************ Sermon on James 1:12 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on September 10, 2006

James 1:1-12
James 1:12
"The Other Side of Trial"

Why does an athlete endure all the sweat and pain of practice after practice. Why does he or she run endless sprints, lift weight after weight, and go on a special diet? Because they are looking at the other side of the trials they are undergoing. Because they are looking at the first place trophy they hope to win.

This evening James is telling us to be like an athlete. He is telling us to look at the other side of the trials, the persecution, we face in this life and on this earth.
(James 1:12) Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

What we have in front of us this evening is a beatitude, a statement that refers to "blessedness." The most famous list of beatitudes is found in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:3-12). The beatitude in front of us this evening is very similar to the last beatitude in Matthew 5 where Jesus says,
(Mat 5:10-12) Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (11) Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. (12) Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven ...
Notice, both the beatitude said by Jesus as well as the beatitude said by James speaks of the blessedness of those who undergo some sort of persecution and yet persevere in the faith.

This beatitude points out a significant feature of the book of James. James has a large number of parallels to or with the sayings of Jesus. The first chapter of James contains ten similarities to the sayings of Jesus. And, you will find similar parallels in the rest of James too.

James clearly knew the sayings of Jesus and did not hesitate to allude to them in his own writings. This is striking when you consider that during the time of Jesus' earthly ministry, James was not a believer in Jesus (Jn 7:5; Mt 12:46-50). We do not know when James became a believer, but he was one of the 120 in the Upper Room waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We also know that James received a personal visit from Jesus after the resurrection (1 Cor 15:7). We do not know what Jesus said to James at that meeting, but after that visit James became convinced that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, the Savior of the world. We can only conclude that for a while James must have been a listener of but not a follower of Jesus. But when he and the rest of his brothers came to believe in Jesus, they remembered and cherished the words Jesus had spoken.

So, as James was writing to the Jewish Christians scattered among the nations because of their faith, he remembered what Jesus had said:
(James 1:12) Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

I Persecution to be expected
A James talks about "trial" but it is obvious the main trial he has in mind is persecution the persecution that scattered Jewish Christians around the Roman Empire.

According to the Bible, persecution is the norm, it is to be expected. In fact, if persecution is not our experience, we either live in most unusual circumstances and must thank God for those circumstances or something is lacking in our Christian faith and practice. In fact, I can say that persecution is proof that we are a Christian.

Persecution is to be expected. That this is the clear teaching of the Bible is obvious from the words of Jesus:
(Jn 15:18-20) "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. (19) If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (20) Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also."
The Apostle Paul puts it this way:
(2 Tim 3:12) In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted ...

We are being given today a further description of who or what is a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are told that they persevere under trial and are considered blessed for that: "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial ..." (James 1:12).

Servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ are the persecuted ones. That is the Bible's teaching. And we see this persecution throughout the Bible. For instance, Abel was persecuted by his brother Cain. Moses was persecuted by Pharaoh. David was persecuted by Saul. The prophets Elijah and Jeremiah were persecuted by king and people alike. In the New Testament we think of Stephen, the first martyr. We think of Paul, who suffered every imaginable kind of mistreatment possible. We think of Peter whose life was ended hanging upside down upon a cross. And, of course, look at the Lord; He, in all His utter, absolute perfection, so gentle and so kind, was terribly persecuted.

We can go from the Bible and take a quick glance at the history of the church. Polycarp, Justin Martyr, John Huss, the Reformers like Luther and Calvin and De Bres and Knox, they were all persecuted. And what happened in the past continues to happen today. We don't hear much about persecution of Christians in America we associate persecution of Christians with overseas. Yet, there is some persecution that takes place on our shores. After the Columbine killings the Denver Rocky Mountain News ran the following news story:
Topic: Persecution
Index: 3480-3484
Date: 5/1999.101
Title: Dying for Jesus

A Columbine killer pointed his gun at Cassie Bernall and asked her the life-or-death question: "Do you believe in God?" She paused. The gun was still there. "Yes, I believe in God," she said. That was the last thing this 17-year-old Christian would ever say. The gunman asked her "Why?" She had no time to answer before she was shot to death. Bernall entered the Columbine High School library to study during lunch. She left a martyr. Though lots of fellow Columbine students already were strong, vocal Christians, Bernall's confession in the face of death has inspired them to keep the faith no matter how bad it gets.
Cassie Bernall lived up to the words of Jesus and James. She kept the faith, she persevered under trial.

Mike Richmond and I were talking about a report that came out of the Bay area. Christian kids are not allowed to pray in our public schools but empty rooms are set aside for Muslim kids to do their prayers. And, for a whole month kids in those same schools are studying and living out the Muslim lifestyle for Social Studies class. This is a form of persecution.

This past week's mail brought me a booklet from The Bible League (HOLD UP BOOKLET). Listen to one excerpt taken from the booklet:
Day 1
Handcuffed to a chair and closely guarded, An-Chang closed his eyes and prayed quietly. "Lord, thank you. Thank you for helping me feel more of your presence and see your mighty works."
Earlier in the day, four Chinese officers burst into the small room where An-Chang was leading a Bible study. One knocked him to the floor with a sharp blow to the face. Another battered him with a baton. Finally, one brave woman intervened.
Then they took An-Chang's Bible, cuffed him, and hauled him to the police station. They questioned him for hours. "I answered with wisdom from God, as promised in Matthew 10:19-20," An-Chang recalls.
Officers locked him in a cell overnight. Questioning resumed the next morning, and continued several times throughout the day. At one point when guards left him alone, An-Chang received the source of his strength his Bible.
I was so glad to regain my most important possession!" he says. Later that day, unable to find fault with his answers, the officers released him.
Twenty one days of readings like this not just in China but also in Siberia, Tajikistan, Laos, Romania, Nigeria, India, Sudan, Albania, Kenya, Philippines, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Middle East ...

