By: Bill Wattenbarger, PhD

In his Letter, James the Apostle and brother of Jesus gives some troubling advice regarding trials and tribulations. He says we are to be grateful for trials and look for endurance, which leads to perfection. We are told the deficiency is in us. We are told to ask for wisdom in faith, without doubt (double-mindedness). We cannot expect help from God if we don’t know which way the wind is blowing.

Did I hear anybody say, “yeah, right? Just be grateful for trouble and you will be happy in the end. There must be a trick here.” 

Why would God want to put us through such trouble? Well, He doesn’t. He cannot be tempted by evil and neither does He tempt us with evil. We just get lured-in by our own desires and the devil’s designs. He is loving and gracious. He does not want us to feel foolish or guilty. He just wants us to come to Him and ask for help.

We all live under authority be it a boss, a teacher, a policeman or a parent. These are real people. In a perfect world they can be trusted to lead us well. When they speak they do not want us simply to recite back to them what they say. They intend that we do as they say, for our own good, because they really know what they are talking about. 

We know God’s authority and His claims on us and we must live-out these claims. This is the great mystery of Faith:  God is real. Jesus is real. The Holy Spirit is real. IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO KNOW WHAT GOD SAYS; WE MUST LIVE IN HIS REALITY! Believing in something that is not real leads to trouble. 

It is precisely this mystery which sets the table for James’ famous line about faith without works being dead. There’s a stunner:  dead faith. No life, no vigor, no energy, nothing to impel action. Knowing the words, we get the message but fail to get the reality – the living, trusting and daring doing of the word. 

We are told God is good. Well, is He? We are told that trials endured in faith grow us up. Well, do they? We are told to rebuke the devil when he tempts us and that he must submit to the rebuke under God’s authority. Well, does he? We are told to seek help from the church in troubled times. Is this how we live?

If we look at ourselves in the mirror and talk ourselves out of what we say we believe about God, we should not expect any deliveries next week. It is our utter conviction about the message and Who sends it which releases the power of God in our lives. 

Now, this is not name-it-and-claim-it. We are not talking about making God a handmaid to our selfish desires. This conviction is based on a life surrendered to God. We must submit ourselves to God, have nothing to do with the devil and tell him so. The only right response we can make to trials and tribulations is authentic faith which perseveres and takes action against the sin and evil. Out of this submission come all the good things, while all the slander, boasting, arrogance, cruelty, and gossip stop or lose their power to oppress.

Beware the devil’s lies. They can be subtle. It is, “faith empowers works”; not, “works empower faith.” We are not seeking to make our deeds count but rather to make our faith count! Remember, if action does not flow out of faith then faith is dead. 

James offers no formula to avoid all trials and tribulations. After all, this is real life we’re talking about. But there is no better time for God to show Himself than when we face life’s troubles expecting Him to show up, make something good out of it and then joining in the effort ourselves. 

It is here, in the midst of the battle, that Christian counseling has a place. We are not alone in the church.  All of God’s people need His counsel to probe the challenges, to pursue His ways and purposes and to deliberate alternative actions. Borrowing from Paul, we are many in one body of Christ and His full display of gifts requires us all. The best purpose of counsel is to prepare for and meet the challenges rather than just to end the trouble. 

If faith is dead we remain mere victims. Persevering and working-out our faith amidst the challenges to righteousness is the sure road to wisdom and joyous freedom.

Bill Wattenbarger joined the Joy House team in May of 2015 to work in the Counseling Center. He provides biblical, Christian and pastoral counseling services to those who are hurting, confused or overwhelmed. He earned a Master’s Degree from the University of Florida and a Doctoral degree in Counseling from the University of Georgia. The Joy House Counseling Center exists for the purpose of providing a faith-based option for residents of the Highway 575/ 515 corridor who seek guidance with life’s problems. We have locations in Pickens, Gilmer and Cherokee Counties with fees based on income and ability to pay. We offer counseling to all ages, from 7 to 70, with professional services to a wide variety of individuals, families and their needs. Contact our Counseling Center via phone at 678-452-2037 for more information.