James 1:1-18 (Week 1 – Faith in Action Series)
Jason White



James teaches us that when we face trials to count them as joy because they develop perseverance. As we persevere through trials with our eyes fixed on Jesus, He uses them to show us that our Life is found in Him and not in our situations and circumstances.







Sermon Audio Transcript
If you have your Bible this morning, I want to invite you to open it up to James New Testament of James letter that James wrote, we're going to start in chapter one, verse one in just a moment, this is the beginning of our summer message series. If you're visiting today, you picked a good day to calm because this is the opening message of this series, we're going to be starting in verse one, chapter one, in just a moment, we're gonna go all the way through all verses, all chapters, not today. But throughout all of the summer, it's gonna be a great book to study. It's, it's a different book, it's different in a lot of ways from, for example, the letters that we see Paul writing to New Testament churches all over the place. And because it's kind of different, it gets a lot of attention. Sometimes it gets attention in a negative way. And so what we need to keep in mind as we start up front today, and begin to dive into this, is that this book, this letter that James wrote, is mainly about the life of Christ being expressed in us and through us. See, when we look at New Covenant Christianity, and when we look at Scripture, and what all it has to say, I mean, there's a lot of books, there's a lot of letters, there's a lot of chapters, there's a lot of verses, there's a number of things that the Bible is communicating to us that we see. But when you boil it down, when you try to simplify what this is really all about, it's three things. It's about life in Christ. It's about life together. And it's about life expressed, that when we put our faith and trust in Jesus, we receive this new life in Christ were made into new creations in him, we're no longer who we once were. And so there's a lot of Scripture when we come to it, that will deal with that new life that we now have in Christ to help us understand who we've become in this union that we now have with Christ, the moment we say yes to Jesus. But that union that we experience with Christ also leads to a union with other brothers and sisters who have put their faith and trust in Jesus and we become family we we enter, enter into this life together that we have. And so what we're doing this morning, we're worshiping together, we're experiencing the life of Christ in us and through us to gather as his church as his family as his sons and daughters. But then also Christ put that life in, in each one of us, and then connects all of us together to express His life in us individually and collectively through us as the church so that others will experience his life through us. And so a lot of times he expresses his character through our speech, and through our behavior through our actions, the way that we treat other people. He uses us to bless other people and even bring new life to other people. And so again, when we read scripture, some of it is dealing with new life in Christ. Sometimes we find ourselves in sections that's teaching us what this life now is like, together, how do we do life together as the church now that we're a part of the church. And then there's other times that we find ourselves in sections of Scripture that are really dealing with how this life is expressed through us, and giving us a picture of what it looks like very practically, of course, there are times where we're reading about all three of those things in one passage, and the author being inspired by the Holy Spirit is working in and through that. And we're learning about all three of those things and how they work together. And as I said just a moment ago, James is one of those books that is primarily dealing with this life that is expressed through us, we're calling the series faith in action, because James is going to be very practical about the life and not just that we have in Jesus, but the way again, that he expresses his life through us and how when we live by faith, when we live in dependence on the life of Christ that we now have in us, it will lead to action. This is not a passive faith. Grace is not passive. The life we have in Christ is not passive. It leads to action in our own lives. It leads to action in the various situations and circumstances we find ourselves in. It leads to action, how we serve and bless and treat other people, not just in the church, but outside of the church as well. And so it's important that we know this up front. It's important because if we come to James looking for how to figure out salvation in this new life in Christ and those kinds of things that that Paul unpacks a lot of in letters like Roman is in the first half of Ephesians, and Colossians. And all of those things that he wrote, then then we're going to be thoroughly confused, because James mainly isn't writing about that stuff. He's writing about practical outworking of the life of Christ that we already have, through us what it looks like in action. And that's going to be important as we walk through it. And we'll see that over the next several weeks as we dive into more and more of his letter. But let's just jump right in and see what James begins to say. He starts with an introduction, James one one says, James, a servant of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ to the 12 tribes scattered among the nations greeting. So, again, this is an introduction. He's just saying, Hey, this is from me, James, there's a lot of James in the Bible, this is referring to, we believe, most likely James, the half brother of Jesus. And he's saying it's to the 12 tribes of Israel. This is just kind of a herd of the 12 tribes scattered among the nations is what He literally says here. This is just a general way of saying he's writing to Jewish Christians who have been scattered among various nations due to persecution. And now that he's got the introduction done in verse one, he just jumps right into the practical outworking of our faith and the different areas of life that we find ourselves in. So look what he says in verse two. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. So the first thing I want you to notice in this is that James says, whenever you face trials, and not if you face trials, a lot of times we might tend to think that because we're Christians, we shouldn't be going into trials, we shouldn't have to face hard things. And if we do, it's probably a result of something that we did to offend God. Now, listen, there are always consequences to our actions in one way or another. And we can end up in a trial, certainly because of something that we've done. But a lot of times, we will find ourselves in a trial in a situation that's not so pleasant to be in, simply because we're human, and because we're living in a fallen world. But James says, when we find ourselves in those situations, to Consider it pure joy, to count it as joy. Now, James isn't talking about being happy. He's not saying that if you lose someone to just go, Alright, I am just so filled with joy, and so happy and this is such a great blessing. And not just I'm not going to be sad, I'm not going to grieve, because James says to be filled with joy. It's not what he's talking about here. There's plenty of times that we see Jesus grieving, right? I mean, if it was wrong to grieve, then why was he grieving, we see that in Scripture, what James is talking about is just kind of this, this deep inner peace that we have in trials and tribulations and hard things that we experienced. Because even though it will hurt, even though it may not be fun, and we're gonna have to get through or walk through those things, we know that God is going to use it for something good. And that's what he gets into as he goes on. So he said, consider a pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds. Why? Verse three? Because, you know, he says that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. So then he says, let its key word there, let perseverance finish its work. Why, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. Now, what James is saying here is kind of kind of the opposite of what most of us tend to do. I think, I think what happens to a lot of us is that when we go into a trial, what we're trying to do is get out of that trial as fast as we can, right? I mean, we're going to other people. We're trying to read books, we're trying to throw money at stuff. We're trying to pray our way out of situations and circumstances. Sometimes we can we think that it's, I must have done something to offend God. And so I need to do something and work off the checklist in order to get out of those things. But James says here to stay in it, that these trials produce perseverance. I mean, when he says, to let perseverance finish its work. What he's saying is you don't necessarily need to try to get out of those trials or tribulations as fast as you possibly can. Just stay in it and look for what God is doing in it in through it.In his timing in his timing, he's saying don't miss what it is that God has for you in the trial. Now he says if you stay in it, you let perseverance finish its work and you walk by faith that Jesus is using this trial, then he says something is going to happen. He says, we'll be made mature and complete, and we won't be lacking anything. Now, that's interesting, because those of you who know your scripture know that the Apostle Paul said something very similar to this, almost like we already are made complete. If you look at Colossians 210, Paul says there so you are complete, simply through your union with Christ. Paul says, just because of the spiritual union, you enter into the moment you say yes to Jesus, now you united to him, you now have everything that you need, you're no longer lacking, you are made complete and whole in him. So what is it? Are you complete simply through your union with Jesus? Or are you complete if you persevere through a trial? Yeah. Yes. See, what James is talking about here is that there is an outworking of the completeness that we have in Christ. Remember, James's writing, mainly, we said this upfront about the life of Christ being expressed through us the way it works through us not just the life that we have, in Christ there, this even kind of comes out in the verse that we just read in verse three with the language that he used of testing, he talked about it being the testing of our faith, the the word that's translating, translated text testing, there is only used three times throughout Scripture, once in the New Testament, and twice in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. And two out of the three times, it's used to denote the process of refining, like silver or gold. Refining, of course, like refining, gold is a process of removing any impurities that are found in the gold. Now, here's the thing, if you find a piece of gold, in, you're going to refine the gold, it already is gold, you're not taking it through a refining process to turn it into gold, it already is gold, right? Now, the thing is, there can be impurities found in the substance, it's gold, but there might be like 10% of it might find some different materials, some silver or other kind of metals that are in there. And so refining, is a process of working out all of those things in that gold, that don't line up with being gold. When the process is over, it's gold all the way through. And James is saying that this is what it's like in the Christian life. When we go through trials, there's an outworking of faith and who we are in Christ, just like a gold substance is gold. Right? Refining is it making it gold, but it has some things in it that