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10 Guidelines for Christian Voters

April 22, 2016

 

  1. Make God’s Word your primary voting guide. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 110:105).
  1. Pray before casting your vote. Ask the Lord, first, for guidance as you vote. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him…” (Prov. 3:5-6). Pray also for the candidates even the ones whom you do not like. “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  1. Vote for a candidate who upholds Christian principles. Are his/her views on important social and moral issues biblical? Religious freedom. Will the candidate hinder you from exercising your faith in Jesus Christ, or will he/she protect your liberty as a Christian? Sanctity of human life. Will the candidate promote abortion, or will he/she fight for the sacredness of life in the womb? Marriage. Will the candidate endorse (so-called) “same-sex marriage,” or will he/she uphold the biblical definition of marriage—a union between one man and one woman only? Each candidate should be evaluated in light of these and other moral questions. As followers of Christ, we must not “give approval to those who practice” what God has declared to be morally evil (Rom. 1:32).
  1. Vote for a candidate who is able to lead our country with justice. Remember that you are not voting for a pastor, but for a president. The candidate might not share all of your theological views, but if he/she is committed to a fair and righteous judicial system, then you might want to consider voting for this candidate.
  1. Vote for a candidate who has already demonstrated his/her ability to lead well. Look at the candidate’s track record and ask these questions: What did he/she do to improve our economy, stop crime, and maintain peace and order in our land? Did the candidate abuse his/her political power to serve his/her own interest? Was he/she immoral, corrupt, dishonest, or greedy?
  1. Cast your ballot in good conscience. Admittedly, it can be challenging to find a candidate who is both gifted in leadership and righteous in character. However, God knows our struggle in this regard, and yet he calls on us to participate in the process. So, if you’ve sincerely sought the Lord’s guidance, you can cast your ballot with peace and confidence, trusting that your obedience will be pleasing to the Lord.
  1. Recognize that from eternity past God has already ordained our next political leader. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Rom. 13:1). Ultimately, it is God—not the people—who appoints a leader (Gen. 45:8). We are only God’s instruments in bringing about his eternal plan. Be willing, therefore, to submit humbly to God’s sovereign will, knowing that his will is always for our good and for his glory.
  1. If the candidate who wins is immoral, remember that God is able to use even wicked leaders to accomplish his eternal plan (Rom. 13:1-7). Of course, this does not give us permission to vote for bad candidates! However, it should remind us that our greatest hope does not lie with any earthly leader, but with our heavenly Father, who is divinely able to overcome evil for good. Indeed, God in his providence can even use a bad ruler as his “servant for your good” (Rom. 13:4).
  1. Never forget that God is causing all things—including the upcoming election—to work together for the good of his people, conforming them more fully to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:28-29). Whatever the outcome of the election may be, one thing is certain: God will use this election for our sanctification. We are concerned about peace and prosperity, but God is concerned about our piety and his eternal glory.
  1. Finally, respect those who oppose your political position. Even among Christians, there are varying opinions regarding who should be elected to leadership. So, learn to “agree to disagree,” or better yet, to disagree with kindness. Even if your preferred candidate does not win, you are still to honor the candidate who is elected. You must also obey your new leader, unless he/she instructs you to do something that would require you to disobey God. As Christians, our greatest allegiance is to God. As Scripture exhorts us to do, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

 

15 Reflections from My 15 Years of Experience as a Pastor

March 28, 2016

Since April of 2001 I have been a minister of the gospel and throughout my fifteen years of life as a pastor, I have collected thoughts that I would like to share with my fellow pastors and with those who desire to be pastors someday. Of course, there are more than fifteen reflections that I have gathered; but, for the sake of brevity, let me share only fifteen.

