Step Towards Transformation
James 1:2-4; NKJV
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
 But, let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
Illustration Of My Daughter: Several weeks ago, Hosanna was hungry.I glanced at the clock and decided that a few monaco biscuits probably wouldn’t spoil her lunch, so I instructed her to sit down at our dining table. Pulling out a package of the monaco that are her favorite, I dumped them onto a small plate in front of her. I pointed to the biscuits on her plate and suggested that she count them before she ate. She pondered that for a moment, then agreeably put out her pointer finger and began, “One…two…three…” I noticed that as she counted, she pushed the broken biscuits to one side with her finger and did not include them in her numerical calculation. When I pointed to the broken pieces and asked her, “Hosanna , why didn’t you count these biscuits?” a disturbed crease appeared between her eyebrows. In a voice that clearly indicated her displeasure at having to state the obvious, she said, “Dada, those biscuits are broken!” Of course, I giggled at the time.
A few days later, I was reading in the Book of James during my devotional time, and came across this verse: “ (James 1:2-4). The word “count” made me think about Hosanna’s refusal to count the broken biscuits. I wondered: How often might we do the same thing when it comes to counting all the circumstances of life as joy?
It is easy to be thankful and full of praise for the blessings God has given us. But how much harder it is to count as joy the things that make us feel sad, fearful, frustrated, discouraged, or stressed—in essence, the “broken biscuits” in our lives! Clearly, that is what we are instructed to do.
Notice that when James said, “Count it all joy…” he was not referring to the acceptable, pleasant, positive aspects of our existence. He specifically stated that what we are to consider as joy are the “divers temptations” (or trials) that come our way. Now, that’s a challenge!
Joy is not dependent upon circumstances. It is something we can possess, irrespective of what happens in our lives, good or bad.
Illustration Of A Praying Lady: A certain elderly lady was well-known for her faith, and for her boldness in talking about it. At times, she would stand on her front porch and shout: “PRAISE THE LORD!” Next door to her lived an atheist who would get so angry at her proclamations he would shout: “There ain’t no God!” Hard times set in on this Godly elderly lady, and she prayed for the Lord to send her some assistance. She stood on her porch and openly prayed: “GOD I NEED FOOD! I AM HAVING A HARD TIME. PLEASE LORD, SEND ME SOME GROCERIES!” The next morning the lady went out on her porch, and noted a large bag of groceries and shouted, “PRAISE THE LORD!” The neighbour jumped from behind a bush and said: “A-ha! I told you there was no God. I bought those groceries, God didn’t!” The lady started jumping up and down and clapping her hands and said: “PRAISE THE LORD! He not only sent me groceries, but He made the devil pay for them…Praise the Lord!”
Biblical joy is not entirely identical with happiness. Happiness relies completely on emotion. Emotion is the confirmation of happiness. The same way sadness is demonstrated by depression and tears. Joy has been accepted in our English language as an emotional demonstration often defined as happiness. Yet, Biblically, joy has a different meaning for the word joy.
Count it joy refers to declaring our situation as happy and fulfilling. It is to change our mind-set and focus. It is realizing the sovereignty of God and that He is in control, even when life seems to be turned upside down and inside out!
We need to realize that we have no control over what happens to us at times, whether it be trials, suffering, setbacks, injury, sickness, or death of a loved one. We only have control of our attitude and response. We are called to choose to declare our situation joy!
It does no good to complain, to fret, or to be angry or be bitter, as these things do neither others nor us any good. All that complaining just worsens the situation and blinds us to our ability to be better and not bitter!
There are two ways most people deal with trials; the first is to ignore them, and the second is to panic. The first group can think all they want that, well, that will never happen to me, but it will. The others can panic all they want, but panic never solved anything.
We have to literally change our mind-set and consider the trials as Joy. We are to take our lead from biblical considerations and the leading of the Spirit-not the leading of ignorance or panic. This means we will see trials from God’s perspective and not ours or the worlds. Trials do not mean despair; they mean opportunity and growth. They have a purpose.
