Habakkuk 3:17-19
James 1:2-4

Let’s play a little Trivial Pursuit:
1. Who is known as the Bard of Avon?
William Shakespeare.
2. Which Shakespearean play is most associated with All Hallow’s Eve?
3. What is the common name of the poem recited/sung by the three witches?
Double, Double, Toil and Trouble.
4. When it comes to troubles, the one-hit-wonder group, the Fortunes had a 1965 hit song that all of us can say amen to: You’ve Got Your Troubles, I’ve Got Mine.
5. One last trivia question: what Old Testament and what New Testament authors equate trouble with joy?
And the answer is: Habakkuk and James.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19).

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4).

Notice James doesn’t say “If” trouble comes, but rather, “When.”

Troubles are as old as Adam and Eve, who I guess we can blame for all of ours.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Many, if not all of us, are experiencing some sort of trouble right now.

Some of you are enduring physical troubles right now; it may be something as simple as a cold, it might be a problem that can be corrected with surgery, it may be a lingering illness.

Then we have relational troubles; troubles with our kids, with our parents, with our spouses, troubles with our friends, our bosses, our colleagues, and on it goes.

Physical and relationship troubles weigh us down with the added burden of emotional troubles; anger, fear, regret, worry and on it goes.

All these physical, relational and emotional troubles easily lead to spiritual troubles.

I just was talking to a person of faith who told me they were having a crisis of faith.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because God hasn’t lifted a finger to help me with my troubles.”

By the way, don’t let anyone ever tell you that once you become a Christian you’re troubles are all over brother and you can just fly like little birds all the way to heaven.

Poppycock! In some respects people in the faith have more difficulties; just ask anyone who has ever been persecuted for their faith.

If you’re experiencing troubles right now my Christian brother or sister, you’re the rule, not the exception. And if you’re not experiencing troubles right now, take a gander around the corner.

The question is; ‘How does a faithful and well-meaning Christian handle trouble in a way that serves his or her faith in God well?’

1 – Realize that troubles put our faith to the test and that’s a good thing.

Why is it a good thing? Because James says, “when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow” (James 1:3). Someone said, “The ABC’s of spiritual growth: Adversity Builds Character.” 1

You see, James wants us to understand that troubles are a means to a greater end; a deeper relationship with Christ, as we learn to turn to Him more and more, our trust in Him will grow more and more.

If it weren’t for troubles, many of us wouldn’t be where we are spiritually. For troubles have a way of dropping us to our knees and pulling us closer to the Lord than we’ve ever been in our life.

The great preacher, whom Abraham Lincoln was especially fond of, Henry Ward Beecher said, “Troubles are tools by which God fashions us for better things.” 2

So when, not if, trouble comes, we have a choice to make. We can respond by becoming bitter or better. Habakkuk and James would have us become the latter. How do we begin?

2 – Learn how to tackle small problems first.

Handling small troubles when they come our way today will better enable us to handle the bigger ones that will inevitably come tomorrow.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote: “If I had a formula for bypassing trouble, I wouldn’t pass it around, for it wouldn’t be doing anybody a favor. I don’t say embrace trouble; but I do say meet it as a friend, for you’ll see a lot of it and had better be on speaking terms with it.” 3

But how many of us still try to bypass it by procrastinating when it comes to dealing with small troubles; thinking that little troubles are not worth trifling with nor realizing that tackling that tiny trouble prepares us to tackle the big ones. And remember, tiny troubles not dealt with often have a way of festering and enlarging.

3 – When trouble comes my way, one of the first things I do is return to my theological roots; that God loves me so much that He sent His Son to die in my place, that Christ has removed the sting from death, that because He lives eternally, so will I. when troubles come, we should remember that “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

And so it’s really up to me to search for that silver lining in any dark clouds that blow my way, realizing that no matter how hot the flame of my troubles gets I am not alone, He will never leave me nor forsake me; God will see me through, with God’s help this too shall pass.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow
For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.” 4

4 – I think it helps the Christian to better endure troubles when we remind ourselves that our Savior endured many troubles for us.

Peter in his first letter writes, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad (why?) for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering” (I Peter 4:12-13).

Partners with Christ when we experience troubles; it always helps to have someone who’s been there alongside us. Christ has been there; He knows what it is like.

5 – Embrace the truth that God can receive glory from our troubles or I should say by the way we handle our troubles.

The Apostle Paul was faced with troubles. He had a physical ailment of some sort, what it was doesn’t matter. He prayed; in fact, the scripture says, “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away” (II Corinthians 12:8). He might have added, “Lord you know I have given my utmost for Your highest.” He could have reminded the Lord of his litany of pain: “Lord I have suffered so much for Your Kingdom that I really don’t deserve the trouble I’m in” but all of that didn’t matter to Paul.

