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Faith Under Fire

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Introduction

When a person trusts in Christ in faith, whether they realize it or not, they have been enrolled in the “school of faith.” Consequently, as Christians, we never know what may happen next because God, who works all things together for good, uses our trials as tools to promote spiritual growth and maturity. We might take Abraham as an illustration. Paul identifies him as the father of faith, the forefather of all who believe (Rom. 4:16-17). When we examine his life, we quickly see how God took him from one test to another. As one who trusted God, he obeyed God’s call, left Ur, and went to Canaan, but immediately, we find Abraham facing a famine, then settling a boundary dispute, then gearing up for a battle, and then facing the continuation of no child as God had promised. Why is this so? James 1:2-4 gives us the answer.

God wants us to mature in every area of life, but maturity doesn’t come easily. There can be no growth without testing, and there can be no testing without difficulties. If our circumstances never changed, if everything would be predictably good and comfortable, we would never have to really trust God; the more predictable life becomes, the less challenge it presents.

Typically, growth is hard. It stretches us and often hurts and we naturally look for what is comfortable and easy. Maybe you have heard the song that has a line, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” Similarly, there is a book entitled, Looking Out For Number One. If these words don’t illustrate man’s typical approach and outlook to life, I don’t know what does. People look for what they want or think they must have to make life work, but they typically look for it in all the wrong places whether it’s love or security or happiness or significance. Furthermore, in the process, rather than walking by faith in God’s providence and provision, people look out for number one. This of course, is not only a self-centered lifestyle that walks on anyone who gets in the way, but a lifestyle that depends on their own futile solutions.

The account of Abram and Lot in Genesis 13:1-13 gives us a good illustration of this very thing in the contrast seen between these two men. On the one hand, having grown through the experience in Egypt (Gen. 12) and with his eyes focused and resting on God’s promises to one day give him and his descendants the land, Abram was able to put others before himself. He offered Lot the opportunity to choose where he wanted to live. By contrast, with his eyes selfishly focused on what he wanted regardless of how it might impact Abram, Lot relied on his own wisdom and strategies and chose according to his own outlook.

Abram’s response is a classic illustration of faith under fire. It teaches us how faith handles the problems of life such as the possibility of strife or strained relationships as described in Genesis 13:5-8. Clearly, Abram’s desire for harmony, along with his generosity and sacrifice, was a sign of faith in God’s wisdom and promises, for faith does not selfishly seek one’s own desires, but is generous, gracious, and self-denying.

The Christian life is a life of faith. Christians are called to live by faith from beginning to end; from initial faith in Christ that promises salvation as a gift from God to a moment-by-moment life of faith that encompasses all the circumstances of life. It is a life wherein believers are called upon to rest every aspect of life in God’s hands—past, present, and future. This study is about some of the great promises and principles of Scripture that both teach us how and encourage us in our walk by faith. That faith or trusting the Lord is important to the believer’s daily walk is everywhere evident in the Bible and this is obvious from the number of times faith or its synonyms like trust and believe occur in Scripture. Faith occurs 247 times in the KJV, 250 in the NASB, and 270 in the NIV, trust 134 in the KJV, 83 in the NASB, and 89 in the NIV, and some form of believe, 314 times in the KJV, 279 in the NASB, and 278 in the NIV.

Just a few passages will quickly illustrate the vital role faith or believing or trust should have:

Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves … 

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

2 Corinthians 5:7 … for we walk by faith, not by sight.

Colossians 2:6-7 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Matthew 6:30 But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?

Hebrews 11:1, 6 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.… 6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and {that} He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Romans 14:23 … and whatever is not of faith is sin.

Psalm 62:7-8 On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. 8 Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. [Selah].

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.

Isaiah 26:4 Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.

Hebrews 4:2-3 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, “As I swore in My wrath, They shall not enter My rest,” although His works were finished from the foundation of the world.

John 3:14-18 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. 16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. 18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Romans 4:3-5 For what does the Scripture say? “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not reckoned as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,

Faith in the truth and content of Scripture, then, is the essence of the Christian life. However, even though we may know we are to walk by faith as Christians, we still often fail to see just how thoroughly the life of faith is to reach into every facet of our lives so that it truly encompasses all that we are and do. We give credence to the concept intellectually, but we end up compartmentalizing. We walk by faith in some areas, while other areas we carefully reserve for our own solutions by which we seek to meet our needs. Such solutions, of course, constitute our own self-protective measures of self-trust. We may trust in Christ for salvation. We may trust Him for our daily bread. We may trust Him for ability to witness or to teach a Sunday school class. We may trust Him for safety on a trip or trust Him to heal us from some sickness. But even in all of that, we can still seek to handle most of life, especially the frustrating issues, through our own resources or methods. This is particularly true in our relationships with people.

Learning to live by faith is largely a matter of: (a) knowing God (cf. Ps. 9:10; Dan. 11:32b), (b) staying focused on Him (Heb. 12:1-2), and (c) recognizing, acknowledging, and turning from those human solutions by which we seek to live, our self-protective methods, which are really the ways of unbelief and are futile to meet our needs (Jer. 2:12-13; 17:5-7; Isa. 50:10-11).

As part of the learning process, the New Testament often points us back to the Old Testament for both positive examples of faith as incentives (Heb. 11:1-12:1), and for negative illustrations of unbelief as warnings against failing to walk by faith (Heb. 3:7-4:16). These Old Testament examples stand as timeless warnings. They illustrate just how quickly we can fail to relate and focus our lives on the Lord and what He is to us and intends to do in, through, and for us (1 Cor. 10:1f; Heb. 3:7f).

Old Testament
Analogies of Faith

First Corinthians 10:6 and 11 teach us that the nation of Israel and God’s dealings with them form examples or analogies for us today. Much of the time, these examples are negative, but they can teach us a lot about our Christian walk. A few examples of the analogies that many Bible students have observed are noted below.

Egypt

Egypt provides a type or picture of the world with all its human ideas, idolatries, mysticism, and antagonism to the salvation, deliverance, and the purposes of God for His people. Living or being in Egypt portrays a lost condition, a slave to Satan, the world, and the flesh. Coming out of Egypt through the Passover lamb and the Red Sea portray deliverance by the death of Jesus Christ and the mighty power of God alone. It speaks of redemption through the saving life of Christ. A believer going down into Egypt like Abraham did in Genesis 12:10f illustrates how a believer can turn to the world and its substitutes and solutions rather than turning to the Lord in faith for deliverance.

Israel in the Wilderness

Israel in the desert or wilderness is another type or picture and may portray: (a) The believer in carnality, redeemed and blessed with marvelous privileges, yet failing to go on in his life with God. It illustrates how a believer may live outside the place of maximum blessing, out of the will of God and in constant defeat, always going in circles and wandering about because of failure to trust the Lord and the deliverance He has promised (Heb. 3:7-4:11). (b) Or it may portray the variegated trials God uses as tools of growth as explained in James 1:2-4 and Deuteronomy 8.

Crossing the Jordan

Crossing the Jordan and moving into Canaan is analogous of the believer’s need to possess his or her possessions by faith in the power and provision of God. It portrays the believer in fellowship, faced with conflict and enemies, yet able to be victorious when dependent upon the Lord, when walking by faith in the principles and promises of the Word, when keeping his eyes on the Lord rather than the problems.

The Canaanites

The Canaanites in the land are certainly analogous to our enemies who stand ready to oppose us in the Christian way of life. In reality, these enemies are defeated foes, but their defeat must be appropriated by faith. Though our enemies have been defeated, we must still appropriate our God-provided victory, the saving life of Christ. Some believe Jericho may illustrate the world, Achan and Ai the flesh or the sinful nature, and the Gibeonites may illustrate the deceptions of Satan and the world system.

The Canaanites were actually terror stricken long before Joshua and the nation crossed the Jordan to possess the land. Three times in Joshua 2 the word “melted” is used to describe the emotional condition or the morale of these people (cf. vss. 9, 11, 24). Mentally and emotionally, they were a defeated people. God had already given the Canaanites into Israel’s hands and this had been the case for how long? Since they had heard about the events of the Red Sea some 40 years earlier (see Josh. 2:9-11).

The question is why didn’t Israel expect it? They started out in belief but they soon forgot (Ex. 15:1-19, but note especially 15:14-16). With the exception of Moses, Joshua, and Caleb, the Old Testament text shows us they refused to believe the promise of God and instead allowed the negative report of the ten spies melt their hearts. Why? Because they were looking at the problems rather than at their God (cf. Deut.1:28 with Num. 13:25-14:4).

What a note of irony! The inhabitants were looking at Israel’s God and were shaking in their sandals. The Israelites, who had seen the mighty works of God over and over again, were looking at their problems rather than at God and, as a result, were terrorized into paralyzing unbelief (cf. Num. 13 and Deut. 1:26-32).

How like us this is! Whether it’s the bite of a mosquito or the charge of a lion, we must learn to keep our eyes on the Lord and off the problem (see Heb. 12:1-2). Getting our eyes off the problem and on the Lord we will call refocusing. Refocusing involves basically four steps: (a) confession of wrong responses, (b) counting it all joy, (c) casting the problem on the Lord, and (d) concentrating on five key elements about God—His person, purposes, principles, promises, and plan (hereafter referred to as the 5 Ps).

The Concept of Focus

We have two options with regard to our focus. We can focus on our problems and the things we want or think we need, or we can focus on the Lord and His supply. The consequences of a wrong focus can be seen in what happened to Israel: (a) they became a defeated people in that they failed to possess their possessions; (b) they were a disciplined and destroyed people in that they died in the wilderness; (c) they became a disgraced people and brought dishonor to God; and (d) they became a debilitated people—they lost God’s power and capacity to fulfill His purpose.

Wrong patterns of living develop from wrong beliefs or philosophies about life, about God, others, and self. This becomes the root for what we think and how we think, and from this how we live our lives. If our belief system is structured on the Word of God, which is a life-long process, and if we are diligent and committed to the application of Scripture through the ministry of the Spirit of God, then we will begin to be transformed bit by bit into the character of Jesus Christ, conformed to His image by the Spirit.

Of course, a key issue is how well we are allowing the Word to direct our path or shine on each aspect of our lives so that God’s truth, which sets us free, can change our belief structures and our sources of trust. The Psalmist wrote, “By what means shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word” (Ps. 119:9).

But another important issue concerns how well we are able to keep our eyes on the truth of Scripture, the truths about God’s person, plan, principles, promises, and purposes. Knowing them is one thing, keeping our minds and hearts fixed on them is an entirely different matter. We can’t apply what we do not know, but knowing truth is not enough. Knowledge alone can result in arrogance, and it can also be deceptive. It can leave us with the impression we are living according to the Word when in reality we are not. We may know the principles (have knowledge or the wisdom of God’s perspective), but fail to apply it (have spiritual understanding and focus, cf. Col. 1:9).

So one of the keys to applying the Word and living by faith is one’s focus. Focus is crucial to three things: (a) to correcting our beliefs and sources of trust; (b) to building and maintaining faith, and (c) to what we become in our character, attitudes and actions. So what do we mean by focus?

Definition of Focus

The verb “focus” means “to bring into view, to make something clear.” It means “clarity.” Binoculars that are out of focus are worthless. It is only when we bring them into focus on an object that they enhance our ability to see the object clearly. But focus also means “to devote oneself to a task, or to an idea, or to a person, or to whatever is in one’s field of focus.” A point of focus is a place of activity, concentration, influence, importance, or even determination. It is a point of origin from which ideas, beliefs, influences, and controls emanate.

In 1995 Steve Kafka was voted into the Illinois High School gymnastics coaches Hall of Fame. Kafka coached the Glenbard East High School gymnastics team in Glen Ellyn to second-place finishes in 1987, 1988, and 1990. Then in 1995, after rebuilding a team at a different school, he took second one more time and finally in 1996 won the state championship.

To accomplish that, his gymnasts had to hit their routines in the state championship competition, when pressure is high and it’s easy to fall. Actually the first time Kafka’s team qualified for state, several Glenbard East gymnasts fell off the side horse, high bar, and parallel bars, and the team finished down in the standings.

But then coach Kafka got an idea. At the end of practice each day, he began conducting a practice meet, and he did two things to intentionally raise the pressure on the gymnasts. First, if anyone missed a routine, everyone had to do push-ups. Second, Kafka told the team to try and rattle each performer. And so while one gymnast performed on the side horse, his teammates would yell, threaten bodily harm, tell jokes, even throw rolled up socks at him.

“My gymnasts started to feel that competing in real meets was a breeze compared to practice,” says Kafka. In the end, even a state championship—with TV cameras rolling and critical judges watching every move—was easy. Fighting through daily opposition taught Kafka’s gymnasts focus and determination.

In the same way, Christians need to use the pressures of life to develop their powers of focus and determination to keep their focus on Christ, what He is doing with and through them, and on the heavenly treasures that await them.1

Applying the principle of focus to God and His Word, we are talking about so focusing on the truths of Scripture concerning God, His person, promises, principles, plan, and purposes that we not only see them with spiritual clarity, but they become the focal point of our thinking, a place of mental activity, correction, influence, and control over our minds, emotions, and wills. The result is they can then provide direction and the right sources of trust. Out of such a focus will then come our transformation into the will of God, the character of the Lord Jesus.

Illustrations from Scripture

The focus principle is found throughout Scripture, but before looking at a suggested process of refocusing and the consequences of failing to focus on the Lord, let’s look at a number of passages just to get the impact of this concept from the Bible.

    2 Corinthians 4:16-18

16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Verse 16a shows the motivation: “Therefore” takes us back to the preceding context of resurrection and ministry for the sake of others along with the manifestation of the message of Christ. Included in this context are the problems of suffering, trials, and the danger of losing heart. Living for others will often bring hardships for those who carry the message. All of this provides great motivation for endurance and keeping one’s focus on the Lord.

Verse 16b reveals the inward means: “But though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” These words describe the inward spiritual renewal, the inner transformation of the heart with hope, confidence, peace, joy, determination, purpose, and meaning. But how can we experience this inner renewal?

