“Are You Ready to Feel the Earth Move?” Mark 16:1-8
Are You Ready to Feel the Earth Move?
This morning we will look at three stages of Christian life. One is doing things because we feel like we are supposed to. Then there is living in guilt and not knowing what to do next. The third, there is following a God given calling upon our lives. We have to make a choice where they will stay, of those three choices the one we stay at is either safe and secure or it will scare us to death. It is this decision and commitment to follow Christ wherever he leads to gives excitement and purpose to life.
Jesus I pray for the people within this room. They are at different stages of life, from different parts of the world, from all different walks of life – but there is a common bond between us, and that is you. You go before us, this morning give us boldness to follow You as we never have before.
The Resurrection Causes Us To Expect the Unexpected (vv. 1)
“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.”
In order to buy spices to prepare Jesus’ body for proper burial, the women would have had to have waited until sunset on Friday when the shops reopened after the Passover Feast. It was too late by then to prepare Jesus’ body.
Knowing that the shops were closed, Luke tells us that they chose to follow those who took Jesus’ body to the tomb to see where he was to be buried. John 19:39-40 tells us that Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had already anointed the body, or placed over 75 pounds of spices around his body, and wrapped Jesus’ body in a cloth.
Apparently, Nicodemus’ and Joseph’s burial preparation was not adequate to the women’s standard so that night they prepared the spices, they had purchased. The next day they rested during the day of Sabbath in observance of the law.
It was a hot climate and after two and a half days, a body would have been well on its way toward decomposition. This willingness to deal with the decay shows the women’s devotion to Christ. Their willingness to purchase the expensive spices also shows their love for Him.
So the men (in John 19) and the women coming to him here early in the morning did not expect a resurrection of Jesus. If they had expected Jesus to come back to life, then they all would have been there waiting outside the tomb. Not to mention the male disciples are in no way even interested in going to the tomb until after they heard he had risen.
If the men and the women had expected Jesus to be raised again, why waste the money on spices, and why shed all the tears? No one really expected to see Jesus Christos again. Later on the angel says, “just as He had said (v. 7),” – but they didn’t believe Him. They expected to see the decaying corpse Jesus that they had laid in the tomb. But they did not expect to really see the Jesus who said, “I am the resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).”
What Jesus do you expect to be in your life? The disciples loved Jesus, the women loved Jesus but they did not believe in the resurrected Jesus (that would come later).
There are all kinds of different Jesus’ – There is little baby Jesus. We get him out once a year, set him some where in our homes, he may even bought him at Wal-Mart, he’s life size and plastic. But you know what, little baby Jesus is safe. He’s easy to take out and put away when it’s convenient or the season is over. Little baby Jesus doesn’t ask very much of us, only that we say, “awww how cute.”
There is also Sunday School Jesus – He’s there for me at the building and I can leave him there. He doesn’t follow me around, he is made of felt and I can pick Him up, stick Him on a flannel board, and next week when I come back, He’ll be right there. He had some interesting things to say but it’s not like I am going to take him with me anywhere.
There is also the dead Jesus – This Jesus makes me feel horrible. He went through all the agony of the crucifixion and bore my sins, and then he died. They buried Him, the disciples were sad, his mother was sad. Those close to him went away without hope. Tears were shed. This Jesus makes me feel guilty because of all the bad things I have done.
Is there another Jesus? And if there is another Jesus what do we really expect Him to be like, and how does this other Jesus affect us? Let’s have a look.
The Resurrection Causes Us To Live A Faith in Life (vv. 2-8)
“And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
The women did not expect to be able to get into the grave to prepare his body, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” A better way to read this sentence is, “and they kept on asking who will roll the stone away?” From the time they left their home, to the time they arrived they were asking this question.
“Salome, how are going to move that stone?” “Mary, I don’t know how, but we must go and do this.” They were driven in a respect for the dead, to anoint his body in a fitting way, they were fixated, they had to do this, even though they didn’t know how they would accomplish it.
