When we understand God’s purposes we praise Him
When we understand why bad things happen it helps us overcome them or endure them. The God of the Universe is all good. However, He does allow His children on earth to meet with difficulties from time to time. But He will never leave us. He will never allow us to meet with a difficulty bigger than His ability in us to overcome or endure. Let’s learn from God’s Word in the Book of James about God’s purposes for difficulties and how we can overcome them through His grace.
How to Receive a Fruitful Benefit from Difficulties
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, ives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
Understanding the Purpose of Difficulties
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds,
This word “consider” means to evaluate or “count on it”. When we think of or experience difficulties we usually do not consider it something to rejoice about.. It’s for this reason that we Christians must make a decision – “this difficulty will bring me joy if I allow God to accomplish His plan through it.”
The word “difficulty” comes from a Greek word that means problems or something that disturbs the peace, comfort, joy or happiness in someone’s life. The verb form of this word means to “put something or someone to the test” with the purpose of discovering the nature or quality of that person or thing. God allows difficulties into our lives as a test to prove and increase the quality of our faith and to show that it is true faith. Every difficulty becomes a test of our faith and comes to us to strengthen our faith. If we fail the test by making the wrong choice in response to that difficulty, then the difficulty becomes a temptation that invites us to disobey God and do evil.
Difficulties Test the Quality of Our Faith
3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
God allows difficulties into our life to strengthen and test our faith. Through a difficulty we will learn to stand against the pressure of the difficulty until God removes it at His appointed time. We will love the results of the difficulty as we stand firm in faith and wait for God’s results in His time.
Persevering During Difficulties Helps Us Become Mature Children of God
4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
As we persevere in the difficulty by faith and allow God to work in our lives through that difficulty we will become mature, complete and not lacking in anything. This does not mean that we will become a person who has no sin and never lacks, but it means that we will become a mature Christian. There are baby Christians and mature Christians. A mature Christian represents Jesus Christ in everything he thinks, says and does. We become a mature Christian when we allow the difficulties that we meet to create the character of Jesus Christ and the fruit of the Holy Spirit in us.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Ask God for Wisdom
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
Wisdom is the ability to live life with success to the end for the glory of God. We receive wisdom from our life experiences and through understanding the truth in God’s Word. We must be careful about following the wisdom of this world or our culture because sometimes that kind of wisdom is opposed and opposite from God’s wisdom. When we meet with difficulties often we don’t know the purpose of those difficulties. They cause us sorrow, fear and discouragement. It’s at this time we should pray – “Lord, what do you want me to do? How do you want me to respond to this difficulty?” Sometimes we respond by rebuking the difficulty or the demons that caused it. Sometimes we respond by showing love to those who created the difficulty in our life. Sometimes we submit to the difficulty and endure. During this time of endurance we learn to grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus and learn how to receive love, joy, peace and everything else we need from Him. This is one way we grow as a Christian. If we pray and wait on God He will give us wisdom, for He is full of wisdom.
Ask God in Faith
6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
When we pray to God about our difficulties or anything we must pray in faith, not wavering. We must have faith that God hears our prayer, knows our difficulty and has all ability to remove the difficulty, show us how to solve the problem or give us grace to endure until His appointed time. Many of us doubt because we don’t trust God completely. Many Christian really don’t believe God loves them completely or is completely good or has all power. Therefore, we doubt in our heart. A person who doubts is like the waves of the sea – going back and forth, back and forth.
7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
The person who has two minds is a person who trusts God and rejoices in God when there is no difficulty, but when there is difficulty he doubts the goodness and power of God. This person will not receive anything from the Lord because we receive everything from God by faith. (Hebrews 11:1-3)
Both the Rich and the Poor Have Problems
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.
Sometimes the poor think that the rich do not have problems, but actually everybody has problems. Some people have more resources to solve their problems, but in the end, God will allow difficulties to come to the poor and the rich. For the poor, we can rejoice that we are the sons and daughters of God – this is a high position. For the rich, we can rejoice that God loves us so much we humbles us to help us learn to trust in Him. Remember, the goal of difficulties is to allow God to work His plan and purpose out in our life. Sometimes both the rich and the poor do not trust in God, but in themselves, to help solve their problems. If you are poor, remember that you need God for everything. If you are rich, remember that you, too need God for everything.
