Introduction (v. 1)
Who is the Author?
As soon as we start this book we are hit up with a puzzle. The author doesn't specify which James he is. He simply says, James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. And that's part of the fun of studying a book. It's discovering a little bit about the author. The author's background will sometimes affect your interpretation of the book, so we want to understand who he is. And there are plenty of hints as to who this author is. While there have been a few people who have disagreed, most evangelical scholars believe that this is James the brother of Jesus. And even liberals who used to date this way later have been forced by the evidence in recent years to acknowledge that this was written in about 48 AD by James the brother of Jesus. I won't bore you with all the details, but let me give you a few hints.
The first hint is found in the word "scattered" in v. 1 - to the twelve tribes who are scattered abroad. The Greek word is diaspora. Now that word could refer to unbelieving Jews scattered throughout the empire. But the problem is that James treats them as Christian Jews who had not only been scattered but were under fiery trial. Was there any time when Christians were dispersed under trial? Yes, two times. The first is found in Acts 8, which took place in 35 AD.
At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered (diaspora) throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. (Acts 8:1)
There was a second persecution and diaspora in Acts 12 that took place in 44 AD.
Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. (Acts 12:1-2)
So the earliest date would be 35 AD when the first Christian diaspora happened in Acts 8. If it was the persecution that started in 44 AD (in Acts 12), then it would rule out the Apostle James who was the brother of John and the son of Zebedee, because that James died in Acts 12. Many authors believe that this is conclusively in favor of Acts 12, and thus in favor of James the brother of Jesus, but Lenski and others argue that it could easily have been in 35 or 36 AD. So that's not conclusive.
The second hint is that this James seems to imply in verse 1 that he is still in Jerusalem. Virtually everyone agrees that those who are scattered abroad refers to a scattering from Jerusalem outward. And so this James appears to be writing from Jerusalem, to people who used to be a part of his daily ministry in Jerusalem, but now are scattered. All of a sudden you have a huge hint as to who he is.
And that brings us to the third hint: was there some prominent James in Jerusalem? And the reason I say prominent is that the author of this book seems to expect that everyone in the dispersion will know who he is simply by saying that he is James, the servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, the rest of the New Testament makes it pretty clear that James, the brother of our Lord, was the leader in Jerusalem. Galatians 1:19 implies that he was already in leadership at the time of Paul's conversion. He was considered by Paul in Galatians 2:9 to be one of the three pillars of the church of Jerusalem. He speaks of James, Cephas and John. And James' name comes first because he was very prominent. But he is called a pillar of the church. This James is identified by Paul in Galatians 1:19 as being the brother of Jesus our Lord. The risen Lord made a special appearance to James his brother (as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:7) and that probably resulted in his conversion in 30 AD. So, whereas the two other James are spoken of as James the son of so and so, this James is so prominent in the church that he is simply called James in the New Testament. Everyone else is distinguished in some way. From Acts 12 and on (and probably from Acts 9 on, cf. Gal. 1:19), he is the leader in Jerusalem. That would explain why he didn't need to specify which James he was. Everyone would immediately assume it was the James who was the most prominent person in Acts 12, Acts 15 and Acts 21. It was the James everywhere else.
Fourth, it needs to be a James who has authority over the Jewish church and Jewish evangelism, and who has authority that spans over many churches. In Galatians 2;9, Paul said that James (along with Peter and John) were specially called to the Jews.
Fifth, the language used by James in this epistle is uncanny in its closeness to the speech of James the brother of Jesus in Acts 15 and to the letter sent out under his authority, and apparently written by him in the same chapter. It is the same style and vocabulary. Mayor lists out the parallels. For example, the only other time an apostle uses the greeting of verse 1 here, is James using it in Acts 15. Greetings is literally "rejoice." And there are several other unusual words that are unique to James in Acts 15.
Flip over to Jude 1. Jude is written by another brother of Jesus, and it starts with the same language as James, with the exception that he adds the phrase that he is Jude the brother of James. So that helps to clarify. Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James. People wonder why a brother of the Lord wouldn't have highlighted that fact that he was the brother of Jesus. And I think the reason is clear. Jesus said that flesh and blood avails nothing. His brothers and sisters are those who do the will of God.
Now I won't bore you with any other details. But many authors are dogmatic that the evidence simply doesn't fit any other James. As the New Geneva Study Bible words it, "it is almost certain that the author of this book is James the brother of Jesus." And so, through the rest of this series that is what I am presupposing.
