The Beginning of an Authentic Christian Life [Part 2] (James 1:2-18)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 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. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

 

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 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.

 

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. 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. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desirewhen it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

 

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 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 brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

- James 1:2-18

As we started the Book of James this last Wednesday, we saw the foundation of this letter about practical Christian living and what accompanies the life of a believer. The tragic fact is that much of the church in America does not preach about, talks little of and omits much of what the book of James deals with. The popular trend in pop-Christianity is to sell Christian faith as a magic wand to achieve health, wealth and prosperity. Not very often do we hear messages and sermon series about using our faith to walk through the fire of the trials and tribulations of life. Faith in many cases is preached as a way out of adversity and trial instead of a way though and over it.The common thread and shared experience of every Christian believer and follower of Jesus Christ is the reality of various kinds of trials in life. I have yet to find a Christian believer who has not walked through a testing of their faith. This letter that James wrote to the twelve tribes in the dispersion was both a warning and an encouragement to the follower of Jesus Christ.

1. Take Joy in Trials

In our last study we began the this book by exploring the reality of various trials in the Christian life. James commands us to count our trials as joy because through the testing of our faith, patience and endurance is produced that ultimate makes us perfect and complete Christians lacking nothing. Right from the start, many of us are in unfamiliar and uncomfortable waters. When you hear the statement “Count it all joy when you meet trials” you might think to yourself, that’s great James, that’s a nice concept, I get it, but that is not very realistic.The ironic fact with this passage is that, as a pastor, most of my pastoral counseling consists of individuals, couples and families counting their various trials as Hell and not Joy.

“There is this coworker who I just can’t stand. I don’t know what to do.”

“I can’t pay the bills this month and I starting to doubt God’s faithfulness.”

“My child is rebellious and I wan’t to strangle them”

“I can’t keep up with life and I just want to quit”

The reality of our Christian life is that we spend most of it cursing your circumstance and trial rather than embracing it with Joy. James understands this and seems to have an agenda for talking about trials and temptations for half of the first chapter of this letter.“Joy has to be our response to trials and testing or we are absolutely no different than the world.” We expect the world to curse difficult times but when we look inside the church, we see almost the same attitude and behavior. A bunch of grumpy, crusty Christians whining about their circumstances. This is absolute insanity. How can we claim to follow Christ when our response to difficult situations is no different than the world?

For the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross

- Hebrews 12:2
Jesus looked forward to what the trial would produce, which was God’s glory and souls. This is what fueled Jesus to go to the cross. He saw what the outcome of the cross would be and hugged that cross with Joy. When Judith and I went through fertility issues, one subject we joked around with was the idea of the excitement of pregnancy sickness and pains. Because our desire was to have a child, the process of morning sickness and labor pains would mean that we are pregnant with a Child! The sickness would be a sign of the child of ours to come! This is the exact same concept with out trials. When we despise and curse our trials, we show how shortsighted our vision has become. We think only about the here and now. We think about the pain.

“OUCH, this hurts! I don’t like this.”

But the reality is, this pain is a sign that something good is coming! Our faith needs to be that like Jesus. When pain and trials come, instead of complaining and running from the discomfort, we need to REJOICE, because we know whats coming! We are being perfected. We can’t be spiritually mature in Christ until we can have joy in our trials. How many of you are stuck where you are at in your faith because every time a trial comes, your attitude gets sour toward God and you complain and moan about your circumstance?

The strength of patience hangs on our capacity to believe that God is up to something good for us in all our delays and detours.

- John Piper

Our response should be

“Someone broke into my car. oh yea! I’m so glad my salvation never breaks!”

“Lost my job! woohoo! I’m pumped need to trust in God to provide!”

“My marriage is struggling. Praise God, I am going to be so much closer to my spouse when this is done!”

2. Ask God for Wisdom in Faith

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 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. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

- James 1:5-8

One of the regular prayers that we should have a Christian is the prayer for wisdom. Wisdom is an essential commodity for the Christian.

Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.

- Charles Spurgeon

One of the great truths of this passage is that one without faith is like a wave being tossed by the sea.This is the perfect illustration of someone who does not have faith. They are unstable and double minded. You may know these types of people very well. Whatever is going on in the news, in their life, in their family almost always dictates their lives. If the family or kids are doing rough, there is a good chance that they emotion and mind will be shaped to that situation.

If someone around them is freaking out, they are freaking out. If people leave the church, there is a good chance they may leave the church. If those around them are speaking negatively, they are probably speaking negatively. These people are double minded in all their ways. All the people and circumstance around them toss and turn them like a wave in the sea. Let us make sure that in everything that we do, we do it in faith and not in doubting. Let us know that through our faith we receive wisdom. Let our emotions and spiritual lives not be tossed to and fro with the crowd and with the wind. Every day we should be praying for wisdom. Wisdom to make righteous choices, wisdom to fellowship with the right people, wisdom to handle situations wisely. Wisdom should be an essential staple to our spiritual diet.

3. Rejoice in your Exaltation or Humiliation

A new idea and concept that James introduces in verse 9 is the idea of rejoicing in exaltation or humiliation. In my pursuit to better understand this text, I had to read this section of the scripture over and over again. As I text one of my good friends in finally clicked for me.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 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.