These women were fixed on taking steps of faith in death. How they were going to do it, they didn’t know – but they took step after step that took them to the tomb. All along the way, they were looking down. They were carrying the weight of the spices, they were carrying the weight of the reality that their beloved teacher and friend has been brutally crucified.
And when they arrived and looked up, “And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.”
These women were about to be challenged to go deeper in their faith. Now was a time to take steps of faith in life. In their minds they could see themselves preparing a body for burial (as hard as that was) but they couldn’t see themselves doing what the Resurrected Jesus was telling them to do! When we encounter the Resurrected Jesus, it changes everything.
They discover that there is an angel there who tells them that “He has risen; he is not here.” And look at their response – (v. 8) “And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
They had the strength to do what they were supposed to do. Women were supposed to take care of this kind of stuff. Are you ok, with doing what you feel a good mom or dad is supposed to do? Are you ok with doing what a good spouse is supposed to do? Go to church, be a nice person, don’t cuss, help out somewhere.
They had the faith to make their way to the tomb – they didn’t know how they would move the stone, but they went anyway. But when the angel told them to be missionaries, when the angel told them to proclaim, “He is Risen.” They are over come with fear and trembling.
In bewilderment they fled. They said nothing – they were afraid. These women who had the strength to prepare the decayed body of their good friend – were blown away with what to do with a resurrected Jesus.
They did not expect to see an angel, to receive instructions, or to be sent as God’s representatives or messengers. They simply did not expect their lives to be any different than they were right then.
They want their friend, healer, teacher, that Jesus back. They want the Jesus they can hug, and have smile at them. They don’t know what to do with the Resurrected Jesus who sends them to be on mission. They don’t want things to change, but God has a bigger plan.
Get this, being a Christian is more than doing what you are supposed to do. You don’t need the Resurrected Jesus to do what the world expects for a good person to do. When we encounter the Resurrected Christ He sends us and calls us to do things that are beyond what our tiny minds can fathom. We must have Him, if we are to accomplish the size of tasks He calls us to.
The women “8Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” When was the last time you encountered Christ and upon understanding the scope of what he desires to do through your life that it left you trembling?
“Lord I can’t do that” bewildered “Lord, how is that even possible?” When was the last time as you stood in His presence that you could say nothing, under the weight of the calling upon your life – “Lord you will do this through my life?”
The Jesus who had been with them, is now the resurrected Christ who would go before them. The angel said, “’He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” He is not here – where is here? He is not where you are at this moment. Right now you are standing in the tomb, under the weight of spices to anoint a body.
Drew, you don’t know how bad of a person I am. If you could see my heart then you would know that there is no way that Jesus could forgive me. He is not here – He has Risen! He has moved on. It is time for you to move on as well. Jesus goes before us, He call us to do great things on His behalf, “just as he tells us.”
The Jesus on the cross does leave us feeling guilty, he died for our sins – but the Resurrected Jesus tells his angels to give a message to the disciples. Remember all the disciples had left Him, and denied Him, and felt absolutely hopeless.
1 Corinthians 15:17, 19 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” The resurrection changes things.
The angel says, “tell his disciples and Peter” – why does Jesus specifically send a message to Peter? Matthew 26:69-75 “Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 70But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 71Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” 73After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” 74Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
Peter swears that he would never leave Jesus, even if it cost him his life – but only a short time later, sure enough he denies Jesus on three different occasions. Peter felt horrible because of his sin, but Jesus was going before this disciple who had fallen and failed.
Because Jesus completed our restoration back to God, and finished what was required for salvation – we who have failed and fallen in Christ can keep on going. We can start over. He still goes before us; He still calls us to follow Him.
He goes before us into eternity, John 14:1-3 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
When the disciples get to Galilee Jesus sends them on a mission; Matthew 28:16-20 “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Just as Jesus sent the women, and the disciples, Jesus also sends us. What if I fail “Jesus is not in the tomb, He is Risen.’ “How will I know what to do?” Jesus goes before us, He will lead the way. What if I die, “Jesus has prepared a place for us.”