When is he writing?
James is a fascinating book for a number of reasons. And the first reason is obvious from what we have already said. It's the first book to be written. Whether you think it was written sometime after Acts 8 (35 AD) or after Acts 12 (44 AD) there weren't any other NT books written by then. Virtually all evangelicals say that because of the lack of discussion of the circumcision controversy, it couldn't have been written after Acts 15 (48 or 49 AD). So there are your options - 35 AD at the earliest, 48 AD at the latest, a thirteen year window of time. And the fact that there don't appear to be any Gentiles in this church may argue for a 35 AD date. This gives us a fascinating glimpse into what the church looked like before.Gentiles started pouring in. There are a lot of so-called Messianic congregations in America, but if you want to see what a real Jewish Christian church looked like in the first century, this is it. We will see that this book settles many controversies that rage about the nature of the church, continuity with the Old Testament, the place of the law in church and in society, etc. This book is a healthy corrective to the American church.
Who is he writing to?
With that as a background, you immediately know that it is written during a time of fiery persecution. Both Saul and later Herod were trying to exterminate the church – to completely stamp it out. And James is writing this book to give comfort and encouragement to these persecuted believers.
Notice that James does not elevate himself in a pompous way. Instead he puts himself down. If he was an apostle, he does not highlight that fact, but calls himself a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. If he was the brother of Jesus, this is even more surprising. If he had anything whereof to boast in flesh, it would be that he was a flesh and blood relation with Jesus – a half brother. And yet, he ignores that as being utterly irrelevant. Though James had plenty of influence, he didn't get it through pulling strings, blood relations, or money. He gained it through service. Early church writings spoke of James as having incredible holiness, incredible prayer life, incredible humility. He had such a knowledge of the law that they called him "James the Just." The early church historian Hegesippus, who wrote around 175 AD, said that James spent so much time on his knees in prayer that his knees looked like camel's knees. Even Josephus mentions the incredible holiness and the high esteem that he had in the eyes of Jews. Though he was murdered in 62 AD (by the orders of Ananias the high priest), he was remembered for being an unusual man. Yet he sees himself only as a servant of Jesus. And really, we are nothing apart from our identity with Jesus. And in Christ's kingdom, influence and leadership only comes through service. The one who is leader of all must be servant of all. And though in this book it is clear that James has authority over these Christians, he addresses them as their brother in verse 2.
Why is the church called "the twelve tribes"?
But there is more in verse 1. To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad. This is an incredibly Jewish book, and it shouldn't be surprising. At the time that this is written, there were very few Gentiles who were in the church. The church was almost entirely a Jewish remnant from Israel who saw themselves as being the true Israel. Paul was probably not yet converted, or if he was, it wasn't much before this. For James, the church is Israel, and Israel was the church. Throughout this book there is a tight relationship between the New Testament church and the Old Testament church. They are treated as being one and the same people. James treats the Old Testament Scriptures as being the Scriptures of the church. In fact, he uses the term synagogue to describe the gatherings of the people. Look at chapter 2:2. For if there should come into your assembly is literally, "For if there should come into your synagoguge." James knows nothing of the dispensational "two peoples and two purposes" theology, even though most Messianic congregations are dispensational. Christian Jews were the true Israel, and the true Israel was the church, and the church was the synagogue, and Christ restored the twelve tribes of Israel to the true faith; He didn't do away with them. Any other interpretation does violence to the New Covenant. Flip a few pages back to Hebrews 8. The whole of our life is founded upon the New Covenant promise of Jeremiah. And Hebrews quotes that at length two times. Both times make clear that the covenant was made with Israel. Look at Hebrews 8:7-13. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says, "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… etc.
Well, how do Gentiles enter into this New Covenant if it was made with the Jews? The same way apostate Jews entered in. When John the Baptist insisted that all Jews repent and get baptized, he was making clear that God was treating Israel as Gentile and outside the faith. It was Jewish proselyte baptism that he was applying. And John the Baptist was beginning the process of restoring the remnant of Israel to be the true Israel. And the apostles were continuing that practice.
