This Sunday Pastor David kicked off our new series on the book of James. The discussion questions this week are from his sermon, “How Trials Serve Christian Joy.”
These questions are designed to spark heart-level discussion in your Life Groups. They’re not meant to be a sermon quiz or feedback generator. Simply use some of the content from the sermon to dig into the most pressing needs in your group. If it just takes one question, that is fine. If you use all four, that is great, too. The goal is your Life Group’s discussion on how the gospel impacts and changes the nitty-gritty circumstances we face everyday.
Pain and suffering is the great test of any world religion, any philosophy of life, any system of beliefs, and any individual person. Pastor David explains,
When we suffer, we find out what’s really inside, who we truly are, and how powerful, or weak, is the foundation on which we’re building our lives. We see it for ourselves, and others see it in and through us.
Why do you think this is the case? How might pain and suffering expose more of our hearts than joy and blessing?
Connected to it, in what ways might joy and blessing expose realities of our hearts?
James says to count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2). That means all kinds of trials — trials of every size and shape. Sometimes that could be significant seasons of darkness and suffering. Other times it might be the little inconveniences we encounter throughout the day. Whichever it is, count it all joy. Consider it joy. Reckon it joy. That’s another way of saying do the math. It means we need to connect the dots in our minds and hearts. We need to remember foundational realities of who God is and see our circumstances in their light.
Okay, okay, but why is this so difficult to do? What do you think are the main things that keep us from thinking and feeling as we should when trials come?
It is never right to be angry with God. He is God. God! And we’re just people.
At the same time, we know from the Psalms that we can be honest with God about our struggles. He is our Father, our Father! And he loves us.
How do you think about the balance between the sin of anger toward God and our “being honest” with God? How do you think we can build each other up in this area?
[Consider this question for a moment. It seems in recent years, as skepticism has increased in our greater culture, that many Christians have been encouraged to speak more openly about their frustrations with God. Perhaps as a way to commiserate with doubters, some Christians have aired their concerns more eagerly than in generations past. This is a delicate topic. We must be honest with God, and honest with our community about our struggles. We do not want to “perform” Christianity. And also, we need to have the love and courage to admit sin in our honesty, and to help point it out for others. “Being honest” does not give us a pass to think wrongly about God.]
Pastor David says,
Let’s be a church that gets this right in our heads and hearts and our suffering: it is never right to be angry with God. It is always sin to be angry with him. It is always sin to blame him. He “cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” He is sovereign over our pain, but never to blame for it.
And let’s also be a church that extends ample grace to suffering people. Let’s have a category for “words for the wind” (Job 6:26), when people say things they don’t really mean deep down; they’re just hurting. And when people are angry with God, let’s be safe place for them to be honest about that. No need to add the sin of hypocrisy to the sin of anger with God.
James writes, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (1:12).
Pastor David explains,
Reward does not mean that eternal life is earned. This is a gift. Those who endure in faith “receive the crown of life.” The picture here of receiving a crown is not a king with a crown, but a runner receiving a crown at the finish line. James is picturing this life, and the various trials we encounter, as a kind of race, with a finish, and a promised crown awaiting us at the finish.
And one of the things that makes trials so difficult in this life is because we all know that we were created for a life without trials. God created us to worship and enjoy him forever — in a life without trials, without pains, without suffering. And that day is coming.
How might our hope in that future day help us when we encounter trials of various kinds? Do you feel like you regularly allow the hope of heaven impact your difficult circumstances? What kind of changes could you make to bring the reminder of our future hope into your everyday life?