11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
It’s important for both the poor and the rich to remember that what we have – money, possessions, reputation, position – can disappear in a moment, like a flower that wilts in the heat of the day. One day we can have everything, but the next day it can be gone! We hope this teaches us not to trust in our money, possessions, reputation, position or even our benefactors – but only trust in God! True happiness does not come from what we have, but comes from our relationship with God!
We Must Lean to Persevere Because a Difficulty is a Test
Which We Can Pass or Fail
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
People who successfully endure difficulties are truly happy. To “endure” a difficulty means we do not lose our faith. We do not turn away from God. We do not look outside of God and His Word to solve our problems or to give us peace or joy in our circumstances. To “endure” a difficulty means we may not understand why we are meeting this difficulty, but our faith is in a loving God full of grace and the ability to give us strength, peace and joy in that difficulty.
When a person endures a trial like this he “passes a test” like a student who passes his exam at school. The purpose of exams at school are to test our knowledge – do we know the subjects that we’ve studied or not? The purpose of God’s tests are to confirm that we know Him, His faithfulness, love and power. For those who pass the test and endure difficulties, we will receive a crown of life. God sees what we do in secret and will reward us openly (Matthew 6:4). Someday all of us must stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). This is not to be judged for heaven and hell, but this is the judgment for Christians to determine our rewards in heaven. God sees our pain. He sees our tears. He sees our fear. But He also sees our faith and endurance, and at that time, He will reward us for our endurance. So, remember that when you endure difficulties, your God sees your heart, your thoughts and your actions and He will reward you on the last day when we stand before Him as His children.
God is Good and Will Not Tempt Us to Sin
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
In the Greek language, which is the original language of the New Testament, the word for “difficulty” and “temptation” here in these verses are the same. The point for us to understand here is that every difficult situation that enters a believer’s life can strengthen him if he obeys God and His Word and remains confident in God’s faithfulness, goodness and power, or that difficulty can become a temptation to lure him to do evil if he chooses to doubt God and disobey Him.
Our God – the God of the universe – his perfect. He has no sin and He cannot be tempted by sin. In God’s nature He has no capacity to commit sin of any kind. God also does not tempt people. God will allow difficulties to enter our lives with the goal of strengthening our faith and helping us to grow as mature Christians, but God does not tempt us and hope that we commit sin. The wonderful promise of God for Christians is that He will not allow a temptation to enter our life that is stronger than His ability to help us endure and overcome. Also, He will provide a way of escape from that temptation if we ask Him for wisdom and obey what He tells us to do.
13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[b] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
The above verse is a wonderful promise we must remember when we face difficulties and temptation.
The Root of Temptation is the Sinful Nature of Mankind
14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.
Remember: God allows difficulties to enter our life to help us know Him and His power more and to become a mature Christian. But if we do not respond to God’s grace that difficulty can become a temptation to do evil. The devil and demons cause problems and temptations to occur in our life with the goal of snaring us and causing us to stumble. We must discern where the problem comes from, that’s why James 1:5 says we must pray for wisdom on how to respond to the problem. But remember this:
- God gives us grace, wisdom and a way of escape when we seek Him
- If we do not obey God in the difficulty it can become a temptation to sin
- The root of all temptations and sin is our own sinful heart
- Sin is a process
The word “draw away” (ទាក់ទាញ) is used in the Greek language of a hunter setting a trap for a wild animal to catch it. Sin is like a bait that draws us into its trap. The bait looks delicious for the animal but it’s a trap to capture and kill it. Sin is the same thing. The pleasures of sin of every kind will lead us to defeat and death if we continue to walk that way.