Verses 17-18 point us to the method: “While we look not …” points us to the issue of our focus. Our need is to focus. We must keep our eyes on the Lord and the eternal realities which are made real by living in the Word, hiding it and meditating on it daily. “Look” is skopew, which means “to pay attention to, fix one’s gaze upon, concentrate one’s attention on.”

    Philippians 3:12-21

12 Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.

17 Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18 For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

“I press on” is diwkw, which means “pursue, seek after, strive for,” or “run after as in a race.” Paul uses it twice in this passage (vss. 12, 14).

“Reaching forward” is epekteinw (in the middle voice) meaning “to stretch oneself out or forward.” It is an athletic metaphor used of a runner in the ancient Isthmian games. This word pictures the body of a runner bent forward, his hand outstretched toward the goal, and his eye fastened upon it.2

“Goal” is skopos, the noun form of skopew discussed above regarding 2 Corinthians 4:18. Skopos refers to a mark on which to focus or fix the eye, the goal. Again we see our need to focus our minds on the things of Christ, particularly, His great purposes for believers.

    1 Peter 1:13-21

13 Therefore, get your minds ready for action, be sober, and set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 Like obedient children, do not comply with the lusts you used to follow in your ignorance, 15 but, like the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in all of your conduct, 16 for it is written, “You shall be holy, because I am holy.” 17 And if you address as Father the one who impartially judges according to each one’s work, live out the time of your sojourning here in reverence. 18 You know that you were set free from your empty way of life handed down from your ancestors not by perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but by precious blood like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, Christ. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was manifested in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God (NET Bible) (emphasis mine).

There are three objectives and demands in this text: (a) There are demands in relation to the flesh (verse 14), lusts or desires which have their roots in ignorance. Why? Because they are rooted in wrong beliefs, falling for the delusions of Satan and that of our own flesh, thinking such things can give security, significance, and happiness. (b) Then there are demands in relation to God who is holy, set apart from sin (verses 15-16). Finally, (c) there are demands in relation to the world and its value system which lives as though ‘we only go around once so get all the gusto you can.’ It warns us against life without a focus on eternity (verses 17-18).

The responsibility so vital to our ability to accomplish these objectives is seen in verse 13.

“Get your minds ready” is literally, “having girded up the loins of your mind.” This refers to the ancient long-flowing garments which reached to the ground. The practice of gathering them up around the waist with a girdle to keep them out of the dirt was done to give freedom of movement. It was an act of preparation and may well refer to the spiritual restoration and renewal or cleansing of the mind that comes through confession of sin and the study of Scripture.

Such action prepares the way for the next command, “be sober.” The verb here is nhfw, which, in the New Testament, is used only figuratively and means “to be free from every form of mental and spiritual ‘drunkenness’—from excess, passion, rashness, confusion, etc.”3 Being “sober” means to walk with all one’s faculties under control and undoubtedly is an allusion to walking with sound judgment mentally and spiritually by means of the Spirit of God in the light of God’s truth (cf. Eph. 5:15-18).

“Set your hope completely” is, however, the key point. “Set your hope” is an aorist imperative of elpizw, “to set one’s hope on something.” The aorist imperative suggests urgency. “Completely” (teleiws, “fully, perfectly, altogether, completely”) tells us how. We are to set our hope fully, in an undivided manner. The great need is to stay single-minded with a single focus in spite of the many worldly distractions all around us as illustrated with Kafka’s gymnasts mentioned earlier. It simply does not work to divide our hope with one eye on the Lord and the things of Christ and the other eye on the details of life.

    Hebrews 12:1-3

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.

The “therefore” of verse one (Greek, toigaroun, a particle introducing an inference) takes the readers back to the preceding exposition. Some have called chapter eleven the “Hall of Faith” chapter because of its witness to the many saints in the Old Testament who lived by faith. The author portrays them as “a great cloud (nefos, a mass of clouds rather than the more common nefelh, a single cloud) of witnesses surrounding us.” These witnesses provide a constant testimony to the life of faith which stands as an incentive for us to run with endurance the race God has marked out for each of us regardless of the difficulties.

But there are always impediments or hindrances to running with perseverance with the goal in view, namely sin, and specifically, the sin of failing to believe God’s promises. Just as a runner trains hard, restricts his diet, and strips down in preparation for a race, so we too must throw off the things that impede. But how do we do this? Are there any clues in this passage? Verse two points out the way.

“Fixing” or “looking” (KJV) is an adverbial participle from the verb, aforaw, “to look away from and toward something else.” We may translate, “by looking away from and unto Jesus.” Our tendency is to focus on wrong objects in life. Like Lot in Genesis 13, it may be earthly treasures, or it may be our problems and pain, but here we are told, if we are going to be able to run the race with endurance, we must get our eyes off of those things which distract like wrong values or like our pain or struggles. And we do this by focusing our eyes on the Lord who is the Author and Perfecter of faith. He is our Example and Teacher.

How, then, did He endure what He had to suffer? Though He despised the shame of the cross, He kept His eyes focused on the final goal seen in the words, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”

So important is this truth, that verse 3 continues the concept of focus and right thinking. “For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (emphasis mine). “Consider,” an aorist imperative suggesting urgency, is the Greek analogizomai, a mathematical term meaning, “to reckon upon, compute, to compare, to weigh.” There is in this command a call to look at the end result of the Savior’s faith. By fixing their gaze on Him, they were to balance or weigh the glory and the results that followed (seated at God’s right hand as the victor over sin, Satan, and death) against the tremendous cost (Christ’s death).

Consequences
of a Wrong Focus

While a right focus leads to progress, endurance, and growth, the consequences of a wrong focus is a downward spiral. As an aid to memory I will use four words that begin with “C” to illustrate the downward spiral when our focus is wrong: (a) concentration on the problem, (b) contempt for the problem, (c) contrivance to solve the problem, and (d) conformed or controlled by the world, which invariably occurs rather than being transformed into the image of Christ. We will illustrate these steps by looking at the story of the Israelites in Numbers 11-13. But first, it might be helpful to view the whole process through the following graphic.

Step One:
Concentration on the Problem

Numbers 11:1-6 Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. 2 The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died out. 3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them.

4 And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, 6 but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna” (emphasis mine).

The complaining or murmuring of the Israelites revealed their unbelief, which is often the product of a wrong focus (11:4-6). When we start complaining about our plight it is usually because our focus is off the Lord and on our problems, on the details of life, and on the prosperity of others. It usually involves something we think we ought to have but don’t and, therefore, God must not really love us. We feel like He has given us a raw deal or the short end of the stick.

But there is another problem. Our unbelief and our wrong focus is also the product of wrong beliefs. For instance, we think if we only had more money, a bigger home, a better job, better health, or some physical change in our looks, etc., we would be happy, or satisfied, or secure, or be more significant.

People have two basic felt needs in life, security and significance. The false belief is that our security and significance are found in the details of life (position, power, pleasure, possessions, prestige, etc.) rather than in the Lord. So they focus on these details and become ungrateful, dissatisfied, and bored with spiritual things or God’s purposes. God fed Israel with the manna to discipline and train them that they might understand some important truth (Deut. 8:1-5), but their focus and desire was only on what they were missing and thought they needed so they complained.

Please note what they could not have been complaining about: (a) The absence of God’s perfect provision and will—vs. 6; nor (b) the absence of God’s personal presence—vs. 20; nor (c) the absence of God’s sacred purpose—vs. 20; nor (d) the absence of God’s sovereign power—vs. 23. These issues are never the problem. God is always perfect and faithful in His dealings with us. He always knows what is best for us and is perfectly able to meet any and every situation regardless of how it seems to us.

The manna was a perfect food and precisely what Israel needed at that time. It was not a boring food. It could be cooked in a number of ways. It was fibrous and healthy. It was wonderfully nutritious and full of vitamins. God wouldn’t have provided it any other way. It also provided a perfect spiritual picture, as it spoke of the person of Jesus Christ, the bread come down from heaven, the only One who can give life and life abundantly. It also had a perfect spiritual purpose (cf. Deut. 8:3). But because the people had their eyes off the Lord, because they thought happiness and meaning came from things like cucumbers, they saw it as boring and became ungrateful for this miraculous food from God.

The essence of God’s word to Israel in verse 20a is something like this: “You think your problem is a lack of meat. Okay, I’ll give you meat until it comes out of your nostrils and you will find that it too will become loathsome to you.” God is saying they would become even more bored with it than the manna for the problem was not the manna. The problem was not a lack of meat; the problem was not a lack of fish; the problem was not a lack of the condiments of Egypt like leeks, melons, cucumbers, onions, and garlic.

Verse 20b, “because you have rejected the Lord who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’” clearly shows us their problem was spiritual. They had rejected the Lord and His plan and purpose for their lives as His people. They were chosen to represent Him to the nations. Simply put, there was unbelief in what God was doing; they had failed to focus on God’s person, His presence and power, and on God’s purpose for them as His chosen people (cf. Ex. 19:4-6). Focusing on the Lord requires right beliefs and the application of specific truth, namely those five vital concepts about God (His person, promises, principles, purposes, and plan) to the varying situations that God allows in one’s life.

Apparently, following the request of the people (Deut. 1:22), the Lord gave Moses the command to send spies into the land to investigate and learn of its condition (Num. 13-14). God went along with their request because faith needs knowledge of facts so the problems can be turned over to the Lord. A man never trusts in the Lord until he learns that he can’t save himself. We walk by faith, not by sight. But at the same time, faith is not to be blind to the problems. It is important that we look the problems square in the eye, and then by faith trust God for the unseen solutions. Faith looks at the problems, but it doesn’t remain focused on them. Faith refocuses on the Lord.

Proverbs 3:5-7 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil.

When we do not focus on the Lord and respond in faith to the situations and tensions of life, it sets into motion a chain of events that will lead to serious consequences unless arrested by refocusing (the process of this will be spelled out below). Neurotic or wrong behavior patterns are never really the result of the problems we face. They stem from a downward process because the problem is mishandle through a wrong focus. In the downward cycle we move from the problem to a faulty (sinful) response thereby causing an additional faulty response which in turn causes another faulty response and so on. This downward process eventually enslaves us resulting in compromise and worldly conformity.

Proverbs 5:21-22 For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, And He watches all his paths. 22 His own iniquities will capture the wicked, And he will be held with the cords of his sin.

In Numbers 13 we have the story of the ten spies who returned with their report of conditions in the land, but it was an evil report. The “nevertheless” in 13:28 highlights this as a turning point. This is the first wrong response which consisted in concentrating on the problem. The spies began to focus the hearts of the people on the gigantic problems of the land, the Nephilim and the fortified cities. The focus here is clearly on the problems rather than on the Lord. Faithful Caleb sought to turn this around with an upward focus by reminding them they were well able to overcome the problems through the power of God (vs. 30), but instead of listening to him, the spies remained focused on the problems and the hearts of the people melted.

Note the stark contrast in verse 31-32a, “But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.’ So they gave out to the Sons of Israel a bad report of the land.” Where was their focus? It was on their inability rather than on God’s ability and promise. True, they were unable, but that is never a reason for doubt or rebellion against God’s purpose. It is instead a reason for faith in God’s person and promises. Note in verses 32-33 the emphasis is still on their focus and its disastrous consequences, “… and we became like grasshoppers in their sight.”

A wrong focus leads to a number of serious consequences: (a) It blinds the vision to the provision or blessings of God. They lost sight of the fertility of the land (cf. vs. 27). (b) It magnifies the problem. They saw everyone in the land as giants and themselves (the redeemed people of the mighty God) as grasshoppers. It is like looking through the wrong end of a telescope. And (c) it blinds the vision to the person of God, causing unbelief in His person, plan, principles, promises, and purposes.

Step Two: Contempt

In the response of the people seen in Numbers 14:1-3 we have an illustration of one of the products of a wrong focus, contempt. If you recall, contempt can also be observed in the complaining of the people in Numbers 11:1.

Numbers 14:1-3 Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 And why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”

Immediately, with their eyes on the problem, the people became angry at God and their contempt for what He was doing was displayed in their grumbling against God (cf. Ex. 16:8), His purposes for them, and against the leadership God had given them, Moses and Aaron. Here was step two in the downward spiral. When we keep our eyes on the source of the problem and fail to quickly refocus our gaze on the Lord, we soon begin to develop contempt which regularly manifests itself in complaining or murmuring. Occupation with the problem develops bad feelings and wrong attitudes both against the source of the irritation or suffering and against God and the purposes He is seeking to accomplish through the problem. Our contempt may come in the form of envy, jealousy, anger, bitterness, resentment, or depression, but regardless, we begin to view the problem in a negative way rather than as an opportunity to see God work in our lives or in the life of another. We feel contempt for what God is doing. We doubt His wisdom, His purpose, and His goodness (cf. 14:2b-3a). Contempt for the problem often manifests itself in feelings like, God doesn’t know what He is doing, or how could God do this to me or to my loved one? God must not really love us. He simply brought us out here to kill us. With that attitude and spiritual condition, the human soul naturally goes to its next logical action, some form of self-preservation via man’s own solutions.

The cure for such contempt is ultimately never in how we see the problems, but in our focus, in our view of God. Do we really believe God is perfect, that He makes no mistakes? Do we really believe God has our best interests in mind? Do we believe that the statement of Jeremiah 29:11 is true for us, which says, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”? Do we really believe God can do no wrong, that He has infinite wisdom and knows what He is doing? It all boils down to two questions in relation to our focus and faith. Do we really believe that God is good and all-wise?

James 1:2 tells us to count it all joy when we fall into the various (many colored) trials of life, but later in this passage, verses 16-18, James calls our attention to the issue of God’s goodness.

James 1:16-18 Do not be led astray, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow caused by change. 18 By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures (NET Bible).

First, he warns us against the deceptions of our own heart or wrong thinking that may look at the trials of life in the wrong way. Just as a right response to trials will result in growth and greater spiritual maturity, so a wrong response to either trials or temptation will result in spiritual decline and may ultimately result in physical death itself. For an illustration of physical death compare 1 Corinthians 11:28-32.

