James 003 – Rejoicing in Trials, Part 1James 1:1-5 • Dr. Andy Woods • September 16, 2020 • James
James 003 — 091620
James 1:1 — We have gone through the background to the book of James, and below are the 11 questions that we asked and answered:
- Who wrote it? James
- What do we know about the author? Christ’s half-brother
- Who was the audience? Believing Jews in the Diaspora
- Where was it written from? Jerusalem
- When was the book of James written? AD 44-47
- What was the book’s occasion? Practical righteousness
- What is the book’s purpose? Achieving practical righteousness
- What is the book about? Practical righteousness
- What is the book’s theme? Daily living
- What makes the book different? Practicality
- How is the book organized? Faith and wisdom
So what is the book’s occasion, purpose, about — really, it is about not how to become a Christian, but about how to live as a Christian. We would call this a book not so much about positional righteousness but practical righteous-ness. Once a person is saved, how do they live for God in such a way that their practical righteousness is pleasing to God? Our positional righteousness is already pleasing to God. But how do let our practice catch up with our position; that is really what the book of James is about. The dominant theme is daily living and it is a very practical book. We also talked about how the book is organized around faith and wisdom.
We are moving into the actual verse by verse teaching, so we start with James 1:1, which is the salutation, a fancy name for greeting, and the greeting is found in verse 1. Here, we have the writer and the audience both mentioned. Who is the writer? James 1:1 —James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ to the twelve tribes who are dispersed. So who is the writer? It is this man, James, but the problem is that in Greek, it doesn’t say James. The Greek word there for his name is basically Jacob; the Hebrews would pronounce his Hebrew name as Yaakov or Jacob, just like the Jacob in the book of Genesis. So how do we get James out of Jacob? Why do we call it James? Why does every study Bible have on the top of the letter of James? Why is the English translation James? This history is interesting. The Hebrew name is Yaakov, and that name in Hebrew, which was James’ name, “Jacob,” when translated from Hebrew into Greek, the name [lakōbos], (the name in brackets) is the result.
One of the interesting things is that the Greeks have no “Y” sounding letter, so the “Y” sound, Yaakov, was changed to an “I” sounding letter and that “I” sounding letter, the very first letter in that word in brackets above, so Yaakov became, if I’m pronouncing this right, “Ayakobas.” This is akin to the Hebrew name for Jesus, “Yeshua,”as it became Jesus, as we pronounce it. But Jesus in Greek, begins with an “I” sounding letter. Just as Yeshua became Jesus, in the same way, the “Y” was changed to “I” as we move from Hebrew, James’ name because James, for his entire life, was Jewish. All of Christ’s disciples were Jewish; his name was Jacob, so when you take that Hebrew name and translate it into Greek, and you take into account that the Greeks have no “Y” sounding letter, and that they substituted “I” for “Y” that is the name in Greek — for the name, Jacob.
Then that name was translated into Latin — why Latin? Around the 4th century, Jerome came up with the Latin Vulgate. The Roman Empire had been on the scene for a long time, and the dominant language that Rome brought in was Latin. Jerome was trying to create a version of the Bible that could be read in the common language, and that’s why it is called the Vulgate — in that word, ‘vulgate,’ you will recognize the word, ‘vulgar,’ which essentially means ‘earthy’ or ‘common.’ Today, we use the word, ‘vulgar’ as a cuss word, but it originally meant ‘common.’ So, Jerome translated the Greek and Hebrew into Latin in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate around the 4th century. As Latin evolved, the ‘I’ sound, which you see here in Greek, was changed to ‘J.’ So ‘I’ was changed to a ‘J’ sounding word as Latin evolved, thus the name, Jacobus.
Then as Latin continued to evolve, the ‘B’ sounding word in Latin was replaced by an ‘M’ sounding letter, thus the name, Jacomas. Then when that word, Jacomas, is translated into English, we get the word, James. So where does the name, James, come from? It comes from transitioning from the Hebrew to the Greek to Latin to English.
