Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People – 16

P. S. (postscript):

The End Reward of Trials. What will happen if you keep on enduring?  What is the reward for enduring trials?

Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12, RSV). First, we see here the Announcement of Blessing. The Bible calls you “blessed” if you endure trials. The verb, “endure” is present tense. You are blessed if you keep on enduring trials. Trials precede the blessing of God. When you face trials, anticipate blessing.

The blessing is the approval of Christ. It fulfills the promise of God. The blessing is the Crown of Life. This blessing is yet future—at the judgment of believers by Christ. God promises the ultimate blessing of the Crown of Life, not today but on judgment day, before the presence of Christ; not on this earth that will just pass away, for it is in heaven. Every believer will someday face Christ. Keep enduring and God will bless you.

Second, we see here the Anticipation of Approval. There will be an Awards Day someday for believers who endure trials. James wrote, “for when he has stood the test” (v. 12, ESV). It is actually an aorist participle, ginomai, “to become” (Strong). It literally reads, “becoming approved” (v. 12, YLT). This means that as you keep on enduring, the day of your approving will come.

Who will approve you? The Lord Jesus Christ, the Judge of all believers and non-believers will approve and award you. Keep persevering and you will become approved.

Third, and finally, there will be the Awarding of a Crown (v. 12). James wrote, “he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (v. 12, ESV). This is the reason for the blessing. James is saying, “Blessed are those who endure, for they will receive the crown of life.” The Crown of Life is not for every believer. The Crown of Life is reserved only for those who endure trials and troubles for Christ in this life. God has promised it to those who endure trials in Christ.

Notice that it is for “those who love him.” This means that those who endure trials for Christ are those who love Him. Conversely, those who love Him will endure troubles for Christ.

Keep enduring and you will receive the Crown of life.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? – 15

What happens if you doubt? If you doubt, you are “like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind . . . he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (Jas. 1:7-8, ESV). If you doubt, you are double-minded (v. 8). “Double-minded” is from dipsuchos, from dis, “twice,” and psuche, “spirit” or “soul;” literally, “two spirited” (Strong); “double-souled”[1] or “having two minds” (AGNT). It means, “doubting, hesitating” (BAGD); “being uncertain about the truth of something” (Louw-Nida). The word is used of “double-headed people” (BAGD). You’re not sure anymore whether God will give you wisdom or not; whether you can trust God or not; or whether you need to ask wisdom or not.

James said that if you ask God for wisdom, while doubting, you are also “unstable” (v. 8). “Unstable” is from akatastatos, which literally means, “not placed down.” It denotes, “unstable, restless, of vacillating persons” (BAGD). The vacillating, wavering man is like a drunken man. He is “fickle, staggering, reeling like a drunken man.”[2]

What happens when you ask God for wisdom, while doubting? “For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord” (Jas. 1:7, ESV). You will not receive wisdom from God. God will not answer your prayer for wisdom. God will not give you wisdom during trials and troubles.

So how do you endure trials and tensions in life? To summarize, (1) count it all joy that trials fall on you. (2) Know that trials produce perseverance in Christ and Christ-like character of faith and hope. (3) Ask God for wisdom for the trials. (4) Ask God by faith, nothing doubting, without wavering, and fully believing that He will answer!


[1] Robert Jamieson, Andrew Robert Fausset, and David Brown, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, Power Bible CD.

[2] Robertson, Word Pictures, Power Bible CD.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? – 14

James said that if you ask God for wisdom in times of trials, God will give it to you without blaming you for past wrongs. But there is one essential requirement in order to receive God’s wisdom. “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” (Jas. 1:6, ESV). You must ask by faith, nothing doubting. “Faith” here is from pistis, which means in this context, “total trust in God with no room for doubt.” I like how Albert Barnes defines faith here—“utmost” and “unwavering confidence in God.”[1]

There’s an untold story of Mylene.  One day, we had no money left to pay for the medicines and daily dialysis of her father, the late, Rev. Andres Pepito. Rev. Pepito’s 2 kidneys already failed. Mylene needed at least P10, 000.00 to pay for it. We prayed. We trusted the Lord. Mylene had faith—the unwavering confidence that God will provide. Then the next day, somebody dropped by the house and prayed for Rev. Pepito. When he left, he gave Mylene money. The amount? Exactly P10, 000.00.

