TRIALS TEST OUR FAITH WITH THE GOAL OF PERSEVERANCE
James is concerned with the effectiveness of our faith. As we examine our faith, there are two different possible threads of application:
1) If we fail the tests of faith that James has provided we need to examine ourselves to see if our heart has deceived us with a mere profession of faith without the reality of genuine saving faith.
2) But the major thread since James is writing to professing believers deals with the growth of our faith into maturity. We will all be challenged by the different areas which James chooses to highlight – we will find ourselves somewhere along the spectrum of faith for each topic. James wants to motivate believers to press on in their faith to maturity.
(:1) OPENING GREETINGS
1. Identification = James
half-brother of Jesus — Gal. 2:9, 12; Jude 1; Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18;
(Note how this refutes the Catholic notion of the perpetual virginity of Mary)
so prominent that he could be referred to only by his personal name with no other qualifying remarks
Miano: “We’re going to look at three phases of James’ life. Some of you may be able to relate really well to this. We’re going to look at James, the skeptical brother; James, the saved sinner; and James, the servant Leader.
2. Life Calling = bond-servant
“and of the Lord Jesus Christ”
James writes as one who is totally sold out to the will of God; quite a change from his lack of belief in John 7:5
Expression of humility — striking in the life of a brother!
Commitment to serving Christ
Barclay: “Yet, at the back of it, this word implies a certain pride. So far from being a title of dishonor it was the title by which the greatest ones of the Old Testament were known. Moses was the doulos of God … By taking the title doulos James sets himself in the great succession of those who found their freedom and their peace and their glory in perfect submission to the will of God. The only greatness to which the Christian can ever aspire is the greatness of being the slave of God.”
1. Identification = “to the twelve tribes”
James, as the initial leader of the church in Jerusalem, bore a special relationship and responsibility to these Jewish believers; note that Jews still have a special status in the program of God — it is still valid to maintain the ethnic distinction between Jew and Gentile despite the areas of identity among true believers
2. Location = “who are dispersed abroad” — Acts 8:1; 11:19
Try to imagine the unique pressures on these Jewish believers who had every expectation of victory and the kingdom of God on earth and yet found themselves pressured and persecuted on every side
Vaughan: “‘Dispersion’ was a technical term used for the Jews who were scattered over the Gentile world outside of Palestine. (The word occurs in only two other places in the New Testament — John 7:35 and I Peter 1:1).”
root meaning of the word is “joy”
I. (:2-4) TRIALS SHOULD BE VIEWED AS OPPORTUNITIES FOR POSITIVE OUTCOMES
Trials from without covered here; Temptations from within covered in next section
A. (:2) Opportunity for Greater Joy
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials”
1. Trials are Inevitable (but Unpredictable — Allen) and Unexpected as to when and what
2. Trials are Varied — come in all shapes and sizes
– as to their severity
– as to their nature
All of us face different trials, uniquely tailored for us
3. Trials bind us together in the family of God
4. Our Response Should be a Perspective of Joy Rather than Depression
not just look for a silver lining, but consider it all joy (your perspective towards the experience as a whole)
Vaughan: “Christians can triumph in trials.”
Racer: Examples of responding out of the flesh = grumbling, anxiety, stress. Instead we are commanded to adopt an extraordinary attitude toward trials. Requires thinking of the outcomes of the trial = what God is trying to accomplish; Requires mental discipline; the pain and the pressure are all part of a larger process. Not saying that we are to rejoice in just the circumstances alone.
B. (:3) Opportunity for Greater Endurance
“knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance”
shows us how genuine is our faith
Adversity builds toughness; Prosperity makes us soft.
Barclay: “Hupomone is not simply the ability to bear things; it is the ability to turn them to greatness and glory.”
Allen: “Problems Purify my Faith… James uses the word ‘testing’ – as in testing gold and silver. You would heat them up very hot until the impurities were burned off. Job said, ‘But God knows the way that I take, and when he has tested me, I will come out like gold.’ Job 23:10 (NCV)
God is not interested in watching our faith get torpedoed. God desires that our faith would be ‘approved.’ A student who is accepted by the admissions office of a college can say, ‘I am a student.’ But until that person takes tests and exams, no one can actually affirm that he is worthy of the name ‘student.’ They only way to determine the validity of a student’s work is to see the performance on exams.
