Community Group Study Notes

  1. Have someone in your group give a brief recap of Sunday’s message, highlighting the primary Scripture points and the main idea of the message.

  2. How did this message strengthen and/or correct your previous ideas about God’s work in our trials? Was there anything you heard for the first time or that caught your attention, challenged, or confused you? Did you learn anything new about God or yourself this week?

  3. Read James 1:1-3. Observe how James instructs us to view our trials. What words does he use? How do these verses teach us to view our trials? Do you find it difficult to view your trials with this perspective? (Have someone in your group also read Romans 5:3-5 and 1 Peter 1:6-7 to enhance the discussion)

  4. According to these verses, how does God work in our trials? What is the goal beyond the trial? How can knowing this truth give us encouragement and comfort as we experience trials? (Take this time to call to mind the pattern Pastor Jerry shared with us of trials>testing>perseverance>maturity)

  5. Read James 1:5-8. What does James instruct us to do in our trials? What words does he use to teach us about God’s character? If you are experiencing a trial right now, share specifically with your group any ways you need God’s wisdom. Spend time praying as a group for these needs. 

  6. Read James 1:9-17. What words or phrases stand out to you, and why? What do these verses teach us about God’s character?

  7. Take some time to share with your group common temptations that you face. Be honest. and see this as an opportunity to hold one another accountable. 

  8. How does the truth of God’s character and work that we see in these verses help us to fight temptation and endure trials?

  9. What action step do you need to take in response to this week’s message? How can your group hold you accountable to this step?


Action Steps

If a member of your group shares a trial they are walking through, call them mid-week to check in, ask how they are doing, and pray with them.

Journal exercise: Take 10 minutes to journal your response to these questions - “Reflect on a time when you experienced a trial. What was the trial? How did you experience God’s goodness and faithfulness? Looking back on the trial, how did God wisely work through the trial to mature you? How can remembering this help you face trials in the future?” 