Arnold Fruchtenbaum says this better than I can; in his Messianic Epistles, he says this concerning the book of James:
“The author’s name appears as James in English Bibles; however, that is only the anglicized form. His real name in the Greek text is Jacob—the same as the Jacob of Genesis. So how did Jacob’s name develop into James? The transition proceeded as follows: in Hebrew, Jacob is Yaakov. Since the New Testament was written in Greek and Greek does not have a ‘Y’ sound, the Hebrew ‘Y’ changed to a Greek ‘I’ sound. Thus in Greek, his name is “Iakobos” in the same way “Yeshua,” the Hebrew for “Jesus,” became the name that we have for ‘Jesus’ in Greek.”
That is where the name that in brackets above originated. Fruchtenbaum goes on to say, “However the English form,” [James, the name that we know this Bible writer by], “did not emerge directly from Greek, but via Latin.” [Fruchtenbaum doesn’t explain here why they translated it into Latin, and I tried to provide that background through the Latin Vulgate]. “When his name was translated to Latin, initially, it was similar to the Greek, Iakobus. But as Latin evolved, Iakobus of Latin became another Latin form, Jacobus. As the Latin language progressed, the ‘B’ changed to an ‘M,’ and his name was Jacomus. Finally, the Latin Jacomus became the English James.”
The names James is not found originally in the Greek text but it goes from taking Hebrew to Greek to Latin to English. So if you want to be absolutely technical about it, the writer’s name is not really James, it is Jacob. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, in his Messianic Epistles, refers to him as Jacob/James, just to avoid confusion. So that is where this name, James, comes from.
So, when you get into the salutation or the greeting, we know who this man is — it is James, and you’ll notice that he describes himself as “a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The Greek word for bondservant is ‘doulos,’ meaning ‘ slave.’ So, he considered himself, although he was the half-brother of Jesus Christ per previous discussion, ‘a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ And frankly, what has always impressed me about the biblical writers is that they don’t tout their credentials. If you were the half-brother of Christ, wouldn’t you go around telling others? Particularly if you’re trying to add authority to your book. You will notice that the biblical writers don’t typically do that; they just call themselves ‘slaves of Jesus Christ.’ I find that somewhat convicting because in modern day ministry, when you look at peoples’ websites and bios, they spend most of the time talking about themselves, their education, experience, etc., and notice how James doesn’t do that; he doesn’t really want a lot of attention to go to himself—he calls himself ‘a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.’
I tried that once, I was speaking at a conference and the guy said, well, how do you want me to introduce you? And I was convicted by what I am saying now, and I said, “well, why don’t you just introduce me as a slave of the Lord Jesus Christ?” I could see that he was rather disappointed when I said that, because he wanted to tout this kind of resumé and wow everyone, but the fact of the matter is that is all we are when you think about it; we would be nothing without Jesus Christ, and the only thing we are as New Testament Christians is slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ. A slave is not there to execute his own will, but to execute the will of his master. That is why we are on the earth; we are not here to execute our own will; we are here to execute the will of our owner because we are slaves of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He goes on in this salutation, and gives the audience, who you already know a bit about from our background study. It says, “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.” Now, ‘twelve tribes’ is very significant, so obviously he is writing to a Jewish audience. This is important to understand because there are a lot of people running around, even some of my seminary professors told me that the Twelve tribes are lost, the lost Twelve tribes, and they think that when God brought discipline against the northern kingdom, at the hands of the Assyrians in 722 BC, the ten northern tribes were scattered and have been lost since 700 years before Christ. You can see easily that this theory isn’t true; even if they’re lost to man, God knows where they are. So, he addresses the Twelve tribes. How do you address the Twelve tribes if they’re lost? That doesn’t make any sense.