Illustration: According to MSNBC, The British Medical Journal recently reported the case of a 76-year-old woman who visited her doctor complaining of stomach problems. When the scans came back, doctors were amazed to see a long object in her stomach. It was a pen! The woman remembered having put a pen in her mouth 25 years ago. She lost her balance, fell, and swallowed the pen. Her doctor at the time didn’t believe it, and the x-ray equipment of that day didn’t detect it, so nothing was ever done about it. Now here’s the remarkable thing. When surgeons removed the pen, it still worked.
Sometimes we feel like we’re being swallowed up in troubles, trials, pressures, and problems. Trials produce testings, but from testings come testimonies. We never lose our message. We never run out of ink
When you write “crisis” in Chinese, It could be “危机“, which consists of two characters. One of the meanings of the first character “危“ is DANGER, The other character “机“ represents “OPPORTUNITY“. In my opinion, “危机“ does imply an underlying opportunity behind the danger. So look for opportunities in times of crisis.
What can we learn in this very short passage of the Bible?
From it, I have found three things that we should examine and make part of our daily walk with God.
Three things that should be part of our lives from this day forward.
In short you can’t avoid the trials and troubles that this life brings.
James tells us that troubles should be an opportunity for joy. Remember what his brother, Jesus said? “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” (Matthew 5:11-12)
In John 16:33…Jesus even says to rejoice about these troubles. It seems to me that if you are doing what God wants you to do and you run into trouble, you are going to have to depend on God to find the way out of the trouble.
As human beings we have a tendency to believe we can figure anything out. We put people on the moon. We have created more technology in the last 50 years than in the previous 1000 years. We think we are pretty special…except when trouble comes. Then we turn to God and to others to help.
This opportunity for joy is a strange way to look at trouble, isn’t it?
Illustration “Jewelers use ‘the water test’ as a means for identifying a true diamond. An imitation stone is never as brilliant as a genuine stone, but sometimes the difference cannot be determined with the naked eye. So jewelers immerse the stone in water. A genuine diamond continues to sparkle brilliantly, it perseveres, while the sparkle of the imitation is virtually extinguished.”
The faith of some under the water of difficulty is revealed to be nothing but an imitation. However, when a true child of God is immersed in a trial, he will shine as brilliantly as ever.
Remember that it’s not God that is testing our faith. The trouble is the test. The trouble doesn’t come from God. We usually are the source of trouble. Sometimes it’s other people or circumstances or whatever the world has to throw in our path. James is pretty clear about this. The trouble tests us, it builds our endurance to handle the next trial and so on. Our endurance, he says, has a chance to grow. Wow.
Is this James just trying to paint a rosy picture and trying to be positive?
I don’t think so. If you have ever had a major trial and came out better on the other side, you know what he is talking about. Even though God is not always the source of the trials, He makes sure that there is something to learn from them.
I can tell you that if you don’t learn something positive about a trial, you have wasted a great opportunity. Instead of complaining about how people are treating you or how awful your life is, look for the opportunity to learn something from it. If you complain, you will remain. If you get negative and sour on life, you won´t pass the test.
Faith Activates God – Fear Activates Satan: Joy Activates God – Complaining Activates Satan
Anything that is worth anything takes time and effort. Progress in life, progress in school, progress in your career takes work, effort, sweat and tears. If those things aren’t part of your process, you may not be doing it right. This perfection is perfect. This perfection means completion. The process takes your whole life.
James tells us that when this endurance is fully developed, we will be “perfect and complete, needing nothing”.
Illustration of Knee Sprain Medication: the best way to handle a sprained ankle is to fill a wastebasket with ice and water and to put your foot in—right after the injury. It is so dang cold. You’ve never been cold until you’ve had to do this. If you only leave your foot in there for one minute, it’s not very helpful. But I’m telling you, after one minute you feel seven seconds away from dying. That’s how bad it hurts. But if you can keep your ankle in for two minutes, the injury and its recovery time will be cut in half. If you can hang on for two and a half minutes—even though at that point you want a gun—you can be playing basketball again by 3 days. It hurts so bad! But if you can hang on for three minutes, you’ll be walking on your ankle tomorrow, because all the blood flow is stopped. But it’s so hard.
James says something in this passage that is actually quite perplexing. He tells us that we should let our endurance grow. This endurance is the result of bad experiences, evil people, disease, financial ruin and the whole scope of negative things in life.To grow in endurance, we need trials and troubles.
