The Sweet Fruit of Bitter Times
EL DULCE FRUTO DE LOS TIEMPOS AMARGOS
A. None of us look forward to trials. None of us love hardship. But without them, we will never enjoy the sweet fruit of maturity. A Billy Graham said, “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.” Today, as we begin our study of James, we are going to look at the sweet fruit of bitter times.
II. El autor
A. James, It was a popular name, a form of the great Old Testament name Jacob. There were several men who bore this name in New Testament history. That Jesus had brothers and sisters is stated in Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3, and one of His brothers was named James. (By “brother,” of course, I mean half-brother. Joseph was not our Lord’s father since He was conceived by the Holy Spirit of God.)
B. James and the other brothers did not believe in Jesus during His earthly ministry (Mark 3:31-35; John 7:1-5). Yet we find our Lord’s brethren in the Upper Room praying with the disciples (Acts 1:14). What effected the change from unbelief to faith? First Corinthians 15:7 indicates that Jesus appeared to James after His resurrection! This convinced James that Jesus truly was the Saviour, and he, in turn, shared this knowledge about Jesus to the other brothers.
C. James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. Paul called him “una columna,” in Galatians 2:9. It was James who moderated the church conference described in Acts 15. When Peter was delivered from prison, he sent a special message to James (Acts 12:17); and when Paul visited Jerusalem, it was to James that he brought greetings and the special “love offering” from the Gentiles (Acts 21:18-19).
d. We have no record in the Bible, but tradition tells us that James was martyred in a.d. 62. The story is that the Pharisees in Jerusalem so hated James’ testimony for Christ that they had him cast down from the temple and then beaten to death with clubs. The story also relates that James died, as did his Saviour, praying for his murderers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
iii. James introduces his letter.
A. In spite of his prominence, what stands out in the first verse of his epistle is James’s humility. He does not describe himself as Mary’s son and the Lord’s brother, refer to his position as head of the Jerusalem church, or mention that the resurrected Christ personally appeared to him. Instead, he describes himself simply as siervo de Dios y del Señor Jesucristo. Doulos (DOO-LOS) ( bond-servant ) depicts a slave, a person deprived of all personal freedom and totally under the control of his master. Absolute obedience and loyalty to his master (who provided him with food, clothing, and housing) was required of every doulos. In contrast to the andrapodon, who was made a slave, the doulos was born a slave. James had become a doulos by his new birth through faith in Jesus Christ.
B. His readers.
1. He refers to them as the “twelve tribes scattered
among the nations.”
a. Christian churches of a predominantly Jewish
b. Christians who were scattered (diaspora)
among Gentile nations en la primera persecución.
C. His letter.
1. As you read the Epistle of James, you discover that these Jewish Christians were having some problems in their personal lives and in their church fellowship. For one thing, they were going through difficult testings. They were also facing temptations to sin. Some of the believers were catering to the rich, while others were being robbed by the rich. Church members were competing for offices in the church, particularly teaching offices.
2. One of the major problems in the church was a failure on the part of many to live what they professed to believe. Furthermore, the tongue was a serious problem, even to the point of creating wars and divisions in the assembly. Worldliness was another problem. Some of the members were disobeying God’s Word and were sick physically because of it; and some were straying away from the Lord and the church.
3. But James was not discussing an array of miscellaneous problems. All of these problems had a common cause: spiritual immaturity. These Christians simply were not growing up. This gives us a hint as to the basic theme of this letter: the marks of maturity in the Christian life. James used the word perfect several times, a word that means “mature, complete” (see James 1:4, 17, 25; 2:22; 3:2). By “a perfect man” (James 3:2) James did not mean a sinless man, but rather one who is mature, balanced, grown-up.
IV. Los Tiempos amargos
A. El Hecho – v. 2
1. the fact is certain—we will have many trials and temptations. Life is filled with all kinds of trials and temptations, trials such as sickness, disease, accidents, disappointments, sorrows, suffering, and death. The Greek word used for temptations or trials throughout James is peirasmos (pie’-ras-mas). It means to tempt; to try; to test; to prove. Throughout the Bible the word peirasmos and its various forms are used to refer to both the temptations and trials of life. But note that the word means far more than just to tempt; it means... probar
2. That is, the temptations and trials of life are to prove us: they are for a beneficial purpose; they are permitted by God for a good purpose
3. Note one other thing that James says: he says that we shall fall into all kinds of temptations and trials. The Greek scholar A.T. Robertson says, “It is the picture of being surrounded (peri) by trials”. The idea is that of many trials and temptations, of all sorts and of all kinds of temptations and trials. But we must always remember: no matter what the trial or temptation, it is for our good and for our benefit. It is to help us. It is to prove us—to make us stronger and much more pure and righteous—to make us much more dynamic witnesses for Christ. God allows trials and temptations to make us more and more like Jesus.
a. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). “Now no chastening [trial] for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11). “Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11).
