Calvary Road Baptist Church


James 1.2-4

How many of you have ever driven a car, only to have one of the tires go flat on you? How many of you have ever come down with an illness? Have you ever suffered an accident in which you were injured? I once broke a wrist when I fell out of an apricot tree. I damaged my spine lifting weights and required surgery. I also gave up karate when I tore a ligament in my shoulder in a fall. Have you ever been in a situation in which you carefully planned your finances in such a way that if things would only go right, all would be great, but things did not go that way, and the results were catastrophic? I suppose it has been the experience of anyone who is not young that tragedy, heartache, disaster, difficulty, and misfortune has all come your way to some degree. However, if you look back over the experiences of life and are honest with yourself, oftentimes reflection reveals it was your own fault. Right?

When you run on bald tires, it is your own fault when you get a flat on the big boulevard during rush hour. When your fan belt goes out on the way to church, that really is also your fault. You should have put on safe tires and you should have replaced the fan belt at the recommended time, or carried spares. Would you not agree? I speak along this line to point out that many of the frustrating things that occur to you and me occur simply because of your own, simply because of my own, negligence. Are we not agreed concerning the truth of what I say? Those things agreed, I am now talking about those other occurrences, the ones no amount of preparation or foresight could have anticipated or could have been avoided. I am now referring to the blowout you get on a brand new tire. I am referring to the rip in the brand new trousers you are wearing that do not fit too tightly. I am bringing up the automatic withdrawal your insurance company made from your checking account one day before you authorized payment to them, which resulted in bounced checks all over town; checks that should have been covered had the insurance company not fouled up at their end.

There is a Law of Nature that covers things like this: It is called Murphy’s Law. Ever heard of it? Murphy’s Law observes that whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and that it will go wrong at the most inopportune time, causing the greatest problems which could be caused. Of course, we say Murphy’s Law in this secular society to avoid thinking about God’s providence. Therefore, when these types of things take place, we can sometimes find ourselves muttering, or even screaming in a hysterical voice, “Why is this happening to me?” Other variations of this question do occur.

For those of you who have wondered why such things happen to you, as I have so often wondered myself, James 1.2-4 was written. Turn to that passage and stand for the reading of God’s Word:

2      My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

3      Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

4      But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Though I preached from James 1.2 last week, the verse comprises a unit with verses 3 and 4, so we will deal with all three verses together in this message, just as soon as I introduce you to this thing called faith. Faith is a matter of supreme importance to the child of God because faith is the means by which the infinite God who is terrible in majesty, who is a consuming fire, and who is unapproachable by we who are wicked sinners, can be related to. Faith is important to us because in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, faith is the principle by which those with spiritual life actually live their spiritual lives, “the just shall live by faith.”[1] The prototypical example for living by faith, of course, was father Abraham. In his life, we see him seeking God by faith, being saved by faith, and then serving God by faith.[2]

Where are you in your spiritual quest? Are you where Abraham was for years after he left Ur of the Chaldees, believing in God, seeking to obey God, receiving promises from God, but not yet having been justified by God through faith? That is the condition of so many who profess to be Christians these days, who surmise from the fact that they have faith that they are Christians. However, possessing faith is no necessary indication a person’s sins have been forgiven, just as Abraham had faith for approximately ten years before he was justified by faith in Genesis 15.6. If that is your spiritual condition (and please understand that you are not in a position to evaluate yourself if that is the case), you have not yet come to saving faith in Jesus Christ. You are not yet among the redeemed. I would urge you to come and speak with me about the matter as soon as possible. Knowing Jesus is the virgin born Son of God, that He died on Calvary’s cross as your sin bearer, and that He rose from the dead three days later and is now enthroned at the right hand of the Father on high, is not sufficient to make you a Christian.

What James wrote was not for bringing the lost to saving faith in Jesus Christ. What he wrote was to explain God’s dealings in the lives of those who already know Christ, who already have saving faith, and whose Christian lives would be improved as God subjects their serving faith to testing. Note, if you will, that there are two sentences, two commands. We will study these two commands so that you who are believers can leave the auditorium this morning with the assurance that there is a purpose in what James labels temptations. Such things as happen to you without provocation or prescience are tests God brings into your life for your benefit and for His glory.