What mattered was the Lord’s answer: “Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9a).

Did Paul argue, “That’s not fair, that’s a raw deal, I thought you loved me?” We wouldn’t have blamed him if he might have been thinking that at the time, but after he cogitated on the Lord’s answer for a while, he wrote, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:9b-10).

Max Lucado talks about a friend of his whose cancer was consuming not only his body but also his faith. Unanswered prayer perplexed him, well-meaning Christians confused him. “If you have faith,” they said, “you will be healed.” No healing came; just more chemo, nausea, and questions. He assumed the fault was a small faith.

Lucado suggested another answer. “It’s not about you, it’s about Him. Your hospital room is a showcase for your Maker. Your faith in the face of suffering cranks up the volume of God’s song.”

Oh, that you could have seen the relief on his face to know he hadn’t failed God and God hadn’t failed him made all the difference. Seeing his sickness in the scope of God’s sovereign plan gave his condition a sense of dignity. He accepted his cancer as a heavenly assignment: missionary to the cancer ward.

A week later I saw him again. “I reflected God,” he said, smiling through a thin face, “to the nurse, the doctors, my friends. Who knows who needed to see God, but I did my best to make him seen.”

Bingo! His cancer paraded the power of Jesus down the Main Street of his world. And Lucado concludes, “God will use whatever He wants to display His glory heavens and stars, history and nations, people and problems. Rather than begrudge your problem explore it, ponder it. And most of all, use it, use it to the glory of God. 5

That’s what Deborah Haumesser is doing. She has stage 4 liver cancer that has metastasized to her bones. Recently, she underwent a first of its kind treatment just approved by the FDA. She works at the SHC where all of her colleagues will tell you she is an extraordinary example one who allows Christ’s light to shine through her despite her illness. When I asked her permission yesterday to share this with you, she said, “Absolutely, if Christ can get some glory from my story, then tell it!”

And I hung up the phone and thought, “Wow James, here’s one you were talking about Deborah is one whose ‘endurance is fully developed’ just like you said.” My, my, aren’t you proud of her God?

When trouble comes into the life of a Christian it provides an opportunity to be on display for Christ. In fact, the way we handle trouble is potentially our greatest witness. People who don’t know Christ will see the way we handle trouble with calm assurance that God still loves us, is going to take care of us. And they see that we have something that they do not which leads to the last point I wish to make today.

6 – That both Habakkuk and James are talking about finishing well.

James says that being able to handle trouble leads to ‘endurance’ and “when your endurance is fully developed you will be perfect and complete lacking in nothing.” In other words, he joins other NT writers in telling us that a major part of living the Christian life is about finishing well.

As a Christian, don’t you want to leave a legacy that exemplifies both the grace and glory of God? Don’t you want your children to tell your grandchildren that when troubles came your way you didn’t run and hide, you didn’t complain; rather, you met them head-on, you learned to tackle them and you used those opportunities to bring God glory!

Can you imagine the kind of witness we would make, the legacy we’d leave if all of us made a concerted effort to approach our problems, our troubles, our difficulties from this perspective?

Think about all the people you know without Christ in their lives who would benefit greatly by observing the glory of Christ shining through your troubles. How very difficult it must be for them when trouble rears its ugly head. They have no Savior, no foundation, nothing to hold on to, no peace. Imagine being without the Lord and hearing the worst kind of news from the doctor or from the policeman knocking on your door in the middle of the night. Don’t get me wrong, we too would be rocked back on our heels by such news but then, we would turn to our firm foundation, and we would lean hard on Him and we would begin to experience the peace that passes all understanding that comes to one who does. And you better believe that they’ll be watching and wondering.

William Sangster was a pastor, an author, a missionary when in the prime of his life and ministry he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. For 3 years he slowly lost the ability to move any part of his body until just before the end, he could only move one finger. But his attitude didn’t falter for when he was still a fairly new Christian he made 3 rules to live by:

  1. I will never complain.
  2. I will count my blessings.
  3. I will try to turn my troubles to gain.

And thus the grace of God was on display, not only during his life, but also his death.

“The soul that on Jesus stills leans for repose
I will not, I will not desert to its foes,
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.” 6

1 Anonymous

2 Quotable Quotes

3 https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/519747-if-i-had-a-formula-for-bypassing-trouble-i-wouldn-t

4 From the Christian Hymn How Firm a Foundation. Published by John Rippon, 1787.

5 Lucado, Max. It’s not About Me: Rescue from the Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy. [Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, © 2004] Pages 15-16.

6 From the Christian Hymn How Firm a Foundation. Published by John Rippon, 1787.