Paul, the apostle in Acts 26:7, makes a reference to the Twelve tribes so they weren’t lost in Paul’s day, and there is an elderly prophetess waiting for the Messiah in Luke 2:36 named Anna, and Luke 2:36 gives her tribal identity; she is from the tribe of Asher. It says, “And there was also a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,” so obviously the tribes aren’t lost because we can identify which tribe she came from 700 years after the tribes were supposedly lost. Nor are the tribes lost today; we know that from genetics and DNA, and because in Revelation 7:4-8, the Lord is going to raise up 144,000 Jewish evangelists subsequent to the rapture of the Church to preach the gospel to the whole world, and the Twelve tribes are mentioned there. There are 12,000 from each tribe, “…from the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand from the tribe of Reuben, twelve thousand from the tribe of Asher; twelve thousand from the tribe of Naphtali,…” and down the list where it says, “twelve thousand from each tribe;” 12,000 times 12 = 144,000. The bottom line is that the tribes weren’t lost in James’ day or in Paul’s day, they weren’t lost in Christ’s day, nor are they lost today; but even if they are lost to man, which they aren’t, God knows where they are, and God is going to use them again in the end times. So, don’t pay any attention to Mysteries of the Bible; A & E, the History Channel, when they start blathering about the lost tribes of Israel.
Again, it says in the salutation, “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the Twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad” [the word ‘dispersed’ there is ‘Diaspora,’ or scattered] meaning that they’ve been scattered outside the land of Israel. Who kicked them outside the land of Israel? Saul of Tarsus in Acts 8:3,4 and Acts 11:19 did when Saul became very angry after Stephen made his speech condemning Israel historically and presently in Acts 7. It says in Acts 8:3 (this is before his conversion in Acts 9), “But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word…” Then in Acts 11:19, it says, “So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone.”
So, outside of those places that are mentioned, the Jews went one of two places — up north into north central Turkey, and to Babylon. Why would they go to Babylon? That is where their kin were because most of the Jews did not return from the Babylonian captivity. Thus, they either went up north or to Babylon. I am of the view that James is writing to the scattered Hebrew Christians in Babylon primarily because later, Peter is going to address the folks up north, so that would leave the folks in Babylon unaddressed, thus, I think James/Jacob is writing from Jerusalem to his parishioners because all of these folks used to be in his church, the Jerusalem church, but they were scattered by Saul of Tarsus into Babylon. To reiterate, that is what is meant by the word, ‘dispersed.’ The word there ‘Diaspora’ means Jews, in this case, it is Hebrew Christian believers in Yeshua living outside the land of Israel, likely in Babylon.
The word, ‘Diaspora’ is only used three times in the Greek New Testament, and every single time it refers to Jews living outside the land; in other words, it is a technical term which always refers to Jews living outside the land. The three references referring to the Greek word, ‘Diaspora:’
-The first one is in John 7:35 which says, “The Jews then said to one another, Where does this man intend to go that we will not find Him? Will He go where our people live, scattered (that is the word ‘Diaspora’) among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks?
–The second reference is in 1 Peter 1:1 where Peter says, “To those who reside as aliens scattered, that is the second use of the word, Diaspora, throughout Pontus, Galatia Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia who are chosen.” Those are the ones who made their way up north into north central Turkey, where Peter would address them, and it would make sense that Peter would address those Jews living there because Paul was the apostle to the gentiles, and Peter was the apostle to the Jews. Therefore we believe that both Peter letters are written to the Diaspora Jews living in north central Turkey.
-The third use of the word Diaspora is here in James 1:1 which refers to the scattered Jews thanks to Saul of Tarsus living in the Babylon area. The bottom line is that because the word Diaspora, is a technical word, always meaning the same thing every time it is used, we believe that this book was written by Jacob/James, pastor of the Jerusalem church to his scattered flock in the area of Babylon between the Euphrates and the Tigris, modern-day Iraq, and James is addressing them because he is their pastor. They’re concerned about practical righteousness, and James wanted to address that issue, and they got kicked out of there from Israel to Babylon thanks to the persecution brought against the early church, which was all Jewish, by Saul of Tarsus.
James, therefore, says to the Twelve tribes dispersed, “Greetings.” Greetings is a salutation, and he is sending his greetings. So that takes us outside of verse 1, and once we get outside of verse 1 and into verse 2, we move into the first half of the book, which is basically teaching these people to live by faith outside of the land.
The first part of the book is James 1:1-3:12 where he says that a practical righteousness that pleases God is a righteousness that lives by faith.