Look at v. 6.  “No” in “no doubting” (ESV) is medeis—“not at all, in no way” in the accusative case (BAGD); “not even one” (Strong). “Doubting” is from diakrino, “be at odds w. oneself, doubt, waver” (BAGD); “hesitate; dispute, debate, take issue” (Newman). It means hoping that God will give you wisdom, while fearing that He might not give it. The idea here is disputing and debating and deliberating the issue, with no assurance of certainty.

You cannot come to God asking for wisdom, while doubting if you will indeed receive it. It’s like praying, “Lord, please give me wisdom in this trial.  But I doubt it!” James is saying, “While you ask in faith, there should not even be one thought of doubting God and His wisdom.”


[1] Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, Power Bible CD.

 

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? – 13

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (Jas. 1:5, ESV). James gives a command here—“ask God for wisdom.” Then he says 3 wonderful things about God here. 1st, God gives wisdom to His people in the midst of trials. 2nd, God gives wisdom generously. 3rd, God gives wisdom without reproach. It is a present tense here. James is commanding us to keep on asking God for wisdom.

In times of troubles, we may go to other people for their wisdom. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established” (NKJV, cf. 24:6). But the Bible commands us to go to God first for wisdom; because God is the God of wisdom.

James also said that this God of wisdom gives wisdom. The verb, “gives,” is present participle—“giving.” This means that while we ask God for wisdom, God is giving wisdom continually. He keeps on giving wisdom to those who ask for it. He gives wisdom constantly if you ask for it.

Not only that. God also gives wisdom “generously.” The adverb, “generously,” is from haplos—“willing and generous giving” (Louw-Nida); “bountifully” (Strong). I just love this about God. If you ask for His wisdom, He will give you willingly and generously, bountifully.

Finally, God gives wisdom “without reproach” (Jas. 1:5, ESV). “Reproach” here is from oneidizo—“manifestation of displeasure or regret which too often accompanies the giving of a gift” (BAGD); “denounce, insult” (Newman); “to reproach someone, with the implication of that individual being evidently to blame” (Louw-Nida). “Reproach” here is not a noun, but a present participle—“reproaching,” which indicates a continuing action of blaming or regretting the giving of a gift. James is saying, “While you ask God for wisdom, He is giving you wisdom, without reproaching you.”

Have you experienced giving somebody money, only to regret it later. Have you tried asking your boss about something? Then he tells you that you can’t have what you asked; because you haven’t earned it yet. Have you been to a doctor who tells you he will help you. But in the next breath, he blames you for your past abuse of your body?

It’s like the infamous exhibitionist, Hayden Kho, asking for forgiveness from all of us, for all his vulgarity and voyeurism. Then we respond, “That’s your fault!”

James said that God is not like that. He does not say, “Okay, I will give you wisdom. But you’ve been ungrateful in the past.” When God gives wisdom to you in times of trials, He does not blame you for your past sins. He does not get back at you for your past ingratitude. He does not say also, “Okay, I will give you wisdom.  But if you keep asking, you might abuse my goodness later on.” God does not blame you for your past ingratitude or your future abuse of His privileges.[1] God gives wisdom to you without blaming you or reprimanding you or insulting you. What a gracious God we serve!


[1] Robert Jamieson, Andrew Robert Fausset, and David Brown, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, Power Bible CD.

 

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? – 12

3. Ask for Wisdom. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God”(Jas. 1:5, NKJV). I used to believe that this promise is for me, when I take exams in school; or when I buy something; or who I should marry; or how to make money. But then I realized that it is not a promise for all believers at all times. It is a promise only to those believers in times of trials.

This verse is set against the context of trials and troubles of the believers during the time of James. And so James is saying that in times of trials and troubles, we need wisdom. We need not just wisdom of men, but wisdom from God.

