The Sweet Fruit of Bitter Times
by Kelly Randolph
Krispy Kreme donuts are all the rage right now. Many of us have tasted them. Some people will line up and wait for hours to purchase these sweet delights. Let me tell you about the process that leads to a Krispy Kreme donut.
First the little balls of dough are shot through with a piercing blast of air to create a hole. Then they go into the proof box where they ride up and down an elevator in an atmosphere of heat and humidity. This causes the dough to rise. After this, they are dropped into hot oil and boiled thoroughly. After surviving this ordeal, the donuts pass through a cascading waterfall of icing.
Does anyone here today feel like a Krispy Kreme? Do you feel like you have been blasted with air? Do you feel like you have been boiled in oil? Well, remember that these experiences precede the sweet delight that follows. None of us look forward to trials. None of us love hardship. But without them, we will never enjoy the sweet fruit of maturity. A Billy Graham said, “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but fruit is grown in the valleys.”
Today, as we begin our study of James, we are going to look at the sweet fruit of bitter times.
James introduces his letter.
I. A Proper Attitude Toward Trials (v. 2).
We must be careful to understand what James is calling for here. He is not suggesting some kind of masochistic happiness in the hurts and losses of life. He is not saying that we are to enjoy being sick, losing a loved one, getting laid off from our job, being persecuted, etc. This is not some weird kind of denial that life often hurts. Some of us here today are hurting. We are suffering. James does not suggest that we manufacture some kind of other-worldly, phony sense of happiness about our troubles. So, what is he suggesting?
There is a reason to be joyful in the midst of trials. It is not being happy about the trouble. It is finding joy in what the trouble produces. It is enjoying the sweet fruit produced only by bitter times.
II. The Powerful Outcome of Trials (vv. 3-4)
In the LXX, this word is used to describe the process of refining silver. It is put into the flames to burn off the impurities and strengthen the quality of the silver. God does not test us to destroy us but to purify and strengthen us.
b. Testing leads to perseverance. The Gk. term
I love this little parable of endurance. It seems that an old dog fell into a farmers well. After considering the situation, the farmer decided that neither the dog nor the well were worth saving. So, he decided to bury the old dog and put him out of his misery. When the farmer began shoveling, the dog was hysterical. But as the farmer kept on shoveling, and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck the old dog. Each time a shovel full of dirt hit his back, the dog would shake off the dirt and step up. So, blow after blow, the dog would shake it off and step up. No matter how painful those shovels of dirt were, the old dog fought panic, he just kept shaking it off and stepping up. Finally, the dog, battered and exhausted stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well. What he thought would bury him actually benefited him because of the way he handled his adversity.
B. Perseverance produces maturity.
2. This maturity is further described as “not lacking
Every person here today can think of a trial which he or she has gone through. If I asked you, “Would you like to go through that again?” You would undoubtedly say, “No way.”
But if I asked you, “Are you grateful for what that difficulty accomplished in your life?” Many of you would say, “I wouldn’t trade those lessons and the character developed in those trials for anything.”
That is why we consider it all joy. We consider it all joy because we know that when tough times come, the end result is going to be perseverance and maturity. Perseverance and maturity are things that please God. They are essential traits for the Christian life. The only way to get them is through hard times.
The mature Christian life is the sweet fruit of bitter times.
John Eldredge tells the story of a Scottish discus thrower from the 19th century. He lived days before professional trainers and developed his skills alone in the highlands. He made his own discus from the description he read in a book. What he didn’t know was that the competition discus was made of wood with an outer rim of iron. His discus was made of pure metal, four times heavier than the ones used by his would-be challengers. This committed Scotsman trained day after day, laboring under the burden of extra weight. He marked the record distance and kept working until he could throw that far.
Of course, when he arrived at the competition, he was handed the official wooden discus. He threw it like a tea saucer. He set new records and for many years, none of his competitors could touch him.
As Eldredge reflected on this story, he said, “So that’s how you do it – train under a great burden.
Some of us here today are training under a great burden. It hurts. It is unpleasant. Sometimes we despair. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we are angry at the burden. But we must always take heart. We must always have a deep sense of joy. Why? Because the burden is producing perseverance. Perseverance is producing maturity. Neither of these virtues so prized by God would ever be ours without the burden.
Dear brother, dear sister, Count it all joy.