Friday, July 29, 2005

Poverty or Glory?

James 1:9

"But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position;"

Humble Circumstances in this verse could mean quite a few different things, however when we see that it is the opposite of the rich person in the next verse we understand that James is talking about the poor brother. This saint, who is economically poor, would have represented the majority of the people to whom James was writing to. Remember these were Jewish believers who had been scattered because of persecution. The left all that they had behind, and they had been left in humble circumstances. James urges this individual not to be like the double-minded man (vs.8 ), but let divine wisdom open his eyes to see the height to which he has been lifted to as a child of God.

Pessimism should not exist within the family of God, we should be so affected by our future hope that it does away with any present pessimism. As a child of the King, even in humble earthly circumstances, the believer is an heir to future kingdom of glory. The believer needs not be disheartened by his present poverty, or regard it as evil. The child of God is the possessor of spiritual riches that more than outweigh his material poverty in this present life. This is the key! We must change our perspective from “the here and now” to an eschatological perspective. What James is teaching is that we must look at life from an eternal perspective to see who really has the exalted position and who really is rich. When we see things from this perspective we can glory in our highness. Literally we can boast in our position. But what does that mean? Well let’s look at some biblical examples: Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 2 Corinthians 11:30; Galatians 6:14. In all of these cases boasting is presented in a favorable light. There are two reasons why this type of boasting, or glorying, is favorable: 1) it does not boast in the might of man, in fact it views man as helpless; 2) it has such a high view of God that only through the work of Christ can we boast.

Let me ask you this question: Do the people around you know more about your earthly accomplishments than your eternal place in God’s family? Have you told them all about you accomplishments, but never told them of the greatest thing in your life? What is it that you talk about more, yourself, or the one who saved you? Believers must look beyond the world’s evaluation to understand who they are, and see themselves from God’s perspective. God has chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in Christ with fruit, and an eternal inheritance. It is in Christ Jesus that the believer has received every spiritual blessing, including poverty. We serve a God who is powerful enough to use even something like poverty, which from our perspective seems so horrible, as a spiritual blessing. Poverty, just like all other trials, should lead us to humble ourselves before God placing our total dependence on Him for survival in this world and justification in the world to come. When we are able to do this the joy inexpressible that Peter writes about will poor out of our veins, and we will be incapable of boasting in anything other than that Cross which is so despicable to the world.

Ephesians 1:3-11
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love
5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight
9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him
10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him
11 also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will...

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Real Christian Music

The question of Christian music is one that has followed the church for quite some time. With every different genre of music having its own section calling itself Christian we are left with the question: "what is Christian music?" Music has been used as a tool to convey a message as long as it has been around. But have we forgotten that in our culture today? Within the church there exist two seperate sub-cultures that sit opposite sides of the fence on this issue of music. There is the extreme fundamentalist side that label any contemporary style of music as "worldly" no matter what the words are. Then there is the other end of the spectrum that claims all music to be amoral. Granted these are the two extremes of the spectrum, but they do represent both sides.

While I decline to argue with either of the positions stated, I do think that it is important to understand that music is a tool to convey a message. When we pop our headphones on we are letting an artist pump his or her world view into our minds. This is what we must be aware of. Music must be enjoyed with a critical ear otherwise it can prove to be a dangerous form of entertainment. For example, if you want to hear some of the worst theology you will ever hear, then turn on your local Christian Radio station. There is a good chance that at least one of the songs you hear will be filled with mind-numbing theology. And lest I sound too much like a "Flaiming Fundy" open up you hymnal and I am sure that you can find a song that will not match up with your theology. Take for instance the song "In the Garden." Most of us grew up singing this song, but have you ever really thought about it.

'I come to the Garden alone, while the dew is
still on the roses; And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses. And He walks with me, and He
talks with me, And He tells me I am His own; And the joy we
share as we tarry there None other has ever known."

