When The Heat's On, Stay Cool

Bible Book: James  1 : 2-4
Subject: Trials; Trouble

Not too long ago I read a story about a young man in Utah who woke up because the plumbing in his ceiling was leaking and water was hitting him in the face. Jumping out of bed, he found that the water was already ankle deep on his floor. The man decided to call the landlord. Well, the landlord told him to go rent a water vacuum as soon as he could and get the water up before it ruined his property. So the young man rushed out to his car and found he had a flat tire. He decided he had better call for some help, so he ran back into his apartment, sloshed back through the water, picked up the phone, and it shocked him so badly that he ripped the phone off the wall.

By that time he knew he really needed help, so he decided to go back down to his car. But when he tried to get out the door, the door wouldn’t budge. The water had made it swell in the frame. So he had to scream from inside his apartment until somebody came and kicked the door down from the outside. He rushed out to his car only to find that somebody had stolen his car while all this was going on. He remembered it didn’t have but a little bit of gas in it, so he ran a couple of blocks down the street, and there it was—right in the middle of the road. Some people helped him push the car back to his apartment. Finally, he got the water turned off, the flat fixed, and gas put in his car.

By that time, he had to hurry to make it to his ROTC graduation ceremony. Grabbing his bayonet, he threw it into his car and ran upstairs to dress. When he ran back down to his car, he forgot that he had left his bayonet in the driver’s seat. And he sat down on it. Minutes later, he found himself in an emergency room getting strategic surgery.

Trudging back to his apartment, he opened the door and saw that falling plaster had toppled onto his pet canary’s cage, killing the bird. As he dashed over to where the cage lay, he slipped on the wet carpet and injured his back. Once more he found himself in the emergency room. And by that time, a newspaper reporter had caught up with him. The reporter asked, “How can you explain a day like this?” The only thing the young man could say was, “Well, it looks like God was trying to kill me, but He just kept missing.”[1]

Well, everyday in one way or another we all face trials and tribulations. From the time we are born, to the time we die, we walk in a world whose highways are littered with the potholes of troubles and tragedies. In fact, there are only three kinds of people in the world today. There are people who are in the middle of a trial, people who are just coming out of a trial, and people who are about to go into a trial. The Lord Jesus did not escape trials when He was here, and we will not either.

The truth is, God did not send us into this world to get us out of trouble, but to get into trouble with us. We have in this marvelous yet crucial passage of Scripture, three tremendous truths that will help us to stay cool when the heat is on.


I. Delight In The Reality Of Trials

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2, KJV). There is wealth of truth about troubles and trials in this single sentence. And, if you are going to understand the good and the bad that comes into your life, you’re going to have to understand the reality of trials that come into your life and mine.

Trials are unavoidable. Notice that James says that we are to “count it all joy when”, not if we fall into “divers temptations.” If you want to know where you are headed today, you are headed for trouble, and trouble is headed for you. The Bible says in Job 5:7 (NLT), “People are born for trouble as readily as sparks fly up from a fire.” Just as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, you are going to face troubles and trials.

I am sure that many of you have already learned that being a Christian does not exempt you from trouble. Christians get cancer just like non-Christians. Christians have heart attacks just like non-Christians. Christians lose loved ones just like non-Christians. Christians are killed in car wrecks just like non-Christians. Christians die in wars just like non-Christians.

There is a blasphemous theology being perpetrated through some preaching today that says, “Once you become a Christian and begin living the Spirit-filled life, you will have smooth sailing on the sea of God’s will.” But Jesus himself said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33, NIV). And, the fact of the matter is, the better the Christian you are, the more severe the trials you may have to encounter. Second Timothy 3:12 (NASB) says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Some of the godliest and greatest people in the Bible faced the worst trouble.

Job was a blameless and honorable man who feared God and turned away from evil. Yet, in one day Job lost everything from his children, to his cattle, to his wealth.

Moses was a man of selfless dedication and impeccable integrity. He had spent time in the presence of God and was used as an instrument to lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage. But after hearing complaint after complaint from the Israelites, he prayed for God to kill him.

Daniel was a man totally committed to God, who prayed three times a day to the Lord. All he got for his praying was an all expense paid trip to the lion’s den.

The greatest Christian in the New Testament, and in all of history, was the Apostle Paul. Listen to how Paul described some of the things he went through just because he loved the Lord Jesus Christ. “They say they serve Christ? But I have served him far more! (Have I gone mad to boast like this?) I have worked harder, been put in jail more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again and again. Five different times the Jews gave me their terrible thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I was in the open sea all night and the whole next day. I have traveled many weary miles and have been often in great danger from flooded rivers and from robbers and from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the hands of the Gentiles. I have faced grave dangers from mobs in the cities and from death in the deserts and in the stormy seas and from men who claim to be brothers in Christ but are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food; often I have shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, TLB)

And you think you have problems? Sometimes we think when we are living godly it’s strange when we go through trouble. You shouldn’t think it’s strange if you go through trouble if you’re living for the Lord. You ought to think it’s strange if you don’t. Peter said in 1 Peter 4:12 (KJV), “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” The truth is, troubles and trials are simply unavoidable. The great poet, Henry Longfellow, put it this way:

Be still sad heart!