When Randy, Mylene’s eldest brother, visited her in the hospital, he prayed, “Lord, thank you for giving wisdom and strength to Henry.” Then I thought to myself, that’s really what the Lord did. He gave me wisdom.

When the doctor announced on Monday that Mylene had aneurysm, I needed the wisdom of God. I had to decide whether to go for brain surgery or coiling procedure. The Lord guided me to decide on the coiling. Then I had to decide whether to wait for the doctor to come back from the States, or to get her into the operating table by Wednesday. I said, “Dr., I don’t have the money yet, but let’s go on with the operation on Wednesday.” And we did. On Wednesday, they saw that Mylene’s aneurysm was already leaking blood. It could have been worse.

The noun, “wisdom,” is from sophia—“Good judgment in the face of the demands made by human and specif. by the Christian life” (BAGD); “the capacity to understand and, as a result, to act wisely—‘to be prudent’” (Louw-Nida).

We need God’s wisdom on how to deal with difficult trials. We need God’s wisdom on how to learn lessons that God wants to teach in trials. We need God’s wisdom on how to overcome trials in life. If you lack this wisdom, James said, “ask God.”

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People – 11

2. Know the Result. Why should we count it all joy when we are in deep trouble? James said, “For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (Jas. 1:3, ESV). “Steadfastness” (ESV) or “patience” (NKJV) is from the Greek, hupomone, “patient endurance, steadfastness, perseverance” (Newman).

From the Diary of John Wesley:

Sunday, A.M., May 5 – Preached in St. Anne’s. Was asked not to come back anymore.

Sunday, P.M., May 5 – Preached in St. John’s. Deacons said “Get out and stay out.”

Sunday, A.M., May 12 – Preached in St. Jude’s. Can’t go back there, either.

Sunday, A.M., May 19 – Preached in St. Somebody Else’s. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return.

Sunday, P.M., May 19 – Preached on street. Kicked off street.

Sunday, A.M., May 26 – Preached in meadow. Chased out of meadow as bull was turned loose during service.

Sunday, A.M., June 2 – Preached out at the edge of town. Kicked off the highway.

Sunday, P.M., June 2 – Afternoon, preached in a pasture. Ten thousand people came out to hear me.

Trials bring two results—Perseverance and Power.[1] Perseverance in Christ is the product of genuine faith in Christ. The persevering faith is a genuine faith. Thus, the truly saved believer is the truly persevering believer.

The Power of God comes through trials. It is only in times of trials, that we can experience the grace of God the most.

Paul suffered from a difficult physical disease. He said that God allowed that sickness to stop him from becoming spiritually proud. Three times he asked God to remove it. But God did not remove the sickness. God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9, ESV). Paul experienced the grace of God. The grace of God brings the power of God in your life. The favor of God brings the strength of God in times of weakness. That’s why Paul wrote, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10, NKJV).


[1] James Merritt, “When Your Faith Goes on Trial,” http://www.sermonsearch.com. Accessed July, 2009.

 

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People – 10

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials” (Jas. 1:2, ESV).  The verb, “count” is from hegeomai—“think, consider, regard” (BAGD); “‘to hold a view’” (Louw-Nida). You might say, “Pastor, how can I be glad when I’m sad about these tensions in my life?” Well, that’s the point! To count is to hold a view—a glad view of things. Look at your trials, not sadly, but gladly.

One thing I’ve learned in life is that you may not control what happens to you. But you can control how you respond to it. And so, “Respond with joy!” God says, “Count it all joy!”

“Pastor, isn’t it weird that we’re supposed to be glad in times of trials?” Well, it may sound weird to moderns today, but that’s God’s prescription for enduring trials. And it works! Stop looking at your trials with sadness. Start looking at your trials with gladness.

The word, “joy,” is from chara—“gladness, happiness” (Newman); “cheerfulness” (Strong). Stop complaining over your trails, but rejoice in them. Count it all joy! That’s how you endure your trials.