Christians are a lot like tea bags. You don’t know what’s inside of them until you drop them in hot water. Your faith develops when things don’t go as planned. It purifies your faith.”
Racer: Importance of finishing strong. It is said to see believers who failed the test and didn’t finish well; or who ran away from the test and didn’t stay under the pressure and allow it to accomplish God’s purposes in the process of character building. God doesn’t want us to bail out of the relationship or out of the commitment. Endurance is needed to squeeze everything out of the trial; but endurance is not an end in itself. Some trials last a long time; as you get more mature it takes longer to reach your pressure point. We can take illustrations from the realm of sports to easily see the value in stressful training. The suicide sprints are not fun in themselves, but they produce greater endurance and an ability to accomplish more as a team. When the championship result is attained, the training seems very worthwhile! Athletes learn to visualize that reward ahead of time to help them through the process.
C. (:4) Opportunity for Greater Maturity
“And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”
Barclay: Perfect in the sense of “fit for the task in the world which he was sent into the world to do, and which God meant him to do.”
Racer: Proven character produces Hope (Rom. 5:1-5). Author implies that each test has a specific ending point, with the ultimate finish line being the passing out of this life to the next. We need to keep on Keeping On until we hear God say, “Well done.”
II. (:5-8) TRIALS TEST OUR FAITH AS WE ASK GOD FOR WISDOM
A. (:5) Ask God for Wisdom
1. Trials Expose our Need for Wisdom
“But if any of you lacks wisdom”
2. Trials Drive us to God for Answers and for the Grace to Endure
“let him ask of God”
3. God Loves to Help Us — this encourages us to ask Him for wisdom
“who gives to all men”
“and it will be given to him”
B. (:6-8) Ask God in Faith Without any Doubting
1. What does it mean to Ask in Faith?
2. What does it mean to Doubt?
a. Analogy: “like the surf of the sea”
Unstable: “driven and tossed by the wind”
b. Failure — “for let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord”
1) “being a double-minded man”
2) “unstable in all his ways”
Chromy: “The double-minded man has reservations about being completely yielded to God. You are double-minded when you want your own will and God’s will at the same time. God wants you to trust him completely and allow him to take care of you throughout difficulties.”
III. (:9-12) PERSEVERANCE UNDER TRIAL BRINGS BLESSING FOR ETERNITY
A. (:9-11) This Present Life is Transitory
(Dealing with believers in both categories)
1. (:9) Easier Understood by the Poor — the test of Poverty
“But let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position”
2. (:10) Harder for the Rich to Understand — the test of Prosperity (Vaughan)
“and let the rich man glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away”
Tasker: “Similarly, the rich brother is to rejoice that in Christ he has been brought down to a level where ‘the deceitfulness of riches’ (Mk. iv. 19) and the anxiety to amass and retain them are no longer primary or even relevant considerations; for in Christ he has learned to make a totally different evaluation of material prosperity. The new factor in his situation is that he has come to see that real wealth lies in the things that abide because they are eternal, and that it is the unseen things that have this characteristic… In comparison with these unshakable possessions material riches are recognized by him to be what in fact they are, transitory and uncertain.”
Barclay: “If life is so uncertain, if man is so vulnerable, if the externals of life are so perishable, then calamity and disaster may come at any moment. Since that is so, a man is a fool to put all his trust in things –like wealth–which he may lose at any moment. He is only wise if he puts his trust in things which he cannot lose.
So then, James urges the rich to cease to put their trust in that which their own power can amass. He urges them to realize and to admit their own essential human helplessness, and humbly to put their trust in God, who alone can give us the things which abide for ever. He is pleading with men to glory in that new humility which realizes its utter dependence on God.”
3. (:11) Proven by Nature
“For the sun rises with a scorching wind, and withers the grass; and its flower falls off, and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away”
B. (:12) Living for Eternity Makes Trials Bearable
1. Enduring Trials Brings Blessing
“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial”
2. Passing the Test of Faith Brings God’s Approval
“for once he has been approved”
3. The Reward = “the Crown of Life”
the crown which consists of life
Racer: Since multiple trials are referred, which each have an ending point, it would seem as if the reward is realized in this life rather than in eternity, since successful perseverance gains immediate approval.
4. The Requirement
“which the Lord has promised to those who love Him”