Second, because of God’s immutable, unchanging goodness, He can give only good gifts. Regardless of what life brings from our perspective, we never have to wonder if what we receive from God is good or not. Not all things are good, of course. Some things are the product of sin and Satan, but God, in His fatherly love and unchangeable goodness, works them together for good (Rom. 8:28-29).

Third, because of the nature of God as the Father of lights, His gifts are the product of a Father’s love, always for our good. The Psalmist was comforted by this element of God’s care when he wrote, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him” (Ps. 103:13). And the Savior said,

Matthew 7:7-10 Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who seeks finds and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 So then, if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (NET Bible)

Finally, in keeping with His unchanging character and fatherly love, His gifts are constant, “coming down” to us continually. “Coming down” is in the present tense which highlights God’s gifts as a continuous pattern of God’s goodness.

Step Three: Contrivance

Note the actions of the people in Numbers 14:3b-4; 10a, and 39-45. Such actions illustrate the next natural and downward progression—contrivance. I am using contrive in the sense of “to invent, scheme, or devise with human cleverness and ingenuity to solve a problem or meet a want.” We see demonstrated a contrived human remedy. They began seeking their own solutions in rebellion to God’s call and purposes (14:3b-4). Note their contrived thinking here. “So they said to one another, ‘Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt’” (vs. 4). This illustrates how we are constantly prone to seek ways to both defend ourselves and escape our problems with our own human devices and cover ups. We run away to avoid people or the problem or we may seek to change our environment in some way. So people typically change churches, jobs, schools, wives or husbands. We are so clever at making excuses and rationalizing our situation in a dozen different ways that seem so convincing and logical to us, especially in view of the problem. Note what the people said, “Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” (14:3b) Or we may strike back in revenge or retaliation to get even or as a defense to protect our overly sensitive egos. Or we may criticize or run someone down because we are trying to protect our precious self-image or position.

Step Four: Conformed (Controlled)

With our eyes off the Lord and living by our own contrived solutions, we move into a position where, in many ways, we are out from under God’s control and controlled by the flesh, or the situation, or those around us, or by all of the above. In other words, we are walking by sight rather than by faith and the Spirit is quenched and grieved (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19). Here, then, is the next logical and downward step. As Proverbs warns, we become controlled by the ropes of our own sin (cf. Pr. 5:22). Their desire to stone Joshua and Caleb illustrates how out of control we can become when we are not walking in faith with our eyes on the Lord (cf. 4:10a). We resist God’s ordained leadership and seek to take matters into our own hands (vs. 10a). Then when our folly becomes evident, we may seek to make things work out against God’s will through our own efforts (cf. vss. 39f). In other words, we begin to act just like the world. Rather than using the problem as a tool for growth and transformation, we become conformed by the world and its approach to life.

Refocusing on the Lord

With this negative picture in mind, what are the biblical steps for an upward focus, the focus of faith in the grace and love of God? How can we refocus our trials and problems on Him so they can be turned into sources of blessing and growth for both ourselves and others. As the Psalmist wrote: “It is good for me that I was afflicted that I may learn Thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71).

When faced with a problem, a trial, an irritation, a burden, or something difficult, the problem tests our faith and tends to distract us from a God-ward focus. We are then faced with a choice, the choice of where we will place our focus and trust. As we are faced with this choice, we may also experience fear of what might happen to our reputation, or to our rights, or to the loss of something we are clinging to for security or happiness. With the potential of such a loss comes the temptation to be angry which may manifest itself in bitterness and resentment and in blaming and complaining. So a wrong focus will also affect our capacity to love and show patience toward people

How, then, do we handle this dilemma? We may seek to solve the problem through some form of self-protection like withdrawing our affection or by criticism. Or perhaps we try avoidance, running away from the problem. This may take the form of going on a shopping spree or indulging in a huge banana split to soothe our fears or anger or dissatisfaction with our circumstances in general. Another method is the old blame game. Rather than accept any responsibility for our sinful responses and attitudes, like Adam and Eve, we too are prone to look for a scapegoat to point the finger away from ourselves. So we find fault rather than God’s remedy.

John Killinger tells about the manager of a minor league baseball team who was so disgusted with his center fielder’s performance that he ordered him to the dugout and assumed the position himself. The first ball that came into center field took a bad hop and hit the manager in the mouth. The next one was a high fly ball, which he lost in the glare of the sun—until it bounced off his forehead. The third was a hard line drive that he charged with outstretched arms; unfortunately, it flew between is hands and smacked his eye. Furious, he ran back to the dugout, grabbed the center fielder by the uniform, and shouted. “You idiot! You’ve got center field so messed up that even I can’t do a thing with it!”4

There is within each of us a great propensity for cover-ups. We don’t have to work at it; it comes quite naturally. It is one of the consequences of the fall inherited from our original parents, but it is also one of the great hindrances to living by faith and resting in the total sufficiency of the Lord and His solutions and provisions for our lives.

Why is this? First, blaming something else—people, circumstances, our make up, even the devil—constitutes one of our own independent solutions for handling life. Blaming is really the process of hiding and hurling, or covering up and blaming. In this we still have a downward focus because we are living by our own remedies or contrivances. But second, and most importantly, this constitutes a great hindrance to faith because one of the things we cover up most is our commitment to handle life by our own self-protective solutions. Rather than throwing ourselves on the grace of Christ and His total sufficiency, we take matters into our own hands.

When we do this, we have dropped the ball. It’s not the first time and it surely won’t be the last. So, what do we do? How do we recover? With this downward focus in mind, let’s take a look at the positive and upward focus. Again we have four C’s that describe the biblical process of the upward look. Again, for an overview, note the following graphic:

Step One: Confession

One of the most important and foundational steps to the upward focus so essential to living by faith is confession and the kind of confession that goes to the root of our problems. In that great Psalm of confession where David was seeking to reestablish his fellowship with the Lord, David wrote: “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You wilt make me know wisdom” (Ps. 51:6).

By “truth” David was referring to openness and honesty in the inner man—the opposite of our cover ups. The words “innermost being” represents a Hebrew word tuchot which comes from a verb tuach meaning “to smear, coat, cover up” (cf. Ezek. 13:10-15; 22:28). The words “hidden part” (a participle of the verb satam, “to close, shut up, keep closed”) literally means “closed up, sealed” as in a closed chamber. The point is, God wants His wisdom, the truth of the Word and the realities of Christ, to break through those places in our heart or mind that we have closed to the real issues we need to face. These are the hidden places which are often smeared over with our rationalizations and excuses. God wants us to know His wisdom in the deepest recesses of our minds, not only in the conscious thought life, but in our sub-conscious. This is where many of our belief structures, many of which are false, and our independent strategies lie hidden. They lurk hidden just below the conscious level of our minds much like the submerged portion of an iceberg, but it is these large hidden areas that account for much of what we do and how we act.

It is in these testing places, sometimes called the waiting rooms of life, that we need to stop and refocus, get still before God and examine root issues and think about what God is doing. Refocusing, then, often begins with the need of honest examination followed by confession. In contrast to the blame game, the first step is honest acknowledgment of our self-dependent ways followed, of course, with confession to the Lord.

When we have a wrong focus, as described earlier, we have neglected God’s grace and turned from His grace provision to our own solutions. In Hebrews 12:7-13, the author exhorts us to know and respond to the fact that our trials are often God’s training tools of discipline by which He seeks to produce the fruit of peace and righteousness, strong and mature Christian character.

Hebrews 12:7-13 Endure your suffering as “discipline;” God is treating you as “sons.” For what son is there that a father does not discipline? 8 But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? 10 For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. 11 Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it. 12 Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but healed (NET Bible).

Suffering, no matter what the cause, even when the primary purpose is to manifest God’s power to others, is a tool, a means of training God uses in the suffering believer’s life for spiritual growth and the experience of His righteousness. We can endure such suffering only by focusing our hearts on the Savior (12:2-3). However, the author was aware of the tendency to spiritual weakness in his readers, and in view of the victory of the Lord Jesus, the perfecter of faith, and God’s fatherly purpose in suffering, he encouraged them to renew their strength (literally, “to set upright, make straight again”). If they would do this and would make straight paths for their feet (a figurative statement for getting back on God’s path of growth and the walk of faith, the upward focus), they would experience God’s healing and growth in righteousness or Christ-like change.

Hebrews 12:14-15 Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness (literally, “the sanctification”), for without it no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled (emphasis mine) (NET Bible).

The pursuit of peace with all men as well as God’s plan for personal sanctification must be vigorously pursued.5 To fail to do so is to neglect God’s grace. But why? Because without God’s grace process of sanctification through the finished work of the risen Christ and the school of training through suffering, no one will see the Lord. But what is meant by “see the Lord”? “See” is the Greek $oraw, which may mean, “to experience, witness” or it may refer to “mental and spiritual perception.” In this context,

To see the Lord means to fellowship with Him. Job, for example, said, “But now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5). The parallel is precise. As a result of divine discipline Job came to “see” the Lord. The writer of Hebrews, steeped in the Old Testament as he was, apparently had this passage in mind.6

When we fail to pursue God’s sanctification and fail to appropriate His grace provision for it, we grieve God’s Spirit (Eph. 4:30) and thereby set up barriers to fellowship with God and men (Isa. 59:2; Prov. 15:1; 25:23). We stifle His power and answer to our prayers (Isa. 59:1; Ps. 66:18; 1 Thess. 5:19) and stifle His purposes through the trials (Ps. 119:67, 7, 11; Rom. 8:28-29; Num. 14:22-24; Jam. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:6f).

Vital to the process of sanctification is confession because of its restorative nature. “Confess” is the Greek word @omologew, “to say the same thing, to agree with,” and then, “to acknowledge, confess.” The Hebrew word for “confess” is yadah which originally meant “to throw or cast,” and from the act of the outstretched arm, it came to mean “to point to.” Thus, it came to mean “to point out, to acknowledge, confess,” or “praise, give thanks.” Confession emphasizes the principle of “recognition” and “declaration of a fact, whether good or bad.” (Compare two key passages: 1 John 1:9 with 2:1 and Proverbs 28:13.)

Regarding confession Ryrie writes: “It is saying the same thing about sin that God does. It is having the same perspective on that sin that God does. This must include more than simply rehearsing that sin. Therefore to confess includes an attitude of forsaking that sin.”7

    Purposes for Confession

There are several purposes for confession: (a) confession brings forgiveness and restoration of fellowship with God (1 Jn. 1:9); (b) confession restores God’s control or power in the believer’s life (Eph. 4:30; 5:18; 1 Thess. 5:19); (c) confession provides reconciliation with man if we have offended someone, and this can include the need for restitution (Matt. 5:23-24; Luke 19:8-10); (d) confession prevents or stops divine discipline for sin (1 Cor. 11:27f); (e) confession promotes restraint and resistance against sinful patterns (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 5:16); and (f) since confession restores us to fellowship, it enables us to move forward in the process of sanctification or spiritual growth and usefulness to the Lord (cf. Jam. 1:21; 1 Pet. 2:1f; 2 Tim. 2:21; 3:16-17).

But confession, by God’s design, must go beyond the mere externals. We all need to see and deal with those issues of the heart that so dramatically affect our relationship with the Lord and with others. Until there is honest, deep down confession of the core issues, there will be little true dependence on the Lord and we will simply be neither ready nor capable of refocusing our minds on Him so we can go on in maturity. So what are objects of confession and these core issues?

    The Objects, the Core Issues of Confession

What we must recognize and confess is no small subject. In fact, it takes us to the heart of our walk with God and our capacity to change. Change or transformation is the goal of the whole process. Actually, we have no choice in the fact of change, only in the kind of change that takes place. Honest confession that goes to the core so that it touches the hidden issues of the heart forms the key to true biblical change.

We must recognize that character cannot develop upward without working on the hidden issues of the heart through honest confession and repentance. If these core issues are never dealt with, we may acquire biblical truth and change outwardly to some degree in order to conform to what is expected, but our subtle self-dependent, self-protective ways and strategies go untouched and unchallenged and it is these which cause us to live independently of God’s power. Until we acknowledge these sins, we will continue to live by our own contrivances of self-sufficiency. It is these that are so destructive to our walk with God, to our ability to obey, and to our relationships with people. When challenged by the preaching of the Word or through personal contacts with others, we will do one of two things: we will either become robots who conform outwardly to some religious system because we want to be liked and accepted by the group or we will simply rebel.

Where does honest confession begin? What is the foundation for the kind of confession that gets to the true issues of the heart which negatively affect us in our relationships with God and people?

(1) There is first of all the problem of the big lie that man doesn’t need God and can become like god himself (Gen. 3:1-7; 2 Thess. 2:10-11 [lit. “the lie”]). Because of the fall and its impact on man’s spiritual state, there is woven into our make up a strong propensity for self-sufficiency, which is simply a sinful commitment to try to handle life through our own resources and by our own solutions.

This sinful commitment to self-appointed strategies was seen immediately after the fall in (a) the fig leaves, in (b) the hiding, and in (c) the excuses and blame both Adam and Eve engaged in as soon as they took of the fruit of the tree. In these actions we see the consequences of spiritual death and the depth of the alienation from God which it brought.

Man deeply needs God. We were created to know, love, and serve God and to live out of His resources and supply, but in the awful alienation and spiritual death caused by sin, man seeks to live by the lie of Satan, the lie that man does not need God, that by choosing his own way, by using his own resources, he can be as God, independent. Our solutions to life’s problems, regardless of the form they take, stem from the fiction that we can make life work without total dependence on God.

Any belief about the way to meaning and satisfaction other than total dependence on the Lord will immediately cause our worldly and futile minds to suggest our own directions to pursue and this leads us always into illegitimate and idolatrous hopes (Rom. 1:18f; Eph. 4:17f). Romans 12:2 tells us, “be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” The renewing of the mind includes discovering and changing those innermost belief structures that promote self-sufficient living by our own protective mechanisms in place of a belief structure that requires absolute dependence on the Lord (cf. 2 Cor. 10:3-5).

True confession goes beyond the surface issues. First, confession includes acknowledging the presence of these self-protective ways. Paul defined these as weapons of the flesh raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5). Second, biblical confession acknowledges them as sinful and invalid.

