The book of James is very direct and to the point. There is a lot of solid guidance inside and I find I must go more slowly in order to avoid skipping right over some. As such, I will break James 1 into more than one article.
Testing Your Faith
1James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.
2Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
9But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11For 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.
12Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
Considering it joy when we face trials is certainly not the reaction of the flesh and self. James highlights one way in which YHWH uses such difficulties to develop us personally. It is a great attitude and if you need to ask YHWH to help you experience your trials with that attitude, go ahead and ask for his help.
James encourages us to ask for wisdom if we need it. Who doesn’t! I do indeed ask the LORD for wisdom and often. I can try to study and think and understand a situation, but sometimes he has something in mind that I will not possibly put together on my own. I need his wisdom.
The warning from James is also a good reminder… don’t ask if you don’t expect him to answer. Ask with confidence that he is able and will help you. Ask with faith. This does not mean you will always get what you ask for, but the LORD does want us to approach him with a confident faith.
The next round is a bit challenging. For a person of humble background to glory when in a high position sounds easy enough, but the flipside for a rich man to glory in his humiliation… that sounds tough. I believe the context is that rich people may have a tendency to be self reliant instead of reliant on YHWH. When they face defeat or challenges (e.g. humiliation), perhaps that brings more humility to help them submit more fully on YHWH and recognize their dependence on him.
James also warns about a common misunderstanding that still is around today. YHWH is not the one who tempts you. He may allow you to be tempted, but he does not tempt you into sin. That comes from our own lusts. James does not even point to Satan here, but to ourselves. Let us remember we inherently have a sin nature. Through Yeshua we are made clean and through the Spirit we are led to more holy living.
I find it very interesting that the next chapter talks about every good and perfect gift coming from above, after talking a lot about humiliation and hard times. These can indeed be gifts to the one who endures and grows stronger and more faithful in the LORD. I would definitely say in my life that enduring trials has helped me to grow closer to the LORD, though I still don’t ask for more trials!
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