Everyday Faith (James 1:1-18)

MOTIVATE

3 types of people

  1. Those in a trial. Right now you may be facing an uphill battle, a dark valley, or surrounding storm. You may feel alone and like no one cares. God has things for you hear in this message today.
  2. Those coming out of a trial. You may have recently had an answered prayer with beginning blessings. You’re likely not certain of all that is to come, but you’re thankful you’ve made it through. In all, you have survived what you would like not to experience again anytime soon. One of the ways you overcome trials is by learning lessons God wants to teach you, so you don’t relapse, and God doesn’t have to repeat the training. The first chapter of James has some important reflections for you as well.
  3. Those who will enter a trial. It is possible you have side-stepped or escaped any recent stresses or struggles. Or, maybe you’re too young or sheltered to experience significant trials. We should give thanks to God for His grace and protection from known and unknown happenings. But pay attention to James 1, just in case you ever need to pull these reminders out of your back pocket and dust them off for use.

EXAMINE          

James

  • Half-brother to Jesus, but more servant of God and the Lord Jesus.
  • Earliest summary of Christian faith, with a pastoral heart. The letter contains 54+ commands and instructions for Christians.[1]
  • The letter is written to the “twelve tribes in the dispersion.” The Jews were scattered in the OT due to exile, and continued to be dispersed, especially Jewish Christians, due to persecution for faith in Christ. The latter were ostracized and outcaste everywhere they went. They needed counsel and encouragement, thus we receive the letter from servant and pastor James/Jacob.  
  • Series will answer practical questions for Christianity… today is: “What do I do with my issues?”

James 1:1-18
1  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.

2  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
3  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
4  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
5  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
6  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
7  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
8  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
9  Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation,
10  and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away.
11  For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
12  Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
13  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
14  But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
15  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
16  Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
17  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
18  Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Trials are predictable.

As we’ve mentioned, everyone will endure trials. James says, “when you face trials of various kinds.” The word “trials” (πειρασμός) indicates testing or scrutiny for proof of something. And trials are diverse, they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes (ποικίλος = motley and many colored)! Trials can be physical, emotional, financial, relational, vocational, etc. Unfortunately, trials can vary in frequency (how much) and duration (how long).

This is one of the first examples of Jesus in the book of James. Jesus predicted His followers would have trouble (Jn 14:1) and tribulations (Jn 16:33). The NT is filled with reminders that suffering is a common feature of Christian faith (Rom 5:3; Php 3:10; 1 Pet 1:6-9; etc.). In the book of Revelation, Jesus promises to help us persevere through the tribulation (Rev 3:10). So, nobody is exempt or immune from trials. The school of hard knocks is not an elective course, it is required for every student of faith. To graduate into eternity, we must go through the fire to test the genuineness of faith. 

When faced with trials Christians often assume one of two things:

  1. God is punishing me for something I did.  This is not always the case (James 1:13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one.”). God does discipline those he loves but discipline can come in various ways (Hebrews 12:5-11).
  2. Satan is personally attacking me. This is not always the case either. Rather James 1:14-15 seems to indicate that many of the trials/temptations we face come from our own selfish desires, which often give birth to sin in our life. Certainly, Satan is pleased but the root of the problem is not necessarily Satan but our own evil hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). 
  • Wouldn’t it be great if we could schedule our trials?
    – We get a flat tire when we’re running late.
    – Computer problems when you’re counting on technology for a meeting.
    – A child fills a diaper and needs a change of clothes when you’re heading to church.
    – A person is disagreeable and divides relationally over small issues rather than significant matters.
    – A sickness or pandemic occurs when you have so much to do…
    But we cannot schedule our trials, so don’t be surprised by them – expect & prepare for them every day.
  • We prepare by staying grounded in faith and growing in the word. Daily ask for wisdom, which God gives generously to those who ask (1:5).
    • “If any lacks wisdom…”


Trials are purposeful.

James indicates God can use trials to test our faith, which produces steadfastness – to become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (1:3-4). James uses the word τέλειον and ὁλόκληρος to indicate an overall, entire process and end goal. Isn’t growth the goal of the Christian life? If we’re not growing, we may not have genuine faith.

Trials are purposeful. While it’s true stress can be harmful to our health, stress can also help us be productive. Research has found that stress focuses our concentration and increases our capacity for tasks. Too little stress causes idleness and neglect, and too much stress causes us to be overwhelmed, but overall stress and help us. Faith is like a muscle that needs weight and stretching to be strengthened.

Proverbs 27:21 “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a person is tested”

Trials are like God’s pruning shears; his refiner’s fire; his carpenter’s bench; his chisel in stone; in order to make us what we need to be. Do not look for short-cuts during trials/adversity or else you will miss out on the opportunity for growth and intimacy that God wants to bring about in your life. Many times, when people encounter adversity they waste an opportunity for growth because they do not learn anything new about themselves or about God. God wants you to grow in your character and in your trust (dependence) with him. Don’t waste your adversity!

So, God has a purpose for all things, even bad things (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28-29). While it’s ok to ask God “why,” the greater question is “what next?” We should be encouraged to pray and seek God for what He wants to teach and what we are to learn in each circumstance. God wants us to evaluate our lives before the time comes when he will give us a final evaluation at the judgment. Life on earth is a preparation for life in heaven. James gives us three areas of evaluation – our mindset, our commitment, and our ambitions.

