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CALLED TO TRIAL AND PERFECTION
BY
Andy Bustanoby
(C) 2007-2009



                    Called To Trial and Perfection
                          (James 1:1-18)

For some reason, unbelievers, and even many believers, wonder why Christians
hurt.  Perhaps they've been watching these television preachers who 
promote an unbiblical idea.  Without naming names, just let me say that
I've seen several well-known TV preachers push the idea that if you
become a Christian you can expect your material prosperity to soar and
have all kinds of good things happen like getting a good job and having
your relations with other people blossom like springtime.

I come to you with some sobering news.  That's not what the Bible
teaches.

In James 1:1-18 we are given a reality check.  As Christians, we should
expect trials.  I use the word "expect" deliberately.  I'm not saying we
may have trials.  I'm saying that we shall be tried.  My Christian
friend, I'm talking to you about the pain that is an essential part of
the Christian life.

Some of you may be thinking, What's with this guy Bustanoby.  Is he some
kind of pain freak?  Well, stay with me, and I think you'll understand.

                         Why Christians Are Tried

Let's start in the Book of James.

	James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the 
twelve tribes scattered among the nations.  Consider it pure joy, my
brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that
the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must
finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking
anything (Jas. 1:1-4).

James, which is probably the oldest book in the New Testament, is
written to Jewish-Christians who are scattered throughout the Roman
Empire.  Disobedience to God sent Israel and Judah into captivity. 
Though some were living in Judea, believing Jews were scattered
throughout the whole empire.

James is writing to comfort these new Christians who still are meeting
in synagogues, much like the synagogue in Berea that gladly accepted the
gospel.  These believers were going through trials because of their
faith.  So James opens his letter with his teaching on trial.

Let's consider his words in verses 2-4 where he tells us why Christians
are tried.

	Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of
many kinds ... (Jas. 1:2a NIV).

These people are suffering trial, and James says to consider it all or
pure joy ...."  The Greek grammar emphasizes the all in "all joy."  "All
joy deem it [your trials] ...."  It gives the word "joy" a generic
force--no kind of joy is left out.

You may have a problem accepting this.  But let me ask you, What part of
"all joy" don't you understand?

You may say, Well, I don't feel good when I hurt.

James is not saying, Feel good when you hurt from trial.  He says, Count
it all joy.  He's not talking about our emotions here.  He's talking
about an intellectual response.  The word in the Greek New Testament is
_hegeomai.  It means, "think, consider, regard, esteem it so."  Count it
a fact by faith that it's true, just as we count it a fact by faith that
we have been crucified with Christ and are dead to sin.  We count it a
fact that we are in joyful circumstances when we are tried.

How can James say this?  He says:

... because you know that the testing of your faith develops
perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be
mature and complete, not lacking anything (Jas. 1:3-4). *

Let's consider this, word by word.  The testing of our faith works
perseverance.

Be careful when you pray for God to strengthen your faith.  Have you
ever done weight lifting to strengthen your body?  I have in mind the
weight bench where you lie on your back with the barbell weight on the
rack over your head within reach.

You put two hands on the barbell, lift it off the rack, and bring it to
chest level.  Then you extend the weight straight up above your chest
and then return it to chest level.  This is called a repetition.

How does this build muscle?  Persevering under the weight causes the
muscles to respond by developing more strength to meet the demand.  But
you must repeatedly place yourself under that weight to have success.

This is what perseverance is.  The King James Version uses the word
"patience."  The NIV translates it "endurance."  The Greek word,
_hupomeno, means "endurance."  The word literally means, "to remain
under."  You have to remain under the weight for the weight to cause the
muscles to gain the strength to bear it.

One thing I did not mention about weight lifting on the bench is that we
have a "spotter" standing at our head behind us.  The spotter is for our
safety to grab the weight if we can't handle it.

