by pastor Andrew
James is one of my favorite books in the New Testament. I feel that in some ways I can relate to James. To me, James seems to have been a no nonsense, get to the point, in your face kinda person. I prefer the no nonsense approach to things and the just tell it like it is method. This past Sunday I began preaching on the book of James and covered the opening, specifically, James 1:1-18. Verse 2 begins with “count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds”. James wastes no time in revealing to us that it is a certainty that we will face trials and tribulation in our lives. His use of the word when opposed to if is a definite indicator of imminent hardship. Even though James reveals this nugget of insight to us, believers are often caught off guard when the trial arises.
I think the nature of the trial that James refers to is often reduced in severity and applied to everyday frustrations and aggravations that we face. This may not seem like that big of a deal but, in my opinion, thinking like that can take away from the value we place on this particular section of wisdom. Everyday aggravations and frustrations do not necessarily equate to trials. For example, driving in heavy traffic when you endure and fall victim to the heinous act of being cut-off is not the same thing as facing a trial orchestrated by Satan and his minions. The resulting response of angry words and gestures to being cut-off is purely a lack of self-control and not a tactical response to the devil’s schemes. James’ use of the word trial, probably could be compared more closely to what Jesus endured while in the wilderness. Verse three provides some support for this by indicating that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness.
While Jesus was in the wilderness, He was tested, and endured temptations presented by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). While tired, hungry, and thirsty, Jesus endured a confrontation with Satan where he was offered many of the things that man is often tempted by. Food, power/authority, and wealth (all physical and psychological temptations that men struggle with in spiritual warfare). In his low, weakened, state, Jesus demonstrated his steadfastness, or his endurance in faith, by remaining true to God’s word, equivalent to wielding the sword of truth to defend Himself from the attack of the enemy. Each temptation provided Jesus an opportunity to give in to the devil or build more endurance in faith. In some ways, this may have been Jesus’ training period for building faith in His Father’s presence and provision for His bigger trial which would take place just prior to and leading up to His own crucifixion.
The temptations that Satan presented to Jesus may just have been used to contrast the suffering and pain that he knew Jesus would endure for a vastly ungrateful people whereas our temptations are somewhat different than our Lord and Savior’s. James goes on to discuss where our temptations come from. Verse 14 indicates that each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. While He may test us and allow us to be tempted, God does not create the temptations we have to face. Our temptations stem from the desires of the flesh that develop within us as a result of sin entering the world and the perpetuation of sin by man. As much as we want to deny the fact that the desires of the flesh have an effect on each one of us, the reality is that they do. It is these desires that the devil exploits when we are facing the trials that James speaks of. These desires have the ability to cause us to walk away from our salvation should we succumb to them. If Jesus would have accepted any of the temptations offered by Satan, the devil would have won. It is the same with us. If we choose to engage in the temptations that are born of our flesh, the devil wins; However, if we choose to stand on God’s word, utilizing the Sword, His Word, to drive back the temptations, then and only then, have we triumphed over evil utilizing the power and authority of Jesus Christ.
Verse 12 says Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial. Blessed is indicative of joy that can only come from the Lord. It is sometimes difficult to rationalize being joyful while in a trial; however, consider you may find joy in the fact that if you were not on the right track with God, then Satan would have no reason to mess with you in the first place. Perhaps the joy comes from our assurance of eternity with the Lord, our faith in the assurance of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1). That is our blessed hope, or Christ’s imminent return for His bride (us, the church). It is a fact that whether we are saved or not, we will face trials and tribulations; however, remaining steadfast to the Lord in a life trials and tribulations provides the Christian with a heavenly father, and advocate in Christ, and a guide in the Holy Spirit while developing a life of hope and reward. In contrast, a lonely life in the world often leaves one angry, bitter, and hopeless awaiting an eternity of what they believe to be nothingness. Comparing the two, both lives sound challenging but joy that comes from the Lord can only be found in the life that remains obedient and reliant upon the word of God. A life in the world leaves one with nothing, while a life lived in steadfastness to the Lord leaves one wearing a crown more valuable than anything that can be found on this earth (Rev 2:10). What are your thoughts?