Evaluation of your mindset.

James 1:2 “Consider it pure joy…”

Philippians 2:14 “Do everything without complaining or arguing…”

The word “consider” is an accounting term. So, we are to sincerely reflect on our circumstances knowing the sum total will equal joy. In essence, your outlook will often determine the outcome. In other words, we may not be thankful for every circumstance, but we can be thankful in those circumstances because we are trusting the Lord’s will. Joy is not based on changing circumstances but contentment in the unchanging wisdom. Our attitude will shape our actions for whether we are grumbling or we are finding how to be grateful and grow in the grace of God. 

  • Reframe your status by finding one element to give thanks; or for every gripe offer two gratitude statements.
    • My children are challenged with virtual schooling, but I’m thankful they have can see friends on a screen and have started education.
    • My work tasks require extra focus and energy, but I’m thankful to be employed.
    • My health

Evaluation of your commitment.

James 1:3, 6, 12 “steadfastness… But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind… Blessed is the one who remains steadfast under trial, for when they have stood the test they will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.”

Matthew 13:20-21 seed among rocks shows no root and when troubles come the person falls away

  • Steadfastness implies staying power. This is something that is deeply lacking in our culture. It has become far too easy to not endure and give up.
    • While stopping habits can be a necessary action, sometimes quitting can be foolish and selfish. Quitting can indicate you lack conviction and commitment, and every few years (or shorter) history repeats itself with you walking out. When the going gets tough, the choice is to stop or stay – and too often we stop before we get to see the supernatural; miracles and victory happen for the steadfast. 
    • We lack steadfastness because we lack hope. Biblical hope is not about wishful thinking but confident assurance. These days it is hard to think positively. The negativity of news, the cesspool of social media, the cynicism of culture make it challenging to have hope. How can we believe things will turn out better or result in good based on the present trials and tragedies? There is one reason to have hope, and that’s because God is in control. God is faithful to all that He says. His word is trustworthy. His promises are dependable. God is constant and unchanging. Hope is not a what, but a who – we have a living hope, named Jesus – the defeater of death, the victor over the grave, the healer of our wounds, the comforter in our burdens, the power source for fresh starts and new beginnings.
      • “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he be brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:17-18)
  • Quote: “A woodpecker can tap 20 times on 1,000 trees and get no where, but stay busy. Or he can tap 20,000 times on one tree and get dinner.”[2]
  • When it comes to trials in your life, are you more like a wave of the sea or a strong oak tree that couldn’t be moved by a hurricane? We avoid double-mindedness by allowing our faith to inform every subject and stressor of life. We should ask, “What does God’s word have to say about this?”

Evaluation of your ambitions.

James contrasts a “lowly person” vs a wealthy person (1:9-11). Suffering, sickness, sin, and death do not discriminate against rich or wealthy. Trials have an equalizing effect. Money can mask our problems but not solve them. James reminds us to not fill our life with things that will wither away, fall and fade away, and then perish. 

Further, James describes the evaluation of trials and temptation ultimately relate to our own desires. Our desires can be lured and enticed into something that appears attractive but will lead to annihilation. The metaphor is like a fish attracted to bait that hooks them to become someone’s photograph and dinner. 

The progression of sin follows a familiar pattern: I desire (want). I demand (need). I decide (consume). Our appetite and ambitions can easily drift into items that are selfish and sinful. While we may be tempted to blame God for giving us desires – or believe that God affirms our sinful desires, neither is true. God’s gifts are good, but it is our environment which distorts and damages God’s holy intention.

How can we redeem our desires?

  • Only the Spirit of God can purify our passions. If our desires are frequently and enduringly on self or sin, then it’s likely we lack the Holy Spirit.

APPLY/THINK

There’s a story of a young man who grew up as a poor field servant. His father was a sawmill worker and the son worked in the sawmill too, while in his teen years he learned carpentry skills and eventually to build houses. Sometimes he would go into debt because he didn’t account for the cost of custom pieces and preferences of homebuilding. Yet, the man continued his career working in the sawmill. However, in the prime of his career he was fired. He had a wife and children and was uncertain of his next steps.

The man decided to build houses full time. He mortgaged his house to start up the business. Eventually he had a partner, with both deciding also to build hotels. After a few successful hotel builds, their company was eventually building and opening two hotels every week. Over the years the company has built Holiday Inn hotels all over the world, with a standard room and amenities, and a Bible in every room due to the man’s Christian faith.

Wallace Johnson said in his diary, “If I knew where the head of the [sawmill] that kicked me out, I would thank him deeply for what he did when this difficult situation happened. I was very hurt and did not understand why, but now I understood that God wanted to close my door to open a better path for me and my family.”

We often see in hindsight what we cannot see in foresight.

God never abandons us.

Ps 116:1 “when I was helpless the LORD saved me.”

God’s various grace granted to serve and help one another.

1 Peter 4:10 “each has a gift, use it to serve one another, as a good steward of God’s various (multicolored) grace.”

One of our best responses is to praise God for His grace and faithfulness. Don’t grow bitter, grow better in the Lord.

Psalm 34:1 “I will bless the Lord at all time, his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”


[1] Kistemaker, Exposition of James, as found in R Kent Hughes, Preaching The Word, James 1:1.

[2] Seth Godin, The Dip, p.29.

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