Pastor of First Baptist Church
Smiths Falls, Ontario
‘Embracing your problems’
The Bible says in James 1:2-4:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,(A) 3 because you know that the testing of your faith(B) develops perseverance.(C) 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature(D) and complete, not lacking anything.
The fact is, we needed to be reminded that God is watching us. The Bible informs us that He leads us, He guides us, He provides for us. Read Psalm 91:11. It says, “He commands His angles to guard over us”. In Psalm 121:8 it records these words, “He watches over us. He watches over our coming and our going, both now and for evermore.”
In fact, the Bible says, “His eye is constantly on the sparrow.”
Again, James 1: 2-4,
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, 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.
Did you notice the spiritual; process, there? Trials are allowed to come our way. Why? To test our faith, so that you and I can develop perseverance. Perseverance, will in turn, help us to gain maturity in our faith.
Now, we don’t count it pure joy because the bottom of our boat has just fallen out. We count it pure joy because we trust God for our journey. We trust His promises that he will be with us during the process. Yes, each one of can say, “I count it pure joy because God’s eye is on the sparrow, and therefore, I know that He is watching over me."
You may be faced with problems related to family, marriage, health problems, vocation, finances, drugs, abuse; well, the list goes on and on. How do you deal with problems that come your way in life? That’s really the question, isn’t it?
A seasoned poet once wrote these words, “It was pain that knocked upon my door and said that she had come to stay. And though I would not welcome her, but asked her to go away, she still entered in, and like my own shadow, she followed after me; and from her stabbing, stinging sword, no moment was I free.” The poet describes a very difficult, painful situation. Many of you listening today, are bruised and immobilized by your trials. The bruises are not always the kind we can see on the outside. We know that. They’re on the inside. Some of us are bruised over the death of loved ones. Others are facing emotional trauma, relational stress, spiritual doubts, marital conflicts, sexual temptations, financial setbacks, occupational disappointments, and so on. Now, here’s the truth; and no matter what some may tell you today, trials are common to all people; and Christians are not exempt.
In today’s text, James shows us how to respond to our trials. So my first point is simply this: You and I are to respond, and not react, to trials. What do I mean by that? Well, first of all, when we react, do we often react emotionally and we regret it later. When we respond, we begin to understand that most of life’s issues are fairly predictable, and we need to respond in a way that will be healthy. Therefore, I recommend that with each issue that comes our way, we stop, we think, and we pray about it.
You see, when we react, you find yourself not only acting emotionally, but often we’re motivated by fear or by anger. We find ourselves acting in a way that is not complimentary to the person, or the issue, or ourselves.
Think of it this way, it’s like a dog with a bone. The dog keeps chewing on it and chewing on it and chewing on it. Isn’t that what we keep doing with our problems: Nursing them, rehearsing them, cursing them? Yes, we are to respond, not to react, to trials. Secondly, you and I are to respond with perseverance. That’s what James was teaching in that text. J.B. Philips’ translation of verses 2 and 3, in James 1, reads this way: “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers and sisters, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends. Realize that they have come to test your faith. Yes, that begins to make sense, doesn’t it? You see, the trials that God allows to come your way are never meant to hurt you, but rather, to help you.
To persevere will take focus. One has to be consistently intentional. One has to decide from the very beginning, never to give up. Walter Payton never gave up. At just 5’10’’, 202 pounds, he was not a particularly large running-back for the NFL, but he set one of sport’s greatest records: the all-time rushing record of 16,726 yards. Wow! During his twelve-year career, Payton carried the ball over nine miles. What is truly impressive, though, is that he was knocked to the ground, on the average of, every 4.4 yards, of those nine miles. He was knocked down by someone bigger than himself. Yes, he kept getting up because, (now, listen to this); he kept getting up because he understood that his purpose was not to stay down, but to get up, and to move forward, and to persevere.
I think that’s what the Bible’s teaching us in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 when it says, “We are hard pressed on each side but not crushed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.”
Here’s the truth: God is not as concerned about my comfort as He is about my character. God is not as concerned about your comfort as He is about your character. “We must learn that failure teaches us.” Proverbs 24:16 says that. "A righteous man, a righteous woman may fall seven times. They will rise again." You see, God wants us to focus on Him; and when we do so, we will keep getting up. We’ll be motivated by a purpose greater than ourselves.
One translation reads this way: “We are knocked down, but we are not knocked out. So get up and move forward and try again!”
O yes, the year was 1831. This gentleman failed in business. He went bankrupt. 1833: he was back on his feet, then failed again. 1835: his fiancé died. 1836: he had a nervous breakdown. 1838: he ran for Speaker of the House in the United States, but was defeated. 1840, Elector: he ran for that office and was defeated. 1843, Congress; well, he ran for that and was defeated. 1848: he ran again for congress and he was defeated, again. 1855: he ran for the Senate, and guess what; again, he was defeated. 1856: he ran for the Vice President of the United States of America. Ah, yes, and he was defeated. 1858: he ran for Senate once again, and once again, he was defeated. And then came the year 1860. He ran for the President of the United States, and he was elected, and one of the greatest presidents to have ever lived. His name: Abraham Lincoln. Yes, we are knocked down, but we are not knocked out.
