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James 1:2 by Robert Dean
Dean Bible Ministries
Series:James (1998)
Duration:1 hr 9 mins 34 secs

Adversity, Stress and 10 Stress Busters
James 1:2

The main things we saw in verse 2 last time was that the happiness or joy in our lives is a mental attitude. It is not the happiness of the world which is dependent upon circumstances and things but is an inner happiness that is dependent upon the stability that we have from the Bible doctrine in our souls. To the degree that you base your happiness on people, circumstances, and events, to that degree you are enslaved by those things. When you say you have to have certain people in your life, or people have to respond to me in my life, or circumstances have to be a certain way in my life, live in a certain place, live a certain lifestyle, have certain things, whatever they may be; whenever we say that or we have to have that to be happy, then we are saying that that, those people, those things, those events, control our happiness. And so we immediately put ourselves on an emotional rollercoaster that changes every time events change. That is the picture of the double-minded man that is unstable. To the degree that you base your happiness on people, circumstances and events, to that degree yo are enslaved by those things. Secondly, when you base your happiness on people, circumstances and events, which are the details of life, you make someone or something else in charge of your emotional wellbeing. You are saying, I am going to give you charge of whether I am happy. Happiness is your decision, that is the point of this imperative, "Consider it all joy." Nobody else can do it for you, you alone are in charge of your own happiness and your own mental stability, and it all depends on what you do with doctrine. If you base your happiness on the details of life, on people, circumstances and events, then you will guarantee that you will be miserable in life and an absolute failure in the spiritual life.

What exactly is the happiness that James 1:2 is talking about? Before we get into defining what joy is we need to realize that this command to count it all joy presupposes that we can add something up to come to that conclusion. It presupposes that we have some doctrine in our souls that we can call to mind in those situations. If there is no doctrine you can’t apply anything, there is nothing for you to add up, there is nothing in your soul that is going to equate to joy because you are spiritually bankrupt at that point. You might be a believer but your soul is empty of doctrine so you don’t have anything top believe. Remember, faith always has an object. You have to believe something, you have to believe promises of Scripture, whether it is salvation promises or spiritual life promises, faith-rest promises, whatever they may be. The doctrine that we must have in our souls before we can do this relates to the doctrine of suffering, adversity, and stress.

There are two kinds of pressure in life. The first is adversity. Adversity is defined as the inevitable outside daily pressures of life that attack and seek to penetrate the soul.

The soul is what makes up the real you. It has self-consciousness, you are aware that you exist. When you look in the mirror you know who you are. It has mentality, a mind, an intellect with which to think. The mentality is where you store what you learn; you have memory. That is where you have categorical storage, where you learn all the various facets of life itself, including doctrine, and you store this according to category.

It also has emotions. Emotions are the responders to life. These are responses to situations in life that are basically predicated on what we believe, what is stored in the mentality of our soul. As a believer, in the mentality of our soul we usually have a kind of split personality. There is one section that still believes human viewpoint. When we are out of fellowship we focus on human viewpoint and false doctrine. When we are in fellowship and walking with the Lord, then on that other side we are focusing on doctrine and on the truth. If we are operating on the negative side then what will happen is we will respond to the circumstances and events in life with those negative and sinful emotions. If we are operating on positive volition in the mentality of our soul, then what is going to happen is when we have certain things happen, because we are operating on the truth and true belief, then that is going to give us emotional stability, which is what we see going on in this passage.

Another facet of our soul is our volition. Our volition can either be positive or it can be negative. It can be for God and for truth or against God and truth.

A fifth area is our conscience, which is where our norms and standards or our value system is stored. It is where we have our ideas about right and wrong, and morality and virtue. All of these things are categorized in our conscience.

All of these facets of the soul are interlocking, they are not separate things. You are not operating on your mentality one second and on your emotion the next; they are all intertwined, you have one soul that is made up of these different facets. We can separate them out for academic discussion and learning but in reality they are all intertwined and they all work together within our soul.

