A God for all seasons!
ILLUS.: All looked through a kaleidoscope at some point – what is it that makes a kaleidoscope interesting? The fact that there are different shapes, sizes, colours and deflected angles of light!
If it was all the same is would be very boring!
Life is like a kaleidoscope – there are light patches and dark patches – there are mountains and valleys – there are happy times and hard times – there are successes and failures – there are times of joy and times of sorrow —>
Life, like the British weather, is very changeable – We can divide life into two very broad categories 1) Hard Times and 2) Happy Times
These are the two questions James asks in v.13:-
13 Is any one of you in trouble? …….
… Is anyone happy? … (NIV)
Given these differing circumstances of life what should be our response? James gives us the answer
… pray. …. sing songs of praise. (NIV)
Let’s look at the hard and happy times in more detail.
- During the Hard Times.
James 5:13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.
This thought of troubled times is certainly not new to James – in ch.1 he showed that the difficulties of life are not necessarily barrier to our relationship to God but are in fact a mean to becoming mature Christians.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature ….. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, ……
James says that in the trials of life we need patience and perseverance and that if we lack the wisdom / ability to cope we need to ask / pray to God.
Now in ch.5 he is following the same pattern 5:7-12 – patience and perseverance under suffering – 5:13ff Prayer.
THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF HUMAN HARD TIMES.
The word James uses is more than just suffering from sickness – it is in fact a compound word that comprises to parts ‘evil’ and ‘suffering’ – it carries with it therefore the idea of ‘suffering evil blows from the outside world’
James has just spoken of the suffering of the prophets in the previous section [v.10] – this is clearly still in his mind.
The prophets suffered in different ways:
ILLUS.: Ezekiel – bereavement; Jeremiah extreme opposition; Hosea – marital breakdown. ……………..
Christians are as prone to hard times as anyone else. David knew that:
19 A righteous man may have many troubles,
- a) Common Trials Of Life.
All human troubles are ultimately brought about by the entry of sin into the world – when sin entered the order that God’s created was disrupted
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (NIV)
In a way that we don’t fully understand, the whole universe – even what we call the natural order – is off centre from God’s perfect design.
So famines and floods and disease and death, including in the animal world, are all part of the common trials of life.
a.i) Physical Trials.
In our original state human beings were perfect – physically. Disease and deformity of the body were not part of God’s original design.
Genesis 1:27&31 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
….. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day. (NIV)
God made us perfect in every way by warned that disobedience to his command would bring death.
As a consequence of sin coming into the world – disease, decay, disorder, deformity and ultimately death have become a reality.
Even with all the advances of modern medicine death is still inevitable and no doctor, no matter how brilliant, can ever hope to cure ‘death’
Hebrews 9:27 .. man[humankind] is destined to die…(NIV)
And can often be preceded by the must dreadful suffering – in our comfortable Western society were the control of pain is so effective we forget that this is not so for most of the world and the process of dying can be agonising for many.
James’ readers would have understood this far better than we do.
a.ii) Emotional Trials.
Alternatively we could speak of metal stress – anxiety or fear.
Our doctors will tell us that a large number of their patients have stress related illnesses – sometimes the manifestations are physical symptoms.
In the work place ——-
The pressure is on – productivity – performance related pay – down sizing – restructuring – rationalising – these are some of the buzz words in the business word — the goal is more work with fewer and fewer personnel in order to boost profits.
Those at the sharp end will feel like they can respond to James’ question
13 Is any one of you in trouble? .. (NIV)
“Yes! we are in trouble!”
In the home ———
There is pressure and stress in the home – marriages are stressed [both partners working] – children are stressed [having to perform at school – under pressure from their peers]
In the Church ———-
there can be stress and tensions within Church fellowships
In fact wherever our lives take us there is the potential for emotional stress and tension.
a.iii) Spiritual Trials.
We must remember that it is the spiritual side of humans that make us distinct from the animals.
The spirit world has an effect on the physical and emotional spheres – while we have distinguished these three areas – physical, emotional and spiritual – we must remember that there is a considerable amount of overlap between these three.
The Christian is prone to spiritual trials – not only are Christians going to face the same kinds of trials that everyone else naturally faces BUT we are specific target for the evil one —
Ephesians 6:12 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (NIV)
Sometimes the symptoms may be physical or emotional but the cause is spiritual because the Christian is the constant target of Satan.
As Christians we need to remember that we are not simply up against circumstances, or fate or ‘bad luck’ – we constantly face a powerful, living, intelligent and very devious enemy.
2 Corinthians 11:14 … for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. (NIV)
1 Peter 5:8
8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (NIV)
It is interesting that when Paul writes to Timothy he speak of him ‘..joining with me in the suffering for the gospel ..’ [1 Tim 1:8] — he us using the same basis word that James uses here.
2 Timothy 2:3-9 3 Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. …… This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. (NIV)
2 Timothy 4:5 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (NIV)
The implication of Paul’s writing is that there are special troubles associated with committed Christian living and with the proclamation of the gospel. It is this kind of trial or trouble that is because you are a Christian – this is what Jesus referred to as ‘bearing you cross’ –
Sometime we speak of carrying a cross as a tyrannical boss – or nagging wife – or wayward child or difficult mother-in-law — BUT that is not what the Bible means!!
A cross is something that you bear because you are a Christian and something that you would not be bearing if you were not a Christian!!
Read the scriptures – read Church / missionary history – invariably it is those who are godly and who are use by God – when you look at their lives you see suffering of some kind.
James has mentioned the prophets and Job as example of this very point!!
