The book of James is a basic outline of the ideal Christan life. It begins by telling us that God uses adversity as a big part of our spiritual development. God will never hold anything out on us, unless we are not ready for it. God has things down the road for you, but will your life end here before you get there? God has given us this whole life, for however long it may be, to become spiritually mature. What our people need the most is to practice lifestyle Christainity.
Despite what we've been told in the pew and maybe even by our parents, having desires or wanting more in and of itself, isn't evil. It is true we can want the wrong things, but what might be wrong for one might be just right for another. What few understand is that God has placed a part of Himself in each of us in the Adamic race. He is living in and thru us both collectively and individually. Therefore, pursuing our desires is a doorway into a whole new world of experiences.
We all have desires and you'll find that Yahweh is the Adjuster and Provider of them, to will and to do of His good pleasure, as the Author and Finisher of faith in us. So the question isn't how do we reach our desires, but do we have the spiritual fortitude to hang in there and reap the benefits? We must consider the way we approach adversity, that we allow it to shape our desires rather than destroying them or bringing us to the point of lust.
Most of us have never nailed down what we really want in this life. Once we do, it's about Christianity being our only lifestyle, rather than a hobby or a mere tradition. As we have seen throughout the New Testament, particularly Paul's Epistles, we must manage our thoughts. The Book of James compliments all we have learned in this by teaching us among other things, to manage our lives based on our desires. Here we learn that one of the keys to moving a mountain is trusting God in the valley.
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. 2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
This is the half-brother of Yahshua Christ. He had come a long way in his faith to assume the proper role beneath the patient, all-powerful Hand of his Elder Brother. Of course we love that his description of the recipients of this Epistle are exclusively the descendants of Jacob/Israel, "the twelve tribes". James understood as an Israelite himself, that he was to reach those who were "scattered abroad" like the stars of heaven, just as Yahweh promised Abraham his seed would become. If you are white, these are your people.
In this first lesson, it is imperative that we gain the right attitude, to go thru trials most effectively. God blesses those who make the best out of hard times. Also the longer we live, the more we recognize how going thru hard times can make us better. God can accomplish more in us thru trials than any other thing. For He wants us to have a rich, full life, where we are effective in His service and have much to appreciate Him for. This all begins by learning the importance of controlling our minds thru adversity.
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
When it comes to our own personal approach to being a Christian, we must only see ourself as "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" in this life. We worship the God of the Old and New Testaments; the Original and Renewed Covenant God made with our fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel, and ratified in Christ. They lived their lives as servants of God. They were rich, prosperous people. Like them we must listen to and follow God; we must learn to serve one another. Who do we live our lives to reach and bless? It's "the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" even today. You know there is no other way to be a faithful servant of Christ and no other acceptable approach to Christianity other than as your lifestyle. For God's purpose in this life for every Israelite is to be His servant unto the betterment of your people.
James (which is the anglicized version of the name Jacob) may not have understood this role at first. Though he grew up in the same house with Yahshua Christ, he doubted Him early on:
1 After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him. 2 Now the Jew's feast of tabernacles was at hand. 3 His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. 4 For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. 5 For neither did his brethren believe in him. 6 Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. 7 The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. 8 Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast: for my time is not yet full come. 9 When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee.
James grew up with Him but initially refused to believe. Maybe you've been hesitant or have held back on God, obviously because you had not heard the truth. But now we are seeing Christianity is so much deeper and meaningful than what we first were taught. Just like James, we can finish better than we started. He went from being a first-hand doubter of Christ to being a first-rate servant and the hand by which Christ penned this indispensable Epistle. James came a long way and so have we; let's go all the way. James understood that following Christ isn't about trying to make God do what you want and getting frustrated, but uncovering God's best and going after it with all of your heart.
