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James 1:1-7: Seeking Answers

Essential Disciplines: Prayer - Week 3  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Big Idea - God answers prayer in His way and His time.

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Introduction:

Each morning we awake to face the giants that we find in our lives.
[Slide 2]

Question: How does God answer prayer?

Transition: Deep down we know that God is listening, deep down we know that we need God to answer our prayers, to tackle the giants, the trials, the tribulations that we face in our lives? But how, how exactly does God answer our prayers? As we seek to answer that question, let’s all acknowledge that...
We may not know exactly how God answers prayers but we sure know that we need him too answer them!

I. Life Is Full Of Trials

A. And As God’s People We Too Go Through Tough Times

James 1:1 ESV
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.
I want to introduce you to a group of people in our passage, a people who, like many of us, found themselves in a difficult place in life: [Slide 3]
James 1:1 NIV84
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.
“James” - Biological brother of Jesus and elder/pastor of the first church in Jerusalem ()
“To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” - These were Christians of Jewish origin who once lived within Israel, most likely in or around Jerusalem (49-50 A.D.)
but were now living outside Palestine
They had accepted Christ as their Savior but very quickly thereafter had to flee Jerusalem b/c of trials they were facing (cf. Acts 6)
Now they were living outside Palestine
These trials included not only persecution (physical abuse), but also loosing their jobs, homes, relationships, etc.
Now they were living outside Palestine, away from their homes and families
It’s it interesting that these individuals made the life-changing decision to follow Jesus and this is what happened to them, they still faced trials in life.
Quote: "The trials of life often shake our faith and cause us to let up in service. In other words, hardships and difficulties can diminish the reality of religion. James wrote to help his readers have such reality."
"The trials of life often shake our faith and cause us to let up in service. In other words, hardships and difficulties can diminish the reality of religion. James wrote to help his readers have such reality."
Transition: But this is to be expected, we live in a fallen/broken world. We can be good stewards, proactive in our planning and preparation, play it safe as much as we want but we all know, there is nothing we can do to stop trials from coming. Though they often shake our faith and cause us to want to let up in serving God, we cannot allow them to get the best of us. When the trials come, we must be very careful to realize that...
often shake our faith and cause us to let up in service. In other words, hardships and difficulties can diminish the reality of religion. James wrote to help his readers have such reality."
In other words, hardships and difficulties can diminish the reality of religion. James wrote to help his readers have such reality."

II. What Matters Most Is How We Approach Them

[Slide 4]
James 1:2 NIV84
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
We Are Responsible For Our Response To Trials
James 1:2 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

A. Consider It Joy When You Face Trials

[Slide 5]
James 1:2 NIV84
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
1
James 1:2 NIV84
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

A.

A. Consider It Joy When You Face Trials

Honestly that sounds kind of weird, doesn’t it?
But it is one of the hardest lessons to learn in the Christian life - we are to be joyful in the midst of pain and suffering
It’s not that the trials themselves that we are to find joy in but rather the possible results that God could do through them
Transition: This means that, through God’s eyes and in God’s plans...

B. Our Trials Are Not Meaningless

James 1:3 ESV
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
[Slide 6]
James 1:3–4 ESV
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:3–4 NIV84
because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
They Are God’s Way Of Bringing Us To Spiritual Maturity
Trials are God’s way of bringing His people to spiritual maturity! [Slide 7]
Trials are God’s way of bringing His people to spiritual maturity!
This means that, throughout life, our faith must grow
We start with a small faith, but as we live the Christian life our faith becomes stronger, enabling us to trust God more and more (Illustration - Muscle growth)
As the disciples once did, so too must we ask God to increase our faith (). This He will do by bringing us through various trials.
As we do this, our faith will produce perseverance/endurance so that:
We will be “mature and complete”
This He will do by bringing us through various trials so that our faith will produce the steadfastness of perseverance, guaranteeing that our sanctification will be completed in glory."
Not without fear and pride, just able to not let our reactions stem from those emotions
As we go through this ongoing process of trails, exercising our faith produces “perseverance” (endurance)
As the disciples once did, so too must we ask God to increase our faith (). This He will do by bringing us through various trials.
Transition: But let’s be honest, it’s hard to have this kind of outlook during tough times in our life. That’s where prayer comes in, for James tells us that...

