James 1:1-121 2 3 4 5
How many times have you faced trials and thought It just can't get any worse than this. Well, it can get worse. The fact of the matter is we are going to have to face many trials as we tread this pilgrim pathway. James addresses his letter to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad. (James 1:1) The two words scattered abroad comes from the word diaspora and carries the idea of that which is sown. It was a word used of the farmer sowing seed in the field. It was a term understood by Jews to speak of those who had been scattered abroad through persecution. Like a farmer sows seed in his field, the Lord sows Christians throughout the fields of this world. In the book of Acts God allowed persecution to scatter His people for purpose of spreading the good news of the gospel. Think about it! You are where you are because God has put you there to spread the gospel.
The Christians from the twelve tribes were scattered because of the intense persecution that befell those who identified with Christ. Embracing Christ as Saviour immediately resulted in trials for the early believers. In this letter James tells them and us how to handle the trails of life and not only how to handle them, but how to come out on top.
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4) The right attitude is essential to the Christian life. Attitude determines atmosphere. If 6 your attitude stinks, your life will stink. For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he... (Proverbs 23:7) It is absolutely necessary that we think right when it comes to this matter of trials. In these two verses James gives us a four-fold attitude that we ought to have in dealing with our trials.
Notice that James does not say if, but when ye fall into divers temptations. The word temptation is used two different ways in the Bible. The word is used speaking of a solicitation to sin as in 1 Timothy 6:9. But the word is also used a second way to describe the outward afflictions that we have in the world. Paul testified that he had served the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: (Acts 20:19) Here Paul uses the word temptations to describe the outward affliction and persecutions that he faced as he served Christ. Now the second usage is what James means here when he speaks of divers temptations. In his book, "The Secret of Christian Joy," Vance Havner said:
"Let it not be forgotten that a twice-born and Spirit-filled Christian is always a contradiction to this old world. He crosses it at every point. From the day that he is born again until he passes on to be with the Lord, he pulls against the current of a world forever going the other way. The real firebrand is distressing to the devil, and when a wide-awake believer comes along, taking the Gospel seriously, we can expect sinister maneuvering for his downfall." 7
The child of God will face trials in this life. The Christian life is not always smooth sailing. Any believer who is committed to living for the Lord will soon face opposition. We are to expect it! Peter agreed with James. He said, Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. (1 Peter 4:12) Paul said, We are troubled on every side... (2 Corinthians 4:8) Trials are not uncommon to the believer—expect them.
James says, count it all joy. James ties our trials and our joy together. These are terms that we would not normally put together. Joy is not the natural human response to trouble. Because of their faith these believers were suffering persecution. Jesus said that it would happen. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) Paul warned, Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12) The people to whom James writes had been driven from their homes, lost everything they owned, rejected by their families and James says, enjoy yourselves! Count it all joy brethren. We see the same thought in First Peter. But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. (1 Peter 4:13-14) Peter is talking about suffering here and he speaks in terms such as rejoice, be glad also with exceeding joy, and happy are ye. These are terms that we wouldn't usually associate with suffering. However, James and Peter are teaching us that suffering results in joy when we have the proper attitude. When the Apostles were persecuted, the Bible says, And they departed from the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name (Acts 5:41). When Paul and Silas were imprisoned for preaching Christ we are told that they prayed and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners 8 heard them (Acts 16:25). Paul also said, But we glory in tribulations (Romans 5:3).
The reason for our rejoicing is that we have a different perspective. We are not self-centered, we are Christ-centered. The Christian life is not about us, it is about Him. Peter said we are, partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 1 (Peter 4:13) Notice that this is about revealing Christ's glory. The word revealed means to "unveil, to uncover, to cause something to be known." Our suffering is designed to reveal Christ in our lives. If I handle suffering right, Christ is revealed to all those around me. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)
We should also take note of the fact that Peter didn't just say joy, but all joy. This is the degree to which we are to joy. The word all carries the idea of "all the way." Instead of complaining about our troubles, we rejoice in them for they offer an opportunity to testify of Christ's power and goodness. The teaching here is simple. As God's children we are not to divide life into the enjoyable and miserable. Instead we are to enjoy all of life.
James uses the word count here to teach us a very important lesson. The word count is an accounting term. It speaks of calculating interest. When you make an investment you calculate the interest to evaluate what your earnings are going to be. That is the word James uses in connection with our trials. The investment produces earnings. Therefore, look at the positive side of the ledger. There is a profit to be gained. When Jesus took his disciples over the Sea of Galilee, He took them right through a dreadful storm. It was a trying experience for the disciples, but there was great opportunity for ministry awaiting them. When they arrived 9 safely on the other side they freed a Demoniac Man, healed a Diseased Woman and raised a Dead Girl. That's ministry! But they had to pass through a great trial to get there.
Think about Joseph. His life seemed to be one disappointment after the other. At seventeen years of age, he was ripped away from home and family, sold to a bunch of ruthless peddlers, taken to a foreign country, put on the slave block and resold only to become a common slave. His owners wife lied about him and framed him for something he didn't do and off to prison he goes. By man's standards Joseph should have been eaten up with a vile bitterness that would have ruined his life. But instead of getting bitter, Joseph counted it all joy as he endured the trials of life.
