James has come to be one of my favorite books. I love to study Paul and his theology, and I love to learn the doctrines found throughout the New Testament, but there is something refreshing and beautiful about the practicality found in the Book of James.
I have been teaching though it in my Sunday school class so i decided to post the general ideas in written form here.
James, to begin his very Jewish, highly practical letter to “the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad,” writes a very intriguing, almost shocking sentence: “consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (1:2 NASB). What? The word “joy” is probably the farthest word from our thoughts when we are in the middle of a trail, yet that is what the Holy Spirit inspired him to say.
In the first 18 verses of his letter James tackles the issue of trails. Two kinds of trials: outer trials, and inner trials. Those tribulations or hardships, that come upon us at the worst time, and the trials or “temptations” that peel our eyes away from God and onto the things He has told us to stay away from.
In the first twelve verses he takes on the the outer trials. Those hardships that come into our lives; often with no apparent reason. James gives his readers three steps to enduring this type of trial.
1. (2) First we need to have the right attitude in our trials.
Its only common sense that if we are going to make it through the rough times in our lives we are going to have to take a positive attitude towards them. This is obviously not easy for most of us; though it is common sense to take a positive attitude it is human nature to take a negative. But why “count it all joy”? A very good answer comes only ten verses later. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him” (1:12 ESV). Something which will help us be joyful in the middle of these trials is to understand his next point.
2. (3-4) Next we need to understand the advantage of our trials.
“for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (1:3-4 ESV). The Bible speaks in many places about trials, and all the good they work in our lives. Check out Romans 5:3-5, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5 ESV). So looking at a given trial we should recognize that without this trail we would not have the chance to gain the endurance, character, and hope, along with the many other non-mentioned character traits that trials produce in our lives.
3. (5-12) Lastly we need to know where to get help during our trials.
One thing we know is that God is a God of compassion. He does not let us go through a trial and sit back and watch. God is there by our side to help us through. Psalm 46:1 says this: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (ESV). In verses 5-12 James reminds us that a very important key to making it through trials is knowing where to get help. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (1:5 ESV). God does not mind us asking him for wisdom and help, in fact He asks us to! He desires that we persistently ask Him for help. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt 7:7 ESV). The words “ask,” “seek,” and “knock” are all in the present tense, meaning a continuous action. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates it this way, “”Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”
the next type of trial is what we know as temptation. James begins this section on making it obvious what the origin of temptation is. He writes, “Let no one say when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (1:13-14 ESV). So when we are tempted the first thing we can be sure of is that God is not behind it… and not only that, but Satan isn’t even necessarily behind it! James says, “…each person is tempted ….by his own desire”!
Next he gives what is sometimes called “the genealogy of sin.” “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (1:15 ESV). J. Ronald Blue writes
“The biological imagery is vivid. the lust or desire conceives and from this conception sin is born. The unmentioned father is most certainly Satan. The grotesque child, sin, then matures and produces its own offspring, death” (J. Ronald Blue, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 822).
If our lives are conceiving and baring sin, and the father is Satan, than the obvious solution would be to ditch our relationship with him, and cling to the loving, awe-inspiring God, and “father of lights” spoken of in the following three verses! Clinging to God and seeking him is necessary for enduring both the inner and outer trials.
This passage has been a blessing and a help to me, and I hope it will be to you. As trails come into your life remember to have the right attitude through them, understand their advantage, and know where to get help during them, asking God for wisdom and strength through it all.