Sermon Transcript

Well, good morning to everybody. Those that are here at our Crosspoint Campus. If you are at our Lockport, or our Cheektowaga, or Niagara Falls campus, or watching online, good morning to you. So glad to see you this morning. Isn't it just good to be able to worship the Lord together? It's just- It's just good. I don't know if you guys remember, but, this past fall, it was October 4th at 2:18PM, in case you needed a reminder, there was a test of the emergency alert system. Does anybody remember that? Because your phones were going off, right? You might have remembered that. When that happened, I remembered that I was old enough to remember the emergency broadcast system test back in the day. Can I get a witness? Anybody who's old enough to remember that? Yeah. See, these were things that, if you are a millennial or younger, you don't have any idea about. You didn't really live, because you didn't get to experience the emergency broadcast system test and alert, right? It was an interesting thing, because it was a time before there were remote controls. Let me pause here. If you're a millennial or younger, here's what that means. That means that we had to get out of our chairs. There are still, listen to this, this is crazy. There are human beings walking this planet right now who have actually had to get out of their chairs, walk to that box called a television, and take a physical knob, and change the channel if we wanted to change it. That's true. People have lived it. You should speak to them. They will testify to these things, right? So, this was at that time. So, when you, you know, you had to get up and down to change a channel, so you just kind of had to sit and endure stuff back in the day instead of just being, you know, able to do this. But this emergency broadcast thing, you're just watching television, and then, out of nowhere, this comes on, and you've got this high pitch ringing, and you're just like, "What is happening," right? This is sort of what it's like with the trials of life that we face. When we all face trials, and we do, it feels like they just interrupt our regularly scheduled life. And they do it with no warning. And they just absolutely come at us hot. We go to the doctor's office for a regular checkup, our normal, routine, regular checkup, and we leave with some bad news. We just got a raise at our job, and we're excited about that. We're living large, having experienced a raise in our job. And, two weeks later, an employee wide email comes out that says, "We're gonna be downsizing by 25%," and you realize that your department and you are a part of that downsizing. Or maybe you're training for a job, maybe it's in the healthcare industry, or some other industry, and you're training for a job, and you realize that they are going to ask me to do things that are inconsistent with my conscience. Or maybe you're a student and you're struggling to get that one last grade up to the level you need it to be to be able to have it on your, you know, kind of your transcript and your resume for college. But you've heard talk that there is somebody who has an answer key for the next five exams in that class. Or, maybe, you just got back from a family vacation, and it seemed like the whole family bonded, and everything was great, and it was working out awesome. Only to find out, when you get home, that your son or your daughter is treating you like you're horrible, and they hate you, and that they're choosing to rebel, even though you thought things were going really good and it came out of nowhere. What do you do in situations like this? How do you deal with and work through those kinds of situations or the very situation that you consider a trial that you're going through right now, in this moment, right here as we sit? Well, I think that the Book of James is going to help us with these answers. It calls us into a place of faith, but not a faith that is just kind of theoretical. It calls us to a place where faith becomes action. This is what the Book of James, really, is communicating to us. Before we walk into the Book of James, it's kind of two thirds into the way of your New Testament. Almost to the end of your New Testament, if you're looking for it. But, if you find your place there, before we get to James' answers, let's at least understand some of the context of the book. Like, who's writing it? And who's he writing it to? And what was going on when they were writing this book? Well, the book kind of tells us who's writing and who he's writing to in the very first verse. Here's what it says in James one, verse one. It says, "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the 12 tribes scattered among the nations: greetings." Now, it would be weird, right? If it opened up with the word James, and then the book was called "Bert," right? The book is called James, because the author is a man named James. Now, there's a lot of James' in the New Testament. There were a lot of James' around during that time. A very common name. But most scholarship would tell you that this is James, the half brother of Jesus. And, you remember he's the half brother of Jesus, because they shared a mother, but they had a different father. Everybody tracking with me? Some of you're going, "No." Right? Mary and Joseph were James' biological parents. Mary was Jesus' biological parent. But the Holy Spirit was how she conceived, right? So, they share the same mother, but they don't share the same father in that sense. So, James is the half brother of Jesus who didn't even become a follower of Jesus until after the resurrection. You could imagine how hard that would be, right? You grow up with somebody who's apparently the Messiah, and you're like, "Wait, that's my big brother." Right? They're living