When we go through life and we have various adversities, external pressures that come. Sometimes they are prosperity tests, and that is also a form of adversity. Prosperity and adversity attack the soul. What they do is present you with certain circumstances or situations that give you the opportunity to choose to apply doctrine or reject doctrine. That is why it is called a test. You get that opportunity or test: Am I going to apply what I have learned in Bible class or not? Every one of these circumstances is an examination. How an I going to respond? I can respond either positively and apply doctrine or negatively and reject doctrine. That is why the word that we are going to run into here, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials," is the Greek word PEIRASMOS [πειρασμος]. In some passages it is translated "test," and in other passage sit is translated "temptation." This is because when you come into that test you have a temptation to respond to that situation, that outside pressure, with your sin nature and on the basis of your own capabilities and knowledge and on the basis of human viewpoint—what will ease it for you, what will make it easier for you, what will satisfy the lust of the flesh. Whatever it may be you have this test and it is an opportunity to obey God is disobey God, to be positive or negative to the Word, the apply or not apply. There is a temptation there that somehow I am going to avoid the pressure, the test, the adversity if I just do it this way. You know it is the wrong way to handle it but you think that somehow it will alleviate the situation, the suffering, the heartache, and so there is that temptation that comes within the context of the test. The test and temptation often come together and that is why one word is used to describe both, and which side of it is determined by the context.

The first kind of pressure is the outside pressure of adversity, the second is stress. Stress is defined as the optional inside pressure of the soul caused by reaction to the external pressures of adversity. There is a tornado that blows the roof off your house, so you have an external pressure. How are you going to respond? You have a choice; this is your test. Are you going to apply doctrine and keep a relaxed mental attitude, or are you going to take what seems to be the easy way out and yield to the pressure of your sin nature and give in to anger and discouragement and depression and bitterness and all these other things which are just a natural flow from the sin nature. If you give in to the sin nature then what you create is an inside pressure inside the soul that threatens to break up and fragment the soul. That is why when we get down to verse eight we’ll see that the person who does this is considered a double-minded man. That is a very interesting word in the Greek, DIPSUCHOS [διψυχος], literally, two-souled. In other words, the soul begins to fragment because of the internal pressure of stress in the soul. So if you do not respond to adversity over time by applying doctrine, which heals and strengthens the soul, then when internal pressure begins to build up, and just as you might take a beam of steel which has an internal flaw that might be perceptible to the human eye, and put that under pressure, that hidden crack begins to expand and then it blows. So adversity is the external pressure on the soul and stress is the internal pressure. When the believer is negative to Bible doctrine and allows adversity to penetrate the soul and to dominate, and to give themselves over to sins of arrogance and the emotional complex of sins, then the result is going to be tragic, eventually destroying the spiritual life. He winds up a failure and may even wind up under the sin unto death.

Galatians 6:7 NASB "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." The law of volitional responsibility is sometimes intensified by divine discipline on top of that. So adversity can come as either suffering from the law of volitional responsibility or divine discipline, and this is self-induced misery. You choose to do something wrong and you reap the consequences. Or it can be suffering for blessing, undeserved suffering designed by God as testing and suffering to come into your life in order to accelerate your spiritual growth. So if you respond positively to suffering and you are in fellowship and filled with the Holy Spirit and applying doctrine, then the result is that this is going to accelerate your spiritual growth and strengthen your soul, edify your soul and build it up, and you are going to be on the road to spiritual maturity.

Adversity is what the external pressures of life do to you; stress is what you do to yourself. Adversity is inevitable; stress is optional. Stress depends on your negative volition. If you are positive and applying doctrine there is no stress. You have no choice in adversity but stress is up to you. Stress in the soul always results in sin nature control in your life. As soon as you respond with negative volition it is immediately converted to stress and the sin nature control of your life. Eventually, if you continue in carnality you will begin to regress spiritually, you will backslide, go into moral and/or immoral degeneracy which destroys capacity for life, love, happiness, and wipes you our spiritually. Eventually it leads to complete instability.

