Sunday Sermon – Meeting Our Maker pt. 5 – Growing in Christ Series

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No one likes to suffer. No one likes to experience difficulty. Yet sooner or later, we all do. Trouble is a part of life and often it is a part of God’s plan for our life. Today we will consider how God has a special crown awaiting believers who learn how to endure suffering in such a way that it brings honor to God. Notice with me from the book of James –

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Of the five heavenly crowns mentioned of in scripture, it seems to me that three have to do what God does ‘in’ us and only two to what God does ‘through’ us. These five crowns are actually a reflection of our fulfillment of God’s two greatest commandments:

  • To love God with all our heart and
  • To love our neighbor as ourselves.

These crowns reflect what God does ‘in’ us and our relationship with Him, and then what God does ‘through’ us in our relationship with others.

Last week we considered what the Bible calls the Incorruptible Crown, or as I called it – the Crown That Never Fades Away. The Incorruptible Crown will be awarded to believers who find victory over their flesh. It is for the Christian who learns how to say no to self so that they might say yes to God. Today we will consider what James calls the Crown of Life. Note with me –

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Whereas the Incorruptible Crown had to do with our victory over the flesh; the Crown of Life has to do with victory of faith. In a way we might say it is for the believer who finds victory over the temptation to be ‘faithless.’ It is for the Christian who learns to trust God, even during difficult times.

I.   Trials and Our Life

James 1:1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings. 2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

A. ‘Divers temptations’

First of all we see that James refers to ‘divers temptations.’ What are divers temptations?

1. Meaning of the word – ‘Temptation’

a) An Enticement to Do Evil

Obviously there is temptation in the sense that it is a solicitation to sin. We know that Satan is called the great tempter. He loves to try to entice us to do evil. That is one part of the definition of temptation; but there is a second part to the understanding what this word means.

b)  An Examination of Our Faith

The word temptation can also refer to an examination. For instance –

2 Corinthians 13:5  Examine  yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

The word ‘examine’ is the same Greek word that is translated in other places as temptation. Therefore we see that a temptation can be a solicitation to sin or an examination to verify authenticity. That may seem a bit strange at first, but actually these two things often go hand in hand. What is a temptation to sin for some can also be a test to verify the authenticity of others. What determines the difference?

2. What Determines if it is a Temptation or a Test?

Two things help to determine whether it is an enticement or an examination:

a) The Motive Behind It

b) Our Reaction to It

Consider the temptation of Christ. Satan tempted Jesus with the motive of trying to cause Jesus to sin. Yet the Bible also says that Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness in order to be tempted by the devil. Was the Spirit’s motive also to try to tempt Jesus to sin? Of course not. What then was the Spirit’s motive? Whereas Satan’s motive was to entice Jesus to sin, the Spirit’s motive was to verify that Jesus would not. The same temptations that Satan used to try to tempt Jesus to sin were actually tests or examinations that proved that Jesus wouldn’t. The test of the temptations revealed the sinlessness of Christ’s character. Therefore we can see that both motive and reaction were involved in determining whether it was an enticement or an examination.

B. ‘Divers’  (various kinds of trials / troubles)

James refers to ‘divers’ temptations. The word ‘divers’ means various. Peter uses the same word to refer to ‘manifold’ temptations. What they are saying is that trials and temptations can come upon us in a variety of ways. For instance:

1. Trials of the Natural Life   

Job said – Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. (Job 14:1) Sickness, sorrow, death, and disease are common to all of humanity. They are a part of the curse brought upon the earth with the sin of Adam and Eve.

2. Trials of the Christian Life 

The Christians that James was writing to, no doubt experienced many of the same difficulties you and I face today. But they were also facing the trial of persecution. They were being severely attacked for their faith in Christ. Even as I write this, my mind goes to the man called Job. Job, as you will remember, suffered great physical and emotional pain. He lost his health, his wealth and his children. His trial was a trial of physical and emotional suffering. Yet, what was the real reason behind all of Job’s suffering? Was it not an attack of Satan? Satan told God that if He allowed Job to be attacked physically, Job would fail spiritually. Satan said that Job would curse God to His face. Job’s suffering was a test to determine the authenticity of his faith. Satan wanted to entice Job to sin and God wanted to prove the genuineness of his faith.

II. Trails and the Will of God 

A. ‘Count it all joy’

James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations…

How can anyone be joyful about suffering? Does God expect us to enjoy our sorrows?

We should note that James is not saying – “Enjoy suffering.” No one in their right mind enjoys suffering. Even our Lord prayed, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” What then is James saying? The word ‘count’ means to consider. “Consider suffering in a joyous way. Be joyful, not because you are suffering, but because you know that God can use this time of sorrow in a wondrous way. How so?

B. God has reasons for our suffering

1. God allows suffering to reveal our faith

a)  Job

Whenever trouble comes into our lives, the first temptation is to turn from God. That’s what Satan said that Job would do. ‘Touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.’ If you have ever read the book of Job, you that Job didn’t curse God. There were times when Job became very low, yet Job’s faith was real and even at one of his lowest moments he said-

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. (Job 13:15)

b)  Simon Peter

Peter refers to our faith being tested like gold in a furnace. God allowed His servant Job to be tested in order to reveal the genuineness of his faith. Though at times Job became very discouraged, Job never cursed God. God allowed Peter to be tested in order to reveal the genuineness of his faith. Peter denied the Lord, but immediately afterwards he went out and wept bitterly. There was great sorrow in Peter’s heart over what he had done. His denial was sin, yet his sorrow revealed what was really in his heart. The question is not so much – ‘Will I ever sin?’, but – ‘What will I do after I have sinned? Will I callously keep sinning, or will I be sorrowful and turn back to God?’