Later as Joseph spoke to his brother about their offence, he said But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. (Genesis 50:20) Joseph's focus was always a heavenly one. This was the philosophy that permeated Joseph's life. He fully relied upon the living God and trusted Him completely. He realized that God providentially ordered all the events of his life. W. H. Griffith-Thomas wrote, "Happy is the man whose eye is open to see the hand of God in everyday events, for to him life always possesses a wonderful and true joy and glory." If we handle our trials right we will come out on top.
Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:3-4) Here we are told that trials have a definite purpose. Trying is a word that speaks of the process of refining precious metals. Peter used the same analogy. That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold 10 that perisheth, though it be tried with fire. (1 Peter 1:7) For raw gold to be purified it must be melted and the dross skimmed off. In order to do that the gold must be heated to 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the gold is melted, the impurities rise to the surface, where they are skimmed off. God does the same thing with our faith. He allows our faith to enter into the fire. He allows these trials and afflictions into our lives for the purpose of burning off the impurities and leaving us with pure, genuine faith. David said, For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. (Psalms 66:10) A trial is the hand of God at work in your life. We simply need to accept trials as a normal part of the Christian life.
James says that this trying of our faith worketh patience. The word patience comes from two words, "hupo" meaning "under" and "mone" meaning "abide." So the word literally means to abide under. The word was used of a donkey remaining steady under his load. Instead of giving up, he bears up under the load. James uses the same word when he speaks of the patience of Job. (James 5:11) Job serves as an illustration of bearing up under a load. Paul said, And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:9) That word faint is the opposite of patience. It means to become weary and give up. God's people are not to be quitters. We bear up as God strengthens us and we move forward. These trials actually condition and strengthen us so that we will be able to bear up under the next trial.
The word worketh carries the idea of "fully accomplishing something." The idea is to work out, to accomplish, to do something thoroughly. Trials thoroughly produce a faith that results in persistence. The test of one area of our lives produces power in another area. 11
We have to learn how to deal with our trials. James offers two important points on how to approach the problems of life.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. (James 1:5) In the midst of life's trials we need wisdom. We have just been instructed to count it all joy when we face our trials. We learned that the word count speaks of calculating our earnings. There is a profit to be gained in our trials if we handle them right. Roy Laurin said:
"The permissive will of God allows situations to arise in our lives that may hurt us, but it is only to help us. There is some dividend in every difficulty. The smart man is the one who is wise enough to compel his difficulty to pay him that dividend."
To earn dividends from our trials we need wisdom. Not just any wisdom, but Divine wisdom. Any fool can endure suffering, but it takes wisdom to turn trials into a profit. Solomon said, Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7) Wisdom is the correct use of knowledge. It is the ability to exercise the discernment and judgment of God's Word. Wisdom is the ability to apply the Bible to our everyday life. We need wisdom.
The word lack is a banking term that speaks of falling short in one's account. A lot of times we fall short on wisdom. Where are we going to get such wisdom? James says that we are to ask of God. It is tragic that so many people turn everywhere except to the source of all true wisdom! James does not say, If any of you lack 12 wisdom, go to the university. Neither does he say, Go to the philosophers or Go get the latest Best Seller. But he says, Let him ask of God. James speaks of two kinds of wisdom. In chapter three he talks about wisdom that descendeth not from above... (James 3:15) He also talks about a wisdom that is from above. (James 3:17) God wants us to be wise and He has made it possible for us to have wisdom. All we have to do is ask of God. Keep in mind that this is James speaking about prayer here. James had spent so much time on his knees praying that they were covered with big calluses. He was called Old Camel Knees. James speaks with authority—as one who well knew of God's willingness to answer prayer.
And look at the promise! God giveth to all men. Not some men, but all men. Every child of God can have wisdom. The humblest believer can have this Divine wisdom. He may be uneducated. He may be poor. He may be a little rough around the edges, but he can be wise if he will seek God's face. There is no excuse for foolishness. Notice that there are no conditions attached to this promise. There are many things for which we pray that we must say "If it be Thy will." But when it comes to wisdom the Bible is clear, God giveth to all men if they will ask. We can have wisdom.
James goes on to say that God giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not. You remember how that God appeared to Solomon and said, Ask what I shall give thee. (2 Chronicles 1:7) Think about that! Solomon could ask anything of the Lord and get it. Solomon said to the Lord, Give me now wisdom and knowledge... (2 Chronicles 1:10) Now look at God's response.
And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, 13
that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like. (2 Chronicles 1:11-12)
God not only gives, He gives liberally. Matthew Poole said that God gives, "with an open, free, large heart, in opposition to the contracted, narrow spirits of covetous misers." Such is how God gives wisdom.
