These are snippets from our first sermon in the James series:
Sermon snippets from James:
James is a realist.
He doesn’t spend any time denying that suffering is real.
He doesn’t say, If by chance suffering comes your way
He just admits at the outset that suffering is a part of life.
It’s going to happen.
No one is exempt from it.
This was potent for the people receiving James letter
Here they were, in this new faith spread out all over the place and they were catching all kinds of persecution for it. Economic, political, religious, bullying.
They knew what it was to suffer.
And it looked like it was going to last for awhile.
So what are we going to do about it, James offers.
We’re going to consider it an opportunity for joy.
James kind of knocks the wind out of us with this one.
Consider suffering as an opportunity for joy?
And that doesn’t seem all that manageable.
He doesn’t deny that suffering exists. He isn’t trying to explain it away and say “If you love Jesus you’ll never have a bad day.” But he is saying that suffering doesn’t have to destroy you. You see, joy, for the Christian isn’t the same as happiness. Joy is the knowledge that no matter what…God isn’t going to let go of you. It is possible to have joy in your life even when you are getting pummeled with the awful things that happen in life. It is possible to know that God has you tight in God’s arms and is bringing you through the suffering.
So, in verse 4 he lays out for us how we can get to the place of knowing that: Give your faith the chance to grow, he says.
Allow endurance to happen
You have a choice when suffering comes
You can let it demolish you
Or you can allow your faith to take hold and see God holding on.
If you are suffering and you don’t know how your newfound faith in the Savior is supposed to get you through the suffering
If you have lost your job
Or lost your home
Or have been stricken with disease
And you don’t know how you’re supposed to consider it an opportunity for joy
Turn to God
James literally says “Turn to the Giving God”
Turn to the giving God who doesn’t begrudge the fact that you are saying, “I don’t know how to get through this…please show me.”
Turn to the giving God who isn’t going to shame you for asking
Turn to the giving God who isn’t going to get mad at you for being who you are: a person who has questions or is overwhelmed by your current suffering.
But when you do, verse 6 says, you’ve got to trust that God can actually give you the wisdom you are looking for. You’ve got to trust God that God can get you past feeling overwhelmed.
But, when you come to God, you can’t waver.
Now when James says that, he doesn’t mean that you can’t be fragile. He doesn’t say that when you suffer you’re never going to wonder where God is…
But when you ask God, if anything is really going to come of it, you’ve got to be open to the fact that God is the Giving God.
Because it’s not going to do you much good if you say
“God help me…but I really don’t believe you have any help to give.”
That’s what James means by wavering
That’s what he’s hinting at with this stuff about divided loyalties.
The thing is, as people who love and trust Jesus, we are promised that there is coming a day when no heartache will come.
And that our journey in this life is a journey towards that day.
And the more and more we turn to God, the stronger and more complete our ability to see God amidst suffering becomes.
See, James isn’t promoting a “grin and bear it” philosophy of suffering here. James is saying that God bears our suffering.
Jesus, on the cross bore all of our suffering and blew redemption through it. Took all of our suffering and made it so our current pain will not end in disaster. Brought upon himself all of the sin and the death and the pain and said there is no way this is the final word of the story.
The final word of the story is life.
The final word of the story is Jesus.
Does this mean we do not currently experience pain: No
Does this mean death makes us happy?: No
Does this mean we have to be all in love with the fact that suffering still happens? Absolutely not.
What it does mean is that no matter what comes our way
God is right here…with a single focus…with a wisdom that God is more and more pouring out all over us. So that when we suffer…and we really do suffer…we will still feel God holding us.
But we have to be realistic: we won’t get there if we reject the notion that God can bring us there.
We have to the risk of trusting God alone. No matter what the other voices out there are saying. Because the truth is, it’s only God who has real hope to offer.
It’s only God’s Holy Spirit that can speak into our hearts and minds and souls the true wisdom that we need in the midst of our suffering.
It’s only Jesus who can say, “I know your suffering. I’ve taken it all on me. And because of that, your suffering will not end in disaster…but it will be wiped away for good.” It’s only Jesus who has something real to offer when he says to you and to me