- James 1:9-11

Simply put, James is telling us to rejoice and glory in promoted or demoted. He begins the scripture by telling the lowly brother, or the brother in a humble situation, to rejoice in being exalted. The command tor rejoice is because of the test that is to follow. As Christ has elevated my position in serving in ministry, I have been continually tested in my faithfulness and fidelity to humility and to the Word of God. Being elevated is a test of our character. Does our character and faith have the strength to survive being elevated?

How often do we see TV Evangelists, Politicians, Pastors, ect, elevated, only to fail the test and publicly fail.

This scripture is telling us clearly that we should rejoice when we are exalted and elevated, because we will be tested in ways that will grow our faith and our wisdom. I rejoice now, knowing that the authenticity of my faith is being proven. Though the process has been and will continue to be uncomfortable, the joy and steadfastness to come warrants rejoicing and glorying in the opportunity to grow. On the other side of the coin, James instructs the rich to rejoice in being humiliated. The reasoning is the exact same but with different starting points. Those who are humiliated from their position and riches should rejoice in being made low, knowing that the position of lowliness will serve the grow the faith of that individual.

4. Patience Through Trials Brings Joy

As we move onto verse 12 we see a beatitude right in the middle of the passage. A beatitude is a “happy is he” or “blessed is he”. The “happy is he” comes from the remaining steadfast and patient in a trial. If we do not remain patient through the trial, we will not be happy. When our patience runs out and our flesh flares up, our happiness goes right down the toilet. The problem with patience is that most of the time, impatience comes from a love of self. So inherently when we become inpatient, it’s because we are not getting what we want and when we want it. Every opportunity to be patient is an opportunity to get joy.

“I am sooooooooooo happy that I get to stand in line at the gas station”

5. Temptation Comes from Our Own Ungodly Desires, Not from God

James makes a quick shift from talking about trial to talking about temptations. This is a subtle but powerful truth about temptations.

He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

- Genesis 3:11-13

The natural response to a failure in temptation is to blame God. Adam blamed God for giving Adam his wife Eve, and that it was Eve’s fault that he sinned. Verse 13 is clear about this fact of sin and temptation. God cannot temp and cannot be tempted. We need to understand that God will never tempt us and try to allure us to evil or away from the path of righteousness. This will be expanded in the next verses. When we face temptation in our life, it is not caused by anything that God does. No situation he has put us in or put us through. This is important to note because some would say, “That’s not fair God. You put the tree in the middle of the garden. You are just ASKING for Adam and Eve to eat of it.

Not true.

The only reason that we face temptation in our lives is because of our own desire that leads us baits us to go toward sin. This is a comforting verse because we can take comfort in knowing that God will never put us in a situation to temp us. He won’t. He can’t. The temptations in our lives come from our own desires. It’s our own selfish lusts that cause us to sin. Our desires for:

-Money
-Sex
-Pride
-Status
-Ungodly Pleasure
-Knowledge
-All the things that get our hearts to pitter patter when thinking about them

6. Good and Perfect Gifts come from God

The comforting contrast to the last point is that every Good and Perfect Gift comes from God. God doesn’t temp us, he doesn’t try to get us to fail by us giving into our sin, no he gives good and perfect gifts. All those desires that lead us astray have nothing on the Good and Perfect gifts that come from the Father. Why would we need to chase after our own desires and lusts when we could have every good and perfect gift. Any ambition, goal or prize that we desire, it is only good if it is given from God. Means everything else is counterfeit, fake.

Not only does this patience bring joy to our lives but after that patience through the test, we are given the “Crown of Life” that is promised to those who love God. What a thing to look forward to, a crown of life!

When I heard that empty Christmas settings were placed during Christmas a reminder of my imprisonment and those imprisoned for Christ, tears of joy filled my eyes. I was able to share about this with other prisoners and they were shocked by the love and support we have for each other in Jesus. I told them how in the Bible we are all considered brothers and sisters (despite race, color, or nationality) and we are to share in each other’s pains. This comes from our Lord.
The Word of God says that when we are persecuted for our faith, we are to count it all joy. When I think that all of these trials and persecutions are being recorded in heaven for me, my heart is filled with complete joy. The Bible says that the Joy of the Lord is our strength. Without the joy of the Lord we cannot live. It is this joy in our life that gives us strength to continue in this life. Without strength, we cannot continue the work of the Lord and without joy, there is no strength.
I always wanted God to make me a godly man. I did not realize that in order to become a godly man we need to become like steel under pressure. It is a hard process of warm and cold to make steel. The process in my life today is one day I was told I will be freed on bail to see my family and kids on Christmas (they are all lies) and the next day I am told I will hang for my faith in Jesus. One day there are intense pains after beatings in interrogations, the next day they are nice to you and offer you candy. These hot and colds only make you a man of steel for moving forward in expanding His Kingdom. When for 120 days you are asleep in a room with one big light that is constantly lit and does not separate day or night and when you can only see true sunlight for a few minutes a week, that’s when you are becoming His Workmanship and you can be a vessel in bringing His Kingdom in a dark place and you are able to share the Gospel of Peace and Life to the dying world. And this is where you learn you can love your enemies with all of your heart.
I am looking forward to the day to see all of you who are behind me with your prayers and to embrace you in my arms. Thank you for the love you have showed me.vWhat is in us is stronger than what is in the world and it has conquered the world.

- Pastor Saeed Abedini

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