We are in three areas of faith, one is doing what you are supposed to do, walking in death. One is to do what we have been sent to do, walking in life. But don’t get stuck in the tomb – Jesus is not there, He has gone on before you. What step of faith do you need to take this morning?
The first step might just be asking Jesus for forgiveness of your sin, and thanking Him for dying on the cross. He did this for us as a gift that each person can receive or deny. Another step might be moving beyond the guilt of your send and asking God to show what He desires to do through your life.
Someone here may already know the answer to that question, but has been holding back and not fully surrendering to what God has told you or called you to do – whatever the commitment is, do it today.
“God’s Expectation For Those Saved” Mark 12:1-12
“Best Christmas Ever” Sermon Series, “Discovering the Joy of God’s Plan For Your Life” Week #3 Luke 1:26-45
Discovering the Joy of God’s Plan For Your Life
When you’re a kid you think that you can do the impossible. My friend Lynn and I had been playing at her home and we came across this shed in her backyard and I had an idea. What is we hauled our bikes to the top of this shed and at break neck rode the bike down the slope? After some discussion Lynn seemed to be ok with it so up we went hauling our bikes to the top of this shed.
The theory was, that there was a layer of pine straw, so if we were not able to stick the landing, the straw would be a padding. We looked at each other, and I said “ladies first.” She climbed on her bike and off she went – things did not go as I had originally thought they would go – she sit the ground like bag of cement. She kind of rolled over, and I helped her back to the house. To this day we have never discussed the fact that I never went down the roof.
Anyway, I took away from this experiment that jumping with a bike from too high is not a good idea. Thank you Lynn for helping me learn that lesson. Eventually, in life we learn that there are some things that we can do, and some things that we can not do – but it is having a relationship with God that He works through us to accomplish the impossible.
God’s Plan For Mary (vv. 26-33)
26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
The sixth month refers to Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy, not the sixth month of the year. God’s plan for Elizabeth, Zachariah, and John the Baptist have already been in place for six months. God had already began the process of birthing the one who would run ahead of Jesus in the desert.
Gabriel was sent to a virgin named Mary who was engaged to a man named Joseph. Their marriage process was slightly different than our own today. A father would seek to find a wife for his son. Once a girl was found the son’s approval was sought and then a dowry was paid to the father of the bride since he was losing a daughter and a valuable helper.
A written agreement was drawn up and the couple were considered to be married; but there was no sexual contact during this “engagement” time. The engagement could not be broken except in instances of adultery. But if this were the case then there would be great shame on the part of the offender.
Time would pass and there would be a religious ceremony and then the couple would consummate the marriage. It was between the engagement and the ceremony that Gabriel appears before Mary.
“Greetings, you who are highly favored!” – Luke is careful to let us know that this favor is not because Mary had any kind of special holiness in her life. There was nothing about her life that would have earned this type of privileged responsibility. God in His grace and mercy just chose her.
God in his grace and mercy has a very special plan for each of our lives as well. God desires to use us to do great things for His name. Mary is an example to us of a person who was called by God to do something wonderful and she did it faithfully. Let’s look to see how Mary sought to carry out her calling.
She Knew God Was With Her
“The Lord is with you” – This is not a wish that God would be with her, but a statement of fact – The Lord is with you. kurios meaning supreme in authority, the controller. The God who was with her was supreme, He was in control, He who has all authority would be with her. Not just in the beginning – but all the way through.
She would need to know that the Lord is with when she was to approach Joseph and tell him that she is pregnant. She would need to know that God is with her when she would have to travel from Nazareth to Jerusalem while she would be “great with child.” She would need to know that God is with her when she has to deliver this child in a filthy stable.
She would need to know the Lord was with her when she learns that Herod desired to kill her child – and as she escaped to Egypt. She would have to know that the Lord was with her when the child would become a man – she would watch as he would lay down his tool belt and leave for a public ministry. She would have to let him go.