In the second part of the book beginning in chapter 3:13 through the end of the book, he will get into the subject of wisdom, which is knowledge applied. He will deal with that later, but that’s not what he is dealing with in the first part of the book — he is dealing with trusting God through all kinds of circumstances. He wants these people who are already saved to continue to walk by faith as they walk through trials per James 1:2-18; as they obey God’s Word in James 1:19-27; as they not show favoritism in the assembly or the synagogue per James 2:1-13 and as they allow their serving faith to demonstrate itself through good works per James 2:14-26. However, the ultimate good work you can do is to ‘keep your mouth shut’ per James 3:1-12, because if you can master that good work, all the other good works are easy, yet that’s the hardest thing for us to do.
So this is basically the outline for the first half of the book of James. As time permits, we are going to look at the subject of trials. How do we live lives as Christians where our practice catches up with our position — where we’re not just pleasing to God in terms of our position but in terms of our daily lives to the point where He doesn’t really have to bring discipline upon us—how to do that exactly?
Well, the first thing to do is to develop the right perspective on trials or adversity. He is going to deal with this in James 1:2-18, and that section has two major parts to it. He is teaching his readers, and us by extension, how to rejoice during trials per James 1:2-12. Next, he will teach us how not to charge God foolishly in the midst of trials. He will do that in James 1:13-18, because the problem with us is that when we run into difficulty, we always want to blame God, and we tend to say that God is trying to wreck our lives; God is trying to destroy us. So that we don’t adopt that mindset, he instructs us in James 1:13-18.
We will start that first section where he teaches us that to achieve a practical righteousness that is pleasing to God, we need to develop a mindset where we rejoice in the midst of adversity. So why should we rejoice in the midst of adversity as a New Testament Christian? Three reasons:
- Trials produce something. God produces things in our lives in the midst of trials that cannot and will not be produced any other way: by patience and maturity. When we go through adversity, we should rejoice in the midst of it because we have a promise from God that He is using that circumstance to produce patience and maturity in us (James 1:2-8).
- Trials produce intimacy and dependence upon God (James 1:9-11). Isn’t it interesting that our prayer lives have a tendency to pick up some in terms of frequency and intensity when thing are difficult? When things are going well, we have a tendency to say to the Lord, ‘I’ve got this under control, I’ll check in with you when I need you.’ But when we are going through a trial, it’s different because now we have to depend upon the Lord to get through it. Thus, the trial itself will push us into the arms of Jesus if we don’t become embittered at God in the midst of it.
- The third reason we should rejoice in the midst of trials is James 1:12, where we are promised that believers are rewarded in the next life for enduring trials in this life, because the psalmist says that God keeps our tears in a bottle. In other words, He keeps a record of our sufferings, and the day will come in the next life where He will reward us for every single injustice or adversity that we have suffered in this life.
So when we keep those three things in mind while encountering a trial, it’s easy to rejoice in the midst of it.
Having said that, let’s start with our first one:
- Why should we rejoice in the midst of trials? Because trials produce patience and maturity. James 1:2, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” Joy is, I don’t believe, the same thing as happiness. Happiness comes from the word, ‘happenstance’ from ‘hap’ or ‘luck.’ The world will say that we can experience tranquility or peace when things are going well. Joy, which we talked about in the book of Philippians, is the ability to experience the peace of God; to experience a deep, down abiding sense that God is in control even when things goes south or become difficult; that’s what joy is. Therefore when we enter into a valley in our lives, James says to consider it all This is the exact opposite reaction that we get from people who are worldly and who don’t have the Holy Spirit inside of them; they don’t even have the foggiest idea how to tap into this because it is something that can only be tapped into through the resources of God; that’s why James said, “Consider it all joy, my brethren.”
Only believers have the resources necessary to rejoice in the midst of adversity; an unbeliever doesn’t have the vaguest clue. It reminds me of what Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me — read Matthew 5:12, “Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” As maturing Christians, how are we supposed to react when people insult us? Persecuted—for example, social media gives people a lot of opportunities to do this in our day and age; to insult us and run YouTube videos against us, saying all kinds of things that aren’t true. What do we do in the midst of that? My own carnal reaction is to consider making my own video to get back at them. No, what the Bible says is that we are supposed to rejoice in the midst of that.