in the same family. And, even though you're thinking to yourself, "Yeah, I've never really seen him do anything wrong, but this conversation is kind of hard for me to fully grasp." But, after the resurrection, he was like, "Oh." "Okay." And you can see how everything changed for James because of the way, when he says, and he begins his letter by saying, "My name is James, and I'm a servant of God and of the Lord, Jesus Christ." He does not talk about him in terms of just his big brother that he grew up, you know, playing hacky sack with. He says, "This is the Lord." "And this is the Messiah." That's the, kind of the Greek word, kristos is the Greek way of saying the Hebrew messiah. "He's the Lord and the Messiah, and I serve God and the Lord Jesus Christ." This is a beautiful statement by James. And James then becomes a really known leader in the context of the Jerusalem Church, kind of the first church in Jerusalem. And, even though there are other elders that were present at the church at Jerusalem, James was kind of the preeminent, or the leading elder in that context. Who's he exactly writing to here? Well, it says that he's writing to the 12 tribes that are scattered among the nations. Don't let that get too off for you. He's talking about believers who have been dispersed all throughout the Roman Empire. You remember that the persecution that happened from Jerusalem caused a great diaspora, or a dispersion, of the people of God all over the place. Now, most of those that were being dispersed were Jewish. They were coming from Jerusalem. But he's talking to believers that are scattered throughout the Roman Empire. Now, what you see when you start reading through the teaching of James is that he's been influenced greatly by the teaching of Jesus, his half brother. And, in fact, some of the ways that James talks about things, and we'll see that today, he's actually referencing teaching that Jesus gave. And, specifically, referencing the Sermon on the Mount. It's very influential in the life of James' teaching. Now, James is probably the earliest New Testament letter or book that we have in all of the New Testament. It was probably written somewhere around the time of 45AD. It was really early in its context. Here's what's interesting. What was going on during that time was that the church was facing many trials. Trials of various kinds. One of those would've been a famine that historians have told us was happening throughout the Roman Empire that started in 45AD and lasted all the way to 63AD. The reason we know that it finally ended is because Nero ended up having coins minted that, on the back, had marketplaces, and grain, and all of that to signal the end of the famine. So, from 45 AD to 63 AD, they were facing famine conditions to some degree in the Roman Empire. The haves weren't experiencing that much, but the have-nots were experiencing it greatly. But, Christians were also facing other kinds of trials. Because they were Christians, they were facing some sense of persecution in the Roman Empire, and here's why. Because, ultimately, they were a threat to the livelihoods of a lot of people that were making their living on the various deities that they embraced in the Roman Empire. So, for instance, Pagan priests looked at Christians as a threat to their job. Pagan idol makers looked at Christians as a threat to their job. And then, by the way, there were all these other industries supporting the building of idols, and sculptures, and paintings, and architects, and other builders that would be building some of these places to celebrate these gods. That, now, were seeing Christians and thinking, if people start becoming like them, then we're gonna have trouble working. And so, as a result, Christians in the Roman Empire, during that early church time, were being ostracized, socially oftentimes, because they were viewed as people who were a part of the decline of the Roman Empire, instead of the glory of the empire. And so, you can see that there were all kinds of trials. This was a great time of trial for the Church of Jesus Christ. So, what does James write, in terms of instruction, to people who are going through great trials and dealing with great trials? How does he begin speaking into that? Here's what he says in verse number two. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds." What? I mean, you read that, and you're just like, "What?" "Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds, my brothers and sisters." Why would James say something like this? Let me tell you why. Initially, because his brother did. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew chapter five, you might remember it. He says this, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me." "Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Jesus actually speaks to this and uses the phrase, take joy in or rejoice, and be glad in the midst of these trials, in the midst of this difficulty. Now, you're thinking to yourself, "Wait a second." "Is James saying that, as I'm going through the trials that I'm going through, that I'm supposed to be happy about it?" It's not what he's saying. Trials are not happy occasions most of the time. Hardship, and injustice, and tragedy, those are not things that we look at and go, woo-hoo, right? Nobody's expecting us to be happy in those kinds of circumstances. But, James is not talking about happiness. James is talking about joy. And, he says, to considerate it all joy or considerate pure joy when you are walking through trials of many kinds. Now, you're thinking to yourself, "Okay, I see what you're saying, but how do I do that?" How do I go about actually doing that? Because some of you, here, you're in a trial right now. Remember, there are trials of various kinds. You're in