Peace to you beloved in the name of Christ, the name above all other names. I pray that your faith in Jesus is growing. I pray the Lord would be using our study series to that end. Christ says, Father sanctify them in Thy truth, Thy word is truth. (Jn.17:17, Rom.10:17) God the Holt Spirit uses His inspired word to conform us into the image of Christ. (Rom.8:29) How amazing.
Let me say a few words about our first study. Last week in our introduction to the book mainly we unpacked verse one. In verse one, if you remember, we looked at two things. We spent most of our time looking at the human author that was divinely inspired to write the book, the half-brother of Jesus – the apostle James.
At the very end of that study we spent a few minutes looking at the audience of the epistle, namely Christians that are scattered throughout the world like seed. Remember James uses the Jewish title of Diaspora and applies it to New Testament Believers.
It was persecution by unbelievers, mainly Jews but also Gentiles, that caused believers and lovers of Christ to flee. In God’s providence the attempts to crush the church will work to advance the church and the cause of Christ. What the devil means for evil, God will work for our good and His glory. (Gen.50:20) For those in Christ all things work for our spiritual good, our conformity into the image of Jesus. (Rom.8:28-39)
With that said, take out your Bible and turn to James one. I will read James 1:1-4. Our study will be on verses two through four. Hear the perfect Word of God.
James 1:1. James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Let’s seek the Lord’s help with today’s study. Remember, pray believing God will give us what we ask for. We want to understand God’s word, love it, obey it, and be transformed by it. Pray.
We are told right away that we as Believers will encounter various things that will test or refine of faith in Jesus. So, James is presupposing these people already have saving faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior. Now he is going to go on in his letter and call us to live worthy of the Christ we profess to believe in.
The book of James is about living for Jesus Christ. Or living in such a way to bring honor to the name of Christ. To that end James stresses holy living or godliness. Dying to sin. Living to righteousness. The notion of being holy as God is holy, living holy as our Christ is holy is not heard in many pulpits. (I Pt.1:15-17, Lev.19:2, Lev.11:44-45) It is not popular. Holiness is never popular with our flesh. They who live according to the flesh hate practical living for Christ. It prevents them for living for self and sin.
Sadly, much of the modern church is, in my opinion, antinomian or libertine. This means that many modern Christians think grace means we can be saved and live like the heathen. This is anti-law or using our freedom in Christ as a license to sin. Paul says, God forbid. (Rom.6:1-16)
Listen to God’s word on the necessity of having practical holiness.
Hebrews 12:14. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. (Mt.5:20)
Jesus says that we will know true Believers by their fruits. (Mt.7:16-27) The notion is by the holy fruits of the Holy Spirit coming out of them. (Gal.5:15-26) Beloved, practical holiness may not be popular with the world and with the majority of the church, but it is with God.
This is why James fills his letter with moral exhortations. Along the lines of you say that you are saved by faith in Christ, you say Christ has saved you from sin and for God – good, now go and live like it.
Remember these two terms indicative and imperative. The divine indicative is what God in Christ has done for us. The divine imperative is what duties God now requires of us. Believe. Now live commensurate with your faith.
As I said the other day this is similar to the Beatitudes and Similitudes in Matthew 5:1-16. (Mt.5:1-7:27, Lk.6:20-49) There Jesus describes what the life of a true Believer will look like. The Christ in us will come out of us. Listen to how the apostle Paul puts this in Galatians.
Galatians 2:20. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
James writes to inform us how to live for the honor of Jesus. This is why some Christian scholars label the epistle of James as wisdom literature, like Psalms or Job (Jas.5:11) and more specifically, like Proverbs.
Here is just one example of that moral wisdom.
James 4:4. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”?
Now let’s first consider the manner in which James exhorts these Believers.
James 1:2. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
James was not a disinterested observer of their suffering, while he himself was living in peace, safety, and luxury. No. James is in the same family of God. These people are fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters to James. (Mt.12:50)
Remember God raised up the Messiah “the” final prophet, a prophet like Moses from among His brothers. (Dt.18:15-19)
When we come to truly believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior we are taken out of the realm of unbelief and put into the realm of belief. By this, we are then separated from unbelievers spiritually. This happens to us with our unbelieving blood natural family as Jesus says in Matthew 10:12-42.
