Book of James - Are You Up For This Challenge?
Take a moment and read James 1: 1-18.
I can very distinctly remember combing through the pages of James and making all sorts of notes. I recall sitting in my pink bedroom on my childhood bed with a highlighter and pen just trying to absorb as much as I could from those pages chalked full of wisdom. As a relatively new believer back then, I couldn't believe all the amazing insight I could find to guide me through life in such few pages.
Today I go back to that place, metaphorically. It's been a while since I've dived into the book of James, but I can't wait. Here we will find deep thoughts, clear theology, and practical advice for our journey ahead. In fact, few books are so direct in how to live than this, so get ready to for a powerful series!
Quick background: James, the author of the book, was the half-brother of Jesus himself. Interestingly enough, he was not initially a believer that Jesus was the Savior. Can you imagine your brother being the Son of God?! But eventually he did place his faith in Christ, and more than that, became a pillar of the early church in Jerusalem.
I sort of love James: quick to get to the point, devoted to righteousness, while striving to be practical and passionate. He's my kind of guy! You'll notice this throughout the book in his wise statements and helpful application.
The first 18 verses in chapter 1 speak primarily to trials and the testing of our faith. You're going to see some clear direction to these topics and how to approach these seasons in life.
So "count it all joy...when you meet trials of various kinds" is how we jump in. Harder to say than to do, am I right? Considering it good when we hit hard times is not a natural response for most people; we typically want to fight it or get out. It is why James says to "count it," meaning to be purposeful in your approach. Recognizing that our human tendency is to hide from trouble, he makes a note that it will take a conscious choice to choose joy. This means that although you may not feel like it, make a commitment to face the trial with joy. Change your outlook. Choose to approach it with gladness.
Moving on to trials specifically, John McArthur makes a note of the word.
Recently I read an article that gained a lot of attention that claimed sometimes we go through hard times for no reason at all. That, not every trial is happening because God has a purpose, but instead stuff just happens. I remember reading it and it didn't sit quite well with me. I thought of that article when I read this chapter; I gather from here that every trial has at least one purpose and that's that we may mature. It may not be for correction or to learn a lesson or to move us in a certain direction, but if anything, it's to mature us. God has purpose in everything He does and part of that is a desire that we may grow and through each, learn to withstand the pressures of this world.
Are you not stronger now because of a past trial you once faced?
You won't be made perfect, just to be clear and remove any fear you might have at the moment of not living up to that standard. The word more so denotes spiritual maturity; again, reflecting that growth is the goal. It will be a result of that growth that nurtures a greater intimacy and relationship with God. I can attest to this, and I'm sure you can as well, that at some point in your life you've faced a trial that drove you closer to God. That's important and needed!
The theme of perseverance under trials picks up again in verse 12 stating that "blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial." What this verse is saying that those who learn to persevere under trial will learn a certain joy in life that transcends the moment. In my opinion, is there anything much grander than that?
In addition, if you are in the middle of something hard, take note of verses 5-6 in regards to asking God of something. I believe part of a trial's purpose is that God wants us to run to Him and seek solace in Him. When up against it, go to God in faith. Part of the process is growing our faith and we do that when we turn to Him. Offer prayer to Him in confidence, without doubting, trusting that God will prevail. This is a key lesson in life, and one meant to be held close through every season.
I could go on about verses 1-18 but for the sake of time I must end somewhere! To finish, I leave you with the final verses and lessons of this section. Just to be clear, and you will need to remind yourself of this in difficult times, God does not tempt us. Your current struggle is not because God was trying to trick you. God does not tempt but rather in trials allows those things to come our way by our own desires or the enemy's schemes.
Remember that so as not to accuse Him. Also, remember this, and it's a favorite of mine, that every good thing does come from Him. His grace, your salvation, the blessings in life, and so much more are had because of Him. Remember that and be thankful!
I pray that these words of encouragement will strengthen you for the journey ahead. Be confident that God is with you and the Holy Spirit will strengthen you for the purpose God has for you. There is a reason for it all, and you can come out on the other side of your trial more mature, with greater faith, and with secured assurance in our God.
Do you struggle to believe there is purpose in your struggle? Confess, share, write down these thoughts and cover it with prayer, declaring a new commitment to have faith in God.
Make a list of the good things in your life, which have come down from him.
Partner with me in memorizing the book of James! You'll be amazed at hos God will recall these verses to you years down the road exactly when you need it. Maybe it's a stretch to remember so much, and if this si the case, choose a few verses that stood out to you in particular from this week and memorize those. We'll do it together!