Note that the verb, “count,” is a command. We are commanded to be joyful when trials fall on us. We are commanded to rejoice when tensions surround us. We are commanded to be glad when troubles encircle us.

In the Greek, it literally reads, “All joy count it” (πασαν χαραν ηγησασθε; pasan charan hegesasthe) “All” here is from pasan, “full, absolute, greatest” (Newman). It is an adjective, describing the noun, “joy.” “All joy” means a full joy, an absolute joy, and the greatest joy! James said, “all joy count it.” He did not say, “some joy” and “some sadness.” He said, “all joy.” He did not say, “little joy.” He said, “all joy.” He did not say, “incomplete joy.” He said, “all joy.” Brethren, count it all joy when you face various trials!

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People – 9

The Jewish Christians of James’ day suffered in poverty, persecution, and social pressure. The rich maltreated the poor (Jas. 2:6-7; 5:4-6). Many were landless. Taxes were high. Bad things were happening to these good and godly people. Why? First, as noted in our previous posts—to prove the genuineness of our faith, James says; second, to produce persevering faith; and third, to perfect our faith in Christ.

Previously, we looked into the Experience of Trials and the Explanation of Trials. In what follows, we study about the Endurance of Trials. How do you endure trials and tensions in life?

1. Count it all joy. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials” (Jas. 1:2, ESV). James’ note of joy does not begin in v. 2. He gives a joyful note in v. 1—“Greetings.” The word, “greetings,” there is from the verb, chairo—“to be cheerful, be glad, rejoice” (Strong). It is not a noun, but a verb. It is a present infinitive, lit., “to rejoice,” or “to be glad.” Even in the midst of trials and troubles and tensions, James greeted them with a greeting of joy.

While Mylene was in the hospital, somebody said that I always managed to keep a smiling face. I smiled perhaps because I’ve run out of tears. I’ve already cried and cried oftentimes alone.

One of my favorite prayers of all time is that of Francis of Assissi. I remember seeing his prayer framed on the wall of the sala of Dr. Jose Latorilla years ago.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy. O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive.  And it is in pardoning that we are pardoned.  And it is in dying, that we are born to eternal life.

We endure trials by facing it with joy. We can then become His instruments of joy to those who are in sadness.

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People – 8

pencil3rd, To Perfect Your Faith. “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4, NKJV). “Perfect” here is not sinless perfection. It doesn’t mean that you won’t sin anymore. “Perfect” here is from teleios—“perfectly, completely, altogether” (BAGD); “pertaining to that which is fully accomplished or finished—‘complete’” (Louw-Nida). “Complete” is from holokleros—“a qualitative term, with integrity, whole, complete, undamaged, intact, blameless” (BAGD). We use the words, “whole” to mean completeness or fullness; and “wholesome” as moral blamelessness and integrity. Perfection and completeness are word pictures for the growing faith of a maturing Christian. God is in the growing and completing business. His goal is to make you mature in Christ. And sometimes, He will allow trials and troubles to develop Christ-like character in your life.

An imperfect, incomplete, and immature faith is a faith that believes in blessing without suffering. It believes in the favor of God without the perfecting trials of God. It sees the divine plan as a road to problem-free living. Yet this kind of faith confuses the favor of God with pleasure; and the trials of God with punishment. No, God’s favor may include pain; and His trials are meant to shape you more than punish you. The aim is to produce Christ-likeness, making all things work together for good in your life (Rom. 8:28).

The incomplete faith draws a wrong picture of God and frames it in a limited picture frame, with borders of our own making. (We must beware, lest we draw God according to our own image, which is idolatry.) This immature faith would trust God because of what it can get from Him; rather than serve God because He is God, regardless. It would treat God as a heavenly waiter on demand—one obliged to give them what they expect Him to give, because after all, doesn’t God want the best for me? But the best of God includes only those things that will develop virtues of faith, hope, perseverance, and Christ-likeness in you. Paul wrote, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom. 5:3-4, ESV). God develops this Christ-like character only when you undergo trials. Trials then are divine interruptions in the journey of spiritual wholeness.