I would hope that from the pulpit you pastor is not instructing you to listen for the audible voice of God to provide you with the joy that you need. Rather I would like to think that he is encouraging you to dive deep in the grace God has made available to you so that you can experience the joy inexpressible that is described in Scripture. But how often do we sing this song? I must admit that I know all the words to it, and I still enjoy the tune. But I have to listen to it with a critical ear. This is my point. We must understand that every song was written with some type of bias. When we understand this we can hear the theologically bankrupt music with out letting our minds become theologically bankrupt.
This brings me to what I intended to write about all along today, "real Christian music." What is "real Christian music" you ask. It is music that builds up the body of Christ by worshiping in Spirit and in Truth. Throughout history it has been hard to find music that causes the spirit of sinful men to accept the truth, and fall down in worship before the Lord. The only thing that has changed in today's world is the style of music. But there is music out there that is "real Christian music." Take for instance Derek Webb. His music is real because it builds up the body by worshiping in Spirit and Truth (I know because I am listening to is now). Webb's music has such an awful view of sin, and an awe-inspiring view God that you may just find yourself on your knees before the song is over. Just read the lyrics to one of Webb's most convicting songs of his new album "I See Things Upside Down"

I See Things Upside Down

I repent
(words and music by derek webb)
i repent, i repent of my pursuit of america's dream
i repent, i repent of living like i deserve anything
of my house, my fence, my kids, my wife
in our suburb where we're safe and white
i am wrong and of these things i repenti repent,
i repent of parading my liberty i repent.
i repent of paying for what i get for free
and for the way i believe that i am living right
by trading sins for others that are easier to hide
i am wrong and of these things i repent
i repent judging by a law that even i can't keep
of wearing righteousness like a disguise
to see through the planks in my own eyes
i repent, i repent of trading truth for false unity
i repent, i repent of confusing peace and idolatry
by caring more of what they think than what i know of what we need
by domesticating you until you look just like me i
am wrong and of these things i repent

Camp in Four Questions

I have just returned from my sabbatical (taking the youth group to camp), and as I write this posting I am pondering the impact that it will have on the youth. There is one thing that is for certain as a group we grew closer together. We shared in many memorable moments, not the least of which was a 12 hour van ride.

But there are other things that are not so certain:

  • How many more kids are going to get sick (we have two down already)? I am starting to wonder about the food.

  • What is the lasting impact of this week going to be on the people who went? Sure everyone felt the impact of a week of intense time in God's Word, but can a consistent Life pattern develop from this week?

  • The theme of our camp this week was examine yourself. As we studied through Matthew chapter seven we had the opportunity to take a look at ourselves. As one of the guys said "it gave me the chance to look at me." We talked a lot about pretenders (those who play the church game but have never had any true change in their lives). There were four questions that were given to help us examine ourselves. Is your love for Christ increasing? Is your hatred for sin increasing? Is your desire to know Christ in His word increasing? Is your love for the Church increasing? These are the marks of a true believer. These are things that a pretender, if truly examining his life, will have to answer no to.

  • Are you a pretender?

Saturday, July 16, 2005


Well this will be my last posting for a week. My church has been kind enough to grant me a week long sabbatical. Just as Piper’s sabbatical to write “The Justification of God” changed his ministry forever I hope that this week will be profitable for me. At this point I should make one note; my sabbatical is not to write. I am leaving for a week to take the Youth Group to Camp. Yes, this is slightly less profound than Piper’s work. But it is my prayer that this week will be no less significant than Piper’s work.

Our youth has been praying and preparing to leave for camp for months now. It is our hope that this week will be an opportunity for the Spirit of God to work through the Word of God to renew the minds of our Youth. Our goal is not conversions, or life changing decisions. These goals are reserved for the work of the Spirit. It is our job to let the Spirit use our faithful proclamation of God’s Word to work in the lives of these kids. Thankfully we have been able to join up with other Churches in the South East who share this same basic philosophy of ministry.