I can tell you something from experience…you can’t avoid trouble, but you can avoid learning something from it. Trials produce life transformation, but you’ve got to stay under it.
Illustration of Self; When my ex-wife left me with my child 20 years ago in 1996, everything that was me, left with her. I was mourning. I mourned the loss of that relationship more than anything else in my life. But you know what? Even with all my yelling and complaining and turning my back on God, He was RIGHT there. All the time. Every second, every minute, every heart- paining hour. The whole time He was teaching me, correcting me and comforting me. I would not have endured without Him. I would have died. I was that heartsick. He even cured me after a paralytic stroke in 1999. Then i was born again in 2000. God was RIGHT there.
The divorce had been final. I had taken a new government job in Trivandrum, where I could hide from most of the people who knew me. Then sooner I was transferred to Mumbai again. It just so happened that one day, God brought this young lady Ruth in to my life., I knew God had redeemed a part of me that I thought was dead forever.
Just a couple of years later we were married. It wasn’t perfect. I was still in mourning, still sad. But this wise woman let me mourn and her love was added to God’s love. There was a completion that I never felt before.
The trial changed me. Changed me forever. The person you see today is, in large part, the result of that trial. For better or worse, that’s me. I am better. Not perfect, but my life is complete on this earth because God saw fit to bless me while He was correcting me.
I really appreciate that. God is a great multi-tasker.
Illustration of a cocoon: A man found a cocoon of the emperor moth and took it home to watch it emerge. One day a small opening appeared, and for several hours the moth struggled but couldn’t seem to force its body past a certain point. Deciding something was wrong, the man took scissors and snipped the remaining bit of cocoon. The moth emerged easily, its body large and swollen, the wings small and withered. He expected that in a few hours the wings would spread out in their natural beauty, but they did not. Instead of developing into a creature free to fly, the moth spent its life dragging around a swollen body and withered wings.
The constricting cocoon and the struggle necessary to pass through the tiny opening are God’s way of forcing fluid from the body into the wings. The “merciful” cut was, in reality, cruel. Sometimes the struggle is exactly what we need.
We are tested by our trials. And here are the three basic questions on the exam.
Illustration of Bees: One Saturday morning, a seven-year-old boy was playing in their front-yard garden in the middle of flowers in bloom. He was trying to catch butterflies with his torn net. Suddenly a bee flew to his position buzzing straightway landing on the back of his palm. The busy bee stung him, and he lurched crying to his Mom in the kitchen who was cooking pancakes for a morning snack. “I hate bees, Mommy, I hate bees,” the boy angrily muttered. “I wish God never created bees,” he complained furiously.
Mommy snobbishly threw a glimpse at her complaining son as she puts four pieces of those freshly cooked pancakes on a plate and pushed the plate toward her son. “Wait, don’t eat it yet; let me pour some of these pure honey that I just bought yesterday,” she said. The boy was feasting on the pancakes, dipping them in the honey that flowed on the plate. Mommy asked her son, “How’s the honey, Johnny?”
“Really great Mom”, he said. Mommy lifted Johnny to her lap and started stroking his bee-stung hand. Looking eye-to-eye to her son with a smile, she said, “You know, Johnny, the bee that stung you is the same bee that gave us the honey.” The boy looked to her Mommy’s eyes with a sheepish smile.
Pain is inevitable but misery is optional! God doesn’t always still the storm, but He can calm the sailor!
There is a Chinese proverb, “A gem is not polished without rubbing, nor a man made better without trials.”
Sure it doesn’t feel good to go through abrasive moments of trials and problems. Sometimes they are recurring. Remember this, my Christian friend; life is full of rubbing shoulders and exchanging words. Every time life would seem to cut you and grind you, it means God is working in you to make you a better you.
Illustration Of A Painter: Pierre Auguste Renoir is a famous French artist who lived in the late 19th century to the early 20th century. He was known for his paintings, mostly depicting family life. But there was one disease that tormented this gifted artist — he had arthritis that plagued him to the tip of his fingers. Every time he painted, each stroke of brush meant grimacing pain due to his arthritis. It took him quite a time to finish one painting, a masterful work of art. One of his friends pitifully consoled him to stop painting and shift his passion in arts and focus on his health, for it did seem a great struggle against pain whenever he held his brush and start another piece of art. But Renoir, with great display of passion, answered, “The Pain passes away but the Beauty remains.”