B Christians are the persecuted ones. That's the message of the Bible. It is surprising to find out who it is that does the persecuting. You will find as you go through the Scriptures, and as you study the history of the church, that persecution is not done just by the world. Some of the worst persecution has been done by the church itself. Consider our Lord. His persecutors where the Pharisees and scribes and other religious leaders of Israel. The first Christians, too, were persecuted most bitterly of all by the Jews. In the Middle Ages and at the time of the Reformation the Roman Catholic Church horribly persecuted those who tried to teach and live the pure truth of God's Word. The Anabaptists of the 16th century were persecuted not only by the Roman Catholics but by the Protestants and Lutherans as well. The Puritan Fathers were similarly mistreated by the religious leaders of their day. So many times, I'm afraid, persecution comes not from the outside but from within. Many converts to the Christian faith say they get much more opposition from fellow believers than from unbelievers. Formal Christianity is often the greatest enemy of the pure faith.

C We are all familiar with the different forms persecution may take. It may be violence. It may mean being arrested and thrown into a prison or concentration camp. It can take the form of being shot, or murdered in some other way. It may take the form of losing one's job. It may exhibit itself by sneering and jeering and laughter. It may take the form of a vicious whisper and rumor campaign. It may involve double taxation or confiscation of property. It may come in the form of repressive rules and regulations about worship, education, and evangelism. There is no end to the ways in which the persecuted may suffer.

But whatever the form, in this world and in this life Christians can expect to be persecuted. We in this country with our freedoms must praise and thank God that we are largely spared such travails. But if we were to be persecuted as they are in other countries, would we persevere under trial?

II Persecution why
"Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial ..." (James 1:12). Those who are servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, why are they persecuted? As far as James is concerned, it is because of their faith. It is because their faith is real. It is because their faith is lived out. Don't forget, in his letter James insists that Christians show they have a real faith by living and acting like Christians.

Doesn't Jesus say the same thing in His beatitude? He says, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness ..." Did you catch that? Servants of God and the Lord Jesus Christ are "persecuted because of righteousness." They are persecuted precisely because their faith is so real and alive.

What does this mean? This means they live their whole life for Christ and not for themselves. They say with Paul,
(Gal 2:20) I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
His or her life is dominated by the Lord Jesus, and by considerations of what is pleasing to Him. The controlling motive of his or her every thought, act, and deed is "Christ's sake." Maybe you have seen bracelets with the initials "WWJD" they stand for, "What Would Jesus Do?" In line with this, they strive to be like Christ in all their ways.

On account of this, Christians are different. They are different from the man or woman of the world. The man or woman of the world lives for self, or for pleasure, or for money, or even for some noble cause. But the blessed that James and Jesus talks of live for Christ. They seek first the kingdom and its righteousness. And because of that difference they are persecuted. Persecution is simply the clash between two incompatible value-systems. You see, there can be no harmony between living for self and living for Jesus. There is no connection between living for pleasure and seeking first the kingdom. There is no fellowship between love for money and hungering for righteousness. There is no communion between pursuit of political goals and being a temple of the living God.

III Persecution response
A In the Bible what matters is not the how, the where, or the when of persecution. What really matters is the way in which the Christian faces these things. Our Lord tells us here what He expects of us in the midst of the trials He allows our way.

How is the Christian to respond to persecution? We can first speak negatively. The Christian must not retaliate; he or she must not seek revenge. You know what Paul says:
(Rom 12:19) Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.
Now this is very difficult. When someone hurts us we want to strike back. Within all of us there is a desire to be like the Jews of Esther's day. When Haman's plot to eliminate the Jews was discovered, the Jews went on a rampage and were allowed to kill 75,000 of their enemies (Esther 9).

B How is the Christian to respond to persecution? What is to be the response of those who are servants of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ? James says they are to "persevere." Persevere in what? Persevere in faith. Persevere in godliness. Persevere in prayer. Persevere in love. Persevere in the Word. Persevere in hope. No matter how much the world hates them, no matter how much the world mocks them, no matter what trials or persecutions they endure, they are to persevere.

C James tells us why perseverance we can also use the word "faithfulness" is so important. He says,
(James 1:12) Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
Only those who persevere under trial will inherit eternal life. Only those who stand firm to the end will be saved.

This is not to say that salvation rests on our works. The Bible clearly shows that we cannot save ourselves and that only the grace of God can bring us into His presence. Nevertheless, the presence of God's electing grace in our lives is shown when we persevere under trial. We know we have true faith when we stand firm to the end.

Those who face trials and fall away show that they don't have true faith. Those who face trials and endure show that they do have true faith. Theirs is the "crown of life."

Here again we see the difference between the Christian and the non-Christian. The non-Christian sees only this life and the things of this earth. But the Christian knows there is more much more that lies ahead! The Christian knows there is a "crown of life."

The true servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ sees the other side of trial. They see more than the pain and heartache and misery. They see the "crown of life" for those who persevere.
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