She would have to know that the Lord was with her as she watched as he would be rejected, spit upon, cursed, ripped to pieces by a Roman cat-of-nine-tails. Mary would have clung to these precious words “The Lord is with you” as she watched her precious Son hang on an old rugged cross for the sins of the world.
As she heard him cry out, “IT IS FINISHED!” and sink into death. She would have to know that the Lord was with her as she looked into the face of her dead son, beaten beyond recognition, wiping his face and body of blood, wrapping his body in cloth and lying his limp body into a tomb. She would need these words from Gabriel.
Notice that Mary is not afraid at Gabriel’s presence, but it his words that cause her to be afraid. These words should cause us to cry out in joy “The Lord is with you!” These words should also drive us to our knees in prayer because if God has called us to accomplish great things for Him, things that can be accomplished only by “The Lord being with us” – then there will be great heartache and circumstances that require us to call out to Him and to cling to His Word.
Matthew 1:22-23 “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”-which means, “God with us.”
Not only would The Lord be with Mary but “God is with us.” Just as Mary would have clung to the words “The Lord is with you,” We can rejoice that God is with us. The Son of the Most High Stepped out of heaven and would come to be among us – to be with us.
John 1:1, 14 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”
She Knew God Called Her To Do Something Great
Gabriel gives several things that describe the son she was to name Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. Whereas John would be known as a great man, the difference between John and Jesus is that His greatness would be related to His being the Son of God. Jesus was God in the flesh, who came from heaven to dwell with us.
This child that she would give birth to, would be a king; But he would be different than Saul, David, Solomon, or any other earthly king – The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; Not only would he be a king, but His reign will be for all of eternity.
Responses To Christ
Matthew 27:27-31 “Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”
Revelation 19:11-16 “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Here are the two responses that people would have to the Son of God. One of mockery, and falsely following the King; or one of standing in awe and reverent fear of the Son of God.
The shepherds ran and told their town about what they had seen and heard, they later returned to worship and praise the Christ child. The Magi from the west came over long distances and brought gifts fit for a king. This evening as we re-discover Christmas, what is your response to Christ; a mocking bow or reverential following?
God’s Plan For Mary Was Impossible – for her (vv. 34-38)
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Where Zechariah in the previous verses had wanted more proof from Gabriel that his message was going to come true, Mary asks about how this would come about (since she was a virgin.)
She is seeking to know more about God’s plan because she did not understand. The only explanation she gets is “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” God will make it so. There are several things in the Bible that we can not fully understand or explain.
We do not know how God created the world – only that he did. We have, for example, God the Father sending and angel, The Holy Spirit directing the pregnancy, and the Son Jesus being brought into the world – the Trinity is something difficult to grasp but none the less true.
This Jesus would be fully God and fully man at the same time. How do these things happen? God. Not a blind faith, but a faith upon the evidence revealed to us and taking Him at His Word. “For nothing is impossible with God.”
She recognizes that she is a servant of the Lord, and He has the right to do with her anything He desires. But she is a servant of one where nothing is impossible. A servant follows her master.
You may be here tonight, and your life is not where you thought it would end up, give it to God “For nothing is impossible with God.” No matter how damaged the marriage, no matter how wayward the child, no matter how little in the checking account, “For nothing is impossible with God.” no matter how strong the urge, no matter whether you see how it will work out or not “For nothing is impossible with God”
If God can make a virgin girl become pregnant, if He came shape time and space to orchestrate a star for shepherds and Magi to see and move it at will, if God can fulfill hundreds of prophecy regarding Jesus’ birth and life, if he can give Zechariah and Elizabeth a child in their old age, than he can surely handle anything you desire to lay at his feet.
There will be a time in your life when God will desire to use you to be a part of something amazing, beyond anything you ever could have imagined – and He may just say, “follow me into the impossible.” Our response must be like Mary’s; “Lord, I don’t know how you are going to do this, but here I am. . . “May it be to me as you have said.” God is the God of the impossible.