But then we are united to Believers spiritually. This is a mystical union and communion we have with other Believers because we are joined to our common Head Jesus. (WCF 20.1, 25.1-6, 26.1-3)
James is experiencing what Jesus promised.
Mark 10:28. Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.
Not only is he a fellow brother, but if I can put it this way, he is our ‘older’ brother. He is writing as one with authority in Christ’s church. Authority to teach us the word of God. Christ’s delegated authority. Not magisterial authority to make up laws, but ministerial authority to minister God’s word to us.
Here is what God requires “we” believe. Here is what duty God requires of “us.” The faithful minister always includes himself under the obligation to the Word.
Christ has given to His church pastor teachers overseers for the good of His flock. (Eph.4:11, Lk.10:16, Lk.9:48, Ezek.3:7-11, I Jn.4:6, Jn.8:47)
James 2:2. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
The literal translation is you all must consider it! Second person plural, you all. Imperative mood, a command!
We remember that this epistle is a practical letter. James writes exhortation after exhortation. Do this. Say this. Respond like this. Think like this. Again, the idea is you must. This is your duty Christian soldier.
The Christian life is not a passive life. We are passive in regeneration. But that is it. We are active in our conversion. We repent of our sins and we believe in Jesus.
We are active in our sanctification, which is what James is writing about. We pick up our cross, we deny ourselves, and we follow Christ. We really do work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil.2:12) Grace gives us the ability.
This does not deny the Biblical truth of God who is in us, both the will and work. (Phil.2:13, 1:6, WLC 32, WLC 153) God gives us the ability and the inclination to do.
God the Holy Spirit says through James count trials all or pure joy.
Not partial joy and partial sadness, all joy, whole, perfect, complete joy.
The word ‘joy’ here coming from the word to rejoice (chara). Joy is an emotion denoting, well-being, success, delight, gladness. We will see why in a bit.
Negatively. This does not mean that Christians are to start singing and dancing when some painful trial comes upon them. Christ did not sing for joy, as it were, while being whipped or being nailed to the Cross. He did, at the moment do what is natural, He cried. So, this statement does not mean all sorrow and crying is sinful. It is not.
Paul said of Epaphroditus he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. (Phil.2:25-27)
Positively. This means that Christians are required to govern and direct our mind and emotions.
Love the Lord your God with all your Mind. In Christ, you can set your mind on things above and not on things below. (Col.3:1-3) By the grace of God in reliance upon the Holy Spirit you can think of spiritually and ethically lovely things. (Phil.4:8-13, Col.3:1-3)
Listen to how Paul puts this.
Romans 12:1. Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Ephesians 4:22. that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind.
How we direct or govern our minds is with what we put into them. The idea is that we are to make the word of God our guide for beliefs and emotions and actions. The psalmist says, Thy word is a lamp to my path. (Ps.119:105, 2 Tim.3:15-17) I would say that Biblical ignorance is the source of much of our sorrow. (Amos 8:11-13, Isa.8:20, Prov.29:18)
So then, we are being exhorted not to evaluate our circumstances by our senses, but by Scripture, to walk by faith and not by sight. (Heb.12:11, 2 Cor.5:7, Mt.4:4, Acts 17:11)
This is a spiritual fruit. That means, we have the ability to do this because the Holy Spirit resides within us. (I Cor.6:15-20, I Cor.12:3) In Christ we can do all things, even counting trials joy.
Let’s address the trials which test or refine our faith.
James 1:2. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
Related to the theme of holiness James tells professing Christians that our faith is proven genuine and grows purer and stronger through testing. Sins are purged away. Righteousness is built up. Trials make us flee sin, resist the devil, and cling to God in Christ.
