Faith That Works When The Pressure’s On: A Faith That Works When Troubles Come
Pressure is nothing new. James, the half brother of Jesus, wrote to Jewish Christians in the first century who faced intense pressure. They had been forced out of their homes because of persecution, and they faced increasing pressure to let faith live only in their heads instead of being evidenced in their lives. James beckoned these first believers to let pressure push them deeper in their journey with Jesus. Today, James invites us as believers to open our lives to the truth of God’s Word and learn how to deal positively with the uncertainty and troubles we face today.
Bottom Line: Perspective feeds your faith and faith gives you confidence.
Something To Talk About:
Did you know that God has a purpose for your problems? In fact, the first chapter of the book of James is all about how your faith can get you through your difficulties. Consider these four steps:
- Rejoice in the problem: Choosing joy is just plain easier when life cooperates with you when things go your way. When it seems like everything is an uphill battle, choosing joy no longer feels like second nature. COVID-19 has made joy seem fleeting. The only way to find joy and happiness is through God. True joy comes from within, from God, and isn’t changed by circumstance. Maybe you have been forsaken by your spouse. Or are struggling with the death of a loved one. Or facing the loss of a job or business. Or, maybe just the daily grind of life. Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, “ Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines, even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren, even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” Even if everything seems to go wrong, you can rejoice in the Lord. There is no darkness so dark that Jesus cannot overcome. There is no problem too big for God to fix.
- Ask God for wisdom: We are required to make decisions in every sphere of our life, every day – whether it is the workplace, our homes, or dealing with a pandemic. The more complex a problem, the more difficult it is to pick the right alternative and the stakes are higher. However, if pleasing God is more important than pleasing man, our decision-making process becomes simpler. Daniel 2:21 says, “He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars.” Every Christian will have those “moments” in life that require a leap of faith. You can prepare all you want, work hard, and try to figure it all out. You can stress and worry, but no matter what you do you’re never really ready. Don’t go it alone. Ask for wisdom from God and His leading.
- Relax and trust God: Some of you have had some goals and dreams that you’ve been striving, seeking, working, hustling, hurrying for year after year after year, and you haven’t achieved them yet. Maybe it is is time time to relax. And trust God. Watch what He can do. He can do it a whole lot faster and a whole lot better than you can do it. The only benefit of being stressed out and being on overload is that it forces you to trust God. It brings you to your knees, and you realize you’re up against the wall, out of steam, out of energy. God can do what you can’t do. Jesus did not say, “If you’re busy, you can move mountains.” He didn’t say, “If you work really hard and get really stressed out, you can move a mountain.” He said that if you have “faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move.”(Matthew 17:20). Faith, not busyness, is what gets the job done. So what’s your mountain? What’s the problem in your life that needs moving? Stop trying to do it all. Do less, and trust God more.
- Remember God’s promise: God gives us many, many, many promises in the Bible. Many promises of help in trouble. We will never face trouble on our own. But James mentions a particular promise that I think is really important in this COVID-19 crisis. James 1:12 says this: ” God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” God promises to bring good from the storms of devastation in our lives. He reminds us in His word that there is great gain when we face painful times, as difficult as it may be. And yet I’m ever so aware of this as well, it’s never easy to live through. No one wishes for hard times in life. No one asks for suffering or storms. Yet if we’ve lived long enough, we know this to be true. It’s all a part of life. Maybe that’s why God reminds us over and over in His word that trials are a part of our journey. It’s what makes us stronger, gives us endurance, builds our faith. He tells us not to be surprised at the troubles we face, but to “keep on rejoicing.” “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” 1 Peter 4:12-13.
- How would you define trials?
- Are your biggest struggles to endure the testings from God? Or to resist the temptations induced by wrong desires in your heart?
- What is the natural reaction to trials?
- How do these trials/problems test our faith?
- How do these trials/problems produce endurance?
- How does endurance bring us to maturity and make us complete?
- James 1:5 is a promise to be explored – especially in times of trial. What is the main offer of this promise? What does it mean that God “will not rebuke you for asking.”
- Why do you think it is so difficult to ask God for wisdom when experiencing a trial?
- Discuss the emotions that are usually associated with trials? Would you ever place “pure joy” on that list?
- When we go through a trial: What is God trying to tell us? Why do we have to go through this ordeal? How does God expect us to get through this crisis?
- What’s the easiest part of the message for you to apply to your life? What’s the hardest? Why?
- How would next week look different for you if you took action steps to apply what you heard?
Take one thing home with you:
The book of James looks a bit like the Old Testament book of Proverbs dressed up in New Testament clothes. Its consistent focus on practical action in the life of faith is reminiscent of the Old Testament, encouraging God’s people to act like God’s people. More than any other book in the New Testament, James places the spotlight on the necessity for believers to act in accordance with our faith. How well do our actions mirror the faith that we proclaim? As we go through this series on James, focus on your actions during trials. Allow James to encourage you to do good, according to the faith you proclaim.