2      My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

3      Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

There are three ways in which James seeks to influence your attitude during what we understand by the context of this passage to be a test:

First, there is his consideration. James begins the command, “My brethren.” Right away, our author tells us something about himself. He is not addressing his former church members as the senior pastor of the Jerusalem church. Rather, “brethren” shows his readers that he is emphasizing the family relationship that all believers enjoy as members of the family of God. This is a “We’re in this together” kind of phrase. I am so glad that even though the Holy Spirit inspired the scriptures, He did use men who have been there, who have been tested, and who met the test with victory. Aren’t you? James was that kind of Christian.

Second, there is his command. Call it a directive, for now, since there are so many people whose stiff neck hinders their response to what they perceive to be a command. James directs his readers to “Count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations.” Since this is the first directive he gives, the first command in the New Testament, we need to heed it very closely. By way of a review of what we covered last week, I suggest a quick look at individual portions of the verse:

·                        “Count it all joy” does not suggest that you are to be happy when you are tempted, though some people have interpreted the phrase that way. What James is more than suggesting is a right attitude. Are you being tested? No complaints. No whining about it. Are you frustrated by events you cannot control? Do not drop-kick junior into the next room. Adopt the proper attitude for a child of God.

·                        “when ye fall into diverse temptations”

“When” means that it will happen, you just do not know the time or the place. There are some fellows, I am told, who believe that one can be so spiritual as to be beyond testing and hard times. However, you will notice that the word James uses is the word “when,” not “if.” That means testing will come, and it comes to everyone. Anyone who says he does not go through hard times as a Christian is mistaken, is a liar, or is lost.

·                        As well, notice the word “temptation.”

The word does not refer to what is done to you, but to what you perceive. What you “feel like,” if you will. Only the context of the passage in which the word is used will tell you whether you are dealing with a testing or a temptation. A careful study of verses 2 through 12 indicates that testing is referred to, but beyond verse 12, the context shows that James refers to the temptation to commit sin.

·                        The phrase “diverse temptations” means that there are a million and one tests that befall a believer. When these tests come, you are expected, because you are directed, to control your mental attitude.

You are to understand what is taking place - IT IS A TEST! You know these tests cannot be avoided because you “fall into” them. No matter which way you go you will encounter these things. God, Who is over all things, brings these things along for a reason.

Third, there is his candor. James writes, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” I am so glad there is some reason why God lets all these things happen in my life which literally drive me up the wall at times. “Knowing” is an interesting word that means for us to realize, or to allow it to dawn on us. James is indicating that you understand from your experiences that the trying of your faith worketh patience. In this first sentence of the letter, James has already mentioned the word “faith.” Let this be your clue that the entire letter deals with the way faith on the inside shows itself on the outside. The question is what does “the trying of your faith” refer to? Understand that faith is always mingled with doubt and presumption, and we do not always discern what is real and what is fake. Times of testing are God’s way of subjecting something to sometimes harsh scrutiny to ascertain its validity, its genuineness, whether it is real faith or fake. Most of you here are not children. What do hard times really do to a man or a woman? First, they let you know how tough you really are. Second, you realize that you can go through just a little tougher if you had to. However, you would never know how tough you were unless you had to face the hard time. What is a characteristic of real faith? Faithfulness. What does faithfulness look like to the observer? It looks like “patience.” The word “patience” that James uses comes from two words that form a compound word. One word is a preposition meaning to “be under.” The second word, monh, is a state of remaining in an area, tarrying.[3] Patience, upomenh, is the capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty.[4] James is saying in so many words, “Brethren, have joy deep down in your heart whenever your faith is tested (it will be tested), because you will realize along the way that the testing of your faith by these various and unexplained hardships makes your faith stronger and more durable.” If you or I had our way we would never be tested, would we? However, without testing you will never grow stronger. Paul must have read James’ letter. Look at Romans 5.3, where Paul writes, “we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience.”