This is exactly what trial is about.  Trial is the weight.  Our bearing
the weight works endurance--the ability to bear more and more weight for
longer and longer periods.  If it happens that we can't handle it, God,
our spotter will grab it.  "No trial has taken you but such as is common
to man.  But God is faithful who will not permit you to be tried above
what you are able, but will with the trial give you a way of escape that
you may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13 KJV).

Do you understand what the weight of trial does?  It makes us "mature
and complete."  This has to do with spiritual maturity.  As weight
builds muscle in the weight lifter, trials builds spiritual muscle in
the believer, making him stronger in the faith, mature.

You see, God's purpose for your life is not just to save you.  His
purpose is to make you like Christ.  When He saved us, He gave us a
position of perfection in Christ.  We are not perfect in our behavior,
but we are perfect in our position.  When by faith we rest in what we
have in Christ, it becomes a reality in our behavior.  But it is a day
by day faith.  The maturity in our position in Christ gradually becomes
maturity in our behavior.  Maturity in position becomes maturity in
possession.

The second word James uses is "complete."  God uses trial to make us
mature and complete.  The word "complete" means "whole, not missing
anything."  He's primarily talking about our spiritual life, though in
my last message I will be speaking on "Called To Weakness" where I'll be
talking about physical problems.

I have to tell you this story about my good friend Grant Metcalf who has
been a wonderful inspiration to me.  He has been publishing my blogs and
essays on the Bartimaeus website.

Though blind, he has been one of the best proof-readers I've ever had. 
I mentioned this to him once and told him that I read my writings over
at least ten times and still miss typographical errors that he picks up. 
He replied, something like this:

     Well, I don't have your handicap, Andy.

     What's my handicap? I asked.

     That you can see, he replied.

He's right.  Sighted people, who speed read, tend to look at the first
and last letters of a word and miss any errors in between.  When you
listen to what has been written, the errors are very obvious!

What I am saying is that whether you are blind or sighted, God, by His
grace, deals with the whole man, even our infirmities.  He keeps us from
behaving like the Old Testament Job and asking, "God, what do you think
you're doing?"  

You may say to me, Well, you're a sighted person.  You don't know what
it's like to be blind.  You're right.  You  probably have had more trial
than I have, and it's for a lifetime.

And yet ..., and yet ....  James says, "All joy ...."  "Count it all
joy."  It is the mental process of faith where we consider that God
knows what He's doing.

                         God's Wisdom In Trial

This brings me to my second point--God's wisdom in trial.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to
all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  But when he
asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a
wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not
think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man,
unstable in all he does (Jas. 1:5-8).

I remind you that Proverbs says that "the fear of the Lord is the
beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."  Fear
doesn't mean that we are to be afraid of God.  It means reverence and
submissive recognition.  This was Job's problem.  He was really saying,
"God, what do you think you're doing?"  Or, as Paul says, "Shall the
clay say to the potter, why have you made me like this?"

It is we who must understand two things about what James is saying.

First, when he says, "If any of you lacks wisdom ..." he means, "If you
lack wisdom, and you do lack wisdom ...."

You may ask where I get this idea.  The Greek grammar gives us a first
class condition here.  "If you lack wisdom, and you do ...."  It also
could be translated, "Since you lack wisdom, ask of God ...."

The second thing I want to say about this is that this is not a
suggestion or option.  Again, the Greek grammar is all important.  It
uses an imperative verb.  "If you lack wisdom, and you do, I command you
to ask of God.

One of our problems with problem solving is that we are used to solving
our little problems.  So we tend to handle all our problems with our own
wisdom.  I think that God sometimes gives us problems so big, we can't
begin to solve them!  We are driven to Him for a solution!  Sometimes we
try to solve our own problem and make such a mess of it, we have a
bigger problem, and desperately need God's wisdom.

Have you ever tried to do something and someone says, Let me help, but
they actually get in the way?  Children are like this--little helpers
who get in the way.  My advice is to get out of God's way.

