This is the first entry as I write through the book of James.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4
If you’ve spent any time around church or the Bible, you’ve probably heard this phrase—“Count it all joy when you fall into various trials . . .” This advice from James can seem challenging, especially when you feel like you have trials on every side, or when you are laden with the severity of those trials. Still James admonishes the readers to count it all joy when you experience trials—don’t run from them, but find joy in them. Why, James? How can we find joy in the midst of trials?
The reason for joy is because every trial comes with purpose. The purpose of trials in our lives is to mold us and shape us; to reveal areas of weakness and opportunities for growth. This is why James admonished the early Christian community to embrace trials with joy. No, we aren’t joyful about going through, but we should respond joyfully because every trial has a heavenly purpose–to move us closer to our Savior as we are being conformed to His image.
James outlines eight characteristics in his first chapter, which are developed when we patiently endure trials. These are all “being” traits and not “doing” traits, indicating what we should become.
When we patiently endure testing and trials, we become:
- People who, through patience and endurance, grow and mature into worthy vessels. (James 1:4)
James encourages us to let patience have its perfect work. When you are patient as you endure these trials, your faith will bloom under pressure and you will be equipped, mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.
- People filled with the wisdom of God. (James 1:5)
The key to being filled with wisdom is not being chock-full of knowledge and employing study aids until you know what you need to know. The key is to ask God for wisdom, because He gives it freely and fully. He generously gives you the wisdom you need for your journey.
- People who ask in faith without doubting. (James 1:6-8)
Don’t doubt God’s willingness to give you everything you need! Doubt comes in when you are moved by more than one opinion. Instead of trusting God alone, we lean on others and even on ourselves, which creates instability. This type of doubter should not expect to receive anything from God.
- People who can endure in times of temptation. (James 1:12-16)
Everyone faces temptations. Know that God is not tempting you! Temptations come when we are lured by our lustful desires. YOU CAN OVERCOME TEMPTATION! And when you do, you will receive the crown of life. However, if you yield to temptation, sin is produced and sin ultimately leads to death.
- People who show God’s message of truth to the world. (James 1:17-18)
James reminds his readers that every good and perfect gift is from God. And just as God is consistent, we must be consistent, because this group of listeners (the early Christian believers) were the first to share God’s message of truth and love to the rest of the world. WE are now apart of this group, sharing this mission. We have been given good gifts that should be used to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
- People who listen and respond well. (James 1:19-21)
James gives us practical advice. Be quick to hear! Take time—make time—to listen. This way, we will respond instead of react. Be slow to speak! Give yourselves time to respond reasonably and in a godly manner. Be slow to respond in anger. It’s okay to be angry, but reacting in anger is dangerous, because human anger will never produce God’s righteousness.
- People who practically apply God’s Word, not just hear it. (James 1:22-25)
God’s people “do” the Word. Don’t be tricked into thinking that hearing the Word is enough. Read, understand, and apply what you’ve received. When we receive instruction through the Word, move on to application. As we look into the Word, God’s perfect truth, we strive to live it. As we do, we will be blessed in all that we do.
- People moved to pure religion, living compassionate and clean lives. (James 1:26-27)
James gives three signs of maturity in a believer. First is the ability to “bridle” our tongues. (He emphasizes this point in chapter 3 and I will write about that soon.) The second thing James points out is valuing and showing compassion towards those who are marginalized or forgotten in society. Jesus gave us so many examples of this. Not just giving to them or meeting their immediate needs, but actually appreciating them as fellow image bearers of God. Third, we must keep ourselves from being polluted by worldliness. Do not just say you live for God, but truly live full out, in obedience to God.
The first chapter of James challenges us to embrace trials in an unexpected way, with joy. When our faith is tested by trials we should respond with patience and endurance. The result will be a faith that stands tall and shines with the character of God. So when trials come, and they will come, seize the opportunity to grow and become more like Jesus. That is a reason for joy!