Real Faith for Real Life Faith Service Worship Vision
There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview, God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds. These sessions are not about opinion, they are about learning truth, the truth contained in the Bible, together we are going to focus on how we apply God’s truth, black & white in a grey world. To set godly priorities, grow in Christian character and live according to God’s standards so that we are a living witness to others. Notes from previous sessions are available from the Bible Study Section of www.ashingdonelim.co.uk.
15 March 2011
Facing Life’s Difficulties James 1:1-12 Living life in this world is often challenging! We have so many things pulling at us; family, work, relationships, our relationship with God. So often it feels like we are rushing from one thing to the next down the busy streets of life.
How does sitting here on a Tuesday evening talking about faith and believing God, translate to living in the real world? What does Real faith look like in Real Life? This is the first in a series of studies that will look at How to have a Real Faith for Real Life and we are going to be considering the book of James. James is a very practical book that gives us a good insight into what a real faith looks like lived out in the real world.
Do you find living out your faith challenging? Why? What do you find easiest about living out your faith? What do you find most difficult about living out your faith?
James says we can face the difficulties of life for God’s glory and our good.
Background James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. (James 1:1) We see in this first verse that the book is written by James, the Lord’s Brother. Many Roman Catholic’s are taught Jesus didn’t have any siblings because Mary was a virgin for her whole life, so how could this be the Lord’s brother? Scripture teaches that Mary was a virgin until Jesus was born, there is no Scriptural support for the Catholic Church’s teaching that Mary was a virgin perpetually. In fact Scripture teaches otherwise. Matthew 1:25 tells us that after the angel visited Joseph that he took Mary as his wife but “he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.” And the Bible also lists other half siblings of Jesus. When Jesus went back to his hometown of Nazareth to teach, the people who knew him growing up, took offense to his authoritative teaching. And they said in Mark 6:3, “Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And Paul tells the Galatians he visited “James, the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19) one of the leaders in the church and this is after James the Apostle had been killed. So it is James the Lord’s brother who is the most likely author of this letter to the 12 tribes scattered among the nations.
This letter was written about 45 AD. Only a few years after Christ’s death burial and resurrection, making it one of the earliest, if not the earliest letter of the New Testament. This letter was written when the church was still largely a Jewish sect and when the church had faced persecution and had been scattered among the nations.
It is a joy that we can experience when we are assured of an outcome. When we are in the midst of a trial, we can take joy by focusing on the outcome of this trial in our life and in eternity. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4) 2
The people were facing hard times. There was a perversion of the gospel going around, that said something if salvation is by grace through faith, then what I do doesn’t matter and in fact if I sin more, God will be glorified by giving me more of His grace.
The trials we experience in life are growing us to be mature and complete, so that we will not be lacking anything. This is a lot easier said than done.
In Paul’s letter to the Roman’s, he even addressed some of this. He said in Romans 3:8 - Why not say-as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say-”Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is deserved.
How do we really experience this joy in the midst of hardship?
Seek Wisdom in Faith
We are saved by Grace through Faith, but a real faith that receives God’s grace changes us in real life.
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. 6 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. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a doubleminded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:5-8)
James writes this letter to show that a Real Faith produces Real Actions in Real Life and he tells these early Christians what a real faith will look like.
What do you think real faith looks like?
When you read this, do you think of yourself as someone who does not always have the strongest of faith? Do you doubt if the Lord is really going to answer your requests?
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 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. 6 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. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. x The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 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. 12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:2-12) 2
I think what James is doing here is contrasting two different people: n
A faithful man who seeks wisdom and receives it.
An unfaithful man, someone who doubts the Lord’s goodness, a person who really only wants what they want, and will end up receiving nothing.
The Unfaithful Man The unfaithful man is like the man Jesus describes in the parable of the sower as “the seed planted on the rocky places.” The parable is about the word of God being spread like a man who plants seed but it is on different soils which is really the heart. In Matthew 13:20-21, Jesus says: 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.
Real Faith Finds Joy in the midst of Hardship How can we consider it “pure joy” when we face trials? This totally seems like an oxymoron, two things that
When trouble or persecution comes, he turns away showing that he is not really a person of faith. He is just someone who is looking for the thing that will make life easier. The Christian life is not the easy life, but it is the better life. Jesus told us that in this world, we are going to face troubles and trials and hardships if we follow the Lord.
can’t be true at the same time. It is important to realise that the joy being spoken of here is not like being giddy with excitement. It is contentment and peace. It can be translated as “calm delight.”
Jesus says in John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
People of faith still struggle with unbelief, but it is not a doubt about who God is. It may be a complete inability to understand what God is doing or how this could possibly be good, but it is a faith that turns to God anyway and clings to Him amid questions, amid the pain.
Following Christ, while it is not the easy road, it is the road that leads to eternal life, a life that will eventually be free from pain and suffering and better yet, will be an eternity spent with the Lord. So, the unfaithful man is one who is not really a believer, but only a man looking for the easy road. If it seems like following Christ will help out in the circumstance, then that is what he will do, but that doesn’t make him a true believer.
