This first chapter of James is in five stanza, five tremendous sweeps and he spells out important principles about the life of faith. The headline is amazing! ‘Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds.’
I was struck by what Colin Urquart once said. He said that God wants us to know how to be triumphant even in the most difficult circumstances and that God’s purpose for us is to know how to be triumphant even in those most difficult circumstances. Satan’s purpose is for us to wilt and wither and to be demolished and to be discouraged and obliterated under those circumstances. I sometimes think that us charismatics think that what God wants to do is to remove the circumstances.
We are called to be disciples of Jesus, the problem with some of us is that we have the same circumstance above our heads for fifty years without it changing and we never learn how to be victorious over that circumstance. What James teaches us is that we go through life, not under one burden and being defeated by that burden but being victorious in a circumstance and moving from one place to another expressing an understanding and knowing the victory of Jesus. This is why the word is used in Greek ‘whenever you face trials of many kinds’. It could be translated in English as ‘various trials’. I want you to face up to something today – it’s going to be tough.
If I could tell you that revival is going to come and you’re never going to have a problem and you’re going to have to face a difficulty, you would all be queuing up, saying ‘Oh, let’s go, that’s what I want. I want the removal of difficulty.’ God doesn’t give us the removal of difficulty, He gives us victory over difficulty. Before you think that’s an excuse, some of you will immediately say, ‘Oh, that’s me, I’ve got my difficulties. Praise the Lord, Bob Gordon said that we shouldn’t have things like that, we should be triumphant. I praise the Lord, because that means I can live with my little difficulties and I don’t have to worry. I’m really glad about that, it’s just confirmed that it’s Monday morning and I feel like it’s Monday morning and he has just confirmed in me what I always knew; that I should be a Christian but I should be under a load of trouble.’ I did nothing of the kind!
That’s not what James is saying. The Lord said something to me about this chapter earlier. He said this is about the life of faith and do you know that faith is an invasion? That is what the Lord said to me – faith is an invasion! Do you know what happens when somebody invades somewhere, there is resistance. God wants us to understand that – God has chosen the epistle of James to put backbone into you! He wants the men to become men instead of old women and He wants the women to know the joy of the Lord that is their strength, instead of going about all bound-up and twisted.
The church is full of men who are like old women. I don’t mean that against you, but I really feel in my own heart that God is really calling us to that strength in the Spirit today and He wants us to know that strength. So many of us only exist in charismatic hot-houses. Folk have come to me and said, ‘Oh, Bob what shall I do about where I should live, what should I do about my circumstances, I have no fellowship.’ You should try to come and live with me! That would cheer you up no end!
It was a long time ago in my life when I discovered what Jesus wants to put into us is such a Spirit of His Kingdom, that you will go and produce what you need to live by. You will know the strength of God in your heart, and you won’t go around with a runny nose all the time, sniffling and being sorry for yourself because there are a few trials. What else do you expect but a few trials? What else do you expect? I’m cheering you up, by the way!
Satan has got you into a way of thinking; it’s going to be lovely, I’m going to find a charismatic cloud of candy-floss and I am going to float off to glory. I’m going to praise the Lord with my mouth open like a goldfish and put my hands up in the air and I’m going to zoom off, feet first into heaven. Well, you will go feet first – right enough! Life isn’t like that! God wants us to praise Him, but sometimes you have to put your hands up because you have been so deep under the water, the only thing they will see is your fingertips! We need to see why we need to put our hands up, don’t we? When we need to jump it’s to come up for air now and again! Where’s the Christians? Watch for the bubbles! We need to be able to swim underwater. Satan will get a shock when he’s thought he’s drowned you until you come up for air again!
‘Consider it pure joy ...’ How can I explain that? It’s an attitude of heart, of spirit and of mind, a transposition by the Holy Spirit. It’s out of this little mealy-mindedness and misery into an understanding that life is for God. Life is for God – I’m strong in God. I can do all things in Him who strengthens me! I would be bored without a little bit of difficulty. We look up difficulty in the English Dictionary and we think negative and that’s what satan wants us to think; difficulty equals negative. Not in the Kingdom it doesn’t.
‘The testing of your faith develops perseverance’.
The old word is ‘patience’ but I’m not going to use it, because some of you might think of Gilbert and Sullivan. It’s not patience. One man said to me what Christians need is staying power. Staying power. The Greek word hupomenea means ‘stickability’. We need staying power, we’re going to get revival through people with stickability. Not the grit your teeth, the human kind of stickability. Discipleship is a matter of the will but not willpower. It is a matter of subjecting the will to the Father and letting Him give you strength. It’s in His power with your will submitted to His will. So it is a matter of the will but not a matter of willpower.