James 1:2-8 - Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with out any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."
Problems and disappointments come in all sizes! There are the large ones like the tragic death of a friend or the unhappy breakup of a love relationship. Then there are the medium-sized ones like a try-out failure or the cancellation of a spring vacation trip. And then there are the small ones too, like standing in line, losing your keys, or just having the rainy day blues. Does the Bible have anything to say about these trials and tribulations? Yes, it does, and the first chapter of James is one of these places. Let's see what this Scripture has to say about problems. The first thing we learn from this passage is that a Christian should expect such problems. Verse 2 says "when you encounter various trials," not "if you encounter various trials." The disappointments of life confront the Christian the same as they do anyone else. However, there is a difference between a believer's problems and disappointments, and a non-believ-er's frustrations and anxieties. A Christian can meet the trials of life with joy--of all things! We are told in verse 2 that we can "consider it all joy" when our world appears to be caving in around us. Now God does not mean that we should jump up and down and shout PTL when we find ourselves in the hospital because of a car accident, or when our summer plans fall through because our ap-plication was rejected. No, but we can "consider it all joy" because we know (verse 3) that God has a pur-pose in every problem He permits to come our way. Nothing happens by chance or takes God by surprise! He is always in control of our situation. However, through the interaction of many different factors, He does not allow certain problems to enter our situation--problems on purpose! A number of God's purposes in the trials and tribulations of life are given in the Bible. Verses 3 and 4 of our Scripture give two of these purposes. First there is the "testing of your faith" purpose. God tests and proves our faith! How pure and genuine is my faith? Will it disappear under the pressure of circumstances? Would the sudden and shocking news that I had terminal cancer leave me quiet and submissive under the sovereign hand of God or shaking my fist in bitter rebellion at my Creator? 1 Peter 1:7 tells us that the testing of our faith is more precious than gold even though it is tested by fire. The thought here is that God applies the "heat" to refine our faith just as a precious metal is refined in a crucible. As the heat is applied, the impurities are burned off, but the pure metal remains. Only now can the face of the refiner be reflected from the surface of the molten metal. Is the reflection of the Refiner seen in your life? (See also Psalm 66:10 and 2 Corinthians 4:11.) A further purpose for the problems and disappointments of life is given in verses 3 and 4. Our faith is not only tested and refined--it is made strong-er. This is the thought in the words "produces endurance" and "that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." God does not want "jelly-fish" children in His family. He wants us to be strong and mature, stable, balanced, and well-rounded sons and daughters. Without the problems of life we would not develop endurance. Sickness and suffering and sorrow have a way of strengthening our faith in the Lord. The dark clouds bring the rains which are necessary for growing stronger. God uses the "April showers bring May flowers" principle in the spiritual life of His children as well as the physical life of His creation. "And let endurance have its perfect result..." means, don't rebel against God's way of working in your life. As mentioned above, a traumatic exper-ience can leave you an angry and bitter critic of God or it can leave you a stronger and more mature believer in Him. It all depends whether you yield and submit and "let" His purpose have its "perfect result" or not. Verse 5 is both a promise and a comfort. In the context of this part of God's Word, it means that if you need wisdom as to why God has allowed certain problems in your life, you may ask Him and He will answer. Do you need understanding of a particular tragedy or disappointment in your life? Don't let it hang you up! If you ask in faith (verse 6) the Lord will let you in on the inside track of what's going on. He may not give us specific reasons for what's happening (most likely they are too complicated for us to under-stand--see Isaiah 55:9), but He will give us spiritual insight and wisdom as to what's happening. And our heavenly Father never puts us down for coming and asking for this wis-dom. He gives "generously and with-out reproach." What a comforting promise! But too often we're like the man described in verses 6-8. We don't wait patiently by faith for the Lord's answer. We waver, we squirm, we mouth off, we cry, and we demand like spoiled brats instead of maturing sons and daughters. No wonder verse 7 tells us that we shouldn't expect to receive the Lord's wisdom if we act like that! The problems and disappointments in a Christian's life don't just happen at random. Although the following saying may be trite, it is right on. "Our disappointments are His ap-pointments." It's another way of saying "problems on purpose."