  1. Pastoring is a calling from God. Having a degree from a seminary is not a guarantee that you have this ministerial calling. Some graduate from the seminary but are not in the ministry, or do not stay long in the ministry, because they do not have this pastoral calling.
  1. The God who has called you to the ministry will also provide for you. He will prepare you for the ministry. He will give you a congregation to serve. And he will sustain you throughout your life in the ministry.
  1. Don’t accept a call to pastor a congregation unless you are really convinced that the Lord is calling you to serve that church. Why? Because when problems arise from that congregation, your strong conviction of God’s calling will encourage you to continue serving that church amidst difficulties. You can say, “Lord, You have called me to serve You in this church and I know You will sustain me.”
  1. God resists the proud in the ministry. Thus, expect God to humble you. Sometimes He humbles His servants through infirmity. All accomplished pastors that I know have a form of affliction that keeps them humble before God. At the end of the day, God will use the ministry to sanctify you. God’s main goal in your life is to conform you to the image of His Son Jesus Christ.
  1. Your wife can be a great help to you in the ministry. If you are a pastor and not yet married and desire to get married, look prayerfully for a godly woman who will serve with you, not hinder you. If you were already married when you became a minister, help your wife understand the nature of the ministry. You may want to consider buying her the book Letters to Pastors’ Wives: When Seminary Ends and Ministry Begins (2013).
  1. Your family is your priority over your ministry. As Paul indicates in 1 Timothy 3:4–5, “He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” If you neglect your family, your congregation will suffer eventually.
  1. God has called you primarily to preach His Word and pray. Therefore, learn to delegate your other responsibilities to others so that you can focus on your primary work. As Christ’s disciples say in Acts 6:2–4, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
  1. Don’t stop learning about your vocation. In the midst of your busy schedule, set aside time regularly to read books or articles that will help you become a better servant of the Lord. Attend pastors’ conferences where you can fellowship with and learn from like-minded ministers about the ministry.
  1. Don’t underestimate the wisdom of experienced ministers. Seek their advice and listen to them. They can save you from committing mistakes or making wrong decisions. Find an older pastor who can mentor and encourage you in the ministry. A young pastor has the tendency to think that he knows a lot, but the longer you stay in the ministry, the more you will realize how little your knowledge is.
  1. No matter how hard you try to serve your congregation, you will always have a member who will complain about your service. Remember that you cannot please everyone in the church, and you are not to please people but God. Don’t let your critics stop you from doing the Lord’s work. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
  1. When necessary, don’t be afraid to confront a member of your congregation who has offended you (Matt. 18:15). When the offense is not dealt with, it can become worse. Keeping your resentment to yourself is not good for your heart both physically and spiritually. So, don’t avoid confrontation, but deal with it in a Christlike manner, trusting that God will bring reconciliation.
  1. Don’t think that God needs you in the ministry. The truth is you need Him more than He needs you. His work can continue without your help. So be thankful to God if He is using you in the building up of His church. To be a minister is a great privilege from the Lord. Think about this: you are serving the Maker of heaven and earth.
  1. The condition of your body can affect the life of your congregation. If you are not healthy, you cannot function well in the ministry. Hence, don’t neglect your body. Eat well. Exercise regularly. Get enough sleep. At times ministry can be stressful. Learn to rest and relax, or else you will burnout and cannot continue in the ministry.
  1. Pay careful attention to yourself. Realize your tendency to commit sins that can disqualify you from the ministry. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). As you shepherd your congregation, shepherd your own soul. Don’t be too busy about the ministry that you neglect the One who has called you to the ministry.
  1. When you feel discouraged and about to quit, remember that what you do for the Lord is not in vain in Him. When you don’t see the fruit of your hard work in preaching, keep in mind that God’s Word will not return to Him void. His Word will always accomplish the purpose for which God has sent it (Isa. 55:11).

Therefore, my fellow pastors, let me encourage you with the words of the Apostle Paul, “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:18).

3 Reminders as You Enter the New Year 2016

December 30, 2015

1. Don’t worry about the year 2016.

Don’t worry about what you will eat, drink, and wear this year. Your Father in heaven knows your needs. Instead of worrying, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” and all your new yearneeds will be given to you according to his will (Matt. 6:33).

After all why worry about the unknown future of 2016 when you can pray. “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” Yes, what will take place this year is not known to us, but for us believers in Christ, we know that God is causing all things to happen for his glory and for our good (Rom. 8:28-29). And the word good in this passage ultimately refers to our conformity to the image of Christ. The bitter events of 2016 will only make us better believers. Let us therefore welcome the New Year without fear.

 

2. Don’t boast about the year 2016.

Don’t brag about what you will do in 2016; you don’t know what will happen this year (Prov. 27:1). “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

Don’t act as if you can control the future. You are not in control of everything. Don’t think that you can do and get whatever you want this year. You are not all-powerful. Don’t be overconfident about your future plans. You are not all-knowing. You don’t even know if you are still alive tomorrow. Thus learn to qualify your plans by saying, “If the Lord wills, I will live and do this or that” (James 4:15). Nevertheless, no matter what happens, God’s will is always best for us because he is all-wise and all-good.