Note that both the extremes below can illustrate our attempts at managing life without God.

The Introvert

The Extrovert

Fearful of decisions, never takes risks.

Bold, decisive, the self-made man who may take risks.

Mild, quiet, never appears to get angry.

Louder, more assertive, often shows his anger.

Mr. Milquetoast

Mr. Dynamic

The satanic notion that, like God, we can make things different by wishing it so, or by seeking to manage life is at the heart of man’s problem and one of the most needed objects of confession. We attempt this either by retreating from our problems or by charging forward, believing deeply in ourselves and thinking positively, “I (we) can do it.” Remember, this is precisely what Israel attempted to do in Numbers 14:40-45. Note that though they confessed their previous sinful unbelief, they failed to go to the core issue, self-dependent living. They said, “Here we are; we have indeed sinned, but we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised.” Though Moses then warned them against such presumption (14:41-43), they went heedlessly ahead leaning on the arm of their own strength, and were severely beaten by the Amalekites and Canaanites (14:44-45).

(2) We must understand confession must extend below the surface to the underlying and unseen issues of the heart. Failure to do so leads to Pharisaic externalism. The Pharisees were those who mouthed pious platitudes, but Christ called them whitewashed sepulchers because, though whitewashed on the outside, they were corrupt on the inside (Matt. 6:21; 12:34-35; 15:18-19; Pro. 23:7). Sin must be seen as more than the visible part, just as with the visible part of an iceberg.

Many of the conscious thought patterns and the actions we take stem from beliefs (conscious or unconscious) that we have developed as a protection against personal pain and to provide the security, significance, and satisfaction we desire. But what are these efforts? They represent our attempts at managing our problems independently of God. As such, they are also acts of self-sufficiency, acts that fail of the grace of God. Recognizing that we have chosen to handle life by our solutions identifies what must be confessed and rejected so we can turn in total dependence on the Lord through an upward focus.

Again, Israel’s behavior in Numbers 13 and 14 is a classic illustration and deserves repeating. As we have seen, they first sought to protect themselves from their fear of the giants in the land by unbelief or a wrong focus. After hearing of God’s judgment (14:26-39), the people then sought to go up against the enemies of the land in their own strength contrary to the command of the Lord (14:40-45). While completely different in overt actions, these acts were precisely the same in nature and point us to the core issue, the heart of the problem with man: Seeking to live independently, failing to throw ourselves completely on the grace of God for everything in life. In verse 40, they confessed that they had sinned, but their decision to fight the enemy against the Lord’s command shows they never really dealt with the core issue of independent living and total trust in God’s supply.

We are rational beings created in the image of God with basic longings and an emptiness which only God can fill. But because of the deceitfulness of the human heart (Jer. 17:9-10; Eph. 4:22), the deceptions of Satan (2 Cor. 11:3; 2 Thess. 2:9-11), and the deceitful devices of the world (Mark 4:19), we typically devise our own beliefs and strategies by which we seek to reach our goals. Though these strategies are often irrational and totally wrong when judged by the truth of the Word of God, we still cling to them. For instance, we believe that in order to be happy people must treat us the way we want to be treated. We all desire this, but is this essential for inner peace and joy? No!

When faced with a difficult person or situation, we immediately think in terms of taking matters into our own hands. We devise a strategy to protect ourselves or our opinion by striking back, by withdrawing, becoming over talkative, boasting about our accomplishments, or running someone else down. But in this we delude ourselves. Such action seems so right to us, but its end is the way of death (Prov. 14:12; 16:25).

Our confession needs to be, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). “By what shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word” (Ps. 119:9). The pursuit of life through our own efforts must be recognized, confessed, and abandoned.

In other words, confession, if it is to have a life changing impact, must acknowledge all areas of sin: mental attitude sins such as sins of the tongue, overt sins and sins of omission. It must reach below the surface to the core of our being in order to tear down any idols of self-trust or self-sufficiency we have erected and depended on for our happiness, satisfaction, security, or significance. Without this, we simply cannot truly return to God as our only refuge and source of life.

What does God use to expose us to our sin? (a) He uses His Word (2 Tim. 2:16; Heb. 4:12); (b) He uses the Holy Spirit (John 16:8, 13; Prov. 20:27; 1 Cor. 2:11-15); (c) He uses people in the body of Christ (Gal. 6:1f; 1 Thess. 5:11; Heb. 3:12-13); and (d) He uses the trials of life (Ps. 119:67, 71; Jam. 1:2f; 1 Pet. 1:6f)

Confession then, if we have failed to respond to a trial in faith, is the first step to refocusing on the Lord to stop the downward process. It is a positive act of volition and faith which shows: (a) I am trusting God to completely forgive all the sins involved in my wrong responses including neglect of His grace and my self-protective mechanisms or solutions, and (b) I am trusting God to take control and to enable me, through the principles that will be discussed below, to submit my life to His purposes in the trials or burdens He allows into my life? In the words of 1 Peter 5:6-7, confession is the first step of humbling myself to what God is seeking to do through the trial wherein we also cast our cares on Him.

Step Two:
Count it All Joy
(James 2:2-12)

One of the basic facts of life we all have to live with and must learn to handle is the reality of pain and suffering. We all long for a life without trial and pain. That desire is natural because God created us for Eden, but because of Satan and the effects of the fall on both man and creation, we face trials and irritations, pain and suffering.

Suffering is hard to take but even harder to understand. We look at the conditions of suffering in our own lives and in the lives of those around us and see so much that seems unfair and unnecessary. As a result, we ask why? Why me? Why my child? Why? Why? Why?

While suffering is never really easy, Scripture gives us a number of reasons for suffering, which, if understood, can help us through the journey of life. However, though it may lessen the pain and enable us to experience God’s peace in the midst of the suffering, knowing these principles does not always remove the pain. Suffering is inherent to a fallen and sinful humanity encumbered by its own sin and the demonic powers that surround us that promote suffering. But suffering is necessary because it is a tool that God has chosen to use to get our attention and to train us just as a parent will discipline his child.

For a study on the reasons for suffering, see Why Christians Suffer on the Biblical Studies Foundation web page under the Spiritual Life section at www.bible.org.

    Attitudes Needed in Trials—The Directive (vs. 2)

(1) The Command to Obey—“Count it all joy”

“Count” or “consider” is @hgeomai and means (a) “to reckon as, think, consider, conclude, regard it so,” or (b) “to lead, rule (used of church leaders and husbands).” It is an aorist ingressive and refers to initiation of action, i.e., begin to think in such a way that it leads to joy. It is an imperative which means this is a command, a biblical mandate and directive for handling the irritations and trials of life. It goes with the words “when you encounter.”

When we are faced with a trial, James is telling us we must begin that suffering by thinking biblically (with the mind of Christ) so that the result is pure joy. Like a lineman who runs interference for a halfback in football, we are to run interference with God’s viewpoint and knock down any wrong responses that might have risen up against the knowledge of God and His purposes (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

“All joy” is an important phrase. The word order is literally, “all joy consider it, …” The emphasis is clearly on the words “all joy.” James did not just say, “count it joy”, but “count it all joy.” The NIV translates this “pure joy,” joy that is full or unmixed, not just “some joy” mixed with a lot of bad attitudes like resentment, contempt, and doubt. “Joy” is the Greek cara, “joy, gladness,” or “the cause or object of joy, delight, or happiness.” Joy is a good emotion evoked by a state or prospect of well-being, success, or blessing. In the Bible, it is a good emotion that comes from thinking on and trusting in the benefits and blessings of God’s love, wisdom, plan, and purposes.

James is not saying there should be no pain or sorrow in the sufferings of life. James is not saying we should not hurt or even experience anger in some conditions. He is saying that we must learn to know God’s joy and peace in the midst of the trials of life to such a degree that it drives away those hurtful emotions and attitudes like resentment or bitterness, that lead to taking matters into our own hands. These are actions that are clearly out of touch with and opposed to the purposes of God and Christ-like character.

For illustrations of suffering consider the following: (a) In the life of our Lord (Heb. 12:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:21-23; Jn. 11:33-35; Luke 19:41f; 13:34-35); (b) In the life of Paul (Phil. 1:12-21; 2:27; 2 Cor. 11:28-29; 4:7-11). Both the Lord and Paul, living with the mind of Christ, saw beyond the immediate to the larger purposes and had their minds focused on a greater purpose than their own comfort.

(2) The People Addressed—“my brethren”

James addresses believers in Christ, those who are brothers and sisters in the Lord. While this shows James’ warmth and love for the recipients of the epistle, it surely goes beyond that to identify them as fellow believers, those born into the family of God through the word of truth (cf. 1:18). In doing this, we are shown how believers who know Jesus Christ should act when faced with trials. Believers, because of their special relationship to God through Christ, have the capacity to handle the pressures of life so that those pressures can have the results anticipated in this passage.

(3) The Time Aspect—“when you encounter”

“When you encounter” refers to that point in time that calls for us to count it all joy. The ideas here are threefold: First, at the point you find yourself in a trial, your immediate need is to count it all joy. To delay puts us on the downward path. Second, “when you encounter” carries with it a note of the certainty regarding trials and irritations. “Encounter” is the Greek peripiptw, “encounter, fall into,” and carries with it the idea of falling into something so one is “surrounded, engulfed.” Trials have a way of doing just that; they sometimes seem to literally engulf us. This verb is used in Luke 10:30 of the man who fell into the hands of robbers.

    The Conditions Calling for Joy—“various trials”

“Various” is poikilos, “many colored, variegated, varied.” This calls our attention to the nature of sufferings and life in a fallen world. Trials come from various sources and in all sizes, shapes, and types. As to sources they come from self, Satan, the environment, society, and people; and as to sizes and types they range from the minor irritation of a flat tire, an irritating person, a personal weakness, all the way to a terminal illness, the death of a loved one, or national disasters.

It is easy to be joyous and happy when things are going well, when we are comfortable and experiencing pleasure. Anyone can be joyous then. But for the Christian, there must be more because of what we know from the Word and because of what we have in Christ. God’s plan for our lives and the potential for each of us as believers in Christ is that we should be able to handle any and every kind of irritation or trial regardless how small or how large—from the irritation of a gnat or the bite of a mosquito to the charge of an elephant or the roar of a tank. Through God’s Word and faith in Him, Christians can develop the faith to handle life with its various trials. Paul did.

Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

“Trials” is an important word and one that needs to be understood if we are going to grasp the heart of this passage in James. The same Greek word lies behind the word “trials” in 1:2 and the word “tempted” in verse 13. Verses 2 and 3 are dealing with trials from without, while verses 13-16 deal with tests from within in the sense of temptations to sin. The Greek word is peirasmos meaning “testing, trial, temptation,” but when the context is dealing with trials, it looks at a trial or testing directed towards some objective or goal. The goal is that the one tested should emerge stronger, purer, and better off because of the testing. The verb form, peirazw, means “to make proof of, to try, test.” The idea here is not that of seduction into sin, but a testing that proves the condition of metal or which strengthens and purifies. This anticipates what James will say in the next verse. Because of God’s sovereign and providential work in all of life, our trials are not without purpose. God wants us to understand that and respond in faith with joy because we know we are a part of His eternal purposes that go far beyond the temporalities of this life.

Our natural tendency is to place top priority not on becoming Christ-like in the midst of our problems but on finding happiness, comfort, and pleasure. We all want to be happy but the paradoxical truth is that we will never be happy if we are concerned primarily with becoming happy. Our overriding concern in every circumstance ought to be to respond biblically, to put the Lord first, to seek to behave as He would want us to. The wonderful truth is that when we devote our energies to the task of becoming what Christ wants us to be, He fills us with unspeakable joy and a peace that far surpasses what the world offers.

Fundamental to such a pursuit is the need to consciously reject the goal of becoming happy and adopt the goal of becoming more like the Lord. In our modern world today the emphasis is on experiencing personal wholeness, human potential, self-esteem, comfort, and the so-called freedom to be who we really are, whatever that means. Silently, like a boat adrift from its mooring, such a goal has carried us away from the biblical commitment of being transformed into the character of Christ. Today, the primary focus is on our development as individuals which carries with it the implicit promise that experiencing our potential (at least as the world views this) will lead to our happiness, but this is ultimately a mirage.

Because of what we are and because of the nature of trials with all their pain and frustration, finding true joy when our faith is under fire or when life hurts often seems impossible. How, then, can a person find pure joy in the trials of life? Part of the answer comes by grasping the following:

The Lord said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). Then in John 16:33 He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” In these two passage we learn two important truths regarding peace:

First, due to the nature of this fallen world in which we live, a world dominated by sin, Satan (the god of this world), and death, all men experience tribulation, but especially believers who want to live and count for Christ. Tribulation and suffering are simply stark realities of life. Though designed for Eden, because of the fall of man in Genesis 3, we do not live in a Garden of Eden nor in the millennium, not yet. So, we should never be surprised by tribulation.

1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; …

Second, while peace and joy are not exactly synonyms, they are related. A troubled heart, a heart without peace, is certainly not a joyful heart and nothing in this world, neither position, power, pleasure, nor fun and games, will be able to give joy and peace, at least not the kind that can handle the many ups and downs of life. The world has its own ways and means of seeking peace and joy, but they are little more than an anesthetic designed to deaden or cover up the emptiness of a life without the salvation that comes to us in Christ and a right relationship with God through the Savior.

We often associate the words trial and suffering with disease, pain, accidental injury, physical persecution, or some other kind of physical trauma, and certainly such things are a part of the trials and sufferings of life. Suffering is something which hurts, but it is also something that makes us think. It is a tool God uses to get our attention and accomplish His purposes in each of us. God allows both prosperity and adversity according to His own wise counsel and He does so without revealing all the specifics of what He is doing.

Ecclesiastes 7:13-14 Consider the work of God, For who is able to straighten what He has bent? 14 In the day of prosperity be happy, But in the day of adversity consider—God has made the one as well as the other So that man may not discover anything that will be after him.