So Christian – what do you do when you are up against it!
THE CHRISTIAN’S RESPONSE
-turn attention to God – Pray!
The meaning of the word that James uses is ‘turn to God’ – when trouble comes the first and most appropriate response for the Christian is to turn to God.
So often we rush around trying to solve the problems ourselves – I am not saying that we should be passive BUT what is our first response? – often look to human resources.
O! what peace we often forfeit
O! what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Usually – and understandably – our immediate response to trouble, when we do come to God is to ask him to remove it.
BUT the Bible teaches us that God does not always remove it — and the experience of life tells us that God does not always remove it — at least not immediately.
What God will always do is give us the ability to cope with the trial!
ILLUS.: In 1924 two climbers – Mallory and Irvine – were part of an expedition to try and conquer Mt. Everest. They were both lost in the effort and when the expedition party returned to London – one of the survivor at a meeting in London turn to a huge photograph of Everest mounted on the wall and said–
-”Everest, we tried to conquer you once, but you overpowered us. We tried to conquer you a second time but again you were too much for us. But Everest, I want you to know that we are going to conquer you, for you can’t get any bigger, and we can!”
The spiritual implications are clear – our problems – trouble can never be bigger than God’s ability to help us!
It doesn’t matter how big your troubles are – God is bigger!
Whatever your mountain – turn to God in prayer – he may not remove the mountain – although he sometimes does – but he will certainly give you the strength to conquer.
19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights.
Whatever your Everest you can say to it – “You can’t get any bigger – but I can -because I serve a big God!”
- During The Happy Times.
James 5:13…. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. (NIV)
‘happy’ – the word means to be cheerful or ‘in good heart’ but not a kind of superficial euphoria, rather it is a deep sense of well-being.
It is not a word that is often used in the NT but the occasions that it is used give us a good insight into its meaning.
- Paul before Felix the Roman governor –
10 When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: “I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defence. (NIV)
- The shipwreck story during Paul’s voyage to Rome
Acts 27:22-36 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. …….. 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. …… 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. (NIV)
It is interesting that in all these usage’s of the word that context is difficult circumstances – in both cases Paul is prisoner – in the one he is face with a tyrant and in the other a raging storm. YET in both there is evident a deep sense of joy and an unshakeable faith in God.
One of the great lies of Satan is to give the impression that being a Christian is a miserable existence – that it is morbid and dreary.
It is certainly not hilariously funny but it should be joyful. Sadly, we Christians sometimes project and image of the Christian life being boring or as the youth would say ‘sad’.
We bemoan that fact the people are not attracted to the gospel – but let me ask you “What kind of an advertisement are you for Christ” “Are you one of those Christian who look as if you have been baptised in lemon juice!!”
The challenge the Church has always faced – and today is no different – is packaging the gospel in a way that is relevant and applicable to its society.
NOW HEAR ME! I am not saying that we must change the gospel – that is unchanging – But much of what passes for the gospel is traditional packaging.
We are not going to reach the 90’s generation with 1950’s packaging – we need to deal with the cringe factor.
People are going to be offended by the gospel – by the claims of Christ – esp. in a pluralistic society that objects to the absolute claims of the gospel – BUT for our part we have to work at making sure that it is the gospel that they are rejecting and not our treasured wrapping paper.
ILLUS.: give a small child a present – often more interested in the wrapping paper than in the contents.
Let us make sure we are not guilty of this!!
God wants us to have a deep inner joy and contentment
1 Timothy 6:17 17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (NIV)
Life has its problems and the Bible never tries to hide that – but equally we should have joy in our hearts!
THE CHRISTIAN’S RESPONSE – Turn to God in Praise!
‘songs of praise’ – one words which is the root for the English words ‘Psalms’
The Bible is full of examples of praise – in prayer; singing; musical instruments; clapping; raising hands; dancing.
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song. (NIV)
1 Chronicles 16:8-10
8 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
9 Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
10 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. (NIV)
after the ascension —
Luke 24:53 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. (NIV)
Praise is not just external frivolity – praise in only genuine when it comes from that deep contentment with God.
Whether in hard times or happy times we should turn our attention to God.
Calvin – “ James means that there is no time in which God does not invite us to himself”
Not that we have a religious experience to cover every aspect of life BUT we have a God for all the changing scenes of life. To use Alec Motyer’s phrase “A God for all seasons!!
To turn to him in good times and bad times – in times of joy and sorrow – prayer and praise both acknowledge that he is sufficient.
“To pray to him is to acknowledge his sovereign power to meets our needs, to praise him is to acknowledge his sovereign power in appointing our circumstances!” [Motyer]
Our whole life needs to be angled towards God so that whatever strikes us is defected into his presence. This is the practical exercise of faith in accepting the will of God for our lives.
In praise – we thank God for what he has done and rejoice!
In prayer – in time of trouble we endeavour to respond like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane ‘Not my will, but yours be done’.
Prayer and Prayer have this as the foundation -they both say ‘The will of God is good’.
In the hard times – pray!
In the happy times – praise!
Jesus by whom we come to God
The true and living way,
the humble path of prayer you trod,
Lord, teach us how to pray!
‘A GOD FOR ALL SEASONS!’
- During the Hard Times.
¢ different kinds of trouble
¤ physical trials
¤ emotional trials
¤ spiritual trials (esp. Christians)
¢ the Christian response
¤ turn to God in prayer
- During the Happy Times.
¤ not superficial euphoria
but a deep sense of well being
¢ the Christian response
¤ turn to God in praise