                         Man's Failure In Trial

This brings me to my third point--man's failure in trial.

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high
position.  But the one who is rich should take pride in his low
position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.  For the sun
rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and
its beauty is destroyed.  In the same way, the rich man will fade away
even while he goes about his business (James 1:9-12).

The first problem James speaks of is money problems.  When I first read
this, I wondered what  it has to do with trial.

What we have here are two extremes with money problems--not enough or too
much.

The financially poor Christian, who may be looked at with contempt by
society because he is poor, should take pride in his high position. 
What is this "high position?"  He is in Christ in the heavenlies.  You
can't get any higher than that!

The rich Christian, who may be looked upon with admiration by the world
because he is rich, is really in a low position compared with what he
has in Christ.  All his riches, like the flower, will all fade
away--even while business is going great.  He should take pride in what
the world considers his "low position" in Christ.

Money, whether not enough or too much, can be a trial.  It can divert
our attention from what is really important--our position in Christ.

The second problem James speaks of is temptation.

When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me."  For God cannot
be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted
when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.  Then,
after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is
full-grown, gives birth to death (Jas. 1:13-15).

The Greek word for trial and temptation both come from the same root,
_peria, and because of that they are sometimes confused.  Who is doing
the testing is what makes the difference between temptation and trial.
Satan tests, or tempts, to reveal the evil in us.  God tests, or tries
us, to strengthen our faith and grow it to maturity.

This difference is brought out in James' wonderful doxology.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father
of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  He
chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a
kind of firstfruits of all he created (Jas. 1:16-18).

God's trial is a good and perfect gift.  Satan's trial is evil that may
look attractive at first, but is designed to encourage the sin
nature--to draw us away by our own lust and entice us.

But there is more.  What does James mean when he says we are a kind of
firstfruit?  The context tells us.

In the context he speaks of the new birth.  We are born again.

But what is a firstfruit?  The first ripened fruit in an orchard belongs
to God.  But the emphasis here is something else.  There is other fruit
on the tree not yet ripened to maturity.  The firstfruit is a promise of
a wonderful harvest of other ripened fruit to follow.

Our growth to maturity, our being ripened through trial, is an
encouragement to immature Christians of what's ahead if they will only
hang in there--no pun intended.  You who are new, immature Christians,
hang in there when the trials come.  If you believe what James says, you
will make it to maturity.

I've been a Christian for fifty-nine years, and I can tell you that
trials hurt.  But I promise you, that though they hurt, I count it all
joy.

This doxology carries us back to verse 2--all joy, count it all joy when
you fall into various kinds of trials.  Dear friends, one day you too
will ripen to maturity and you also will be a testimony to the immature. 
Just hang in there.

                         FOOTNOTEe

   * You will note that there is an asterisk after the quote of James 
   1:3-4.  The NIV uses the word "perseverance," telling us that the trial 
   of faith works perseverance in building that faith.  The KJV uses the 
   word "patience" telling us that the trial of faith works patience.

   What is the "faith" that is given perseverance or patience?  Look at 
   Hebrews 11:1--"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and 
   certain of what we do not see."  I like the KJV better--"faith is the
   substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

   James is talking about our faith in Godís promises being strengthened.  
   When we are tried we go back to Godís promises in the Bible, and the 
   power of God gives our faith real, solid susbstance.  The power of God 
   gives our faith real, solid evidence.  

   The point is that trial doesnít just give us endurance or patience.
   Trial gives substance and solid evidence to the hope of our faith.
   This is not just hope that we think about.  It is hope that we both 
   think and feel.  It has to do with PERCEPTION of reality.

   I like the dictionary definition of perception:  "the act or 
   faculty of apprehending by means of the senses or the mind; cognition; 
   awareness."

   For the believer, faith in Godís promises are not a doubtful hope but 
   "BEING SURE and CERTAIN of the things hoped for."

                                   * * *

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