In view of God’s sovereignty, the preacher teaches us the need of submission to God’s sovereignty. This means we are to enjoy the good times (be happy) and remembering (consider) in the bad times that adversity has God’s inscrutable purposes that go far beyond man’s human understanding (cf. 8:17).

Part of the life of faith is accepting prosperity and adversity from God’s hand without being able to explain just how everything will be worked out for the future (v. 14; Rom 8:28).8

Plainly, suffering is a fact of this life that no one can avoid.

It may be cancer or a sore throat. It may be the illness or loss of someone close to you. It may be a personal failure or disappointment in your job or school work. It may be a rumor that is circulating in your office or your church, damaging your reputation, bringing you grief and anxiety. It might be a broken relationship with a family member or a friend. It’s painful, and it wounds you deeply. It’s suffering…

Your troubles are not meaningless, random events, that crash into your life without purpose and pattern. Biblically, suffering is part of a process: We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope (Rom. 5:3-4 NIV). We all want the product, character; but we don’t want the process, suffering.9

    The Advantages of Trials—The Objective (vss. 3-4)

(1) The Foundation for Trials is Biblical Understanding—“knowing that”

The NIV translates James 1:3, “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” The NIV translation looks at verse 3 as the cause for considering it all joy when faced with trials. “Knowing” is an adverbial participle which tells us how we can count it all joy. It points us to the cause which really becomes the means. How can we count it pure joy? By understanding the truth concerning suffering and its purposes in the plan of God. As Christians who march to a different drum, or should, we should consider it pure joy. The foundation needed is the knowledge of the Word, biblical insight to God’s plan and use of the trials of life.

“Knowing” here is ginwskw, “to perceive, comprehend, understand, realize.” As used in the New Testament and even outside the New Testament, it meant to know in a personal way. With this word there is often the implication of grasping the full reality and nature of the object considered.

(2) The Nature of Trials—They are testings which try our faith

“Testing” is dokimion, a different Greek word than the word for “trials” above though a synonym. This word had both an active and a passive use. Actively, it was used of the means of testing as with a furnace or crucible in the metal refining process designed to remove the dross or impurities. Passively, it was used of the result of testing, of the product, the thing approved as with sterling coinage or money which was genuine and without alloys. It was used of what was pure, valuable, and usable like refined and pure gold.

Suffering is a purifier, a cleanser. No matter what the reason, even when it is not divine discipline for blatant carnality, it is still a purifier for none of us will ever be perfect in this life. The whole concept of refining metal or the purification of gold includes a process. There is no such thing as instant gold. Rarely does suffering not reveal areas of need, weaknesses, wrong attitudes, apathy, a spirit of independence, false sources of trust and happiness, or insensitivity to God and others, etc.

Our trials, then, are the tools God uses to test us. But what exactly do the trials test? James tells us they test our faith. Why our faith? Because the essence of Christianity and fellowship with God in this life is faith. We are to walk by faith, not by sight. As we read our Bibles, as we sit in the warmth of our homes and our American prosperity, we like to think differently, but the fact is faith never grows in a place of total security, it can’t. There will simply be no occasion to use it. Faith can only be tested and manifest itself amid genuine need—in places of helplessness. I think it was the poet, Goeth, who said, “Talent is formed in solitude, but character in the storms of life.”

Man was created by God, for God, and designed to live in total dependence upon Him. But what reveals man’s sin and the consequences of the fall more than man’s commitment to run his own life and to live independently through his own self-made strategies? Nothing! More importantly, these strategies neither bring man closer to God nor to one another as fellow human beings. They do just the opposite. They drive men further from God and from one another. They alienate as seen in our first parents, Adam and Eve, who were hiding, making excuses, and blaming others immediately after the fall.

As the smelting process is used to separate the dross from the pure metal, so God uses our trials to bring our faith to the surface and put it to work. Trials force us to turn from our own strategies of independence so we will lean upon the Lord. Again, what are trials? They are God’s instruments to purge us from all impurity and burn out whatever is inconsistent with faith and Christlikeness. Trials, as heat used in the testing of metals, show the condition of our faith and the objects of our faith or trust. They quickly reveal our independent man-made strategies for living which are nothing more than our attempted routes to joy and satisfaction without God. And being religious does not mean we are really living by faith, for such can simply be a fig leaf, a cover up for living independently of God.

    The Goal of Testing Our Faith by Trials

(1) The Immediate Goal—Endurance

“Endurance” is @upomenw, which carries the idea of remaining under the testing in spite of the length and degree of pressure. “Produces” (NASB) or “develops” (NIV) is katergazomai, from kata, “down” and ergazomai, “to work, labor, produce, perform.” Katergazomai is a bit more intensive that the simple verb form and means “to effect by labor, work out, achieve.” Again, we are reminded that suffering is a process. “Knowing that tribulations (sufferings) bring about (produces) perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character hope” (Rom 5:3-4). There was an ancient tool called a “tribulum” that was used to separate the tares from the wheat. Our word tribulation comes from this word.

As a process, suffering takes time. Therefore, the results God seeks to accomplish with suffering require time and so also, endurance. As people, we naturally want the product, character, but not the process, suffering. But because of the make up of man, we can’t have one without the other. One of the things we must come to grips with is that the trials of life are tools God wants to use to accomplish His purposes. When we keep running away or reacting to the tools God uses, we hinder the process of the perfect work God wants to do. But what is that?

(2) The Long-Range Goal—Spiritual Maturity

“Let endurance have its perfect result,” i.e., its finished product. But how? By staying on God’s work bench, by trusting God through the trials and desiring His goals. The purpose is declared in the statement, “that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The ultimate goal or objective of suffering is mature growth, transformation into the character of Jesus Christ—being made conformable to God’s Son (Rom. 8:28-29).

“Perfect” is teleios. It means perfect in the sense of “mature.” It means “having reached its end, complete, finished, mature.” It was used of both physical and spiritual development. At the heart of this word is the Old Testament idea of a complete person: one who is rightly related to God. A good New Testament passage for this would be Ephesians 4:13-14.

“And complete” further explains. The word here is @oloklhros, “complete in all its parts.” Christ-likeness is to penetrate every area of the believer’s life and this includes all the virtues of Christian character or the fruit of the Spirit.

“Lacking in nothing” tops off this emphasis on God’s purpose to bring us to spiritual maturity or into the character of the Son of God. None of us ever arrive, but this is to be our goal and desire as people redeemed from sin and with eternity as our prospect as the children of God.

Suffering is never easy. It’s hard because it hurts. We need God’s enabling grace to handle the irritations of life, but ironically we spend too much time talking to people about our problems and the things that hurt or irritate us and too little time talking to God. It is significant that right after reminding us of God’s maturing purposes in suffering, James takes us to God’s assistance and the issue of prayer or praying in faith (1:5f). This logically takes us to our next step in the upward focus.

Step Three:
Commit it to the Lord

… casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.

When we try to handle our trials by ourselves, we ultimately fail even when we think we have been successful. When we handle suffering by our own methods, we act in arrogance and rebellion, and we reject the grace and wisdom of God that is so desperately needed to handle life even when in prosperity. Whenever we act as such, we are believing and acting on the lie of Satan who wants us to believe we can walk independently of God through our own solutions to life.

Still, even when we understand the purposes of God in our sufferings and view them as the tools He uses to transform us or to use us in the lives of others, it is never easy. Suffering hurts and we don’t like the pain regardless of the gain. Even though we understand that it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness, it is still grievous and we need assistance. We make two major mistakes in the midst of our trials: first, we talk too much to people about our problems and too little to the Lord; and second, we are prone to turn to our own strategies to handle those problems. Ironically, we often do this while also calling on the Lord for His help. In other words, we want His help, but on our terms.

    An Example to Follow

Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely and run with endurance the race set out for us. 2 In doing so we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up (NET Bible).

Christ Jesus, who “pioneered” the path of faith for us to follow, is also the “perfecter” or “finisher” of the way of faith since He reached its end successfully and accomplished all that is needed for us to walk by faith. Having defeated Satan and his principalities (Col. 2:15; Heb. 2:14) and having perfectly accomplished our redemption (Col. 1:12-14; 2:11-14; Heb. 1:3; 2:17-18; 4:16), He is now seated victoriously at the right hand of God. In all of this, He is our perfect example and model, for He focused on the joy that was set out before Him. Rather than the shame and the agonies of the cross, His trust was in the Father’s faithfulness and His focus was on the reward.

The Apostle Peter develops this theme of Jesus as our perfect example even further. He wrote:

1 Peter 2:21-23 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; …

First Peter points to Christ as the perfect example of walking by faith in the midst of the suffering and trials of life (vs. 21). Then, in verses 22 and 23a he shows us how Jesus refused to use the typical solutions and strategies we all tend to use to handle our trials. He reminds us that “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats.” Finally, verse 23b illustrates how the Lord handled the problem, He “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

“But kept entrusting” is paradidwmi from para, “beside, alongside,” plus didwmi “to give.” It means “to give, hand over to another, deliver to someone to keep, care for, entrust for management.” It was used of giving a person or a city into the hands and care of another for management, and of turning a matter over to the authorities for justice. Further, the verb is in the imperfect tense which means Christ continued to turn the matter over to the Lord. So rather than taking matters into His own hands, the Lord continually handed His sufferings over to the Father for management believing that God’s purposes (our redemption) would be accomplished, as the rest of the passage shows. He thought not of Himself, but resting His life in the Father’s hands, He was free to think of others.

    A Command to Obey

1 Peter 5:5-7 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.

In verse 7 we have a command to cast all our anxiety on the Lord. Because of the principle stated in verse 5, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” Peter says, “humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” Before men will cast their problems on the Lord, they must come down off their high horse; they must recognize their insufficiency, their weakness, their lack of wisdom, so they are free to place themselves under God’s sovereign omnipotence and wisdom so God is free to treat them in grace.

“Mighty” is krataios, a word used of power in relation to a job to be done. It refers to strength as abundantly effective to accomplish an end to be gained or dominion to be exercised. By the choice of this word, Peter is reminding us that God alone has the power needed to handle the problems of life. Why then do we seek to handle our problems without faith and deep dependence on the Lord? Perhaps it’s because we really don’t want to have to trust the Lord. We want to control our own lives so we can have things our way according to our own timing. So, we take matters into our own hands. We manipulate, stretch the truth (lie), spend beyond our means, ignore spiritual priorities because of secular concerns or materialism, or we react with defense and escape strategies designed to get what we want. We are afraid to cast ourselves totally on the sufficiency of God.

“That He may exalt you (lift you up) at the proper time” clearly refers to God’s wisdom and ability to handle our problems in His own time and in His own way—a better time and a better way.

“By casting all our care upon Him.” In verse 7 we see the natural outcome of humility. It shows us how we are to humble ourselves. “Casting” is epiriptw, “to throw something on something or on someone else, to deposit with another for safe keeping.” In Luke 19:35 it is used of casting clothes upon the colt. But please note something here. Greek grammar closely connects the “casting” to the command of 1 Peter 5:6. “Casting” (an adverbial participle) is simultaneous to the “humble yourselves” and either shows us how or the result of humbling ourselves under the mighty hand of God. We could translate, “be humbled … by casting the whole of your care on Him.” “Care” is merimna meaning, “care, concern, thought, anxiety.” The verb form, merimnaw means “to take thought for, to be anxious about,” or “to care for, be concerned about.”10

For examples of the usage of both the verb and the noun compare Matthew 6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34; 10:41; 13:22; Luke 8:14; 10:41; 1 Corinthians 7:32, 33, 34; 12:25; 2 Corinthians 11:28; Philippians 2:20; 4:6. From an observation of the use of this word in these verses we can see how these words, depending on their context, can have a double flavor. They can be used: (a) of a proper and honorable care and concern as with Paul’s care for the churches or a husband’s care for his wife, or (b) of a wrong care in the sense of anxiety or worry caused by a lack of faith or a wrong attitude and outlook toward life. Such an outlook distracts us from spiritual pursuits and causes us to seek our happiness, security, and significance from the world and its offerings rather than from God. For the Lord’s commentary on this see His words in Matthew 6:19-35 and 13:22.

    A Promise to Claim

“For He cares for you.” After giving the command to humble ourselves by casting all our care or anxiety on the Lord, Peter follows with an awesome reason and motive—“for He cares for you.” This states the reason and constitutes a promise to claim. Literally “all your care (the whole of it), casting on Him, because it is a care to Him.” We need to be encouraged and bold in our trials: God loves us, totally, absolutely, and unconditionally. He wants to heal us, not hurt us. He wants to mend our brokenness and make us whole. He wants the best for us and that best is to be conformed to the character of His Son; that best is beyond anything we can ask or think and contains eternal ramifications. But this is precisely where we have a problem because that takes faith (cf. Matt. 6:20 with 30), faith to believe that God is personally involved and has our best in view even in the midst of our pain and when we cannot understand what God is doing or why He has allowed our suffering.

First Peter 5:7 is a quote from Psalm 55:22, another wonderful promise to claim. “Cast” is the Hebrew shalak, an intensive (hiphil) imperative which means “to cast, throw.” It means “to commit something to the care and provision of another.” Again we see that because God loves us, He takes responsibility for our lives and this includes our burdens and trials. He cares and wants to sustain us and keep us. Here, then, are a few passages that show us how we are to hand over our problems, our pressures, and our lives to the Lord for His management, care, and provision.

But the question is, how do we commit and cast our problems on the Lord? Through prayer. Prayer is the marvelous grace provision of God which allows us to lay hold of God’s sovereign throne, which is also a throne of grace, that we might find grace to help in our times of need (Heb. 4:16).

Is it not significant that right after James calls our attention to the attitudes needed in trials and gives us the command to consider it pure joy because of God’s purposes in the trials of life (Jam. 1:2-4), he then immediately takes us to the assistance needed for trials through prayer?

    The Privilege and Promise Offered

James 1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Jeremiah 10:23 warns us that “… man’s way is not in himself; Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.” So James, knowing this, reminds us of the awesome privilege of seeking God’s wisdom. In essence, James tells us how to commit our trials to the Lord—through praying for wisdom. Where can we find the understanding to use our trials in the right way? Through prayer. The Psalms are loaded with illustrations of this very truth. In them, we often see the psalmist in the pit of despair, but through prayer and lifting his burdens to the Lord (an upward focus) he emerges confident and resting in God’s grace.

