(Memorize the Phillip's version of James 1:2-4. It is the BEST!)
Kay Arthur of Precept Ministries calls James "the primary reader for every child of God who longs to know how true faith behaves." James is immensely practical. It deals with perseverance under trials, wisdom from above, the power of the tongue, the sin of partiality within the church, the oppression of the rich toward the poor, and the interrelatedness of faith and works.
James was the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19) and the primary leader of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9; Acts 12:17; 15:13). The Greek in this epistle is similar to the speech made by James in Acts 15. It has been surmised that James became a believer after Christ's resurrection because John wrote, "For even His own brothers did not believe in Him" (John 7:5; 1 Corinthians 15:7). Here is a fun fact: His actual name was Jacob, but somewhere along the way, English translators chose "James," and it has stuck.
The letter was written to first-century Jewish Christians residing in Gentile communities outside Palestine. Since no mention is made of the Jerusalem Council in A.D. 49 (Acts 15), it is believed to have been written before that between A.D. 45 and 48. Some believe it was written after the events in Acts in A.D. 62.
Martin Luther did not think James should be part of the canon of Scripture and called it a "right strawy (of little or no value, worthless) epistle." He thought it contradicted Romans and "salvation by faith alone," but you will see as you read it that it complements Romans because true salvation always results in works. True faith works!
For more about Martin Luther and the book of James, see HERE.
Faith endures trials. God allows trials to make our faith stronger. I love the definition of the Greek word for endurance, hypomonḗ. It literally means an abiding or remaining (monḗ) + under (hypo).
A. The Greek World. hypoménō has the senses a. “to stay behind,” “to stay alive,” b. “to expect,” c. “to stand firm,” and d. “to endure,” “to bear,” “to suffer.” hypomonḗ means a. “standing fast” and b. ‘“expectation,” “waiting.” While hypoménō is at first ethically neutral, hypomonḗ becomes a prominent virtue in the sense of courageous endurance. As distinct from patience, it has the active significance of energetic if not necessarily successful resistance, for example, the bearing of pain by the wounded, the calm acceptance of strokes of destiny, heroism in face of bodily chastisement, or the firm refusal of bribes. True hypomonḗ is not motivated outwardly by public opinion or hope of reward but inwardly by love of honor.
(Theological dictionary of the New Testament, p. 582)
God wants us to be perfect (teleios means "wanting nothing necessary to completeness, full grown, adult, of full age, mature") and complete (holokleros means "no part wanting or unsound, entire, whole; retains all that was initially allotted to it and wanting nothing for its wholeness"). Completeness means restored to what we have always been intended to be in Christ. We sometimes resist this process with all that is within us.
We can expect trials, and we can expect God to give us wisdom in the midst of them. We just need to ask for it without any doubting that He will answer us because His goal for us is maturity.
In order to reach maturity, we must be entirely surrendered to His will:
God uses trials to wean us away from childish things; but if we do not surrender to Him, we will become even more immature.
In James 1:9–11, James applies this principle to two different kinds of Christians: the poor and the rich. Apparently, money and social status were real problems among these people (see James 2:1–7, 15–16; 4:1–3, 13–17; 5:1–8). God’s testings have a way of leveling us. When testing comes to the poor man, he lets God have His way and rejoices that he possesses spiritual riches that cannot be taken from him. When testing comes to the rich man, he also lets God have His way, and he rejoices that his riches in Christ cannot wither or fade away. In other words, it is not your material resources that take you through the testings of life; it is your spiritual resources.
We have three imperatives from James so far: count—a joyful attitude; know—an understanding heart; let—a surrendered will; ask—a believing heart.
(The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, Jas 1:4, p. 340)Trials can take the form of testings on the outside, but sometimes they can be temptations on the inside. James 1:13-18 focuses on how to handle these temptations. "When our circumstances are difficult, we may find ourselves complaining against God, questioning His love, and resisting His will. At this point, Satan provides us with an opportunity to escape the difficulty. This opportunity is a temptation. . . . A temptation is an opportunity to accomplish a good thing in a bad way, out of the will of God" (The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, James 1:13-18, p. 341-342). Temptation is not from God. He is all goodness, and He is the giver of all good gifts, even though Satan would like us not to believe that (remember he has done that since the beginning in Genesis 3).
"God's gifts are always better
than Satan's bargains."
than Satan's bargains."
REFLECTION (written in 2013)
I memorized James 1:2-4 in the Philip's paraphrase many years ago, and I cannot tell you how many times it has ministered to my soul in trials:
When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realise that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.I needed to be reminded of this passage this morning as we are in a big transition with my husband's new job being 89.9 miles northwest of here. One of my sons is still in high school so I need to be here while my husband stays closer to his new job.
Transition brings trials and stress, and I am trying to welcome it all as a friend. But today I feel more down and sad than anything. I need to just keep processing and pressing on. God has provided this good gift for us (there were no jobs in our current city), but we do not have the wisdom to know how this will all play out, but God does!
So, I am trying to welcome this new friend into my life, "Come on in, sit on down. I embrace you." But I am still in that process and asking for wisdom in how to respond to it all and surrendering my will to His. My husband's first full day away was harder for me than I thought, but I am a wimp without my husband. Someday I will be a "mature woman with the right sort of independence," but we will always be in process toward that end our whole lives.
We just need endurance for the process. My friend said on my Facebook page this morning, "You have super endurance." But I do not feel so enduring today.
Update: We have been through three months of this new job, and God has given us endurance and blessings far beyond anything we have prayed for in Ephesians 3:20 style! Praise be to God. How good to read what I wrote here and to have "let the process go on" as it says in the Philip's version!
2015 Update: Now we are two years into the process, and it has still worked out really well for us! We see God's sovereign purpose in my husband staying with his mom and aunt as they are getting older.
Think about the various types of trials: financial and relational. Look up cross-references to trials: Romans 5:3-5; 1 Peter 1:6-9; 4:12-13.
How do you face the trials of life? Do you ask God for wisdom in the midst of them or do you turn to other people or give into temptation? (YES, I ate a whole pint of Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream at the end of my first full day without my husband.)
God knows the perfect way to handle it because He is perfect in wisdom (Romans 11:33-36; Daniel 2:20-23; Job 12:13, 16; Isaiah 9:6) and gives it generously.
Do you welcome trials in as friends with joy or shut the door in their face and throw a temper tantrum?
We can have four reactions to trials: 1) get bitter and angry, 2) have a pity party, 3) blame it on God, and/or 4) lash out at other people. What is your usual reaction?
Do you turn to people instead of God? (They can help lead you to God or be an idol that keeps you away from God.)
Do you give into temptations that eventually lead to sin?
Process and press in to our GOOD God today!
Lord, thank You that You want to complete what is lacking in our faith. We do not always know the whys and wherefores, but we trust in You completely. Amen.