But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. (James 1:6) In order to receive this wisdom from God we must ask in faith. We must believe that He is able to give, and that He is willing to give, and that He will give. Faith is simply taking God at His word and acting upon it. Faith moves the heart of God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) The idea of praying with faith is that of approaching God as credible and One who keeps His promises. He is trustworthy! He said He would give us the wisdom. Therefore, we ask for it believing that He will deliver. Faith is reliance on the character and genuineness of God's promises.
For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (James 1:6-8) It must be pure faith with no mixture of doubting. Paul said, I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. (1 Timothy 2:8) James compares the doubter to the agitated wave that dashes against the rocks on the shore. Nothing is accomplished. Believing 14 prayer steadily rests its confidence in God, but doubt exhibits a lack of confidence in Him and results in an unstable life.
One of our problems is that we often judge on outward appearances. Many have a tendency to disregard the man of low degree while honoring the rich man. The fellow with money and a high social standing is usually preferred over the fellow who has little of the worlds riches. It is the result of judging people by their outward appearance rather than their position in Christ. This can be a big problem when facing trials. We have to realize that the man who has money faces trials the same as a man with no money.
Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: (James 1:9) The phrase low degree describes one who is low on the social and economic scale. It speaks of one who lives in very humble conditions, someone who is very poor. Poverty was a major trial facing these dispersed Christians. They had to leave their jobs, their homes, their families and were scattered around the country with little more than the clothes on their back. Nothing seems to cause divided loyalties between a man and God quite like money. The lack of finances is a great hindrances to the ministry. It is hard to mind the things of God when the bills aren't paid. Oh I know! Someone is thinking. "Well we have to live by faith." I'm all for living by faith. But just try going to the grocery store, loading your cart, and telling the store manager that you are taking the groceries home without paying for them, but you have faith that it will be OK. The bottom line is we need money to make it in this world and Satan knows how to use a Christian's finances to discourage him.15
We live in a society where money talks. So the brother of low degree wouldn't mean much to the world. However, to God he is of great value. So much so that James says rejoice in that he is exalted. We may not mean much to the higher ups of society, but God has exalted us. We have been adopted into the family of God. This is a principle of the Christian life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first. (Matthew 19:30) Some of the big shots are going to be last when we get to Heaven. The idea behind the word rejoice is that of "boasting and bragging." When James says Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted, He is saying "You've got something to be proud of in that you are a child of God, boast about it." What a position! As followers of Christ we belong to a Heavenly realm. We are of great worth to God! We are His children and we should rejoice because we have an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven... (1 Peter 1:4) Jim Elliot said, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." Money might be tight and we may not have the best of houses but Jesus made it clear that... a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. (Luke 12:15) Rather than dealing with our trials by focusing on our lack let us be thankful for all that we do have in Christ.
But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. (James 1:10-11) James now addresses Christians who had money. There were many such people in the early Church. There were men like Joseph of Arimathaea, Nicodemus, and Barnabas. Some people of means were born and raised in the lap of luxury. Others have worked hard and built their fortunes from scratch. However, one thing 16 that is usually true of those who have wealth is that they live a better quality of life than those without money. If a man with money is not careful he will tend to trust in his finances. Guy King said of the rich man:
"He is apt to judge life, and to measure his fellows, by the yard-stick of finance. Yet, in his capacity as a rich man, he is really no more stable than the grass; the burning heat of some sudden calamity, of some unexpected movement of the money-market, reduces him to the mere ashes of his former self."
We are warned not to be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; (1 Timothy 6:17) The rich man must keep the proper perspective on money. James says, the rich man is to rejoice in that he is made low. Notice James does not tell the rich man to rejoice because of his riches; rather, he tells him to rejoice because he has realized his spiritual poverty and trusted Christ for salvation. The poor man is exalted and the rich man is made low. The idea is that our relationship with Christ brings us to the same level. The ground is level at the cross. We need to avoid the allusions of the world and realize what we have in Christ.
Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (James 1:12) James says, Blessed is the man that endureth temptation. The word blessed simply means "happy." The happy man is not the man who does not have trials, but the man who endures and stays his course regardless of such trials. This may seem a little strange at first thought. But when we think about it, it is not strange; for we know that trials and tribulations build character and makes us stronger. Many a 17 ministry has flourished in the fire of affliction. The old Puritan Richard Baxter said it well:
"Afflictions are God's most effectual means to keep us from losing our way to our heavenly rest. Without this hedge of thorns on the right and left we should hardly keep the way to heaven. If there be but one gap open, how ready are we to find it and turn out at it. When we grow wanton, or worldly, or proud, how doth sickness or other affliction reduce us! Every Christian, as well as Luther, may call affliction one of his best schoolmasters, and with David may say, Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word. Many thousand recovered sinners may cry, O healthful sickness! O comfortable sorrows! O gainful hope! O enriching poverty! Oh blessed day that ever I was afflicted! Not only the green pastures and still waters, but the rod and staff, they comfort us."
James goes on to say, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. Christians do have trials. However, we have the blessed promise of Scripture that our trials are designed by the Lord for our own good in conforming us to the image of His Dear Son. Praise God, for He has promised us that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)