Why Does A Loving God Allow So Much Suffering? Pt. 3 - James 1:1-12 – Greg Ng
Loss and heartbreak can be defining moments in our lives. Isn’t it interesting that our character is shaped more through our difficulties than our successes? We are in part 3 of the “Why Does a Loving God Allow So Much Suffering?” (James 1:1-12)
The first tough question is “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Bad things happen to all people because of sin in the world. (1-2) Bad things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. When sin entered the world, it opened the door for suffering, pain, and illness to fall upon good and bad people alike. God uses sin in the world to point us to our need for a savior. God allows bad things to happen to all people to expose our need for Jesus our Lord and Savior.
James is writing this letter to 1st century Christians that were facing persecution for their faith in Jesus. These are followers of Jesus Christ, yet, bad things are happening to good people. Initially, James didn’t believe that his older brother, Jesus, was God who could forgive sins, but after meeting the resurrected Jesus, James acknowledged that in fact Jesus was his Lord and Savior (v1). Verse 2 says “when” you meet trials of various kinds and not “if” you meet trials of various kinds showing how trials are inevitable.
As Christians we need to be careful in mixing our world views when it comes to suffering. The moralist believes good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. They would say, “God helps those who help themselves” or “What comes around, goes around.” The cynic believes there is no God, and therefore it is all by chance and only the strong will survive. They would say, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” or “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Neither views reflect the Biblical world view and we need to be careful not to quote these phrases. The Christian point of view of suffering is the only point of view that offers a sufficient reason why. The “why” is central to how we are to respond to suffering, and what suffering should produce in our lives.
The second tough question is, “How should we respond when bad things happen to us?” With joy because God is testing our faith and growing our character. (2-4) When God tests our faith (v3), He is not testing how much faith we have, but rather how authentic our faith is. Christian faith is not about how big is your faith, but how big is your God that you are putting your faith in? The phrase, “you may be perfect and complete” (v4) refers to a continual action, or process. There is an emphasis on our ever-growing likeness to Jesus in maturity and wholeness.
The third tough question is, “What are the results when we face suffering?” We become more mature in wisdom, humility, and hope. (5-11) Think about it this way, the struggle I am in today is producing the wisdom, humility, and hope I need for tomorrow. Biblical wisdom (v5) is the skill in living in a Godly way, with the ability to see life from God’s perspective, and with the awareness to discern what God is doing. Wisdom from God can give us the ability to not just survive, but to thrive even when life is a mess, when it’s out of control, when there’s horrible suffering going on.
The word lowly (v9) is also translated as humble. To be lowly or humble refers to the attitude in our hearts. We grow in humility to remind us that we are not in control, that our current circumstances are temporary in comparison to eternity. Humility is going to God with the heart attitude of not my will, but Your will (Matthew 26:39). Humility means giving over control to Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Humility is giving up control to get something better.
James did not make a mistake in calling Jesus his Lord (v1). The term Lord reflects the promise keeper aspect of God. Here we see God promising the crown of life (v12) to those who are enduring suffering. He is encouraging those who are facing suffering and trials to hold on to God’s promises, to grow in their hope, as their eternity is set. God promises that they will receive the crown of life in heaven, where there is no more suffering, no more trials. As Christians, we can have hope because while the suffering is inevitable, it is not interminable, it is not infinite.
The main point is this, God uses trials and suffering to authenticate our faith in Jesus. God uses all kinds of trials as opportunities for our faith to be tested, for us to grow, and for our lives to be changed, forever. This is how we know if our faith is real and authentic – are we growing in wisdom, humility, and hope? James is right, there is a joy in discovering how real our faith is. Suffering allows you to discover something about your faith that you would not discover any other way. More importantly, you are discovering something about your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Praise Songs: Lion and the Lamb, Blessed Be Your Name, It Is Well With My Soul, Waymaker, Doxology