How to Handle the Heat
The Jeopardy category might be famous phrases. See if you can complete this line:
If you can’t stand the heat….
…stay out of the oven…hop in the pool…bump down the thermostat...take a chill pill...
None of those quite fit the bill, do they? You know the old saying really goes if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Anybody know who said it? President Harry S. Truman. He didn’t have a lot of patience with fearful folks. Truman had plenty of hot moments during his presidency, and for the most part, it seems like he handled the heat pretty well.
What about you? How do you handle the heat? How do you deal with fiery trials and troubles? How do you handle the heat when you can’t get out of the kitchen? How you handle trouble is a good indication of how mature you really are. Mature people know how to handle the heat.
James begins his epistle outlining how a spiritually mature person faces trouble. He shows us in James 1:2-18 how you and I can learn to handle the heat. Begin reading in vs. 2-4.
One of the first things to do when you face trouble is to :
1) Remember the heat is good for you. (v. 2-4)
I’ve heard it said the world can be divided into two types—hot natured people, and cold-natured people. I always get them mixed up, but whichever one of them hates being hot is my home team. I can sleep quite soundly when I’m cold, but I can’t sleep a wink when it’s too warm. I might wish for warmer weather during winter, but I never wish for hot weather. Yet it comes anyway, because God knows what He’s doing when He sends summer.
He also knows what He’s doing when He turns up the heat in our lives. That’s why James says in vs. 2 count it all joy when you fall into various trials… I wonder if any of the people who first read these words, who were undergoing severe persecution, asked James, you’ve got to be kidding! How can I be happy about my suffering?
I don’t believe James is telling us to be happy when the heat is on. I think he is saying don’t let the heat steal your joy. Don’t let trouble plummet you into depression. You can keep a smile on your face and a song in your heart even when the heat is on. How? By remembering God uses the heat to strengthen your soul. (v. 3-4).
The word patience=endurance; perseverance= the ability to keep on keeping on no matter what else is going on. This is a sure path to maturity (that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.) The only way for you and I to grow stronger is by turning up the heat.
Most teachers know this is true, even if the students aren’t willing to admit it. It’s only when the heat is turned by up that test that the student learns the lesson, and holds on to the information. Imagine a school without grades or report cards. No heat would mean no learning.
Most athletes know the only way they grow stronger is to constantly test their skills and abilities through the heat of practice or competition. No heat, no victory.
It is through testing we grow stronger, more mature, able to do more and become more than we are right now. That’s why we can keep our smile when the heat goes up—because we know God will use it not against us, but for us.
2 Co 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
The story is told of a fire that destroyed 2,500 homes in 1991 in California. When a man and his daughter came back and sifted through the debris where their home once stood, they found almost everything reduced to ashes—everything but a tiny porcelain rabbit. They couldn’t believe something so fragile had survived intact. They later showed a neighbor the figurine, and he asked “Do you know why this [survived the fire]? Because it has already passed through the fire.”
Fiery trials may be very painful, but it is only through the blazing furnace our faith grows purer and stronger.[i]
James says that spiritually mature people keep their smile even when they feel the heat because they know it’s good for them. Another important way to handle the heat is
2) Ask for wisdom to handle the heat. (v. 5-8)
When the heat is on, it’s very easy to do something foolish.
Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn’t make it. Terrified, the one shouted to the other, "Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!" John answered, "I can’t. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life." "But you must!" implored his companion. "The bull is catching up to us." "All right," panted John, "I’ll say the only prayer I know: ’O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.’"
You need wisdom to handle the heat—not just the best you can come up with, but wisdom
from God. James says when things get hot, all the wisdom of heaven is available to you for the asking. He says God gives His wisdom liberally and without reproach= freely, without scolding. When you need to know which way to go, or what choice is the right choice, James urges us to ask God because He is eager to help you.
But when you ask, he writes, you have to ask in faith, with no doubting. You ask God, trusting Him to give you wisdom, and He gives you wisdom, only if you trust Him enough to heed His wisdom.
God doesn’t give wisdom to those looking for options—He gives wisdom only to those committed to putting His wisdom into practice. Everybody else is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind…double-minded, unstable in all their ways…They may ask for wisdom, but they will never get it from God, because they really don’t trust Him.
When the heat goes up, and trouble comes, you need wisdom from God. It’s yours for the asking only if you trust God before you ask. Plenty of people have made a mess in the heat because they never received God’s wisdom.
A third important way to handle the heat is to
3) Let the heat clarify your perspective. (v. 9-11)
When everything is cool, it’s easy to lose your perspective. You can count your blessings
and think I’ve got it made. It gets more complicated when the heat is on, and you begin to think
if only I had more, this trouble wouldn’t be so bad.
The truth is more won’t always help you handle the heat. In fact, more can actually hinder you. James reminds us in vs. 9 Let the lower brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation…
Notice he’s talking about Christians here—he calls both of them brother.
The lower brother is the believer who struggles to make ends meet, maybe even the brother who barely survives. He is to glory=to be proud/to be glad in his exaltation…The world calls him poor, but heaven calls him rich. He can be glad that the wealth he possesses in heaven cannot be touched by trouble or trial.
On the other hand, the rich brother should glory…in his humiliation…He should be glad he doesn’t have to rely on his earthly riches, which disappear like the morning mist. He can be glad his true riches are also in heaven. Jesus puts it this way in
Mt 6:19-20 19“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Trouble helps us clarify our perspective. Wealth is not a matter of what you have on earth, but what you have in heaven. If things heat up and you have nothing here, or else you have plenty here, rejoice you have treasure trouble cannot touch. The heat doesn’t change that, but it does clarify it, and in the process, makes us more mature.
