A Biblical Alternative to Self-Pity


A Biblical Alternative to Self-Pity 3.30.08

James 1:1-4

James 1:1-4 (ESV)     

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:    Greetings.     [2] Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  [3] for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  [4] And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Introduction-There are many responses to pain and suffering. 

-One can suffer and not believe in God. 

-One can suffer and be bitter toward God. 

-One can suffer and thank God. 

The Bible shows us how we can suffer and thank God.  Our tendency, even as Christians, is to suffer and become so focused on the suffering that we become self-absorbed in our pain.  Self-pity is the result.  Depression, gloom, and fear follow.  How is it that we, as believers, are to handle trouble that comes our way?  It will come.

Job 5:7 (ESV)      but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. Just as sparks in a fire go up because of heat, we will meet up with trouble because we live in a sinful world.James shows us in his opening that handling trouble God’s way begins with proper understanding of who we are and why we are to endure hardship.If we’re going to handle trouble in a way that brings God honor we must have a proper understanding of who we are.

1-The Proper Assessment (Jas 1:1) James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,James was the senior pastor/elder of the church in Jerusalem, probably one of the largest churches in the world at the time he wrote.  It’s believed by most scholars that this “James” is none other than the Lord’s half brother, born to Mary and Joseph after Mary had Jesus.  So James could have opened his letter by stating these truths.James doesn’t open that way.  He opens with a greater truth.

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,“James, a slave” We probably have never heard of anyone that we’ve met introducing themselves this way.Hello, nice to meet you I’m James a slave.  What do you do for a living?So we see that James had a proper understanding of who he was.  Not only was it important for James to have a proper understanding of who he was, but he understood, as a slave, who owned him– God and the Lord Jesus Christ.James was the property of God.  God have every right to command him.There are others in Scripture that are called slaves of God:

Moses- 1 Kings 8:53 (ESV)      For you separated them from among all the peoples of the earth to be your heritage, as you declared through Moses your servant, when you brought our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord GOD.”

Paul- Romans 1:1 (ESV)      Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,  Could the same be said of us?  Could we write a letter and open it with our name and then the words “a servant of God”?  Is Jesus Christ your Lord?  Does He have the right to command you?  Does He own you?

1 Cor. 6:19-20 (ESV)      Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, [20] for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

We should see ourselves as slaves bought from the slave block with the precious blood of Christ.  Freed from our chains and leg irons.  We should also see ourselves as servants of Christ. James saw himself through the eyes of humility, not puffed up with pride.  We must see ourselves the same way.If we are to handle trouble God’s way, according to James, we must start with a proper assessment of who we are and who owns us.Suffering is not new to God’s children.  When you suffer you are in good company.The company of suffering includes:  Abraham, Joseph, Hannah, Job, Elijah, Paul, Jeremiah, Ruth, John the Baptist, Peter, and Our Lord, practically everyone in the Bible.

2- The Proper Attitude (vs 2)[2] Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.Paraphrase-Make up your mind that when you meet adversity that you will regard it as something to welcome.  Count it all joyCount- This word in the original writings is in a tense that means to make a decisive action and this action will, in turn, lead you.  “I have determined to consider this trial joy.”In doing so, I have begun to think biblically about adversity.  My mind is now opened to be influenced by the Holy Spirit rather than being influenced by worldly thoughts and attitudes.  This attitude will lead you to think correctly.Here is another reason for rejoicing:If we understand our fallen nature and our outward rebellion against God then we should realize that whatever suffering we experience, we deserve much worse.  If God were to give us what we deserve, we would be given eternal punishment.

Count it all joy

What does James mean by JOY?We can count it joy which will lead us to actually being joyful not so much about the actual trial itself, but what God is providentially working in us as a result of the trial.It’s a joy in the looking ahead.  It is a joy in an anticipation of your maturity and your eternal life to come.  Jesus had this in mind when he spoke the Beatitudes.

Luke 6:20-23 (ESV)      And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. [21] “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.    “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. [22] “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!  [23] Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.  

Jesus said be joyful because what you will receive is far more valuable than what you are now suffering.

Romans 8:18 (ESV)      For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 

Matthew 13:44 (ESV)      “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

The treasure was worth more than all he currently possessed.  He didn’t count it as loss or pain or suffering to give up all he had.So, in these passages we are told that we can consider trials, persecutions etc joy because of an anticipated future eternal reward.There is something going on right now in the life of a believer.  All believers are in the process of being made into the image of Christ—sanctification.We are born again at justification.We are being made like Christ in sanctification.We will be truly be righteous in our glorification.

3- The Proper Effect (vs. 3-4) [3] for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  [4] And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Trials test our faith-Trials test our faith.  It is a faith issue.  It is at this first testing that we must determine to trust God and endure the trial as an obedient child.Our first impulse is to rebel, fight against it, and become self-focused.  Self-pity sets in.  Then we blame God for not being fair.  Many have even shaken their fist at God.  Why is God doing this to me?Jesus even tells us that trials have even shown that some people’s faith is not genuine.

Matthew 13:5-6 (ESV)      Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,  [6] but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 

Matthew 13:20-21 (ESV)      As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,  [21] yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 

Trials then become proving ground for our faith.  They show what kind of faith we have.  Is it genuine saving faith given by God or is it some false faith some false assurance we have somehow manufactured to make ourselves feel better.

Peter’s Example-1 Peter 4:12-13 (ESV)      Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  Peter knew all about this truth.  His faith was tested.  Jesus foretold Peter’s trial. Peter spoke from experience.

Luke 22:31-32 (ESV)      “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,  [32] but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 

It was only after Peter was sifted and his faith challenged that Jesus could then tell him to strengthen his brothers.Christian, as your faith is proven genuine through adversity you become strong in the Lord.  Like Paul, we can then boast in our weakness because we know of One who is strong.  We must endure hardship in a godly fashion.  As we do Christ is seen as our treasure, the One worth more than all our possessions combined.As we respond in a God honoring way this produces steadfastness.We avoid worldly “Quick fixes” to trials.  James commands us to endure them.

[4] And let steadfastness have its full effect; don’t cut short what God is working in you.  Sometimes, even in our wanting to help someone, we can find ourselves working against what God is achieving in them.  Don’t settle for worldly advice.  Coping is not what God is after.  Endurance is the Christian response not coping.   Coping is what pagans do when they are in the midst of a hardship with no hope.  The best they can do is practice positive thinking.  Or try to make the best of a bad situation.  Believers endure because we know God is making us stronger in our faith.  Now, armed with this truth, When Mr. Trouble comes to your door invite him in and shake his hand because God loves you so much as to send a trial to strengthen your faith and make you a powerful pure believer.James tells us that after the trial is over we will lack nothing.that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Don’t waste your suffering like unbelievers.  Take full advantage of it.  Learn from it and be more like Christ.

1-     Have a Proper Assessment– know who owns you.  The Lord Jesus Christ.

2-     Have Proper Attitude– count trials as joy. 

3-     Let the trial have its Proper Effect– which is producing endurance and steadfastness. God gives us a way out of muck of self-pity.

Jesus’ Example-No one suffered like our Lord.Hebrews 12:2-4 (ESV)      looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.     [3] Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  [4] In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 

Jesus knew all to well the purpose of His suffering.  His suffering to the point of death brings many to the Father.  As he looked at the purpose and what was waiting on the other side of the cross endured the cross with joy.Can you endure trials and count them joy? James commands us to.    

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