Decide To Do The Work
Passages: James 1:2-18
Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
The Church @ Hamilton
Key Goals: (Know) Understand the role endurance plays in spiritual growth. (Feel) Feel strengthened to endure hardness. (Do) Develop the skill of resolve.
Introduction: A 20 year old with a bright future ahead. She got the call while she was in her dorm room. Two weeks until Christmas break; she was humming a Christmas carol to herself. It’s mom, and she’s crying, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but, your father and I are going to get divorced.” How do you process that kind of news? At some point, everyone needs to rebuild an aspect of their life, even young people. That is why the book of James is so powerful. We are exploring this book, looking for tools that will help us “rebuild” our lives.
The process of rebuilding a life is not unlike rebuilding an engine. We have this engine right here, and let me be honest, this engine is a mess—it is not going to be an easy rebuild. Some aspects will be easier than others, but overall this is a big job. You don’t go into the decision to rebuild an engine lightly. Do you have the skill? Do you have the tools? Do you have help? Do you have the parts? And when you have all of that, you still need one more thing: resolve. Because it is not going to be easy. If this is going to happen, we must decide firmly on a course of action. We cannot waver; we must acquire the firm determination, a steadfastness to do this.
That is the first tool of our rebuild: resolve. I’m not talking about engines anymore—I am talking about having the resolve to rebuild our lives. Anyone who has ever tried to rebuild a messy part of their life knows this is true: it is not going to be easy; it takes a steadfast, firm determination to do it. But it is worth it! That is what James thinks, anyway. Turn to James 1:2. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. One thing about James that you will spot right away is that he does not pull his punches. The first words of his book? “Hey, guys. Before we talk about anything, let me begin by saying you are going to experience heartache, trials, persecution, and suffering. When these things come, I want you to process them as a joyful experiences.”
This is an important piece of “resolve” and James will take the next 16 verses to flesh it out for us. I am not sure about you, but “joy” is not the first place my mind always runs when I am going through a difficult situation. Often my mind runs to discouragement. I feel dejected, unhappy, and disappointed. I also feel lonely and a little deserted, which is exactly the opposite of the way I should be feeling. Here is why: a trial is the only way to test my faith.
We Need Testing. A while back there was a type of nylon coat that was popular. I got a bright yellow one and really liked it. One of the aspects I thought was cool was that the tag said the jacket was waterproof. It was really nice, so I wore it often. When people commented on it I even mentioned, “Yeah and it’s waterproof too.” But I didn’t really know it was waterproof—I believed it was waterproof—until it was tested at an early spring soccer game. It was cold and drizzly, so perfect weather for my new jacket. Was it waterproof? This was the ultimate test, in 40 minutes of drizzle. I was miserable, my feet and legs were soaked, my hair was dripping, but my shirt was completely dry! It passed! I loved that jacket and wore it everywhere. In 80 degrees, I was wearing my waterproof jacket.
At the outset of rebuilding our lives, James wants us to develop a mindset that testing and trials are not hardships to bring discouragement but opportunities for joy as the authenticity of our faith is proved. Prov. 17:3 says The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts. Why? The same reason you smelt gold: purity. How do you know your faith is real? You put it through the furnace of adversity. Let’s look at this first tool for our rebuild: resolve.
1. Resolve within our trials produces undiminished faithfulness (Jm.1:3-4) …for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. So the very first reason we should count trials as “joy” is because the testing of our faith produces “steadfastness.” What is that really? It is the Greek word ὑπομένειν; its basic meaning was simply “to hold out.” But in the military culture of the Roman world, the idea of “holding out” specifically in battle (like Horatius at the bridge in 510BC) grew prominent in their list of virtues. It came to represent courageous endurance which manfully defies evil. Unlike patience, it has an active content. It includes active and energetic resistance to hostile power.
So what James is telling us is that if you want to develop a courageous, active, manly faith that can resist evil—it is only going to come by successfully holding your resolve in the midst of testing. That alone should help us change our thinking about trials. But that is not the end game, because “steadfastness” produces something in us as well. Look at verse 4. …let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. The full effect of steadfastness is that a believer becomes perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
In Genesis 22, God tested Abraham. He told him to sacrifice his only son. Abraham obeyed, even to the point of raising the knife, before God stopped him. I cannot imagine how hard that was for Abraham to raise that knife. But he believed in a big God; he trusted in “El Shaddai” God Almighty who had the power to give him a son in his old age. So Abraham, we are told, believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. You know what righteousness is? Moral perfection or completeness. His tested faith produced in him what God wants to produce in us: completeness.
