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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. He is aware, though, that they have a few problems living out the truth of who they are and working out their believing lifestyles in everyday problems, such as: torture, persecution, beheading, imprisonment, separation, homelessness, starvation and many others.

James 1:1-12

Servanthood

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. (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.

Rejoicing

Straight away, James challenges most peoples' attitudes to problems in verse two when he says: “Consider it wholly joyful, my brothers and sisters, 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 had been in the shoes of those early Christians, we might have thought that we had every right to complain, both to other people and to God Himself. It must have seemed that the whole world was against them, simply for doing their best to serve God. "No, don't complain", says James... "Rejoice!"  'Think about Jesus the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the Cross, disregarding the shame. Now He is seated at the place of honour beside God's Throne' Hebrews 12:2.

Imagine what the church of Jesus Christ would be like today if everyone in the body of Christ was characterised by an overwhelming sense of joy whenever and wherever we met them - outside, at home, at work, or in church. Whether circumstances were good or bad, they would be rejoicing, not making loud noises about their situation, but with a deep confidence that however tough their situation was they know Him Who has a plan to bring something good out of it. 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?

We should rejoice in our trials and tribulations. We all 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-long partner is a great trial. Each is very painful at the time. We must never look at someone and condemn their reaction to a trial because, for them, this problem is enormous, even if, to us, it seems relatively 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 can 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 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. (James 1:3-4)

We should also rejoice 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) When we learn to live in this way, it also serves as a form of "spiritual armour". If we should suffer an unexpected ambush from the enemy, the automatic response of our spirit becomes a positive, rather than negative thing. Rejoicing can be our "faith talk" towards God - our way of expressing to Him that we have faith in Him, whatever the circumstances. Indeed, we need to be living "in faith" throughout our lives if we are truly to turn our backs on our old nature. (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 troubles 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; Psalm 13:5)
  • It is the step of faith that, despite everything, is determined to 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 spirits and control us, rather than submitting to our own 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 else 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 only 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.
  • Be wise. 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.
  • Become mature. Grow in grace and the knowledge of God’s love.

That I may declare your praises... and rejoice in Your salvation.” (Psalm 9:14)


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