Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working through this passage in James talking about trials. We’ve discussed two lens with which we are to view trials as a Christian. The first was that trials are a pathway to maturity. Trials are God’s way of shaping us and molding us more and more into the image of His Son. Trails are often times God’s tool for growing us in our faith. The second lens was that trials make us consciously aware of our need for God. When trials are present, we are forced to look outside ourselves for help. We are forced to look to God and to trust Him more than we ever had before.
Also, while we’re in our trials, there are these two fights that we have to know are coming. The first one, which we looked at last week, is a fight with doubt. When trials comes, when our world is turned upside-down, we are oftentimes left searching and asking why. Nothing seems to make sense, so we begin to doubt God. And in these times of doubt we need to fight and cling to the truth of the gospel with all that we have. Stand firm. Look to the cross of Christ. Remember God honors the fight because Jesus has paid it all.
That brings us to the next fight that shows up during our trials: the fight of comparison. Read V9-11. In these verses, we have God showing us the lowly person and the rich person. We see the lowly person, who is poor in material things but rich in Christ, being exalted. But we see the rich person, who has all the material things but no Christ, being humiliated and losing everything. In these two verses, God shows us just how temporary the rich person’s “things” are.
As social has grown over the last decade or so, there have been numerous studies completed to better understand the effects these things are having on us. You know what these studies unanimously seem to always claim every time? Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and etc., lead to depression. And when you think about it, this totally makes sense.
You’re sad or depressed at home during your trial. You’re sitting in your sweats binging through another entire season of something on Netflix. You’re polishing off a gallon of Blue Bell Two-Step ice cream. Then you open up your phone and begin to scroll through Instagram. You know what you see? Everyone in the world is doing great! So and so just got asked to homecoming by having her name written in the clouds. So and so just celebrated their two week dating anniversary with a trip to the moon. So and so just got their license and their parents got them a brand new car. Everyone is posting these absolutely perfect selfies and receiving all the praise in world.
Everyone is just counting money, and they don’t struggle. There’s no pain, and there’s no sorrow. Yet, here you are in your trial. You ate a whole gallon of ice cream watching a series on Netflix. You start to resent them. You start to grow in anger against them. In our trials, our wicked heart will be exposed and comparison is how it plays itself out. When we’re enduring trials, we become hyper aware of the prettiness of other people’s lives, and we begin to resent them.
That’s why we have verse 9-11. James here via the power of the Holy Spirit is going, “No, no, no, no. It’s all level in the end. Don’t believe the Instagram hype.” You may not see it, but everyone endures trials. Everyone struggles. We all have seasons in which the sky is clear, and we all have seasons in which it’s cloudy. Be careful not to compare your reality with someone else’s highlight reel. God is leading us into maturity. He is showing us that what we really need is him.
In the middle of this fight, we’re going to need some encouragement. The Holy Spirit knows we’re going to need this so we get verses 12-18. Read V12-18.
Here is the argument. We need to see our trials as paths to maturity, and we need to understand that trials make us consciously aware that we need God. They make us aware of the only thing we actually really need. Then on top of that, be careful because you’re going to have to duke it out with doubt. It’s going to be a fight. If you’re not careful, comparison will tag team and jump in there. If you’re not careful, you’re going to be tempted and drawn by your own flesh to betray God’s invitation to maturity and reject what you actually need. That will lead to death.
Then did you notice what James starts to do in verse 16? This is where the encouragement comes in. He turns our eyes back to the person and the character of God. You’re in the midst of a trial? Don’t be deceived. Don’t be fooled. Your flesh is going to tempt you. You’re going to want to believe that God isn’t good. You’re going to wrestle with comparison and doubt. Don’t be deceived. Don’t be tricked. Then he moves on with this beautiful reminder. “Everything good and perfect has come down from the Father of lights.”
Regardless of the intensity of those trials that come into your life, one of the greatest anchors for your soul in those trials is that the greater your knowledge of the goodness and grace of God in your life, the more likely you are to praise him in the storm. Have you ever had the flu or been injured? Getting up and moving around and having energy is a gift from God. Those are a good thing. That means it has come down from the Father of lights. Physical strength. That is a gift from the Lord. When you think about it for 3 seconds, seeing God’s grace in your life is so easy to do because there’s so much of it. Tasting, seeing, feeling, hearing. All gifts of grace from the Father of Lights. Friends, family, the church, this youth group. All gifts from the Father of Lights.
Another thing we see in what we just read in verse 17 is there’s no variation, no change in Him. God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. How comforting is that to know that we don’t serve a fickle God? Regardless of where you are in life, God and His infinite love that He has for you is never-changing.
Lastly, we read perhaps the most encouraging this so far in verse 18. “Of His own will he brought us forth.” This is where things get staggering. If you’re like, “Oh, I probably disgust him. I fall short. I can’t believe I wrestle with doubt,” here’s how James ends this whole idea of the day of trial. In our fight with doubt, in our fight with comparison, James wants to remind us of this: God chose you.
This whole thing was God’s idea! It was of his own will that he called you to himself. God looking out on the horizon of human history said, “I’m going to make that one a part of my family. I’m going to call him my own. I’m going to bring her into my own family, and I’m going to bestow upon them all the riches of my glory.” He chose you. He loves you.
That has been the main thrust of all we’ve been trying to say the last few weeks. Trials will come. Consider it all joy. God is good. He is for you. I’m not saying your trial is not awful. But you haven’t been betrayed. God loves you so much that he laid His life down for you. He wants what is best for you. These trials are God removing something that might hurt you for the gift of something that will bring nothing but ever-increasing joy — a relationship with Him. That’s not a bad trade. It might be a painful one but not a bad one.
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