By the way, we should make sure we’re being persecuted for the right reasons. “All kinds of evil about you because of me” — many people are persecuted just because they’re obnoxious. We had a situation in a college not far from where I grew up where there were some Christians who would get big bullhorns and microphones using them to shout ‘hellfire and brimstone’ at the students who were going to class. ‘Repent; turn or burn,” etc. Some even painted their clothes like fire and their cars, etc. Then the administration would clamp down on them, and they’d say that they were being persecuted for the Lord. No, they weren’t being persecuted for the Lord, they were being persecuted because they were acting like idiots.
So, when we’re being persecuted, we should make sure it is for the right reasons. Jesus said, “persecuted because of Me” but when it happens, not if, because 2 Timothy 3:12 says that it is impossible for all to live a godly life in Christ Jesus without being persecuted. In 2 Timothy 3:12, “All who seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” At some point we will be treated unfairly, or slandered, passed over for a promotion, etc., by someone, so when it happens, what we are instructed to do is to rejoice and be glad. And that is what James is saying here, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, whenever you encounter various trials.”
Now think about this: what trial had this immediate audience been experiencing? They had been persecuted by Saul of Tarsus who was dragging them off, putting some of them in prison, kicking them out of the land of Israel and into the Diaspora. So we lose our home, or perhaps disconnected from our family, or lose our employment, and mwe can see why this audience was struggling with how to react in the midst of this.
So, James, their pastor, writes them and says that when these kind of things happen to you, to consider it all joy. Now, you might be reading this and saying, “well, that’s their circumstance, this doesn’t relate to me; I haven’t lost my job, my house, my country; I haven’t been exiled, so this doesn’t apply to me.” Well, look very carefully at what James says: he uses language that is broad enough to go outside of the immediate context of his readers to any trial someone experiences as a New Testament believer. He says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” You will notice that there are various trials; that trials and difficulties is not a one size fits all. There are all kind of trials we go through at different levels. The word, ‘various’ is interesting when studied in Greek. That word was used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, to describe the coat of many colors that Jacob put on Joseph that invoked the brothers’ jealousy. When the Septuagint translators wanted to describe that coat of many colors, they used this word, ‘various,’ the same word used here. The point is that trials are a sort of technicolor, like the various colors of the rainbow; there are all kinds of trials God puts us through in terms of scope, size, degree—maybe one year it will be a physical problem, the next month it is a relational problem, then a financial problem. It’s the idea that God is using all of these ‘multi-colored’ various trials to mold and shape our character in a particular way.
For example, I might have a particular blot in my character that only a certain piece of sandpaper can fix, and God knows which piece of sandpaper is going to fix that problem, and He knows how to use the exact trial at the precise time in my life to round off that particular deficiency—not in my position, but in my practice.
Again, that is what is meant here by various trials. You might say, ‘their trial is different from mine.’ James uses language that is broad enough to include a type of a rainbow; multi-colored issues.
1 Peter 4:10 uses the same word, ‘various’ to describe the various forms of God’s grace. It says, ‘each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.’ So when you use your spiritual gift or gifts, a certain color comes out in the grace of God in His church. When the person next to you uses their spiritual gifting, another color comes out, and if all of us are using our spiritual gifts in harmony with each other, we have a multi-colored technicolor rainbow. That is the same word, ‘various’ in 1 Peter 4:10 that is used here in James 1:2. So when you encounter any of these trials, James says to consider it not just joy, consider it all joy.
Obviously when he says, ‘my brethren,’ this is something that could only apply to Christians because only Christians would have the resources necessary to rejoice in the midst of adversity. What could an unbeliever know about it? Nothing.
So, why in the world, when I encounter a trial or trials of various kinds, would I ever think about rejoicing in the midst of it? His point here in James 1:2-8 is what that trial(s) is going to produce. What exactly will it produce? It will produce two things:
- It is going to produce patience (James 1:3)
- It is going to produce maturity (James 1:4)
Show me a Christian that never goes through these various trials, and I will show you a Christian that has no patience or endurance in daily life; one who is lacking in maturity. The purpose of our going through these trials is that they are producing those two things automatically.
