CONSIDER IT PURE JOY
JAMES 1:1-18 K.V. 2-4
Because there are many James throughout the bible, the James introduced today is believed to be the half-brother of Jesus himself. Both Peter and Paul quote James in the book of Acts and in the letter to the Galatians. The story behind this author begins after Peter departs from Jerusalem to start new churches. Subsequently, James takes over as the new prominent leader in the mother church. If this were Ubf, it would be like Mother Berry leaving and James coming in as our new leader. This was the first Christian community ever; made up of Christian Jews. It is said that James spent roughly 20 years leading this ministry and had experienced very challenging times during his tenure. A famine lead to great poverty and Christian Jews were being persecuted by Jewish leaders.
Moreover, James was known as both a pillar in the Jerusalem church and as a peacemaker who lead with wisdom and courage until he was martyred (death by stoning). His letter is tailored to the Christian Jews that were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. And unlike other authors in the gospel, James is very unique in his style of writing. His goal is to get in your business and challenge the way you live. Inspired by the wisdom literature found in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes (Ah-clee-see-ass-tees), James’ 5 chapter letter concentrates on questions of daily living in God’s good creation. He considers such practical issues as concern for the poor, the responsible use of wealth, control of the tongue, purity of life, unity in the community of Christ, and above all patience and endurance during times of trial. My message has two parts.
Part I. Joy through trials
James wastes no time and kickstarts his letter by firing off strong words of wisdom. His initial emphasis alludes to the fact that life is hard. If this was a briefing, I picture James skipping through the entire power point and getting straight to the facts. Look at verse (2)“Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” What kind of consideration is this? And what does joy have anything to do with trials? For further examination, Dictionary.com defines joy as “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying.” Trial on the other hand is defined as “the state or position of a person or thing being tried or tested; subjection to suffering or grievous experiences; a distressed or painful state.” Seemingly bizarre, James is saying that we must have a good attitude and be a good sport, especially during times of pain and distress.
Verse 3 tells us why and verse 4 goes on to illustrate how that looks like. It reads, (3) “Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (4) Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Have you ever felt like the word of God is hard to understand sometimes? This is one of those moments. How could we possibly be in good spirit, especially when we feel like we are broken? The word of God has revealed to me that the only way to possess a better attitude during any occasion is when we receive a new vision. What we see is way different from what God sees. Not only are human eyes filled with eye boogers, but God’s vision extends beyond human comprehension. We can develop a better attitude when we see through God’s point of view. New vision creates a new attitude. Our attitude is dependent upon our views. How we view things determines our attitude.
Furthermore, let us look closer to the testing of our faith. In life, testing is everything. Job qualifications and college admissions are two of the most frequent and common types of testing conducted worldwide. Knowing what we test for, and how we test for is one thing, but knowing why we test for makes all the difference! Nothing is free in this world. Whether humanly, or spiritually, everything comes with a price. And faith is included in this principle. In order to be selected as a military officer, for example, one of the requirements is to pass the officer exam. In order to receive a pilot slot in the military, you must go through 18 months of flight training . In short, a test is a tool used to measure someone’s level of competence, skill, growth, and/or potential. It is an indication of progress or lack thereof. Simply put, test results show where you are and where you want to be.
Accepting Christ Jesus as our personal savior requires faith. And the testing of our faith shows where we stand before God. How can we become qualified Christians without the testing of our faith? No one in the bible, not one biblical figure received a free pass to heaven. Everyone had to withstand some type of test. Our Faith must be tested in order to draw closer to God. There is no improvement in the absence of training.
Additionally, we witness the shaping development of the holy spirit during the production of perseverance. It is the holy spirit that takes form of perseverance. By allowing perseverance to finish its work, we actually experience the holy spirit in action. Why I believe this is because behind every motive lies a driving force. And our driving force as Christians is the holy spirit which pulls us closer to God’s heavenly realm. Nothing is more motivating then that! As a result, we become mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Moreover, for those with little or no faith at all, James explains in verse 5-6 exactly how to receive such a vision, attitude, and spirit. And luckily, because of the existing notion of ‘sometimes is not what we know but rather who we know,’ James connects us with an inside source. God! It reads, (5) “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Wow! What a privilege. We all have unlimited access to God and ask for wisdom! God will give this kind of wisdom to those who ask for it. We are then forced to choose between anxiety or trust. And true wisdom is choosing to believe that God is good despite our circumstances. There is, however, a way to go about it. Look at verses 6-8, (6) “But When you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. (7) That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. (8) Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
Can you relate to this? I know I can. Several times before, I have gone to God requesting my prayers only to realize that deep in my heart I was doubting in him. This is not to say that those with weaker faith are not worthy. God is well aware that it takes time to build our spiritual confidence. But, it is important to be aware of the fact that unless we pray with decisive and firm belief in God then we might fall short of God’s provision.
The author goes on by highlighting two groups of people with different trial situations. Look at Verses 9 & 10, (9) “Believers in humble circumstances out to take pride in their high position. (10) But the rich should take pride in their humiliation since they will pass away like a wild flower.” Practically speaking, one group relies humbly on God and the other group relies proudly on their human riches. Both groups, however, are being tested. Their response to their test brings us back to the vision, attitude, and spirit.
