James 1:1–18

Listen or read the following transcript as D. A. Carson speaks on the topic of Suffering from James 1:1–18

I shall read the first 18 verses of James. As I read, perhaps you would focus particular attention on verses 2–4 and 12–18. This is what Scripture says.

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

That man should not think that he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position—because he will pass away like a wild flower. 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 man will fade away even while he goes about his business. 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. When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when by his own evil desire he is dragged away and enticed.

Then, after desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, by dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

This is the Word of the Lord.

I would like to begin this morning in a way that is unusual for me. I would like to begin with two stories. They are true stories, and they concern two Englishmen. The first, we’ll call George in order to protect the guilty.

George, several decades ago, felt called of God to Christian ministry. He went to a Bible college in England and, in due course, was appointed as pastor of a church. He was a capable chap. He was a good speaker. He had a lot of people skills. He understood the Scripture pretty well. In due course, men and women were converted, and the church began to grow.

Unfortunately, after a few years, he was caught out in adultery with a member of the church. He resigned. He seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. In fact, he immigrated to Canada. That is where I met him, knowing nothing of his background. At that point, I was a student in seminary myself in Toronto. He became a student with me and, in due course, we both graduated.

I moved to the West Coast, became pastor of a church there, and he became pastor of a church in Ontario. More years passed, and I heard through the perennial ecclesiastical grapevine that he was doing very well. He was a gifted chap. Men and women were being converted, and the church was growing.

Some years later, I moved to England and was serving there, and then through the grapevine I heard again that he had been caught out in adultery. He resigned, and he disappeared. More years elapsed, and I moved back to Vancouver. After several years I then moved down to Chicago, where I am now situated, to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where I teach.

When I got down there, I didn’t really know any of the churches in the area around the seminary at all, and the seminary administration asked me if I would consider, for a number of months, helping out in one of the churches nearby. It was a church that had gone through some recent trauma.

Apparently, they had had a minister there who was very gifted. The church had grown quite a bit. Unfortunately, he had been caught out two or three months earlier in adultery, and there was a mess, broken lives, hurt, and wounds. They asked if I would go in and see what I could do. You guessed it … your friend and mine, George.

Now there are many lessons to be learned from this, not least that many churches don’t adequately check out the backgrounds of the people they take on, but I’ll let that pass. My reason for telling you this is because of what George now says if you confront him. The last I heard, he was selling computer components in Ohio.

If you ask him, “What went wrong? Why did you fall into the same wretched trap three times?” He will answer, “I fell because God is a liar.” You say, “Come again, how do you get that?” He would say, “God says, ‘That no temptation takes you but what is common to man, and he will provide a way of escape so that you may be able to bear it.’ I wasn’t able to bear it. So God is a liar.” And he will not pursue the conversation further. That’s George.

The second man is also English, and I will tell you his name. Norman. Norman Anderson. In the 1930s he went up to Cambridge University as an undergraduate and got a double first, which is incredible in British terms. He was a very brilliant young man who became president of the Christian Union, which is their equivalent of InterVarsity, and, in due course, married a young woman called Pat, and the two of them went off in the passage of time to Egypt to become missionaries.

He learned Arabic quite fluently. When World War II broke out, in due course, he was conscripted by the British Army and did a lot of time in counterintelligence partly because he was so fluent in Arabic. After World War II, eventually he moved to London where he became lecturer, and eventually professor, of Oriental law. At London University he taught, in other words, Islamic studies but, of course, from his perspective as a Christian.

Over the years, he eventually founded a rather famous Oriental institute for which he was knighted by the Queen and became Sir Norman. During that time, he published technical papers and so forth, but he also wrote quite a large number of books as a Christian layman for other Christians, books on the uniqueness of Jesus, books on world religions, books on the gospel and spoke at countless student gatherings in Britain and around the world.

What people don’t know about Sir Norman, at least not many people, is what happened to his family. He had three children. The first was a rather bright lass who became a doctor and then a medical missionary in French West Africa, and in the upheaval that transformed the Belgian Congo into Zaire (it’s now called the Congo again), she was gang raped.

