Series on James, I Woes, A Perspective in Perseverance, Text;1:1-11,Title: Facing Trials - NEW

Introduction

The epistle of James is not unique in being addressed to Jewish Christians. The book of Hebrews begins with the words in the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets. Neither is this letter unique in dealing with trouble and persecution. The book of Hebrews is written to encourage Jewish believers not to turn back from following Christ because of sufferings endured, and so is James. The book does stand out for its practical wisdom in dealing with the kinds of situations encountered by Jewish believers in the first century. The Jews, after all, had a long history of afflictions and miseries and these were not going away, but as followers of Christ they could have a new perspective. This is encouraged by both the author of Hebrews and James. James was probably a brother of Jesus who became a leader in the church in Jerusalem. The wisdom God gives through him is good for Gentiles as well as Jews and for the twentieth century as well as the first. He begins by jumping right in the middle of their afflictions talking about trials and how we should react. In the first 11 verses he is encouraging them to persevere in trial. The key to this perseverance may be found in three very practical  things: aiming rightly, asking rightly and assessing rightly.

I Aiming Rightly

The brothers are asked to consider it unalloyed joy that they are facing trials of many kinds because of the effect those trials will have on them as we read in  verses 1-4, James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. We should grant the difficulty of this advice. In fact, the effect of trials on most people who are not Christians is to embitter them, but Christians are different because they are able to see that there is a goal, if they are aiming rightly. That goal is maturity and completion. The Greek words for “mature’ and “complete” are literally perfection and completeness in every part. It should be noted that no one achieves this state on earth; we only progress towards it, but it is that progress which James has in view. We can rise to new levels of contentment. Persevering through our trials makes us more patient. In Romans chapter 5:1-4 Paul explains the result of being justified through faith, Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. In linking this truth to justification, he is saying that since we have been justified and have peace with God, we can rejoice in hope even when we are in the midst of trials. It is seeing that we have access to God and that we enjoy his favor that enables us to rejoice in our present trials. So it is not only that trials are good for us, but that they are designed by a loving and forgiving heavenly Father to help us. They are in a word, all good, pure joy! Without this perspective it is impossible to be happy or count it joy when we are facing trials because there is nothing happy or joyful about the trials themselves.

II Asking Rightly

But how can we look at things this way? That is the big question. Paul suggests that we will have trouble, so we read in verses 5-8, If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. The wisdom he has in view is the wisdom of God with respect to our particular trials which is the wisdom to be able to view things in the right way. Now it is extremely important that we understand that asking God for this wisdom is not a substitute for believing what God says. We must believe the gospel of our justification and we must believe the promises of the Word of God. There are several things about this invitation to ask God for wisdom that prove this. First of all James reminds us of the nature of God as revealed in his word. As our loving heavenly Father through Jesus Christ, God is generous in giving, and he keeps on giving. Even though we have asked before we are not wearing God out or testing His patience. The force of the language is that God is infinitely consistent in his favor toward us. We need to believe that. Furthermore James says in verse 6 that we must not doubt because we will get no where. You see, even in our asking, we must assume certain things about God which he has revealed in his Word. If we do not do this we will not receive what we desire which, in this case, is wisdom and understanding of our situation. The end result of unbelief is a double minded man. God is single minded in showing his favor to us in Christ, but that will do us no good if we are double minded. This will overflow into all that we do. God comes to us with an open hand our proper response is an open heart.

III Assessing Rightly

A proper assessment of our condition is instrumental to our attitude in suffering. We must see that we are rich in Christ, so rich and so blessed that we will be encouraged even in the midst of trials. Notice James' advice in verses 9-11,  The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he 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 man will fade away even while he goes about his business. He says the materially poor brother is to take pride in his high position in the Lord. The rich brother is to take pride in his low position, because his low position in Christ is in actuality the highest position. Despising earthly riches this brother humbles himself in Christ recognizing his spiritual poverty, and then as a result is lifted up in Christ to his new position of spiritual wealth and blessing. The advantage to this posture for both the rich and the poor is that neither is depending anymore on earthly blessings. Neither is basing his joy or happiness on material circumstances, and James would say that is very wise, because earthly blessings eventually pass away. But as verse 11 reminds us, the promises of God,  the true riches, abide forever.

Conclusion

Now there is a common thread which runs through the practical advice of James and though it may have become obvious to you, i would be remiss if i did not point it out. The common thread is the gospel. It is in the gospel that God's goodness is truly revealed. Here we are persuaded that God is working all things together for our good because he did not spare his only Son but delivered him to the cruel death of the cross to redeem us. Here we see that to aim rightly is to aim where God aims, at our spiritual progress. We also see in the gospel what it is to ask rightly, that is, to ask on the basis of our justification. God has adopted us into his family through the sacrifice of his son, therefore we ask rightly only when we ask with a trusting heart confident of God's blessing. Lastly we assess life rightly when we see it in the light of the gospel. Either the gospel is true and each experience God brings is for our good, or the gospel is false and we have no hope and no joy.