I would say with Renoir that every time we face a brunt of painful experience, we must answer with pride on our faces, “The pain will pass away ultimately, but the beauty of character that it would produce in me will remain.”
Illustration Of Baby Birth: a little baby, when he’s in the womb for nine months, everything is great; he’s comfortable, he doesn’t have to do anything, he gets his food from his mother, gets carried around all day, he can sleep whenever he wants to, it’s peaceful, calm, life is good.
For a season, that’s healthy; he’s growing, he’s maturing, that’s where he’s supposed to be. But if he stays in that womb too long, instead of being a blessing, the womb will become a curse. It’s too small; it will keep him from his destiny, it will limit his potential. He has to get out.
When he comes through the birth canal, it’s tight, uncomfortable, traumatic. Up to this point, all he’s known is peace, calm, lying around doing nothing; now, it’s like all hell breaks loose. He thinks, “what in the world is wrong with mama? Has she lost her mind? Is she trying to kill me?” He’s being pushed, squeezed, pressured. He gets pushed again, pushed again, pushed again; finally he comes out, he’s born, breathes new life, steps into that new level.
It’s the same principle; when things are tight, when you’re being pressured, when you’re uncomfortable, it’s easy to think, “what in the world is happening? I liked it when it was peaceful; i want to go back to how it was.” But if you stay in that womb too long, in that protected place, it won’t be a blessing; it will keep you from becoming all god created you to be. God controls the universe; he knows what’s best for you.
If you’re being pushed, it’s because the door is open; there’s something greater in your destiny. It may be uncomfortable; don’t complain. God is stretching you, enlarging you. You’re about to see new growth, talents, opportunities.
When thoughts tell you, “this trouble is permanent, it’s never going to change,” just answer back, “no, i’m being delivered. I’m already en route. I know that this sickness, trouble, is only temporary; it’s just a stop along the way.”
Instead of praying for the burdens to be lifted from our backs, we need to be praying for stronger backs to bear the suffering. Because Jesus made it very clear: Suffering will come, but there is glory ahead!
When times get tough, don´t be surprised if you feel a heaviness trying to overwhelm you. Don´t be surprised if you hear negative thoughts telling you, “It´s never going to work out. Things are never going to get better. It´s over. It´s done.” When those thoughts come, remember, you have a choice–you don´t have to believe those lies. You don´t have to get on board with your emotions.
ILLUSTRATION: POTATO, EGG, OR COFFEE?.. Once upon a time a daughter complained to her father that her life was miserable. She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It was one problem after another. Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Once the three pots began to boil, he put potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second, and ground coffee beans in the third pot. He then let them sit and boil, without saying a word to his daughter.
After 20 minutes he turned off the burners. He took the potatoes and eggs out and placed them a bowl. He then ladled the coffee out into a cup. Turning to her he asked. “Daughter, what do you see?” “Potatoes, eggs, and coffee,” she hastily replied. “Look closer”, he said. She did and noted the potatoes were soft and the eggs were hard-boiled egg. Finally, she sipped the coffee and its rich aroma brought a smile to her face. “Father, what does this mean?”
He explained that each item (potato, egg, coffee) had each faced the same adversity – the boiling water. However, each one reacted differently. The potato went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but became soft and weak. The egg was fragile but became hard. The coffee was unique. When exposed to the boiling water, it had changed its environment (the water) into something new.
“Which are you?” he asked. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean?”
In the Bible, David encountered many difficult situations. That spirit of heaviness tried to steal his destiny. He got depressed and discouraged, but do you know what he did? He started talking to himself. He said, “Why are you cast down, oh my soul? Put your hope in the Lord.” (Psalm 42:5-6, NIV). He was saying, “David, snap out of it! Why are you discouraged? Why have you lost your joy? God is still on the throne, and He still has good things in store.” When that heaviness tries to come on you, do what David did. As you put your trust in the Lord and praise Him, He´ll give you His strength and empower you to overcome every obstacle you may face!
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