She was furloughed home, and, as she was recovering from this she went to California to pursue further medical studies prior to going back to Africa. Sadly, while in California, she tripped, fell down some stairs, knocked herself out, and drowned in her own spittle. The second child, also a girl, died in circumstances scarcely less bizarre.

The third child was a son, Hugh, and he was genuinely brilliant. He went to Cambridge University as well and became president of what’s called, there, The Union. Oxford and Cambridge have a certain tradition of debating unions, and a very high percentage of their future prime ministers come out of Oxford or Cambridge debating unions.

He was already politically very well connected; however, he never graduated. He died at the age of 21 of a brain tumor. Six cabinet ministers attended his funeral. And there were no more Andersons left. That was in 1972. That’s when I first met Sir Norman and Lady Pat Anderson, and over the years I got to know them very well indeed.

In their later years, Pat suffered from Alzheimer’s, and Sir Norman worked with her and helped her and loved her until he finally died himself. In all the years that I knew them, I never heard from either of them a single bitter word. Not one. For two years after the death of Hugh, Pat couldn’t talk about it, but not once did I hear bitterness. Not once did I hear resentment. Not once did I hear a bubbling, seething anger. Not once.

When he was a very old man, by which time his wife was incapacitated, almost a vegetable, humanly speaking, from Alzheimer’s, he was asked to speak at a large conference of university students in Pwllheli, North West Wales. He didn’t speak anymore, he said, because his memory couldn’t hold things together long enough, but he would be glad to try to answer some questions.

So for almost an hour one of my friends asked him questions about his experience of God across more than eight decades, and he testified to all of his experience to the goodness of God. There was scarcely a dry eye in the place amongst those 2,000 cynical students.

Now my question to you this morning is this … Do you want to be George, or do you want to be Norman? Do not answer quickly. It costs something to be Norman. If you want to pass your whole life blaming everybody else, being cynical, smart-mouthed, and finally blaming God himself, quite frankly, you may as well leave now or least tune me out if that’s too embarrassing to get up and leave.

But if you want to be Norman, then listen to the Word of God, for this part of James tells us exactly what we must know and do, what we must assimilate into the very core of our being if we are to be Christians and follow the example here of a Christian man, Sir Norman Anderson, and his wife, Lady Pat.

1. When you are struggling under trial, remember the Christian’s goals.

Begin with verse 2. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds …” Do you hear that? If you ripped this verse out of his context and simply placarded it, it sounds like an invitation to masochism, doesn’t it? “Go ahead, hit me again. It hurts and I love it.”

James doesn’t simply tell us to consider it pure joy when we face trials, he tells us why. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance,” and for you perseverance is a great goal. It is a great good if you are a Christian. Why? He tells us that, too. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Athletes understand this. “No pain, no gain.” If you want to build up endurance then you have to endure. My son plays soccer, and we have in our high school a fairly vicious soccer coach. So all through the summer they’re expected to get out there two hours early, before breakfast if need be, and they do some pretty frightful drills.

Not only the standard automatic 6 miles around the lake but then running up and down a hill, first frontward and then backward, then frontward and then backward, then frontward and then backward, and getting their times down, getting their times down, getting their times down, getting their times down.

“How did it go today, Nicholas?”

“Oh, it was awful!”

“Did you enjoy it?”

“No. Who’d want to enjoy that?”

“Are you going to join soccer?”

“Oh, yes!”


“Oh, it’s fun!”

You see? Here is someone who is trying to build up endurance and, therefore, endures. There is a goal, you see, to be achieved. Unless you go through the exercises that build the endurance, you don’t learn to endure. Now Christians in this fallen, broken world learn that they want to persevere, not because perseverance is simply an end in itself but because perseverance on the long haul builds character. It transforms you. It builds maturity.

This text, therefore, tells us, “When you are struggling under trial, remember the Christian’s goals.” You see, if your goal is to be as carefree as possible and to live only for the present and to enjoy whatever is right now and to never think of the future or of the desirability of Christian maturity, then obviously every trial that comes along is a right pain and nothing more. It’s something that you just want to blame God for and get on with life, to get through it as fast as possible.