Mary Raced To See Elizabeth (vv. 39-45)
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
Immediately after discovering God’s plan for her life, she got ready and went to celebrate with Elizabeth and her miraculous pregnancy. The angel had told Mary that God had allowed Elizabeth to have a child. So she goes to see it for herself. One impossibility coming together with another impossibility.
How is it that we have been so blessed by God in so many ways? Hebrews 10:25 “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” God is always working impossibilities in the lives of those who say, “May it be to me as you have said.” God desires that we meet together to share these things and encourage each other.
Elizabeth says, “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Whereas before they would have met and talked about the mundane things of life, even seeing their relationship as casual.
But now she feels honored, “favored” that Mary would come by. Oh, how their conversations would change – what would the two ladies who had experienced the impossible say to each other? Let us meet and discuss the things of God regularly.
The fact that God would gives us an opportunity to receive Christ and how God made the impossible possible is the wonder of Christmas. In order for God to work in your life; realize that He is with you. He has directed you here tonight – because for His love and desire to do great things through you.
Secondly, realize that it is impossible for you to go to heaven or do great things – without God’s help. That is why Jesus was born into the world, to save us from our sins. What is impossible for us, is possible for an almighty God.
If you would like to ask Christ to come into your life and forgive you of your sins, you can say a prayer something like this: “Dear Jesus I know that I am a sinner and need Your forgiveness. I believe that you died for my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I now invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as Lord and Savior. Amen.”
Seeking Wisdom in Difficult Days A Study of James The Purpose of Pain James 1:1-12
Seeking Wisdom in Difficult Days
A Study of James
The Purpose of Pain
- Helping a butterfly out of its’ chrysalis. It’s all about the struggle.
A Servant Leader (v. 1)
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.
James was well known by the various churches, he is an elder, and an apostle (Galatians 1:19), the half-brother of Jesus, but he doesn’t refer to himself in those terms – instead, he chooses to call himself, “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He is one who has authority, yet refers to himself as a servant (servant-leader).
He is writing the scattered church described as “the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:” (diaspora) who are experiencing persecution. In the original Greek “Dispersion” means “scattered.” James is using metaphorical language to describe the scattered church (twelve tribes meaning all of the church) who are living in places other than their home (with Christ in heaven).
Acts 11:19 gives us some background as to when and the church in Palestine was scattered, “Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews.” Stephen was a Christian believer that was stoned and sparked persecution in the early church, where they scattered as far as “Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch,” Saul, who we later know as Paul the apostle, was determined to destroy the Christian church and was going to house to house forcibly taking men and women to prison.
Finding Joy in a Sea of Sorrow (vv. 2-4)
2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
“meet trails” the word used here for meet means to “fall into” and trials can mean inward affliction, as in a temptation to sin in a particular way, or an outward affliction such as being persecuted. Here it seems to indicate, “afflictions, troubles, or difficulties.” Jesus in his parable in Luke 10:30 in discussing the Good Samaritan said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, . . .” When man looks up, he finds himself surrounded by robbers.
In all of these trials that the Christian may find himself in, we are to meet these events head on with joy – We don’t wait until everything is over, the dust settles, and look back, and then choose joy – as we wade through the difficulty, like James, consider ourselves servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we sit down and consider our time in experiencing these trials we are to “count it all joy” When a person has joy, they have an emotional response to having a long-term view of life. Happiness is a short-term view; it is a response to what is immediately in front of you and what you are experiencing in the moment.
James knows that to be joyful in trials is absurd. So he addresses this by helping us to see the benefits of the trials. We are joyful regarding our salvation (Psalm 51:12) because it is an eternal perspective. We lose hope when we move our gaze from the long view to what is immediately in front of us.
