James Study 2: Trials and Tribulations
The Bible is the most practical book on how we are to live in this world and to make certain that we will live in love for ever. This book of James is the most practical book of THE practical book. James has not been pushing the point of who Jesus is because he is writing to believers. They have a few problems walking in the truth of who they are and working out their believing lifestyles in their everyday problems, such as torture, persecution, beheading, imprisonment, separation, homelessness, starvation and many others.
James’ foundation for all that he is going to say in this letter lies in how he sees himself when he declares: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. This signifies absolute obedience, total surrender and complete devotion of his life to Jesus, His Saviour and Master. We need to ask ourselves daily the question: “Who is on the throne of my life?” We cannot have Jesus meet our needs when we have problems and then just do our own thing when our life seems to be all right. In everyday life, we must have the attitude of a servant of Jesus Christ. (Compare Philippians 2:7.) If we take this position of total surrender, then we will be in a position of power to fulfil all that is written in this book and to obey the sixty commands from Almighty God that are written here.
James deals with our attitude to problems in verse two and says: “Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations.”
Can you imagine any of the problems that the church was having at that time and what it was like to hear God’s direct word: “Be joyful!” If we were in the early Christians’ shoes, we would have every right, as we see it, to have lots to complain about to other people and to God Himself. After all, we would be doing His work. These followers were different. They just wanted to rejoice.
Imagine what the church of Jesus Christ would be like today if everyone in the body of Christ was marked by an overwhelming sense of joy whenever you met them – outside, at home, at work, or in church. Whether their circumstances were good or bad, they would be rejoicing. We would never know if things were going wrong for them. They would make such a mark on the world that people would sit up, take notice and want to be involved with the God who had given them such joy in difficulties.
When should we rejoice?
In trials. All of us on earth have problems that may not be problems to someone else, but are very relevant to us at the time. When we are young, having a friend at school say something nasty is a great trial. When we are older, losing our life-time partner is a great trial. Each is very painful at the time. We must never look at someone and condemn their reaction in a trial because, to them, this problem is enormous, even if, to us, it seems so minute, compared to what we are going through at the time.
There are so many questions that we ask when experiencing “trials” (problems), many of which we may never know the answer to, and certainly not until the “trial” is over.
Why me? What have I done wrong? Where is the sin in my life? When will God act? Where is He anyway? How could a God of love allow this to happen? What about the future?
God tells us very clearly in James to put away our questions and just TRUST Him. We will definitely benefit from problems if we use them in God’s way. We show this trust outwardly by rejoicing. That tells us (and the powers of darkness and God Himself) that we know that He is in control of our lives. We are choosing to trust Him, even if we do not understand and we are confident that God is going to come in for us and bring this situation to a positive conclusion, where it will work for our good.
Trials are there to test our faith (James 1:3) and they really point out what we are made of, where our priorities are and who is in control of our lives. God’s word promises that, through trials, we will develop perseverance (James 1:3-4) and, when we have had victory in the test, we will receive the crown of life, which is the blessing of God’s life running through us when we stay faithful and keep loving Him, even when under pressure.
At all times. God does not want to see us rejoicing only when things are tough. He wants us to rejoice at all times. (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:16) Then we can learn, so that this will be our spirit’s response if we have an unexpected ambush from the devil. After all, rejoicing is our “faith talk” towards God – our way of expressing to Him that we have faith in Him – and we need to be in faith, whatever the circumstances. (Romans 14:23)
What is rejoicing?
- It is not jumping around all the time, shouting and making sure that we tell everyone, whether they want to know or not, that our life is one big party. (Psalm 2:11)
- It is like surfing: we are able to ride on the heights of praise, above all the peaks and troughs that are going on underneath us. (Hebrews 10:34)
- It is what happens when we realise that we have died with Christ and are now alive to God. (Psalm 9:14)
- It is seeing the situation with God’s eyes, looking from His perspective, beyond the problem or temptation. We are to welcome them as opportunities to become more like Jesus. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- It is contentment that, even if we do not understand, we can still have a deep trust in God and His word, that this situation is for our good. (Psalm 5:11; 13:5)
- It is the step of faith that, despite everything, I will speak well of the situation, of my God and of the people involved. (2 Kings 4:26; James 1:12)
- It gives strength to our bodies, minds and spirits as we allow the fruit of the Holy Spirit to rise up in our own spirits and to be in control, rather than our minds and emotions. (Nehemiah 8:10; 1 Samuel 2:1a.)
- It is what we do when we look at the character of God. (2 Chronicles 6:41; Psalm 5:11-12)
- It is having a positive outlook, not blaming anyone for our situation. (Philippians 4:4-9)
James makes the steps of progress in a “trial” very clear and gives wisdom in how to deal with them. What a wonderful thought that we can rejoice our way through the rest of our lives, if we just learn to apply these principles from God’s word.
Dealing with a “trial” according to James 1:1-12
- Rejoice. Praise, speak, love, forgive, rest – all for the glory of God.
- Pray. Be focused on Jesus. Join with someone else if that helps.
- Wisdom. We only have to ask the Holy Spirit.
- Do not doubt. Otherwise, you will be up and down.
- Persevere. Determine to come out of the situation being more like Jesus. Give thanks for this.
- Maturity. Grow in grace and the knowledge of God’s love.
Psalm 9:14 “that I may declare your praises… and rejoice in Your salvation.”
The Real Church – Home Challenges 2
Read the notes about “Trials and Temptations”
1. What does God’s word say that “rejoicing” means? Look up other verses that contain this word.
2. Have you any ideas from your own experiences about how to rejoice?
3. When do we rejoice and why?
4. What does James say that we find most challenging? What, from the verses, do you find most encouraging?
Read James 1:13-15
5. This passage shows the slippery slope to death. What is meant by the word “death” here?
6. How does this transition to death begin? What are the steps we take to sin? Can you give an example to show this clearly?
7. Does God put temptation in our way? Write out the relevant verse.
8. What part of a person’s character does temptation influence?
Read James 1:16-18.
9. James encourages us not to be ………………………… (James 1:16)!
From your own experience and knowledge, suggest ways to prevent this happening to you.
10. Is God different today than He was in Jesus’ day? (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8)
11. What sort of gifts does He give us? How has He given these gifts to us? (Check out 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 1 Corinthians 12:27-31; and Ephesians 4:11-13; and Romans 12:6-8.)
12. What specific, spiritual gift has He chosen to give you?
13. (Personal) How do you apply this gift in your own life?
14. Sum up in one short sentence what the Holy Spirit is saying to you in these few verses.
15. Write out any verse that has been especially meaningful to you.