants to do it his way and still wants God to do it God’s way. It can’t happen. Either you are the boss of your life or Christ is.
Trials will also bring us rewards. Sufferings will bring us rewards can you believe that? Verse 12 “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” You know when we pass the tests the trials we graduate. When we graduate we walk across the stage and get a diploma and we get to wear a cap on our head. Verse 12 tells us what that cap is and what that reward is. It is the crown of life. God puts a graduation cap on our head. It took Abraham 25 years to graduate and become a father of a mighty nation. It took Joseph 13 years to graduate to become a ruler of what God had called him to be. It took Moses 85 years to graduate and lead the people of Israel toward the promise land. I don’t know how long it will take you and I, but I do know that our God is faithful. God is waiting for you to pass the test. When you pass your test, then He will reveal His plan to you.
Maybe some of you want a career move or a promotion at work, and God is saying I am going to keep making him skip until you pass my test. I am not going to let them promote you until you pass my test. When you pass my test, then I will let you pass their test.
Many years ago a friend of mine was in love with a girl. He had a plan to get closer to this girl and make a move on her. He took her to an amusement park and convinced her to get up on the big roller coaster, knowing very well that she did not like roller coasters. As the two of them took off in the seat of the roller coaster, the first sharp turn came and she realized very quickly that she was in a trial. It only got worse from there. At every sharp turn, and every sharp drop she screamed louder and she got a little closer to my friend. After six or seven turns she was practically all over him and he got what he wanted.
God is in love with you and me and He has a plan. He allows us to face sharp trials and tests. We might scream and we might get very afraid, but we also get a little closer to him each and every time. After a few difficult experiences we find that we are all over Him. God allows trials to come our way so that we will be all over Him. There is a purpose in everything even in suffering. May the Lord bless you and keep you and may His peace be upon your household. Amen.