I was thinking about all of the sad people out there in the world today. I don’t mean depressed people, I mean they’re just sad. I am not just talking about people who don’t know Jesus, I am also referring to believers in Jesus. In this blog I should like to take a closer look in the book of James, chapter 1, just the first 8 verses. It is my hope that each of us will glean some joy from this half-brother of Jesus, turned Apostle, who gave us some relevant insight into practical joy recovery.
James begins his letter with a greeting. “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.” – (vs.1)
James’ original target audience was to the ‘twelve tribes who were scattered abroad,’ that is, those Jews living outside the land of Palestine. These were the people of Israel, the Jewish nation. James was a Jew, turned Christian; his audience included ‘converted Jews’ who were now Christians.
The word ‘scattered’ used here in verse 1 infers ‘in the dispersion’ which doesn’t reference the coming Diaspora which would come a few years later. James was saying that in their movement, they were like ‘scattering seed’ and were bringing the gospel to their world. These were becoming God’s scattered people. More Jews and Christian believers would be scattered abroad when the Romans marched on Jerusalem and destroyed the city and temple in 70AD. The diaspora was when Jews were scattered across the globe.
Christian Jews scattered throughout the Roman Empire would have problems; being Jews they would be rejected by the Gentiles; being Christian Jews, they would be rejected by their own countryman. This letter infers that many of these early believers were poor and persecuted. Yet they had a sense of purpose and calm.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,” – (vs.2)
- James addresses these Jews as ‘brethren,’ indicating that they were not only ‘brothers in the flesh,’ that is, fellow Jews; but also ‘brothers in the Lord.’ The word ‘count’ used here in the phrase ‘count it all joy,’ the title of today’s blog; is a financial term meaning, ‘to evaluate.’ Paul used this word when he evaluated his life in Christ with its new goals, purpose, and priorities.
The message to us is that when we face life’s trials, we need to evaluate them in light of God’s Word and what He is doing in us at that time. Crisis or not! Another translation of this phrase, ‘count it all joy’ means, ‘to fast forward’ in your mind to the time when you will no longer be in this trial; a future time. The man who smashes his hand with a hammer and says, ‘boy, this is going to feel really good when this stops hurting.’ The frustrated shopper who ‘looks forward’ to the day when they can get eggs, milk, and toilet paper from their grocery store. The weary Christian who is tired of the many spiritual battles in life, trying to get ahead, and ‘longing for the day’ when the Lord finally returns for them.
Phrases like ‘when this stops hurting, looking forward, or longing for the day’ are all ‘count it all joy’ phrases that help us to ‘fast forward’ to the time when we will not only be through this trial, but a better Christian as a result of this trial. Notice how James worded it, ‘count is all joy when you fall into various trials,’ not, if you fall into various trials.’ This is another heads up passage where we learn that in life we will have trials and tribulations come our way. This is part of living in a sin-laden world.
Jesus said it this way, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
NOTE: This passage is NOT referring to the great tribulation spoken of in Bible prophecy; the Lord is referencing daily trials that we must endure in life.
Peter said it this way, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial, which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” – 1 Peter 4:12
The word ‘strange’ (Greek: xenos) means ‘something foreign, alien, or unusual.’ This is not a reference to the tribulation, but to trials in life. Xenos implies that when a Christian experiences an event or season of suffering, it seems alien or unusual; but in reality, Peter tells us that it’s part of the faith ride.
Whatever the fiery trial that’s happening to you; it’s not xenos, it’s not unusual. The idea of rejoicing because of a trial or suffering is not biblical; however, we can identify with Christ sufferings, which can manifest into a blessing because of what God can do in us and through us as we endure through. Sometimes the hardest lessons learned in this life are at the ‘school of hard knocks.’ Peter expounds this thought by stating that we can ‘rejoice to the extent that we are partakers of Christ’s sufferings.’