God has granted us the privilege of asking Him for wisdom. We are also told to keep on asking because God is an abundant and amiable Giver. Of the 150 verses in Psalm 119, 67 verses are devoted to the subject of wisdom needed in life, particularly in its trials. For some thoughts concerning wisdom from this Psalm, see Addendum 1.

    The Prerequisite Needed

James 1:6-8 But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

Committing our problems to the Lord involves asking our heavenly Father for wisdom because, naturally, we can’t begin to understand all that is involved. Daily, life is filled with stories of pain and suffering that make no sense to us. We wonder, God how can you allow this to happen? Where is the justice in this? This just isn’t fair! But life is filled with injustices and life is not fair. It was not fair for Jesus to suffer for our sin. While a lot of human suffering is self-inflicted and the product of our own stupidity, rebellion, and neglect, there is much that just doesn’t seem to make sense. In view of all of this, it is easy for us to have doubts and wonder where God is, and may cause us to want to shout at God in defiant anger.

So James tells us to “ask in faith without any doubting.” What does it mean to ask in faith? It means to ask without any doubting. “Doubting” (diakrinomenos) is from the Greek verb, diakrinw, (1) “to separate, hence, to distinguish, discriminate, discern,” then (2) “to settle, decide, judge.” When in the middle or passive voice as here, it means (1) “to take issue, dispute with someone” or (2) “be at odds with oneself, doubt, waver.”11 Doubting and wavering in one’s mind is the primary idea here as the analogy to “waves tossed by the sea” illustrates (vs. 6b). But I wonder if the idea of “disputing with someone” may not have also been in the back of James’ mind, at least as it might pertain to praying for wisdom in the midst of suffering. To doubt and waver in our prayer is often related to the arguments we are having in our hearts with God. Why me? Why now? Why this?

Diakrinomenos describes one who is divided in his mind and who wavers between two opinions. One moment he voices the yes of faith; the next moment it is the no of disbelief. Such an attitude is graphically illustrated by “a wave of the sea.” Completely lacking in stability, it is “blown and tossed by the wind.” First there is the crest, then the trough. Instead, prayer that moves God to respond must be marked by the constancy of unwavering faith.12

The prayer of “unwavering faith” is a prayer that rests in the truth of Scripture regarding God’s person and His promises, purposes, and principles, rather than on our understanding of why or of how things appear to us. Perhaps this is why later in this very chapter James first discusses some of these very things about God’s promises and person (1:12-18). He then exhorts us to deal with any wrong attitudes and actions and, in a spirit of humility, to receive God’s truth, the implanted Word which is able to save (deliver) our souls. It is this, God’s implanted Word that enables us to handle our pain and frustration and those wrong reactions in life like being quick to speak and quick to anger (cf. 1:19-21). Here James calls for a full and intelligent appropriation of God’s Word to produce an active and growing faith that rests in the knowledge of God and His promises.

In practical terms, then, just how should we approach our trials in prayer? Our need is to ask our loving and caring heavenly Father: (a) to remove the difficulty if it’s His will (Mark 14:35, 36; 1 Cor. 7:20-24; 2 Cor. 12:8); (b) to use it in our lives and in the lives of others for His glory (1 Pet. 1:6, 7; 3:14-16; 4:14); (c) to sustain and carry us successfully through the pressure so we do not bring dishonor to His name or foul up His plan and purposes for our lives and others (Ps. 55:22; 1 Pet. 4:15-16); and (d) to give us the wisdom, the biblical attitudes, values, responses, steps, and actions needed to handle the problem so we can act in a way that honors Christ (James 1:5; Ps. 37:5-6; Prov. 3:5-7).

May I also suggest that, as a part of maturing us and helping us to grow, God uses our suffering to get us to deal with four dangers in the Christian life: (a) misplaced confidence (1 Tim. 6:17f; Luke 12:15f); (b) misused privileges (1 Cor. 10:1f); (c) misguided priorities (Matt. 6:19f); and (d) missed reality (hypocrisy) (Matt. 23:1f; cf. Isa. 1:11-20 with 29:13; Ps. 50:8-23).

As we face the various trials of life, our prayer should not be, “Lord, change my wife or husband or children or school board or church board or job,” but “Lord, change me!” The issue is, what difference is the Savior making in my life? This is what suffering is all about and what God is seeking to develop in each of us. Our lives are what the world sees and we can become living evidence of God’s existence and His love.

Step Four:
Concentrate
(Think with God’s Word)

    An Explanation

By concentration we are talking about the ongoing process of focusing on the Lord which again involves us in positively thinking about those five important concepts about God, His person, plan, principles, purposes, and promises. I have found these five “Ps” to be a helpful memory aid for focusing on those specific areas that are needed to think with the Scripture.

The question arises, how can we continue to count it all joy and cast our problems on the Lord so we can experience peace, courage, and His strength and purposes through our suffering? This fourth step provides us with some insights on how we are able to continue to rest the problem in the Lord’s hands and keep our hearts focused on the right biblical goals as did the Lord Jesus, our pioneer and perfecter of the walk by faith.

Not only do we face the problem of maintaining our focus on the Lord, but we face the problem of thinking properly and biblically. We can focus on the Lord and cry out to him for help, but we can cry out in unbelief and from a failure to think in terms of the principles and promises of Scripture that need to be considered and applied to our situation.

    An Illustration

The sin of Achan, the defeat of Israel at Ai, Joshua’s prayer, and the Lord’s instruction in Joshua 7:1-11 provide us with an excellent illustration of this. There Joshua cried out to the Lord in dismay, but in such a way that it reflected unbelief or doubt because he had failed to lay hold of the principles and promises of the Word that might apply to their situation, the defeat at Ai.

Joshua 7:6-9 Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?” (NKJV)

As pointed out, the trials of life, including our times of defeat, are tools of growth or instruments God uses to correct, instruct, and change us. Such was the case here with Joshua and the nation of Israel. Starting with crossing the Jordan and the victory over Jericho, Israel had experienced one victory after another, but suddenly they faced defeat at Ai, a small city that appeared to be a pushover in contrast to the likes of Jericho. They went from the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat, which completely demoralized the people and the leadership, as can be seen in verses 5-9. So Joshua prayed, but he was not praying in faith and thinking in terms of God’s Word. Remember, God had told him that success in the battles that lay ahead would depend on his adherence to the Law of God, i.e., His Word (1:8).

Joshua was certainly eager to take more territory and accomplish the task the Lord had given them. But undoubtedly, being a little self-confident and resting too much on the victories of the past, he failed to take time to get alone with the Lord to inquire of Him and seek His strength and direction. As such, Joshua acted unwisely. Four deadly errors were the result: (a) they remained ignorant of the sin of Achan described in verse 1, (b) they underestimated the strength of the enemy, (c) they overestimated the strength of their own army, and (d) they presumed on the Lord—they took Him for granted.

How often are we just like Joshua here in chapter 7. Because of a workaholic mentality or an activity-oriented bent or our desire to be successful, there is the tendency to rush off without taking time with the Lord to draw near to Him and His resources. If Joshua had done this, surely, God would have informed him of the actions of Achan, the need of restoration, and just how they should approach Ai.

To fail to take time for the Lord to seek His guidance and strength will cause us to be insensitive to our sin. This grieves and quenches the Spirit and leaves us defenseless against the enemy and against those that stand in the way of our progress and victory.

Finally, note that the last part of 7:5 reads, “so the hearts of the people melted and became as water.” The defeat demoralized the people. This is perhaps more significant than the military defeat because it created misgivings and a lack of hope or confidence in the purpose and power of God. It caused them to begin to doubt the Lord and wonder if He had made a mistake, rather than examine their own lives and look for those spiritual issues that may have caused their defeat.

How typical of human nature and our sinfulness. We are so quick to become depressed, discouraged, and disoriented. We are often quick to look in every direction for a reason but to ourselves. We blame, we make excuses, we hide, but we don’t examine our own lives. We don’t even consider that the problem might possibly be me.

With verse 10, our attention is turned to God’s directions and response to Joshua. This is highly instructive for it not only shows us the true nature of Joshua’s actions, dismay and unbelief, but it shows us God’s evaluation of this (He was not pleased) along with His instruction for what was to be done to correct the problem.

The words, “So the Lord said to Joshua,” direct our attention to the personal involvement of God in the lives of His people. He cares about our lives and is working to reveal Himself and teach us about ourselves and what we need to be doing as we walk the path of faith (1 Pet. 5:6-7; Heb. 13:5-6). The question is, are we listening?

(1) The command to Joshua (vs. 10a) “Rise up!” This command comes with Joshua lying on his face in despair and mourning with dirt on his head in typical oriental fashion. Falling on his face may have demonstrated some humility here since he was crying out to God, but mostly, this was an act of despair, the spirit of hopelessness and unbelief as his words in verse 7 aptly demonstrate. Note the word “Alas,” the Hebrew ‘ahah, an interjection of despair or deep concern, and then note his questions of doubt.

So the Lord tells Joshua to get up or rise up out of this condition. Such a condition, though very human and characteristic of all of us from time to time, is not a state in which we can afford to stay. It accomplishes nothing, it dishonors God’s promises and person, and neutralizes us for the Lord.

The KJV has “get thee up,” the NIV has “stand up,” and the NASB has “rise up.” The verb used here is the Hebrew qum, which often means to rise up from a prostrate position for various reasons and from various conditions. From this basic literal meaning there was often a figurative idea that qum gave rise to. It was used of rising as an act of preparation for action, of rising out of a state of inaction or failure, of showing respect and worship, of rising to hear God’s Word, of becoming strong or powerful, of rising up to give deliverance, of assuming an office or responsibility (as a prophet or a judge), and of rising up to give testimony.

This was a call for Joshua to rise up from his state of despair and futility to prepare himself for action, to listen to the Lord, to take up his responsibility, and lead the people in God’s deliverance.

Application: While the Lord understands and sympathizes with our problems, fears, or whatever, He nevertheless never condones such a state nor excuses us from appropriating His grace and moving out in obedience. His word to us is to get up off our face, get our eyes on Him and deal with the problems in our lives according to the principles and promises of Scripture.

(2) The Question: “Why is it that you have fallen on your face?” The very nature of this question carries a note of rebuke. God says in essence, in view of who I am, My work for Israel, and My promises to you, Joshua, what possible reason could you have for such despair? This question becomes a call to get his eyes on the Lord!

Then, I think this is secondarily a call for Joshua, and for us when this is applicable, to examine the nature of what we are doing and the root causes for our failures or trials when they occur. What lessons might the Lord be seeking to teach me? Is this caused by something I did or failed to do? More on this later.

(3) The Explanation to Joshua (vss. 11-12)

Do we not see here an illustration of the truth of James 1:5, Proverbs 8:17, and Jeremiah 29:13? The Lord was speaking directly to Joshua. Today He speaks to us in the Word, and this illustrates the truth of how we find answers to the conditions in our lives when we spend time with God in the Word or know Scripture and seek to apply it to the variegated testings we encounter.

The Cause of Israel’s Failure (vs. 11)

Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.

This may look like several different violations as you read the text in the NASB or KJV because of the connectives (and) used in these translations, but for the most part, each clause is a further explanation of the preceding. The translation of the NIV is better here because it shows how each description further explains the problem. Note the following elements:

(1) Israel has sinned (this states the basic nature of our failures—sin [Heb. is chatah, ‘to miss the way or goal or mark’]);

(2) they have violated [Heb. is `abar, ‘to pass over, overstep, go beyond, transgress’] my covenant, which I commanded them to keep (this points to the specific issue).

(3) They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen (shows how they had transgressed the covenant and just what this entailed, stealing—stealing that which belonged to the Lord as devoted Him),

(4) they have lied, they have put them with their own (shows the snowball effect of sin and brings out the selfish, coveting nature of what was done, the root of most of our sin). The NIV should have added “and moreover” or “and also” to the beginning of this last clause to emphasize the nature and consequence of what this led to.

The Consequences of Israel’s Failure (vs. 12)

That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction (NIV).

Please note the “That is why” of the NIV. The NASB and KJV have “therefore.” They were defeated because of sin in the camp of Israel that had not been dealt with. In this verse we see one of the consequences of unconfessed sin in our lives is weakness, inability to serve and live for the Lord. For further study on this important truth see John 15:1-7, Ephesians 4:30, 1 Thessalonians 5:19, 1 Corinthians 10:13, and Proverbs 28:13. In Christ we have the capacity to live victoriously for the Lord regardless of what we face, but the ability to do so depends on fellowship and walking in the light (1 John 1:5-9).

Being created in the image of God, we are rational creatures with the ability to study, evaluate, and think through issues. As a result, we can naturally come up with solutions and actions to take for the various situations of life. We do not by-in-large act by instinct as does the animal kingdom. But, though created in the image of God, because of the fall and alienation from God, we do not naturally think with God’s viewpoint or thoughts, not even as God’s redeemed people (Isa. 55:8f and Rom. 12:2). Our minds need renewal through regular intake from the Word so that we might exchange our thoughts for God’s. But in addition or as a part of this exchange, we need to actively channel our thinking into the life-giving stream of Scripture. We must concentrate, captivate, and control our minds by learning and actively applying God’s principles (2 Cor. 10:4-5; Phil. 4:8; Eccl. 7:12-15).

    An Amplification

Passage Number One:

2 Corinthians 10:2-5 I ask that when I am present I may not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, …

Though the apostle is writing this in answer to the accusations of his opponents (cf. vs. 2b), his answers reflect important principles applicable to all aspects of the Christian’s life as a soldier of Christ. Paul and his partners in the work of Christ had been accused of walking according to the flesh, i.e., that the standard for their conduct was the flesh, the sinful nature including not only its desires or lust patterns, but also its speculations and solutions to life. The NIV has “who think that we live by the standards of this world,” i.e., the things that motivate, control, and direct the world—its aspirations and reasonings.