 

3. Don’t waste the year 2016.

You waste this year when you use it only for your own pleasure. Remember the rich fool who said to his soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:19-20).

What a wasted life this rich fool had! He used his time, energy, and resources only for himself. With God’s help, let’s spend all the days of 2016 for God’s praise. Let’s also seize all God-given opportunities this year to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Remember, “Only one life, So soon it will pass, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” A life spent in the service of Christ is the most meaningful life that anyone can live in this world.

Have a blessed New Year!

Steps for Personal and Family Revival

December 8, 2015
  1. Pray the prayer of the psalmist: “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).
  1. Be totally honest as you answer each question.
  1. Agree with God about each need He reveals in your life. Confess each sin, with the willingness to make it right and forsake it.
  1. Praise God for His cleansing and forgiveness.
  1. Renew your mind and rebuild your life through meditation and practical application of the Word of God.
  1. Review these questions periodically to remain sensitive to your need for ongoing revival.

 

A. Genuine Salvation (2 Cor. 5:17)

  1. Was there ever a time in my life that I genuinely repented of my sin? Yes or No
  1. Was there ever a time in my life that I placed all my trust in Jesus Christ alone to save me? Yes or No
  1. Was there ever a time in my life that I completely surrendered to Jesus Christ as the Master and Lord of my life? Yes or No
  1. Is Christ lived out in my home and have I physically confessed Him Lord at home. Yes or No

 

B. God’s Word (Ps. 119:97 &140)

  1. Do I love to read and meditate on the Word of God? Yes or No
  1. Are my personal devotions consistent and meaningful? Yes or No
  1. Do I practically apply God’s Word to my everyday life? Yes or No
  1. Do we as a family discuss God’s Word often? Yes or No

 

C. Humility (Isa. 57:15)

  1. Am I quick to recognize and agree with God in confession when I have sinned? Yes or No
  1. Am I quick to admit to others when I am wrong? Yes or No
  1. Do I rejoice when others are praised and recognized and my accomplishments go unnoticed by men? Yes or No
  1. Do I esteem all others as better than myself? Yes or No
  2. Do I rejoice when others in my family succeed? Yes or No

 

D. Obedience (1 Sam. 15:22; Heb. 13:17)

  1. Do I consistently obey what I know God wants me to do? Yes or No
  1. Do I consistently obey the human authorities God has placed over my life? Yes or No
  1. Do I consistently obey and honor my parents? Yes or No

 

E. Pure Heart (1 John 1:9)

  1. Do I confess my sin by name? Yes or No
  1. Do I keep “short sin accounts” with God (confess and forsake as He convicts)? Yes or No
  1. Am I willing to give up all sin for God? Yes or No
  1. Do I repent and confess my sins to others in my family? Yes or No

 

F. Clear Conscience (Acts 24:16)

  1. Do I consistently seek forgiveness from those I wrong or offend? Yes or No
  1. Is my conscience clear with every man? (Can I honestly say, “There is no one I have ever wronged or offended in any way and not gone back to them and sought their forgiveness and made it right”?) Yes or No
  1. Is my relationship right with each family member? Yes or No
  1. Do I go to bed at night with unresolved conflict with others in the family? Yes or No

 

G. Priorities (Matt. 6:33)

  1. Does my schedule reveal that God is first in my life? Yes or No
  1. Does my checkbook reveal that God is first in my life? Yes or No
  1. Next to my relationship with God, is my relationship with my family my highest priority? Yes or No

 

H. Values (Col. 3:12)

  1. Do I love what God loves and hate what God hates? Yes or No
  1. Do I value highly the things that please God (e.g., giving, witnessing to lost souls, studying His Word, prayer)? Yes or No
  1. Are my affections and goals fixed on eternal values? Yes or No
  1. Are Biblical values reflected in my selection of music and T.V./movies? Yes or No

 

I. Sacrifice (Phil. 3:7-8)

  1. Am I willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to see God move in my life and church (time, convenience, comfort, reputation, pleasure, etc.)? Yes or No
  1. Is my life characterized by genuine sacrifice for the cause of Christ? Yes or No
  1. Do I have a servant’s heart at home? Yes or No

 

J. Spirit-Control (Gal. 5:22-25; Eph. 5:18-21)

  1. Am I allowing Jesus to be Lord of every area of my life? Yes or No
  1. Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to “fill” (control) my life each day? Yes or No
  1. Is there consistent evidence of the “fruit of the Spirit” being produced in my life? Yes or No

 

K. “First Love” (Phi. 1:21-23)

  1. Am I as much in love with Jesus as I have ever been? Yes or No
  1. Am I thrilled with Jesus; filled with His joy and peace, and making Him the continual object of my love? Yes or No
  1. How would others in my family view my love toward God on a scale of 1-10?

