David Shumate teaches Bible and church ministry at Bob Jones University, where he also serves as the Chairman of the Division of Practical Studies. David and his wife, Linda, came to trust Jesus Christ for salvation while he was studying law and she was studying pharmacology at Harvard University. In addition to his law degree from Harvard, David holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Vanderbilt University, and Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Bob Jones University. For the past 10 years David has been Associate Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina, where he has had many opportunities to teach the Bible and to provide counsel for people with spiritual and practical needs. He and his wife have six children.



Problems or Projects?




David R. Shumate, J.D., Ph.D.


Suffering is not the exception; it is the norm. Those of us who live in an affluent, technological society have lost sight of this essential truth. Even as you are reading these words many millions of people in the world are suffering oppression, hunger, pain and hardship. Others are physically and financially flourishing, but they labor under the emotional grief and loneliness of shattered relationships, heavy weight of guilt or shame for their past failures, or a the suffocating sense that there is nothing to live for.


Many people think that becoming a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ makes one immune from suffering. After all, if God loves us surely He wants to ensure our happiness. True and lasting happiness does not come, however, through relief from problems. Rather it comes when God helps you to overcome your problems. The Lord Jesus Christ told His followers “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). It is easy to be happy when you get a raise, when you feel well, when your relationships are comfortable, and when your favorite sports team wins the championship. What distinguishes the godly man or woman, however, is the ability to respond properly to difficulties. Joy in adversity is the birthmark of the genuine Christian.


The book of James in the New Testament tells the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ how to respond when troubles come. In chapter 1 verses 2-5 James teaches the Christian three necessary responses to troubles. First you must think rightly about your troubles. Second you must not quit in the middle of your troubles. And third you must get help from the right place to deal with your troubles.


Response 1: Think rightly about your troubles.


In chapter 1 verse 2 James says, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations.” Note several things about this statement. First he says “brethren.” These are not his physical brothers, but his spiritual brothers by their common faith in Jesus Christ (If you do not understand what it means to be in Christ Jesus please see [link]). Only those people who are rightly related to God through Jesus Christ can know that God will use their problems for their ultimate good.


The second thing to note about James’ statement is that we must “count” it all joy when we have problems. The idea of count is to consider something to be true based on valid reasons. This is not merely a positive mental attitude, or wishful thinking. The Christian rejoices in suffering, not because he or she likes pain, but because the suffering performs a useful purpose. If you needed surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, you would be rather odd if you looked forward to the pain involved. You would, however, be perfectly reasonable to undergo the painful surgery cheerfully, if it were necessary to cure your cancer. James makes a similar point in the next verse when he says “Knowing this, that the trying [testing] of your faith worketh patience [produces endurance]” (James 1:3). There is a popular saying in sports, “No pain, no gain.” A sports team must work on conditioning in order to develop the endurance not only to play the game but also to practice well. The Christian also needs endurance. If we fold up when things first get hard, we will never stay under God’s training program long enough for Him to make us into the kind of people He wants us to be.


Response 2: Don’t quit in the middle of your troubles.


The next thing James tells us to do when we have problems is to allow the process to run its course so we will become the kind of people we ought to be. Jesus Christ is the perfect Man. Everything He ever thought, said, or did was in perfect obedience to God. God’s goal for our lives is that we would ultimately be like Jesus. Therefore, He designs a plan of individualized instruction to develop our character. Many times, however, we try to take a shortcut. We are so used to instant everything – instant coffee, instant oatmeal, instant messaging – that we cannot wait for anything. But there is no such thing as instant character. James says in chapter 1 verse 4 that we must allow the endurance we gain from hardships to complete its work of forming Christian character in us: “But let patience have her perfect [completing] work, that ye may be perfect [complete] and entire [whole], wanting [lacking] nothing.” It is a true principle that the only way a Christian can fail a trial is by giving up. As long as you allow God to have His way, He will continue to orchestrate the troubles of life for your good.


Resonse 3: Get help from the right place to deal with your troubles.


The final thing James tells us to do in trouble is to get help from the right place. Whenever you are sick, everyone becomes a medical advisor. And whenever you face serious problems, well-meaning people are quick to give you counsel. Much of this advice may have value, but James makes it clear where you need to go first for help. He says “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally [generously], and upbraideth not [does not scold you for asking]; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). The basic idea of wisdom is skill. When we are facing mountainous problems, we often don’t know what to do. Once we have decided to trust God and to submit to His working in our lives, we can ask Him to help us make wise decisions. He promises to hear and answer us.


If you are a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you can honestly say that you have no problems, only projects. Projects can be just as painful, but they always serve a beneficial purpose in your life. The Lord of the whole world, the Father who loves you with a perfect, eternal love, guarantees it.


You can contact David Shumate at


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