Correspondingly, when our views are aligned with God, we become believers, our attitude improves, and we begin to rely on God’s provision. Thus, we welcome a new spirit. In contrast, when our views are conformed to the patterns of this world, we neglect God and rely on our human strength. Our attitudes are then compromised when we experience failure, thus, welcoming a poor spirit. Equally as important, verses 11 & 12 portray the images of both the defeated and the victor- giving the reader a sketch of what that looks like. For the rich it reads, (11) “For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.” On the contrary, for the humble it says (12) “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” May the word of God enable us to consider our trials as pure joy and to view them as opportunities to grow before Christ so that we may receive God’s vision, attitude, and spirit.
Part II. Deception through temptation
As mentioned earlier, James likes to get in your business and challenge you in how you live. For this reason, he quickly transitions from trials to temptations. Look at verse (13) “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” The awareness that temptation derives from evil is one lesson we must learn here. Temptation by definition is something that tempts, entices, or allures; the fact or state of being tempted, especially to evil. And deception is used to employ temptation. It is the act of deceiving; misleading; being dishonest; fraud.
An example of this is recorded in the first book of the bible. Gen 3:1 reads, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.” Here we see a glimpse of how astute Satan is. As the story goes on, Satan tempted Eve by appealing to her hunger, appealing to her eyes, and appealing to her desire to be wise. It read, ‘the woman saw the tree was good for food,’ to her eyes ‘it was pleasant to the eyes,’ and to her desire to be wise ‘a tree desirable to make one wise.’ In addition, Mathew 4:1-11, also explains how the devil tried to tempt Jesus. Satan tried first by appealing to Jesus’ appetite, then by appealing to His position, and finally by showing Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Satan also uses the boastful pride of life, just as he did with Eve (he told her she could be just as wise as God) and to Jesus (he tried to appeal to His special status as Gods Son by telling Him He could throw himself off the temple and God would protect him).
Personally, temptation is letting your guard down and allowing the evil one to creep into your heart. It is at your weakest and most vulnerable moments when Satan comes in for the attack. Look at verse (14) “but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” Here, James clarifies that it is our human desires that succumb to evil and not something that God performs. In verse 15, we are warned about these evil desires and where they lead us if we’re not sober and vigilant as stated in 1 Peter 5:8. Verse (15) reads “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.” Simply stated, one small act of evil leads to another eventually leading us to death.
In verses 16 & 17, James is wise to reinforce his audience not to confuse trials with temptations. He thoroughly describes that trials are gifts in disguise given by God and that anything coming from heaven is perfect. He says (16) “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.” (17) Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Finally, James concludes his lesson on trials and temptations with a powerful reminder of what God chose to give us so that we might become products of truth. Look at verse (18) “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” Wow! God chose to give us birth through his word! God, through his holy nurturing, hopes we can grow to be like him by becoming firstfruits of his creation.
My faith, as we speak, is currently under great perseverance. I am being tested daily. Dealing with my parents, especially with my challenging father, studying for my officer exam, not having a job, worrying about my family members and their faith or lack of to struggling with my own faith are a few obstacles I am faced with. In past times I have felt as if the Lord has turned his back on me. I have had moments where I feel like I move but go nowhere. I have 2 degrees, several certificates, I am a recent Airman in the Air Force and yet I am still stuck at my parents’ house. To consider this as pure joy is absurd! There is absolutely nothing joyful about my current situation! But with a new vision, through God’s point of view, this is a gift in disguise. God is putting me through trust training and preparing me for something greater than myself for the near future. Through this, God has taught me to have a better attitude. A new vision creates a new attitude. And a new attitude gives birth to a new spirit. Bad attitude bad spirit. Good attitude good spirit. Or vice-versa. Good spirit good attitude. Bad spirit bad attitude.
When I have asked for patience, God grants it through patience training. Somehow, I can tolerate more weaknesses from others now. When I have asked for endurance, God grant it through endurance training. He has given me extra strength to keep on going. I have asked for better understanding and he has put me through understanding training. As a result, I have become a better listener. I have asked for compassion, so he put me through compassion training. Now, I go the extra mile for those who I feel deserve nothing. Whatever you ask God will grant first through training. God will not provide fully until he feels you are ready to receive such request. I cannot be selected as an officer if I do not pass my officer exam. I cannot be selected as a pilot if I do not pass flight training. We cannot receive anything until we are ready for it.
In closing, we learned that there is a domino effect in the word of God. The testing of our faith produces perseverance. And perseverance must go to work in order to be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Additionally, the ability to see hardships through God’s perspective is the first step. With a new vision then creates a new attitude. When we see things through God’s eyes we are empowered with a better attitude. This in turn gives birth to a new spirit. When guided by Christian core values, life’s trials can become gifts of God. We receive the gift a vision, attitude, and spirit. Moreover, to avoid falling into the traps of the evil one, we learned about temptations, where it comes from and how it is executed. In short, understanding the difference between what is God-giving from what is evil-driven is paramount to those who are called to be disciples of Christ. May God continue to grant us all generous wisdom so that through his vision we may consider all trials as pure joy! Amen!