Stress perpetuated in the soul means failure to glorify God, and therefore spiritual failure. The only solution is the divine solution. The human solution is no solution. Human viewpoint offers all kinds of solutions; then divine solution is Bible doctrine. There is no easy answer, no quick fix, no magic pill. There are so many people who just want something that is going to work today, but the issue is if you want to have success in your life then that means success in your spiritual life. That takes time and effort and it means making doctrine a priority in your life. Every chance you have to take in doctrine you take. That is your priority. You schedule all the events of your life around Bible class because that is what is going to build your soul. That is what is going to give you the information and the wisdom you need to make the right decisions in life. It is going to give you all of the criterion you need so that you can go out and be successful in whatever it is that you do in life, because that come sonly from Bible doctrine. So the only solution is the divine solution, therefore we have to know the divine solution.

What are the stress-busters or problem-solving devices that God has designed for us? As long as you know these and apply these you can handle anything that takes place and never convert any adversity into stress.

  1. Rebound (like recovering the ball in basketball) or grace recovery. The point is that rebound gives you a chance if you mess up through sin to recover and keep moving and keep playing and score again. Rebound is the grace provision for the carnal believe to recover the filling of the Holy Spirit through naming, admitting, acknowledging personal sin privately to God the Father. It is the method for the believer by which fellowship with God is restored so that he can resume the spiritual life. 1 John 1:9; 1 Corinthians 11:28. Self-examination is essential to confession.
  2. The filling of the Holy Spirit. This is defined as the soul of the believer under the temporary control of the Holy Spirit. (It is temporary because as soon as you sin again you immediately lose it, you are under the control of the sin nature, you are out of fellowship with God, and you are trying to run your life on your own terms) It is the divine provision of the power of God to execute the Christian life. God gives us two basic power options, two basic means of power in the spiritual life. One is the Word of God; the other is the Spirit of God. These two work together, you can’t have one without the other. We are filled by means of the Holy Spirit. What does He fill us with? He fills us with doctrine. That means you have to be somewhere where you are exposed to the teaching of God’s Word so that the Holy Spirit can then fill your soul with that doctrine. So we are filled with the Holy Spirit and then He brings the doctrine to mind and we then have to use our volition to choose to apply it or not.
  3. The faith-rest drill. Faith-rest means that we believe God and we rest in His power. It doesn’t mean that we believe God and we don’t do anything because there are many commands that say to do something. For example, James 1:2 says "Count it all joy." Faith-rest doesn’t mean I am going to believe God and not do anything; faith-rest means I am going to believe God and count it all joy. So there is an active side to faith. The active side is to do what the imperative says to do. The rest idea is to give rest to the soul, knowing that if I apply what God says to do then I can relax because God is in control and I don’t have to worry about it. The faith-rest drill is defined as the believer’s basic problem-solving device for claiming the promises of God and mixing them with faith through the filling of the Holy Spirit to generate tranquillity of soul in the midst of the adversities of life. The faith-rest drill maintains the believer’s ability to think under pressure, to keep his emotions in perspective, and to appreciate the grace of God. Hebrews 4:1-3a; 2 Peter 1:2-4. The three stages of the faith-rest drill:
    1. Mixing the promises of God with faith to stabilize the soul. That is simply claiming a promise, e.g. 1 Peter 5:7 or Philippians 4:5, 6, 18, 20. But before you can claim a promise you have to know a promise.
    2. We glean from those promises relevant doctrines or rationales. A rationale is a series of reasonings, a series of principles that are put together in a logical relationship. This is what David does over and over again in the Psalms. Cf. Psalm 56:3,4 NASB "When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can {mere} man do to me?" See how he goes from the problem to focus on eternal principles of doctrine. He reaches an important conclusion here: "What can mere man do to me?" So with the faith-rest drill you glean from a promise relevant doctrines and you reason on the basis of those doctrines, and you use that in your prayer life when you are praying to God in the midst of that crisis.
    3. You reach doctrinal conclusions so that faith controls the soul and you are stabilized. There is no stress. Adversity has been fought off and you are calm and relaxed and able to handle whatever the situation is.