As we said earlier these Jewish Christians were persecuted. They had been driven out of Jerusalem and Judea. They lost their homes, their jobs, their families, their friends, their material wealth and often even their health, to the shedding of blood, like the martyr Stephen. (Act 7:59, 8:2)
Romans 5:3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials.
Jesus said to His disciples, in this life you will have much trouble, take cheer (or courage) I overcame this world. (Jn.16:33)
Jesus said to His disciples, Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt.5:10-12, Lk.6:22-23, Jas.5:1-11, Heb.11: 1-40, Mt.5:3, Jas.2:4-6, 5:5-6, Jn.16:33)
Think of this, Christ counted the Cross all joy to redeem fallen sinners, you and me. (Heb.12:2)
Do you see what James is saying? Do not hate your persecutors when they persecute you. Their persecution is being governed by God. Yes, the adversary means it for your destruction, but God means it for your good and His glory. (Gen.50:20)
Do not get angry with God, when he sends testing into your life. The God of heaven and earth always does right, He cannot do wrong. (Gen.18:25) Do not become bitter. Labor to become better, more like Jesus Christ practically in your life. In thought, word, and deed.
We see that the ‘kinds’ of trials or tests are various. Physical, mental, spiritual, filial, relational, economic, social, vocational, and so on.
Listen to how the apostle Paul lists some of his trials that refined his faith.
2 Cor.11:23. Are they servants of Christ?– I speak as if insane– I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? 30 If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. (2 Cor.4:1-18)
Remember trials can be of two sorts. One, the common miseries of this life. Two, miseries associated directly with being a follower of Christ. But we should treat both kinds as opportunities to build our faith in Jesus.
Remember, my trials will likely not be your trials. God sends particular trials into our life for us personally or particularly. In other words, God “tailor makes” them to us and to our situation.
That opposition is really a divine test or testing. Testing of our FAITH. Burning off the remaining dross of our sin and fleshly corruption. (Prov.27:21)
Job 5:17 Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty. (Heb.12:6)
Tests provide the opportunity to believe in Jesus practically. Following Jesus in a hard trial provides us the opportunity to life by faith, it ‘exercises’ our faith, it grows our faith, it confirms that we have faith.
Think of it, imagine if God sent nothing but sunshine on the earth, no dark days, no rain, what would happen? Life would wither and die. We need both sunshine and rain. The same is true in our Christian life.
Listen to the Heidelberg Catechism.
Q.27 What do you mean by the providence of God?
The almighty and everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were by His hand, He upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures, so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and in all things come, not by chance, but by His Fatherly hand.
I point this out so as we go through a test that we would we consider it coming from God for us, for our good. The tests are teaching and training lessons in faith in Jesus and in living holy for Jesus.
Hebrews 12:11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Tests teach us to live above this world, above this life, with an eye to heaven.
Romans 8:17. and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. 18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
God’s tests and trials of our faith produces a great number of moral benefits, chief among them is the fruit of perseverance, endurance, long-suffering, steadfastness, constancy of life.
Sometimes people think this means resignation to hard times. Resigning yourself to some hardship is passive. Perseverance is active. Resignation says, I can do nothing about this hard thing, I will just suffer in silence. Perseverance says, God why did you bring this into my life.
J.I. Packer says it is best not to ask why something happened. It is better to ask, how should I respond Lord to bring You glory?
We should ask, is there some sin that You O God desire to purge from my life? Is there some spiritual fruit You O God desire to produce in my life? Is this test or trial of me to spiritually benefit others? Resignation ‘sits down’ because of the hard thing. Perseverance ‘keeps striving onward and upward’ because of the hard thing. Perseverance looks at the Savior. (Heb.12:2, Rom.5:3-5)
Jesus said, Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. (Mt.10:21-22, Mt.24:9-13)
Finally, James talks about the end or the final results of all the testing and refining of our faith. We will be mature in Christ. And presented before Christ.
James 1:4. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Testing and trying will also produce and or strengthen other graces or fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Rom.5:3, 2 Pt.1:5-8)
This does not (and cannot mean) having no practical sin. Even true Believers sin against God in thought, word, and deed everyday until we die.