Due to the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions, our Israelite ancestors were "scattered abroad" throughout what would become the Greco-Roman world. Only a small number returned to the land to rebuild Jerusalem. James was now writing to "the twelve tribes", the millions and millions of Israelite descendants who had settled throughout the known world at that time. As James looked ahead and we look back on our heritage, notice how our attitude concerning trials, enriches our faith:
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
When it comes to being a Christian, attitude is everything. The way we approach life each day greatly determines what kind of day and even life we will end up having. Though we cannot control our circumstances, with God living inside of us, we can overcome any situation by making the most out of every adversity. This is exactly what God wants us to do. Our Father wants us to find joy which strengthens our faith. Through this we become fully mature and are able to rightly receive the abundant blessings He holds in store for us. Why else would He have James tell us this?!
There's no such thing as a pain-free life. We have all faced adversity; but have we become better or bitter because of it? For God has a hidden purpose in each thing we go thru, particularly the toughest of times. He's encouraging us to not "count it" as a bad thing, but as an undeniable indication that God is at work in us. It should fill us with "joy" to know that our Father can use anything, even the worst of times, to prepare us for a far better future.
These "diverse temptations" or various trials are what our carnal mind wants us to do everything we can to avoid or try to prevent; but we can't. The anxiety we allow to creep into our minds of the mere possibility of adversity, is the cause of most of our worry and fear, which is completely unnecessary. This is what weakens us even before the testing of our faith ever comes. Yet James is saying we "fall into" or encounter them in our lives for our full benefit. Besides, no amount of worry or preventive action can stop trials from coming anyway. Rather than wasting your time worrying and overcompensating, convince yourself that when the next trial comes, you will rejoice because it stands as proof that God wants to give you patience in order to do something great for Him.
Unfortunately, we attract much of the heartache we experience and many of the things we fear by our own poor attitude and choices. Yet we prove we trust Him by considering trials as blessings because of how He uses them to make us better. It requires attention, but the "trying of our faith" stretches us and tests us, and stands as one of the main ways we can be sure where our faith stands. If you're not finding joy when hard times come, it's simply because you have not considered taking on the right attitude: YOU CAN CONQUER ALL ADVERSITY BY KNOWING GOD IS SOMEWHERE IN IT WORKING FOR YOUR GOOD.
Depending upon God to reach your desires is all about endurance. Having joy thru adversity "worketh patience" which is what builds the endurance we need to get where we really want to be in our lives. Through tough circumstances we experience things we don't want, yet it pushes us closer to what we do want. Recognizing this contrasting effect, your greatest trials can help you better define your greatest desires. Going thru a bad marriage for instance, mustn't remain some bitter memory. By contrast, view it as something you went thru that will now help you know better what to look for in the perfect spouse for you. This can apply in every area of our life. Therefore "count it all joy"- God's got something better for you! You now must take the time to determine what it is you really want and be prepared to go thru whatever it takes to get there. SIEZE THE OPPORTUNITY ONLY ADVERSITY PROVIDES THRU FACING IT WITH A SMILE!
Sometimes God allows us to 'get our nose bloodied' so we can learn and help someone else not make the same mistakes. This is the attitude we are to have: as you must walk thru the fires of adversity, know there is something in it that will purify you and make you better. Why would God want to test your faith? So He can move you closer to Him thru your desires. How else will we know what we really want until we are tested? Even Christ learned obedience thru the things which He suffered:
8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
Yahweh is experiencing things thru our lives as well. We go thru trials so we can gain more experience at leaning on His strength. The more we rely on Him, the more righteousness we can attain. The more we grow in righteousness (which James will deal with a little later in this Book) the more mature and blessed we will be, and the more fully Christ dwells within us. Though others are blessed and Yahweh is glorified thru us, you are the one who will receive the greatest benefit of going along with this:
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Think about it: it takes far less stress and effort to "let patience have her perfect work" and just wait, than it does to spend your life trying to resist the Hand of God in your circumstances. In light of these verses think of all the unnecessary stress we put ourselves thru before, during, and after our trials. Then most of the time we end up realizing only God could have brought us thru it. Regardless, it doesn't get any better than being an Israelite who is made "perfect and complete, wanting nothing" having "let" this divine process take place.