Unfortunately there are very few youth ministries, and youth camps that are interested in this type of ministry. Most youth leaders that I have the opportunity to interact with are more interested in fun games than with proclamation of the Word. (Now at this point I would like to make the point that fun games are fun. I am often times looking for fun games, and activities that will provide some entertainment for the group.) There are so many on-line youth tools now that many Youth Pastors spend much of their time looking for already packaged information to regurgitate. You can hop on-line find two games, a power point lesson and be ready for Youth Group. As useful as on-line tools are, I am not sure that this method of Youth ministry is making an impact in the lives of our Youth. Games, and idealistic lessons are great for YMCA youth camp, but shouldn’t a ministry of the local church be attaining to something higher? Let me borrow a question from Eric Bancroft: “are we going to distract, despise, or disciple our youth?” As you look to answer this question know that the kids will know what your answer is. It has been my experience, as a Youth and a Youth Pastor, that teenagers are looking for more than a distraction on Sunday night.

I think that what many people in the Church and many youth leaders fail to understand is that we are training the future leaders of the Church right now. The youth are not free labor to set up the Church, and they do not need to be entertained every second that you have them. These are the great temptations of Youth Ministry. If you can shake off these temptations, lock yourself in your study, and prepare for a message as if you were preaching at Grace Community Church, that is when you have figured out youth ministry. Give them God’s Word. Strengthen them with the Milk, and then when they are ready feed ‘em steak. God has given us His Word to change lives (ours included), and He has given us (as Youth Pastors) the youth to change them. So why not use God’s life changing Word to change the lives of our youth.

There is one other Good-bye that I must add. Good-bye Jack.

Yesterday Jack Nicklaus completed his final round in a Major Golf tournament. And it was not a great surprise that Jack completed the greatest career in golf history with a birdie three on the most famous home hole in golf. I must admit that I am a little to young to really remember Jack in his prime. But through my father I know all there is to know about Jack’s career. From his two amateurs championships to the ’86 Masters Jack gave us the greatest golf that has ever been played. I was not able to watch Jack’s final round live, however I was up until 1:30am to watch it on tape. I must admit that it made me very sad to see it end, and when his put on 18 when in for birdie I jumped out of my seat and the remote went flying.

Good-bye Mr. Nicklaus, golf will miss you.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Casual Friday

We have made it Friday. That is something to celebrate, and so I have decided that on my blog we are going to celebrate Friday the way millions of people all across the U.S. do; we are going to observe casual Friday.

  • Today my wife and I will be celebrating our six month anniversary. Its not 50, but you have to start somewhere. And like any self respecting husband would I have made dinner plans, and of course sang Fred Flintstones “happy anniversary song” to my wife. If you are not familiar with the song it goes something like this: “happy anniversary, happy anniversary, happy anniversary, Hap-----py anniversary!” (insert tune to lone ranger and sing). But in all seriousness, the fact that my wife and I have made it this far is a testament to her godly attitude toward marriage and toward me. I love you dear.

  • Last night I became very frustrated. This year the British Open is at St. Andrews (the home of Golf), Tiger Woods is in the lead, this is Jack’s last Major Tournament, , and SportsCenter barely covered it. I want 24 hour coverage. I guess I will just have to dream about that day when we can afford the golf channel. I think that tomorrow I will go buy a blank tape so that I can watch all of Sunday’s action Sunday night after church.

  • A few weeks ago I was minding my own business, not looking for any controversy, when out popped a KJV only tract. Now I don’t have the fire power to burn any buildings down over the issue (see Pyromaniac, ), however it urked me just enough to inquire further. This little book, filled with lies and spilling over with hate, ranted and raved about the NIV (according to author niv stands for “Not Inspired Version” and should be changed to “HIV”). Finally in his conclusion the author penned these words: “The King James 1611 Version is the preserved Word of God for English speaking people. It has won more souls (blood pressure rising) and changed more lives (face turning red) than any other Bible (teeth gritting) that has ever been published. We don’t need new translations or new versions so-called, we need to use the one God has given us, The King James Bible.” I found these in the break room of a part time job that I have. I was pretty upset that people were actually reading this drabble. I went to the powers that be, and eventually these little booklets found their way into the trash. But the problem is that this guy is still out there, and I am sure he is preaching the same way that he writes. I do not wish to give his name out, but you know the type. I think the things that bothered me the most were: his ignorance of history (in a good example of his ignorance he wrote that the 1611 version was the inspired version, but quoted from a later edition of KJV), and his mind-bending use of the Greek.

