Good morning. He have left Hebrews behind us and we are moving on to the epistle of James. This is going to be interesting, after reading Hebrews with its long passages we turn to James, which seems to contain more in one chapter than Hebrews did in four. Some see this letter to be a practical letter, advocating the good works God has prepared for us to do. It is also thought to be the first epistle of the New Testament to have been written and was most likely written in the early days of the Church. It was written before the doctrine of the Church was well formed and it is lacking much of the Christian language. Nonetheless, the epistle of James must be consumed one morsel at a time.
As we start reading the first chapter we find that James begins with a subject that seems to be controversial in our current age. There are many teachings out there that say it is abnormal for Christians to suffer; that we should be living in the lap of luxury because that is God's desire for all his children. It is amazing how the condition and attitude of our society are permitted the power to shape our gospel. The Word on the other hand has this to say:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
This is the danger of the prosperity teaching or the teaching that it is abnormal to face hardships; when a person believes they are suppose to be rich and they are not they feel either they have failed or God has. How many have we lost to the Kingdom from this foolish teaching. Our Father is interested in preparing us for eternity; that is his priority. If we don't understand that then we will not understand the Word or our lives. Our Father uses everything for the good of those that love him:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
We find this verse in a passage that talks about us being more than conquerors. To be an overcomer there must be things in your life to overcome. In order to be victorious there must exist battles to fight. A life void of trials is no life at all because it has no opportunity to grow and mature.
The Scripture says that we should consider it pure joy when we face many trials because it means that something is happening. The testing of our faith will do one of two things; we will either give up and walk away or we will dig in our heels and press on. If we give up it means it wasn't important to us because we tend to only fight for those things that are important to our core character. By standing our ground, facing whatever we have to face, paying the price, we are showing this is important to us; important enough to die for it.
The benefit starts when we make that decision not to quit, not to walk away, not to lay down and die. As we persevere in the name of Jesus we gain spiritual muscle, becoming mature in our faith. The Apostle Paul took a page from James' book and expanded on it:
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:3-5)
You see that word "joy" attached with the words trials and sufferings. I have a hard time when Christians walk around with long faces. Its like they need everyone to know they are suffering and going through hard times. Where is the witness in that? We are told to rejoice because we know the answer, or at least we know the one who has the answers:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
I do not believe in suffering for the sake of suffering. People who cause their own suffering or seek it out are fools. There is enough natural trials and sufferings in our life that we don't need to invent them. If you are not facing one right now then wait a few hours. It is the attitude and perspective that we have when we face them that concern me because it affects our witness of the greatness of Jesus. We should glad to go through what we are going through because it is developing things in us that we need; God is using it for our good. We should also believe that we will be delivered from it or receive victory over it because that is what has been promised to us in the Word.
You should also ask why you are suffering or facing trials. Is it because you are a follower of Jesus Christ and you are setting an example of righteousness? Or is it because of your own foolishness and stupidity? In the first case lean on Jesus and rejoice! In the second case ask for forgiveness for your foolishness, seek God's mercy and grace, and ask for deliverance. However, even if it is by your own foolishness God will not waste an opportunity; he will still use it for your good, even if it is to teach you wisdom. So let us not give up! Let us press on! Let us become mature in our faith, complete, lacking nothing!