don't line up with what it really is. The same thing is true in our life, as Christians were made complete, we are made into new creations, we are made whole. But we may have some outward actions, some thoughts, some speech, some feelings, some tendencies in our lives that don't line up with who we now already are in Christ. So there's some refining that needs to take place in an outward way. And trials are the things that God uses to work that stuff through us. Another way of thinking about it is it's possible to be made complete in Christ have everything that we need in him. But for us to live our lives in such a way that we feel like we're not complete, to live in such a way that we feel like we're lacking something still in, we're missing something in our lives. And so we go through a trial, for example. And we, in a trial, ultimately, mostly begin to feel like we're missing something, I'm missing out on the good life, I'm missing on what it would be like on the outside of this trial. If I was in a different situation, if I was in a different circumstance than I am right now, I would be better, I'm missing out on those things. And so we're trying to get out of those things and change those things. But James is saying you have to quit trying to get out of your trial, and instead actually persevere through them that God is going to mature and refine us through the trial and allow us to experience the completeness that we already have in Christ he's going to use to show us that we're not lacking anything in those moments that we don't find fulfillment and satisfaction in the comfort of life, but in Jesus Himself as our life. So he says to Consider it joy when we go into a trial because God is going to use it to grow our faith to show shows us and how to how to experience the true joy in the life that we already have in him. But we're trying to experience in some other way, because sometimes it feels like we don't have those things in our lives. He doesn't want us to settle for a counterfeit joy that we try to find through situations and circumstances because the real joy is found in Jesus. He goes on and picks up in verse five and says, if, if any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and he says it will be given to you. In other words, if you lack the wisdom to persevere through the trial and see what God is up to in the trial than asking, he's a generous God, and he'll give you the wisdom that you need to be able to see what he's up to in the trial to see it in such a way that even though the situation is bad, even though the circumstances not good, it's not fun to walk through, he'll give you the wisdom, see what he really is up to, for our good and for His glory. Read a number of commentaries in preparation of this one of the commentaries or part of the commentary that I read was by Warren weirs be, many of you know who Warren weirs be, is familiar with some of his works, and may have read some of the things that he has written. But he tells the story in his commentary of one of his own church members, that was going through a really tough trial, a really severe trial in her life, a number of things happened to her all at the same time. Number one, she had a stroke, I mean, and that, in and of itself is a lot. I mean, to experience the stroke, and then what life is like on the other side of that can be very different than the way life was before the stroke, it can affect you in a lot of ways and physically. And so that, in and of itself is a pretty big trial and something that's difficult to have to walk through. But while she's trying to walk through and suffering the effects of a stroke, her husband goes completely blind. I mean, the guy could see, and now he can't see. And now she's having to navigate things in her own world through this stroke and the way it's affecting her on the other side of it, but also care for her husband, and teach him and be there for him to help him navigate through life when he's blind and can't see now. And then not too long after that, while all of this is hitting, he got really sick and ended up in the hospital. And things were so bad that they thought that he was literally going to die. There was no way he was going to make it out of this. I mean, she was walking through so much. She was at church one day and Warren saw her and went up to her and said, Hey, I just want you to know how sorry I am for what it is that you're going through. Please know that I am praying for you. And she says, Thank you so much. That means so much to me. But do you mind, if I ask what it is that you're praying for me specifically? He said, Oh, yeah, I'm praying, you know that you will feel God's presence that you will be healed, that your husband will be healed, that God is going to give you strength to get through all of these things that she said, Thank you, oh, my gosh, that means so much to me, pastor Warren, that you would pray for me. But can I ask you to pray for one other thing, there's something very specific, that I want you to pray, please pray that I'll have the wisdom to not waste this trial.Please praythat I'll have the wisdom to not wastethis trial.This is what James is talking about. This is someone who knew that God uses the trials of our lives to grow us and to help us experience the life of Christ that we have and that so many of us miss. He wants us to know that he's at work in and through these trials and to give us the wisdom and she was going I don't want to miss that I don't want to miss what God has for me in this. So pray that I don't miss it. May that be true? of each and every one of us as we walk through the trials of life as well. Then we'd be praying, God give me the wisdom to not waste this trial. Because there's purpose in it. Verse six, James continues, but when you ask there's kind of a warning here when it comes to asking for wisdom. But when you ask for wisdom, you must believe and not doubt