Sermon:  Winning the Prize

Summary:  As Christians, when we encounter various difficulties, we can overcome them 
and win the prize if we have the right perspective on the difficulties as trials to 
strengthen us.  Praying to God for wisdom in the trial will help us to have that perspective and trust in God's 
way of dealing with them.   

Know:  With godly wisdom and trust in God, the trials of life will make us stronger so 
that we can win the prize at the conclusion of this race we call life.

Feel:  Hopeful about the results of our struggle

Do:  Name and discuss the attitudes this passages instructs us to have and the reasons 
for them, then list the challenges that you face in appropriating these attitudes and 
some possible ways to strengthen them.  Identify ways God can help and the way brethren 
can help.

Text:  James 1:1-12

Scripture Reading:  Heb 12:1-2

1.  A 13 year old boy was in a terrible car accident
	a.  Lost his left arm, devastated, a lot of things he wanted to do he couldn't
	b.  Always wanted to take up Judo, Dad encouraged him to try anyway
	c.  Went to see an instructor, instructor hesitated, but accepted him
	d.  Boy was sure he could never win, but he was trying to live life
2.  Introduction to the book of James - It is about living our life, our Christian life
	a.  Proverbs of the New Testament - Sounds like proverbs
	b.  Lots of instructions on Christian living
	c.  Theme:  Real Christianity
		- God is looking for "real" Christians
		- God does not want "reel" Christians (movie acting)
3.  James 1:1-12
	a.  Result of being approved is you get the "crown of life"
	b.  Two kinds of crowns
		- Diadem - Kingly crown, like what Jesus wears in Revelation
		- Stephanos - Victory wreath, like what victors got at the games
	c.  The "crown" in this passage is the "victory wreath"
		- It symbolizes our prize when we win the race
		- It is the "Victory wreath of life
		- So, the prize is "life"
4.  Wouldn't you like to win the prize?
	a.  You don't want to lose
	b.  How do we win the prize?
	c.  Got to have three things...

I.  Perspective 
	A.  Consider it all joy  
		1.  Literally it is "All joy consider it"
			a.  James wanted to emphasize the joy perspective
			b.  Not just some joy, but all joy, nothing but joy
		2.  When you encounter various trials  
			a.  Not just one kind of trial
			b.  But various types of trials
		3.  See this example in Jesus in Heb 12:2
			a.  For the "joy" set before him, Jesus endured the cross
			b.  Jesus himself was a man of joy
		4.  So we consider it all joy right?
	B.  How many of us actually do this?
		1.  We know we need to, but how?
			a.  Supposed to be a blessing, but it seems a burden
			b.  Supposed to find joy, but just don't feel joy
			c.  I do not find joy in my problems!
		2.  Look: It does not say to be joyful because of problems in life.
			a.  The text does not say consider it all joy because you 
			     have various problems
			b.  Instead, it says consider it all joy when you encounter 
			     various "trials"
		3.  The right perspective - they are trials, not problems
			a.  A trial is a "testing of our faith"
			b.  What is testing? - In greek, it means to "refine"
	C.  ILL Refinement is the process of making something more pure
		1.  Oil Refinery
			a.  Start with crude oil, generally not useful for anything
			b.  Heated in a type of furnace in order to distill the various 
			     petroleum products
			c.  After it has been refined by heating, you get diesel fuel, 
			    gasoline, kerosene, oil, etc.
			d.  But it has to be refined first
		2.  Metal Refinement
			a.  Metal is usually heated up to burn away impurities
			b.  Sometimes, hammering it while heated removes the 
			c.  End result is a more pure and stronger metal
	D.  God is improving our faith through trials
		1.  Refining process my not be pleasant with pounding & heating
			a.  But it will burn brighter and hotter
			b.  It will be a more pure and stronger faith
			c.  You will be made complete, lacking in nothing
			d.  Will be fit for the challenges ahead
		2.  Testing of our faith produces endurance
			a.  Not to make us fall, but to make us soar
			b.  Not to defeat us, but to give us victory
			c.  Not to weaken us, but to strengthen us
			d.  Not t complain in them, but to rejoice in them
		3.  But this will depend on your attitude toward your trials
			a.  Is it a problem to whine about, to avoid, to get angry 
			b.  Or is it a trial, promising better results
			c.  Consider it all joy
		4.  **If you are having trouble, then ask God...

