Sunday School Lessons


Commentary by Walter Albritton


September 7


James Shows Us the Way to Victory over Our Trials


James 1:1-18


Key Verses: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. – James 1:2, 3


            Our first reaction to the trials of our lives is often to ask, “Why did God allow this to happen to me?” If not that, we blame someone else for our troubles, someone who has done us wrong.

            James suggests a better plan, God’s plan, for responding to troubles that test our faith. Unbelievably, James says we should welcome our difficulties with joy! To which our first response is “You have got to be kidding!”

            James, however, is not kidding. He says joy and he means joy. As we examine James’ teaching, we begin to understand why we should welcome distress with joy.

            James knows that when our faith is being tested by our trials, that God will be in the midst of them with us. After all, He is Immanuel! God uses our testing times to make us stronger Christians. He will allow our trials to make us more patient. This gives us the biblical principle that “tribulation worketh patience.”

            Sometimes we jokingly say, “Lord, I believe I am patient enough; please do not send me any more tribulation!” Even so, most of us realize that we learn more, and grow more, from difficult times than we do when life is easy. Recognizing this, we gradually learn that what we really need is not an easy life but a life filled with God working in us to make us what we ought to be.

            Questions are important. Instead of asking why God allowed our troubles to happen, we can more wisely ask, “What does God want me to learn from this test of my faith?”

            Perhaps that is why James goes on to urge us to ask God for wisdom. God alone can help us understand why certain trials come into our lives. Human wisdom is not enough.

            Godly wisdom helps us better understand the true meaning of patience. To be patient is not simply to take things in stride, stoically. The patience James speaks about involves strength of character, and the faith to persevere rather than surrender.

            Thomas Samford demonstrated to his family and friends that one can welcome trials with joy. Diagnosed with terminal cancer, and advised he had about a year to live, Thomas refused to think of himself as a victim and welcomed his affliction with joyous faith. Remarkably, he lived a dozen more years, though in a continual struggle with cancer.

            Several years ago, Thomas and I began to meet with a few other men at 6:30 on Wednesday mornings. One of these men, Jim Jackson, and I will admit that more than anything else, we simply wanted a time to share, and learn from, with our friend Thomas. This prayer time became one of the great blessings of my life, and the other men shared this conviction.

             I never had any difficulty getting up early on Wednesday mornings, knowing that a man who was struggling with cancer and constant chemotherapy would be waiting for me to pick him up. All of us recognized that our friend Thomas was demonstrating daily remarkable courage that inspired and blessed us. We shall never be able to forget Thomas saying to us, “I thank God for my cancer. My cancer led me to know God. Except for my cancer, I would have missed meeting the Master. I am not fighting cancer,” he would tell us. “I am simply asking for grace and strength to teach His Word until He is ready for me to come home. Whatever time and energy He gives me, I will use to please Him.” And he did!

            When Thomas died recently in early August, I realized that as much as anyone I have ever known, he had lived out before us the wisdom of James: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (NIV).

            At his grave, I shared my heartfelt confidence that, to use the words of James, Thomas had “stood the test” and would surely receive from God the promised “crown of life.”

            May God give each of us the courage to welcome our trials with joy, so that God the Potter can shape us into strong disciples who can persevere until one day it can be said of us:

            “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12, NIV).

            As Thomas, who for the past nine years served God as a remarkably effective Sunday School teacher, would say: “In the Name of the Christ. Amen!” + + + +