When we last talked about James, we ended on this note.
For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:3-4 NLT)
- So, our faith gets tested.
- Our endurance has a chance to grow.
- And, because of that, our endurance becomes fully developed.
Developed is the same as “perfect result” in the NASB. It is a combination of two words:
- teleios meaning brought to its end or finished, and wanting nothing necessary to completeness. And –
- ergon meaning business, employment, that in which anyone is occupied. And, that which one undertakes to do, enterprise, undertaking.
So we, as we walk through this life in Christ, are about an undertaking which will eventually come to an end; almost as if we were employed on a contractual basis.
If you want to think about it as work, then what is your payment?
For the believer, our reward is focused on the simple joys that we find in the Lord, not driving around in $100k vehicles; that and an eternity of peace with the Father.
This idea of a lifetime of tests and trials is definitely not a huge selling point when making a pitch for people to come to Jesus. Would you have signed up for this blessed life in Christ, if Pastor Greg Laurie had told you, it would be a life filled with trials, some of which, like the loss of your son due to reckless driving, will attempt to rip your heart out? Perhaps not.
We have been using terms like tests, trials, perseverance, endurance, and faith, but now it seems as if we are thrown a curveball, as James states:
James 1:5 NASB But 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.
I think I can comprehend how wisdom would play into the conversation, however, the statement could imply that our inability to manage the trials, is completely on us. Now, that might be the case, and one of my previous pastors admonished the audience with, “if you are having problems in your life, you brought them on yourselves.” I don’t think that assertion is entirely true, simply because we have an enemy that is out to kill anything that looks like Jesus.
“Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour, whom withstand steadfast in your faith, knowing that the same sufferings are accomplished in your brethren who are in the world. And the God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, establish, strengthen you.” (1 Peter 5:8-10 ASV)
I included a few extra verses because the story doesn’t merely end with the enemy in deadly pursuit, it ends with us, standing steadfast in our faith. What else does it say? It says we know that others are suffering in a similar manner. You see, you are not alone in this, we are all being attacked. Your purpose is not to wallow forever, it is to strengthen and establish others, as God, in Christ Jesus, has strengthened you.
Wisdom is the Greek word sophia and yes, it means wisdom, however, the Word Study Dictionary also conveys this: 1. Skill in the affairs of life, practical wisdom, wise management as shown in forming the best plans and selecting the best means, including the idea of sound judgment and good sense. 2. In a higher sense, wisdom, deep knowledge, natural and moral insight, learning, science, implying cultivation of mind, and enlightened understanding.
Dr. J. Vernon McGee helps to define wisdom by stating:
“You and I have troubles and trials and problems. How are you going to solve this problem? How are you going to meet this issue? How are you going to deal with this person? If you lack wisdom in regard to a problem, you need to go to God in prayer.”
So there you are, struggling, crying, and clamoring out to God in every manner possible. Are you asking in faith when you do this?
It seems like a laughably simple question doesn’t it; but the obvious part of this, is that most of us do just what I described – we struggle, clamor, whimper, and cry, and there isn’t, most of the time, a stitch of faith in any of it. Fortunately, we serve a God of Mercy, that and Jesus sits by the Father interceding for us, constantly.
Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (Romans 8:33-34 NASB)
By the way, the one who is bringing a charge against you is Satan, and he has already been convicted.
Here is what the Message has to say about James 1:5.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. (James 1:5 MSG)
Sometimes the Message just pulls it all together.
James 1:6 NASB But 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.
“he,” in this verse, is the one who is doing the asking, and they look a lot like you and I, even if it is not up to religious standards.
What is faith, or what does it look like?
I have had moments when my faith was rock solid. I knew that when I prayed God would come through, and in a few rare moments, He did. But then there were times it seemed as if God did nothing, and my words might as well have been swamp water. Don’t get me wrong, fancy, well-spoken words have nothing to do with this. It is the motivation in your heart that gets the job done. And, most often you will not be able to explain where the faith to pray came from. In those times when you are struggling, you must learn to lean upon the Holy Spirit, because He will give you a prayer, that in some cases has sounded like nothing less than groaning, for I could not put words together, but I had to pray.
Alright, you prayed, but you whimpered your way through it, hoping that the God you have been avoiding would listen. There was no faith in that, and you doubted He would come through the moment you opened your mouth. James tells us, you are like the guy out in the surf, on a board, and you don’t know what you are doing. Those waves are going to beat you up and drive you further out to sea. Who wants to be that guy? No one.
James 1:7 NIV That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Just wait, we will try to fix this.
James 1:8 NIrV He can’t make up his mind. He can never decide what to do.
Who is James talking about?
The one who doubts when they ask.
James 1:9 TLV But let the brother in humble circumstances boast in his high position—
I will be honest here, many of the translations come across as though we should be praying for money; enough money so that we could snub our noses at others. That thought is so out of character for this conversation that James is having. I used to be involved in the “faith” movement, and the constant push for money and the associated greed made me sick. This TLV translation seems to say it best, however, it leaves you and I to guess as to what it means.
Look at what Dr. McGee says:
“You may say, “I’m just a poor individual. I don’t have very much. I don’t have any wealth.” My friend, if you are a child of God you have a lot of wealth. You have treasure in heaven. And have you ever stopped to think what you have down here, what you have in Christ? We have everything in Him. Paul wrote, “Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, And ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s”
Regardless of my circumstances, God sees me in the Son, and the Son, is doing quite well, thank you. Knowing this is no reason to get boastful with people, but you can certainly thank the Father for bringing you into His family.
