The testing of our faith

It has been some time since I wrote my last devotional. I have been preoccupied with ministry, school, and taking care of my family while traveling. So, for today’s lesson, I would like to share with everyone James 1:2-18. The writer of the book of James is James, Jesus’ half brother. After Stephen was martyred (Acts 7:55-8:3), persecution increased, and the early Christian churches were scattered throughout the Roman world. Since the early Christian believers did not have the support from the established churches, James wrote to them as a concerned leader. He wrote this letter to encourage their faith during the challenging times.

During this lesson, I will be breaking down the Scriptures into segments to help grasp the depth of what James was writing. However, lets read the Scripture in its entirety before I begin.

James 1:2-8, NASB

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
In James 1:2-4, James did not say, “if trouble” comes your way. He cleared stated “when” it does. James knows that believers will go through struggles and hardships, however, he is not trying to paint a pretty picture about it. He wants believers to have a unique perspective on what troubles can bring into our lives. James was simply saying, when we endure difficult times in our lives, it will teach us perseverance.

One can never truly see the depth of our character until it has been tested, and we see how we react under pressure. It is easy to be kind to others when everything is doing great in our lives, however, when we are at our lowest, will we treat those people the same way? God wants to make us all complete and not to keep us in hardships. However, instead of complaining about tricky situations and the struggles we are going through, please see them as opportunities for personal growth.

In James 1:5, the wisdom that James is talking about is not about having knowledge, but having the ability to make sound decisions in difficult circumstances. Whenever we need wisdom, we can simply pray to our Heavenly Father and He will generously supply it to us. We can just ask God to guide our decisions and allow Him to work in our lives. 

The wisdom that all believer need comes in three distinct characteristics. First, it is practical. Wisdom that is provided by God relates to life, even though its most trying of times. It is not a wisdom of isolation and absolution from trials, but a wisdom to be used as a tool to overcome those trails. Secondly, it is a divine wisdom. God’s wisdom will always go beyond human comprehension. Common sense will never allow us to find the “joy” in the middle of a tricky situation, but a wisdom that comes from God, begins with a respect for the direction he is putting us in. Regardless of the trails we must undergo. Lastly, God’s wisdom is Christlike. Asking God for wisdom, is ultimately asking God to assist you to be more like Christ. The Bible indicates that Jesus was the “wisdom of God” in 1 Corinthians 1:24.

In James 1:6-8, we must believe not only in the existence of God, but His loving care as well. We must never pray to the Lord with selfish desires, but always attempt to align our prayers with His promises. Another point that James addresses is that a person with divided loyalties will never be completely convinced that God’s way is always best. If your faith is new, weak, or struggling, always remember that God can be fully trusted with all your burdens. Then ensure that you are being loyal when committing yourself to the Lord.

In James 1:9-11, we see that Christianity brings about a new dignity into the lives of the poor and not influential people of the world. All believers share this distinction of dignity, because we have all been changed by the Gospel (regardless of your social or economic classes). The poor should be glad in the very fact that riches mean nothing to God. As believers, we find true wealth by developing our spiritual lives, not by developing our physical wealth in this world. God cares more about our lasting souls, then our temporary possessions.

Another point that this piece of Scripture brings about in my mind; is if wealth, power, and status mean nothing to God, then why do we attribute so much to them in our lives? Why do we honor them so much, and then God? If all those things were gone, who would you be in life? Therefore, what you have in your heart matters to God and will endure till eternity.

In James 12-15, the crown of life is like the victory of an athlete. God’s crown is not a crown of glory and honor here on earth, but one of eternal life with Him. The way to stay within God’s grace is to constantly love Him and staying faithful to Him, even during the difficult times in our lives. 

Temptations comes from the evil within us, and never from God. It begins with a simple thought, and then it becomes sin when we dwell on it, and then it turns into action because of it.  Like a snowball rolling down a hill, sin becomes more destructive when we allow it to take momentum in our lives. However, if we stop a temptation before it becomes too strong for us to endure, we will be able to stop the problem at its roots.

Another thing when it comes to temptation, it is easy to blame others and make excuses for the evil things that we do. Some people uses excuses like, “it is their fault,” or “I could not help it,” or even “I did not know I was wrong,” but these are just excuses to use as a scapegoat and they never solve the underlining problem of lack of self-control. As a Christian, we are held at a different standard then most people. We must always accept responsibility for our actions, confess them, and ask God for forgiveness. This will allow the Lord to intervene on our behalf on tricky situations.

In James 16-18, we see that what is good is good, and what is bad is bad. Bad does not, and will never come from God. He is our rock that is never changing. We out of all His creations were prized by Him. This is something that should always be remembered, especially, when we are going through trailing times in our life. He will always be there for us, because He said it. 

To summarize what James was teaching in this letter, Christians must be reminded how to conduct themselves under the cross. Several graces and duties are recommended; and those who endure their trials and afflictions as the apostle here directs, are pronounced blessed and are reassured of their glorious reward in heaven. However, those sins that are inputted by man should ever be given a charge against God, who is not, and will not ever be the author of sin, because He is the author of everything God in this world. No matter what is going on in our lives, God should always remain the priority in our lives. By seeking Him first under any circumstances can allow us to find joy, even in the most trailing of times.

I would just like to end today’s lesson with a short prayer. I would like to pray that the Lord give conviction with any believer struggling with sin or dwelling with lustful thoughts. I pray that they remember this lesson James was teaching to the early church and apply it into their lives today. I also pray that this lesson will allow people to grow closer to God, and find “joy” in him even through the most troubling of circumstances. Amen.