From Trials to Maturity (James 1:2-4)

First Baptist Church http://fbcbartow.org

“From Trials to Maturity”

(James 1:2-4)

Series: Living the Faith [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

October 8, 2017

Welcome

Good morning, church.  Please be seated.

We’re so glad that each and every one of you is here today!

My name is Matt McCraw and I’m the pastor here at First Baptist Church of Bartow.

I’m glad to see you all.  If you’re a guest, please take some time to fill out the “What’s Up?” card in the bulletin.  You can drop that off in the offering plate later in the service.  We would love to have a record of your visit with us!

As we come to worship, let’s focus our hearts and minds by turning to the Word of God.  I’ll read this passage and you can follow along on the screen.

Scripture Reading (Psalm 145:8-21) [on screen]

8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger and great in faithful love.

9 The Lord is good to everyone;

his compassion rests on all he has made.

10 All you have made will thank you, Lord;

the faithful will bless you.

11 They will speak of the glory of your kingdom

and will declare your might,

12 informing all people of your mighty acts

and of the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;

your rule is for all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words

and gracious in all his actions.

14 The Lord helps all who fall;

he raises up all who are oppressed.

15 All eyes look to you,

and you give them their food at the proper time.

16 You open your hand

and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways

and faithful in all his acts.

18 The Lord is near all who call out to him,

all who call out to him with integrity.

19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;

he hears their cry for help and saves them.

20 The Lord guards all those who love him,

but he destroys all the wicked.

21 My mouth will declare the Lord’s praise;

let every living thing

bless his holy name forever and ever.

Let’s go to the Lord in prayer.

(Prayer)

Stand now as we declare the Lord’s praise!

(worship through music time)

Introductory Comments:

Good morning church!  We’re continuing our series through the book of James . . . which we just started last week, so we are on week two ✌🏻 😀.

Please go ahead and find your place in James 1:2-4.

Last week we learned that James wanted to take a posture as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I challenged all of you to four commitments for the week.

This week, we’re going to move beyond the first verse to consider trials in our lives and how we should respond to them.

Look with me now at the Word of God.

Read the Passage

Read James 1:2-4 (read in Bible)

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

Let’s pray together.

(Prayer)

The sermon today is entitled, “From Trials to Maturity.”

We’re going to see this declaration from James concerning our trials.

We have here this seemingly odd command from James; at least an odd command when we think naturally.

James gives us this statement that is counterintuitive to the way that we normally think.

Well, let’s break down what he’s saying.

We’re going to look at this progression of thinking that James takes us through.

First, we hear from James that . . .

I. Christian Living Leads to Trials (v. 2) [on screen]

(repeat)

James says in the text for us to consider it a great joy, whenever we as Christians experience trials.  Not if we experience trials, but whenever.

In case we think that James is off base here with this statement, let’s just consider some other passages.

Notice the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:9, “Then they will hand you over to be persecuted, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name.” [on screen]

Or, in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you.” [on screen]

Also, listen to the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12, “In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” [on screen]

Of course, these passages refer mostly to persecution, and there are other various passages elsewhere that speak of persecution in addition to other various kinds of trials, persecution, and suffering.

The point is that the Bible clearly demonstrates that Christian living leads to trials!

We are certainly not to seek out trials, but we are to expect them.

Now, some of you have experienced some real trials.  I mean, some genuine trials.  In just my short time here I’ve heard several of you share stories with me, often in tears, of heartache and suffering that you’ve gone through.

This church has been through trials, both as individuals and as a collective body.

We should expect this, church!

Not only should we expect it, but James says to count it all joy when we suffer these trials.  Well, why?  Why should we rejoice in our sufferings?

Let’s start to answer that.

The second thought in James’ progression is that . . .

II. Trials Lead to Endurance (v. 3) [on screen]

Look at verse 3 again, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

We learn from James that the difficult times that we experience as Christians are ultimately helpful to us.

Well, that doesn’t make any sense!

Let’s see what happens, here.

Notice first of all that James has switched from talking about trials to talking about the “testing of your faith”

The implication here is obvious: trials are equal to the testing of our faith.  God can use trials to test us in our faith.

We’ll see next week how he talks more about our faith life, but for now it becomes apparent that trials equal testing of faith.

Then, James says that testing of our faith produces endurance.

Illustration: Have any of you ever taken up running, or cycling, or any kind of endurance sport?  When you first start out, it is terrible.  It is a grueling trial.  When I lived in Naples, I was about 26 years old when I decided that I wanted to start running.  We had a track behind our house in our community and I set out to run.  I’m going to tell you what, I couldn’t even run a mile.  I was huffing and puffing the whole way.  It was terrible.  But after years of practice, just this last May, I completed a ten-mile race and I felt great after I finished.  Now that’s not to brag on me.  Anyone can do it if I can, I guarantee that.

The point in the illustration is to say that because of a new runner’s suffering, because of the trials, he or she is eventually able to build up endurance.

In the same way, when we suffer various trials in our lives, James says that we build up endurance in our Christian walk.

Trials are the means through which something beneficial happens in the life of a Christian.