  4. Grace orientation. This is defined as aligning our thoughts and actions to non-meritorious policy of God, based on the firm assurance that we receive the consideration, equity and care of the Supreme Court of Heaven. Grace orientation says that God treats us not on the basis of what we deserve but on the basis of who and what He is, that we are not out to obtain God’s favour by what we do in life, that God loves us because of who He is and what Jesus Christ did on the cross. It has nothing to do with who and what we are, and never will. When we understand God’s grace policy toward us and how little we deserve the incredible bounty He provides we grow spiritually in our thinking and adapt to His procedures. We begin to apply this charitable policy of undeserved favour to ourselves and to others, and we become increasingly sensitive to and tolerant of the weaknesses of those around us. Grace orientation is foundational to everything that comes later in the spiritual life. Grace means we don’t get what we deserve. Grace means that God blesses us infinitely because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross for us. It is on that basis that we should treat other people. If you don’t understand grace orientation you will never understand true love in your life. Ephesians 4:31, 32 NASB "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you." That is the model. It is non-meritorious. Because of that we are to put away these things and be kind to one another.
  5. Doctrinal orientation. Before you can truly be oriented to doctrine you have to be oriented to life. Orientation means to line up with a standard. When you line yourself up with something you then know what the reality is. Doctrinal orientation means the map of reality, the objective reality, is the Word of God. Doctrinal orientation means that you are going to make doctrine the highest priority in your life. It is defined as the renovation and alignment of the believer’s thinking to the plan of God through metabolized doctrine circulating in the stream of consciousness in the right lobe of the soul. That takes us back to how you learn doctrine, and this is very important. First of all, the pastor-teacher communicates doctrine to you and through your human spirit, which you received at the moment of salvation and which enables you to understand doctrine, and the filling of the Holy Spirit, you are able to comprehend doctrine at a basic level. It is then transferred automatically by the Holy Spirit to the left lobe of the soul, called the NOUS [νους] in the Greek, or mind. This is the staging area for doctrine where academic principles are stored. In the process of learning anything in life, first you learn it academically and then you begin to apply it. At that moment that you understand it academically in your mind you have a choice; volition comes into play. You can either accept it as true or you can reject it—negative volition. If you accept it as true then it is transferred by the Holy Spirit into the right lobe of your soul which the Bible calls the innermost part of your soul, the KARDIA [καρδια] or heart. It is there that doctrine is stored and circulates, so that under the filling of the Holy Spirit you can recall those doctrines to mind and apply them to the circumstances of life. You have to apply it, the Holy Spirit never takes the place of your volition. You are the one who has to decide whether this is going to be a part of your life. You can assimilate it through the Holy Spirit so that it becomes a part of your thinking but then you have to put it into practice; you have to use it. For doctrinal orientation the renovation and alignment of the believer’s thinking to the plan of God through metabolized doctrine circulating in the stream of consciousness in the right lobe of the soul, remembering and applying doctrine in the soul so that divine viewpoint characterizes and permeates a believer’s thinking. You are going to live and breathe doctrine. That doesn’t mean you are going to go out and beat people over the head with it. Jesus said that is casting your pearls before swine. Don’t do it. You have to be sensitive to unbelievers, they can’t understand a thing about doctrine because they don’t have the equipment. They are spiritually dead, you have to give them the gospel. When we are inculcated with doctrinal standards we rely on the Lord, we make good decisions, accurately and objectively evaluate our lives and resolve the dilemmas of life with the problem solving devices.
  6. A personal sense of destiny. A personal sense of your eternal destiny is when you sit down today and realize that every decision you make today is determining who you are going to be for eternity. Everything we do right now is either going to accrue to rewards or loss of rewards at the judgment seat of Christ. While we are on the earth right now, as we apply doctrine we develop the capacity for life, for love, for happiness. We develop the capacity for a relationship with God. It is that capacity that we carry with us into heaven. Some people who are losers in the spiritual life and complete failures are going into heaven with zero capacity for a relationship with God. There will be no capacity for where they are, no capacity for enjoyment of God, nothing. So what we do today determines what we are going to be for eternity. That is what a personal sense of destiny is. When we understand that every test accrues to our spiritual growth and our capacity for eternity, and we begin to take things a little more seriously because of its eternal impact, that is when we are getting a personal sense of destiny. As the believer advances to spiritual adulthood he develops absolute confidence in God’s plan, developed through learning doctrine, the utilization of the first five problem-solving devices, and continued advance in the spiritual life. As the believer begins to live his life in the light of eternity it results in an enhanced capability to objectively and accurately evaluate himself, to overcome adversity, to