Now I am emphasizing this point because it makes a big difference whether you believe that Israel and synagogue were replaced by a Gentile church, or whether you believe that the church was simply restored to its purity in Acts 2 and the Gentiles were later grafted into this remnant of the 12 tribes of Israel. Galatians 6:16 refers to the church as being the Israel of God. This is why Martin Luther had such heartburn over this book. He was trying to interpret it into a Greek worldview rather than seeing it in its Hebrew context. James whole point in this book is that Israel is not true Israel apart from its relationship to Jesus Christ her Messiah. Jews cannot reject her Messiah and still be considered legitimate Jews. And that's why Paul says, not all Israel is Israel. That's why Revelation 2:9 says, I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. That's why Revelation 3:9 says, Indeed, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not; but lie… We need to get used to realizing that God does not have two brides, but one bride. He has one people, one temple, one olive tree, one vineyard, one field, one Israel, one church. It doesn't matter which illustration of the people of God that you look at, it is one. And here, the only church that was now in existence is described as being the true Israel, and yet it is an Israel that is scattered abroad. And the purpose for this is that they will inevitably come into contact with the Gentiles who will be welcomed into this Israel.
How is Paul saying the same thing as James?
Now just so that you can see that there is no tension between Paul and James, I want you to turn to Ephesians. Throughout this book I will be demonstrating that Paul and James see eye to eye. They see eye to eye on justification and every other doctrine. And they see eye to eye on us being the true Israel. Ephesians 2 beginning at verse 11. Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles [and the pote there in the Greek means once, but no longer. "once Gentiles] in the flesh – who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands – that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been made near by the blood of Christ. [once we were far off from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to to covenants of promise, but now we have been made near. Look at verse 19] Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit. Notice that he says there is one house, one temple, one Israel, and that we are no longer foreigners from Israel, but are fellow citizens.
Now if somebody objects that Gentiles can never be Jews because Jewishness is ethnic, I would point them to Esther 8:17 where it says, Then many of the people of the land became Jews. Jewishness was never an ethnic issue. Were the 318 male servants of Abraham who were circumcised ethnically related to Abraham? No. But they adopted the religion of Abraham. Rahab the harlot was considered a full Jew, even though she was once a Canaanite. Caleb the Kennite was considered a Jew even though he was not a descendant of Jacob, though he was of Abraham. And there are many other examples.
And in the same way, the church of the New Testament was the new Israel, and the only way anyone can be related to Christ is by embracing the God of Israel and being incorporated into Israel. AT the last supper Jesus said, But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials, and I bestow on you a kingdom just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus, Paul and James all assume a continuity with the Old Testament. And James will be appealing over and over to the Old Testament and what he calls "the perfect law of liberty."
Keys to Having Joy in Our Trials
Discipline of the mind (v. 2)
Ok. Back to James. In his greeting James immediately sets up an acknowledgement that they are suffering – they are scattered abroad. But the first words out of his mouth to these suffering Christians is an interesting Greeting. Greetings is literally "rejoice" (kairein). And then he launches into a reason why rejoicing can characterize the Christian at all times. As Paul says, Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice. Here James says, My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials
The four key words that you will find in this book are rejoice, joy, patience and perfect (or mature). One of the evidences of maturity in the Christian life is the ability to still walk in the joy of the Lord even when life is not fair – even when you have gotten chewed out by the boss for something you didn't do. Every Christian faces trials. They don't have to be trials of persecution (like these Christians faced) to be able to rob you of joy. Simple disagreements with others can turn Christians sour. So can financial problems, headaches, insomnia and other aches and pains.