 

L. Motives (Matt. 10:28; Acts 5:29)

  1. Am I more concerned about what God thinks about my life than about what others think? Yes or No
  1. Would I pray, read my Bible, give and serve as much if nobody but God ever noticed? Yes or No
  1. Am I more concerned about pleasing God than I am about being accepted and appreciated by men? Yes or No

 

 M. Moral Purity (Eph. 5:3-4)

  1. Do I keep my mind free from books, magazines, or entertainment that could stimulate fantasizing thoughts that are not morally pure? Yes or No
  1. Are my conversation and behavior pure and above reproach? Yes or No
  1. Do mom and dad approve of my friendships? Yes or No

 

N. Forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13)

  1. Do I seek to resolve conflicts in relationships as soon as possible? Yes or No
  1. Am I quick to forgive those who hurt or wrong me? Yes or No

 

O. Sensitivity (Matt. 5:23-24)

  1. Am I sensitive to the conviction and promptings of God’s Spirit? Yes or No
  1. Am I quick to respond in humility and obedience to the conviction and promptings of God’s Spirit? Yes or No
  1. Am I sensitive to my parent’s desires? Yes or No

 

P. Evangelism (Luke 24:46-48; Rom. 9:3)

  1. Do I have a burden for lost souls? Yes or No
  1. Do I consistently witness for Christ? Yes or No

 

Q. Prayer (1 Tim. 2:1)

  1. Am I faithful in praying for the needs of others? Yes or No
  1. Do I pray specifically, fervently and faithfully for revival in my life, my church and our nation? Yes or No
  1. How much time do we spend as a family in prayer?

 

 

From George W. Noble’s Book of 750 Bible and Gospel Studies (1909)

Seven Reasons Why Filipinos Want Duterte to be Their Next President

November 29, 2015
Rodrigo Duterte

Photo credit: Kwentong OFW

In his letter dated October 12, 2015 Rodrigo Duterte said that he would not run for Presidency in 2016: “there was no ambition for me to aspire for the Presidency”[1] On November 21, however, Duterte suddenly announced that he would join the presidential race. What changed his mind was the Senate Electoral Tribunal’s decision to dismiss the disqualification case of the leading presidential candidate Grace Poe. In Duterte’s mind Poe is not a natural-born Filipino; and thus, she is not qualified to run for the presidential office.

Interestingly, since Duterte’s announcement to enter the presidential race, he has become the preferred candidate by Filipinos. The question then is: Why do Filipinos want him to be their next President? Here are seven possible reasons:

