James 5:11 says, “You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” The Bible contains several accounts that depict God’s compassion and mercy…
The wickedest king in the Old Testament. It seemed like there was no false god he did not worship and no command he did not break. He even sacrificed his own sons to Molech. God punished him by taking him into captivity. 2 Chronicles 33:12–13 records:
Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.
God not only forgave Manasseh, He even restored him as king.
Some of the evilest people in the Old Testament. When they repented, God spared them. This made Jonah so angry that he wanted to die, but God rebuked him:
Should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left?” (Jonah 4:11).
The Prodigal Son
This parable reveals the heart of God the Father. Luke 15:20:
The son arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
Jesus on the Cross
When He was crucified He prayed:
“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
1. Job’s Sacrifice and Intercession Turned Away God’s Wrath
Job 42:7-8—And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has. Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.”
Job is the New Testament example of a persevering saint. James 5:11b says, “You have heard of the perseverance of Job.” How did he persevere? He persevered the same way everyone perseveres—by maintaining faith in God. Twice Satan predicted he would curse God, and at one point his wife even told him to do so (Job 1:9-11, 2:5, 9). He rebuked his wife saying:
“You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (2:10a).
Basically, he said, “As readily as we accept God’s blessings, we must also accept the trials.” Then he succinctly described what it means to persevere when he said:
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (13:15a).
He declared that no matter what happened to him, he would maintain his faith in God.
Be Encouraged Comparing Yourself with Job
Comparing ourselves with Job can be discouraging. Who wants to think they must endure trials as well as he did? We should be encouraged though because he was far from perfect. Trials bring us closer to perfection, which means we are not yet perfect. Sin has affected every part of us, including the way we respond to trials. Job is an example of this.
James 1:2 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” The words “joy” and “trials” are in the same sentence. These words don’t go together! Who experiences joy during trials? James even uses the word “all.” He does not say, “Count it some joy…” or “Find a little joy.” He says, “count it all joy.” As contrary as this sounds, it is a theme in Scripture to find joy in trials:
Romans 5:3 says, “We glory in tribulations.”
First Peter 1:6 says, “You greatly rejoice [when] you have been grieved by trials.”
“Count It All Joy” Doesn’t Mean “Feeling” Joy During Trials
You might be thinking: “The Bible doesn’t make sense, because I definitely do not feel joy when I am going through a trial!” The Bible makes complete sense, because it doesn’t say to “feel” joy during trials. Instead, it says “count it all joy,” because we cannot go by the way we feel. Trials make us feel sorrow and pain, so we must evaluate them independently of our feelings. The word for “count” is hēgeomai, and it means, “To lead, go before, rule, command, have authority over.” Here are a few places it’s used:
Matthew 2:6—“Bethlehem…out of you shall come a Ruler (hēgeomai) Who will shepherd My people Israel.”
Acts 7:10—“[Pharaoh] made [Moses] governor (hēgeomai) over Egypt.”
Hebrews 13:17—“Obey those who rule (hēgeomai) over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account.”
James tells us to “count it all joy,” because we must “govern” and “rule” over trials. We must control the way we view them, versus being controlled by our feelings. We must make a mental judgment about trials by considering the way God wants to use them in our lives. Then we can face them with joy.
God Brings Us into the Deep End
James 1:3 says, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Sermons and books can teach the benefits of patience and how it is acquired, but only trials can build patience into a person’s life. Over the last few years, I have been taking my children to the pool to teach them to swim. I can talk about swimming with my children, tell them what it is like, or even show them videos of people swimming. If they are going to learn to swim though, at some point, they must get in the water. The same is true with patience. If we want to learn patience, at some point, we must be immersed in trials. Continue reading ““Count It All Joy”…During Trials???”→
We have six children and our seventh is due May 2018. Our oldest child is ten, and while we have enjoyed our children at all ages, we still want to see them mature. When they make decisions that disappoint us, we feel disappointed with their maturity. Consider how tragic it would be if children remained immature throughout their lives.
God Is a Father and He Wants His Children to Mature
The author of Hebrews rebuked some of his readers who had been following Christ for some time, but had not matured. Hebrews 5:12 & 6:1 says:
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food…Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God.
Unlike these Hebrew readers, the believers in 2 Thessalonians 1:3–4 had matured significantly:
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure.
The Thessalonians were a wonderful church. Paul applauded their growth, which he attributed to the trials they experienced. This is one reason we can find joy in trials—we know they are producing patience that leads to maturity. First Peter 5:10 says, “After you have suffered a little while, [God] will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” During trials we can tell ourselves, “This is strengthening me spiritually, giving me endurance, building my faith, and preparing me for the future.” Jerry Bridges said:
Every adversity that comes across our path, whether large or small, is intended to help us grow in some way.
Recently, I witnessed a sobering example of the need to expect trials.
My wife, Katie, and I grew up together in northern California. We lost touch after high school and then reconnected almost ten years later. At the time, Katie was living in our hometown of McArthur, California, but I was seven hours south in Lemoore, California. Some wonderful friends of mine, Pat and Kathy Mundy, graciously invited Katie to live with them so we could be near each other, even though they did not know her yet. The four of us became close. They performed our pre-marital counseling and made the trip north for our wedding. Seven years ago, Katie and I moved from Lemoore to Woodland, Washington. Although the distance changed our relationship with Pat and Kathy, we remained friends.
A few years ago, Pat retired from the police department, and he and Kathy looked forward to investing in their grandkids, traveling, and serving their church. Then everything changed. Kathy got sick, and a hospital visit revealed an aggressive form of cancer. The “golden years” have been replaced with doctor appointments and multiple rounds of chemotherapy. Nothing slowed the disease, and in a last attempt, they moved to Seattle for an experimental treatment. A few weeks ago, on their way north, they surprised us and stopped by our house to visit. Continue reading “Expect Trials in this Life”→
When we’re suffering, we often wonder if we did something wrong. As a result, we end up confusing God’s discipline and trials. I saw a recent example of this when a woman wrote me about a miscarriage she experienced. She wondered if God was punishing her. It was heartbreaking. The miscarriage was painful enough without also having to wonder if it was her fault.
You Didn’t Do Something Wrong!
We should expect trials, but when they take place, we don’t have to wonder if we sinned! It’s tragic when people blame themselves for their trials. It’s also tragic when people experience trials and “friends” try to get them to blame themselves!
Job’s friends come to mind. They started off well “[sitting] down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:13). This demonstrates what to do when people are suffering. The “Ministry of Presence” requires being a good listener. I received a good piece of advice when I first became a pastor: “If you cannot improve on silence, do not.” Solomon said there is “A time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7b), and “He who has knowledge spares his words” (Proverbs 17:27a).
Unfortunately, Job’s friends did not follow these verses, and things went downhill after they opened their mouths. Eliphaz was the first to speak, and he summarized their argument in Job 4:7 when he asked, “Who ever perished being innocent? Or where were the upright ever cut off?” In other words, “When have bad things ever happened to good people?” Job’s friends wanted to convince him that since he suffered terribly, he must have sinned terribly. Continue reading “Don’t Confuse Discipline and Trials”→