So get up and move forward and try again.
I think that’s what Winston Churchill meant when he said, “Success is the ability to move from one failure to the next.” I like that: moving from one failure to the next. Actually, I see life as this way; perhaps you’ve heard it: “Every setback is a setup for a comeback”. So, the next time, you think you’ve taken two steps forward, and three or four back, just remember: every setback is a setup for a comeback.
There was a skinny young boy who loved football with all his heart. He was determined to try his best at every practice, and perhaps he’d get to play when he became a senior. All through high school he never missed a practice. He never missed a game, but remained a bench-warmer all four years. His faithful father was always in the stands, always with words of encouragement for him. When the young man went to college he decided to try out for the football team as a walk-in. Everyone was sure he could never make the cut, but he did. The coach admitted that he put him on the roster because this young lad always put his heart and soul into every practice, and was a great model for the team mates.
The news that he had survived the cuts thrilled him so much that he rushed ti the nearest phone and called his father. His father shared his excitement and was sent seasons tickets for all the college games. Well, you know for sure that the father attended all those games. This persistent young athlete never missed practice during the four years of college. But, he never got to play in any game, either. It was at the end of his senior football season, and as he trotted onto the field to practice, the coach called him over to his side and handed the young man a telegram. The young man read the telegram and he became deadly silent. Swallowing hard, he mumbled to the coach, “Coach, my father died this morning. Do you think it would be alright if I missed practice today?” The coach put his arm around him and gently said, “Son, take whatever time you need.” Well. He did. But soon, a few days later, the game came. Saturday arrived and the game was not going well. It was in the third quarter when the team was ten points behind. The silent young man quietly slipped into the locker room and put on his football gear, and he ran onto the sidelines. The coach and the players were all astonished to see this faithful team-mate back so soon. “Coach, please let me play today. I’ve just got to play today!” The coach pretended not to hear him. There’s no way he wanted his worst player on the team, playing in this close playoff game; not going to happen.
Well, the young man persisted and he kept saying, “Coach, I just need to play today.” Finally the coach said, “Alright, you can go in.” And, you know what, before long, the coach, the players and everyone in the stands could not believe their eyes. This little, unknown, who had never played before, was doing everything right. The opposing team could not stop him. He ran, he blocked, he tackled like a star. His team began to win. They were motivated, just by watching him. The score was soon tied, and in the closing seconds of the game, this kid intercepted a pass and he ran all the way for the winning touchdown.
Ah, this could be a movie. The fans broke loose, his team-mates hoisted him on their shoulders: such cheering like you’ve never heard. Finally after the stands had emptied and the team had left the locker room, the coach noticed the this young man was sitting quietly in the locker room all alone.
The coach came over to him and he said, “Son, I can’t believe it, but you were fantastic. Tell me, what got into you? How did you do what you did?”
The young man swallowed hard and forced a smile, “You see, coach, my dad came to all my games, but today would have been the first day that he could actually see me play. I wanted to show him how well I could do.”
You know, folks, we have a Father in Heaven who’s watching how we’re walking and how we’re living. I don’t want to suggest that life is a game, but the fact is, we are to be like an athlete when it comes to running the race of faith, knowing full well, our Father in Heaven is watching everything. Yes, even when we go through trials and temptations; even when we have problems; even when we walk through the valley of pain.
Now, let’s note the spiritual process, again. Trials are allowed to come our way. Why? To test our faith; that’s why. Why? So that you and I can develop perseverance. Why? Because perseverance will help us gain maturity in our journey of faith, and we will be able to understand that we must trust God: the one who is promising us, to lead us and guide us, and to provide for us.
I want us to look at motivation for a second. Our motivation for running the race of faith, even when problems come, our motivation should be to love God, and be determined to love Him, and be determined to bring Him honour and glory.
I think that is what 1 Corinthians 10:31 is really saying, It says, “So whatever you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” You see, folks, the word ‘persevere’ means to take whatever trial or burden that you are going through, and use it as a platform to bring God honour and glory.
As I close, I want each of us to ponder the following words of wisdom; and as I read these words, I want us to really think about them, and apply our own life to them. Listen to these words:
Yes, we must learn to embrace our problems; trusting God, the one who will lead and guide us for the journey.
“Our gracious, loving, Heavenly Father, we thank you that you are Lord of the Journey; and Father, even as we pray, right now, we know that life will hand us all kinds of challenges. There will be many valleys that we go through. Father, we want to keep our eyes on you. We want to be able to follow you, not so that we’d be safe or comfortable, but so that we can be all that you want us to be.
Today, Father, I surrender my life to you. Today, Father, I surrender my life to Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus, would you come into my life, right now, and save me? Forgive me of all my sins. Ah, I give you thanks, and, Father, for those of us who already know Jesus as our Saviour, Lord, we would also pray that He would be Lord of the Journey.
Lord Jesus, I surrender myself to you. You are the one who will lead. I am the one who is to follow. And I would just pray that I will be faithful in following you, all the days of my life.