Let’s focus our thinking on a man who does not get very much attention among most Christians—the Apostle James. We have looked at the Transfiguration through the eyes of John, who emphasized the glory of the Son. And we have looked at the Transfiguration through the eyes of Peter. He saw the glory of the Scriptures, the “more sure word of prophecy” (II Pet. 1:19). As we look through the eyes of James, we see a most important truth—the glory of suffering.
James was the first of the apostles to be martyred (see Acts 12:1,2). The truth that James presented is suffering and glory. We need this today. There is a great deal of suffering today. We suffer because we are human. We suffer because we have an enemy, Satan. We suffer because we who are believers try to live for Jesus Christ. “Yea, all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (II Tim. 3:12). Many of God’s people are experiencing physical and emotional suffering. Some are confined to hospital beds, and they wonder if it is worth it all. They have trusted Jesus as their Saviour, they are seeking to live for Him, and now they are going through suffering. Perhaps they are going through emotional suffering, and some great crisis has happened in their lives. All of us need to join James and discover the glory of suffering.
Three truths come to us through James, and the first is that faith and suffering go together. God prepares us for suffering. The second truth is that suffering and glory go together. The third truth is that suffering, glory and grace go together. God will always prepare us for our suffering. God will always bring glory out of suffering if we let Him. God will give us the grace to turn suffering into glory.
First, faith and suffering go together. God was preparing James for his future martyrdom, but James did not know what was coming. I hear of people who want to investigate the future, and they foolishly read their horoscope, or they go to someone who pretends to be a prophet or a prophetess. I think all of this is unbiblical and unnecessary. Quite frankly, I am not interested in knowing every detail about the future. I am concerned about the will of God today. I know the will of God ultimately—He is going to take me to heaven and make me like the Lord Jesus. What rests between the immediate and ultimate is in the hands of God. The intermediate days are in His hands.
How did God prepare James? In reading the Gospels, you will note that on three occasions Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him alone. In Mark 5:35-43, He took these three men into the home of Jairus. Jairus’s 12-year-old daughter had died, and the Lord Jesus took the parents and the three disciples into the little girl’s bedroom, and He raised her from the dead. He also took Peter, James and John to the Mount of Transfiguration. And He took them into the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:36-56).
What do these three events have in common? They have in common the subject of death. The little girl had died. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah spoke with Jesus about His decease—His exodus—that He would accomplish at Jerusalem. In the Garden of Gethsemane the Lord Jesus prayed concerning His death, when He would be made sin on the cross.
Do you see what our Lord was doing for Peter, James and John—and for James in particular? He was preparing them for death. In one of the greatest books he ever wrote, The Crises of the Christ, Dr. G. Campbell Morgan said that at the home of Jairus, Jesus taught these three men that He was victorious over death—He raised the little girl from the dead. On the Mount of Transfiguration He taught them that He was glorified in death. And in the Garden of Gethsemane He taught them that He was surrendered to death.
Whenever I think of those three events, I think of Philippians 3:10: “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.” “That I may know Him”—the Mount of Transfiguration; “the power of his resurrection”—the home of Jairus; “the fellowship of his sufferings”—the Garden of Gethsemane.
God prepares us if we will let him. If we will listen to His Word, look at His glory and pray, God will equip us. Our Lord was praying when this even took place on the Mount of Transfiguration (seek Luke 9:29). If day by day you and I will just let Him have His way, He will always prepare us for what He is preparing for us. We must never be surprised by what happens. Life is not easy. Life has its burdens and battles as well as its blessings. Do you want to have a mountaintop experience? You cannot have mountaintops without valleys! But please be sure of this: God prepares us for suffering.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).