Studies in the Book of James
THE PURPOSE OF TESTS
By CAREE CONNOLLY
In my Bible, (in the book of James), each chapter has a title, which I like. It helps me understand more of what the chapter is about. When I first began to study the book of James, I looked beyond the words that were written.
The first chapter in James is titled: THE PURPOSE OF TESTS. I for one am not fond of tests, but they do help us learn and grow. The word 'purpose' itself means: intention, meaning, aim. The Thesarus has a list of words which all have similar meanings.
The word my eyes were drawn to was 'direction'. In life, direction is used in many ways.
- Our daily walk in Christ,
- Our jobs,
- Even in our prayers.
In the Webster's dictionary, the definition of direction is: the line or path along which something travels, lies, or points.
We all need direction in our lives and in the book of James it comes through to us in the form of tests.
In Warren Wiersbe's commentary of James, the introduction written by Ken Baugh speaks of being a construction worker, and that you need the tools to get the job done.
That's actually true for any job. Without the proper tools, the job is incomplete or will breakdown. In our own Christian lives, we have the most important tool or learning manual anyone can need.
In this book of James, we have the tools to gain maturity in Christ.
God's desire is for us to grow in faith.
"For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Hebrews 5:13,14
We grow and mature in faith by reading God's Word and applying it to our lives. The book of James is a great tool and give us the direction needed to do just that.
James, a bond servant of God and Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.
First of all, I wanted to give you a bit of context about the author James. This James was most probably the half-brother of Jesus. He was not a disciple or a follower of Jesus during his ministry. Mark 3:31 and John 7: 1-5 have him and his brothers trying to get Jesus to stop preaching to the people.
They did not believe or understand him. (sounds like the typical sibling)
It wasn't till his resurrection that a deeper understanding occurred. Jesus appeared to James himself (1 Cor. 15:7) After that he was seen of James: than all of the apostles.
James had been hearing Jesus teach at a distance for three and a half years and they grew up together as brothers. He must have seen something was different but didn't understand what. I'm sure seeing a crucifixion and than seeing Jesus alive again must have opened his heart finally to what God had to say. Jesus already knew James would be a great minister for his Word.
Chapter 1:1 In this first verse, James is calling himself a bond servant. In two different versions of a King James Bible, one version says just servant and another says bond servant. I looked up both words in the dictionary to see if the meanings and there is a slight difference.
Servant is: One who serves another
Bond servant is: One who is obligated to work without wages.
James himself was not sold into bond service. He went willingly into bondage for Christ. Choosing to serve without wages to the Lord Jesus.
Pretty awesome for someone who didn't believe at all.
And he greets the twelve tribes. Many Jewish believers were living in Roman Provinces, outside Palestine. They were struggling with impatience, bitterness, materialism, dis-unity, and spiritual apathy. (Things still going on today) This letter was to encourage and exhort them in their struggles with faith. Again, this letter can encourage us as well.
Chapter 1:2,3, & 4
*2* My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
In 1 Peter 1:7 it says That the trial of your faith, being much more than gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory of Jesus Christ.
We will have trials. This 3rd verse in James says when, not if. And though its not easy going through trials, James writes
Therefore, among God's churches, we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. (2nd Thessalonians 1:4)
1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,
*3,4* Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Verses 3 and 4 speak of patience.
Ah, that wonderful patience........
Having patience in general is hard enough. Having patience to go through a trial can be more difficult. We read a lot in the Bible where faith is tested. God called Abraham to live by faith and tested him in order to increase it.
These trials we have, rightly used, will help us gain maturity. With maturity, we gain patience, endurance, and the ability to keep going when thing get tough.
Romans 5:3-4 We glory in tribulations also knowing that that tribulations worketh patience; patience, experience; and experience, hope.
Warren Wiersbe brings up in his commentary 'Be Mature' that a little child who does not learn patience will not learn much of anything else.
I can't say from a parents point of view, but in my experience working with children, especially school age, both I and the child need patience. For myself, watching the struggle to learn to figure it out. And for them, that they can complete a problem and not skip over the hard just because its difficult.
God is building up our characters. But He can't without our cooperation. When we resist Him, that's when He must discipline us. As my dad would say...sending us out to the wood shed.
Some Christians shelter themselves from the trails of life.
But they also don't grow either. God's desire is for 'little children' to become young men (women), and young men (women) to become 'fathers' (mothers)
1 John 2:12-14 I write to you dear children, because your sins have become forgiven on account of his name. I write to you, fathers, because, you have known him from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you have known the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you have known him, who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.
As you have watched your own children grow and mature, so God does that for us as well.
Chapter 1:5, 6, 7, & 8
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James saw that believers were having difficulties with prayer., such as not knowing how to pray or what to pray about. James is giving an excellent tool in this verse: asking God for wisdom. And we will be learning more about wisdom in chapter 3. But we're not there yet.
In his commentary, W. Wiersbe writes about something someone had said. No name was given, but I liked this:
Knowledge is the ability to take things apart,
while wisdom is the ability to put them together.
Why is wisdom so important when going through a trial? Wisdom will help us understand how to use the circumstances for our good and God's glory.When we pray for wisdom, God doesn't just give us a thimbleful. He gives it to us liberally.
Some of the words in my Thesaurus for how He gives to us liberally are: abundantly, generously, lavishly, richly, and bountifully
I can honestly say that our God is exceedingly abundant in what he gives us. 1 Cor. 9:8 says God is able to bless you abundantly, so that all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Verse 6 is reminding us to not only ask God for wisdom, but to ask in faith. He is waiting to hear from us. And he is generous. (He giveth more grace) James 4:6. The hard part that we might come across is unbelief or doubt.