B. La actitud requerida – gozo
1. the attitude needed to face the trials and temptations of life is startling—it is joy. We are to face trial and temptation with a spirit of joy. How is this possible? How can a believer be joyful -- when facing such trials as disease, accidents, pain, sorrows, disappointments, suffering, pain, and death?--when facing the seductions of temptations?
2. Joy is usually not what fills our heart when we face these things. When severe trials come our way, too often we despair and become discouraged and defeated. Most of us certainly do not experience joy.
3. We are not just to act joyful, in reluctant pretense, but to be genuinely joyful. It is a matter of will, not of feelings, and should be the conscious, determined commitment of every faithful believer.
4. There is only one way to face trials and temptations with a spirit of joy: we have to switch our thinking; turn our attitudes about trials and temptations completely around. We have to quit thinking negatively and think positively. In the words of Scripture we must know something and we must do something.
a. We must know something: know that trials and temptations work patience (James 1:3). We must know what point one stressed: that trials and temptations are not to defeat and discourage us, but to prove us, to make us much stronger and more pure and righteous. The word “patience” (hupomonen) means to be stedfast; to persevere; to endure. The believer is to know that the trials and temptations of life will make him more stedfast, more persevering, and more enduring. They will make him much stronger, not weaker. They will make him strong just like Jesus and they will give him a pure and righteous character just like Jesus. When the believer keeps this fact in his mind, he can face trials and temptations much more positively. He can then begin to move toward the spirit of living joyfully in the face of trials and temptations.
b. We must do something: we must let patience work within us. As stated above, patience means to be stedfast, to persevere, and to endure. But it means more than this in the Greek. It means far more than just bearing and putting up with the trials and temptations. It means far more than just following the advice of medicine and psychology: to take it easy; to be calm; to relax in stressful situations. It means far more than learning to deny the existence of trials and temptations. Patience means...
· to persevere and keep on persevering, never giving in.
· to take the initiative and to exert the energy and effort to conquer and to gain the victory and to triumph over the trial and temptation.
c. Immature people are always impatient; mature people are patient and persistent. Impatience and unbelief usually go together, just as faith and patience do. “Be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:12). “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” (Heb. 10:36). God wants to make us patient because that is the key to every other blessing. The little child who does not learn patience will not learn much of anything else. When the believer learns to wait on the Lord, then God can do great things for him.
d. The only way the Lord can develop patience and character in our lives is through trials. Endurance cannot be attained by reading a book, listening to a sermon, or even praying a prayer. We must go through the difficulties of life, trust God, and obey Him. The result will be patience and character. Knowing this, we can face trials joyfully. We know what trials will do in us and for us, and we know that the end result will bring glory to God
ILL: Se cuenta la historia de un Viejo chucho que cayó en un poso seco. Después de considerer la situación, el campesino decidió que no valía la pena salvar el pozo ni el viejo chucho. Entonces decidió enterrar el chucho para sacarle de su miseria y sufrimiento. Cuando el señor comenzó a echarle tierra, el chucho se puso loco – gritaba y brincaba. Pero mientras el campesino siguió echandole tierra, y la tierra le golpería, el chucho se sacudiría y se subiría sobre la tierra. Así que, golpe tras golpe, el chucho quitaría la tierra y se subiría encima. No importaba cómo le dolían los golpes, el viejo chucho, controló el pánico, y siguió subiendo. Finalmente el chucho, todo golpeado y fatigado, con un brinco salió triunfantemente sobre el brocal stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well. What he thought would bury him actually benefited him because of the way he handled his adversity.