III. God Will Help Us To Face Trials Ahead If We Ask Him

A. Sometimes The Trial Is To Big For Us To Handle

[Slide 8]
James 1:5 NIV84
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
James 1:5 ESV
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
James 1:5a ESV
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
“If any of you lacks wisdom” = Humility
James 1:5
So James tells us to - “Ask God” for wisdom

B. Thankfully God Is Gracious To Hear And Answer

Universal Truths about God answering prayer:
God “gives to all generously”
God gives “without reproach”
If we ask, “it will be given” to us
James knew that trials are often taken as a sign of God’s displeasure, so he tells us to - “Ask God” for wisdom
“Ask” literally can be translated - ‘ask of God continually’
We need “wisdom” - Difference between wisdom and knowledge
Difference between wisdom and knowledge
Therefore he tells us to.
Knowledge is Intellectual; Wisdom is Practical
Wisdom is Practical
Knowledge is informational; Wisdom is Application
Illustration: Having wisdom in life is a lot like driving a car. We are driving along, and suddenly someone darts out in front of us (Maine drivers), or a huge pothole appears. In those situations, we must know how to respond in such a way that we are able to preserve our lives and the lives of others. The trials and difficulties of life are much like the driver who pulls in front of us or the potholes in the road. We are driving along the roadway of life, and suddenly a trial comes. We need wisdom to respond to that trial. We need to know how to respond in such a way that we do not encourage a mistaken notion about what Christianity is. We need to know how to respond in such a way that we do not dishonour God. We need to respond in such a way that we do not discourage our fellow-Christians.
We are driving along, and suddenly someone darts out in front of us, or a huge pothole appears. In those situations, we must know how to respond in such a way that we are able to preserve our lives and the lives of others. The trials and difficulties of life are much like the driver who pulls in front of us or the potholes in the road. We are driving along the roadway of life, and suddenly a trial comes. We need wisdom to respond to that trial. We need to know how to respond in such a way that we do not encourage a mistaken notion about what Christianity is. We need to know how to respond in such a way that we do not dishonour God. We need to respond in such a way that we do not discourage our fellow-Christians.
How often Christians drive the car of faith into the ditch when a trial pops up in the road!
James knew that trials are often taken as a sign of God’s displeasure, but we are in a fallen/broke world,
but we are in a fallen/broke world,
and we need assistant to be able to view the trial as God views it. But He knows that we live in a fallen, broken world and need wisdom to see things as God sees them. We need wisdom to know what to do next, how to react, what steps to take, etc. Therefore, he tells us to...
Why just ask for “wisdom”?
Ask God
Transition: We need Wisdom b/c it enables us to be mature and and as we drive the car of faith; we will not fall into the ditch when a trail pops into the road. For we will know how to properly apply the Scriptures to our lives.
We are therefore called to “ask” -
Thankfully we can simply ask God for assistance