Luke records when Peter and some other apostles were beaten with rods…
“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” – Acts 5:41
The Apostle Paul reminded us that… “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” – Romans 8:18
Peter says that in the resurrection we will ‘be glad with exceeding joy’ because we endured suffering in this life, so we will experience God’s glory in heaven with Jesus. This is an encouragement to all suffering believers in Jesus, knowing that one day we will experience God’s complete joy when we are finally with Christ and the rest of His body, our brothers and sisters, in heaven. Be encouraged and blessed. The bottom-line, we will have to endure suffering in this life from time to time, don’t panic over it, just embrace the Lord and press on through it; it shall be well.
James continues, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” – (vs.3)
- The word for patience is also translated ‘endurance or perseverance.’ The idea of or faith being tested will always bring out the best in us. When the devil tests us, it usually brings out the worst. Testing proves what we’re made of.
Testing works for us, not against us. When they are rightly used, they will help us to mature in our faith and develop those characteristics that we would not have otherwise developed; like patience, endurance, or perseverance. In the Bible, patience is not a passive acceptance of a circumstance; it’s a courageous perseverance in the face of suffering and difficulty. Immature people are always impatient, but mature people are patient and persistent. Impatience and unbelief usually go together, just as faith and patience do.
The Hebrew writer said it this way, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish (lazy), but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
– Hebrews 6:11,12
“Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:” – Hebrews 10:35,36
- In both of these passages we find a similar theme being presented where believers need to endure through trials at times; this is how God will strengthen and build our faith (confidence) in the Lord.
“The only way the Lord can develop patience and character in our lives is through trials. Endurance cannot be attained by reading a book, listening to a sermon, or even praying a prayer. We must go through the difficulties of life, trust God, and obey Him. The result will be patience and character. Knowing this, we can face trials joyfully. We know what trials will do in us and for us, and we know that the end result will bring glory to God.”
– Warren Wiersbe
James continues, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect (mature) and complete, lacking nothing.” – (vs.4)
- The word ‘let’ used here implies ‘allow.’ The message James is proclaiming to us is that unless we allow God to build our character through trials, we won’t grow. We must cooperate with God or be chastened into submission.
However, if we submit to the Lord, if we allow the Lord, if we ‘let’ God work in us, than He will accomplish a great work in us, a perfect work, a mature work; a work that He wants to finish in us completely. God’s goal for our lives is maturity. Too many Christians ‘shelter’ themselves from the trials of this life, and as a result, they never really grow up. God wants His little children to become young men and women of faith, growing in their faith and developing a closer walk with the Lord. It’s God’s desire to work for us, in us, and through us, if we allow it.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – (vs.5)
James tells us that we need to ask the Lord for His wisdom. When we do, God will give it to us liberally, that is, in abundance. Remember: Wisdom is the ‘know what’ to do; knowledge is the ‘know how’ to do it, and understanding is the ability to tell them apart.
One man said it this way, ‘Knowledge is the ability to take things apart, but wisdom is the ability to put things back together again.’ We need wisdom so we will not waste the opportunities God is giving us to mature in Him. Wisdom helps us to understand how to use the various trials or circumstances in life for our good and for God’s glory. If we pray that prayer for wisdom, we had better do it by faith, a real faith, because that kind of prayer cannot be prayed without a sincere faith. No suffering is without purpose. It may be that in our suffering we must ask God for His wisdom, even in the midst of our pain. If we do we than will discover what it is that God is doing in us and in those around us; this will glorify the Lord.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
Everything we do, even in this crisis, that brings honor to the Lord will be the very thing that reflects God’s glory. To God be all the glory!
James continues, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” – (vs.6-8)
A non-doubting faith is the best kind of faith. It keeps us grounded in the Lord and in His Word. When we pray by faith to the Lord with the confidence we have in the Lord, this projects a ‘stable’ faith. If we pray with an unstable faith, that is, a wavering faith, we are double-minded and unstable in all our ways. We ‘stabilize our faith’ when we exercise regularly by demonstrating it to others in practical and relevant ways.