And cease repining;

Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;

Thy fate is the common fate of all

Into each life some rain must fall;

Some days must be dark and dreary.

But trials are not only unavoidable, they are unpredictable. The text says, “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2, KJV). The word for “fall into” is used only three times in the New Testament. One place it is used is in the parable of the Good Samaritan. If you recall the story, a man was walking along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he “fell among thieves” (Luke 10:30, KJV). He rounded a corner, and suddenly—WHAM—he was ambushed! He was surrounded by unpredictable trouble. There was no warning, no time to run away. Trouble just all of a sudden came upon him.

That is precisely the way trouble comes into our lives. We seldom ever see trouble coming. We are sailing through life, go around the bend, and WHAM! Just when you least expect it, it knocks you on your face before you ever know what has hit you. That is just the reality of trouble.

James says, “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2, KJV). From that Greek word for divers we get the English word “polka-dotted.” That is, life is “dotted” with trials. They are everywhere from little irritations to great tragedies.

The word also means “multi-colored.” Trials come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some trials are job-related, some are financial, some are domestic, some are the result of fear and failure. Other trials are the result of old age, guilt, competition at school, problems at the office, or day-to-day experiences in the home. I may not have to go through the same trials you go through, and you may not have to go through the same ones I do, but—the point is—we all encounter these trials.

Now strange as it may sound, according to James, there is something about trials and troubles that should stimulate joy in your heart. He says, “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2, KJV). I know that sounds bizarre and I know some of you are thinking—how can the Bible be serious about this? But don’t get the wrong idea.

James was not advocating some sort of sadomasochism. He was not saying that you ought to enjoy trials, or that trials are a joy. He knew “no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous” (Hebrews 12:11, NKJV).

Nor was James just saying, “Keep a stiff upper lip,” or, just “Grin and bear it.” As a matter of fact, he is not the only one who spoke this way. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 7:4 (HCSB), “I am overcome with joy in all our afflictions.” Peter said in 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIV), “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

Now that raises the big question. How can you be glad and have joy in the midst of trouble? Well, the word for “count it” is a word that literally means to think ahead, or to lead with the mind. In other words, the key is not to focus on the trouble, but to focus on the Lord, and to look ahead at what He is going to do in your life.

For example, Jesus looked beyond his suffering. Hebrews 12:2 says (NKJV), “that Jesus...for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.” Did Jesus count Calvary a joy? Of course not! But thinking ahead, He thought past Calvary and saw the lives that would be changed, the marriages that would be saved, the churches that would be built, the sermons that would be preached, and the Father that would receive glory, and He was filled with joy.

You see, when you are in the midst of a trial, lead with your mind, not with your feelings. Now why is that so important? Because it is with the mind that you can know certain things. That’s where the next verse comes in because it even begins with a word “knowing” which gives us a clue to the second truth that will strengthen you when you are in the midst of a trial.

II. Determine The Reasons For Trials

James points out here that there are specific reasons for trials. Now there are a lot of things you may never know or comprehend about the trial you are going through. But there is one thing that you can know. You can know “that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:3, NKJV). The word for trying here is a word that refers to a young bird that would “try” or “test” its wings. It means to prove whether or not something is the real thing. Or, to try and see whether or not something is ready to perform the function for which it was made.

It also is a word that could be translated “purging.” When a precious metal is heated until it is liquid and the impurities rise to the top so they can be scraped off, it has been purged. Now it is not coincidental that we read a moment ago that Peter referred to trials as “fiery trials.” Because a trial really is when the heat is on.

Here we learn something—trials and testing proves the genuineness of our faith. When we went through school we all were given tests. The purpose of a test was twofold: to measure the strength of your knowledge, or, to test the weakness of your knowledge. Likewise, a trial tests either the fortitude of your faith or the frailty of your faith.

You may think because you come to church every Sunday, sing in the choir, give money, take notes, and walk upright, that your faith is strong. But only trouble will tell. You see, faith not only must stand the test of time, it must stand the test of trouble. A ship built in dry dock is not proved seaworthy until it hits gale-force winds. An army recruit going through six weeks basic training is not really battle proved until he has faced enemy fire.

Have you ever noticed how so often when people go through a trouble or trial, the first thing they do, instead of drawing near to God and his church, they drop out? I heard about a man who had dropped out of church. One day he met up with his pastor on the street and he began to relay to the pastor all of the tragedies and troubles that had come into his life. He said, “Pastor, it was enough to make me lose my religion.” After a quick thinking pause, the pastor looked at him and said, “Son, it should have been enough to make you use your religion.”[2]

Proverbs 24:10 (ESV) says, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” Now the truth of that verse can be paraphrased in this way: If your faith fails you when you experience tragedy, your faith was weak.

You see, you may not know the why of trials, because many times there is no rhyme nor reason. You may not know the where of trials; they can happen any place. You may not know the when of trials; they can happen at any time. But you can always know the what of trials.