And so James gives seven key concepts to make sure that our joy in the Lord is not robbed. The first is a discipline of the mind. This is a critical one! He tells us to count it all joy, or as some translate it, to consider the trial all joy – verse 3 - knowing [again, there is the mind in gear. "knowing"] that the testing of your faith produces patience, etc. And that word "consider" is a key, key element in handling trials in a godly way. As Jay Adams says, "The mature Christian sees something in the trial that the immature Christian completely misses". We tend to fill our minds with all the reasons why this is a lousy, stinking bum deal. The mature Christian according to James will fill his mind with all the reasons why this is not only a good deal, but it is a deal that should be seen as the basis for unmixed joy (as some translate it): not part joy and part grief, but all joy; some translate it "pure joy." My brethren, count it all [or pure or unmixed] joy when you fall into various trials…
How on earth could a trial be considered to be a joyful event? Well, I can assure you that what you think about that event will make all the difference in the world. Let me illustrate. My two older brothers and I had taken an all day hike up the mountain behind our station in Ethiopia, and it had gotten late and the fog had started to come in. And as we were making our way home, we got lost. We knew we did not want to be out on the mountain at night with all of the animals coming out, so we started getting kind of concerned. At one point we thought we had found a path that was familiar, and we started to run down the mountain. That was not a smart thing to do. I remember tripping and skinning my knee and my elbows and my two brothers were commiserating with me. And I remember distinctly feeling sorry for myself and complaining inwardly. All of a sudden the fog lifted, and we were able to see clearly that just a few feet ahead was a large cliff that I would have run off if I had not been tripped. And I remember just as distinctly being elated and being ever so grateful for tripping and skinning my knee. All of a sudden, skinning my knee sounded great. It was an unmixed blessing to have fallen. Nothing in my circumstances had changed between the time I was nursing bad feelings and the time I was elated except a different perspective within my mind because the fog had now lifted. Now that we can understand. But James wants us to discipline our mind and to focus our thinking on the promises of God even when the fog has not lifted, and even when we don't understand God's purpose in the trials. What we do with our mind can make all the difference in the world between joy or sorrow.
I remember as a child thinking it awful strange that the Ethiopians would always ask to have injections rather than pills. Somehow or other they thought that injections would do a better job and sometimes you couldn't convince them differently and had to inject them with water. And boy were they thrilled. What we think can make a painful event seem like a joyful one. I hated dentists as a kid, but I remember Ethiopians laughing for joy when a dentist came to pull painful teeth in Ethiopia. They knew the miserable alternative of having a witch doctor gradually chip and pry the tooth out with a nail and a hammer. I don't think that any woman likes to go through the actual process of labor. It is painful. But there is something joyful about that labor as well. And James wants us to stop thinking negatively and to begin to consider our trials pure joy. What we consider can help us or hinder us in handling trials. And let me tell you, it is so hard to do this first step, because the mind wants to dwell on the negative; to nurse hard feelings, to be bitter.
Let me read you a verse from Peter that will help us with this word "consider." 1 Peter is a book that deals with this question of facing suffering with joy, and in chapter 4:1 says, Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind. He says, "arm yourselves" because it is a struggle to respond properly. And you need to arm yourselves with the kind of mind that Christ had to sufferings. Our emotions tend to lead our minds into all kinds of negative thinking, and a downward spiral of worse thinking and the response of worse feeling. Our emotions lead us around and Peter says we need to arm ourselves (just like being in a battle) by having a proper mindset.
And James uses a Greek word for "consider" that tells us to do just that. It's primary usage, means not "consider," but "lead." It's normally translated to lead something. Its secondary usage "consider, count, regard," comes from the idea of "leading one's self to think;" "leading one's thoughts" just like you would lead a horse or a mule along. You could render it this way: "Lead yourself to think that it is all joy when you fall into various trials." In order to not be overcome by your trials you need to wrench your mind out of the pagan cesspool of bitter and gloomy thoughts that it is wading in; you need to stop giving your mind free reign to muck around in those swamps and you need to begin leading it in the direction of considering the basis for joy. If you allow your mind to do what is natural and muck around in self-pity, you will become despondent and you will be disappointed. I think you can see why Peter says, "arm yourselves by having this mind," and why James is saying that you need to break that cycle in the area of what you consider.
You know, Olympians do this all the time. Why do Olympians go through the pain and inconvenience of their daily preparation? To me it sounds miserable. Well, they do it because they consider the results worthwhile, right? They are fixing their minds on something that makes even the practice joyful.
My guess is that some of you have let your minds wander in the swamps rather than reigning it in. And that is one of the reasons why I have given you some homework to do. If you are to consider why trials are pure joy, then you need to have some reasons to do so and I recommend that you study through the Sermon Supplement at home. And don't restrict yourself to the reasons I have given in the Sermon Supplement. Those are some ideas, but God may be able to bring all kinds of good from your trial.
Don't Deliberately Seek Trouble (v. 2 – "fall into")
The second step is a little easier to understand. It is that we should not deliberately seek trouble. And unfortunately, in the early church there were many who did seek martyrdom because of the glories associated with it. And James says, "No. No. Don't choose the trouble." My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials… 1 Peter 4 says that if we suffer for our sins that is our own fault. That should lead to sorrow and repentance. But if we are suffering for any other reason, we can rejoice. I knew a Christian who blamed all of his persecution on the fact that he was a Christian. The reality of it was that most of his troubles came because he was a jerk. He deserved it. And I won't dwell on this point more because I think it is fairly obvious. But we bring on many of our own miseries.