a trial right now. And, you're thinking, "How do I do what James is instructing us to do, to consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds?" "How do I do that?" James knows you're gonna ask that question. And that's why he tells us. Look at verse three and four. Consider it joy, you know, right? When you face trials of many kinds, "because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." "Let perseverance finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Leave this slide up for just a minute. I don't know if you picked it up, but what James was doing is he was establishing a pattern. And here's what the pattern looked like. There's a trial, right? That leads to testing. Which leads to perseverance. How's this handwriting? Which leads to maturity. That's exactly what James is walking out for us, this pattern. Trial, that we view now as a test of our faith. That we persevere in. And, as a result, we become mature and complete, not lacking anything. See, here's what that says to us. It says to us that, in the midst of our trial, there's actually a goal in mind that God has. God has something in mind in the middle of this trial. And, by the way, James isn't the only one to point this out. He might have been the earliest to point this out, because this is the first book that we have in the New Testament, in terms of dating. But, I can tell you that Paul, The Apostle, he pointed it out. Peter, he pointed it out. Here's what Paul said in Romans five. He said, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope." "And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." But, you know, Peter also talks about the same idea. Listen to how Peter says it in first Peter, chapter one. "In all of this-" "In all this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials." "These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith, which is of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire, that that faith may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." That there is an authenticity of faith that happens in the midst of these trials. Our testing is a testing of faith. And I wanna make sure you understand something, friends. A faith that can't be tested, can't be trusted. If your faith can't be tested, it can't be trusted. Because, ultimately, the testing of our faith produces in us a maturity, and an authenticity, and a completeness, and a wholeness such that we are now being formed more into the image of the Son of God, Jesus. You see, what trials are, is they're opportunities to be developed into a person of persevering faith that leads to maturity and likeness to Jesus. Now, I know that for some of us, we're kind of thinking to ourselves, "Well, how does that play out?" "How do I actually do that with trials?" "I want that to be the case, but how do I get to that spot?" Maybe I can give you a little bit of an illustration. How many of you remember this kind of picture? Anybody remember that? You're looking at it going, "It just looks like a bunch of chaos is what it looks like." These pictures are called Magic Eyes. I don't know if you remember them, but they came out in like the '90s in these books. They called 'em Magic Eye books. And they're kind of wild. Because, when you initially look at this thing, it just looks like a bunch of, you know, color, and chaos, and mess, and there's no real pattern necessarily. You're just kind of looking at it, and it's a bunch of color, and chaos, and mess. But then, you're instructed to do something. To not look at it, but to look through it. Now, it takes a little bit of of time, because you have to kind of stare at it. Some of you're trying to do it right now, and you're not going to be able to do it, all right? And then, you're gonna be like, "Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, no, I can do it." No, no, you're not. You're not gonna be able to do it. It's gonna take take some time. You have to be a little closer to it and all of that. But, once you do, once you start to not just look at the picture, but you start letting your eyes start to look through it, what happens is this, is that you kind of get into that stare. I'm doing it right now. You kind of get into this stare. And then, all of a sudden, what happens is, in three dimensions, this picture comes to life. You know what it is, actually? It's a planet with a ring around the planet. Some of you are going, "I know, I see it." No, you don't, because I know you can't. Like, I know you can't, because it doesn't work like in this scenario, right? So, stop it. You're gonna be out in the atrium like, "Oh, that was a planet." "It was Saturn." "It was Saturn." "For sure, I saw it." You didn't see it, 'cause it's not that, I just said that to mess with you. No, it is. It is. It is that. But that's what's so remarkable about it. One of the guys who helped put it together, his name was Dr. Mark Grossman, he's an ophthalmologist. He talked about how good it was for focus. He talked about how he uses it with patients to improve their vision. He talked about how it lessens the strain of their eyes. That it actually gives them a calming effect when they do that. And it kind of, the real word for this is an auto stereogram, and it's something that's been around before the '90s. But, the '90s, they kind of put it together in these books for like kids and stuff to be able to use and kind of stare, and see these 3D images come to life. I think it's a great analogy to what James is actually teaching us about joy in trials. Let me see if I can say it succinctly, here it is. Joy comes not by just looking at the trial, but by looking through it. Joy comes not by just looking at the trial, but by looking through it. You see, too often, here's what happens. We come face to face with