2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
- “Trials”: This word used here (Gk. peirasmos) is sometimes translated as “temptation” (i.e., as an enticement to sin) or sometimes as “testing” or “trial” (i.e., a circumstance or situation, usually hardship, through which loyalty is examined and demonstrated). For example: 1) 13 “Lead us not into temptation (Gk. peirasmos)” (Mt. 6:13, ESV); 2) 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing (Gk. peirasmos) in the wilderness (Heb. 3:8, CSB).The context of James 1 indicates that James is using it in both senses. Two sides of the conceptual coin.
- The English words “trial” and “temptation” highlight different aspects of what is happening in certain circumstances, especially in times of difficulty and pressure. For example, a financial pressure: All kinds of things get stirred up (worry, fear, etc.), and we may face a number of different temptations/enticements. One might be tempted to steal, or to hold back on their giving, or to accuse God of wrongdoing, or to believe lies about God, or perhaps even to turn his or her back on God. The question in “trial” and “testing”: Will we remain loyal to God under pressure and difficult circumstances? The question in temptation: In the face of such pressures and difficulties, will we demonstrate our loyalty to God by submitting to him and humbling ourselves before Him (Jm. 4:7, 10), and by resisting the devil (Jm. 4:7), enticements to evil and the evil desires within us that are confronted and exposed through suffering (Jm. 1:13-15)? God may send or allow pressures and certain circumstances to test loyalty, but James it clear that He himself does not entice to evil in the midst of those pressures and situations. God as tester is interested in our endurance; Satan as tempter is interested in our defeat.
13 No temptation (Gk. peirasmos) has come upon you except what is common to humanity (all human beings corrupted by evil desires). But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able (pressure assumed), but with the temptation he will also provide the way out (“a way of escape” [HCSB]) so that you may be able to bear it (difficulty and pressure assumed). (1 Cor. 10:13, CSB)
- “Of many kinds”: Of course, trials can come in many different forms. In James 5, James tells us to imitate Job and the prophets: “an example of patience in the face of suffering” (Jm. 5:10, NIV). Job: loss of family, possessions, sickness, etc.; the prophets: slandered, ridiculed, mistreated, etc. in their service to God
- “Consider it (“count it” [ESV]) pure joy (“all joy” [ESV, NASB]; “nothing but joy”; “be full of joy” [NCV]; “the greatest of joy” [BHT]).”
- Question: When we are beset by trials, how are we to interpret them and relate to them? What should the outcome of our thinking and reflection be? Supreme joy! But isn’t this insane? Who does this? How in the world is this possible? What kind of logic is it that leads James to say such a thing? What are the key ideas and assumptions that would enable us to see our trials as joy? James give us the reason in verses 3-4.
- Verse 3-4
3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
- “because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance (“produces endurance” [CSB], “produces steadfastness” [ESV]; “produces patience” [NKJV]; “results in patient endurance” [BHT])”
- We can relate to our sufferings with joy because of our understanding of what God is doing. Our understanding and way of thinking built on divinely-revealed truth concerning God, His ways, and His plan. God wants to produce perseverance, steadfastness, patience, and endurance? But why?
- 4 Perseverance (“endurance” [CJB, NASB], “steadfastness” [ESV], “patience” [NKJV]) must finish its work (“have its perfect effect” [LEB, NET], “have its perfect result” [NASB], “have its full effect” [CSB, ESV], “do its complete work” [HCSB], “accomplish its full work” [BHT]) so that you may be mature (Gk. teleios; OT background: “blameless” [Noah at Gen. 6:9 (LXX)]; “unblemished sheep” [Ex. 12:5, LXX]) and complete (Gk. holoklēri; “perfect and complete in every respect; having all necessary qualities”), not lacking anything.
- Think here of the OT sacrifices: Careful inspection of animals to make sure they are without defect or blemish. God wants our best and our all.
- God examining every part of our lives, renewing us into the image of God. He wants all of us: Our desires, our minds, our affections, decisions, our wills, our conduct. He has a specific outcome, result, and desired effect in mind. God Himself is perfectly ordered, and He is bringing us back into proper order. Endurance through trials plays a key role in this process.
- We interpret our present afflictions in light of the glory and eternal life that will be ours in the age to come. We understand our sufferings in this age through the lens of the gospel and the things God has promised. This is how we can consider our trials in a joyful light.
12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him (“to those who remain loyal to him” [BHT]). (Jm. 1:12, NIV)
- “Love in its distinctive biblical understanding…is always relational and often implies faithfulness and loyalty. So in this context it refers more to a sense of loyalty toward God.”
5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him (again, loyalty in view)? (Jm. 2:5, NIV)
7 Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! 10 Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered (cf. Jm. 1:2-4). You have heard of Job’s perseverance (“patient endurance” [LEB], “steadfastness” [ESV]) and have seen what the Lord finally brought about (“the outcome of the Lord’s dealings” [NASB]; “the purpose of the Lord” [ESV, NRSV]; “the Lord’s purpose for him in the end” [NCV]; “how the Lord treated him in the end” [REB]). The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (Jm. 5:7-11, NIV)
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault (“he will not rebuke you for asking” [NLT], “without a rebuke” [ISV], “without reprimand” [NET], “who gives to all generously and without criticizing” [HCSB], “who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly [CSB, NRSV]), and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man (“a person with divided loyalty” [NLT, v. 6), unstable in all he does (“unstable in all his ways” [ESV]; “unsteady in all his ways” [BHT]).
- “Wisdom”: “In biblical usage…[wisdom] is basically a practical, moral, and spiritual insight given by God (1 Kgs 3:7–9; Pro 2:3–6, 10–19; 9:1–6). It is the ability to discern right from wrong and good from evil. It is the power that enables a person to do and say the right thing at the right time.” It also involves a “knowledge of God’s way and will.” Fearing God is the beginning of wisdom.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts (“all who follow his instructions” [CSB]; “all who practice it” [ESV]) have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. (Ps. 111:10, NIV)
- James defines wisdom in chapter 3
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition (true wisdom=the opposite of these) in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice (order and every righteous practice is the fruit of true wisdom). 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (Jm. 3:13-18, NIV)
- Many examples of a life of true wisdom in James: endurance through humble circumstances (Jm. 1:9-11); helping the widows and orphans (Jm. 1:27); quickness to listen, slowness to speak and become angry (Jm. 1:19); getting rid of moral filth and humbly accepting the implanted word (Jm. 1:21); doing the word, not just hearing it (Jm. 1:22-15); controlling the tongue (Jm. 1:26, 3:12); no favoritism toward the rich (Jm. 2:1-7); loving neighbor as self and showing mercy to others (Jm. 2:8-13); deeds that accompany faith (Jm. 2:14-20); submitting to God, repenting, and resisting the devil and evil desires (Jm. 4:1-12); not boasting about tomorrow (Jm. 5:13-16); not defrauding workers or living in self-indulgence (Jm. 5:1-6); enduring patiently through suffering and letting our “yes” be “yes” (Jm. 5:7-12)
- “Ask God”: If we do not know what it means to fear God and do these things in a certain situation or a time of testing, we need to approach the throne of grace boldly and in confidence of who has revealed Himself to be and in confidence of the things he has promised to those who remain loyal to him. Follow James’ example: Be on our knees so much that they become “hard like those of a camel.”
- Conclude with testimony: “I never knew I could have so little and yet be so happy”