Stretching Our Faith (v. 3)
See these trials as God's integrity checks
The third key is that we need to stretch our faith. Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. We need to see the trials that are brought into our lives as integrity checks from our heavenly school master to see if we are ready to handle more blessings and responsibilities. He is constantly testing us to see where we are at in our development, and if we don't respond rightly by passing the test, he puts us back in school. It takes faith to believe that God's hand is in everything and that Romans 8:28 is true…
See these trials as having a good purpose
…that God has a good purpose in everything. But James says that we can be joyful when we know that this is a testing of our faith, and secondly, that it produces something good within us. And as we stretch our faith by doing the right thing, God comes through and it gives us joy and encourages us to respond rightly to the next integrity check.
Developing Patience (vv. 3-4)
The fourth key to having joy in trials is to develop patience or endurance. When an athlete is first stretching his or her body, he is probably in pain quite a bit. Now I have never been an athlete, so I'm sure that I can't 100% relate. I would never have been motivated by an Olympic medal. But I remember in College in Alberta being motivated by something else to try hard. We had to be a part of some sport, and I had already tried one year in football and found that not to be to my liking. And that is an understatement. We were playing in the snow in extremely cold weather, and every time I tried to block, I felt like some frozen body part had fallen off. I was constantly checking my ears to see if they were still there. So the next year I was there I decided that I was going to try for track. The first day that we were lined up for track the coach looked at my bow-legs and started laughing. And he said, "Kayser, what are you doing here? The only things your legs are good for is standing in a circus." Well, suddenly I was motivated to prove him wrong. We had a class of about 30 or so long distance runners, and I trailed everyone. But I was determined, and during the next few months I got so that I was the fourth fastest in the class. But initially it was pure, unmitigated torture. I thought my lungs were on fire and and that I was going to die. But I developed patience, or endurance, and I got to the stage of having runners euphoria. And once I had experienced that, I looked forward to running. Running became more and more of a delight. But I would never have gotten there without patience or endurance. And in our spiritual walk, we will never achieve that spiritual euphoria of joy in the midst of pain if we do not stick it out. We reap in due season if we do not give up. One of the illustrations that I use when I am counseling people is of a calendar with a multiplying penny. You've probably all heard the illustration in math class. Which would you rather get paid: $1000 a day for 30 days or 1 penny on day one, two on day two, four on day three, 8 on day four, 16 on day five and keep doubling through the end of the month. And the answer of course is that the doubling penny will pay far more. It will pay millions of dollars by the end of the month. But what people tend to do is that they will work hard against their fleshly desires for one week and then give up because the small returns don't seem worthwhile. Then they will give in to the sin, and go back a few steps. Then they will be convicted and start again, but with no large returns. And after doing that several times, they eventually give up questioning whether God's methods really work. But if they would have persevered with patience, they would have entered into richer and richer rewards. And so that is what James is saying. Endurance and patience is an essential to entering into this runner's euphoria. And this is actually part of the next point.
Say "No" to the Present Orientation of Your Flesh and Say "Yes" to the Future Orientation of the Godly Mind (v. 4)
The fifth essential step is to say "No" to the present orientation of your flesh and to say "Yes" to the future orientation of the godly mind.. Verse 4 says, But let patience have its perfect work… There is going to be this struggle between what you want right now and what you want in the future. If you are present oriented, the future won't drive you and you will never develop maturity. In fact, you will never get anywhere in life even economically. And if you don't understand this concept of future orientation, I would encourage you to ask Bear for a copy of that tape from the Wealth and Prosperity series. Until the flesh is crucified and weakened, it will cry out at every step of the way, "Please, let's take a rest." And you say, "No." And it says, "But why not? You deserve it!" And you say, "Get behind me flesh. I am not going to listen to you." And the flesh cries out, "Don't be so irrational. Don't deny it. You are hurting." And at every step of the way you are saying "No" to the flesh so that you can say "Yes" to patience to have its perfect work. This is exactly what Olympians must constantly do. They say "No" to themselves every time their tired muscles beg them to quit. And as your lungs start aching and you begin to wish that you could be a couch potato like millions of other Americans, you deny yourself and you endure because of the goal that is set before your eyes. That's the difference between the mature Christian the book of James is beginning to talk about and the immature Christian. The immature Christian has flabby spiritual muscles because every time God our spiritual coach gave him exercises to do he gave into the self-life and could not endure.