The way to reaping results is by first spending time determining your desires and then do all you can to patiently wait for those desires to be met. At the same time, we are finding that much of living the Christian lifestyle is thru patience; being still and waiting, while trusting God. Patience will have her perfect work when we are convinced that enduring hard times can actually bring us to what we want. So again, the idea behind God developing patience in us is to prepare us for our desires to be met. We then seek the opportunities to act when He speaks to us as His servants. The body of Christ (or Israel) will only be as effective as each of us surrenders to His Christian lifestyle of faith:
II PETER 1:1-11
1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. 10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
What the Apostle Peter wrote here concurs with everything James is saying. God wants to keep adding more and more to us as we give "all diligence" to living from within for Him. In order for us to be fruitful we must be able to conquer all adversity. Here we see, in this life "an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom" only by living the Christian lifestyle.
Back in our text, we see patience being personified as 'a mother figure', "But let patience have her perfect work". A good mother always seeks what is best for her children; so does patience. A good mother corrects her children, patience does as well. And a good mother will allow her children to learn some lessons on their own, as does patience. The result of this "perfect work" is total fulfillment, satisfaction, and abundance, "that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
We will never find joy if all we do is worry and think we can avoid trials. We must accept whatever God's purpose is in allowing our trials. We are in harmony with God's way of teaching us patience when we have joy, leading to spiritual maturity. When the Divine Potter puts His Hands to the clay, we need not resist, but lean into the pressure until we are "perfect and entire, wanting nothing." Think about it: we cannot get there until we refuse to settle for what we already have. This is a part of spiritual growth that's been missed, but not anymore. We must allow endurance to complete its work in us.
Most all parents would give their children everything they want. The difference between us and God is sometimes we give our children things they are not ready for or mature enough to handle. However, our Father uses adversity as a way to prepare us for His greatest blessings. If we know what we want out of life and are yet to receive it, it may only be a matter of you concentrating more on being full of joy.
MAINTAINING PERSONAL JOY IS A HUGE PART OF LIFESTYLE CHRISTIANITY. Don't get weak or scared, pulling yourself out of the trial too early, for it will not have the full effect God intended if you do not stay focused on what you want. We've been misled to believe just because we are Christians that we are supposed to suffer more for no practical reason. Therefore we should never expect anything in this life to come out of it, 'just keep your head down and survive this miserable existence. No wonder most churches are becoming more and more desolate. WE'VE BEEN TAUGHT TO SETTLE FOR BEING WEAK AND LACKING WHAT WE NEED TO DO OUR BEST FOR GOD. Yet without knowing what you desire, joy isn't even possible. Why did Christ die? FOR THE JOY THAT WAS SET BEFORE HIM HE ENDURED THE CROSS! For the joy of regathering His scattered children, He conquered all adversity, even death and the grave; His joy carried Him to receiving His desire!
Another example is the life of Joseph. After all he went thru, at the hands of his own brethren, and in Egypt, he never lost his joy:
15 And when Joseph's brethren saw that their father was dead, they said, Joseph will peradventure hate us, and will certainly requite us all the evil which we did unto him. 16 And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, 17 So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him. 18 And his brethren also went and fell down before his face; and they said, Behold, we be thy servants. 19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. 21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them. 22 And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years. 23 And Joseph saw Ephraim's children of the third generation: the children also of Machir the son of Manasseh were brought up upon Joseph's knees.
Joseph conquered all adversity by never losing his joy, though his faith was vigorously tested. He ended up with everything he wanted and more, by being a servant that God could use to bring about preservation for His people. This is the goal and it hinges upon us having joy in the midst of our trials.
Think about it, some of the greatest Christians you have known are those who went thru the most in their lives. They might not have even been big church goers, but they did not allow terrible circumstances to get the best of them- they came thru them better. Deep down, isn't that what you want to be to others? Someone who inspires them to shine brighter in the midst of the darkest of trials.
There are no special, external rituals James prescribes for us to come to a place of spiritual maturity. It takes place when we allow God to help us work thru the hard times. We can rejoice in this because that is when He can make the most progress in us. All it takes is for you to be convinced that ultimately, no matter what you are going thru, God always wants you to be victorious.