Trouble is not new. Our English word, "trouble" covers everything from a rogue raccoon to a destructive relationship. Trouble. Hardship. Trial. Tribulation.
There are different ways to think about trouble. It's usually unexpected. Unpleasant. Difficult, even.
Some trouble comes against us personally. Some is situational, or circumstantial. It could be serious, life-threatening, or annoying. It may come as a result of our own sinful choices or have nothing to do with us at all.
The word James uses is "peirasmos" (pronounced, "pi-ras-mos") which means a trial or temptation.
In James 1:2, this is something that just happens. You fall into it. You didn't see it coming. You didn't do anything wrong, necessarily. Like Mr. Magoo, you simply walked into the manhole of a peirasmos.
God wants us to know what to do with these moments. Look what the rest of the chapter says:
- Use it. Squeeze the living daylights out of it. Milk it for all it's worth because God sent this as a gift. It has a purpose and that purpose is to make me perfect, complete, not lacking any good thing. I can say, "Thank you, God, for sending this my way at this time. I may not know how you're going to use it, but I trust that you are good and you will use this for your glory." (James 1:2-4)
- Admit that I have no idea what to do next. "God, you sent this trial, this difficulty, and I know You know all. Please help me respond in a way that pleases You. Help me know how and what to do, how and what to say. I can't figure this out on my own, but You have promised not to criticize or judge me when I admit I don't know what to do. Help!" (James 1:5)
- Ask expectantly. If I don't really believe God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do, I'm no different than the lazy servant who buried the talents. I can't just sit and do nothing. I must keep moving, keep trusting, keep obeying. Trust is demonstrated by obedience. (James 1:6-7)
- Do not depend on my resources. This is not about how much money I have or how many people I know. This is about learning to trust God with everything, in every circumstances (James 1:9-11).
- The goal is endurance. Not perfection. Just hanging in there. Day after day. God will give the grace I need for each moment--not tomorrow, not yesterday, but today, right now. (James 1:12)
- Watch my choices. It's easy to turn to gifts apart from God to bring comfort and relief. God says, "When you're hard-pressed and suffering, examine your heart. Your desires, contrary to Mine, will lead to death."
Instead, I must exercise trust that God will provide exactly what I need when I need it--He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift. He saved me by His Word, He will keep me by His Word. He will not fail regardless of the circumstance. (James 1:13-18)
- Anger is and indicator something's wrong--but be careful. Not getting my way leads to an angry response. I have to ask if I'm angry because God's rule was broken or because my rule was broken? As I examine my anger in the light of His Word and and accept God's provision instead of my own, I will experience the saving work of His Word (James 1:19-21).
- The proof is in my response. Hearing the Word, is not the same as keeping the Word. The sermon I heard doesn't count. The radio station or podcast I listen to doesn't count. My pastor, small group leader, and accountability partner don't count. The only thing that matters is if I, myself, arm obedient to the Word of God. Obedience ultimately leads to blessing. (James 1:22-25)
- Finally, I can say all the right words and look like a "good Christian," but if I don't keep my mouth shut and help those no one else knows about or sees, people with legitimate needs, my religion is worthless. I've got nothing. Go back to verse 2 and start over. (James 1:26-27)
Got Trouble? God's has answers. Help. Grace. Anything that makes me dependent on Him is a good thing.