a trial of whatever kind, and, right, James says various kinds. There's all kinds of different trials. And we come face to face with a trial, and we get overwhelmed. All we see is the trial. All we see is what's staring at us, whatever that may be. Whatever that particular trial might be in your life, it's all we can look at. Listen, I know. I get it. I have had my share in my life where it felt like I was being overrun by a wave of trial. And I didn't quite know what to do with it all. It felt like I was drowning in it to some degree. It felt like it was a bit overwhelming. I understand. And I know that this is not an easy thing, because the teaching sometimes, that we have in the scripture, while it might be clear, sometimes it's not easy. And this isn't overly easy to be able to embrace and understand, but we have to get to a place where we start to not just look at the trial, but to look through it. But I know it's hard. What happens when we're overwhelmed by trials is a lot of questions start to come to our minds. We start asking a lot of questions. What happens if I don't know what to do in the trial, right? What happens if the trial leaves me with a lack of resources? Leaves me broke? What happens if the trial is actually a source of temptation to me? All of these things come to our minds, right? When we start facing them. Here's the good news. James addresses all of those questions. He actually tackles all of those questions for us. And let me take them quickly, one by one, so that we can unpack how James is teaching us to live as people of joy in the midst of trials. Here's question number one that I just posed. What if I don't know what to do in this trial? And the answer that James gives us, I would say it this way, is this. Look through the trial for God's wisdom. What if I don't know what to do in the trial? Here's what James says. Look through the trial, so that you can see the God of wisdom. Listen to what the scripture says in verse number five. Here's how James says it. "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." "But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." "That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord." "Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do." You see, what James is saying to us is this, if you're going through a trial, and you're thinking to yourself, "I don't know what to do." James says, why don't you look through the trial to the God of wisdom and ask him? Why do you think James says this? Because James' brother said it. Remember, in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapter seven, Jesus said these words. "Ask and it will be given to you." "Seek and you'll find." "Knock and the door will be opened to you." See, James is taking that same posture right here, and he's saying, "You don't know what to do?" "Ask the God of wisdom." Now, here's the thing. Sometimes, that's the very last thing that we think about when we're in a trial, isn't it? If we're being honest. Sometimes we're facing a trial and we just, all we see is the trial. And all we're trying to think about is, "What am I gonna do next?" And, "I don't really know what to do." And we just are so engrossed in the trial that we're in that we don't actually turn to the Lord and ask him for his wisdom, and believe that he's going to give it to us. You know, sometimes, when people catch me, or they talk to me, or they email me, or whatever, I mean, it happens to me all over the place. I went with Ede to Wegman's. I never go to Wegman's. Ever. You ask her. I average going to a grocery store once a year. And it's like, literally, it's like, it's like seeing Bigfoot in the wilderness if you see me in a grocery store. I just don't go. And I went. And we were there for a handful of items that probably should have taken us, I calculated, 13 minutes, is what it should have taken us. And I think we were there for more than an hour. Because, at every turn, we run into somebody. Right? "Hey, Pastor Jerry!" "Hey, what's going on?" "What are you doing?" "I'm in a grocery store getting groceries." Nah, I'm just messing around. It's a lot of fun. But, sometimes, people open their lives up to you in the middle of a Wegman's aisle. Right? And that's okay too, by the way. That's okay too, by the way. I don't mind that at all. 'Cause, sometimes, God is just working in people's lives, and they want to talk. But, do you know what I've found? When people open up, and they start talking, and they start sharing their lives, and all that stuff, sometimes the best thing we can do, because we don't know how to deal, we don't know how to answer the question of how you're dealing with your trial or what the next best thing is. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is say, "Why don't we take this to the God of wisdom?" Why don't we do that? Why don't we just, together, let's just take this to the God of wisdom, and let him give it to us in his time. In his way. And let's believe him. Let's believe that he is going to do that. Because, you gotta know this, that the God of wisdom is really all wise. And he knows what he wants to do, and how he wants to do it. And, by the way, he said, when we ask him for wisdom, here's what he wants to do. Give it generously. He not only says, give generously, but he says, I wanna do it without finding fault. In other words, sometimes we don't wanna approach him, because we're embarrassed by our lack of understanding of how to deal with the trial that we're in. "I'm ashamed." "I don't really know what to do." God says, "Why don't you ask me?" "I wanna give it to you generously." "I wanna help you and give you wisdom." "And I'm gonna do it without holding over you your lack of wisdom." "I'm gonna do it without finding fault." "I want to help you." But