  • *One final note for Casual Friday* For those of you who have noticed Phil Johnson’s flourishing blog, I am sure that you have also noticed Phil’s blogspotting. Well I am not one of those blogspotting cherry-pickers but I must admit that I am a little jealous that my pal over at Pix from the Pulpit got blogspotted after posting one blog and letting it sit for a couple of weeks.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Third Rail: Iraq

I spoke with a young man this week about his future, what he wanted to do after high school. He said to me that: "I would join the army if I knew I would go to Afghanistan instead of Iraq." I was a little surprised, but I took the bait and inquired further. He very simply said that because he did not support U.S. effort in Iraq there was no way that he could fight there. What ensued from there was a hybrid conversation made of half regurgitated rhetoric, and half interesting conversation about this young man's future. What I found in our cordial discussion was that we were both coming from totally different worlds. As a card carrying member of the GOP I had a very difficult time understanding how he could support our efforts in Afghanistan but not in Iraq. This young man, who was quite well read in current events, took the same information that I had digested and saw a totally different picture. We had a clash of World Views.

But what we were both able to agree on was that it is very hard to tell exactly what is going on in Iraq by what you see on TV. The problem is that TV, and other media outlets, are all that we over here in the States have to work with. We can be critical thinkers as we watch what is on TV, but we are still only seeing what a TV producer wants us to see. But now thanks to the New Media, and the good folks at we have a new option. Omar Fadhil is this bloggers name, and at times his English may be lacking, and I have no way to verify his facts but he is a new perspective. His blogs convey the Iraqi war through the eyes of an Iraqi.

I will let you be the judge of his work.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005


With Emily spinning out in the Atlantic we are left with very little time to reflect on Dennis. Here in Central Florida there was very little to be worried about. No hurricane hits Cuba like Dennis did and makes it into Tampa Bay. But with friends, and loved ones sitting in the "cone" of projection it was still an aprehensive time to say the least.

As Dennis passed by our latitude, some 240 miles west of us, my wife and I went to the beach. What an amazing thing that a storm over 200 miles away could cause such roar here. But it was not until I got home from the beach and discovered that my dad was home from work that I realized the possible severity of the storm. You see, my dad works for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue (he's a firefighter). Last Hurricane season my dad earned the nickname "Hurricane" for his many hours spent in the rescue/clean up efforts. And as the "HIT" (hazardous incidents team) coordinator for the county, he plays a significant role in the pre-hurricane planning (so things do not blow up)

With Dennis making a b-line for Pensacola my dad came home to get the sleep he knew he would not get for the next few days. On Sunday dad headed toward the panhandle, waiting for Dennis to pass in Havana (mapquest it). Dad searched through many different homes, and many different piles that used to be homes. Thankfully dad did not have to save anyone. But as I spoke with my dad yesterday he told me how random some of the destruction was. Some homes were left standing while all the other homes were gone. It must be the construction. Even though they were all in the same neighborhood, probably built by the same company, one up withstood while another crumbled. One small mistake, one place for wind to come in, and the roof is gone. But there must be more to it than that...

Dennis showed more than the importance of craftsmanship. Dennis displayed the wonder of God's power, and His freedom to choose. I do not know why 4 people in the State of Florida have died from Dennis, but I do know that for some good and perfect reason God chose to send Dennis right were Dennis went. And the question that I am left with now is: "how can I, hundreds of miles from the aftermath of Dennis, glorify God through this catastrophe?" Maybe this desperate "plywood plea" is the answer.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Wisdom From God (part III)

"Don’t expect to receive anything without faith."