The man who has no money is poor, but one who has nothing but money is poorer. -Orison Swett Marden
This is the perspective turning up the heat can clarify. The fourth thing James urges us to do is
4) In the heat, focus on God’s goodness. (v. 12-17)
Corrie ten Boom writes: Often I have heard people say, “How good God is! We prayed that it would not rain for our church picnic and look at the lovely weather!” Yes, God is good when He sends good weather. But God was also good when He allowed my sister, Betsie, to starve to death before my eyes in a German concentration camp.
When the heat goes up we’re tempted to wonder if God is as good as the Bible says He is. If God is so good, how can he let this happen to me? A mature person understands that even when trouble comes, God is still good. James focuses on God’s goodness in 3 key areas:
God promises a good reward to those who handle the heat. (v. 12) There is a special promise in vs. 12 …when he has been approved he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. The crown here is not a king’s crown, but the victor’s crown, the laurel for the athlete that wins the race.
The promise is for an abundant, victorious life to whoever loves the Lord enough to keep on keeping on no matter what else is going on. This crown is a symbol of God’s goodness. At the same time, it’s important to also focus on the fact
God is too good to tempt us. (v. 13-15) God is never the source of temptation, nor does He ever give in to temptation. Temptation comes from the evil desires in our own hearts.
Mt 15:19-20 19For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”
God tests us. God allows us to be tempted. But He is never the author of temptation, or any other evil. In fact, James reminds us
God is the source of all that is good. (v. 16-17) God is the Giver of Good Gifts. Everything
good we ever experience is a gift from the Lord.
Mt 7:11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
Handling the heat means refusing to question God’s goodness, but instead focusing on God’s goodness. God is always good; God always gives us what is good; God can even take what is bad and turn it into good. Focusing on the reality of God’s goodness will help you handle the heat. Finally, James tell us we handle the heat as
5) Let the fire remind you that you belong to Him. (v. 18)
For so many Christians, trouble is a sign that something’s wrong. We just can’t seem to shake this erroneous idea that if I do everything right, then I won’t have any trouble.
It is true God sometimes uses trouble to get our attention—especially when He can’t get our attention any other way. But more often, trouble is not a sign something is wrong, but that something is right. James tells us in this verse trouble can reminds we belong to the Lord.
By His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth…Your relationship with God doesn’t begin when you decide to come to God. It began when He decided to come to you. You don’t belong to Him because you came up with a way to reach Him—you belong to Him because He reached out to you first. He doesn’t love you because you love Him; He loved you first, and that’s the only reason why you love Him.
God sent Jesus, God sent His Word, God sent the Holy Spirit, God did everything to save you except repent and believe. Your salvation is not based on what you do for Him, it is based on what He has done for you. Yes, you must make the choice to repent and believe, but you would never have had the option to repent and believe if He had not sent His Son to die, and made a way for you to hear the Gospel. You belong to Him because He wants you to belong to Him.
…that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. In ancient times, just before the harvest was gathered, the first and best of everything was offered to God as an act of worship. The firstfruits were not just the first, but the best, demonstrating the blessing of God.
So also, you and I are the firstfruits of the great harvest of souls that will take place when Christ returns. We are God’s trophies of grace, shining examples of His holiness and love.
When I think about this in the context of handling the heat, I am reminded of Job. Do you remember what happened at the beginning of the book of Job? Twice the devil appears before God’s throne. Twice God brags on His servant Job.
Job 1:8, 2:3 Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?”
Do you hear how God brags on Job? He’s mine, Satan, and you will never make him turn away from Me. But Satan challenges God Sure he loves you when everything is cool. But turn up the heat, and He will curse you to your face. The rest of the book is about how Job proves not only His own integrity, but how God proves that a child of God can handle the heat.
When trouble comes, it’s easy to feel God is punishing you, that He has abandoned you. But what if trouble is one of the ways God says you are Mine? The devil is turning up the heat to try and divide us, but Your trust in Me, your faithfulness to Me proves you belong to Me.
There is a legend from the days of the French Revolution that King Louis XVI and his queen were condemned to death. They were escorted to the guillotine in a public square in Paris and beheaded.
Then the frenzied mob called out: “Bring out the prince,” they cried. “He’s next.”
The six-year-old was terrified. He stood on the platform trembling in his black velvet coat and patent leather shoes. Long golden curls tumbled down over his shoulders. The mob screamed, “Down with royalty! Kill him! Death to the prince!”
Suddenly a shout came out of the crowd. “Don’t kill him. You’ll only send his soul to heaven. I say, turn him over to Meg, the old witch. She’ll teach him filthy words. She’ll teach him to be a sinner. And then, when he dies his soul will go to hell!”
So the officials turned the young prince over to old Meg. The vile woman of the back alleys began to teach him dirty words. But every time the wicked woman prompted the prince to be profane he would stubbornly stamp his little feet, clench his fists, declaring, “I will not say it. I will not say those dirty words. I was born to be a king, and I won’t talk that way!” [ii]
When the heat is turned up on your life, will your heart be as courageous as this little boy? Will you let the fire remind you that you belong to the King?
It was Peter Marshall who once prayed,
When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.
He recognized something you and I must recognize sooner or later: trials can be good for you. God heats up our lives in order to help us grow, to drive us to seek His wisdom, to clarify our perspective, to focus on His goodness, to remind us that we belong to Him.
You can handle the heat, if you will put the Word of God we have studied tonight into practice. Will you do that?
[i] Fair Dinkum, http://www.thedinkum.com/
[ii]Robert J. Morgan, Nelson's Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000)