we just don't. We just don't. We sometimes get overwhelmed in our trial. And, instead of looking through our trial to God, who is all wise. Do you believe that God is all wise? Do you believe that God cares about you? Do you believe that God actually wants to give you wisdom? Because, when we do, whatever trial we're facing, even when we don't know what to do, and we're maybe embarrassed about that, here's what we do. We don't just look at the trial, we look through it to the God of wisdom. And we ask him. And we believe when we ask him. We don't ask double-minded. Some of us are too busy like saying, "Well, I'm gonna hedge my bets." "I don't really know if God's gonna pay attention to what I'm doing." "So, I may think about this." Or, "I'm gonna get counsel from the world on this," or whatever, no, no, no. You're double-minded. Don't expect to receive anything from the Lord if that's you. James says. You've gotta believe that the God who is all wise, the God who cares, the God who wants to give you wisdom, that he's going to do it in his time and in his way. And, do you know what happens when you look through the trial and you look to the God of wisdom? There's joy there. There's joy there. You start realizing, this is how I walk through trials with joy. Because, now, I'm seeing God, and I'm hearing from God, and God's speaking to me and giving wisdom to me. Is this helping? Are we in the right spot today? All right. Listen. There's a couple of other questions, though, that this brings up. 'Cause we all go through various trials, trials of many kinds. We don't always know how to handle 'em, deal with them, right? I asked a second question that sometimes comes up, and it's this. What if I lack resources in this trial? What if in this trial that I'm going through, it's a trial where I don't have much. What is the answer that, I would phrase it this way, that James gives? Look through your trial for God's perspective. You gotta look through it for God's perspective. Listen to verses nine through 12, here's what it says. "Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position." "But the rich should take pride in their humiliation- since they will pass away like a wild flower." "For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed." "In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business." "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." You see, when James talks about this idea, he's also talking about, "Hey, I realize some of you that I'm writing to, you're going through it." "You don't have much." "Famine has affected you." "Lack of job opportunities because of social ostracization has happened to you." "And I realize that you're facing this," but here's what he's saying. "Don't look at rich people, and then become all envious." Because you're thinking, at that point, that everything is defined by money. Don't do it. Money doesn't define your worth. Money doesn't define your security. Money doesn't define your power. This is what he's trying to remind us of. And, why is James speaking in these terms? Because his brother did in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus uses some of the same kind of language, but James employs it in a different way. Listen to what Jesus says about God's provision. He said, "I tell you, don't worry about your life, what you'll eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear." "Is not not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?" "Look at the birds of the air; they don't sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them." "Are you not much more valuable than they?" "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" "And why do you worry about clothes?" "See how the flowers of the field grow." "They don't labor or spin." "Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all of his splendor was dressed like one of these." "If that's how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith?" You see, what James is pointing us here, too, is saying, "I realize it's a trial." "And I realize that it's real." "And sometimes we're in a place of lack." "There's hardship, there's a lack of resources." He says, "Here's what I want you to do." Look through the trial and look to the God who has a different perspective and an ability to provide in ways that you may not have even thought about. Because, this God, he's not impressed by amassed wealth. He's impressed by faith. He's impressed by trust in him. Because, ultimately, I love that phrase. What is it he said? James said, "The rich will fade away even while they go about their business." Do you know what I think he's- I think he's got Jesus' parable of Luke, chapter 12, in the back of his mind. Remember the parable Jesus told about the man who had a ton of stuff that he grew in his field, and he had a really a bumper crop. And he's like, "I don't have room to store it." "What should I do?" "I know, I'll tear down my small barns and build bigger ones!" "It's gonna be awesome." "And then, I'll keep all of this stuff, and I'll kick back, and take it easy." "And I will eat, drink, and be merry, and I'll take it easy." And then, Jesus says, and then the Lord speaks to him that night and says, "What are you gonna do when your life is required of you tonight?" "How's any of that gonna go for you?" I think that that's what James has in the back of his mind. "The rich will fade away even while they go about their business." I think he's got the parable that Jesus told in Luke, chapter 12, right there. You see, God's perspective is one that says- He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. That's just kind of a metaphorical statement, right? He owns all the cattle on all the hills, okay? If you're going, "He only owns a thousand hills worth of cattle?" Stop. He