Ironically, it was the Corinthians and the false teachers who were operating with a fleshly viewpoint. They were impressed with authoritarianism, with showy and miraculous activities. As today, they measured success and godliness by the wrong standards.

In verses 3-5 we see the answer or defense. Paul denied their accusations (vs. 3) and quickly rejected any such idea. Though human with all man’s human limitations, Paul and his associates refused to carry on their ministry and the Christian life as soldiers of the cross by using the weapons, the strategies, methods, and ideas of a carnal mind.

Please note the piling up of military terms in verses 4-5, which strongly emphasizes that believers are soldiers of Christ in a life and death struggle, in spiritual combat and in a spiritual war. This is evident by the words used: war, weapons of our warfare, destruction of fortresses, destroying, raised up (used of raising siege equipment), taking captive, and punishing all disobedience (as in a court martial). (Cf. Eph. 6:10f.) For a soldier to be able to fight, he must have weapons—a reference to the things believers are to use in carrying out their ministries and daily lives.

“Are not of the flesh” means that what Paul and his associates used and trusted in for strength and progress against the enemy were not the methods, the means, and strategies that men naturally lean on according to the dictates of the old man and ideas of the world.

“But divinely powerful” points to that which ought to characterize the life of the Christian. Because of the nature of the battle against Satan and our own inherent weakness, Christian warfare must be carried on by faith in the Lord and in the powerful weapons given to us in Christ.

“For (pros) the destruction of fortresses” or “to demolish strongholds” (NIV). This stresses purpose. “Destruction” is literally, “tearing down, pulling down” (kaqairesis from kaqairew “to pull down, tear down, destroy, demolish.” “Fortresses” is ocurwma from ocurow, “to fortify, make firm or strong.” It was used of that which was either established for protection like a mountain, or of a place erected by men as either a place of protection or as a prison. It is used metaphorically of that in which one’s confidence is placed (cf. Prov. 21:22). Here it is plural and refers to the many human solutions and strategies in which men put their confidence and use as a substitute in place of the Lord and the salvation and strength that comes in Him. Ironically, these same strongholds become like a prison house that hold them in bondage. By contrast compare Proverbs 10:29.

Verse 5 continues Paul’s explanation and further defines what he means by “the destruction of fortresses.” There are two things to be done: First, “destroying speculations and … ” This clause defines for us the primary nature of the fortresses that need destroying by the divinely powerful weapons available to us in Christ. “Speculations” is logismos which means “calculation, reasoning, argument, reflection, thought.” It refers to the faulty, human, and speculative reasoning of men by which they seek to live life apart from or without the absolutes of God and His revelation to us in the Word and in Jesus Christ (cf. Isa. 55:7-11).

Second, “and every lofty thing raised up” is a further description of the real nature of the speculations and reasoning of man by which he seeks to live apart from faith in the Lord. What are they? They are the reasoning of arrogance, the lofty ideas of man like the battlements of an army raised up to defeat an enemy.

“Against the knowledge of God” means both opposed and contradictory to the truth about God as He is revealed both in creation and in Scripture. Man’s ideas and strategies are not only contradictory to the Word and divine viewpoint, but they are enemies and hindrances to the knowledge of God and what knowing God means to man, particularly through His work and salvation for man in Christ.

But how can we tear down these fortresses of human reasoning that men (and these can include our own rationalizations) raise up against the knowledge of God and all that He is to us? This is answered for us in the next clause.

“Taking every thought captive …” shows us how Paul tore down such exalted human reasoning that opposes the truth about God. Through the mighty weapons we have in Christ (the Word, prayer, the filling of the Holy Spirit, etc.), we are to constantly bring every kind of thought into subjection for the purpose of obedience to Christ. The present tense here points to the continual struggle we face, but also the continual responsibility. “Taking captive” is aicmalwtizw from aicmh, “spear” and aliskomai, “to be taken.” It originally meant to take captive and bring into subjection with a spear, i.e., a weapon, an instrument of warfare. Surely, there is application here. Using the spiritual weapons at our disposal, particularly the Word of God and the filling of the Holy Spirit, we are to bring every kind of thought into subjection.

“Thought” is nohma and means “thought, idea, purpose, design.” It looks at anything that is the product of our thinking processes. The idea here is every kind of thought and all of our thoughts are to be made subservient to the Lord so that the result is obedience.

“To the obedience of Christ” points us to the goal, the aim in view. “Obedience” is the Greek @upakoh, which always means “obedience” in the New Testament. Perhaps its derivation is helpful. It comes from @upakouw, “to listen” and then “to hear and obey.” It is an obedience that stems from living in the Word and listening to the Lord. The foundation for obedient living and godly change is our thought life and our beliefs upon which we base our thinking and by which we derive our attitudes and plans of action or strategies. When we do not bring our thought life into subjection to the true knowledge of God and what He is to us in Christ, we come up with our own ideas that neutralize or replace the truth of God as it is found for us in His inspired and authoritative Word.

Passage Number Two:

Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.

“Let your mind dwell” is literally “these things be thinking.” The verb is logizomai from which we get our word “logic.” It means “to reckon, calculate, consider, take into account.” It was an accounting term. We are not only to think about these things, but we are to think these things. They are to be the content of our minds as those who know the Lord is near. Instead of bitterness, revenge, frustration, fear, and all that accompanies such a downward focus, we are to have our minds filled with all that should accompany a focus on the Lord and the truth of His Word.

Please note the context—rejoicing in the Lord, counting on God’s nearness, putting a stop to worry or anxiety by taking things to God in prayer, and learning to live contentedly through drawing on the strength which the Lord gives.

Passage Number Three:

Ecclesiastes 7:11-14 Wisdom along with an inheritance is good And an advantage to those who see the sun. 12 For wisdom is protection just as money is protection. But the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors. 13 Consider the work of God, For who is able to straighten what He has bent? 14 In the day of prosperity be happy, But in the day of adversity consider—God has made the one as well as the other So that man may not discover anything that will be after him.

Before we look at this passage, I would like to look briefly at two other key Scriptures which are important to Ecclesiastes 7:11-14 and to the matter of suffering and our response to that suffering. These passages stress God’s work in the affairs of our lives.

(1) Ephesians 1:11

… also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, …

Who works? God does. What does He work? “All things.” How? “After the counsel of His own will.”

“Working” stresses the fact of God’s activity in the world; it points to His immanence. The immanence of God means that He pervades and sustains the universe. It means He is actively and personally involved. Be sure to distinguish immanent from imminent. When something is imminent, it is impending, or ready to take place.

“Counsel” stresses God’s omniscience and wisdom; it points to the deliberations and decisions of God based on His goodness and perfect wisdom. “Will” stresses God’s sovereign disposition; it points to His desire and sovereign choice.

“All things” points us to the extent of God’s involvement and sovereign control. Nothing is excluded. God is not in a state of indifference concerning our affairs. Rather, He is intimately involved and actively at work. We need to place this truth alongside all the affairs and trials of life and learn to recognize them as tools and instruments of God that He sovereignly uses to conform us to the image of His Son.

(2) Romans 8:28-29

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; …

Again, how much is God involved? He works together “all things.” We see the extent of God’s activity—even in our suffering. God is totally involved with the good and the bad, with what hurts and with what is pleasing. But what does God do? “He works all things together.” The events of our lives, all of them, do not just happen at random; they are synchronized and utilized by God for a good purpose. None of the events of our lives are isolated from God’s plan; they are somehow integrated. They have a purpose, a design. The individual events may not in themselves be good and may be the product of man’s sin and injustice or even Satan’s activity as with Job. In the end, however, to the believer who loves God and is sensitive to God’s working, a good purpose is achieved, or can be if we will respond biblically with a heart of faith (James 1:2-4).

So, the text says, “to those who love God.” This does not mean that God only works things together in the life of a believer who loves Him. God is at work regardless of our spiritual condition even if He has to discipline a believer unto death. “Loving God” is our subjective response through fellowship and trust. This makes us aware of God at work and enables us to respond in faith to God’s purpose in the affairs of our lives.

“According to His purpose” refers to God’s overall goal or plan in conforming us to the image of His Son, Christ-likeness.

With these two passages as a background, let’s go back to Ecclesiastes 7:11-14:

11 Wisdom along with an inheritance is good And an advantage to those who see the sun. 12 For wisdom is protection just as money is protection. But the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the lives of its possessors. 13 Consider the work of God, For who is able to straighten what He has bent? 14 In the day of prosperity be happy, But in the day of adversity consider—God has made the one as well as the other So that man may not discover anything that will be after him.

In verses 11 and 12 we have an emphasis on the value of biblical wisdom and its advantages in life. Then, verses 13 and 14 give insight on how God works as the synchronizer of our lives and how this should affect us in our daily attitudes and actions.

First, the command (vs. 13a). We are told to “consider the work of God.” Does the phrase “work of God” ring a bell? It refers to the concept of Ephesians 1:11 and Romans 8:28-29. We are told to “consider” it. The Hebrew verb, ra’ah, means “to see, look at, inspect, observe,” and then, based on that, “to think on, consider with the mind, understand.” The point is, we are to observe, inspect, and consider the affairs of our lives in the light of God’s essence and immanence, the being and working of God, and then to live accordingly—respond in faith.

Second, the question (vs. 13b). The question is asked, “for who is able to straighten what He has bent.” Note the connective “for.” This links the question to the command and gives us the reason or cause. It shows us what God can do and does. He bends the path of our lives. (a) Life is often bent. It has ups and downs, rough places and smooth places. We live in a fallen world filled with sinful people and life simply will not be an interstate highway. (b) It means, however, God is involved in our ups and downs. As a personal, loving, and all-wise God, He is personally and actively involved. (c) It also shows us what we cannot do! Man cannot straighten what God has bent. When God puts a curve in our road, we must follow the curve or run off the road or maybe into a mountain.

When driving through the mountains on a switch back highway, say the beautiful drive from Durango to Uray, Colorado you cannot ignore the curves and decide to bulldoze your way through the mountain. If you are going to enjoy the scenery and get to Uray, you have to follow the road laid out by the engineers. So too, when in the providence of God, God allows us to fall and break a bone, we cannot run the film back and cut that part out. We must live with the broken bone. Perhaps we could have walked more carefully, but once the event occurs, we can’t rerun the tape.

Of course, a man on his way to Uray can turn around and go back to Durango, but then he will miss the beautiful scenery. And you and I can, of course, turn around in some cases and run away from some trials, but then we will miss what God is doing in our lives. What an interesting way to show God is involved. He bends the road or circumstances of our lives.

Third, the instruction (vs. 14). Next comes some special instruction telling us how we are to act and respond to the varied circumstances of life. “In the day of prosperity, be happy.” When things are going well, when the road is straight, be happy, rejoice, enjoy the life God gives. “But in the day of adversity,” when God puts a bend in the road, “consider,” observe, inspect your circumstances, stop, think and learn. Think about what is God may be telling you through the circumstances. Apply the doctrine of the fact that God is involved; our circumstances are not chance happenings.

When things don’t go well, when the car breaks down, when we have a sinus headache, when the package is late, when we are criticized, when we lose our job, when death strikes our family, when we receive news that we have cancer, whatever it is, how do you or I respond? Do we fall apart, blow up or do we stay calm? Do we trust the Lord or become depressed? What do we do? Do we expect life in a fallen world to be an interstate? Do we not understand why we are here?

Our instructions are to think. We are to remember and know that God is at work. He makes both the day of prosperity and the day of adversity. He synchronizes both into our lives—often the same day—but He is also working it all together for good.

We tend to ask questions like, why me? Why now? Why my spouse or child or parent? Verse 14d speaks to these questions, “so that man may not discover … ” What a strange statement. What’s the point? We can discover God’s moral will from the Word, but not the details of God’s sovereign will and actions. We need not even try! Because God’s ways are often inscrutable to man, we never know with certainty just what is coming next. This is not to keep us guessing, but trusting and ever leaning upon Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding, 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

While driving on a very long, straight, boring road we tend to get mesmerized and become indifferent to our job of driving. But driving on treacherous mountain roads is a different story. Likewise, God puts turns in our path to keep us from becoming self-confident and independent. He wants to keep us alert, trusting in and relying on Him. Without this, our attitude would tend to be, “leave the driving to us.” God is involved in the details of our lives and this is all part of His system of character development and guidance.

We must learn to be sensitive to our circumstances and the information which comes to us in the world in terms of what God is doing in our lives and wants us to know and do. When we read of a highway tragedy or nearly have one ourselves, or we get stopped by a policeman, should this not make us more careful in our own driving? If we find ourselves out of shape and out of breath when going up the stairs, should we not reevaluate our diet, our routine, our exercise program? If we lose something valuable or have it stolen, God may be seeking to get us to evaluate our priorities (Col. 3:2). God may be impressing on us that we need to set our “mind on things above.” If our plans suddenly go haywire, God may be impressing on us the principle of John 15:5, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” If we are having problems in a relationship, God may be seeking to change us, or calling us to minister in the life of someone else—a child, a mate, the person we work with at the office or on the committee or board at church.

Faith is not simply trusting God to remove the pain or trial, but trusting God regardless, trusting His purposes even when it doesn’t make sense to us! It is impossible to handle suffering or trials apart from faith, apart from a deep trust in God and that means believing at least six things:

(1) Believing in the fact of a living God who has revealed Himself, redeemed us through Christ, and is personally at work in and through the circumstances of life no matter how dark;

(2) Believing that there is a heaven which is better than this life;

(3) Believing that there will be a millennium and an eternal state which far exceeds this life;

(4) Believing that there are rewards for faithfulness and overcoming the trials of life by faith;

(5) Believing that the building of character now through suffering is more important than our comfort because of God’s glory and our eternal rewards; and

(6) Believing that regardless of how crazy this world is, we know that God is in charge, has a perfect plan, and is wisely carrying out this plan after the counsel of His own will and purposes.

The ultimate issue is this: The Lord said, “Unless a man deny himself (his purposes, aspirations, values, pursuits, etc.), he cannot be my disciple.” Are we living for our happiness or for God’s will? Are our goals and aims temporal or eternal?

