Saturday, September 21, 2013
Unstoppable message series #4
When life tumbles in, what then?
Francis J. Crosby was born quite normal. But at age two she was taken to a country doctor due to an eye infection. He mistakenly put a hot mustard poultice on her eyes leaving her blind for life. Her response to her blindness was remarkable. She is remembered as the writer of hymns like, “Rescue the Perishing”, “Pass me not Oh Gentle Savior”, “Blessed Assurance” and many, many others. She became the first woman to speak before a joint session of congress and worked tirelessly to establish schools for the blind. At age 8 she had discovered a little jewel she called contentment, which she carried with her throughout life. She wrote a poem about it.
“Oh what a happy child am I, although I cannot see;
I am resolved that in this world contented I will be.
How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t;
To weep and sigh because I’m blind I can not and I won’t.”
Problems are like bananas, they come in bunches. James opens his letter by talking about problems and how we are to handle them.
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 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. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 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. 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".
Phillips translates verse 2 like this...
“When all kinds of trials crowd into your lives don’t resent them as intruders but welcome them as friends.” (James 1:2 Phillips)
Welcome them as friends? You’ve got to be kidding. How in the world could we do that? James gives us five reasons for welcoming problems as friends.
1. We can grow in Christ like character (1:3-4)
“Trials of various kinds” - Peirasmos is a test that is directed towards an end, and the end is that he who is tested should emerge stronger and purer from the testing. God tested Abraham. Testing is not to tear you down but to build you up. Trials are not meant to weaken your faith but to strengthen it. The Christian is like an athlete. The more intense the training the better he will be and so he welcomes this training.
“The testing of your faith” - Dokimos – This is a process of purifying metals to become valuable coins. After heating, melting, removing impurities and pouring the metal into a mould the coins were then allowed to cool. The uneven edges were shaved and smoothed down before put into circulation. These coins were pure and genuine and of great value. The aim of testing is to purge out impurities, burn out the dross of character and leave us purified. 1 Peter 1:6-7
“Produces endurance” - Hupomone is the ability to abide under pressure. This patient endurance is the crown of Christ like character. Endurance enables us to rest under pressure rather than retreat.
“And let endurance have its full effect” - Teleios – “To be brought to its full end”. Testing prepares us for the work God has given us to do. We are then fully mature and complete, with no weak spots.
2. We can learn the power of prayer (1:5-8)
Never do we need wisdom as when we are going through a trial. During trials we are told to ask for wisdom. Wisdom will enable us to see problems from God’s perspective.
3. We can develop an unshakable faith (1:6-8)
When we ask, we are to do it without doubting in our heart. He who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is tossed back and forth by the wind. He is called a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Trials give us an opportunity to build a life of unshakable faith.
4. We can experience life’s true riches (1:9-11)
We tend to know the price of everything but the value of nothing. When trials come our way, we soon realize what is truly important and of greatest value.
5. We can receive the crown of life (1:12)
The crown speaks of authority and victory. Kings wore crowns as a symbol of their authority. Athletes wore laurel leaves as crowns after winning at the Greek games.
Early last year we discovered that my wife had stage-three cancer. This crushing report plunged us into a world of surgeries, chemo, radiation, pain, fear, uncertainty and tears. During one of our lowest moments the words to an old, familiar hymn came to mind and heart with amazing clarity. It turned out to be a priceless companion during our difficult journey.
“How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord is laid for your faith in his excellent word, what more could he say than to you he hath said, to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.
“Fear not I am with thee o be not dismayed, for I am thy God and will still give thee aid, I’ll strengthen thee, help thee and cause thee to stand, upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.”
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, my grace all sufficient shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design, thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine”
“That soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to his foes, that soul though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake”.