Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What is Needed When Going Through Trials

All of us experience trouble. From the terms that James uses in chapter one, verses 2-3, the trouble that we experience cannot be determined beforehand, avoided, or determined to their degree. But we can be sure of this, they are “tests!” Specifically, the “testing of your faith” (v.3). The fact that we are sinful beings, living in a sinful world gives indication that we will experience trouble on a regular basis. Even when we succeed in getting our own little worlds under control, something inevitably messes them up. We do everything we can to attain peace and comfort by protecting ourselves from trouble, but trouble arises nonetheless. Take marriage for an example, it was designed by God as a source of fulfillment and happiness, yet 1 Corinthians 7:28 says those who are married “shall have trouble in the flesh.” There is going to be trouble even in the best of what God gives us because of the sin principle that is active in the world. Jesus Himself experienced trouble and warned His disciples to expect tribulation in the world (John 16:33). John 11:33; 12:27, and 13:21 record Jesus’ troubled responses to the devastating effects of sin.  In all three cases it says He was “troubled.” Troubled at sin – its cause and its effects. Paul said the same thing when he stated he was “troubled on every side” (2 Cor.4:8). It is reasonable to expect trouble in our lives as well and not be surprised or overwhelmed by them when they come. Trouble is a way of life, so don’t think you’re alone if you’re experiencing it right now. What we need to learn is what Paul said in Philippians 4:12, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” In other words, as we said last time, we need to have a joyful heart, an understanding mind, and a submissive will. Because we are commanded to rejoice, we are not to let our troubles rob us of our joy. True biblical joy does not find its basis in the positive circumstances in our lives, it is based on the command of Scripture. We are to rejoice in the Lord regardless of the pains and difficulties in our lives because we know that trials test the strength and validity of our faith; they reveal what we really love; they enable us to help others; and they produce endurance and strength. Notice in verses 5 what James says you need so that you can have a joyful heart, an understanding mind, and a submissive will: Divine “wisdom.” He says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Notice the need we have for wisdom. He says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom.”

Everyone needs wisdom. James is not making this statement as if you have arrived and don’t need wisdom in your trials. He is stating it as a recognized fact. The verse could read this way: “If any of you lacks wisdom, and he does....”

Ralph Martin says, “The conditional clause does not imply doubt or suggest a contingency. Rather it presupposes "a standing fact" (Hiebert, 79). The readers are facing some real problems arising from persecution, and it is the gift and application of wisdom to see these trials in their proper light and respond accordingly” (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.48).

You do not need philosophical speculation or worldly wisdom, you need wisdom “that is from above” (Jas.3:17). The first step in gaining such wisdom is the consciousness of our need of it. “If any of you” indicates that this consciousness of a wisdom shortage must come as an individual recognition. Proverbs 3:7 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes.” Romans 12:16 says, “Do not be wise in your own opinions.” Ephesians 5:17 says, “Therefore do not be unwise.” All of these passages reveal the need that we have for divine wisdom.

D. Edmond Hiebert says, “The believer needs ‘wisdom’ to see his trials in a true light and to profit spiritually from them. James knew from Psalm 73 and the book of Job that the trials that often overwhelm the godly do create struggles and call for God-given wisdom to resolve them. For James, wisdom is more than wide knowledge...As a Jew, James viewed wisdom as related to the practice of righteousness in daily life. It is that moral discernment that enables the believer to meet life and its trials with decisions and actions consistent with God’s will” (James, 79-80).

As you go through a trial, realize the need you have for divine wisdom so that you can respond with a joyful attitude, an understanding mind, and a submissive will.

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