But if you begin to look at things from God’s perspective, from a Christian perspective, even in the midst of your tears you can rejoice because you know that God is building perseverance into your life. You cannot possibly be Christianly mature apart from such perseverance, and in the midst of the tears you will rejoice.

When I was an undergraduate at McGill studying chemistry and mathematics, we had a preacher come onto the campus and expound this text, and he made such an impression that a number of us quietly covenanted together that whenever we heard of one of the others in the group whining or whinging, we’d quote this verse at them. In those days, of course, it was the King James Version, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into divers temptations.” So you know what happened.

The next day somebody wandered onto the campus complaining about a calculus exam at 10:00. Someone smirked and said, “Count it all joy, my brother, when ye fall under divers temptations.” Someone complained about a boyfriend who was going off with someone else, “Count it all joy, my sister, when ye fall under divers temptations.” Someone was complaining about a shortage of cash, a perennials student problem, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into divers temptations.”

Of course, it didn’t help. It was like pouring salt into a raw wound, a sort of a spiritual one-upmanship. “I can quote the verse at you more often than you can quote it at me!” But eventually it got beyond that. Eventually, we heard it as it is: a word from God. When there really were deep hurts, we learned to cry and weep with one another. We also learned basically not to complain and whine and whinge. We saw more people converted to Christ that year than in my many years at university. When you are struggling under trial, remember the Christian’s goals.

We want maturity, and we know that trials breed maturity, but there is another goal as well, mentioned in verse 12. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial …” There it is again. Now a new reason. “… because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

Here the focus is not quite so much on maturity, per se, as on the ultimate reward: the crown of life. That is, the consummation of life opposed to everything that is tied to death in this fallen world, the reward that is life, crowning life. The same expression occurs in Revelation 2:10, in a somewhat similar context. “Be faithful …” The Lord Jesus says to the church. “… even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

In other words, we are to live with eternity’s value in view. If all of your value system is tied to whatever you get in this life, this sort of text is incoherent. This sort of goal, this sort of value system, simply makes no sense. But if you are a Christian, if there is any sense in which you are homesick for heaven, if there is any sense in which you cry with the church from every generation, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” then you recognize that the trials that come our way here prepare us for heaven.

Isn’t that what the text says? “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.” Now quite frankly, some people are bothered by this sort of language because it sounds to them a little bit like a reward system. “So long as I try hard enough, I get in.” Yet we all know if we read the New Testament that the Bible does speak of rewards from time to time, does it not?

A very helpful illustration in this regard comes from the writings of C.S. Lewis. He pictures two men. The first goes to the red-light district of town. He goes to a brothel. He pays his money and has his woman. He gets his reward. The other falls in love with a young woman, and he woos her and courts her, gets to know her and her family, wins her affection and her trust, and ultimately the trust of the family, and secures the permission of the father and, eventually, both deeply in love, they are married. He has his reward. What’s the difference?

The difference is that in the first case the reward and the payment are so incommensurate that the whole thing is grotesque. It is odious. It is evil. It is manipulative. In the second case, the reward is merely the consummation of the relationship. It’s the consummation of what is good and right. Christian rewards are a bit like that. Paul, in Romans, says our rewards are reckoned according to grace. Well, of course. We’ve believed by grace. We’ve come to know the forgiveness of sins by grace. We persevere by grace.

Now the Scriptures insist we are to work hard, we are to persevere, and it is God’s grace working in us both to will and to do of God’s good pleasure, but the result is a certain kind of reward. The reward itself is not something utterly removed from the work. Rather, it is the consummation of it all. It is the consummation of the relationship, do you see?

So you walk with Christ here, and you walk with him in consummated glory there. You know God here, and you know God in consummated splendor there. You work for God here, and you work yet harder there, but now with a transformed resurrected body that knows only glory and no sin.

Oh, listen! “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.” Now here is a man who, like Paul, understands that the things we go through here can’t be compared with the glory to follow.

