2019-5-26 Blessed the Steadfast under Trial

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          May 26, 2019

“Blessed the Steadfast under Trial”
James 1:12-15

In these first verses from James, and in these first sermons from our series through James entitled The Wise Life, we note the Spirit’s emphasis upon trial.  We are to be the opinion, concerning our trials, “All joy,” in view of what they produce in us (1:2-4).  The Lord, through His inspired penman, invited us to ask Him for wisdom when, amid trial, we perceive that we lack wisdom (1:5-8).  We also learned that, when consigned to lowly status in God’s good providence—especially poverty—we are to rejoice in our high status granted to us by virtue of our union with Christ, by grace, through faith (cf. Ephesians 2:8).  Today, in James 1:12-15, we note further truth concerning trial.  Blessed are the steadfast under trial, but the end of one not steadfast under trial is not good.  Let us give ear and attention to the reading and the preaching of God’s Word.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

The central claim in our text—as in many a text that teaches or exhorts—occurs at its beginning: Blessed is the one who stands steadfast under trial.  Let’s look at the components of this claim more closely.  When James, led by the Spirit, calls us blessed in our steadfastness amid trial, we may just as well substitute happy for blessed (Greek makarios [makarioV], cf. the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:3-12).  We will see soon why we are blessed, or happy, in steadfast stance amid trial.  The verb translated remains steadfast (Greek hupomeno [upomenw]) is virtually the same as the noun translated patience (hupomone [upomonh]) in the passages listing the various expressions of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  My wooden translation is endures, which reflects the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances.[1]  Blessed, or happy, therefore, is the one who endures trial, or testing, or—as we see later in the text—temptation.  This, likely many claims in Scripture, runs counter-intuitive to our natural sense.  Why are we happy, or blessed, in such a state?

The faithful Christian disciple, having endured God’s providential trials, obtains the crown of life.  The Giver of this life crowns our mortal life with good things, such as forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, mercy, and renewal—to name but a few (Psalm 103:5).  He also awards the crown of life to those who fight the good fight, finish the race, keep the faith, and love His appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).  This is an infallible promise from God—both fail-proof and foolproof—to those loving Him.  Never forget these twin truths about God’s precious promises.  First, all of His promises are “Yea” and “Amen” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).  Second, not one of His good promises to His covenant people ever failed, but every one of them comes to pass (Joshua 21:45).  If God promises the crown of life to those remaining steadfast under trial, then let us indeed remain steadfast by His almighty power.

The course of the one not steadfast under trial is much different.  Such a one, rather than counting it all joy, blames God for his trial.  Yet God, by His nature, cannot be tempted with evil—as we read in today’s text.  Hence, He tempts no one thus.  Rather, temptations rise from another, more infernal, quarter.  The one not persevering in trial, or the one railing at the Lord Who refines us, is lured, by his own deep desire (or lust, Greek epithumia [epiqumia]), from godliness.

Note that God leads not astray from Himself, but the one not steadfast, by his own deep desire (or lust), is lured from Godly things and acts unto evil things and acts.  The image is one of fish lured to the hook or net by bait.  In the one not steadfast, thus doubly lured, that lust in his or her soul conceives and bears sin—and sin, once full grown, brings forth death.

We now see the hideous, fatal nature of sin—particularly sin in us.  It will wound us, disfigure us, and eventually kill us, if left untreated.  It requires the death of God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to heal us from this otherwise fatal condition.  Once healed of sin through faith in Christ’s Person and work, let us by His Holy Spirit endure our trials, our testings, and our temptations.  Make no mistake: we cannot endure without Him; in fact, apart from Him, we perish quickly under the onslaught of our ancient foe.  Yet having endured these trials—having stood steadfast amid them—we receive the crown of life from the Lord Himself.  Think again of what this crown of life entails, namely, presence with Him and favor from Him.  These things—God’s presence and His favor in Christ, through the Holy Spirit—bless our souls far more than these light and momentary trials (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:17) wound us.  God’s presence with us, and His favor bestowed freely and generously upon us, makes bearing all our trials inexpressibly worth the bearing.  May He, by His powerful grace, cause us to remain steadfast under the trials He lovingly appoints for us.

AMEN.

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene A. Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989).

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