owns 'em all. God has every provision, everywhere, for everything. He knows how to take care of his children. And we have to be able to look through the trial and see God's perspective. The one who can supply. The one who has all we need. And, by the way, the one who rewards those who persevere in the midst of trial. He says, "I'll give you the crown of life." That's what James writes. But I think that's reminiscent of what we already read in Matthew, chapter five. Jesus says, "Rejoice and be glad for great is your," what? "Reward in heaven." You see, God sees the perseverance of our lives through the trials that we endure. And, when we choose to persevere in faith, when we allow that pattern of trial to be looked at as the testing of our faith, and so, by his power we persevere and we become mature, we are being fitted for heaven as we do this. Our trials have goals. And we have to be able to, not just look at the trial, but to look through it. Let me give you a third question that comes to mind. What if the trial's a source of temptation? Then what, because it can be. What if the trial's a source of temptation? Listen to how James speaks to that, beginning in verse 13. "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.'" "For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed." "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it's full grown, gives birth to death." Watch this, keep this up here for a second. Watch what happens. Just like the previous pattern that leads to life and leads to maturity that James gave us in the very beginning. Now, he's showing us another pattern that leads to death. Trial, then leads to temptation. Which leads to evil desire. Which leads to sin. Which leads to death. James wants to make sure that we understand where this can go, where this, actually, trajectory takes us. You do realize that, every single time that we face trials, they can be filled with various temptations. And we've got one of two paths that we can take. Either it's a trial that we look at as a test of faith, and that we persevere by the power of God, and we become mature, and complete, and whole. Or it's a test where we view it as temptation, that we now allow our evil desire to be fomented, that now gives birth to sin, which leads toward death. Those are the two pathways that James leaves out for us when we deal with trials. And, any trial can have temptation. You know, you may not realize this, friend, listen carefully, but your great success is also your great trial. You just haven't realized it. Because it is fraught with temptation. Fraught with temptation to make it about you. To consume it all on yourself. Or things that are fleeting, and transient, and matter not instead of being, as Luke chapter 12 says, rich toward God. Or maybe your trial causes an envy in you, because you're going through a struggle with money, and you're envious of those who aren't. Or you're going through a struggle with health, and you're envious of those who aren't. Or you're going through a struggle at work, and you're envious of those who hold a different position. Your trial can be a source of great temptation. And, when that's the case, what is it that we need to remember? How do we answer that question? What if the trial is a source of temptation? Here's how you answer that question. Look through the trial for God's character. Look through the trial for God's character. Let me show you real quickly what I mean. Here's the first piece of God's character that James teaches us. God can't be tempted. Listen to how he says it. "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.'" "For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone." So, listen carefully, when you look through the trial, you realize you're experiencing temptation. You look through the trial to God's character. Here's what you learn. God is not the one who is tempting you. God can't be tempted by evil, and he will not tempt you toward evil. So, you better, now, get square on where that temptation is coming from. It is not God. Second aspect of God's character is that God is the giver of good gifts. This is what James tells us. He's the giver of good gifts, right? Listen to how James phrases it in verse number 16 through 18. "Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters." "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights." Now, this is important for us, friends, because God is the one who is the giver of good gifts. So, here's the reminder about God's character. He's not holding back on you. He's not holding out on you in the midst of this trial. God is the giver of good gifts. So, trust that, as you walk through this trial, God is using it as a gift of grace in your life to shape you more into the image of His son. But, thirdly, about God's character, God doesn't change. Listen to how James says it. Verse number 17, "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." Isn't it good to know that, even in the midst of a trial, we can go to a God who is a solid rock. Who is a strong tower. Who will not be moved. Who does not change like the shifting shadows. That's what we have to be reminded of. Because, when we face this trial of temptation, but we're able to work through it and see the character of God, do you know what we find there? Joy. That's what we find there. This is how we begin to walk through trials with great joy. Now, listen, I know it can be hard. It truly can be. But we can experience real, true joy in the midst of trial when we look through the trial instead of just looking at it. So, think about it this way. With trials, we have to look through it to get through it. With trials, we have to look through it to get through it. But there's joy in it. Because there is joy on the other side waiting on