Do you remember what Paul says? That blessed man who faced all kinds of loss and suffering and beatings, all kinds of opprobrium and slander and hurt. He writes, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18. Then in 2 Corinthians 4, he speaks of this light and momentary affliction. All of this, we’re told, is for those who fear him. Verse 12. It’s for those who fear him.

A few years ago, a friend of mine, a pastor who has now retired.… He took the funeral of an elderly woman in his church. She and her husband had been married for well-neigh 60 years. As her husband, now a widower, wept quietly beside her casket he turned to my pastor friend and said, “God must still have something more for me to do, else why has he left me here?” My pastor friend put an arm around his shoulder and hugged him and said, “My dear brother, God has nothing more for you to do except to love him still.”

Do not misunderstand. He was not saying that he was going to be useless and he had nothing to do whatsoever. He was saying that at the last analysis the issue is not how much we do. We are not finally to identify ourselves by what we do. We are to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength. And this passage says, “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.”

Thus under the trial, we are still to love him. God wants nothing more from you than this, to love him still, because when you are struggling under trial you are to remember the Christian’s goals. If all of your goals are bound up with these threescore years and ten, this stance will be ridiculous to you. What you must do is build into your whole way of looking at things the instruction of the Lord Jesus who tells us that we are to lay up treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not corrode and where thieves do not breakthrough and steal.

You must do all that you can to nurture a heavenward perspective so that your imagination, your thought-life, your value system, your daydreams they’re not so bound up with this life that finally you have no time or place for the glory still to be revealed. When you are struggling under trial, remember the Christian’s goals.

2. When you confess God’s sovereignty, do not misunderstand God’s motives.

Verses 13–15. The first clause in verse 13 is a bit hard to understand. “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ ” The reason it’s a bit hard to understand is because in the original the word for temptation and the word for trial are exactly the same, and it is the only context that tells you exactly what is meant. If I had to paraphrase this first sentence, I would put it like this: “If you are tempted by such trials do not say, ‘God is tempting me.’ ”

You see, James can go back and forth between temptation and trials because that’s the way we experience them, is it not? We face a trial, a difficult thing, and the same events that are opportunities to go forward are temptations to go backward, are they not? Trial becomes temptation because it finds some kind of answering cord within us. After all, God does test people in the sense that he purposely brings them into situations where their willingness to obey him is stretched, where they have to learn endurance.

Thus, Genesis 22 explicitly says God tested Abraham in the matter of his son; or again in Judges 2, God tested Israel; or again in 2 Chronicles 32, God tested King Hezekiah to see what was in his heart, but although God may do this to prove his servants’ faith or to lower their pride or to foster their endurance or to build their stability, to engender a long-term perspective he never, ever, ever does so induce sin or to destroy their faith. How could we think that?

We’re told God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. God is not susceptible to temptation, so why should we think he would have any interest in tempting anybody else? It’s ridiculous. No, no. A true account of temptation is found in verses 14 and 15, by contrast. The true account is, “Each one is tempted when by his own evil desire he is dragged away and enticed.”

The terms used in the original are fishing terms. I have a teenage boy whom I taught to fish. Now he is much better at it than I. Whether is fly-fishing or baitcasting, he’s really good. He knows especially largemouth bass. He can read the water and know when to use a noisy top lure. He can drop things down within a small patch on the other side of a small lake right in the weeds.

In northern Illinois he regularly pulls out 5-pound largemouth. That’s unbelievable in northern Illinois. Because, you see, he’s learned enough about fish now. He knows what they want and where they are, so he just drops the right thing down in front of them and somehow he suckers them, and they go for it. They’re enticed, and he drags them in.

Now there’s nothing morally wrong with the fish wanting this, but that’s what the Devil does to us. He knows what we want in our fallenness. He drops things down in front of us and, because what we want is so often selfish or short-term or greedy or prideful, we’re enticed and we’re dragged away. We’re snookered. We take the bait. We’re dragged away because of what we are.

Or, to change the metaphor, now the metaphor becomes positively grotesque: “After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Here, in this metaphor, the mother is desire, the child that is conceived is sin, and when the sin is full grown, there’s only death. It gives birth to death.