  1. He is well experienced in politics, government,and administration. Since 1987 he has been actively serving Davao City, first as vice mayor (1987–1988), second as mayor (1988–1998), third as 1st district congressman (1998–2001), fourth as mayor again (2001–2010), fifth as vice mayor again (2010–2013), and then as mayor again (2013–present).  In short, Duterte has almost 30 years of experience as a politician before running for President. Filipinos have now learned from the past that what they need is not a TV personality but a true politician who is able to lead them.
  1. He is not a corrupt politician. The term politician may also refer to “a person who engages in politics out of a wish for personal gain, as realized by holding a public office.”[2] While this definition is true to many politicians, Filipinos believe that it does not apply to Duterte. In fact, they look at Duterte as someone who can clean the Philippines from corruption. In 2010 Reader’s Digest Asia ranked Duterte as fifth most trusted Filipino politician.[3]
  1. He is a tested political leader. Duterte has proven himself to be a capable leader by transforming Davao City into one of the best cities in the Philippines. Many believe that what he has done to the city, he can also do to the country. Consequently, the masses themselves are the ones urging him to run for President. Usually, it is the politician that wins the voters’ hearts, but in Duterte’s case it is the opposite.
  1. He is a lawyer by profession. Having a degree in law from San Beda College, Duterte knows how to defend and uphold the constitution. Unfortunately, many celebrity politicians who hold a public office are ignorant of the constitution. They know the science of drama or sports but not the science of politics. They can act on the stage or play on the court but not explain the constitution. Apparently, Filipinos are now tired of having celebrity politicians who don’t have a proper training in politics. So, they want Duterte.
  1. He is not politically correct. He is not afraid to offend people by telling them what he believes is truth. He does not hesitate to expose the serious problems of the country and offer his radical solutions, even if his solutions go against the norm. Ironically, his sharp words have drawn more supporters rather than harmed his popularity. Filipinos now prefer a sharp but sincere tongue over a sweet but insincere one. They see in Duterte a politician who does what he says.
  1. He is not afraid to fight against criminals, even the big timers such as drug lords. To let him speak, “If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination.”[4] During his time the crime rate in Davao has dropped significantly. Now Davao is among the safest cities in the world. Filipinos look for a leader who can restore and maintain peace and security in the country and they think Duterte is that leader.
  1. He is not after fame. In 2014 he was nominated for the “World Mayor” award but declined this grant. He said, “I did it not for my own glory, but because that was what the people expected me to do.”[5] He may sound arrogant sometimes when he speaks, but deep within him, he is a humble public servant who seeks first the interests of his people. That’s why Filipinos want him to be their next President.

 

If Duterte becomes the President, however, Filipinos should not expect him to change the Philippines. The truth is he cannot change our country unless we change. And unless God changes us we cannot change, for by nature we cannot change ourselves. We therefore need God, should we wish to experience a real reformation in our land. The heart of the problem in the Philippines lies in the hearts of Filipinos. Without a transformed heart, there will be no true transformation in the nation. I thus pray that God will give the Philippines a leader whose head is sharp, whose heart is sanctified, and whose hands are set to lead the nation back to God.

 

____________________

        [1] Edwin G. Espejo, “Rodrigo Duterte: Sorry, I will not run for president,” accessed November 28, 2015, http://www.rappler.com/nation/politics/elections/2016/109018-rodrigo-duterte-not-running-president

        [2] Dictionary.com, s.v. “politician,” accessed November 28, 2015, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/politician?s=t

        [3] “Reader’s Digest ranks Duterte as 5th most trusted RP politician,” accessed November 28, 2015, http://balita.ph/2010/03/15/readers-digest-ranks-duterte-as-5th-most-trusted-rp-politician/

        [4] James Law, “The Philippines’ real-life Punisher, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, urged to run for president,” accessed November 28, 2015, http://www.news.com.au/world/asia/the-philippines-reallife-punisher-davao-city-mayor-rodrigo-duterte-urged-to-run-for-president/news-story/9a15371561b108e18f7157f00f642ea7

        [5] Cited in “17 Things You Didn’t Know About Rodrigo Duterte,” accessed November 28, 2015, http://www.filipiknow.net/rodrigo-duterte/

What Are You Like as a Father?

October 26, 2015

In his book Making Peace With Your Father, David Stoop lists eight types of fathers that negatively affect their children.

  1. The workaholic father. This father works at the expense of his relationship with his children. His work is his priority over his family. He loves his job more than his children. He will show love to them through giving money but he thinks all they need is money not time.
  1. The silent father. He is home with his family but he acts as if he was alone. He does not dialogue with his children unless he disciplines them. He does not get involved in his family activities. He is “present physically but absent in virtually every other aspect” of his family life.
  1. The emotionless father. He simply does not care about the feelings of his children. He fails to demonstrate his love to them both in words and in deeds. Consequently, his children wonder if he really loves them, since they don’t see and feel his love.
  1. The alcoholic father. As soon as he is under the influence of alcohol, he changes from being nice to nasty. “Many fathers, while not addicted to alcohol, nevertheless use alcohol as a way of eluding the family. If they’ve had a bad day…having a drink or two becomes not just a convenient way to relax and unwind, but also a convenient way to retreat from others. Any possibility of meaningful connection with spouses or children ends when the drinking starts.”
  1. The tyrannical father. This father demands too much from his children. He often expects his children “to carry on some family tradition, such as excelling in a sport or pursuing a particular career. The rage comes when the child does not seem to be measuring up or is not achieving quickly enough to suit Dad.” For him, nothing his children do is ever good enough.
  1. The abusive father. David Stoop once asked a certain child if he had any happy childhood memories of his father. “No,” he said. “Only the beatings. That’s all I can remember. That, and the terror I felt in my stomach every time Dad came home.” This father has no idea that he has damaged his child’s life psychologically and emotionally.
  1. The seductive father. “It is important to distinguish seductive fathers from sexually abusive fathers. ‘Seductive’ refers to a set of behaviors that do not include molestation. The key feature of a seductive father is that he is fuzzy regarding personal boundaries… He exhibits a higher degree of intimacy toward [his children] than they are comfortable with, or than is appropriate, and often expects the same in return.”
  1. The competitive father. “This type of father was frequently abandoned by his own father, prompting him to overcompensate in his attempts to be manly [or macho]. His male identity is quite fragile and must be protected at all costs, even from his own children. This often shows up in the way he plays with them: There must always be a winner and a loser, and the winner must always be Dad.”

