I was given the opportunity to teach the Deaf Connections class on Sundays. Having only taught once, I wanted to start with something ‘simple and practical’ like James. Except James pummels you like a boxer, and then helps you up. After preparing a few lessons, I thought I could do a series here on James.
James was the half-brother of Jesus and didn’t believe he was the Son of God. He was pretty antagonistic (John 7:2-4). It was only after Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection that he believed and led the Jerusalem church until the High Priest pushed him off a building in 62 AD.
Before that happened, he wrote a letter to the Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire. It’s a very practical letter on Christian living. We’re going to start with James 1:1-18.
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.
Life happens, it’s not easy, and contrary to popular belief, being a Christian isn’t puppy dogs and rainbows. At least not on this side of eternity. The hard times is where the depth of your faith is proven. As you endure, you’ll mature and become stronger.
Then there are times where we don’t know what to do. What then?
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
God won’t hold back wisdom when we ask for it. Solomon asked for it in 1 Kings 3:9-10. How wisdom is described here is an analytical heart and an ability to tell right from wrong. This will help us endure.
There is a warning though.
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
We have to trust that we’ll receive wisdom and be ready to apply it. Get off the fence and make our choice.
You see, God is there with us in these times. It’s not like He’s looking down and saying ‘sucks to be you’. No, He’s our Father, willing to guide us if we listen.
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
This is contrasting the rich and the poor. Now there’s nothing wrong with having money; it can and is used for good. It’s the love of money that is the issue (1 Timothy 6:10). James is telling that the rich Christian with everything has the same priceless treasure that the poor Christian with nothing has. Jesus.
Neither money nor status can get us salvation. Being an heir to God is an invaluable gift. This is where we put our focus.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
This is a beatitude like in the Sermon on the Mount. A conditional promise and description of one who’s blessed.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
We sometimes look at trials as God tempting us. James corrects that line of thinking. Our temptations come from our own evil desires. The thought pops into our head, we entertain the idea, then we act on it and sin.
Jesus said this about our hearts in Mark 7:20-22. “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly.” If we’re even angry at a person, we’re just as guilty as if we killed them (Matthew 5:22).
Why is he so strict on this?
Because he’s revealing our sinful nature and telling us how dangerous it is. That’s why we need Jesus as Savior because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
While God doesn’t tempt us, He does allow us to be tested. Not to see us fail, but so we can grow. We see life as maybe 80 years. He sees our eternal lives, and the testing and enduring are so we can grow up before we get to Heaven.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
Look at every good thing you have. It’s from God. Matthew 7:11 also says that God will never give us anything less than good gifts when we ask Him. His definition of good. He’s not going to change now.
In fact, one gift is our salvation. As Christians, we’re born-again. Not because of our parents or another person. Born of God.
This passage stresses having an enduring faith-perseverance. A theme that runs throughout the Bible. Peter and Paul’s letters for example.
Jesus persevered, always doing God’s will, even to the point of going to the cross for us. He is the Son of God, and because we have God the Holy Spirit in us, we can also endure.
Here’s what we can do to gain perseverance, and that’s to trust God daily, in every situation, even the hard ones. If we need help, we can ask God for the wisdom to choose rightly. No matter our circumstances, our hope in being one of God’s children. He will reward us for sticking it out. God doesn’t test us to cause us to fail, but to teach us to endure, and by doing that we mature in our faith. Only good and needful things come from the God who saved us. Isn’t Jesus proof of that?