II.  Petition
	A.  If anyone lacks wisdom, or "discernment" ask God
		1.  Question:  Discernment for what?
		2.  Answer:  To have the right view of the trials we face
	B.  If you are having problems facing your trials ask God for help
		1.  Why should you ask God?  
		2.  Text says that he gives without reproach
		3.  Text also says he gives generously
			a.  Does not say that he will take away your suffering, 
			      though he might
			b.  It does say he will give you all the wisdom you need 
				- With this, you can face it with the right perspective
				- With the right perspective, can be stronger
		4.  2 Cor. 12:7-10  -  Paul's perspective on the "thorn in the flesh"
			a.  At first, he wanted it removed, gone!
			b.  Our Lord gave him a new perspective
				- Power is perfected/completed in weakness
				- God will be strong in you through this weakness
			c.  New perspective - No longer wanted it removed
				- Instead, he rejoices in them
				- When he is weak, he is strong
			d.  The discomfort doesn't take away, but adds to him
	C.  ILL:  It is like athletes
		1.  Whether it is track, football, body building, etc. there is training
		2.  Have you ever watched what athletes do in training?
			a.  In track, they run run run run, and run run run back!
			b.  Body builders, lift, flex, etc. and get really sore
			c.  Football, they push, hit, lift weights, can't walk when done
		3.  Training not usually a pleasant experience
		4.  Do they dwell on the unpleasantness of the experience?  NO
			a.  Coach does not want to hear the whine
			b.  They are dwelling on the end result
			c.  Heb 12:2 - Same with Christ
				- For the joy set before him, endure the cross
				- He focused on the result
			d.  Your trials are producing endurance & strength
	D.  If having problems with perspective, ask God for WISDOM 
		1.  God will help you with your perspective
		2.  Many people prayed to God and God helped them
			a.  Didn't take away the suffering
			b.  But helped them to have the right attitude
			c.  Result, they became stronger
		3.  See this example throughout scripture - pray about it
			a.  See it here in 2 Cor 12  in the example of Paul
			b.  See it in the Psalms, when David prays to God
				- At first, David often complains to God
				- But the conclusion of the Psalm, David rejoices and 
			   	  places his faith in God
			c.  We see it ultimately in Jesus praying in the garden
				- Jesus was having some difficulty
				- Prayed in the garden, strengthened by it
		4.**After you pray, there is more...

III.  Trust
	A.  Ask without doubting
		1.  Ask God, knowing he will help
		2.  Don't ask God and then avoid the trial or challenge
		3.  Don't ask God and then try to do it with your own power
	B.  Cannot trust in yourself, notice v. 9-10
		1.  Lowly brother of humble circumstance glory in his high position
			a.  If you don't have much, world sees it as bad, a curse
			b.  Humble, poor people are looked down on
			c.  In the Kingdom, they are in a "high position" it says
		2.  The rich man should glory in his humiliation
			a.  World elevates the rich, powerful, financially independent 
			b.  But you can't depend on your money, status, reputation 
			c.  It is weak, it will pass away
			d.  Can only humbly depend on God
	C.  For ones that doubt, Bible gives us 2 images
		1.  Surf of the Sea
			a.  One time playing, had beach ball, got forgotten
				-  Drifted out too far, not go get it
				- Not coming back
				- At the mercy of the waves & wind
				- Going up and down, back and forth
			b.  One who doubts, like that
			c.  Yes, yes, yes, (wind blows) no, no, no
				- Things go well, yes yes yes
					-- Finances are doing good
					-- Well liked by co-workers and boss
					-- In popular crowd in school
				- Difficulty comes along, no no no
					-- Finances not doing good
					-- People ridicule your faith, so hide it
					-- Outcast in school, so pretend faith not matter
			d.  Maybe it is the opposite, turn to God when thing bad, but 
			     not when good
				- That may his a chord with many of us
				- Either way, we are letting circumstances dictate the 
				  strength of our faith.
		2.  A double minded man
			a.  On the one hand, you say you trust in God
			b.  But you want to hand on to that insurance
		3.  Like the man hanging on a cliff, yelling and crying for help
			a.  God answers, and he is so thankful
			b.  God says, trust says he trusts God
			c.  God says, "LET GO"
			d.  Man starts yelling - "Help! is there anyone else up there?
	D.  Have to trust God and not in yourself (v.11)
		1.  Do it God's way
		2.  Sometimes that means facing trials
		3.  But if you listen to God, rely on godly wisdom, get stronger