James describes doubt in this verse as a wave in the sea. Living by the ocean, we see the unpredictability of the waves. Calm and smooth one minute and wild and strong the next. Scary to think of doubt in this manner. But there it is, right in the Bible.
Matthew 14: 22-33 tells how Peter saw Jesus and was actually walking on water to get to him. But seeing the waves, began to doubt and started to sink. Jesus had to reach out a hand and save him.
If we take our eyes off Jesus, we flounder and need his hand to bring us back.
Chapter 1:9, 10, & 11
Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.
J. V. McGee explains verse 9 in this way. In terms of the word Lowly, it basically means average. Or everyday. We may not have a riches and wealth of others, but we as Children of God, we are wealthy beyond measure. The wealth of man will burn up and fade away. Our treasure in heaven is everlasting.
Some of the programs that I sometimes come across show people who have million dollar homes for sale but have to have just that higher bid. And the people with mega-yachts, who are happy for a while till they want a bigger boat. The warning James is giving, is for the heart of man who holds much, but places God second.
God should always be first and wealth can be a stumbling block.
Getting to verse 12, I see two words that spring out at me.
- Blessed: a title for those who have been beautified.
- Crown of Life. The crown is laid up for all who prove true, but possessed of none, until time of reward. It is in view, not possession.
Let no man say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil nor does He himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Than, when desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin: and sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my brethren. Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.
Sometimes, the difference between trials and temptations can be confusing for ones who don't understand. The word Tempted means: to draw into a wrong or foolish course of action. God cannot sin, therefore He would not send his children into a sinful circumstance.
Trial means: a source of vexation or distress that tests patience and endurance.
The devil is a tempter. Many times in the Bible we can read about him tempting Jesus in the wilderness. (Matthew, Mark & Luke speak to this). But the sinful nature comes from the heart. and when a temptation becomes a sin, its disobedience. When disobedience becomes commonplace in your life, the disobedience gives birth to death.
* When we lived in sin, we were dead. But in Christ, we have Life. Even when we were dead in sin, hath quickened us in Christ.(by Grace you are saved) Eph. 2:5
James takes time to tell us Do Not Be Deceived. This might be opportunity to pray for wisdom and discernment.
God has only good gifts for us. If we have am ailment, we might not understand why, but like the Apostle Paul's thorn in the flesh, it can be a blessing instead. And we don't always see all the gifts He is sending us. But we know He sends them to us.
The Bible does not lie
We are His new creatures. After you and accepted Him, we were made new. Totally different from our old selves. The spirit of God uses the Word of God to bring about the miracle of the new birth. The Word of God is 'living' and 'powerful'. (Hebrews 4:12) It can generate new life in the heart of a sinner who trusts Christ, and that life is God's life.
Chapter 1:19, 20, 21-27
So than, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow, to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
In this last portion of verses, we have a combination of warnings and useful tools making us aware of stumbling blocks and how to avoid them. James tells us to be 'swift to hear'. We must be ready to hear what God had to say. 'Be slow to speak'.
Prov. 10:19 He that refrains his lips is wise.
Prov. 17:27 He that hath knowledge spareth his words.
I sometimes myself will say something and than wish that I hadn't.
Warren Weirsbe once sawa poster that said: Temper is such a valuable thing, it is a shame to lose it.
'Be slow to wrath'. The wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Anger is actually just the opposite of the patience God wants us to produce in our lives as we mature in Christ.
Verse 21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
In Warren's commentary, he feels that James is liking the heart as a garden. A garden which if not tended, can grow weeds. We need to pull out the weeds of wickedness and filthiness or basically whatever is chocking out the good fruit God wants us to produce. One of the parables Jesus gave was of thorns and how they chock out the Word of God. We don't want that to happen.
When we have an attitude of meekness, with this, we honor God.
Verse 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Hearing is very necessary to hear His voice, but we must be doers as well. Some Christians think just going to church will cause spiritual growth and get God's blessings. Not going to happen. It's not just the hearing but also the doing. God wants a daily walk, not just stand and do nothing.
Verses 23-27 For if anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. Be he who looks into a perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this ones religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in the trouble, and keep oneself unspotted from the world.
Before James used a garden. Now he is using a mirror. A mirror is an object which can show all the blemishes. I use mine mostly to brush my hair and stay tidy, though yes, I do see the changes which come, sometimes daily.
In this case, this verse is speaking of Christians who like looking in a mirror then walk away forgetting what they just saw. People can become complacent in their lives. Like reading the Bible everyday, but not applying to their lives. The mirror of our lives should be a reflection of God's life in us.
We need to examine our hearts and live in the light of God's Word. This requires time, attention, and sincere devotion.
Our tongues also needs care. These can be hard to control. It hurts my ears and heart to hear Christians use the Lord's name in vane in their casual conversations. I don't understand that. Matthew 12:34-37 talks about the tongue. In paraphrased form: if the heart is right, the speech will be right.
James closes with knowing words are not substitute for deeds. Visiting those in need is a good ministry. We must stay unspotted in the world. Romans 12:2 says And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
We close with seeing the tools James has given us in this first chapter. The tools that will help us when we will be tested and tried.
- By being a willing servant for Christ.
- By allowing there to be joy in trials.
- By asking God for wisdom, knowing it will be given back abundantly
Copyright 2014 - Caree Connolly