“But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Notice, in the first part of verse 4, the command. “But let patience have her perfect work . . . .” It is possible for any Christian to interfere with this process of God trying his faith. Sometimes a child of God is ignorant and cannot understand what is happening, and at other times, he is discouraged, loses heart, and is unwilling to make the best use of the events that God brings to test his faith. Why does this happen? Sometimes Christians fail to learn the lessons that can come through testing because they think that God must always be punishing them for some hidden sin in their lives. However, First Peter 4.12-13 does not support such errant thinking. Turn there and read those two verses with me:

12     Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:

13     But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

According to what we have just read, agreeing completely with our text, a Christian’s trials are a normal part of the Christian’s life. Therefore, you ought not to think every problem is God getting you. As well, problems that other Christians have should not be thought of as God getting them. While some interfere with God’s working in their lives by misunderstanding testing, others just give up and purpose to do nothing for the rest of their lives. What can be said about this spiritual pouting? Understand that nothing you are experiencing is anything that others have not also experienced. Since others have met identical challenges by the grace of God, so can you, no matter what it is. And you had better. You have been commanded to let patience do its work in your life, and if you are saved you eventually will do just that.

In the second part of verse 4, we observe the condition. “that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Here James tells you what condition you are in as a believer, and what condition you will end up being in as a believer if you will let patience do its work. Look at some of the words with me, just to make sure we are comfortable with their meanings and implications. The word “perfect” refers to being complete, finished. The word “entire” means whole, with no pieces missing. The phrase “wanting nothing” means to have nothing missing. Imagine a newly converted believer being somewhat like a lump of raw material in some respects, in that he is quite ignorant and very immature. Though he is all there in rough form, there is some molding and forming of character and personality that needs to be done over time. God uses the difficulties He brings into the Christian’s life to polish off the rough edges, so the child of God can gradually become more perfect, by filling in some of the voids in his character and lifestyle choice, so he will be entire, to give him some valuable experiences, so he will be wanting nothing. One man put it this way - “God sends trials into your life in every imaginable form, to poke around and look for weak spots in your faith. When a trial comes upon a weak spot, it challenges your faith. With the attitude of joy deep in your heart during the attack, you will conquer that test. Soon, where there was once a weakness in your life, there will come to be a region of strong and proven faith.”

How do you react to trials that come into your life, Christian? When your car breaks down on the freeway, do you fuss and fume, whining because stuff like this always happens to you? When misfortune comes your way, what is your attitude like? Do you think, “I never get a break in life”? Or do you strive to respond as Jesus did in Hebrews 12.2? “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He, of course, is the perfect example of living James 1.2-4 to the fullest.

I know that some of you are going through tremendous trials. You do not need to tell me about it all. I know. I see some of you handling your diverse temptations properly, and I rejoice for you. God is working in your lives in a wonderful way. The Holy Spirit is working. His fruit of faith is being produced, as you demonstrate your trust of Him to preserve you in, or see you through, your trials. Others are discouraged at the circumstances of life. Remember, some of those difficulties you experience are your own fault. However, what can be said about the ones that you fall into? How do you handle those that are not your fault, that are brought on by the providential hand of the unseen God? Do you pass the various tests of life?

Seek to cultivate the right attitude through these experiences. Recognize God’s work through it all so that the Holy Spirit will produce joy, as you understand that when these things happen to you, God is working in your life. The world calls it Murphy’s Law. However, you and I know it is God working in your life to grow you into a more mature and a more faithful Christian who is equipped to deal with the rugged requirements of life as a Christian. It is a victory of faith in God that recognizes God’s work in such things as these.

[1] Habakkuk 2.4; Romans 1.17; Galatians 3.11; Hebrews 10.38

[2] Abraham’s seeking faith (Genesis 12.1-15.5; Acts 7.1-5; Hebrews 11.8), Abraham’s saving faith (Genesis 15.6; Romans 4.1-5), Abraham’s serving faith (Hebrews 11.9-10, 17-19)

[3] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 658.

[4] Ibid., pages 1039-1040.

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