because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind that person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord such a person is double minded and unstable in all they do now, the kind of doubt that James is talking about here is not intellectual doubt. The word that he used has more to do with like undivided loyalties. For example, again, I said this earlier sometimes when we go into a A trial, we go to the first person that we can think of that will help give us the wisdom to know how to get out of the trial that we're in. Or we go to the first book that we think that will give us the information that we need to get out of that trial, or we pull out our checkbooks, and we try to pay for things to help get us out of those kinds of things. And then amongst all of those different things that we're trying to do in the trial, we go, oh, yeah, I should pray and ask God to maybe do something about this, or be in this trial with me, and just as one of many different options to make sure we've covered all of our bases, right? We go to God with some of these things. And he's saying, if that's the approach you're gonna have, when you're walking through a trial, you're gonna be like, tossed around and beaten up back and forth, amongst all of those things you're committed to, and being so loyal to and trying to clean to in all of those ways. You're gonna miss what it is that God has for you in the trial, if that's the case. So he's saying cling to Christ and Him alone, as the one who's going to give you the wisdom to see what he's up to, in this trial and the purpose that He allowed you to go through this for. He continues in verse nine says believers, in humble circumstances, ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation, since they will pass away like a wildflower for the sun rises with scorching heat and withers, the plant, it blossom, its blossom falls, and its beauty is destroyed. And in the same way, the rich will fade away, even while they go about their business. James is saying if you go through trials, and you're poor, that tendency can be to lament your poverty, to focus on your low position, how much you're lacking in this world, how much more you would have, if you had more money, how complete you would be, and all of those kinds of things. And James is saying, listen, God's wisdom going to show you that you already have a high position in Christ, that it's not your money that you're lacking, that you're not going to be made more complete, and have everything that you need when you have more money. So he says, Stop thinking about how all of your problems are going to be solved, if you could get your hands and money because you are rich in Christ, and God's gonna use those trials, to where you have to lean upon him, you're gonna have to depend on him. And you're gonna find as you do, that, you are so much more rich in Christ and all that you have in Him than anything you'll ever try to gain out of more money. The he also has things to say about those who are rich, right? We tend to think that boy, if I have it, then I've got my high position, I've got my status, that's the thing I can cling to, and you're gonna walk through those trials, and you're gonna learn that you can't claim to those things, that they're not going to bring you what it is that you thought you had in those particular moments. And God is going to use that to press you in more to him and show you that you your low position now that you have in society, because of that is actually going to be the thing that God's going to use to show you that you your riches, your true riches are found in Christ the same way it is for someone who is poor. He's saying whether you're poor or rich, to persevere through the trial and allow God's wisdom to show you your true identity, your true worth and how rich you ultimately are in Christ and all that you have in him, as he claimed to him, was dead. Jane gets into verse 12. He He shows us that there is a reward. There's a reward for persevering through trials, verse 12, he says, Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial, having stood the test that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. Well, now what is this crown of life that James is referring to here? Well, it's certainly not a physical object. It's it's a spiritual reward that James is talking about. There's, of course, a lot of discussion around this kind of thing. But we know of course, that Jesus said in John chapter 10, verse 10, or we're told that Jesus came to give life and to give it abundantly. He came from heaven to earth, to give us abundant life. We know that he stood up in John 1125 and 14 Six, it says, I am the way I'm the resurrection and the life I'm the WAY the TRUTH and the LIFE right he is the life. And we know from First John 512 that the moment we put our faith and trust in Jesus says, He who has the sun and we have him if we put our faith in Jesus for salvation, now has life we have the abundant life that He came to give us simply in our union with Him. But once again, even though we have life in Him, we can still live out Our lives as if nothing has truly changed about us. We can live our lives, as if we don't have abundant life, even though we already have it in Jesus. And so James with his focus on that life being expressed through us this outworking of that life that we have is saying that when we persevered through these trials with the the wisdom that God God gives, he's going to begin to allow us to experience Jesus now as our life, you already have it in him, but he's going to use it to allow you to now experience the life that you have over and above the life that you are trying to find and seek through the situations and circumstances that you are in, are trying to make them better and thinking that they're going to be here, they're going to outweigh them all. In other words, we think most of us always tend to