We are to count it joy because there is an end result that is happening in our lives. These trials are producing something within us that is strengthening our faith. Trails do not show whether we have faith or not, they strengthen what is already there.
The visual imagery we are to see is one of metal being heated up and the dross and waste rises to the top where it is siphoned off. The metal is then made stronger and purer. Your pain and heartache will not be wasted; God is doing a work in your life.
“you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” – steadfastness is defined as “patient endurance,” and it is these tests that lead to the ability to endure.
The apostle Paul says some similar in Romans 5:3-5, “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Some years ago, I decided that I wanted to run a marathon, and having ran several half-marathons I set out on a training schedule. Usually, you run increasing miles over several months to where you have a “long run” – and for me, the long runs were on Friday morning, where I would run until lunch time. If you missed a week of training, the miles would jump up instead of by two to four mile differences. Your body would go into shock if you set out to run 26.2 miles with no training, no preparation – but if you slowly add mile after mile, week after week your body adjusts – you build endurance.
“let steadfastness have its full effect” – The pain and suffering will happen, that’s a part of life. But the process that God desires to work in our lives, the “steadfastness” has to be allowed in the life of the believer. We have to let the patient endurance point us toward spiritual growth – otherwise it is for nothing that we went through the trial.
Patient endurance or steadfastness is not the end goal, it is the means to get there. The ultimate goal that God is working in our lives is so, “that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” To be perfect in this circumstance is to be mature – a perfect plant is one fully mature because it can accomplish what it is supposed to accomplish.
To be complete is to be adequate, or to be fully “what God requires and approves.” “to have all your parts, whole, not unsound anywhere” The word is used of stones untouched by a tool, of an animal without blemish.
God’s favor upon our lives is not that we avoid distress, but God’s working in us that we are “lacking in nothing.” It is so encouraging to be around mature Christians – they are joyful and they trained to do the work of the church. Very few things rattle them; they have seen it before and endured through it.
The trials and the resulting consequences in the life of the believer are directly linked to the character of God, and God is the only one deserving of such trust. The believer trusts that the pain and suffering have a purpose and that God has the believer’s best interest in mind.
If we don’t believe in God then life has no meaning and the pain is just pain. If we believe in God but have a wrong understanding of His character, then He is seen as cruel for allowing it to happen, or weak because He did not keep it from happening. But James shows us that God is good and has an eternal view in mind of our pain and suffering.
Jesus says in Matthew 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” The man would feel the pain of selling all that he has, but he is joyful in his loss because of what he will gain by purchasing the field (the treasure). When we take a long-term view of suffering, we should choose joy because of what we gain in the end.
“Paul and Silas sing in the Philippian prison because the bars could not prevent their serving Christ’s cause. In that service they found the source of their happiness, so their trials only proved their faith and the steadfastness of their devotion.”
Two Stumbling Blocks to Our Spiritual Growth
1) A Lack of Wisdom (vv. 5-8)
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Tennyson says, “knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.” For James in his discussion of wisdom, he is talking about the right use of one’s opportunities in holy living. We need wisdom in order to properly view the trials that we encounter. If we don’t have this wisdom, then we can “ask God, who gives generously.”
Paul reminds the church in Corinth that the wisdom of God appears foolish to the world, just as the wisdom of the world appears foolish in God’s sight.
God doesn’t answer all of our prayers the way we desire, especially as they may relate to our experiencing less pain in trials, but He is always willing to “say yes” for our request for wisdom. With wisdom he doesn’t talk about the cost, or your lack of it – He gives it generously and doesn’t bring up the past. But, there is a requirement – we are to ask “ask in faith, with no doubting.”
A father once came to Jesus and asked for help for his son in Mark 9:21-24 “And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” We ask God for wisdom, we pray to Him, and believe that He will help us and answer our prayer – but if we don’t really believe then why are we asking?
When we pray there are two wills that are coming together, our will and God’s will. When you seek God’s will in prayer, while still wanting to hold on to your own – this is being double-minded. “Lead me oh God, except in the direction that I do not wish to go.”
