Sundays | 9am & 10:30am | The Woodlands, TX

Attitude Matters: James 1:12-18

Love God. Be Happy!
John Witte

Sermon Summary

John Witte told a story from his missionary days in Kenya about the challenges of living without electricity – something we all take for granted and miss terribly when we don’t have it. He said, “Most of us are happier when the electricity is on!” In life, this metaphor applies to everything when circumstances are good, and things are going our way. We know, however, that circumstances change all the time. What happens to the Christian’s happiness then?

In the first two parts of this sermon series, we learned that trials produce endurance and wisdom, and today we learn the surprising truth that trials also produce genuine happiness. James’ use of the word “blessed” echoes Jesus’ beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-11. They are also counterintuitive. Clearly, in Jesus’ mind, happiness had very little to do with the electricity being on. James said the electricity being off reminded us of how fortunate we are when we endure until it comes back on! That’s what happiness is; it’s the wisdom to understand how blessed you are to have come through the trial.

James knew that apart from a genuine love for God, we may blame him when the electricity goes off in our lives. But James said this isn’t the case because God’s nature prevents him from being tempted or tempting us. Every trial is both a test and a temptation. Just think about it, a rough spot in your marriage, a child who gets seriously ill, your health fails, you’re single and not married yet, a Christian leader disappoints you. Every trial is both a test and a temptation. The test is to endure. The temptation is to quit and walk away, to get to a place where the electricity is on. When we endure, we are approved, and when approved, James said we receive the crown of life, which is a quality and depth of life that comes from having endured the trial itself. The crown of life is the genuine happiness that accrues us based on understanding how fortunate and privileged we are to have come through the test. And this crown, this genuine happiness, can only be awarded to those who endure.

Group Discussion with Video

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. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.—James 1:12-18 (ESV)

LEAD> the group in reciting the Lord’s prayer at the beginning of the discussion. At the conclusion,

ASK> What does it mean to ask God, “Lead us not into temptation?” Isn’t this in conflict with James 1:13?

WATCH> the video clip at this link as a group:

ASK> How would you answer that last question when trials come: “How do we love God instead of blaming him?”

ASK> If the word translated “trial” in James 1:12 comes from the same Greek word translated as “tempted” in verse 13, how do we distinguish between the two?

READ> Romans 7:17-23 and Ephesians 2:1-3

ASK> Where does sin originate?

ASK> What is the crown of life in James 1:12, and who will receive it?

ASK> Can you be a Christian and not love God? Can you be a parent and not love your children, or a husband or wife and not love your spouse?

ASK> Have you ever received a finishing trophy, like perhaps in a marathon? How is finishing different than coming in first place?

ASK> Why does James call God the “Father of lights” in James 1:17?

READ> Acts 4:32–35; Romans 12:4–8; Galatians 6:10; Ephesians 5:15–21

ASK> How has the testimony of others helped you in your struggle against sin?

ASK> How can you encourage others to resist temptation?

READ> Mark 9:30-34

ASK> What did Jesus tell the disciples?

ASK> How did they respond?

READ> This quote by Paul David Tripp

“Right after Jesus told them that he was going to be captured and killed, they didn’t say: “Lord, no, no, you can’t let this happen. What will we do without you?” They weren’t filled with remorse. No, they began fighting with one another about which one of them was the greatest. This is what sin does to all of us. It causes us all to be little self-sovereigns and self-appointed mini-kings. What we really want is for our kingdoms to come and our will to be done right here, right now in our jobs and families. We love being in control. We love getting our own way. We love being indulged and served. We live for being right. We have a wonderful plan for the people in our lives. It is humbling to admit, but we are more like the disciples than unlike them. So it was a moment of beautiful grace when Jesus looked at these self-oriented disciples and said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). He was saying: “Don’t you understand? I didn’t come to exercise my power to make your little kingdoms work, but to welcome you, by grace, to a much better kingdom than you could ever quest for on your own.” No matter how counterintuitive it is, it really is true that real life is found only when his kingdom comes and his will is done, and that is exactly what grace welcomes you to.”—Paul David Tripp (from New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional)

REMEMBER> God doesn’t conduct sting operations! The trial sets us up to succeed, not to fail. We fail when we look for a cheap substitute or an easy way out. If we allow God to finish in us what he started, we will be stronger, better and complete as he shapes us into the image of Jesus.

PRAY> Ask the group if they have any prayer requests and write them down. Allow everyone a chance to pray and then close by praying for each person you took note of. It’s ok to read from your notes while praying, and the more specifics you say out loud (especially people’s names), the better.
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