The book of James is a powerful book that describes the greatest challenges of the Christian walk, and gives us as better understanding of how God wants us to live. In this series, we will explore the entire book a section at a time, gaining helpful insights along the way.
In this first section of James, we learn about the attitude we should have as we begin our study on how to live for Christ. This will be an important foundation before we can look at some of the other things laid out for us in this book.
James identifies himself here as a -servant- as he introduces his letter to the churches. He could have introduced himself as an “elder”, or an “apostle”, but rather he chose to use a more humble term, demonstrating his submission to Christ as his authority.
Application: We should begin our study with a similar perspective. Nothing in the book of James will be of value to us unless we first humble ourselves and approach these things with an understanding that Christ is our authority and we need to yield to His will, rather than standing on our own will.
At first read, this verse seems very odd. How can we be joyful or happy about temptation or trial? We must first understand the terms in this verse. These words are often made confusing by long winded explanations. Let me try to simplify.
Term: Divers (-divers-)
We are familiar with the term diversity, and this is just another form of the word. It simply means a large array of possible variations.
Term: Temptations / Trials (-temptations-)
The word here is really “trial” or testing. In the context however, it refers to a specific kind of trial, that is: the trial or testing of our faith. A good definition of the word Temptation would be: “A trial of our faith”. That is why some translations use the word “Temptation”, because that’s the intended idea.
Anything in our lives that tests our faith, from the temptation to fall back into a sin we have committed before, to a frustrating day that makes us want to lose our temper; every situation that tries our faith is something we should have joy in. How can this be? We find the answer in verse 3.
The “trying (or testing) of your faith” is referring to the “divers temptations” of verse 2. This implies that the divers temptations do something within us, that is, they try our faith.
This testing of our faith also does something with in us. Carefully consider the term “-worketh- patience”. Today we wouldn’t use this terminology, so be sure to hover or tap the word -worketh- to see the Strongs definition. What happens when our faith is tested is that patience is built up in our character.
Application: We learn from every experience in our lives, but sometimes we teach ourselves the wrong lesson. We can learn to hate, or to lie, or we can ignore the experience altogether. God is suggesting through James that for every experience in our lives, we should learn the right lesson, and allow it to build up patience in our character.
How can we be sure we’ve learned the right lesson from an experience in our lives? According to this verse, we should allow patience to work in us, that is, “have her -perfect work-“. The idea is that we shouldn’t jump to react, or quickly move on to something else, but that as things happen to us, we should patiently consider the aspects of each event, and allow it to affect our understanding.
The world is full of information. In this age, we are easily distracted as we try to keep up with our busy lives. However, as we study the book of James, it will be important for us to take a moment and reflect on ourselves. The fact that James begins the book with this concept is of importance. If we are to understand the ideas later in the book, we need to start with a proper attitude and perspective.
All of us have dealt with difficulties or struggles. We need to keep in mind is that those struggles are bound to happen, and it’s important what we do with them. As verse 4 says, we need to “let” patience have its work in us.
What are some experiences that God has given you that you could have learned patience from? Did you learn the lesson you should have?