James 1 - Trials, Temptations and Obedience

Last night at church we had a little exercise centered on Jeremiah 36. There, King Jehoiakim is read a scroll that God had Jeremiah write. It was the words of God, delivered through Jeremiah (and a scribe and a servant) to the King. As the servant read it to the Kind,every few columns the King would slice it off and throw it into the fire pot. He was defiantly showing how little he cared about teh words of God, throwing out that which he didn't like. (Frankly, I don't think he was editing as much as discarding it outright, a distinction without a difference.)

So, we asked ourselves, what parts of the Bible would we like to discard? What bits could we do without? We may not burn them or physically rip them from the pages, but we ignore them, skim over them or simply focus on something else.

Martin Luther is rather famously known to have had trouble believing that the book of James should be in the Bible and last night it would seem that many of our congregation would agree as passages in James, or even the whole book,were targeted for removal.

The point of the exercise was not to edit the scriptures but to point out that we need to accept and submit to all of it. The words God gave to Jeremiah were given that perhaps the people would turn back to God. Jehoiakim defiantly ignored God's word, and he paid a price for it. Perhaps then we should pay more careful to those passages that we find the most challenging. It's in that spirit that I decided to start a study of James.

James 1:2 - This was one of those passages. Consider it a joy to be tested? We decided that we might even be OK with the trials, but would like to reserve the right to grumble and complain about them.

Frankly, this is something that even the world understands, however. "No pain, no gain", right? How many times have you heard stories of folks who grew and triumphed out of severe trial? The fact is that not only has God decreed that his people shall learn from trails and testing, but he has set up the world that way. We grow through challenges, we learn through failure. Why then, not embrace it? Why not revel in the trials that God brings to strengthen us and make us steadfast, lacking nothing.

James 1:5-8 - James says if we lack wisdom, ask for it and God will give it to you. Have you ever connected that with James 1:2-4 where 'lacking nothing' starts with trials and testing? So, if we ask God to grow, we shouldn't be surprised to see hardship come. If wee resist the trials, we resist God who is giving us what we asked for. We like to think that if we ask God for wisdom he will magically bestow it upon us, we will wake up the next morning wise beyond our years. The lessons of history is that God does not do that. Over and over, God's people learned through trials. David being chased by Saul, Paul on the road to Damascus, Moses through the desert and many more. Jesus promises that God will prune us, Paul says that he disciplines those he loves.

So if you ask of God, be ready to joyfully receive the trials that will produce the growth you've requested.

James 1:12 - I always took this passage as a call to endure, to hold out until the trial is over. In the proper context, however, James is saying that being faithful isn't simply enduring, it's embracing the trail as a gift from God for our growth. The blessing comes from God through the trial, not in spite of it. If we can keep this in mind, how will it transform - and redeem - the trials we face?

James 1:13 - He makes a distinction here between trials and temptations. God sends us trials, but not temptations. We need to recognize the difference. Flee the temptations bot embrace the trials.

James 1:19-20 - I find myself needing to remember this a lot. A whole lot. I am quick to become angry by nature. God has given me victory over much of it, but I have far to go.

James 1:22-27 - And now we start to get into the bit that gave Luther fits. James says that our religion is worthless if we simply listen, we must act upon what we hear. How many do just that, they go on Sundays, maybe even Sunday School, Wednesdays and Bible study groups. Yet their daily life is not transformed by what they hear. It's easy to point fingers, but we all know how easy it is to get sucked into the world, forgetting what we learned that Sunday or studied even that morning (or, ahem, lunch hour) in our Bibles. James calls us to a higher faith than mere belief, he calls us to the faith that Jesus did. After all, he called men to act out their faith in serving the poor, denying themselves and seeking the lost.

Faith must produce something in our lives or else it is not faith at all, or else it is merely philosophy, and a powerless one at that.

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James has always been my favorite "ouch" Scripture. And even in my advanced years, I need to re-read it and continue to learn.

Good job, Doug


I am okay with "accept and submit to all of it" as long as we filter it through the words, life and ministry of Jesus. If we don't we will fall into the trap that the Pharisees did in Jesus day.

About trials.. I think that some people view them as something you get through and then can look back on them and vocalize what you learned from them. Some trials however are not like that.. they are very very long.. some even go until you die.. in these there is even more of a need to find joy while you are suffering without hope of relief.

Bob, I certainly respect your perspective on trails. I know a couple of people like yourself who have endured either lengthy trials or one after another and yet continue to praise and serve the Lord. I can imagine that without seeing the joy in the Lord's shaping of your character, life would be quite difficult indeed.

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