If your joy is dependent upon your circumstances, and you are asking the Lord for help without believing He can help do not expect to receive anything from the Lord. The anything here should not be pressed beyond the context of the passage. It is limited to what is asked for, wisdom. So if a person is going through a trial and prays to God for the wisdom to see things from His perspective, but doubts that God will do anything that person should not expect to receive wisdom. Wisdom in this passage is being able to see God at work even in the trial. Wisdom is having an eternal perspective. And if a person has no real trust in God it is doubtful that no matter what the outcome of a trial that he or she would ever recognize God’s hand at work. Let’s try to follow James’ reasoning here. 1) Trials test our Faith; 2) Testing develops endurance; 3) Let endurance have its perfect result; 4) If you have trouble understanding how trials benefit you then ask God for wisdom; 5) If you don’t ask in faith then you will not receive wisdom. It all goes back to the renewing of our minds. If we will let God change the way we think through trials then we will lack nothing. If we are having difficulty with this then we need to pray for wisdom. But if we do not believe that God is at work for our good in trials then our minds cannot be changed. Remember it is the Spirit of God through the Word of God that grows us closer to the image of Christ. And if we are not willing to get into God’s Word then how will the Spirit change us. And if we do not believe that God is at work for good in our lives even in trials, then how can we ask God to show us the good that He is working for in our trials.

The double-minded man cannot receive the wisdom to see God at work in his trial because he does not truly believe that God is at work in his trial. He is missing it. God wants to do a divine work in your life, but instead you have chosen to let your circumstance steal your joy. You are a double-minded person unstable in all that you do. One moment you will swell up with confidence in your own ability, and the next moment you will sink deep into despair because of your circumstances. This stands in stark contrast with God who gives with singleness of mind, and without reproach.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Wisdom From God (part II)

James 1:6

"Ask in Faith"

In order for a prayer to be effective it must be made with trust. The way we ask God for wisdom (or anything else) must coincide with the way God gives. He gives with a single mind, and we too must ask with a single mind. God gives without reproach to us, and we too must trust what he is doing in our lives and not go to him questioning our circumstances. Arguing with God, complaining about circumstances, or hesitancy to be open to God’s answer are human attitudes that prevent God from responding to our prayers. Here is the general principle behind what James is saying: God responds to us only when our lives reflect a basic consistency of single-mindedness toward God. It is not that we never question, or never doubt (Even king David in the Psalms at times questioned what God was doing.). It is that our lives are marked by a faith in God; faith that relies on God’s promises to work for our good; faith that is full and unquestioning dependence upon God. And this kind of faith is the only proper response to the goodness of God. The man who prays without this faith not only doubts what will happen, but also doubts the God who makes all things happen. A request that does not take God at His word doubts either his ability or his trustworthiness. The man who outwardly prays in doubt inwardly is not sure that God can do anything about his situation. His uttered request has not answered his inner indecision. And this inner indecision is an unwillingness to rely wholly on God.

This man’s request is not really even a request because he does not believe. He is like the wave of the sea tossed one way by the wind, and then back the other way by another wind. He is in constant agitation, and motion with no forward progress. James would have been familiar with such waves. He grew up near to the Sea of Galilee, and even though the Sea of Galilee is more like the size of a lake it had a reputation for severe storms (Matthew 8:23; 14:22). This is not like the tide rolling in. Imagine the waters in a storm being blown around by every different gust of wind. This is the person who doubts God. He does not pray with any consistency, or sincerity. One minute he wants wisdom from God, but the next minute he wants wisdom from the world. He is frantic, and prey to the shifting winds of fear and desire. This person’s joy is not anchored in the Lord, but rather dependent on his situation. If the sea is calm he is ok he has no reason to doubt God, but if a storm rolls in he becomes frantic doubting God and looking elsewhere for help. He has forgotten that the Lord he is praying to is the same God who calms the storms and walk on the water. Does your joy depend on your circumstance? Or is your joy found in Christ Jesus?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Wisdom From God

James 1:5

We are to consider it all joy when we face trials because God is working in our lives for good. He is testing our faith with refiner’s fire so that He can accomplish His purpose in our lives. God is working through the trials of your life to accomplish His purpose of salvation in your life that you may be complete in Christ. God accomplishes His purpose in our lives through the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit works in our life by renewing our minds through the Word of God. And when we are letting God work in our lives, no matter what our situation may be, we will lack nothing. But for those of us who lack the wisdom to always see things from this perspective James has advice. His advices is simple: ask God in faith for the wisdom that you need. For those of us who are lacking our source of completion and wholeness is God.