Look at verse 3, patience, and then we will move to maturity. Notice what James 1:3 says, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” Notice that it says that ‘the testing of your faith’ — that means his audience already has faith because something that doesn’t exist cannot be tested. That is clear evidence that he is writing to Christians; believers; he is not dealing with them in the first tense of their salvation but in the second tense of their salvation.
Again, using the quote from Lewis Sperry Chafer that we showed last time, here James is not dealing with saving faith but with serving faith. He is not dealing with saving faith but with sanctifying faith, and I like the way Lewis Sperry Chafer says this: “…The justified one, having become what he is by faith, must go ahead living on the same principle of utter dependence upon God.” So this isn’t evangelism here, this is how to get saved people to keep living on the faith that they already have and move on into maturity because in the Christian life faith is like a muscle, for example, if you go back to 24-hour fitness without having been there for five years (“this fits me pretty well, because I went in there with a kind of ‘he-man’ attitude thinking I could go back and do stuff that I did in my 20s, and did that make me sore for a couple of weeks! I am barely getting over it”). But now why was I so sore? Because these muscles were not being used for a long period of time so they were atrophying. Muscle only gains strength in the natural world when it is used consistently — like the saying, ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it). Isn’t that true with faith? How is your faith ever supposed to go to the next level if you’re never placed in a circumstance where you have to trust God for your problems? Until God puts into your life something that’s too big for you, then you have to trust God to get you through it; that is your faith muscle is being exercised.
This is what James is talking about regarding the testing of your faith. What do the trials produce? The testing of your faith, and then he says, that in turn, produces endurance (James 1:3) or patience. The Greek word endurance here is ‘hupomoné’, and it has to do with the ability to endure as a Christian whatever God has called you to do — in the midst of adverse and unfair treatment. ‘Hupomoné’ is something sorely lacking in the Body of Christ today because the average Christian when joining a church, figures out pretty fast that the church is not perfect. By the way, if you find a perfect church, don’t join that church because your imperfection will ruin that church.
So, the first relational problem or disappointment that they encounter, boom, they’re out that door and off to the next church. Then after a little time passes, and the same circumstances occur somewhere else — the trial is a little different, and boom, they’re off to the next church. So, there is just a lack of steadfastness or what we call, ‘hupomoné,’ endurance under trial.
This is what God is trying to produce in us. He is trying to get us to the point where we are enduring difficulty for His glory. That, by the way, is one of the fruit of the Spirit — “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — against such things there is no law.”
Paul gives the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4, ‘Love is patient; love is kind, is not jealous, does not brag, is not arrogant,’ etc., so one of the things that God wants to produce in us is patience. Have you ever prayed? ‘Lord, give me patience, and give it to me right now!’ It doesn’t work that way. Patience comes through having a multi-colored trial come into your life for which you have to trust God. That’s where patience comes from. That is why James says, ‘when you hit that trial, rejoice!’ because look at what God will do in your life now; He will produce patience, so you will exercise that faith muscle; those opportunities wouldn’t be there without the trial.
Let’s be honest, we really don’t trust God unless we have to, right? I don’t. I would rather do anything than trust God; I would rather figure everything out for myself, execute things in my own strength, and I can get pretty good at that in my flesh. Then God says, “I will fix that problem. I’ll give you a problem that you can’t handle.” And then comes anxiety because you can’t fix the problem. Finally as a last resort, we say, ‘Lord, can you help me with this? And the Lord says, ‘that’s the response I wanted in the beginning. So now we will exercise your faith muscle and you will learn patience.’ Now without the trial you can’t learn patience, so when you hit the trial, James says to, ‘rejoice in it, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.’ So this is a promise of God—that when you hit a trial, if you’re open to the leading of the work of the Holy Spirit in your life, God will use that to build into you something that isn’t there naturally — patience.