think that the reward is the better situation or circumstance that we're going to find ourselves in. But notice, that is not what G James says, throughout this entire passage, that there's a lot of tendency, even in Christian circles, and some churches that where the preaching and the teaching is all about persevering through the trial. Why? Because of what it is that you're going to get on the other side of that trial. It's all about persevering through it, because God's gonna use that and work in it when you're faithful to him to make your life even way better and blessed than beyond what you were before you entered into the trial. And that is not the gospel. He's not letting you go through the trial so that you can persevere through that, so that he can make your life more complete and better on the other side of it than you were, he's moving you through that, to show him to show you that he is the reward that he is the life that you have abundant life in him. Now, that doesn't mean that you can't pray for better situations and better circumstances. We know that Jesus healed people, and he made situations better for a lot of people. But ultimately, those things were used to capture people's attention to the real life being found in and through him. So don't fall for the deception and the lie that God's trying to get you through this trial, in order to bless you way your bond above and beyond where you were, as far as your status in situation in life that you were in before then that may be the case he may do those things. But he may not you may never get out of the trial. There's no promise of that. But you still have the reward of Jesus. I mean, how many times have you ever heard people who are in dark, tough situations that were I mean, extreme trials, who experienced the life of Christ being expressed through them so much in those ways that when they got out, and their situations and circumstances were better, they were like, I wish I could go back to the suffering because I experienced the life of Christ through me more and felt it more in that situation than I do when everything's just great and gone grant.He's the reward. Verse 13,as we kind of finished this up and go through these last few things. He says when, when tempted, He says, No one should say God is tempting me, for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone but each person is tempted when they're dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed them after desire has conceived it gives birth to sin, and sin when it is full grown, gives birth to death, when when, when you and I go through trials, we may feel the temptation to cope with what is going on in our lives and Ill legitimate ways. That of course comes from Satan that doesn't come from God it comes from Him enticing are our fleshly desires to try to deal with things on our own apart from God. James even uses these these fishing terms here enticing and dragged away in the original language describes fishing terms, their their fishing terms, a fisherman will try to entice a fish to bite something that is less than the real thing. It may look as good or better than the real thing. But if that fish bites it, it's going to get hooked and it's going to get dragged away out of its environment where life is found in into a boat or on dry land where they will experience death. Right? And so we're kind of the same way in our flesh. We can be enticed to deal with trials in different ways. With alcohol, drugs, pornography, shopping, buy, go buy something it'll make me feel better. I won't feel as bad is the I do in this trial that I'm working in right to, we run from our problems, we lash out in anger. And there's all these ways that we try to cope and deal and we're entice Satan tries to entice us to cope with these things we fall for them. We're dragged away from, from God's plan to, to show us something in that trial. We're not allowing. We're not letting the perseverance finish its work in those moments, and so we're not experiencing the fullness of Christ in the life of Christ, we're being dragged away from those things and settling for something less than the real thing, which, of course, is Jesus. James doesn't want us to miss out on what God is up to. He doesn't want us to miss and settle for less than the real thing. He doesn't want us to be deceived, miss God's goodness, which is what he gets into last verse 16. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters, every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly light, who does not change like shifting shadows, he chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. In other words, God is ultimately good. He's given us a new spiritual birth, we have everything that we need in him for life and godliness. So don't be deceived so easily. Don't be deceived and miss what God is wanting to do through the trials and the temptations to point us to the real abundant life being found in Christ and in Christ alone and not in our situations in our circumstances. And so I don't know what trial you're in right now, this morning. I don't know what trial is headed your way. But James, being very practical and showing us what to do and how it works in the different areas of life that we go through. And a very practical way says, if you're in a trial right now, or a trial is coming your way, to count it, first and foremost, with joy, to know that this is a way God is going to be up to do something good in your life, to to look for his wisdom, to ask him He gives generously to be able to see what it is that he's up to, to, to not be deceived by the temptations to get out of the trial quickly, or to cope with it in illegitimate ways. But to know and experience your abundant life, Jesus as your reward in and through the trial. In summary, may we pray, may you pray that you'll have the wisdom to not waste the trial that you're in, or the trial that is coming your way