us. And, do you know how come I know that's true? Just like James knew it was true. Because of James' brother. Because of Jesus. Jesus showed us this very true principle in his very model of life. Listen to how the writer of Hebrews says it. Watch this. "For the joy set before Jesus, he endured the cross, scorning at shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Did you see it? "For the joy set before him, he endured the cross." He endured the cross. The cross of our sin, not his. The cross of our shame, not his. The cross of our guilt, not his. The cross where fellowship with the Father would be disturbed for the first time in eternity. The cross, where he who knew no sin, would become sin for us, so that, in him, we could become the righteousness of God. Jesus took it all on himself, so that we could be reconciled to God, and we could experience the life that is truly life instead of the decay of death. Jesus looked through the most horrific trial the cosmos has ever known. And he looked through it to the other side where joy was waiting on him. Joy was waiting on him. The joy of saving his people from the guilt, and shame, and penalty of sin. The joy of pleasing his faithful father through perfect obedience and trust. The joy of a restored and unhindered fellowship with the Father and the Spirit. The joy of an indestructible, resurrected life. The joy of setting in motion the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God that is among us. The joy of knowing that, at just the right time, that he will return and bring with him true justice against evil and new creation for his people. This joy was set before him, and, as a result, he endured, he persevered at the cross. And, we can too in our trials. And here's why. Because his life lives in us. Just know this, friend, with whatever hard trial or difficult journey that you face, no matter what it is, here's what you can know if you trust Jesus. He's already bought your ticket through it. He's already purchased your ticket through it, and that ticket has a destination stamp on it that says, "Joy." Consider it all joy, brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. Don't just look at it, look through it and see God. Let's bow our heads together for prayer. In a moment we'll be dismissed. But I can't help but imagine that there are people walking through trials of many kinds. If you'll listen to what the Spirit is saying through the word, God will come to your aid in these moments. Now, it may be that you're saying, "Man, I'd love for somebody to, to pray with me and, just, let's, can we take this to the Lord together?" Sure. There's gonna be some men and women that are coming down, they'll be down front here in just a moment. And, if you need to come by and just touch base with one of them, and ask them to pray with you because of a trial you're walking through that you may not know how to deal with or whatever, feel free. Feel free to do that. We wanna be able to minister to you in that way. There may be some of you that are here that you've never really fully reconciled the fact that we can't be reconciled to the Father unless we've turned from trusting in ourself, we've given into the temptation of life to say we can make it on our own. We can be our own lords. We can be our own saviors. We can pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. This cannot be. 'Cause God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him would not perish, but would have everlasting life. There's no name under heaven by which people can be saved, except for the name of Jesus. Jesus said, "I'm the way, and the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me." So, maybe, your need today is to see, now in the beauty of the gospel, the wisdom of God. That says, while the world looks at the cross as foolishness, we see it as the power of God for salvation. Because Jesus has taken upon himself the justice of God against our sin. And Jesus has satisfied the justice of God through his death and resurrection. And, now, through faith in the resurrected Son of God and what he has done on our behalf, we can be reconciled to God, forgiven of our sin, and experience the life that is truly life, not only in this life, but in the life to come. And, if that's your need, I hope that you'll come down and speak to one of these folks, that are down front, and just simply say, "I need to put my trust in Jesus." And they'd love to pray with you and help you begin that journey. Father, how we thank you for the gift of grace that is your word and the power of your Spirit. And I pray that each of us would be fertile soil for the seed of the word to take root in our hearts. We may be lulled to sleep, because things are going pretty good right now. That, in itself, can be a source of temptation. Maybe we're in the middle of a trial that's really hard, difficult. I pray that, wherever we are, that you would make application of your word to our hearts, and that we would be a responsive and obedient people to not just look at the trial and be overwhelmed, but to look through it and to see your goals and your good purposes of making us a people that are mature, and complete, lacking nothing, formed into the image of the Son of God. Give us faith. And give us eyes of wisdom to see this. For your glory, because the world around us, they need to see the people of God, when they face trial, they're a people of faith and trust in God. They're a people who surrender themselves to God. Who turn to God. 'Cause a world that doesn't know you needs to see people who believe that you are and that you sent your son. Help us to be that kind of people for your glory, and for the good of your world. I pray, in Jesus' name. Amen.

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