B. There Is One Catch, We Must Ask By Faith

[Slide 9]
James 1:6 ESV
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
James 1:6 NIV84
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
James 1:6–8 ESV
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Quote: “Most people I encounter have a mistaken notion of faith. They think it means that we pick something out that we want God to do, and then we psych ourselves up to believe that he will actually do it. Faith to these people is exactly the same thing as positive thinking. And with this definition in place, many are disappointed and angry with God. They wanted God to do something, they asked him for it and they were really convinced that he would do it. And it didn’t happen! Many are in this boat! And now they are saying, ‘This faith business doesn’t work. I know: I tried it. I asked God, I believed and nothing happened.’ The problem is not with God. Rather it is with a mistaken understanding of faith. Faith is not believing that God will do what we want done. Rather it is believing that God will do what he has promised to do.” - John Piper
James 1:6-8
Quote: “ Most people I encounter have a mistaken notion of faith. They think it means that we pick something out that we want God to do, and then we psych ourselves up to believe that he will actually do it. Faith to these people is exactly the same thing as positive thinking. And with this definition in place, many are disappointed and angry with God. They wanted God to do something, they asked him for it and they were really convinced that he would do it. And it didn’t happen! Many are in this boat! And now they are saying, ‘This faith business doesn’t work. I know: I tried it. I asked God, I believed and nothing happened.’ The problem is not with God. Rather it is with a mistaken understanding of faith. Faith is not believing that God will do what we want done. Rather it is believing that God will do what he has promised to do.” - John Piper
Quote: “Most people I encounter have a mistaken notion of faith. They think it means that we pick something out that we want God to do, and then we psych ourselves up to believe that he will actually do it. Faith to these people is exactly the same thing as positive thinking. And with this definition in place, many are disappointed and angry with God. They wanted God to do something, they asked him for it and they were really convinced that he would do it. And it didn’t happen! Many are in this boat! And now they are saying, ‘This faith business doesn’t work. I know: I tried it. I asked God, I believed and nothing happened.’ The problem is not with God. Rather it is with a mistaken understanding of faith. Faith is not believing that God will do what we want done. Rather it is believing that God will do what he has promised to do.” - John Piper
“He must believe” = Ask in faith (ESV)
[Slide 10-12]
Most people I encounter have a mistaken notion of faith.
And with this definition in place, many are disappointed and angry with God. They wanted God to do something, they asked him for it and they were really convinced that he would do it. And it didn’t happen!
Faith to these people is exactly the same thing as positive thinking. And with this definition in place, many are disappointed and angry with God. They wanted God to do something, they asked him for it and they were really convinced that he would do it. And it didn’t happen!
Quote: “Most people I encounter have a mistaken notion of faith. They think it means that we pick something out that we want God to do, and then we psych ourselves up to believe that he will actually do it. Faith to these people is exactly the same thing as positive thinking. And with this definition in place, many are disappointed and angry with God. They wanted God to do something, they asked him for it and they were really convinced that he would do it. And it didn’t happen! Many are in this boat! And now they are saying, ‘This faith business doesn’t work. I know: I tried it. I asked God, I believed and nothing happened.’ The problem is not with God. Rather it is with a mistaken understanding of faith. Faith is not believing that God will do what we want done. Rather it is believing that God will do what he has promised to do.” - John Piper
Quote: “Most people I encounter have a mistaken notion of faith. They think it means that we pick something out that we want God to do, and then we psych ourselves up to believe that he will actually do it. Faith to these people is exactly the same thing as positive thinking. And with this definition in place, many are disappointed and angry with God. They wanted God to do something, they asked him for it and they were really convinced that he would do it. And it didn’t happen! Many are in this boat! And now they are saying, ‘This faith business doesn’t work. I know: I tried it. I asked God, I believed and nothing happened.’ The problem is not with God. Rather it is with a mistaken understanding of faith. Faith is not believing that God will do what we want done. Rather it is believing that God will do what he has promised to do.” - John Piper
And now they are saying, ‘This faith business doesn’t work. I know: I tried it. I asked God, I believed and nothing happened.’ The problem is not with God. Rather it is with a mistaken understanding of faith. Faith is not believing that God will do what we want done. Rather it is believing that God will do what he has promised to do.”
John Calvin - “Faith is that which relies on God’s promises, and makes us sure of obtaining what we ask.”
As the disciples once did, so too must we ask God to increase our faith (). This He will do by bringing us through various trials.
He grounds the assurance on our receiving not on the asking but on the promises of God.
What exactly has God promised?
God has promised that, if we will believe, and not doubt, He will give us wisdom (meet our needs), and we will receive what we ask for.
As the disciples once did, so too must we ask God to increase our faith (). This He will do by bringing us through various trials.
As the disciples once did, so too must we ask God to increase our faith (). This He will do by bringing us through various trials.
There are three ways that can lead to our failing to receive:
[Slide 13]
James
James 4:2 NIV84
You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.
James 4:1 NIV84
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
James 4:2–3 NIV84
You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:2b–3 ESV
You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
You don’t have because you don’t ask
[Slide 14]
James 4:3–4 NIV84
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
You don’t have because you don’t ask
James 4:3 NIV84
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
You don’t have because you don’t ask
You don’t have because you don’t ask for the right reasons (God’s glory, advancing God’s kingdom and God’s Will)
Show Mercy + Grace - It’s hard, I know (don’t ask for it)
James 1:6–8 ESV
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1:6–8 NIV84
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
You don’t have b/c you doubt
We don’t have b/c we doubt
You don’t have b/c when you ask you doubt
James 1:6–8 ESV
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
[Slide 15]
James 1:6–8 NIV84
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
You doubt God’s abilities and willingness to assist you.
You “inconsistently hope in the Lord except[ing] to receive much from His consistent hand.” - R.C. Sproul
You pray like a wave of the sea, with an unsettled mind, wavering between doubt and faith like a wave of the sea driven by the winds and tossed.
Illustration: Pilgrim’s Progress - “Mr. Facing Both Ways”
Yes, we are all going to find ourselves doubting from time to time, it’s human nature. But it’s our response to the doubt, the fears, the anxiety that matters.
[Slide 16]
Mark 9:20–25 NIV84
So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
Matthew 9:20–26 NIV84
Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed from that moment. When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd, he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region.
Mark 9:17–25 NIV84
A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.” “O unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
That’s why James tells us to pray - “without doubting” and...

