Tuesday, July 12, 2011

James 1:1-18 - Facing Trials and Gaining Wisdom - Pete's Bible Commentary

Before I comment on the biblical passage of James, firstly read through James 1:1-18 (NIV).

James 1:1-18 (NIV) - 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. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

What?! Consider it pure joy when you face trials? Yes. That's what James is saying. See God knows the end from the beginning and when you are in the midst of trials, God knows that in the future whether you will persevere; God knows whether it will work out alright. It is in this melting pot of difficulty that our faith is tested. Have you ever given financially to something the Lord placed on your heart, and then you were tested with your financial situation? Your faith was being tested. Have you felt the world was against you, while you took a stand for justice? Have you ever felt like you were being tested with patience right after you prayed for patience? Maybe it was stepping into the calling God placed on your life and now you are in the midst of barrenness and seemingly unfruitfulness. Within the trial, God is poking and prodding your faith and if you allow, your faith can be sharpened in the process and you will develop perseverance.

James speaks about asking God for wisdom when you need it. James doesn't say explore the words of Plato and Aristotle and read some of the ancient manuscripts from the prophets of old; he says, 'ask God'. While seeking clarity from other people or intelligent sources of wisdom can be helpful, ultimately, God is the source of all wisdom (God is omniscient), why would we go to any other source first? Ask God, James says, and believe that God will give you wisdom. My mind thinks of the story of Solomon, who had a dream and the Lord said to him, 'Ask for whatever you want me to give you' (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon did not ask for anything other than, 'a discerning heart to govern [the] people and to distinguish between right and wrong' (1 Kings 3:9). God honoured his request; he was imparted with wisdom. When you are in need of clarity, direction, guidance, go to God first. Ask for wisdom and believe that the Lord will answer!

When it comes to temptation, James makes it clear that we can be dragged away by our own evil desires. So often we can blame God or rather, the devil, for our slipping into wilful disobedience. "The devil made me do it." Interestingly, James is noting that we, by our own desires, can slip into sinfulness, by choosing to embrace the act the temptation is wooing us towards. I could list the different temptations (sexual, prestige, financial, etc), but what we need to comprehend is simply that our own desires can lead us into sinfulness. We are a sinful people, and we must turn to a saviour who can continually lead us in a journey of holiness; that will not lead to death, but rather to life.

* Pete's Bible Commentary of James 1:1-18 by PeteBrookshaw. 'Facing Trials and Gaining Wisdom'.

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