Key Text: James 1:2-18
The recipients of James’ letter were facing trials of various kinds 2 (literally ‘multicoloured’) and so James writes to remind these early Christians how to live. James response to the hardship they are facing, is to call them and us to trust God and to keep trusting God.
He calls them to live what they to claim believe – Our faith is dead if it is not accompanied by works in keeping with that faith.
This is how Jesus models this principle. His friend Lazarus was dead, he says to lazarus’ sister Martha ‘I am the resurrection and the life.[a] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ -Then He goes and resurrects Lazarus from the dead.
James also encourages us to believe we can live the radical lifestyle to which God has called us because God is trustworthy. We can have works that match our faith because our faith is in a good, reliable and generous
The God we trust is the God who gives every good gift and every perfect gift is from above coming down form the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 17
In 2-3 James says ‘Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.’ The problem is not our trials, temptations and tests but how we respond to them.
James says to ‘reason it out’ ‘come to a conscious decision’ / be intentional in our thinking about the trials we face.’
Be intentional changing our mindset and begin seeing our trials with a sense of joy – Why? because God is good, reliable and faithful and our trials have a purpose.
God’s purpose through our trials is perseverance and perseverance is simply faith that keeps on going. It is faith that keeps on trusting. Faith that keeps on believing. Faith that keeps on knowing that Jesus, through His life, death and resurrection has overcome everything that this world or satan can throw at us.
In the parable of the sower the seeds Luke 8, the seed sown on rocky ground springs up but withers away.
The seed on the ‘rocks’ are those who receive the word with joy when they hear it but have no root. They believe for a while but when the time of testing comes they fall away, they give up.
Jesus says: ‘As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart and bear fruit with patience.’ Luke 8:15
Our perseverance in times of testing is the sign of true faith. But perseverance itself, is not the end product. v.4 let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Perseverance completes itself in maturity and fruitfulness. Perseverance in faith doesn’t just mean keep ‘going’ but it also means keep ‘growing’
Illustration: A joiner/carpenter when they join two pieces of wood together, puts on a clamp to apply pressure and hold them together. When the glue is set the clamp can be taken off because it is no longer needed, the two have become one piece set together.
So it is with our distresses, depressions and disappointments their purpose is to push us into close contact with God the Father until our soul is set firmly in Him. This is why James is able to start his letter with ‘count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds.’
Faith looks beyond what can be seen to the promises and character of God. And when we do we begin to see that our trials are working to produce a maturity and fruitfulness in us. Understanding this, changes the way we pray in faith.
Trusting in God in the midst of our trials is hard, seeing our tests as a joy seems almost impossible. So James gives us some help, ask God to help us understand 5 ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously…’
Biblical wisdom is about making connections, making connections between the trials we are going through and the purposes and character of God.
We know that suffering leads to our Christian maturity but we need divine wisdom to realise this. Our need for wisdom requires faith 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting…
We do not get everything worked out before we pray but we do have to get this one thing sorted out and resolved ‘Will we trust God’s character, in His goodness and faithfulness?’ If we don’t then every new challenge will change our view of God. When life is good we think well of Him but when life is hard we think ill of Him. We become like those who ‘driven and tossed by the wind…’
People who hedge their bets trust God when things go their way but look elsewhere when things become difficult.
To pray in faith we must be sure in our own thinking resolve in our hearts that God is absolutely trustworthy and in Him 17‘…is no variation or shadow due to change.’
Whatever struggles we are going through ask God for the wisdom to see the connection between our struggle and His character, goodness and faithfulness.
That we might know in our heart He is working to produce perseverance, character and fruitfulness in us.