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Basic Bible: Blessings Amid Trials

James 1:1-8, 12-18

In verse 1, James identifies his audience as “the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.” James was the recognized leader of the church in Jerusalem which church was focused upon ministering to “the circumcision” (see Gal. 2:9). The twelve scattered tribes would have consisted of former adherents to Judaism who now followed Jesus.

James addresses these converts as “My brethren” because he, like them, once sought to gain righteousness by keeping the law of Moses. James instructed his listeners to count temptations (trials of faith) as joy. Counting adversity as joy is an unnatural thing. The trying of faith, however, is not harmful. It produces patience. A dictionary might list patience as the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset. The faith that James references is the belief that the words proclaimed in the scriptures are true and that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises. James is speaking of joy that stems when one casts doubts aside and believes God and His word.

If the scriptures are true (and they are), Jesus is the Messiah who would be cut off, but not for himself (Dan. 9:26). The Messiah would see death, bear the iniquity of many (Isa. 53:11, 12), and shall make intercession for transgressors, and return to rule (the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand [Isa. 53:10]). The testing of the faith of the brethren which is to be counted as joy is belief in Jesus because Jesus has overcome the test for all who will believe.

“But let patience have her perfect work” (v. 4). All believers possess faith. Faith responds to testing. All are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). Faith, however, is not stagnant. Untested faith has no testimony. When tested, faith produces works. The works vary from wood, hay and stubble to gold, silver and precious stones (I Cor. 3:12). The perfect work of patience produces gold, silver and precious stones.

Patience is the perfect vaccine against trouble, suffering and delay. It is a vaccine which is effective every time it is used.

“If any of you lack wisdom . . .” (v. 5). The lack of wisdom to which James refers would seem to be connected to the testing of faith. The brethren whom James addressed knew that they had been made free of the constraints of the law but struggled to understand the proper manner in which to respond to the freedom that Christ Jesus had purchased for them.

James states that God will provide the answer but one must ask in faith (v. 6). Asking in faith means that believes God will provide the answer and that one believes the answer which God supplies. James describes one who asks God and does not accept His answer as double minded (v. 8). God’s word says: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:5). The double minded man calls upon the Lord but leans to his own understanding. One cannot trust in God with all his heart and lean toward his own understanding. One either trusts God or one does not trust God.

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (v. 12). The double minded man does not endure temptation because he trusts in his own understanding. The double minded man says to do as the Lord requires and does not himself do as the Lord has said.

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God” (v. 13). Did God tempt Adam? Adam chose to disobey God. Adam then blamed God because God had given him Eve to be a help meet (Gen. 2:20). James is telling his brethren to resist that which Adam did.

Adam was tempted by the woman who was fashioned from his rib. The source of Adam’s temptation was the bone which was closest to his heart. In verse 14, James states that every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust. Natural desire draws men away from God. Away from God, one is vulnerable to enticement. When one swallows the bait, when one does what Adam was told not to do, the result is death.

Times of trial are times of darkness. The word of God overcomes all darkness. In verse 16, James shouts out, “Err not, my beloved brethren.” Words mean things. Beloved means that one is loved. All who are loved know that they are loved because they have received the good and perfect gift. The good and perfect gift is from the Father of lights in whom there is no variance. There is no darkness, no possible shadow in the gift that we have received.

God does the unlikely and the impossible. The Lord did the impossible when He begat us with the word of truth (v. 18) and He does the unlikely when He uses our weaknesses to testify of His greatness. He has given us a new being. We are new creatures, born of the word of truth by believing. We have cause to count it all joy when encompassed by darkness. We are creatures of light, born of the word of truth to be the first fruits of that which shall follow.

Let us shine that all men might see.

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