2. God allows suffering to refine our faith

Job said – “when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10) Job was a great man of God; yet if you have ever read the book of Job you know that Job’s trials made a good man even better. Even Job himself said – “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” (Job 42:5)

Job said, “Before I knew about God. Now I know God.” That’s what trials can do for us. James tells us –

James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
 
The word ‘worketh’ means produces. Trials, if handled in the proper way, can produce patience or perhaps a better translation would be ‘endurance.’ Trials can produce spiritual endurance. One of the signs of spiritual maturity is spiritual endurance. Rather than throwing a fit and getting angry at God, the mature believer continues to trust in the goodness of God, even though at the moment he or she doesn’t understand. Several years ago, Gospel songwriter, Babbi Mason wrote a song entitled – ‘Trust His Heart.” In her song she said –

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When you don’t see His plan
When you can’t trace His hand
Trust His heart

To be able to trust the heart of God, even when you don’t understand, is a mark of spiritual maturity.

3. God allows suffering to reward our faith

James tells us that there is a victor’s crown awaiting the believer who learns how to patiently endure the trials of life.

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

III. Trails and the Reward of God 

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

The bad news is – every Christian will suffer in some sort of way. Being a child of God does not immune us to difficulty. The good news is – God wants to reward those who learn how to patiently endure their difficulty. James tells us that there is a special crown awaiting such believers. This crown is available to every believer, yet not every believer will one day receive it; only those who pass the test.

Note again, James says – ‘when he is tried.’ The word ‘tried’ means not only to be tested, but also to be approved. It is a stamp of approval placed upon the individual who has passed the test. They were tried and they endured and therefore they are rewarded. James says that they will receive a reward. “…for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life…” The crown here is again the ‘stephanos’ that we studied about last week. It’s the victor’s crown. There are being rewarded for their victory over the temptation to become faithless during a time of difficulty.

How can we become the kind of believer that can patiently endure the troubles of life and therefore win such a crown?

A. We Must Know

James 1:2  My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3    Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

1. We must know that God has a reason for our difficulty

2. We must know that God has a reward

James 1:12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Several of you have thanked me for these messages about being accountable to God. They have stirred you to action. To be honest, they have stirred me as well. On the one hand they have humbled me and caused me to question whether or not I have done anything worthy of reward. At the same time they have motivated me to not be so lazy but to give God my best.

B. We Must Grow

The growing I am referring to here is not so much a growth in knowledge, but rather a growth in application. I am referring to our spiritual development.

Anyone who will receive any reward in heaven will do so because God developed in them a mature spiritual walk. God is always working in the life of every believer, seeking to develop us in our spiritual walk. God is constantly working to make us more spiritually mature. Yet unfortunately, not every believer becomes spiritually mature. Many believers go through life as spiritual children. What does it take for us to grow up spiritually?

1. Grow by surrendering to God

James 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Show me someone who won’t surrender to God and I’ll show you someone who hasn’t matured much in their faith. In the kingdom of God, the greater the surrender, the greater the maturity.

James 1:9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10      But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. 11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth , and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.

2. Grow by seeking God

James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

a) Seeking Wrongly

James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

James encourages us to pray for wisdom when we are going through a trial. Why wisdom? Why not deliverance or healing? Warren Wiersbe writes in his commentary – “we need wisdom so we will not waste the opportunities God is giving us to mature.”—[Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament] Wiersbe goes on to write – “Wisdom helps us understand how to use these circumstances for our good and God’s glory.”

James tells us that God will gladly give us His wisdom, yet we must be willing to receive it. God’s wisdom is not like a Multiple-choice quiz or a True / False test. God does not give us His wisdom so that we can choose whether or not to receive it. God gives us His wisdom so that we can do His will and bring Him glory.

b) Seeking Rightly

(1) Scripture 

The first place to start whenever you are seeking God’s wisdom is the Word of God. God has given us His Word to be a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our pathway. God’s Word is especially important whenever we are going through a time of difficulty. During His battle with Satan, Jesus said that ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.’ (Mt 4:4) Jesus said that the daily study of God’s Word is not optional. We must have God’s Word in order to live.

(2) Prayer

Prayer is also vital to our ability to remain faithful during difficult times. Paul tells us that we should be anxious about nothing, but pray to God about everything. (Php 4:6) Peter tells us that we should continuously cast all of our care upon God. (1 Peter  5:7) Our Lord said that men ought always to pray and not to faint. (Luke 18:1)

(3) Edification of Fellow Believers

A third important ingredient in our spiritual stability is often over looked. One of the primary reasons for the body of Christ is mutual support and strength. We read from 1 Thessalonians –

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.

The word ‘edify’ means to build up. As fellow believers we should always be seeking to build each other up in our faith. We should be saying to each other things that will inspire faith and courage. I know that something as simple as hearing a fellow believer say – ‘We should trust God’ has a powerful affect upon me. It fills me with hope and courage.

Conclusion

It was during the 1968 Summer Olympics that a marathon runner named Akhwari did something amazing. During the race, his body began to cramp due to the high altitude of the city. He had not trained at such an altitude back in his country and during the race as several runners were jockeying for position, he fell due to being hit by other runners. The fall wounded his knee badly and dislocated his shoulder.

The rest of the runners kept running, thinking that someone else would help him. But no one did and rather quitting, Akhwari continued to run. Nearly an hour after the marathon was finished, Akhwari finally entered the stadium. Almost everyone had left and no one could believe that a man in such a terrible condition would still be running. When asked why he continued running, he said simply, “My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish.”

Anyone can start a race, but how many will finish? How many Christians will still be running at the end of the race? How many will become discouraged or complacent along the way and pull out? How many will cross the finish line and know that they have given Christ their all?

Weary Christian, our Lord did not call us to start the race. He called us to finish.

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