C. Thankfully, God Is Gracious To Hear And Answer

[Slide 17]
James 1:5 ESV
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Universal Truths about God answering prayer:
James 1:5 NIV84
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
James 1:56
There are some Universal Truths concerning God’s answering prayer:
God “gives to all generously”
He delights in “add[ing] new blessings to former ones, without any end or limitation” - John Calvin
God’s blessing are like a pitcher ready to pour, always tilted to fill the cups of His people.
God gives “without reproach (without finding fault)”
God gives “without reproach (without finding fault)”
One of the great things about God is that he knows of what we are made. He knows we are mere dust. He knows how very weak we are. He knows how difficult life is for us. He understands why we struggle so. He does not find fault with us for being what we are. (cf. )
In other words, God is not a harsh, stingy disciplinarian! He is a loving parent who wants whats best for His children! He does not play favorites.
God is not a harsh, stingy disciplinarian! He wants to give what is best to all of his children! He doesn’t play favorites!
If we ask, - “it will be given to him”
God always gives according to His will
That’s the hardest part, discovering exactly how God is answering
That’s the hardest part, discovering exactly how God is answering is the hard part.
We cannot expect God to give us everything for which we ask Him, but Scripture guarantees that some things will be ours when we pray for them.
The tricky part is discovering exactly when God answers prayers:
Sometimes He answers with a No and we are left scratching our heads trying to figure out His plans in this world.
Sometimes He answers with a Yes and we see exactly what we prayed for come to pass.
Sometimes He answers with a no and we are left scratching our heads trying to figure out His plans in this world
Sometimes He answers with a Yes, But Not Now.
Some things, like physical healing for example, we may ask for but not always receive until we enjoy the new heavens and new earth one day with Him or God says, “Wait a few days, months or years.”
This is tough b/c it means His will is different from our will, His Kingdom plans are different than our Kingdom plans.
He sees His answering with a “No” a way for Him to receive greater glory for Himself than if He was to answer with a “Yes”
[Slide 18]
For God always answers our prayers in His way and in His time [Podcast Ending - Pause 2-3 seconds]
Pattern in Scripture prayer/clear answer over and over

Conclusion:

[Music Starts]
In the moment, when we find ourselves in the midst of the trials of this life, we can easily become consumed by them, we can easily let the pain and discouragement overwhelm us. But let us look out through the midst of the storm and look for our God to answer the prayers of His people. Let us look for the blessings through the raindrops, the healing through the tears, the presence of God through the sleepless nights. For during these times when sorrow is at its peak, we must remember that we are strangers in this world, that the labor pains only last for a little while and joy will come in the morning. That is our hope. That is what enables us to count it all joy as we endure suffering and pain. For we know God is ever present with us, to hear and answer our prayers in His time and in His way.
. But he held on to the hope that this suffering is only momentary, that in a short wTle we will reach our final destination where “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (). During those times when sorrow is at its peak, we must remember that we are strangers here, that the labor pains only last for a little while and joy will come in the morning. That is our hope. That is what enables us to count it all joy as we endure suffering and pain." - R.C. Sproul
For we know God is ever present with us, to hear and answer our prayers.
*Stand join in singing
*Invite anyone to come forward for prayer
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