The whole vision, the metaphor, is grotesque: freshly born and stillborn. Do you see what’s being said? Now the picture is not so much of being snookered by our desires, rather it’s a whole pattern of life. The desire gives way to the act. The act gives way to the habit. The habit forms the character, and at the end there’s only death.

What James is saying then is, “In this fallen, broken world we will on occasion be tested. It will happen, but if in our testings we’re drawn away to curse God or to nurture bitterness or to become hateful it’s because of who we are. It’s because of what we are.” The very same person who faces this particular test may be parallel to another person who faces the same test and uses that test as kind of a stepping-stone to grace, to maturation, to growth.

The same test in two people produces different results. The difference is not the test, it’s the people. So then when you confess God’s sovereignty do not misunderstand God’s motives. God never, ever puts things in front of you because he wants you to fall. Which now brings us to the last point.

3. When you feel abandoned and crushed, do not forget God’s goodness.

Verse 16 is transitional. We might paraphrase, “Don’t kid yourself, folks. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. That is, do not allow yourself to wallow in rebellious self pity or in an accusing stance.” No, no. The general point when you feel abandoned and crushed (do not forget God’s goodness) is made by verse 17. Verse 18 then gives the supreme proof.

Look first at verse 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.” In this created order, what is the most stable thing we know? Well, not the seasons. The seasons change, do they not? Each season is a little different from another season, and then occasionally we have larger cycles like El NiÒo and La NiÒa. Oh, yes! The seasons change.

I think if we were pushed, we would ultimately say the most stable thing we know in the created order is the stars. We navigate by them. We calculate our time by them, finally. In the northern hemisphere you can stand out on any clear night and find the Big Dipper and look heavenward. Follow the front two points, and there’s the North Star. It is there, reliably, every time. We navigate by it.

A kind couple in the church loaned me their car for the last two days. It’s a Lincoln, so I’ve been suffering for Jesus driving a Lincoln the last two days. This lovely vehicle has a built-in digital compass, so as I follow the twisting roads of Little Rock that thing changes.… South, southeast, east, southeast, south. It changes.

I know what direction I’m headed in because of that electronic compass, but in the north woods of the UP, the upper peninsula of Michigan, I don’t have any electronic compass in my Lincoln … partly because I don’t have a Lincoln. When I’m out in the woods somewhere in a canoe, I can look heavenward and, to some degree, navigate because of the sheer stability of things, can’t I? The North Star is always in the same place.

But, you know, this is an expanding universe. The stars are moving. Even this old world is slowing down. Each year is a fraction of a second longer than the previous year. If you’re out on a bright, clear night miles from town with the moon shining down upon you, the moon casts a shadow, and as you stand there perfectly still, the earth is rotating, the moon is moving, and the shadows shift.

The most stable thing we know in the universe shifts. That’s the truth. But not God. That’s the point. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” He made the stars. He alone is absolutely stable. He is not variably good. He is immovably, ineluctably, irremediably good. He does not have bad days.

He does not get up some morning and say, “Boy, am I grumpy today! People had better get out of my way!” He is good. He never can be anything other than good. In this broken, rebellious, sin-torn world, he is still always invariably good. So when you feel abandoned and crushed do not forget God’s goodness.

Do you want the final proof? The final proof is verse 18. “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” This birth of which James speaks is not the birth of creation; it’s new birth. There is a lot of reason for this conclusion, but perhaps the most important reason is the expression Word of Truth. It only shows up five times in the New Testament, and every time it refers to the gospel. Many times, explicitly.

For example, in Ephesians 1:13, we are told, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” So this passage is saying he chose to give us birth, new birth, through the gospel that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

In other words, he could have written us all off. In perfect justice, he could have condemned us all, but if you want the final demonstration of God’s goodness then you look at the gospel. You look at the cross. God commands his love for us in that, while we are yet sinners, Christ dies for us. He chose to give us new birth through the gospel through the Word of Truth.

I have a daughter in the first year of college. Three years ago, we were living in England and her best friend, who was a strapping girl, 6 feet and blonde hair down to here, an athlete, a girl called Melissa, was scheduled to fly out to England from Chicago and spend Christmas with us. The night before I was to go down to Heathrow to pick her up, her parents phoned us in England and said they were very sorry but Melissa wasn’t coming. She had just been diagnosed with leukemia.