If anyone lacks the wisdom to understand what James has explained about trials, or lacks the wisdom to apply what James has explained about trials he should ask God for enlightenment. Calvin said it this way: “If this doctrine is higher than what your minds can reach to, ask the Lord to illuminate you by his Spirit.” And what is this high doctrine? It is the idea that God is working for our good even in trials. In order for the believer to see his trials in a true light he needs wisdom. If we are going to profit spiritually from our trials then we need to understand that God is at work in them. James knew that trials often overwhelm even the godly and create struggles that can only be resolved by God given wisdom. This is where wisdoms starts. The first step in gaining the wisdom that is needed in the midst of trials is a consciousness that we need wisdom. The degree of wisdom that is needed may vary from person to person, and from trial to trial but we all need it. At times we all find our self in situations asking ourselves “why me?” when we should be thanking the Lord for the work that He is doing. When a mother of two dies and leaves behind two young children we are left scratching our heads. We wonder why, and at that moment need the wisdom of God. The wise man understands that he is morally accountable to God for how he thinks, and what he does. The thought of this accountability is what prompts him to turn to God for wisdom. A sense of spiritual poverty is a blessing when it leads us to God. It is God who gives wisdom, and it is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom. Biblical wisdom is more than just knowledge, it is practical living. It is how the godly can both discern and carry out the will of God even in the midst of trials. It is our spiritual wisdom that leads us to hold onto our faith when everything else is being taken from us. Our faith is not based on feelings but on the knowledge and understanding of God’s truth which is spiritual wisdom.

The source of our spiritual wisdom is the God who gives generously to all without reproach. It should go without saying that trials should enhance our prayer life as we turn to the Lord for wisdom. In Matt 7:7-11 Christ reminds us that our heavenly Father will provide for our needs if we will only ask Him. The Lord desires to impart divine wisdom unto you, but you must be willing to seek it. In Proverbs 2:2-5 we see that if we seek wisdom we will find it in the fear of the Lord. God has an abundance of wisdom, and is more than willing to impart it onto us if we will only ask. It is not something the Lord will impress on an unwilling heart. God will give to all, and by all James means all who ask. And what we see here is that God’s response to our prayers is based on His character. God gives generously, and He gives without reproach. Generously stands in opposition to double-minded in verse 8. While this man sways back and forth God is single-minded in His giving. His motive is to further the welfare of the asker through divine wisdom. Do not be afraid to come to the Lord too often for God gives generously, and God gives without reproach. The believer should never be afraid to ask God for wisdom, as if God would scold us for not already having all the wisdom that we need. God is ever ready to add new blessings to old blessings, without any end or limitation. Without hesitation God will provide what you need for His purpose to be accomplished in your life in a way that will not humiliate you. God’s generosity is not based on who we are, but rather it is based on His grace. God’s generosity is based on the work of Christ; and now, because God sees the accomplished work of Christ when he looks at us, we can go boldly before the throne of God with our needs.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

All Joy

James 1:2-4

I. Consider it all joy when we encounter various trials.

a. All Joy.
The first thing that James writes in this section is to consider it all joy. When we read this section in our English Bibles at first we might think that the all modifies the trials. However, all here goes with the joy. We are to consider it all joy. It is not a half-hearted joy, but it is full joy. It is not just excitement, and it does not include anger. Having this kind of joy in all situations is the result of God drawing us closer to him. This joy is a result of the gospel. Look at what Peter says about this joy in 1 Peter 1:7-8. This joy comes from you faith being strengthened, your hope in the return of Christ, and your love for Christ. This joy goes hand in hand with your spiritual maturity, and results in you rejoicing.

b. Various Trials.
Trials are the great common experiences of the Redeemer and the redeemed. They are to be expected as part of living life on this present earth. Christ told his followers that the world would hate them just as the hated him. He also faced temptation just as we do (Hebrews 2:18). But as was true with Christ, no temptation ought to disturb our joy. So as Peter said whatever the trial may be it is to be considered an occasion for joy. We will face various trials. We will encounter trials that come in many shapes, and degrees. James does not distinguish between internal and external trials. Many times what begins as an external trial becomes an internal trial.