Then as patience is allowed to have its work, it leads to maturity. James 1:4, “And let endurance have its perfect result so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. The way the NASB says this is to ‘allow’ or ‘let;’ let endurance have its result. In fact, the word, ‘have’ there in Greek, is a command; a Greek imperative, and he is telling me that under stress, to let God do what He wants to do, which implies that I have the ability, as a New Testament Christian, to shut down the process. If it is telling me as a command to let patience have its result, that means that I must have an ability as a New Testament Christian, to not let patience have its result. Make sense? It wouldn’t be a command if I didn’t have the ability to shut it down because a command implies that I have the ability to disobey the command.
It reminds me of 1 Thessalonians 5:19 which says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” How do you quench the Spirit in your life? By not cooperating with the Lord in the midst of trials. By not letting it make you better, you become bitter. Frankly, 75-80% of American Christians are right there because they’ve been taught a version of Christianity that is a life of ease and prosperity, of self-empowerment; and when they hit an adversity, they believe that God has cheated them since they’ve been mistaught, or they’re just angry at God for allowing this to happen. They close down the process, they don’t let patience have its work, so they stay in the same place of immaturity for decades. Then God tries to get their attention again by giving them another problem, and they have the same result. They don’t get closer to God; they get further away from Him. I think that is what it means when it says, “Do not quench the Spirit.”
It has to do with how we are going to react in the midst of adversity. To a large extent, you cannot control the adversity that comes into your life unless you bring it on yourself by dumb decisions. But that isn’t what James is talking about here; he is talking about adversity beyond our control. These people have been kicked out of their land, their homes; they’re living in the Diaspora; they didn’t ask for but that is what happened to them, and they have no control over this adversity that they’ve suffered.
But here is what you can control: your reaction to the adversity. That is totally within your control, and how you respond to it, determines whether you will be a growing or a stagnant Christian. So, let patience have its perfect work because, that in turn, will put you into a situation so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. The Greek in this passage for complete or lacking in nothing is ‘telios’ which means the end; it doesn’t mean sinless; it means you sin less; you are growing up, maturing; no longer sucking your thumb. You are out of diapers; like we experienced with our daughter while she was learning to walk—when she was a toddler and couldn’t walk without parental support, but how exciting it was when she was walking on her own! So that is what it means — ‘telios;’ maturity; lacking in nothing; you are on the road to growth.
That is what happens when we allow trials to have the work that God wants to do in us through those trials. Patience is developed, verse 3, maturity starts to be developed verse 4, and that is why James 1:2 says ‘when you hit the trial, rejoice because look at what God is going to do through it.’ You will become a more patient person than you were last year because of your trial in 2020, and you will become a more mature, spiritually speaking, person than you were because of your trial. So, James says to rejoice.
Now this is the problem with drugs; this is why our society is hooked on drugs. I am not a medical doctor, but even many so-called prescription drugs, alcohol, all of these kind of substances — are trying to numb the pain; the user is trying to pretend the pain is not there by injecting or ingesting some kind of substance that numbs the pain. As they’re numbing the pain, all of those years of maturity are forfeited because God actually uses pain to bring us to maturity. So, if you get yourself involved with something that numbs the pain to non-existence, then all of those years of maturity where you could have actually been maturing, have been forfeited.
People who have been on drugs since their youth are basically like emotional infants because they forfeited all of the years of potential growth which they could have experienced. I am not here to give medical advice about what legal drugs people should or shouldn’t be on, I am just saying to think about it since we are living in a culture that says to take ‘this pill’ or ‘this shot.’ The goal is to numb the pain; whoever said that all pain is bad? Obviously, God can use pain, and here I am talking primarily about emotional pain that will take us to the next level of faith.
You might say, ‘Gee Pastor Andy, I don’t think like this; I sure don’t rejoice in the midst of my trials, so what should I do? How do I get myself into such a position to have the mind of God that you’re describing in the midst of trials because I don’t have it naturally?’ James tells you exactly how to get the mind of God in James 1:5, “But if any of you lacks wisdom” (the mind of God in trials). I don’t have the mind of God in trials; I don’t react with rejoicing in the midst of trials, so how do I get the divine perspective)? James says, ‘’But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,” (not your counselor, not Dr. Phil) “let him ask of God (now isn’t that interesting how we will go and talk to everyone and anyone about our problems except for the Lord, when it is only the Lord who can give us the right perspective on problems)…”if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God” (now, is God really going to give wisdom to me)? The remainder of verse 5 says, “…God who gives to all generously without reproach, and it will be given to him.” So, if readers lack this perspective, they should ask in faith of God, and He will give them His point of view on trials.