A confession here. I am notorious for speaking about a subject while being unaware of what the following verses may bring. Such was the case here. Verses 10,11 speak as though this discussion was planned and intentionally integrated. When you do bible study, I suggest that you do a good read of the chapter, and that way you will have an overview, knowing that an obscure verse like 9, will be quickly answered. Fortunately, for me, the Holy Spirit, which leads us and guides us into all truth, has just done that, and so here is verse 10,11.
James 1:10-11 TLV and the rich person in his humble position, because like the flower of the grass he will pass away. (11) For the sun arises with a scorching heat and withers the grass, and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed. So also the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will wither away.
None of this answers the question of why James touched on the subject of wealth in a conversation about prayer. Perhaps James brought it up because there is a prosperity theme that runs through the promises to God’s people; and, it is a topic that God covers in His conversations with Abraham, and then the children of Israel – they thoroughly expect God to bless them, and since we have been grafted into the vine, then God should bless us as well. Ah, but what is a blessing? For some, it is the simplest of things. If your prayers are not being answered and your situation seems dire, then you might easily say, that your circumstances are humble.
Look up the word humble in your Strong’s concordance and you will find this: tapeinós, meaning depressed or humiliated. Both of these effects are primarily motivated by what you think of how others perceive you. My recommendation, don’t make money your focus. But in consideration of what James 1:11, we are looking at a brother in humiliating circumstances. Those circumstances could have come from a variety of means, and in our current quarantined world, in which the majority of people have lost their jobs because of a disease that has shut down the world. Even if it is NOT your fault, it is often humiliating to stand in a massive line just to get toilet paper, and now meat.
With that, we return to the subject of testing our faith.
James 1:12 NASB Blessed 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.
Blessed is the person who perseveres under trial. To persevere is to hang in there, persist, and carry on – as if the negativity doesn’t matter.
I went through an intense test like this when it came time to get married for the first time. To start this story off appropriately, you must know that I found what I thought was the trophy wife; she was beautiful and well made. But there was a nasty flaw that I chose to ignore because like Samson, I wanted her. A little over six months before I married her, she broke up with me and started dating my younger brother. Because I had been involved in the “faith” movement, I knew all the right verses, such as “anything you ask the Father, in my name, believing, you shall receive.” Well, I guess my prayers worked, and I believe they worked because God is true to His word, and I was willing to fight like a Honey Badger to get what I wanted. Are you beginning to detect the selfish underlying motivations I was dealing with? For six months, while she was with my younger brother, I cried my eyes out, pounded the steering wheel of my car, and reminded God of what His word said. We are not married anymore and I am choosing to leave the dirt out, but there were two huge lessons that I learned through this fiasco.
- God is faithful to His Word, and will “often” give you what you ask for.
- Be careful what you ask for because it is not always the best thing for you. That woman almost destroyed me.
Take a look at James 1:12 through Eugene Peterson’s eyes.
Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. MSG
A question we did not get to deal with, and always comes up, is this:
Is God doing the testing?
The answer is NO, regardless of what it looks like.
Scripturally we know this:
James 1:13 MKJV Let no one being tempted say, I am tempted from God. For God is not tempted by evils, and He tempts no one.
Jesus is God, and Satan tried to take Him on, on several occasions. When you read about this time, it seems as if they were mere minutes apart.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit up into the wilderness, to be tempted by the Devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterwards hungry. And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If You are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But He answered and said, It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:1-4 MKJV)
Note the cutting jab, “if You are the Son of God.” I can guarantee you that Satan knew exactly who He was. One of my faith teachers declared after the Holy Spirit lit upon Him and God declared that this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased, that there would have been no doubt in Satan’s mind, but then, what do you do with the fact Mary and Joseph brought Jesus, on the 8th day of his human life, to the temple to have Him circumcised, according to the law. Both Simeon, the priest, and Anna, the prophetess, openly and verbally declared that they had witnessed God’s salvation – the Messiah. You can look this up in Luke 2.
Let’s take James 1:13 apart.
- “when he is tempted” – “I am being tempted”
- “For God is not tempted”
- “by evil”
And the verse ends with this:
- “And He Himself does not tempt”
It seems somewhat logical that God would test and try us, perhaps to find out if we are loyal to Him, but an excursion through these words has made something rather clear to me.
It will make more sense if I point something out.
- Christ died for sins, plural – past, present, and future.
- Because we are in Christ, we are made righteous.
So, God is no longer looking for a reason to judge us, because the judgment for sin was all put on Jesus Christ.
If God has no reason to judge us, then there is no need for such testing or a trial.
Now, I know that the religious will read this and scream that I am living in falsehood because I am not acknowledging sin. Oh, that is where you are wrong, for while we live in these bodies we are inundated with sin – a missing of the mark. Thankfully though, Jesus was submissive, and God never looks at those who are His as anything less than the Son.
What is my take away from this?
That the tests you and I go through come from only one other source. Yes, I am aware that these tests often look like people, but they are only a convenient tool for the enemy.
This idea of testing evokes a question, does God also use people to carry out, I cringe to say it, His wrath?
Absolutely, and a primary example was the Babylonian empire.
We will pick up at verse 15 of James chapter one next time. Until then, God bless and cause your needs to be met.