La perseverancia es la habilidad de no ser enterrado bajo la carga de las pruebas pero poder elevarse encima de ellas y salir triunfante.
e. Now note the point: How can we joy when a trial or temptation confronts us? By knowing that it will make us stronger and then by persevering against it and conquering it. By knowing that it is an opportunity to make us stronger and more pure just like Jesus and by using the trial or temptation to become a little stronger and a little more pure and righteous. When we face the trials of life, we must evaluate them in the light of what God is doing for us.
f. When we look at trials and temptations as opportunities, then we will begin to face them in joy. And when we begin to persevere and conquer them, then we will begin to walk through them in the joy of the Lord.
g. Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to “count it all joy.” If we live only for the present and forget the future, then trials will make us bitter, not better. Job had the right outlook when he said, “Mas él conoce mi camino; Me probará, y saldré como oro. (Job 23:10).
h. There is a reason to be joyful in the midst of trials. It is not being happy about the trouble. It is finding joy in what the trouble produces. It is enjoying the sweet fruit produced only by bitter times.
C. El resultado
1. the results of facing trials and temptations can be wonderful. A most wonderful thing happens when a person perseveres and conquers the trials and temptations of life.
2. A person becomes more perfect. The word does not mean perfect in the sense of becoming a perfect person. The word means perfection of purpose. It has to do with an end, an aim, a goal, a purpose. It means fit, mature, fully grown at a particular stage of growth. For example, a fully grown child is a perfect child; he has reached his childhood and achieved the purpose of childhood. It does not mean perfection of character, that is, being without sin. It is fitness, maturity for task and purpose. It is full development, maturity of godliness.
a. This means at least two things. First, when a person stands against trials and temptations and conquers them...
1/ he perfects the purpose God intended. That is, he becomes a stronger and more pure person—a person who is a little more like Jesus--he perfects his task and purpose for being on earth a little bit more. God has a twofold purpose for every believer: to become more and more like Jesus and to do a specific task or job while on earth. When the believer perseveres against and conquers trials or temptations, he perfects both purposes a little bit more. He becomes more like Jesus and he finishes his task a little more.
2/ Second, a person becomes more and more cabal in all parts. The person becomes entire, wholly fit, perfectly sound, complete with no weaknesses, flaws, defects, or shortcomings.
3. Day by day—trial by trial and temptation by temptation—when a person perseveres and conquers, he becomes more and more entire. He becomes stronger and more pure and righteous—more and more like the Lord Jesus. As the last two words of James 1:4 say, “wanting nothing.” The believer who faces trials and temptations in the joy of Christ conquers all, and he lacks nothing.
a. The person just lacks nothing. He wants for nothing. He has all the abundance and fulness of life. He walks through life conquering and triumphing over all the trials and temptations of life, no matter how severe and stressful. It may even be death, but he stands fast in his faith and conquers death. And God rewards him with an eternity of perfection, fitness, completion, and fulfillment—all forever and ever. The believer is conformed to the perfection of Jesus Christ.
APP: Every person here today can think of a trial which he or she has gone through. If I asked you, “Would you like to go through that again?” You would undoubtedly say, “No way.”
But if I asked you, “Are you grateful for what that difficulty accomplished in your life?” Many of you would say, “I wouldn’t trade those lessons and the character developed in those trials for anything.”
That is why we consider it all joy. We consider it all joy because we know that when tough times come, the end result is going to be perseverance and maturity. Perseverance and maturity are things that please God. They are essential traits for the Christian life. The only way to get them is through hard times.
The mature Christian life is the sweet fruit of bitter times.
John Eldredge tells the story of a Scottish discus thrower from the 19th century. He lived days before professional trainers and developed his skills alone in the highlands. He made his own discus from the description he read in a book. What he didn’t know was that the competition discus was made of wood with an outer rim of iron. His discus was made of pure metal, four times heavier than the ones used by his would-be challengers. This committed Scotsman trained day after day, laboring under the burden of extra weight. He marked the record distance and kept working until he could throw that far.
Of course, when he arrived at the competition, he was handed the official wooden discus. He threw it like a tea saucer. He set new records and for many years, none of his competitors could touch him.
As Eldredge reflected on this story, he said, “So that’s how you do it – train under a great burden.
Some of us here today are training under a great burden. It hurts. It is unpleasant. Sometimes we despair. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we are angry at the burden. But we must always take heart. We must always have a deep sense of joy. Why? Because the burden is producing perseverance. Perseverance is producing maturity. Neither of these virtues so prized by God would ever be ours without the burden.
Dear brother, dear sister, Tenedlo por sumo gozo.