Steven Curtis Chapman is a Christian Musician who had has been used by God in great ways to minister through music to many people. As God worked in the life of him and his family they adopted 3 little girls from China, in addition to their own children they have had.
The Faithful Man The faithful man seeks wisdom and receives it so that he might experience Joy in the midst of hardship. He recognises that he is not God and recognises who God really is, a Holy God who has created all things and sustains all things by His powerful word.
In 1999, in a magazine interview Chapman is quoted as saying, “Undoubtedly, there are season of loss ahead, loved ones I’ve yet to lose…but the more I grow and open myself up to painful experiences, the more I find God’s grace revealed in my life…”
When we, by faith have that proper view of God, we can do nothing but have a reverent fear of the Lord, and fall on our knees before Him.
In 2008, in a tragic accident, their 17 year old son accidently hit their youngest daughter with a car and she was killed.
A faithful man is like Isaiah, who when brought into the presence of the Lord, Isaiah 6:5: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
He says now that he has learned that “hope doesn’t become hopeful until we’re desperate for it, and the more desperate we are for it, the more hopeful it becomes.” He quotes his pastor as saying “We can never cry ‘Abba-Father’ until we’ve first cried ‘Uncle,’ until we’re desperate enough to give up. Only then can we really cry out to God.” (Outreach Magazine, May/June 2010, p. 90)
He had a proper fear and respect for the Lord. Psalm 111:10 tells us “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom”
Does this mean that a faithful man can never struggle with doubt?
He says he “used to read Psalms and think, what am I missing? I’m not feeling it. Now the psalms that are the most precious to me are those where David seems so schizophrenic, saying, ‘How long, oh Lord, when are you going to rescue me?’ And in the same breath just a few verses down, he praises God: ‘You are my hope, God. You are my breath. I delight in your law.’ He is literally beating his own chest, saying, ‘Come on heart, beat! Don’t forget. This is your hope. Don’t believe just what you feel in this moment. You’re anchored to the hope that God has promised.’”
Each of us is going to struggle with doubt and situations that test our faith. This is why we need to be seeking wisdom. For instance, consider the man with a demon possessed son in Mark 9. The man brought his son to the disciples and they could not drive the demon out. Then he comes to Jesus. The demon throws the boy into convulsions. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” 21
He says, “I love what Martin Luther says: ‘There are two days that matter: this day and that day.’ That day brings the hope and the promise of God. And we must anchor this day to that day, the day that is coming. That’s how we live with hope. And that’s why we’ll spend the rest of our lives telling others about that hope that the Gospel is real – for everyone.”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” 23
“’If you can’?” said Jesus.
“Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:21-24) 24
(Outreach Magazine, May/June 2010)
Have you ever prayed I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief?
What is a man of faith? A man who trusts amid the pain and hardships of life. But to do that we need to seek Wisdom in faith.
Keep Focused on your position in Christ
For reflection Who am I? Am I a faithful person or an unfaithful person?
The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 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 1:9-11) 9
The reality is that the answer only comes to us as we are tested and as we persevere and we can see what is really in our hearts. A faithful person, amid the pain in their hearts, amid tears, may cry out, “Lord, I don’t understand why I am going through this! Please help me! I am hurting so desperately! Where are You! Lord, I trust you to give me wisdom and strength to endure.”
If we are going to experience joy in the midst of hardship, then we have got to keep our focus on our position in Christ and not on our circumstances, whether our circumstances are good or bad.
A faithful person can say along with David as he writes in Psalm 31:9-15:
James says when you are in humble circumstances, you need to be taking “pride in (your) high position,” your position in Christ that makes you a child of the King, and will bring you into His presence for eternity.
Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
Martin Luther said, “there are two days that matter: this day and that day.” How can we keep focused on that day so that we can take joy in this day no matter our circumstance?
my soul and my body with grief. 10
My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning;
For those who are “rich”, for those whose circumstances are not so bad right now, it is also imperative that we keep focused on our position in Christ, that we are a child of the King, not because we are rich or because we are good, but because, by God’s grace, apart from anything we have done or could do, we have been saved.
my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. 11
Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbours; I am a dread to my friends--
those who see me on the street flee from me.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)
I am forgotten by them as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. 13
The only way we are going to experience joy in the midst of hardship is if we seek the wisdom of the Lord through our faith in Him, that He is good and that He is working all things “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
For I hear the slander of many; there is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life.
Where are you today?
But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
Maybe you are facing some trials in your life and it is painful beyond anything you have experienced.
If you want to find joy in the midst of this, a peace and contentment that surpasses understanding, then you need to trust our Lord.
My times are in your hands
Choose to find joy in Hardship, trade your sorrows for the joy of the Lord.
Trials serve to test our faith.
Make this your prayer that the Lord would help you to find His joy amid whatever hardship you may be facing.
Our faith in Christ shows us that our hope is not for this life only, it is for eternity.
Where is your hope? Do you say that it is in the Lord, but the reality shows that it is in this life? 4
How does sitting here on a Tuesday evening talking about faith and believing God, translate to living in the real world? What does Real fait...