Consider It Joyfully – James Lesson 2

 

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;” James 1:1-2 (KJV)

“Greet it as pure joy, my brothers, when you encounter any sort of trial..”  James Moffatt Translation

At the time the epistle of James was written, the church was 100% Jewish. The twelve tribes were scattered abroad throughout the Roman world and even beyond. This epistle should in no way be construed to mean that Christians must become Jews. It is addressed to all Christian believers, but at the time, the entire Church was Jewish. Jewish Christians everywhere were experiencing severe persecution because of their faith. They were being disowned by their families and booted out of the synagogues by the Jewish authorities. Not only that, but in many places where the Jews were scattered the predominant worldview was polytheistic and paganistic. So Jewish Christians faced persecution from their Jewish kinsmen as well as the Gentiles of the region. This is the climate that James addresses concerning the trying of their faith. James goes immediately from his greeting to the very practical issue of how Christians should react to trials.

Believers were struggling to find meaning in their trials and to express their faith in a meaningful way during their trials. This is the situation the epistle addresses. Understand that the types of trials mentioned by James were much more pointed than many of the trials believers face today. Even though our trails today are inspired by the evil one, the “reason” for our trails is usually much more subtle today. Seldom is it evident that we are being tried because of our faith, yet that is what Satan designs trials to attack. It is “the trying of [our] faith” (vs. 3).

The Lord Jesus wants to take those same trials Satan hurls at us and use them to develop and perfect our faith. In the process, He will make available to us more of His Grace to meet the challenges we face. Many flaws and imperfections in our nature can only be revealed and addressed when we are under the pressure of trials. And so, what the enemy means for our harm, Jesus uses for our growth and blessing. In the original language, the word for trials and temptations is the same. We must examine the context to see if it is speaking of trails or the temptation to do evil.

Understanding that trials are the method the Lord uses to expose and correct internal flaws, how we respond to trails is probably one of the most important issues in our Christian life. Many fell in the wilderness because they resented their trials. When those very trials were the method the Lord was using to prepare them for His ultimate for their lives. The way you accept and respond to your trails will have eternal consequences. This is one of the first things a believer must learn about the Christian life. And so, in this epistle dedicated to the teaching of practical religion, the first subject addressed is a believer’s trials.

We must address one’s ideas about happiness. Most people have an ideal of happiness that seeks a “state of ease, comfort, and security.”[1] The thinking is that in order to be happy one must avoid the difficult circumstances of life and live in a pristine state of bliss. This ideal places a high value on ease and comfort, and without the luxury of easy, carefree living one cannot be happy. If this is your idea of what the Christian life is all about you are going to be sorely disappointed. Such a shallow believer is destined to end up as the seed that fell upon stony ground.

“Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.” Matt 13:5-6

If your only hope of happiness is in a carefree existence, you haven’t much … hope that is. It is this hedonistic philosophy of life that causes many to become disillusioned with the walk of faith. Not to mention that a gospel message that is immersed in hedonistic, instant-gratification philosophy creates false expectations.

But practical Christianity does not find the meaning of life in obtaining a comfortable, carefree existence. God’s purpose in our life is to produce the image of Christ in us. That is why the believer can greet different temptations joyfully. Because it is through the interactive process of meeting and overcoming trials that our faith is put to the practical test. The process that begins to work when we meet our trials with faith is part of God’s way of developing the character of Christ in us. That is why we should count it all joy when various temptations come our way.

But someone might say: “James is so detached from ordinary life. What does he know about temptation?” I believe that the Lord God anticipated such a response to the message of this book. That is why the Lord chose to use the man he did to pen these words. You think that the writer has not seen the kind of trials like you have? Consider that tradition has attributed the title “James the Just” to the writer. James was a man who believed in the power of prayer. So much so that his knees became calloused like a camel’s and thus he was known as “The Man with Camel’s Knees.”[2] “He was cruelly martyred by the Scribes and Pharisees, who cast him from the pinnacle of the Temple. As the fall did not kill him, his enemies stoned him, finally dispatching him with a fuller’s club.”[3] Now tell me about your problems.


[1] The Interpreter’s Bible – Commentary on James

[2] All the Men of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer

[3] Lockyer

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