Daily Update #281
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Today we are moving on and starting to look at the letter of James.
The author is most likely James the Lord’s brother who was not a disciple during Jesus’ earthly ministry (John 7:3-5) but who could well have been converted when Jesus appeared to him after his resurrection (1 Cor 15:7). James is also called James the Just in both Jewish and Christian traditions, given his wise leadership of the Jerusalem church and the good name he maintained among the Jews.
His letter was written to Jewish Christians and others who were scattered among the nations. He is addressing God’s people in exile, who may have been tempted to give up following Jesus due to pressure from local people or authorities.
His letter is intensely practical and contains many essential instructions concerning faith and deeds, control over the tongue, treating others, etc. We are in for a treat as we look in detail at this very helpful letter in coming days.
Today’s passage is surprising! How do you respond to trials of many kinds? Do you avoid them, minimise them, try not to dwell on them or think about them too much? Do you seek help and counsel about how to manage them with human wisdom and insight?
James offers a completely different perspective. He urges us to consider trials to be pure joy! The basis of this is that these trials are testing our faith and will result in perseverance, so strengthening us in our faith. This perseverance in turn will lead to maturity and completeness. Instead of being immature and incomplete, the trials we experience will bring the wholeness and depth of insight which we need to overcome and be more rounded and effective disciples!
This is a very mature way to look at trials. While they are unpleasant and result in difficulties in the short term, the positive effect of them as we learn to overcome in the strength which the Lord provides, should be to motivate us to persevere in our faith.
James is helping us to have the right perspective on what happens to us as we experience difficulties, day by day. These difficulties will provide us with the opportunity to refine our faith, so that we can build maturity and completeness. While it would be inappropriate to court difficulties and trials intentionally, it is very healthy to recall that the Lord knows all our circumstances and is not surprised by bad things which happen to us. These are opportunities to develop and grow, as we seek to honour him and persevere.
All this rings true in our current challenging circumstances at St. John’s. By responding in prayer, dependence on the Lord and by holding fast to what we have been taught and what we believe we are being strengthened, we are experiencing unity in the Holy Spirit and are being built up.
We know that you are aware of all our day to day circumstances and the trials we are experiencing. None of these are a surprise to you. Help us to keep a right perspective on the challenges which we are going through now. Show us how to persevere and bring us to greater and greater maturity and completeness in faith, we pray. Show us particularly how to care for and show love towards our brothers and sisters in Christ who are undergoing very severe trials at this time.
Thank you that you strengthen and equip us to overcome and that you give us the victory, through your atoning death and your glorious resurrection and ascension.
Tomorrow’s passage: James 1:5-8