“To doubt is to have a divided mind that draws him two ways, like the poor donkey that starved because he could not choose between two stacks of hay.” The end result of doubt is inaction. The testing of faith leads to perseverance, but doubt leads to unstableness. When James is talking about double-mindedness he means trusting in God and trusting in the world. You can’t do both.
“the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” This person sways back and forth in life. Whenever a hard time comes they are moved, because they don’t trust God. They have no anchor of hope – holding them in one place.
Paul in writing to the church in Ephesus says that the spiritual leadership’s job was to equip the church “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14) but here instead of bad doctrine causing the tumult it is trying to live in two worlds at the same time.
The promises of the gospel all assume a commitment of the individual to, and trust in, God – The foundational issue is trust. Where does your trust lie? If you trust in yourself to take on the world, then don’t pray to God and seek His help. But if you trust in Him for salvation, and life in general, then continue to trust that He will answer your prayers in the way that is best for you.
2) Money (vv. 9-11)
9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
Another area that may trip up a person with regard to their spiritual growth is money. It is easy to have a worldy view of wealth in that riches brings happiness. “James has a different ideal of happiness because he holds a different theory of the meaning and purpose of life. The purpose of life cannot be accomplished by the attainment of ease or luxurious comfort, but only in the achievement of Christlike character.”
Just like earlier during trials we are to have a long view, and how joy has a long view, our station in life (rich or poor) is a short-term thing (in comparison to eternity). “like a flower of the grass he will pass away”
No matter how much wealth a person may have, eventually he will face eternity, and you can’t take it with you, whether that be a luxury yacht, or a brown paper lunch. Job said 1:21, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.” So our life’s truly only have significance when it is concentrated on the eternal. Power and wealth are a means to an end – not the end in and of themselves. To be better off is not to be better.
In light of this long view of life and eternity, James says, “Let the lowly brother,” he is encouraging us to remember that we are all brothers in Christ, and that we will spend eternity together. In Christ we stand at the foot of the cross on level ground.
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
The crown mentioned here was a wreath awarded to the winner in athletic games in recognition of an achievement built upon rigorous discipline. James describes to us the Christian life as being active and strenuous and as we grow in endurance and character there is a promised reward from God for the trials.
We endure the trials, and endure the pain because we love the one who loved us first, and gave His only Son for our salvation.
 See John 7:35; 1 Peter 1:1.
 George M. Sulac, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, James (Downers Grove, Illinois; Intervarsity, Press, 1993) 31.
 Satan referred to as a pirate; Matt. 4:4; 1 Cor. 7:5; 10:13; 1 Thess. 3:5; 1 Tim. 6:9 (Nystrom, 47).
 Clifton Allen, Gen. Ed., Broadman Bible Commentary, Volume 12 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1972) 107.
 A. T. Robertson, Studies in the Epistle of James (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1959) 34.
 David Nystrom, The NIV Application Commentary, James (Grand Rapids Michigan; Zondervan Publishing House, 1997) 48.
 “For gold is tried in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity.” (Sirach 2:5, apocryphal book). Robertson, 37.
 Moo, 60.
 George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, R-Z (Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1962) 440.
 Peter H. Davids, New International Biblical Commentary, James (Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson Publishing, 1989) 28.
 Allen, 108.
 Robertson, 40. It is also used of a complete or unbroken household.
 Nystron, 49.
 See sermon on King of God and its’ meaning – https://drewboswell.com/424413-2/
 Buttrick, 22.
 See 1 Cor. 1:18-21.
 Robertson, 43.
 Sic transit gloria mundi is a Latin phrase that means “Thus passes the glory of the world.” It has been interpreted as “Worldly things are fleeting.” It is possibly an adaptation of a phrase in Thomas à Kempis’s 1418 work The Imitation of Christ: “O quam cito transit gloria mundi”.
 George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 12 (Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1957) 22.
 Buttrick, 26.