High Calling - High Anxiety
James addresses his New Testament letter to those who are “scattered” outside of Palestine. He is writing to those early Jewish believers who were under tremendous stress in having to leave their homes, their jobs, their properties, everything they knew during the diaspora of the first century. He is also writing to twenty-first century believers who are living and ministering in one of the most stressful times in human history. Our pastors are under tremendous stress in our churches today. Therefore, James begins his letter by pointing out five fascinating facts which can help to turn our stress from our foe to our friend.
I. Stress is predictable (James 1:1–2)
James does not say “if” we face these stressful trials but “when” we face them. Often someone calls upon us to avoid stress. This is impossible in ministry today. Stress is predictable. It is going to come our way.
II. Stress is problematic (James 1:2)
Just because trials and the stress they produce are predictable does not mean that we should treat them lightly. Stress can be problematic as it brings these “various trials” of which James speaks. Stress is often at the root of so many of our physical problems such as hypertension, high blood pressure, and gastric disorders. Of our thousands of ministers in our health program, the number one and number two medicines prescribed this past year were both stress-related drugs.
III. Stress is paradoxical (James 1:2–4)
James says we should consider it pure “joy” when we face these stressful trials. We generally count it joy when we avoid trials, not face them. The word James employs here means to “think ahead.” Job was thinking ahead when he said, He knows the way that I take; and when he has tested me I will come forth as gold (Job 23:10). Job did not consider it a joy in the midst of his stress but he, like James, looked forward to the joy that would follow his trial.
IV. Stress is purposeful (James 1:3–8)
One purpose of our stressful trials is to lead us to purity (v.3). Another purpose is to lead us to perseverance (v.3). Still another is to lead us to perfection (v.4). The one who never undergoes and learns to “stand up under” stressful trials will never move to maturity in the Christian life. Finally, it leads to prayer (v.5).
V. Stress is profitable (James 1:9–12)
Someone has said that a Christian is like a tea bag. He is not worth much until he has been through some hot water. Yes, stressful trials can be profitable for the person in poverty (v.9), the person with plenty (vv.10–11) and the person with pressure (v.12). In the words of James, Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life (v.2).
Note: The outline above forms the chapter titles for the book High Calling — High Anxiety. It is a call for all of us in ministry to learn to deal with the stress which comes our way and to get serious about a wellness life change. Please call 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433) to request a complimentary copy of the book.