1.  How do you handle trials?  Perspective, Petition, Trust
2.  That is what the 13 year old boy learned
	a.  The sensei went to work training him, in spite of one arm
		- After awhile, dawned on the boy only learning one move
		- Asked Sensei, "Shouldn't I be learning other moves?"
		- No, he said.  So he went on to master that one move
	b.  A tournament was coming up, Sensei sign him up
		- Boy asked, "How can I go to a tournament with one arm"
		- Boy then asked, "How can I with only one move??"
		- Sensei said, "Trust me, continue to work on that move"
	c.  Tournament come, the boy was suprised
		- Easily won the first three matches
		- Finally came to a huge opponent
			-- Judge almost not allow it
			-- Boy with one arm seemed outmatched, might get hurt
		- Sensei stepped in at insisted the judge allow it
		- Boy won, he became the champion of the tournament - trophy
	d.  On the way back, boy was bewildered
		- Asked Sensei how come he won?
		- Sensei's answer:
			-- First, you mastered one of the most difficult moves in Judo
			-- Second, the only defense for that move is to grab the left 
			-- With training, your greatest weakness has become your 
 			   greatest strength
3.  Do you see what the boy had done?
	a.  Facing trial, one arm, so petitioned the Sensei for help
	b.  Trusted the Sensei's instruction - Only one move
	c.  Gained perspective - Because of petition and trust, his weakness is 
     now his strength
4.  Are you facing trials today?
	a.  It is not the end of the world, God will make it right (inv)
	b.  What do you need to do as a Christian? Petition, Trust, Perspective
5.  What kind of trials are you facing?  -  Petition, trust, perspective
	a.  Health?  Pray as Paul did, trust God, new perspective on it
	b.  Finances?  Pray to God about it
		- Trust God - don't steal/be dishonest, cutthroat 
		- Perspective - live with less, maybe you need to change lifestyle
	c.  Difficult People? - Pray to God about it
		- Trust God - don't retaliate, don't one up them, love enemies, pray 
		- Perspective - God is forming your character, strengthening faith
6.  God will reward you not with a trophy, but the crown of life!
7.  SO, consider it all joy...


Small Group Notes:  Winning the Prize

Summary:  As Christians, when we encounter various difficulties, we can overcome them 
and win the prize if we have the right perspective on the difficulties as trials to strengthen 
us.  Praying to God for wisdom in the trial will help us to have that perspective and trust 
in God's way of dealing with them.

- Which character characterizes the way you typically handle difficulties?  Mickey Mouse, Fred 
Flintstone, Goofy, Donald Duck, Porky Pig, Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Tasmanian Devil, Tweety, 
Other ________________

Explore:  (James 1:1-12)

1.  Describe the attitude(s) this passage says all Christians are to have.

2.  What is/are the reasons Christians are to have these attitudes?

3.  How does wisdom play a role in these instructions?  How does faith/trust?  How does 

4.  Describe the difference between the doubting, double-minded man and the man of wisdom, humility, 
and faith.


5.  What kind of difficulties have you faced or are facing in the following areas? -- Financial, 
Social, Physical, other - __________

6.  When do you find it most difficult to have the attitudes this passages talks about?

7.  What are some specific ways you can strengthen the attitudes you need to have in your difficulties?  
What role do you play?  God?  Brethren?