The Psalmist wrote, “Thou dost scrutinize my path and my lying down, And art intimately acquainted with all my ways” (Ps. 139:3). But the Psalmist also knew the truth of Jeremiah 17:9 and 10 which says, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”

Knowing the condition of man’s heart and after exalting God’s omniscience, David wrote at the end of Psalm 139, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (vss. 23-24). In this prayer, David was asking for self-revelation in view of God’s omniscience of the true condition of his life.

Jeremiah says in Lamentations 3:39 and 40, “Why should any living mortal, or any man, offer complaint in view of his sins? Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the Lord.” Note how returning to the Lord and change in our lives is related to probing our ways.

In Psalm 119:5, the Psalmist wrote these words: “Oh that my ways may be established To keep Thy statutes!” Then later in this same Psalm, in verses 59 and 60, he said, “I considered my ways, And turned my feet to Thy testimonies. I hastened and did not delay to keep Thy commandments.” Then, just a few verses later he said: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Thy word” (vs. 67), and “It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Thy statutes” (vs. 71). He knew the afflictions and trials of life are like tools that God uses to change us that we may turn our feet to God’s truth in accord with God’s ways. But how do we do that?

Again we might think about 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. The fortresses or strongholds which Paul defines as speculations and lofty ideas raised up against the knowledge of God refer to people’s strategies for handling the problems of life. These are solutions that ignore or bypass God’s plan and who and what God is to us. They include our defense and escape mechanisms which we use in place of God’s truth and methods of dealing with life which enable us to act on the knowledge of God—His love, power, and faithfulness, and our position in Christ. Bringing every thought captive means, by faith, turning to the Word to probe and consider our ways (thoughts and actions) in order to confess and turn our feet to God’s testimonies, the witness in Scripture of God’s love and provision and our need. How can we do this? May I suggest three things we need to do to bring our minds into captivity with a view to obedience.

    An Application

(1) Determine Possible Causes. Much of the suffering we go through is either self-induced misery or is caused by others who hurt us or misunderstand us in some way. The point is trials very often call our attention to problems that need to be dealt with. As the Word mirrors and exposes us (2 Cor. 3:18; 2 Tim. 3:16; Jam. 1:22-25), so trials also become mirrors, jarring insights, reminders, and attention-getters from God. I think it was C. S. Lewis who wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.” Suffering has a way of getting our attention. It causes us to listen when nothing else will.

Our responsibility is to seek to identify possible causes. This requires examination of possible causes through three penetrating questions:

  • Did I cause it by something I did or failed to do? Knowing that our trials can be mirrors of reproof, we need to ask this question before we start blaming others or God (Matt. 7:1-2; Ps. 119:59, 67, 71).
  • Does it reflect back to me an immaturity, a lack of wisdom, a particular sin like wrong values, priorities, and pursuits, or an indifference, an insensitivity, a life-dominating pattern? (Cf. 1 Cor. 11:28; Ps. 139:23-24; 119:59; 32:3-5; and 51:6.) So we must ask heart-searching questions like, “is this problem the product of holding wrong beliefs which cause me to seek security, satisfaction, and significance from my own sources of self-trust or my own strategies for meaning in life?” (Cf. Jer. 2:13; 17:5-6.) Our attitude must first be, “Father, is there some specific area of my life You are trying to point out to me?” We need to learn to be specific and open to what the Lord is doing in our lives (Matt. 7:3-5; Ps. 139:23-24).
  • Does it reveal a need or problem in the life of another person or in the church or at the office or in the home for whom or for which I need to pray? Is there someone with whom I need to talk, or with whom God wants to use me as a model of God’s love, patience, kindness, etc., or vice versa? (Gal. 6:1f; 1 Pe. 3:1-7).

Some illustrations for identifying possible causes for problems: (a) Money problems: Are my problems the product of unwise money management, overspending, seeking immediate gratification, the wrong use of credit? (b) Personality conflicts: Does this reveal a critical spirit in me, an expectation everyone should be as I am, or a lack of patience? Am I too impressed with my opinions? Am I overbearing, possessive or pushy? Do I talk too much? (c) Irritations over circumstances such as a family with six kids and one bathroom: Is God seeking to teach us patience, understanding, orderliness, consideration of others? Just what can I learn? What Christ-like character is God seeking to develop in us? (d) Health problems: Do we get out of breath when we walk up short flight of stairs? It may be that God is telling us we need to watch our diet, lose a little weight, and start a regular routine of walking.

(2) Determine God’s Ultimate Goals. We also need to determine God’s ultimate goals each time we face a trial situation. We should stop and remind ourselves about our goals. There are three important distinctions we need to make in this regard:

  • Our Needs—things we need for security, significance, and satisfaction like acceptance, belongingness, capacity, or ability. But all of our basic needs have been met in Christ (Col. 2:10; Eph. 1:3).
  • Our Desires—the things we want for ourselves—love, closeness, intimacy, pleasure, appreciation, protection, etc. (cf. Ps. 37:4-5). Desires are objects we want, but may not be able to reach by our efforts or strategies because they are often dependent on outside forces and the response and actions of others. When we try to attain our desires, we often end up in manipulation with frustration and anger. In our relationships with people and in the circumstances of life, we must learn to be motivated by biblical goals, not our desires or inner longings (Mk. 10:45; Phil. 2:3-5). We must learn to trust God for our desires as we learn to delight ourselves in the Lord and trust in His sovereign love and grace.
  • Our Goals—the basic biblical purposes for life—to know, love, honor, and glorify God, and out of that relationship, to minister to others (Matt. 21:36-40; Mk. 10:45; Jn. 17:3; 1 Pet. 4:10-11). Goals are objects that are under our control because they are not dependent on outside forces. They are dependent on faith, on knowing the Lord, and right thinking. Goals are the things that should shape our behavior, never our desires.

Our primary goal is to know God, love, serve, and glorify Him. Our secondary goals are (a) to think and act like the Lord in Christ-like character, and (b) to minister to others.

(3) Determine the Biblical Solution. This involves the means and methods God uses. One of God’s ultimate goals for His church, the body of Christ, is for us to be conformed into the image of Christ or Christ-likeness (Rom. 8:29; 12:2; Eph. 4:13-15; 4:20-24; Col. 3:10). God wants to make us like His Son, but what specifically does that entail? What does the Son look like? What specific character traits do the various situations of life call for as we face those varied tests in life? This means we need to consider the areas of maturity God wants to produce in our lives or in the life of another either in us or through us.

1 Peter 2:21-23 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;

Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

We may see what God wants us to be, how He wants us to act under various circumstances, but how do we reach this goal? What means and methods do I use to handle or resolve the problem?

Time in the Word should be a priority. This involves daily time by ourselves and weekly times of assembling together for general spiritual health (note first the principle of Luke 16:10, then compare Psalm 119; Hebrews 3:7f; 10:24-25; 1 Timothy 4:6-7). We need to read, study, memorize, and meditate on key passages dealing with the problem (Ps. 119:59; Prov. 2:1f; 3:1f; 7:1-3; 1 Tim. 4:15-16). It’s great to use a concordance and look up words we don’t understand. Personal counsel with one who knows the Word is valuable time spent (Ex. 18:19; 1 Thess. 5:11; Gal. 6:1f; Prov. 12:15; 13:10; 19:20). This can include counsel found in sound books. Scripture warns us against unsound counsel (Ps. 1:1; 2:2).

Confession. We must acknowledge and confess wrong responses with a view to correcting them (Prov. 23:13; Ps. 32:1f; 66:18).

Prayer. Spend time praying about the problem. In praying we need to ask for wisdom (Jam. 1:5f). Note the context here in James deals with testing (1:2f). Wisdom includes many things in determining God’s objectives and solutions. (a) Proverbs teaches us that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7) and also “wisdom” (9:10; 15:33). This refers to a deep reverence for God expressed in a desire to know and a submission to do God’s will above all else. (b) Wisdom includes seeking to recognize, acknowledge, and reject all human solutions or strategies we have been using to find peace, satisfaction, security, and significance. Wisdom includes seeking to recognize and reject my wrong belief systems that tell us we can’t find satisfaction, etc., unless we have certain things (Jer. 2:13; 17:5f; Eph. 1:17-20). (c) Then we need to commit ourselves to God’s solution, cooperate with God and the changes He is seeking to bring about in our lives or in the lives of others (Ps. 37:5-6; 139:23-24; Prov. 3:11; Phil. 1:6).

Ultimately then, when we face the variegated pressures of life, part of our pain and suffering comes from the fact we are seeking to live independently of the Lord and looking to the wrong things for our happiness. The great purpose for the upward focus, if we truly love the Lord and are committed to Him, is to learn to be more Christ-like and that means learning to live more and more dependently on the Lord and less dependently on the details of life (Phil. 4:11f).

Addendum 1:
Thoughts on Wisdom from Psalm 119

Perhaps no one passage helps us in this matter of asking God for wisdom in the sphere of suffering or affliction like Psalm 119 in which 176 verses are devoted to these issues. The following is given as an aid in the study of this great Psalm especially as it relates to suffering.

The Construction of this Psalm—an alphabetic acrostic

(1) It contains 22 sections, one for each of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

(2) Each section begins with a different letter of the alphabet, contains eight verses, and the first word of each of the eight verses begins with the letter of that section.

(3) Each letter of the alphabet is used eight times in each with the first letter of the first word of each verse.

Four Prominent Features of the Psalm

    The Subject of the Psalm: Praise for the Word

It accentuates the Hebrew alphabet in which the Old Testament was given. This is even more emphatic because the Hebrew alphabet contained only consonants. In keeping with this focus, the Psalmist used ten different terms for the law or the Word of God and every verse except verses 90, 122, and 132 mentions at least one of the terms (see Ryrie Bible, p. 911, footnote).

    The Meaning of the Psalm: Resurrection or newness of life

The Psalm highlights the number eight. Eight verses are found which use and highlight each of the 22 letters of the alphabet. The Psalm is dealing with the concept of resurrection with the new life God’s people can enjoy through the renewing and reviving power of the Word. This is suggested by the following:

(1) Christ arose on the first day of the week, but at the same time, by virtue of following the seventh day, it becomes the eighth day.

(2) The eighth day of the feast of tabernacles anticipates Israel’s kingdom blessing, the millennial reign which springs from Christ’s return at the end of the Tribulation.

(3) The word “revive” is used over and over again (11 times) as a request and as a statement based on the promises and principles of the Word. Through the promises of the Word, the Psalmist anticipates and thanks God for the reviving of the Word (cf. vss. 25, 37, 40, 50, 88, 93, 107, 149, 154, 156, 159).

    A Key Subject in the Psalm: Affliction

Affliction is mentioned seven times in verses 50, 67, 71, 75, 92, 107, and 153. The Psalmist was in exile and under suffering. Some believe this was David, while others believe this was written by one of the exiles of the Babylonian captivity. But regardless, the Psalm is highlighting the power of the Word to comfort us, transform us, and revive us when under suffering or affliction.

    A Key Means Used by the Psalmist in the face of affliction: Prayer and the Word

Except for verses 1-3, and 115, this Psalm is addressed to the Lord. It is one constant prayer by which the Psalmist praises God for the Word, acknowledges its blessing, and prays to know the Word, apply the Word, and to be revived by the Word (vs. 25).

Three sections to focus on in terms of suffering or affliction are verses 49-56, 57-64, and 65-72.

Five Key Ideas to Keep in Mind

(1) We need to stay occupied with God’s promises rather than our problems (cf. vss. 23-24, 28-32, 37-38, 41-42, 51-52, 61-62, 69-70, 78, 83, 85-87, 95-96, 110-112).

(2) God can’t really become our portion for strength and stability (vs. 57a) until God’s Word becomes our possession (vss. 56, 57b).

(3) Right thinking brought about by trials helps promote turning to the Lord through living in God’s Word (vs. 59). Trials are ‘attention getters’ and cause us to think and draw near to God.

(4) This Psalm points out four areas of positive reinforcement: Through Fellowship with Others (63, 79); Through God’s common grace (64); Through Prayer (33-38, 73); Through Study and Meditation (15, 23, 27, 48, 78, 97, 99, 147-148).

(5) This Psalm drives home the blessings of affliction:

  • Before affliction there is often Straying and Ignoring the things of God (vs. 67a)
  • During affliction we are faced with the need for Learning and Turning (vs. 71, cf. vs. 59) by discovering causes, by determining biblical objectives, and by discovering biblical solutions.
  • After the affliction there can then be Knowing and Changing (vss. 67b, 97-102) and Resting and Valuing (vss. 65, 72).

1 Adapted from Craig Brian Larson’s, Contemporary Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1996, p. 171.

2 Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, edited by Cleon L. Jr., Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1976, p. 558.

3 Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, University of Chicago Press, electronic media.

4 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching, From Leadership Journal, edited by Craig Brian Larson, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1993, p. 16.

5 Santification refers to the present progressive element of our salvation in Christ or spiritual growth in Christ-like character. Vital to this is a Christ centered focus that turns away from the substitutes offered by men in legalistic systems of dead works by which men seek to establish their own righteousness through their own religious works (cf. Heb. 6:1 and 9:14 with Rom. 10:1-6; Phil. 3:1-9; Tit. 3:4-5).

6 Joseph C. Dillow, The Reign of the Servant Kings, Schoettle Publishing Co., Hayesville, NC, 1992, p. 342.

7 Ryrie, Basic Theology, Victor Books, Wheaton, 1987, p. 302f.

8 James M. Boice, General Editor, The Expositors’ Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, on Eccl. 7:13-14, electronic version.

9 Ron Lee Davis with James D. Denney, Gold in the Making, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1979, p. 17-19.

10 See the study on 1 Peter 5:7, “Counsel Concerning Our Cares,” by this author on the Biblical Studies Foundation web site at www.bible.org.

11 Bauer, Arndt, and Gingrich, electronic media.

12 James M. Boice and Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editors, The Expositors’ Bible Commentary, Zondervan, on James 1:6, electronic media.

Related Topics: Soteriology (Salvation), Faith