Mark records the incident where Jesus healed a demonized boy,
“And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. 15 Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. 16 And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?” 17 Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. 18 And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.” – Mark 9:14-18
Here we see an example of Christ’ power being supreme to His disciples, particularly when it came to exorcising this demon. Some will say that the disciples’ lack of faith inhibited their ability to deliver the boy. Others attribute Christ’ ability to deliver the boy because He was God. However, a closer look reveals that the spiritual life discipline of the person doing the exorcising is of paramount importance in a successful deliverance.
Mark continues, “He answered him and said, “O faithless (unbelieving) generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear (put up with) with you? Bring him to Me.” 20 Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. 21 So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” – (vs.19-22)
- Here we have a desperate father who loves his son, and who loves the Lord. He is pleading with Jesus to have compassion on his son and cure him of this evil spirit. The need is obvious, the Lord is present, what is lacking is faith.
“Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” – (vs.23,24)
This is the plight to many believers today; we believe, but we also don’t believe. This is the paradox that too many believers struggle within life. This is the issue that Jesus is addressing here and what James is also talking about in his letter to us. I believe that as we grow in the Lord and stabilize our faith, we will develop this same authority over demons, or viruses, or fear, or any other thing that manifests itself in our life that is against us.
Jesus reminded us, “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” – Luke 10:19,20
- It’s not just that we have this authority over the spiritual realm, but that we are saved and part of God’s greater promise to us of eternal life in heaven.
Back to the demonized boy,
“When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” 26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” 29 So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” – (vs.25-29)
- The strength of the opposition was greater than what the disciples could muster. What was needed in this situation was a greater faith to overcome this demon. Jesus was spiritually prepared in advance and therefore able to exorcise the demon and deliver the boy; it was not because He was God.
So it is with us, we must have a strong faith! This is why double-minded believers struggle in their faith at times. Each of us must come to a place where we realize that unless we spend that time with the Lord, in His Word, developing our faith and working through our unbelief, we will not be able to comprehend those greater oppositions, demons, viruses, and fear mountains in life.
Remember, It’s NOT in our strength that we overcome life’s adversities; it’s by God’s Spirit who is working in us and through us to accomplish those things He has for us.
The prophet Zechariah said it this way, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts. 7 ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” – Zechariah 4:6b,7
Zerubbabel (Prince of Restoration) is a type and shadow of Jesus. The Lord of Hosts (Jehovah-Sabaoth) is the Host of the armies of heaven. The message is that within you is where the Spirit of the Lord dwells. This is Jesus, the eternal God; He is the Lord of the hosts of the armies of heaven. When we realize this, our confidence level, our faith, our trust in the Lord will rise significantly because we know Who is living within us and Who has empowered us.
NOTE: This is not done in our own strength, but in the strength of the Lord!
The mountain is not an actual mountain, but a problem, a dominion, an obstacle, a demon, or even a virus that is hampering your way forward. The message is clear, ‘Who are you oh mountain, oh demon, oh Coronavirus? Before the Lord of hosts, you will be as flat as a tortilla!’ …you will be exorcised!’ …you will be eradicated!’
If we have faith, than God will do it in His time and in His way. We must not be double minded in our understanding of who God is, what He is capable of, and what we are capable of through Him. This is the message that James is trying to get across here. No trial is without purpose and God will us any trial, any tribulation, any Coronavirus pandemic lockdown to reveal Himself to us within it.
Ask yourself? Have I grown closer to the Lord in the past few weeks? Is my faith being tested? Am I growing in my faith? Am I fearful? Uncertain? Unsure? The Lord is with you, and He will see us through this – trust Him.
Encouragemen is a blog written by Pastor Rob Lee, recently relocated to Central Missouri. He lives with his wife of 32-years, near their three adult children, their spouses, and children (their grandchildren). Pastor Rob is an Ordained Assemblies of God minister, a former Lead Pastor (25 years), police chaplain, and community advocate. He continues to serve, consult, and disciple men of God, including those who are in the ministry.