Updated: May 3, 2021
Rev. Samuel Wansley
(James 1: 2-4)
Even when they attack you. When they attack your character and your dignity. When they lie,
on you, talk about you behind your back, knock you down and beat you, you get up, and you tell them, “I will not have revenge on you. I will do whatever I can to help you.”
If you travel down a river and you don’t have the ability to stop the fast-moving rough waters, all you can do is hold on to the boat which gives you some level of comfort. Something within you says that if you can just hold on a little while longer, are going to ride this thing out.
Eventually, the boat will float to safety. Well life is the same way. If you can hold onto something long enough, you’ll make it to safety. When you’re falling, the automatic reflex is the reach out and grab onto something to keep you from falling. Holding onto something gives you hope.
James says “count it all joy,” but being tempted is not a reason, but to rejoice. But uneasiness and the trouble caused by afflictions and persecutions for the sake of the Gospel are trials of the faith and are worthy to be considered means to have joy. God tries the faith of his people so that He will know them better.
James is talking to a people who endured so much. They had suffered the confiscation of their goods, imprisonment, and even death by crucifixion. These things were brought upon them not because of anything they did, but simply because of the wickedness of their neighbors who attacked them because of their faith. James tells them to count it all joy, not that these afflictions were joyous, but It worked for their good and produced in them the fruit of righteousness and assured them a place in the kingdom of heaven.
These words spoken by James are directed to disciples of Christ. He is informing them, that they are not exempted from criticism, accusations or persecution from their fellowman. These words were meant to help them understand that humans would insult, abuse, talk about, and literally despise them simply because of who they were.
Life can take us down some pretty rough roads and sometimes we think that if I don’t get some relief, I’m going to lose my mind. It’s during those times that you need something to hold onto; something that will give you faith for a better tomorrow. Life is not easy. But James says when troubles of any kind come your way, consider them opportunities for great joy.
There was a young man who suffered all types of abuse from those closest to him, and it all started when he shared a vision that was given to him by God. This vision came to him in his dreams and when he told his older brothers about it, they became jealous and they turned against him. This boy named Joseph faced one trial after another most of his young adult life such as, being incarcerated. Nonetheless, a wiser and older Joseph shared words of optimism found in Genesis 45: 5-7 for anyone confused about their trials and tribulations. Joseph is saying that “I won’t look for revenge for what you did to me because, “God sent me.” Remember what James said, “when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” I hold no ill will against anyone. I don’t blame anybody for the troubles in my life. I know that everything I’ve experienced, every turn in the road, every uphill battle, and where I am now is because…God sent me here! It’s no accident that you are where you are in your life. Every event in our lives is designed to draw us closer to God. Slipups, setbacks, failures, disappointments and letdowns come into our lives so that the Lord can prepare and lead you to your destiny. Roadblocks are placed in your path by God to redirect you to where He wants you to be.
These are many frightening scenarios but things do happen that cause us to go another route in life. It doesn’t matter what the situation may be, as Joseph says “God sent you there.” He knows what you’re going through and He is constantly redirecting your pathway to place you where your talents can best be utilized.
We tend to ask, how God is with me, why does he allow me to go through the rough times in my life? Why not step in and prevent or stop the awful things happening to me every day? Well, If a parent did everything what would the child learn? If you never go through anything, how would you know that he can bring you out of everything? If you never need a miracle how will you know that He’s a miracle worker?
Joseph looked trouble right in the eye and served God anyhow. The example of his life said it louder than words ever could: “if God brought me to this, there is something for me to do for him, while I’m here.” Thus, Joseph kept on serving God regardless of his situation in life.
As a teenager he wasn’t ready for the mission God had for him. As a young man, he wasn’t prepared to lead a nation. He didn’t have the skills yet. He needed something to hold onto, so he continued to hold on to God’s unchanging hand. God waited until he was ready. And Joseph understood this. All of the troubles in Joseph’s life brought him to Egypt where he became” second only to the Pharaoh. He had to go through some things, to get prepared for the work that God had planned for him, all the time.
More trouble is on the way…but just like James said in v2-3 “consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested your endurance has a chance to grow.“ Allow God to mold you into who He wants you to become. Allow God to use you as an instrument of his will and you’ll come to understand that during the molding process, you’re always in the potter’s hand. He’s with you!
Pottery has to be molded into the shape the potter wants it to take on. Then it’s placed into the furnace where the heat causes it to change from this soft, totally fragile substance to one which is rock-hard, resistant to water, wind and time. In the same way God must shape you. He must put you into the furnace to harden you up. God is shaping us so that as it says in vs 4, “when your endurance is fully developed, you’ll become perfect and complete, needing nothing.
You began this journey afraid and now you’re full of courage. You started out confused and now you run this race sure footed with confidence, knowing that there is a reward waiting at the finish line. The Creator knows what he’s doing with his creation. Hold on to your faith! As written in Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion! “ Remember that the methods the Lord uses to prepare us takes a little time and vary from on individual to another. It takes longer for those of us who are stubborn. Jesus trained men in the bible just like we train our children. Some of us require a spanking and others only a stern look.
Jeremiah once complained to God and said, “how long are you going to make me preach to people who don’t listen to your word?” God responded with a question of His own in Jer. 12:5b “If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against the horses? God was telling Jeremiah that “if you’re freaking out because people won’t listen to you, how ae you going to be able to handle the pressure of where I’m really trying to take you.”
You will need to be deeply rooted in the word of God, so that even during the dry times, you can freely drink from the water of life…the word of God. You must learn to be flexible in storms. When criticism comes, listen. When you’re ‘pushed in any direction, bend rather than fight, lean rather than break. Be willing to adjust and bend and not be broken. Storms in our lives should cause us to bend as well. Troubles ought to bring us to our knees in prayer in worship, honoring God who takes us through our storms.
We may not like storms but one of the primary ways God develops our character is through pain. It’s how we grow spiritually. James 1:3 says, “for you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” James 1:3. We have to learn how to embrace our storms. God is preparing you for something!
Pray when you don’t want to pray. Shout when you don’t feel like it. Worships anywhere at any time and in front of anybody. Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Sometimes we will be called upon to help others even while we’re going through our own pain. God strengthens us during these times and even provides us with His comfort as we comfort others. Stop worrying and having anxiety attacks and nightmares. Start achieving excellence. Be courageous, brave and daring. Grow from being the spineless weakling to a brave soldier in the army of the Lord. It won’t be an easy road but God is preparing you for greatness. Your sorrows, your grief, your pain and your misery. Consider them opportunities for great joy!