Nobody likes to suffer. And nowhere in Scripture does God encourage Christians to seek out suffering. However, trials and temptations are a part of life. God is not the author of temptation or evil. But God does allow Christians to face temptation and evil as part of His plan to shape us into the image of His Son. Trials like physical pain, family fighting, attacks from unbelievers, conflicts with other Christians, and failures in school and life can push us to the breaking point. These hardships press us to put all of our hope and trust in Christ and Christ alone. Suffering burns off the dross, our spiritual impurities, the junk in our hearts and lives that keeps us from being like Jesus. And when we face temptations to sin and abandon our commitment to Christ, we find out just how strong our faith really is.
That is why James tells us to “consider it pure joy” (v. 2) when we face those trials and temptations that we hate and cry about. These temporary troubles are purifying our faith. They prove that our trust in Jesus is not rooted in the blessings He gives us but in our relationship with Him as our one and only Redeemer. And God uses our sufferings to build “perseverance,” (v. 3) a fancy Bible word for toughness and endurance. God’s plan is to make us into “mature and complete” Christians, people of spiritual strength with roots that dig deep into Him and His Word. The road to heaven is not a cakewalk. But if salvation didn’t cost us something, would we really value it like we should? Whatever troubles you face right now, take them to Jesus. Let God do His refining work in you, and let His Word and His Spirit give you the strength you need to find the joy of perseverance.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Questions to Think About
- What trials are you facing in your life right now?
- Can you think of trials in the past and see how God used them to strengthen your faith and character? Explain.
- In what ways are you a more mature believer now than you were a year ago?
Welcome to the book of James! Today we begin our spring semester book study of James, a hard-hitting epistle with lots of practical applications. James was a half-brother of Jesus and a leader of the first church in Jerusalem. He was a Jewish Christian writing to other Jewish Christians who were scattered across the Roman Empire. James probably wrote this challenging letter sometime around AD 50, making it one of the oldest books of the New Testament.
Even though James was written almost 2000 years ago, it can still pierce our hearts, rivet our souls, and lift our spirits today. This spring, our study of this epistle will include the following always relevant topics: 1) Dealing with trials and temptations, 2) Hearing and obeying God’s Word, 3) Controlling our tongues, 4) Finding godly wisdom through humility, 5) Avoiding the dangers of wealth, 6) Learning patience, and 7) Praying in faith. James opens his letter by calling himself a “servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ,” a title we should all hope to carry as Christians. James was an apostle, something which we can’t be today because they were only a special group of people who lived during and right after the time of Jesus. He was also an elder (pastor), a church office only a small percentage of Christians will ever hold. However, James thought of himself as simply a servant of Jesus, a mindset we should all have as Christ’s disciples. James’ original audience was a group of Jewish (“the twelve tribes,” i.e. of Israel) Christians scattered across Europe, Southwest Asia, and Northeast Africa. However, today his letter is part of the Holy Bible and has been read by Christians throughout many centuries and all over the globe. We pray his inspired words will strengthen our faith as Christians at NRCA this semester!
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
Questions to Think About
- Have you ever studied the book of James at church or elsewhere before? If so, what do you remember learning?
- Of the topics mentioned above, which seem most interesting to you right now?
- Are you already studying a book of the Bible on your own (like for personal devotions)? If not, would you be willing to try reading James devotionally on your own this semester as we also study it in homeroom? Why or why not?