“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds ” (James 1:2, NIV)
It is no mystery to Christians that walking a life of faith is difficult and brings on many challenges. Jesus affirms this in Matthew 16:24 when he says: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Again, Jesus emphasizes this point in John 16:33 where he says:
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
As Christians we live with this blessed peace that Jesus Christ has overcome the world, and by putting our faith in him we know that we will dwell with Christ in the new heaven and the new earth. However, in the meantime, we live in this fallen world surrounded by evil and temptation. This is where the struggle of being a Christian comes in:
How do I live a godly life in an ungodly world?
The book of James gives us insight into what it means to live a godly life. When we come under trials of many kinds, this book gives us godly wisdom that can stand the pressure of any worldly trial. We see through James’s teaching that on our own we cannot possibly live God-pleasing lives, but by God’s grace and Word we can live with confidence in the face of difficulty.
Who was James?
There are three candidates that might have been the author of James. The first two were disciples of Jesus: James the son of Zebedee, and the other was the son of Alphaeus. However, it is unlikely that either of these two people were the author as the first died in A.D. 44 and the second disappeared from what scholars can gather shortly after the resurrection of Jesus.
Most scholars would agree that it was James the brother of Jesus, the head of the Jerusalem church from A.D. 44 to 62, who wrote this book. James had a large responsibility to encourage, teach, and direct the young church through a time of great persecution and trial.
James knew all too well that the church was not immune to the pitfalls of human sin. He spoke from a place of wisdom and authority and his wise words to the early church still resonate today with the modern church.
James writes pastorally to the tribes scattered among the nations to give them wisdom and encouragement in the face of persecution.
A Godly View of Persecution
In the course of our lives we can become weary of the trials that we face as Christians.
Maybe it is a child who continually rebels and rejects Christ. Perhaps you work in an environment that is hostile to believers. If you are in school, you may have experienced the attacks that come from your classmates and teachers. Whatever your experience, we all know what it feels like to have our faith come under fire.
It takes a lot of love and patience to respond in a Christ-like way.
The early church that James wrote to surely knew what it was like to experience this persecution. Many scholars believe that it was written specifically to Jewish Christians that had scattered after Stephan’s death. It was a scary and uncertain time for the believers of the early church. But instead of feeling sorry for the early church, James tells them in verse 2 to consider it pure joy when they face trials of many kinds.
Is this not contrary to how we naturally view persecution? We view persecution, the disapproval of others, and pain as negative and to be avoided at all costs. But James tells them that this should be counted as pure joy because it produces perseverance.
Now, why is perseverance so important?
Without persevering in our faith, we cannot be complete in Christ. Through perseverance God molds us, teaches us, and draws us closer to a more complete life through the spirit.
It is easy to believe in God when everything is going the way we want in life. It is much harder when we face trials of many kinds. But it is in these trials that we gain a godly perseverance that enables us to live wholesome lives in the Spirit in light of the trials we face.
God wants us to come to a place where we are whole, he wants what is best for us. We are whole when we are fully relying on his grace. This is something that we learn and know best when our faith is on trial. To suffer and live for Christ is one of the great joys of being a Christian. For we know that anything we do as an act of worship toward God, or any sacrifice we make for his eternal kingdom, is honored by God.
Living under his lordship and living a God-pleasing life far outweighs the comforts of this life. The pain is real and can be at times overwhelming. But Jesus has promised us that he will never leave us or forsake us, and that one day we will be free of pain and suffering and restored to him.
The next time you find yourself in a trial, remember to count it as pure joy! Do not focus on the pain of now, but focus instead on the reward of eternal life. Think of this: pleasing our Father in heaven is so much greater than pleasing man.
May James’s encouragement strengthen and motivate you as it did the early church.