Not only are trials and the testing of our faith meant to benefit us, but it’s meant to benefit us in a way that we develop something that we would not develop without the trials.  That’s amazing!

That leads us to our last step in James’ progression . . .

III. Endurance Leads to Maturity (v. 4) [on screen]

Look at verse 4 again, “And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

So, James says that we are to have joy in the face of trials.  Why?  Because first of all trials lead to endurance; and, second, because endurance leads to maturity.

The full effect of endurance, James says, is that it leads to maturity.  Well, that’s good news!

Going back to the exercise illustration.  It’s the same thing!

Illustration: When I was in Henderson, Kentucky I was the team chaplain for the Henderson County Football Team.  One thing I would do is bring breakfast and speak to the team during their Summer Camp.  If you’ve ever gone to football camp over the Summer, it’s miserable.  I remember doing so at Mulberry High School right down the road.  One of the things these guys had to do was get up at 5 AM.  If there’s anything that young men love, it’s getting up at 5 AM 😀.  The guys hated it!  But I told them one morning that getting up at 5 AM and hitting the weight room, and taking the practice field, it developed character in them; it developed them as both football players and as men.  I told them, “Embrace the 5 AM!”

In the same manner, I believe that James wants us to embrace trials, because they lead us into maturing into the type of Christians that God created us to be.

We should not go looking for trials; we certainly shouldn’t cause trials!  But, we can embrace them knowing that they lead to endurance, which leads to maturity.

Here’s another way of looking at it: you will never be a full Christian without suffering trials!  That’s a crazy statement, but that’s what James tells us!

Let’s look at the whole passage again:

Read James 1:2-4 (read in Bible)

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”

So, church, we consider it joy to experience trials, because, trials, lead to endurance, which leads to maturity.

Check out this illustration that you have in your handout; it’s also on the screen.

 

Trials              Endurance               Maturity. [on screen]

Bringing it Home:

So, church, let’s bring it home.  Let’s talk about us.

Why do we count trials as joy?  Because it makes us more complete; it makes us more like Jesus!

In order to receive the benefits of maturing through our trials, we must first acknowledge that God has put them there, or allowed them to be there, for our benefit.  If we miss that, we miss the opportunity to grow.

You see, the devil wants to use trials to discourage us, to weaken us, to turn us against one another; but God wants to use them to strengthen us, to complete us, and to make us the church of Jesus, pure and undefiled!

Don’t get lost in the circumstances of what you’re going through.  Don’t be deceived by Satan.  Look for what God may be doing in your life.  Sometimes you won’t know what God is doing, but trust Him!  Trust Him!

We’re not talking about happiness folks, we’re talking about joy!

Happiness is based on our circumstances; joy is based on our salvation!

Happiness is temporary; joy is eternal!

Happiness can be taken from us; joy is secured by the Creator of the Universe!

It’s here that I want to read this quote from John Calvin.  I agree with some of the things Calvin teaches and disagree with other things that he teaches, but I definitely agree with this statement.  Listen carefully:

“It is, indeed, certain, that all the senses of our nature are so formed, that every trial produces in us grief and sorrow; and no one of us can so far divest himself of his nature as not to grieve and be sorrowful whenever he feels any evil.  But this does not prevent the children of God to rise, by the guidance of the Spirit, above the sorrow of the flesh.  Hence it is, that in the midst of trouble they cease not to rejoice.”

Well said, Mr. Calvin.  The Spirit causes us to rise above our circumstances and rejoice!  The Holy Spirit leads us to become complete.

Some of us may never grow up as believers if we don’t experience trials, or if we don’t seek to rise above them.

God has a plan; He is in control.  Trust Him and turn to Him in the midst of your trials.

I will plan on sharing with you a bottom line each week to try and summarize the sermon in one short statement.

Here’s the one for this week:

Bottom Line: God is going to do something great in me: through trials, to endurance, to maturity. [on screen]

You see, that almost rhymes 😀

(repeat bottom line)

Here’s the weekly challenge for each of us this week:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Reflect deeply on how God has used trials in your life.  [on screen]

Journal about it; share with your family

  1. Make a commitment this week not to grumble about your trials. [on screen]

Pray a prayer of commitment; write a note to yourself to not grumble

  1. Ask God to make you a mature Christian. [on screen]

Don’t you want that?  We know that God wants it for us!

Closing:

Our trials lead to endurance, which leads to maturity.  But you know what, we will never be fully perfect on this earth.

We are on a journey each day to become sanctified, to be made Holy; each day becoming more and more like Jesus.

Christian, embrace that!  Embrace what God wants to do in your life!

Some of you are not on that journey.  Some of you have not yet trusted Jesus as your Savior!

The first step in your maturity as the person God created you to be is to trust in Jesus!

(Gospel Presentation)

Use the Story: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration

In just a minute we’re going to sing a song and have an invitation to respond to Jesus!  If you would like to receive Christ, be baptized, or make this church your home, please come forward this morning.

(Prayer)

Invitation Song: Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior

Benediction:

Join us tonight for evening worship at 5:30 PM.

Sing Doxology (a cappella)

God bless you all.  I’ll see you tonight!

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