Grace for Today: A Biblical Alternative to Self-Pity (James 1:1-4)

A Biblical Alternative to Self-Pity (Part 1)

James 1:1-4

Thank you for joining me for another edition of Grace for Today.  As many of you are aware this article is set up as a Bible study.  It really helps if you can sit down and open your Bible as we work through the selected test of Scripture.  For the next few weeks we’ll be covering the Book of James together.

Today’s text is 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 able 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 introduce 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 joy

Count- 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.

Well that’s about it for today.  Join me next week for part two of “A Biblical Alternative to Self-Pity”.  I’m Brian Evans, Pastor of Grace Community Church in Waverly www.gccWaverly.com

Count Trials as Joy,

Brian

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