II. Knowing that the testing of your faith develops endurance.

a. Testing of your faith.
Why? Why should we consider all of these trials as joy? Well because these trials bring us closer to God. But how? It brings us closer to the Lord by testing out faith. Do you remember when the Lord told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? Genesis 22 says that God tested his faith. God was not testing him because he did not know Abraham’s character; He tested him to strengthen Abraham’s character. Trials will do that. The word that is used here and translated as testing is used in this form only one other time in the NT (1 Peter 1:7), and three times in the LXX. Every time the word is used it is referring to gold being tested by fire. The idea here is not that you can fail the test and lose your faith. The idea is that the trial purifies your faith. Just as gold is gold and is improved by the fire, so to a Christian is a Christian and is improved by trials. Trials will strengthen our faith in many ways: humble us; wean us from our dependence on earthly things; call us to an eternal perspective; reveal what we really love; teach us the value of God’s blessings; enable us to better help others in their trials.

b. Develops endurance.
But above all trials will develop endurance so that we may continue in all these other things. Did you notice how we are supposed to consider it all joy when we face trials? It starts with knowing. It is a change in our perspective and in our way of thinking. When we begin to see things as God sees them then, and only then will we be able to consider it pure joy to have no money. And when we have this new mind set our endurance will be strengthened because we will see what we are enduring to. We are enduring until our salvation is realized and we are in the presence of the Lord. At that point our faith will become sight, and our trials gold. Endurance is praying that when you stand before the judgment seat of Christ he will say well done my good and faithful servant. Endurance is being able to say with the apostle Paul that you have fought the good fight, and have run the race. Endurance begins with knowing what you are enduring to.

III. Let endurance have its perfect result.

a. Endurance.
If endurance begins with knowing then we need to let endurance grow by changing our minds. All throughout Scripture the sanctification process is viewed as a changing of our minds. And so we must let endurance work by having our perspectives changed. And we must let the Spirit change our perspectives through the Word of God. We must to see our own situation in light of who God is and who we are. If we face a trial it would be easy to get mad, or discouraged. It is easy because we see things only from our perspective. We see only ourselves to help us out of the situation, and we see no hope. But if we see things from God’s perspective we will see God in control and God as the source of our help.

b. Perfect Result.
If we let the Spirit change our minds through the Word of God then we can be confident that we will achieve the goal of the Christian life; conformity with the image of Christ. Christ had to have an eternal perspective in order to humble himself on our behalf (although being God he did not consider equality with God something to be attained). Our trials will not make us richer, more popular, famous, or rich. What trials will do is sanctify us. Remember salvation is not a one time event. It is a process that began before time, and will culminate at the end of time (Romans 8). Trials in our life help us get to the perfect result that God has intended for us in our salvation.

IV. So that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing.

a. Perfect and complete.
The perfect result of endurance is our conformity with the image of Christ. It is what Paul refers to as being perfect and complete. Here we have to be careful with our English translations. The word that is translated as perfect may not mean exactly what you think. This word carries with it the idea of being fully realized. It is actually the same word that Christ used when he cried “It is finished” from the cross. The idea is not that we are sanctified to a state of sinless perfection. And the word that is translated as complete carries with it the idea of wholeness. If I were to paraphrase this verse I would say: “that God’s work may be accomplished in you making you complete in Christ.” The force of this verse lies more in whether or not you are allowing God to accomplish His work in you.

b. Lacking nothing.
And when God is accomplishing his purpose in you, then you will lack nothing. Are you ok with that? Can you face a trial and rejoice because you see God at work. You are lacking nothing when you are letting God accomplish His purpose in you. You can know that you have everything that you need, because you have everything that God has given you.