Fathers, do you find yourself in any of the above descriptions? Although perhaps many of us strive to avoid these qualities, the truth is we all fail and are prone to falling under any of these categories. That’s why we need to pray earnestly to God for his grace as we raise our children in the fear of the Lord. It should be our daily prayer that we may model God’s character to our children, always pointing them to our perfect heavenly Father. And when we fail in our calling as fathers, let us not despair. There is always forgiveness in Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9).

How Can I Consider It All Joy When I Meet Trials?

October 8, 2015

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2-3)Every-trial-of-suffering-is-an-opportunity-to-grow-in-the-faith.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, James is commanding his brothers and sisters in Christ to consider it all joy whenever they face trials. You might ask, “How can I obey that command?” Well, in order to obey that command, you need to be convinced by the following three basic truths:

  1. God is the one who ultimately gives you trials. God is absolutely sovereign. He is in control of everything. Nothing happens to you without His perception, permission, and purpose. Are you convinced of this reality that whatever trials you have today came from God himself?
  1. God gives you trials in order to test your faith: “the testing of your faith” (v. 3). God does not test us arbitrarily. He tests us with a purpose. His purpose is to examine the genuineness of our faith.
  1. The testing of your faith is eventually for your good: “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (v. 3). God tests your faith in order to purify it. He uses sufferings to sanctify you—to conform you to the image of his Son Jesus Christ.

Now, unless you are persuaded by these three fundamental truths, you cannot indeed consider it pure joy whenever you face trials.  You cannot sing with Horatio Spafford, “It is well with my soul.” Perhaps you are familiar with the story behind this hymn. In 1871 Spafford lost his only son. Then two years later, he lost all of his four daughters. His four daughters drowned in a shipwreck. Only his wife survived. Yet, listen to his hymn:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Or, according to the original manuscript, it is not to say, but to know. Hence, “Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know. It is well, it is well, with my soul.” This emphasis on knowledge echoes what James writes in verse 3: “for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” We need to know, not just say, that God is ultimately the one who sends trials to our lives, that he is giving us trials in order to examine our faith, and that at the end all the testing of our faith is for our good. Verse 2 of Spafford’s hymn continues:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

Here the hymn writer makes the gospel of Christ as his supreme source of comfort. Let’s admit that singing this hymn in the midst of a great trial is difficult. How can you ever sing, “It is well with my soul,” when you lost all your children? How can you pray, “May the name of the Lord be praised,” when your doctor comes to you and says, “I’m sorry. You only have a few months to live”? In and of ourselves, we cannot. But with God’s help, we can. That’s why James adds, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God.”

Here’s the point of James. God is our teacher and we are in his classroom. God wants us to learn. Part of learning is testing. That test comes to us in various forms. Some tests are easy; some are extremely difficult. Perhaps this past week, as you were driving, one of your tires deflated. That was a trial! However, that was easy to fix. But, what if your physician informs you that you have cancer? Or, what if you are told that you will lose your house or your job? These tests are very difficult to take. That’s why, James declares, “If any of you lacks wisdom [to deal with your trial], let him ask God” (v. 5).

Note, however, that when James states, “If any of you lacks wisdom,” he is not suggesting that some of his readers are wise enough to take their tests without God’s wisdom! By this expression, James is exhorting his audience in a pastoral way. He is giving them the opportunity to examine themselves in order for them to realize their great need of God’s wisdom in the hour of trial.

Perhaps you are in a difficult situation right now and you do not know what to do, why don’t you ask wisdom from God to help you.