Perfect, whole, and complete means a mature Christian. We grow from babes, to toddlers, to young men, to fathers and mothers in the faith. (I Jn.2:12-14, I Pt.2:2) Sanctification is a process of practical holiness growing in Christ. It will reach its zenith in our glorification when we are with Christ in the eternal estate. (I Cor.15:43)
But James is teaching us that we ought to strive for this growth, this maturity. (Mt.5:48)
Philippians 3:13. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect (mature), have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; 16 however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. (2 Cor.11:2)
Christian maturity is almost never spoken of in the modern church. In fact, much of the church is actively speaking to and treating the members as perpetual children, or teenagers. And in fact, many professing Christians look and live as if they are utterly incapable or disinclined to ever grow up in the faith. (Heb.5:11-14)
1 Corinthians 3:1. And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?
Beloved, let’s believe James and count our trials joy because is produces greater faith in Christ. We grow in Christ’s likeness. Let me close by quoting Paul on this subject.
2 Corinthians 12:8. Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (Ps.138:8)
- What is justification? How is it positional holiness? Are we active in our justification? (Rom.3:22-28, Rom.4:5, 2 Cor.5:19-21, Titus 3:5-7, Eph. 1:7, Rom. 5:17-19, Rom. 4:6-8, Acts 10:43, Gal.2:16, Phil. 3:9, WLC 70-73)
- What is sanctification? How is it practical holiness? Are we active in our sanctification? (Eph. 1:4, 1 Cor. 6:11, 2 Thess. 2:13, Rom. 6:4-6, Eph. 4:23-24, Acts 11:18, I Jn.3:9, Jude 1:20, Heb. 6:11-12, Eph.3:16-19, Col.1:10-11, Rom.6:4-14, WLC 75)
- Does God require Believers to be practically holy or to live holy lives? Is practical holiness popular with modern Christians? Why? Why not? (I Pt.1:15-17, Lev.19:2, Lev.11:44-45, Rom.6:1-16, Heb.12:14, Mt.5:20, Mt.7:16-27, Gal.5:15-26)
- What is the main theme of the book of James? (James 1:2-4, 2:14-26, Phil.1:27-30)
- What are we taught by James referring to fellow Christians as brothers? What is the relationship that exist between Christians? Why? What are the practical ramifications of this? (James 1:2, Mt.12:50, Dt.18:15-19, Mt.10:12-42, WCF 20.1, 25:1-5, 26.1-3, Mk.10:28-30)
- James gives his fellow brother Christians commands. Where does he derive his authority? What does this teach us about the nature of the church? Who is our spiritual or religious authority? (James 1:1-4, Eph.4:11, Lk.10:16, Lk.9:48, Ezek.3:7-11, I Jn.4:6, Jn.8:47, Acts 17:11, 2 Tim.3:14-17, Heb.13:7-17)
- Why should we consider trials to be joy? What good do trials produce? What do trials do for our faith? (James 1:2, Act 7:59, 8:2, Rom.5:3, I Pt.1:6, Jn.16:33, Mt.5:10-12, Lk.6:22-23, Jas.5:1-11, Heb.11: 1-40, Mt.5:3, Jas.2:4-6, 5:5-6, Jn.16:33)
- How did Christ consider His trials. (Heb.12:1-3)
- How does the truth of God’s providence inform our faith and increase our joy in trials. Does God govern our specific trials? What do we learn about God and us in this? Heidelberg Catechism #27, Heb.12:11, Rom.8:17-18, Eph.1:11)
- What does it mean to be perfect, complete or mature in Christ? Does the modern church urge Christian maturity? Why? Why not? How do you grow in Christian maturity? (James 1:4, Rom.5:3, 2 Pt.1:5-8, I Jn.2:12-14, I Pt.2:2, I Cor.15:43, Mt.5:48, Phil.3:13-16, 2 Cor.11:2, Heb.5:11-14, I Cor.3:1-3, 2 Cor.12:8-10, Ps.138:8)