If you have not learned to say "No" to the present oriented flesh on the little things of daily life, there is no way you will say "No" when the big trials come. Timid girls have stood fast by the Lord while undergoing torture while strong men have crumbled. Apparently strong marriages have crumbled because Christians have failed to be driven by the future. All they can think about is their present pride, hurt feelings, desires and tiredness. Future orientation is critical to avoid giving in to present oriented desires.
Make sure that your goal is holiness, not comfort
But this brings up the sixth step. We need to make sure that our goal in life is not comfort, but holiness. Your goal will make a big difference. If your goal is to be comfortable, it's irrational to say "No" to comfort now. Why do we say "No"? Verse 4 says, But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. That should be our goal – conformity to the image of Christ. If your goal as a Christian is to be comfortable, you will constantly be disappointed in life. If your goal is to be conformed to the image of God, your discomforts will not discourage you.
I' not a big Larry Crabb fan, but he has written some good stuff. In one of his books, he said something shocking. He said:
A man opened a counseling session with an urgent request: "I want to feel better quick."
I paused for a moment, then replied, "I suggest you get a case of your favorite alcoholic beverage, find some cooperative women, and go to the Bahamas for a month."
Now it was his turn to pause. He stared at me, looking puzzled, then asked, "Are you a Christian?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Well, your advice doesn't sound very biblical."
"It's the best I can do given your request. If you really want to feel good right away and get rid of any unpleasant emotion, then I don't recommend following Christ. Drunkenness, immoral pleasures, and vacations will work far better. Not for long, of course, but in the short run they'll give you what you want."
And he continues:
Preachers all across America are building huge congregations on the promise of unblemished happiness now. Our modern understanding of Christian joy envisions an eager excitement as we face each day, yielding to a serene warmth in older years, capped off with the bliss of Heaven forever.
The biblical writers see things differently.
And I have to agree. We are a society that is geared to being pain free, problem free and risk free. And all of our solutions are on changing the trials rather than changing people. Well, James begins by telling us that God wants a change in you more than he wants a change in your trials. In fact He is the one who has brought those trials. And if you flunk out on today's trial, He is going to make you repeat the grade until you get it right. Jonah thought he could short-circuit the process and avoid the pain of going to Nineveh. He found out very quickly that there are no shortcuts. He just made matters worse.
One of the most misquoted verses in this regard is Romans 8:28. Romans 8:28 does not say that all things will work together for our comfort. You read the context of Romans 8:28 and you will see the kinds of things that are working together for our good. It speaks of groanings, tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword. And then he says, What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us. God is for you in your frustrations and trials. Never forget that. Because God loves you He has no intention of removing all your trials. That would be letting you get flabby before Olympics. God's intention is to change you, and until you are changed the trial can never change. Can you see that?
Psalm 119 says, It was good for me that I have been afflicted (v. 71). Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. (v. 67). He saw God using those afflictions to knock off the rough edges, to draw him closer to God to mature him in the Christian faith so that he could later be prepared to be a good soldier of the cross. How do you have joy in your afflictions? Be more concerned about holiness than you are about comfort. Make sure your goals for you are God's goals for you - conformity to Christ.
Know that God will provide everything that you need (v. 4)
But the last realization that can help us to have joy is that God will provide everything we need to handle the problem in a godly way. We will be complete, lacking nothing. 2 Peter 1 tells us that God's power and God's Word has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness so that you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that HE has provided for us sufficient to make the man of God complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. Ephesians 1 tells us that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. He has not shortchanged you. He wants you complete. He wants you mature. And you can rest assured that you will make it if you arm yourself with the mind of Christ and allow patience to have its' perfect work.
And I will end by giving you an exercise that can be sort of a thermometer on how you are doing in these areas. The moment a trial comes into your life, in faith thank God for bringing it. If you can't thank God with a joyful heart, you still have a long way to go. And this is Biblical 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, in every circumstance give thanks. But Ephesians 5:20 goes one step further and says, giving thanks for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. At first it may seem strange to thank God for trials, but the more you implement James the more natural it will become and you will even begin finding the very act of thanking God for the trials to immediately affect your emotions and your outlook on the problem. You can face trials without gloom. May you do so. Amen.