The book of James is part of the collection called "The General Epistles," which includes James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Jude. These letters were written to Christians in general, rather than to those in a particular location.
Two men named James have been proposed as having enough authority to have been the author of this book -- (1) the apostle James, the brother of John, son of Zebedee, and (2) James the half-brother of Jesus. It is very unlikely that the son of Zebedee wrote this epistle before he was martyred in A.D. 44. The letter is thought to have been written sometime between 45 and 49. On the other hand, James, the half-brother of Jesus became the leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18). The language used in this book is also similar in style to James' speech at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). So, James the half-brother of Jesus is generally accepted as the author of this book.
James wrote concerning practical aspects of the Christian life and conduct. There are some theological statements in this book, but much more instruction is given in ethical behavior. James is concerned that his readers apply what they know and not just listen to God's word. Some key subjects James discusses are: a proper response to trials and temptations, the problem of partiality toward the wealthy, the relationship between faith and works, the use of the tongue, worldliness, and the importance of prayer.
LINK: James 1:1-18
Everyone encounters difficulties in this life. We all face various trials and temptations. The thing that makes one person stand out from the others is the response to those trials. James instructs believers to welcome trials in life. They are the training ground for our faith. When we respond properly, we grow toward maturity.
So, what is the proper response to trials?
- ask God for wisdom in handling the trial - He promises to give it
- don't waffle in our faith in God, but stand firm - God does not promise anything to the "waffler." We must believe Him (remember Hebrews 11:6 - "And Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.")
- keep our focus on the eternal rather than the temporal - Riches and the men who chase them will pass away, but the man who stays strong in his faith will be rewarded by God.
In contrast, God is the giver of all good things. He never changes or hides in the dark shadows (where sin lurks). Quite the contrary - He is the source of light.
God's purpose in the early church was for these believers to be the "first fruits" followed by many generations of believers.
What challenge are you facing right now in your life? Have you asked God for wisdom in how to handle it? Have you searched His Word for answers? Have you sought wise godly counsel? God always wants us to grow through trials. Talk to Him about it. Be solid in your faith, believing that God wants the best for you and will help you grow through your current situation. Keep your focus on God and what He's doing, rather than seeking material solutions. And don't give in to temptations to sin as a way of escape from your difficulties. Our goal should not be to escape, but to endure and grow.
Father, thank you for assuring us that you are a loving father to us and that you want us to grow through the difficulties of this life. Sometimes that is very difficult for us to grasp! Help us to focus on You and to rely on You for help in our trials. Let us endure and grow, making our faith stronger in the end. In the name of Jesus, amen.