Now, is God in the wisdom business? If you ask God for wisdom on something, is He the type of God that answers that request? We don’t have to look far in the Bible to see that God gave wisdom beyond their abilities to many people. Remember what He did for Solomon? 1 Kings 3:5, “…the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night and said, “Ask what you wish Me to give to you.” How would you like this dream; how would you like for God to show up in a dream tonight and tell you to ask whatever you want and He will give it to you? That was in 1 Kings 3:5, so what does Solomon ask for? In verse 9, “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge between good and evil.” So, Solomon had become the third king of the united kingdom; he reigned for 40 years, probably very young at this point in his tenure, and he said, ‘well the only thing I really want from You, Lord, is wisdom on how to be a king; how do I do the job?’ So God answers in 1 Kings 3:12, “Behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you.” In other words, you will be unique, Solomon, I am going to give you wisdom.
That is why Solomon authored 3 books of the Old Testament: Ecclesiastes, Proverbs and Song of Solomon. Song of Solomon, first, Proverbs, second, and Ecclesiastes, third. Why would Solomon write 3 books of the Old Testament? Because God gave him wisdom. Solomon was involved in many poems, Proverbs, zoology, and botany; all kinds of literature — because he asked God for wisdom. Then God says this, “I have also given you what you have not asked for.” Solomon could have asked for riches and honor; for the death of his enemies. Solomon never asked for an of that; he just said ‘give me wisdom so I can govern your people.’ And God said, ‘not only am I going to answer that request but I’m going to answer all of the other requests that you never asked for.’ 1 Kings 3:13, “I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you in all your days.”
So, you read a story like that and you say, ‘Wow, God is in the wisdom business. God wants to give wisdom.’ Now in this context, it is dealing with wisdom in trials; there is a specific context here, but I believe that almost any matter that you inquire of God, this is true as was in the case of Solomon, so God will give you His wisdom if you really want it on that matter.
This context, though, is dealing with wisdom, or ‘sofia’ or ‘chokmâh’ or right standing; right understanding concerning trials, and is God going to hold out on us when we ask that kind of thing of Him? No, James 1:5 says, “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.” ‘Well, gee, don’t I have to be a member of Sugar Land Bible Church to get that kind of wisdom? No, God gives it without reproach. ‘Well, don’t I have to be an elder, a deacon, a pastor to get that kind of wisdom?’ No, God gives to everyone who wants it without reproach. ‘Well, don’t I have to be walking with the Lord for 800 years to get this?’ No, God gives it to anyone who asks for it without reproach because God shows no partiality per Acts 10:34.
Romans 2:11, “There is no partiality with God.” God is not like a person where you have to butter them up, get on their good side, give them a few compliments, schmooze, and then get what you want. No, that is not how God is. God doesn’t care about your status, your standing, where you live, which neighborhood, your socioeconomic bracket. He is so interested in giving wisdom to anyone who wants it that He will give it.
So that is how we get the divine perspective on trials which produce patience and endurance as you walk through these trials so that we can rejoice in the midst of these trials. If we are not rejoicing in the midst of trials, maybe we need to ask God for His mind on the subject. If we are just getting angry at God for having to go through trials, then maybe we don’t have His mind on it, and if we don’t have His mind on it, maybe we should ask for His mind on it, and He will give it without reproach. If fact, that is what He is doing here in James 1:2-5.
But when we ask, are we supposed to ask in a particular way? Yes, we are, and I can’t talk about it right now as we are out of time, so we will pick it back up in James 1:6 next time. When we ask of God,x we have to ask a particular way; it isn’t even a particular way, we have to ask with a particular attitude because our attitude determines our altitude with God — it is all about our attitude. So, if we are coming to God with the wrong attitude, He won’t answer us, but if we come to God with the right attitude, He will answer.