Sufferings are also God’s way of saving us from our innate selfishness.[1] Haven’t you noticed that believers who go through troubles come out less selfish than they have ever been? Selfishness interrupts wholeness. But suffering interrupts selfishness and starves it. Through sufferings, God removes the self-centeredness of our hearts. He replaces it with a growing and enduring faith and hope in Christ.

Somebody sent me a text message one day. It read:

Our life is like a pencil. 1)     Everything you do will always leave a mark. 2) You can always correct the mistakes you make. 3) What is important is what is inside you. 4) In life, you will undergo painful sharpenings which will make you a better pencil. 5) To be the best pencil you can be, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the hand that holds you—God’s.

Trials perfect your faith. Troubles sharpen your character to make it more like Christ. They are part of growing spiritually mature in the Lord. It completes your Christian character. It accomplishes Christ-likeness in your life. It makes you whole and complete.

How then should we handle trials? The Bible says, “Count it all joy when you meet trials” (James 1:2, ESV). Paul says, “We rejoice in our sufferings” (Rom. 5:3, ESV). Did you get that? Count it all joy! Rejoice in your trials. How do you rejoice in trials? Know that it will make you persevere in Christ. It will make you steadfast in Christ. It is God’s way of burning the selfishness of your life and forming Christ’s character in you! It will prove that your faith in Christ is genuine. It will produce a growing faith and hope in Christ.

Maybe you say, “Pastor, I haven’t yet put my faith in Christ.” If so, I urge you to call on Christ today. He is just a prayer away. Ask Him to save you and forgive you your sin. Repent your sin and He will forgive you. He will come inside your heart and live there in you.

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[1] Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 216.

 

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People – 7

2nd, To Produce Persevering Faith.For you know that the testing of your perseverancefaith produces steadfastness” (James 1:3, ESV). Now the proving of your faith is not for God’s benefit. God knows about your faith already. The proving of your faith is for your benefit.[1] “Steadfastness” (ESV) or “patience” (NKJV) is from the Greek, hupomone—endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, perseverance” (BAGD); “capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances” (Louw-Nida). It means endurance under strong pressure.

Note the verb, “produces,” from katergazomai—“bring about, produce, create” (BAGD); “‘to accomplish, to perform successfully, to do thoroughly’” (Louw-Nida). This means that the testing of your faith in Christ produces patience and perseverance effectively and completely. The verb tense is present tense. The testing of your faith in Christ produces steadfastness in Christ continually.

Remember Job’s wife? I can imagine she must have been a great Sunday School teacher and a wonderful Bible study leader. She must have been a faithful wife to Job and a loving mother to her kids. But then one day, she lost all her young sons and daughters. One day, she lost all her money. One day, she saw Job covered with boils from head to foot. Trials and troubles and tragedy struck her like lightning! Then she said to Job, “Why do you keep on trusting God? Why not curse God and die?” (I have often wondered which trial is worse—losing your children or living with a wife who wants you to curse God and die.) She went through the worse trials. But she failed the test.

When you trust God and serve Him because things are good, you are serving Him for the wrong reason. “We are not to serve God because things are good, we are to serve God because God is good.”[2]

Listen! If your faith in Christ is lacking understanding, shallow, lacking depth in the Word, and merely emotional, then the testing of your faith will break you! But if your faith in Christ is genuine, the testing of your faith will build you in Christ! It will make you endure under pressure. It will make you steadfast and persevering in Christ.

Perseverance in Christ is but an outward confirmation of an inward affirmation of the Word in your heart. Your steadfastness in Christ is an outer picture of the inner reality of your eternal security in Christ. It is the product of genuine faith in Christ. The persevering faith is a genuine faith. Thus, the truly saved believer is the truly persevering believer.


[1] James Merritt, “When Your Faith Goes on Trial,” http://www.sermonsearch.com. Accessed July, 2009.

[2] James Merritt, “When Your Faith Goes on Trial,” http://www.sermonsearch.com. Accessed July, 2009.