There is a power within us called “lust” (ចិត្តលោភលន់). This lust is in what the Bible calls “the flesh” part of ourselves and draws us to want to enjoy sin. Sin satisfies us. But sin only satisfies us for a short time and then we receive its terrible result. This verse says each person is drawn away by “his own lust”. The lust of the flesh is different for different people and different difficulties and temptations. For some people their lust is for possessions. For others their lust is power, honor and position. For others their lust is for what satisfies their body. (1 John 2:15-17)
The word “enticed” (លួងលោមបញ្ឆោត) comes from a Greek word that means to catch a fish with bait. This is another example of the power of sin to lead us away from God. A fish sees the delicious-looking bait entices the fish and after a bite, the fish is caught on the hook and cannot escape. When we are facing difficulties there is always the temptation to try to solve the problem using a method different from God’s methods. God’s ways are different than our ways. His ways are higher than our ways. Isaiah 55:8. God’s ways are usually slower than man’s ways. God’s ways are sometimes more difficult than man’s ways. But God’s ways are right. God’s ways are true. Man’s ways to solve problems bring short-term results. God’s ways to solve problems bring eternal results. Pray and ask God for wisdom how to solve your problems. Search in God’s Word, the Bible, to discover God’s ways to solve your problems.
Sin is a Process
15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Sin is not a spontaneous action, but it is a process. The verse above compares the committing of sin to the process of a baby being born.
- We desire to do something.
- We act.
- We receive the result.
The sin we’re talking about here is choosing to not obey and submit to God when we have a problem:
- Family problem
- Financial problem
- Relationships with others
- Emotional problems
- Health problems
Our tendency is to try to solve these problems according to the ways of the world rather than according to God’s way. Our tendency is to run from these problems. Some of the ways we choose to solve our problems lead to sin.
This is the cycle of sin:
- Thought. Every sin begins with a thought. Therefore, we must evaluate every thought and bring it into submission to Jesus Christ and His Word.
2 Corinthians 5:3-5
- Plan. After we meditate on the thought we create a plan to follow that thought.
- Action. The plan leads us to an action.
- Result. The result of our sinful or disobedient action may bring short-term positive results, but in the long-term it will create more problems. Some actions create serious disasters in our life that will lead us far away from God’s plan for our life.
The key is to stop the sin before it is born: Evaluate the thought with God’s Word. Ask this question: “What would Jesus do in this situation?” If you make a decision to solve your problem this way, what is the long-term result? Trust and obey God instead!
God is Good. He Always Does Good. He Does Not Change
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
A person who is deceived believes something that is not true, but they don’t know they are deceived. This is one reason why we must be full of the Word of God so we can compare our thoughts with the Word of God. We are deceived when we begin to believe that God is not perfect and good. We are deceived when we believe that God is always working everything out in our life for a good result. We are deceived when we think God causes evil to occur in our life. We are deceived when we think God doesn’t have the ability to help us overcome our problems.
As we can see by the verses above, God gives good gifts. God is good. God is kind. God does good things for mankind and especially His children. There is a devil and many demons who always cause evil to occur, but God will cause the evil of demons and men to turn out for our good. Romans 8:28. Genesis 50:20. The above verse calls God the “Father of Lights.” These lights are the sun, moon and stars. God is the Creator and the Father of all the light in the Universe. We can see the sun, moon and stars change in their brightness. Our day goes from daytime to nighttime. The moon changes and so do the starts in their brightness according to the season. But be encouraged: Our God is not like the sun, moon and stars. God does not change! Malachi 3:6. 1 John 1:5.
God Will Never Leave Us or Forsake Us
18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
God is good and is full of love. God choose to allow us to live in this earth. He gave us new life so we can be born again as His child. As you can see from the beginning, God created the earth perfect. The first man and woman had everything they needed:
- Every kind of food
- Good health
- No sickness
- No sin
- No lack
- No family problems
But because they faced a test and temptation they failed. They were deceived. They chose their way instead of God’s way. For a moment they were satisfied, but the long-term results were terrible for them and all of their descendants. God is good and all-powerful and all-wise. He loves you so much! He will never leave your or forsake you. You can trust Him with your problems. `
Below is a short story that I hope will encourage you:
FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me because I noticed
that during the low periods of my life,
when I was suffering from
anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could see only one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
‘You promised me Lord,
that if I followed you,
you would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?’
The Lord replied,
‘The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand,
is when I carried you.’