Every trial is a test that is made up of two questions. Every time trouble comes into your life you need to remember that God is asking you two questions:

Do you trust Me, or not?
How much?

As you well know, the Bible says in Hebrews 11:6 (CEV), “Without faith no one can please God.” Therefore the stronger the faith, the greater the pleasure it brings to Him. So God is obviously in the faith-growing business, which leads to the third and final truth—

III. Desire The Results Of Trials

When you exercise your faith and trust in God in the midst of a trial, it sets off a chained reaction in your life that can build within you faith, character, and strength of nuclear proportions. Because every trial produces three results—

Trials produce perseverance. Remembering that every trial is a test, we are told, “the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:4, KJV). The word here for patience would be better translated “endurance” for it literally means “to bear up, or to stand up under.” You may not understand the trials, but you are to stand your ground amid trials.

The saying really is true, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” The late Dr. Jerry Falwell once said, “You can tell how great a Christian really is by what it takes to stop him.” God wants to produce in us perseverance, a willingness to stand strong, confidence for the journey. A perfect illustration of that is the oyster and its pearl.

Did you ladies know that pearls are the product of pain? For some unknown reason the shell of the oyster gets pierced, and an alien substance—a grain of sand—slips inside. Immediately the sensitive body of that oyster goes to work, releasing healing fluids that otherwise would have remained dormant. That irritant is covered and the wound is healed—by a pearl.

No other jewel has such a fascinating history. It is the symbol of stress—a healed wound…a precious tiny jewel conceived through irritation, born of adversity, nursed by adjustments, no wounding, no irritation; no irritation, no covering; no covering, no pearl.

No wonder our heavenly home has as its entrance pearly gates! People who go through those gates are the ones who have been wounded, bruised, battered, but have responded to the sting of trials, with the pearl of perseverance.[3]

Trials also produce perfection. God does not stop with patience. James says, “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect” (James 1:4, KJV). The word perfect does not mean sinless, it means mature. It refers to growth. For example, an oak tree is the perfection of an acorn.

So when you are feeling discouraged,

And feeling a little blue;

Just take a look at a mighty oak,

And see what a nut can do.

God is in the Christian growing business. Whatever comes into your life, good or bad, poverty or prosperity, triumph or tragedy, is for the purpose of growing you and maturing you in your faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. Someone has well said, “God wants to turn our irritations into edifications.”

Not only do trials produce perseverance and perfection, but they also produce purity. Trials come so that you may be “entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:4, KJV). Now that really sums up the purpose of trials. When that trial comes and come it will, if you do not instinctively and immediately turn to God, you have not yet arrived at the purity and the perfection He is trying to accomplish in you. You see, God wants to use that adversity in your life to mold you into a clean instrument that can bring about glory and honor to His name.


Many of you are probably not familiar with the name Luther Bridgers, but Luther Bridgers was a great Methodist pastor and evangelist of yesteryear. In the spring of 1910, Bridgers left home to conduct some revival meetings in another town. Looking back over his shoulder, he saw his wife standing at the gate with the baby in her arms and a boy on each side. All were blowing kisses to their Daddy as he headed for the train.

Two weeks went by. After the last meeting on Dr. Bridgers schedule, he went to his motel room to sleep. However, he was awakened by a phone call at 1:00 AM in the morning. “Is this Mr. Bridgers?” asked the police officer on the other end. He responded that it was. The officer said, “Well, we are sorry to tell you that your house caught fire tonight, and your wife and children have burned to death.”

That zealous preacher, taken aback, stood in shattered silence, holding the receiver. He said it seemed that the devil was laughing at him and saying, “God doesn’t love you. Are you going to worship a God like that?” But Dr. Bridgers dropped to his knees by the telephone and began to pray earnestly. He said, “Lord, I have preached the gospel to other people, and told them it would comfort them in every hour of sorrow. Grant that this same gospel may comfort me.” And the Lord answered his prayer.

Not only did God answer his prayer, but through that painful experience Dr. Bridgers faith was renewed and strengthened—so much so that he penned the words to this beloved hymn:

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,

Sweetest name I know.

Fills my every longing,

keeps me singing as I go.[4]

You see, trouble and trials act as the chisel for which God uses to sculpt us into the image of His son, Jesus Christ. He uses adversity to renew and strengthen our faith because He wants us to know, love, and trust Him more. You remember that, and the next time the heat is on, you can just keep your cool.


[1] Joel C. Gregory, Growing Pains of the Soul (Waco: Word Books, 1987), 71-72.

[2] Steve Wagers, “When the Heat’s On, Enjoy the Fire,” The Preachers Corner, http://www.preacherscorner.org/wagers-ja1.htm (November 27, 2015).

[3] Chuck Swindoll, Starting Over (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1977), 40-41.

[4] Dan Graves, “Death of Melody Man, Luther B. Bridgers,” Christianity.com, http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1901-2000/death-of-melody-man-luther-b-bridgers-11630793.html (November 28, 2015).