To make a long story short, Melissa died. Tiffany flew back at Easter on her own. We took her out of school a little longer and put her in a Christian home for those three weeks in Libertyville. Every day she spent 12 hours in the hospital cleaning out Melissa’s trach tube and badgering friends to come and see her, this strapping girl now skin and bones, long blonde hair all gone, bald, trach tube in her mouth so she could hardly mouth words.

I was proud of Tiffany. She was handling grief and sorrow pretty well, but in fact Melissa died in June. In July, we flew back. I could see that there were some things that were still deep-seated in my daughter. In September of that year, I heard her crying in her room, and I tapped at the door, walked in, wrapped her up in my arms, and I said, “Tell me about it, Tiffany.” She bawled her eyes out and said, “God could have saved my best friend, and he didn’t, and I hate him.” I let her cry and stroked her hair.

I said, “My dearest, Tiffany, I’m so glad you told me, because God knows what you think anyway, so you might as well tell the truth, and in some ways you’re not saying more than what some of the psalmists says when they really feel kicked in the teeth, but before you decide that God doesn’t love you, you have to think about two things.

First, do you want a God like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp, very powerful but finally under the control of whoever holds the lamp? Do you want a God who only does what you tell him to do? In which case, who’s God? Or do you want a God who is so big that sometimes he’ll do stuff you don’t understand?

The second thing you have to think of, my dearest Tiffany, is this: You lost your best friend. God lost his Son. In fact, he didn’t lose him; he gave him, and he didn’t have to. Before you become too convinced that God doesn’t care for you, measure things in terms of a little hill outside Jerusalem.” Do you see what this passage is saying? When you feel abandoned and crushed, do not forget God’s goodness.

Let me tell you, quite frankly, if you haven’t discovered it yet, you will. You are going to get kicked in the teeth. The only exception to that is if you happen to live an extremely sheltered life and still be around when Jesus returns. Otherwise, sooner or later, you will get kicked in the teeth. Sooner or later you will suffer. Sooner or later you will lose a child or a parent or a sibling. Sooner or later you will get fired. Sooner or later you will get cancer. Sooner or later you will be bereaved or you will bereave someone else. There are no other alternatives than those two.

If you are young, you may be tempted to think, “Yes, well, it’s all right, but, you know, I can imagine suffering when I’m 80. I can imagine losing my spouse when I’m 80, that won’t be bad, but when I’m 30, it’s not fair.” You just ask the person who loses their spouse at 80 if he or she shares your perspective. Death is always too soon. It’s always hurts.

This is a damned world, and although there are so many traces of God’s glory and beauty left, so many things that are wonderful still in it, yet this is a world that is under the curse, and we had better open up our eyes, we especially who are Christians, and see that under the curse sooner or later dirt happens. You will grieve, and the question is.… Will you come out of it like George or like Norman?

It will either make you better or it will make you bitter, but I beg of you … for Jesus’ sake, for your sake, for the church’s sake, for your children’s sake … when you are feeling crushed, do not forget God’s goodness. Go back to the cross again and again and again. If you are an unbeliever this morning, I tell you, you must come to terms with him. You must.

He is your judge, yes, but only he can be your Savior. You must finally trust him and be reconciled to him or, both for this life and the life to come, finally, you have no hope. The truth of the matter is that God is more interested in your holiness than in your happiness. He is more interested in your faithfulness than in your financial success.

He is more interested in your purity than in your power. He is more interested in your endurance than in your reputation. He is more interested in your self-control than in your sexual prowess. He is more interested in your eternal life than in your external wealth. He is more interested in your long-term joy than in your short-term fun. He is more interested in your good than in your desires.

So do you want to be like Norman, or do you want to be like George? When you are struggling under trial, remember the Christian’s goals. When you confess God’s sovereignty, do not misunderstand God’s motives. When you feel abandoned and crushed, do not forget God’s goodness.

Hear the Word of the Lord.