Hey everyone, if you have been following my musings on which book of the bible, I was dwelling on to study next, I am excited to say that I will be digging into the book of James. The book of James is an intensely practical one, focusing on the application of our faith in the world around us. It challenges us to live out our faith in a manner that is obedient and wholeheartedly devoted to God.
Author – James, who was he? Most commentaries conclude that he was James, the brother of Jesus. We are first introduced to James in John 7:5, “For even his own brothers did not believe in him (Jesus).” James did have a change of heart and came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. He was one of the people Jesus appeared to after his resurrection (1 Cor 15:7). He later became one of the prominent figures in church (Gal 2:9, Acts 15:13).
James 1:1 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.”
As was custom in those times, the letter begins with an introduction detailing the author and the recipients.
How does James identify himself here?
He gives emphasis to his spiritual relation to God over his earthly relation to being Jesus’s brother. He identified himself first and foremost as who he was in relation to His position with God. It was one of humility and service rather than authority. James could have reasoned and thought that if he did name drop, would not being Jesus’ brother add weight to his word. Instead, James, through his words shows us that our position in Christ is what should form our true identity and that should matter more than any earthly connection/achievement. And what he said and did held value not just because he was Jesus’s brother but because it stemmed from his spiritual reality,
The letter is addressed to the twelve tribes – these were the Jewish Christians who were scattered among the nations. This letter was written to encourage these dispersed people in the face of their trials and as such is relevant to us today as we strive to live out our faith through the trials we face in our today.
James 1: 2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
James begins with an exhortation to persevere and have joy in our trials. When we read this verse, we can often take away the need to persevere and somehow manage to find joy in our struggles. But James is not talking about finding the silver lining in the situation, an outward Joy where we paste on a smile and pretend or disconnect from the reality of our situation.
In the Psalms, we read of David pouring out his heart heavy to God and he did that whenever he felt the burden of what he was going through. Jesus himself cried out to God when his turmoil was great before his crucifixion. As Christ followers, we do not have to deny or gloss over our pain, hurt or suffering but our perspective in trials are not to end with those emotions but go beyond to the work of the spirit in us.
Hence, James writes to consider it joy. To consider here would mean to ponder with a kingdom lens. And through that lens we remember that God, who began the good work within us, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6) and we also remember the promise of His presence, His peace, His comfort, His sovereignty, and the hope of eternity with Him.
Perseverance and Faith
James teaches us that trials help us develop perseverance. Notice that James does not write that trials produce faith, they test it. Faith is produced not in the squeeze of life, that is when what lies within pours out. The foundation of faith is built in the daily trenches of our time with God and His word. As Romans 10:17 says “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”
James also says – Whenever you face trials – a reality of living in this fallen world is that trials, suffering and challenges can be expected. None of us truly want to face trials, but we do, and with the possibility of facing them, should we not strengthen our faith so that when the storms of life blow, our roots are firmly planted in Christ.
How do you tend to face your trials?
The answer to that lies in the actuality of your daily relationship with God. Is your life committed to Christ – does all that you do flow from the truth of being His disciple. Or is His name at the tip of your tongue and the top of your mind only when crisis hits?
The relevance of Christ in the mundane of our lives reveals if everything in our lives operates from our faith or if faith is just one among the many things in our lives.
Purpose in our Trials
James 1:4 “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be complete and mature not lacking anything.”
Our goal is to grow in Christ, that is what the Lord wants for us, to be more like Him and often it is through trials that growth happens.
There is a reason for these trials, but it is not just going through the hard times that makes us spiritually mature, it is persevering toward Christ and in our faith through those trials that accomplishes that which Christ intends for us. Notice that there is an insistence of perseverance finishing its work to grow more like Christ when James writes ‘must’. This shows us that perseverance in tough times plays a pivotal role in our growth during hardships.
James words don’t say that hardships are to be enjoyed. We are to remember the end goal like Jesus did when he went to the cross for us. The knowledge of what God can develop in us through hardships help us shift our perspective beyond our circumstances and be assured that if we remain surrendered, he is at work within us.
Persevering through trials is more than gritting one’s teeth through it, it is to remain faithful to God, steeped in prayer, eyes trained on the Lord and reflective of one’s own heart through it all. And when we sense the Lord right by our side, it is His presence that will fill us with Joy ( The fullness of Joy is found in the presence of the Lord, Ps 16:11) and the Joy of the Lord will pour strength into our weary hearts (The joy of the Lord is my strength Nehemiah 8:10), enabling us to persevere and remain faithful through life’s challenges.