2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.
I have a confession to make; I love baseball. This past week, during a game being played by the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays, a very interesting thing happened. In the seventh inning Shin-Soo Choo was batting for the Texas rangers and the pitcher threw him a pitch. When the catcher, Russell Martin, tried to throw the ball back to the pitcher he hit Shin-Soo Choo in the arm and ball rolled over toward third base. The runner on third base took off running for home and scored. At first the umpire called the ball dead, but the Texas Ranger manager appealed the call.
The seventh inning, in game five of five. The umpire allowed the run to count making it 3-2 in favor of the Texas Rangers. The stadium explode as the people were upset over this call. They argued over this play for 18 minutes. Let’s come back to this story later.
Every once in a while someone will ask me, “Why does God allow bad things to happen and more specifically, why does He allow bad things to happen to me? Well the simple answer to that is sin. We live in a fallen world where Satan has usurped authority and he is causing all kinds of chaos and trouble. On the other hand, God has plans for all our lives and sometimes it includes troubles or trials.
Now let me state for the record, if you do not consult God about a decision you have made or consulted His Word about that decision, please do not hold Him responsible for your troubles. If you mismanage your finances, do not blame God for your money troubles. If you mistreat your body, then do not blame God when you get sick. If you marry someone without consulting God, do not blame Him when things go south.
I would like to share with you some thoughts on how we respond to the troubles around us. I think sometimes we misread this scripture. How is it possible that we can consider trouble as joy? There are some who, when trouble comes, get angry and want to blame God. But you see James is not saying be joyful in trouble, he is saying count it all joy when trouble comes. Those who trust in God ought to exhibit a dramatically different positive response to the difficult events of life. That is why it is so important for each and every one of us to learn how to cry out, Grace, Grace in our lives every day!
Our attitude is to be one of genuine rejoicing. This is not joyful anticipation for trials. Instead, it is understanding what is possible during the trial that brings the joy. Since I am now in a trial or trouble, there can be a great confidence in knowing the outcome of the trial. What is the outcome of the trouble? The possibility that we will experience growth in our walk with God.
In contrast, most people are happy when they escape trouble, but James encourages us not to be so hasty in getting out of trouble. God can use the trouble to help us or teach us valuable lessons. That should excite us. Not the trouble, but the valuable lessons with the trial. Consider it joy my friends, God has something good for you in the mist of your burden.
Rejoicing will also take us beyond happiness. Happiness is an emotion that can trick us if we are not careful. Although I desire happiness and seek out the pleasure of happiness, sometimes what I need is to rejoice even in the middle of a tragedy. For you see joy centers on God and His presence and during our troubles joy will sustain us every time! What is your attitude concerning your situation or your trouble?
The word used here in our text as “when” or “whenever” doesn’t allow much room for doubt when it comes to our troubles. James is saying not if troubles will come, but when troubles will come. We are all going to have troubles from time-to-time in our lives and when we do our attitude will play a great part.
You see trials, troubles, problems, and situations can be robbers if we lack the proper attitude. A situation comes along that will test your faith such as a persecution, a difficult moral choice, or a tragedy. Life’s trails are marked with such trials. The issue is that enduring one is simply not enough, there will be more. God’s purpose in allowing this process is to develop complete maturity in us.
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
Considering our troubles to be joy comes from seeing God’s perspective over our perspective. Let me be transparent, I do not always understand why God allows things in our lives, but I have learned it does no good whatsoever to get mad at Him. You see, I cannot see things the way God sees things. What He allows in my life today may not even be for me, it might be for someone else.
I think of the life of Joseph. Sold into slavery by his own evil brothers over jealousy. Thrown into jail on the false charge of rape. In slavery and jail for 13 years for nothing that he did. Only to be promoted out of jail and rise to the second in command over all of Egypt. He is there when his brothers come to get food because of a famine in the land and Joseph saves his family. Why did Joseph have to go through all that trouble? So that his brother Judah would live. You see, Jesus Christ came from the lineage of Judah and because of Judah I can know salvation. Why do we have to suffer? God’s has a plan.
“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts. 7 ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”‘” Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it.
I am saved by grace. And although I think we must be careful that we do not cheapen grace, we must not spend our lives frustrated because we try to work hard for holiness. In Zechariah, Zerubbabel is a type of Christ and the mighty mountain are the problems of life.
This scripture is a wonderful illustration of what happens too many of us in our walk with Jesus. We have Jesus on one side, us on the other and a great mountain between us. Saved by grace, but we cannot seem to go under, around, or through this mountain to have that face-to-face close intimate relationship with our Savior. Is there something keeping you from that relationship you so desperately desire? You have tried everything you can think of to gain the victory?
Some will drop out of the race because of their lack of progress. They are not upset at the church or with us as individuals, they just cannot find a way to measure up. Some are in denial that there is a mountain and they cover it up so others cannot see their frustration.
Then there are those who just fall before the mountain and say I quit, it is too hard, they may think that Jesus is on the other side telling them to, “get up you baby and hit that wall again and again.” However, for those who have come to the place where they have tried it all and failed and they surrender, Jesus has an answer.
GRACE, GRACE! Jesus says stand back and watch as He shouts at the mountain, Grace, Grace and the mountain falls down. Not by might nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.
Now here is a key my friends. Grace is not permission for the mountain to stay, but grace is letting God melt the mountain. Do we have confidence for God to remove the mountain?
In the bottom of the seventh inning, down 3-2 the Toronto Blue Jays could have let the call that went against them be the deciding factor and give up. But the Texas Ranger commit 3 errors and the Blue jays score one run. Then with two men on base Jose Bautista comes to the plate and changes everything; a massive homerun that gives the Toronto Blue Jays the victory. Now do not misunderstand this morning. I do not think God is helping one baseball team over another, but there is a great spiritual lesson here for us today if we can see it.
Ted Williams, considered by many as the greatest hitter of all time, one season had a 406 percentage batting average. That means out of a 1000 attempts, he got a hit 406 times; that means he made an out the other 594 times. Anywhere else that would be considered failure, yet in baseball it is considered greatness. I believe Ted Williams thought he would hit a homerun every time he came to the plate. In order to achieve victory we must continue to take our swings.
What is your mountain today? What is it that has kept you from experiencing all that God has for you? Have you felt like giving up or quitting? Find an altar and get with God and allow the Holy Spirit to melt your mountain today, change your attitude, start getting God’s perspective on life, and surrender your life to Him.