Why count trials as joy? Because we are incomplete without them. They produce in us the manful, courageous ability to resist evil and temptation that ultimately leads to overcoming sin. A person cannot rebuild their life and end up courageous and complete without testing. So let us take James’ advice and shift the gears in our minds to start processing hardships and testing in our lives as joy.
2. Resolve within our trials takes God’s wisdom (James 1:5-8) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. Last week we discussed the fact that James knew what it meant to doubt. He was Jesus’ brother, he grew up with Jesus, yet did not believe in him (John7:9) until the resurrection (I Cor. 15). James warns us that even asking for wisdom is going to take resolve—resolve based on good theology. Here is a sentence for you: bad theology creates weak and foolish Christians.
Let me break down the theology of wisdom for a moment. The Bible teaches us that God has all wisdom and knowledge (Prov. 2:6). God has told us that if we lack wisdom we should ask him (Prov. 2:6; Jm. 1:5) He has even told us that if we ask, God will generously give us wisdom without criticizing our foolishness (James1:6). If all of that is true, if it is that easy, why are we not the wisest people we know?
James, a guy familiar with doubting, warns us that while we may understand this, we may not really believe it. Your faith in God giving you the wisdom to endure hardship in your life is directly tied to how big your God is. James is straight with us: ask for wisdom without doubting or don’t ask! Doubting people should not expect to get anything from God because their understanding of God is so poor that they may not even know him. You have to have faith, trust in God (salvation) before you will have any ability to endure a trial. Why would you ask God for wisdom to test a faith that is non-existent? I can almost picture James, as he was writing, thinking about the way his brother Jesus put it as recorded in Luke 6:46–49.
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”
3. Resolve within our trials brings rich blessings (James 1:12-15)
12Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
There are five crowns mentioned in Scripture:
1. Imperishable Crown - for those who serve (1 Cor. 9:25)
2. Crown for the One who Wins Souls (Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19)
3. Crown of Righteousness - for those who love his appearing (2 Tim 4:8)
4. Crown of Glory - for those who faithfully shepherd the church (1 Pet 5:4)
5. Crown of Life - for those who faithfully endure suffering (Jm. 1:12; Rev 2:10)
We typically do not talk about crowns today because we think they are only for royalty. But the Greek word used for crown is stephanos, which refers to a “reward” or “laurel wreath.” In the Greek Olympics, the winner of a sporting contest was awarded the stephanos or laurel crown. Crowns mentioned in Scripture, then, represent rewards for special acts of service or perseverance within the Kingdom of God. From what we see in Scripture, the crowns will be an actual reward handed out to believers when Jesus returns again in the future. This will be at the Bema—the Judgment Seat of Christ. James 1:12 and Revelation 2:10 indicate that the Crown of Life is for those who persevere in faith through temptation, tribulation, and persecution. By offering a crown, Jesus (and James) is encouraging us to stay strong, keep the course, and remain faithful; he is proclaiming to those with faith: it will be worth it.
[Marshmallow Experiment (Igniter Media)]
These children had to decide: is it worth it? Is one more marshmallow worth the wait? We have to decide if the eternal rewards of following Christ are worth the temporary pain of today. James is telling us, “Yes! Persevere to the end. Following Christ is worth whatever it will cost you!”
Listen to Revelation 2:10. Jesus is speaking to the church in Smyrna, which was experiencing horrible persecution. “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” In order for us as people to rebuild our lives, we must have resolve—the ability and desire to endure. Rebuilding will take determination and steadfastness, but it is how we will know our faith is pure and because when Christ returns, he is bringing a crown for those faithfully persevere!
Community Group Discussion
1. Read through James 1:2-18 as a group, then see how much of the passage you can recite from memory.
2. The passage mentions a crown for those who endure. Five crowns are mentioned in Scripture—why do you think we rarely discuss them? Is it wrong to be motivated by receiving a crown?
3. Discuss what (if anything) you learned about what it takes to rebuild when life gets difficult.
4. Discuss a time in your life when you had to endure something difficult. How did you make it through?
5. Discuss how persevering through suffering helps “complete” us. Have you experienced this?
6. We watched the “Marshmallow Experiment” video. Why is the idea of deferred gratification important to faith?
© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.
 All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.
 See Jeremy Myers’ excellent blog article on this subject: https://redeeminggod.com/what-is-the-crown-of-life/