deter stress, and to solve problems. His future develops specific dimensions in a sharp focus. He begins to realize more and more that he is a citizen of heaven and that he is just passing through this world, and what really matters is that which counts for eternity. A believer’s individual niche in the plan of God requires a personal perspective, and with this sense of one’s own destiny the maturing believer begins to know and experience the shared destiny with Christ as his own. It becomes less academic and more real. He knows that where he is going is heaven. This is the picture we get with Abraham who travelled and never had a permanent home. He lived in a tent but his focus was on that city of God that he knew he was headed for. He had an eternal focus, he had an understanding of what his destiny is, and that is what he was working towards. He was living now in the light of eternity. The present decisions determine what we will be for eternity.
  7. A personal love for God the Father. As a believer learns and applies doctrine his knowledge of God increases. He responds with respect, admiration and reverence for who God is and all that He has done for him—all of the incredible things He has done for him, all of the assets He has provided for facing everything in life. Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37; 1 Peter 1:8. Only God is absolute perfection, therefore He is the only worthy object of personal love. The virtue generated from personal love for God provides the only basis for value and stability in human love. When the average person says, "I love you," what he is saying is, "I love something about you," the object of love that you have, something attractive about them that the love is based on. When that disappears the love goes away. That is why it is also called a conditional love, it is predicated upon the other person meeting certain conditions in order for there to be love. The whole point in love is that it comes from your virtue and integrity, and if a persona doesn’t have virtue and integrity in their own souls then they can’t love somebody else. Love has to be based on who and what you are. As a believer that comes only from Bible doctrine and the development of virtue and integrity and honor.
  8. Unconditional love for all mankind. People are the source of all kinds of problems in our lives, and if we don’t learn to have unconditional love for them then the opposite is bitterness and anger and resentment and vindictiveness and giving in to all kinds of feelings because they are the cause of our misery. So we have to develop as believers unconditional love for all mankind. Jesus said: "By your love they will know you are my disciples." This is the consistent function of individual integrity towards friends, enemies, loved ones, strangers. It is a non-emotional, unconditional regard for the entire human race that does not require intimacy, friendship, attractiveness, or even acquaintance with a specific object of love. Personal love demands knowledge, and there is no way we can know everybody. So we are talking about a love that does not require intimacy, etc. Unconditional love derives from the virtue of the subject, not the appeal or merit of the object of love. It views all people through the eyes of a virtuous character built on Bible doctrine and personal love for God the Father. It is a love that is based on who God is and what God has done for the human race. It is not a love that is based on who and what I am.
  9. Inner happiness. This is the mental attitude of the spiritually maturing believer who maintains an attitude of optimism, reassurance, animation and joy in every circumstance, including adversity. When the spiritual life takes precedence over external circumstances and the believer keeps his eyes on God’s solutions rather than his own problems divine inner tranquillity and contentment conquers unhappiness and overcomes any detrimental environment. John 15:11; James 1:2. You have to let your focus be on God. When you realize that God is really in control and that you really love God and that he truly loves you, then the circumstances of life fade in terms of their significance. This is clearly an attitude that does not come to the spiritually immature or the baby in diapers.
  10. Occupation with Christ, maximum personal love for the Lord Jesus Christ that comes from Bible doctrine circulating in the stream of consciousness. By means of the filling of the Holy Spirit so that the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) influences every thought and action. The issue here is that when the crisis hits the first thought that comes into your mind is: How would Jesus handle this? That is not a subjective answer. As a mature believer who has doctrine in his soul you know exactly what the mind of Christ says, what Scripture says. So when you ask, "How would Jesus handle this," you have doctrine. Occupation with Christ means Jesus Christ is the focus. Hebrews 12:2, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

As we respond to what happens in adversity it strengthens our soul and builds a line of fortification. How often the Scriptures say, "Lord, you are the bulwark, the fortress of my soul." This is David’s use of this military analogy over and over again. God fortifies the soul. As you learn doctrine, apply doctrine, use these stress-busters continually in your life then what happens is that your soul is strengthened. It builds up the soul, fortifies it, and it becomes easier and easier to handle those adversities and to apply doctrine the next time. The result is, there is no stress.