James 1:18 “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
There is nothing more comforting in this world than the truth for believers: God chose us before the foundation of time. And not only that, He chose to create us, by His own will and for His good pleasure, to be foremost among all of His creation. That is truly amazing, and in that amazement, it is also somewhat astounding that we would ever doubt Him. James reminds us here that remembering who we are and Whose we are will put these ever present trials and tribulations into their proper perspectives. He loves us, He created us, and He takes care of us. He does only good on our behalf and He will keep us until the glorious day of His return. Nothing in this world, whether wonderful or not, can compare to that truth.
Study/Meditation: James tells us that we are the “firstfruits” of God’s creation. What does that mean? How should the truth of that statement affect the way you see this life’s troubles?
*Father, thank You for loving me so completely. Thank You for choosing to create me and keep me through this life, promising me a glorious eternity with You. I love You. Amen.
James 1:16-17 “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation of shadow due to change.”
“Father of lights” was a common Jewish phrase used to describe God. Even though lights twinkle and can vary in their brightness, God is the Author of these lights and in that He does not vary in His majesty. When we are in the midst of trials and troubles, we must not be deceived into thinking that God would bring evil upon us. Romans 8:28 is in every Bible. Our Father is in the business of working all things for our good and to His glory. Only good will come to us (though it may hurt at the time), and these good and perfect things come from God. He doesn’t shift like the twinkling stars or the raging sun. God is constant and the Keeper of all promises. He has promised us that our days are ordained and known by Him, that He knows the plans He has for us, and that those plans are for our good. Our truth must lie there.
Study/Meditation: Why is it so hard for us to interpret the “bad” things that happen as being “good”? How do faith and trust have to play a role during these times? What promises must we hang on to?
*Father, You are good and gracious and merciful. Forgive me when I doubt these things in You and give me the wisdom to trust that You are working all things for my good and to Your glory. Amen.
James 1:13-15 “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
It may seem vaguely out of place that James switches gears to admonishing us about temptations when he has been writing about our responses to trials, but he is actually continuing the admonition in the same thought. The apostle is simply reminding us that these trials and troubles are a form of testing from God, aiding in the building up of our characters and in our abilities to persevere, but we may not say that in them God is “tempting” us. As James writes, God cannot be either tempted with evil nor can He tempt anyone to evil. The difference between the two is that one is an external force, the test, and the other is an internal force, the temptation. We are tempted to evil by our own sin natures, and the testing becomes a temptation depending on what we do with them in our minds. That is why James immediately preceded this comment with saying that those who remain steadfast under the trial, or testing, will receive the crown of life. The trials come, and God uses them to mold and build our characters. As long as we look to Him in the midst of them, these trials serve their heavenly purposes. However, as soon as we look to ourselves, these trials become temptations which may lead to sin and death. Look only to our Father for comfort and guidance in this life, so that the trials and tests will serve only to make us more like Him.
Study/Meditation: How do “tests” become “temptations”? How can you guard against this happening in your own life?
*Father, help me to keep all of my troubles and problems in the proper perspective. Thank You for never leaving me nor forsaking me, but instead using all of the things in my life to further sanctify me. Amen.
James 1:12 “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
James gives us a directive in this verse, the same directive God has been giving His children since Genesis 2 and 3. Our Father has directed us to live our lives in light of the coming good. We endure the trials and tribulations of this existence knowing that this is not the end of it; this isn’t even the point of it! The “crown of life” is not a physical crown, per se, nor is it a works-related reward. This kind of “crown” is the term used for “top” or “pinnacle.” The point of our lives and our existences is the glory of God, and brothers and sisters, we will see that! All of this life is a trial. Nothing here on this earth is perfect, so we remain steadfast while living in this time, knowing that we have in our futures an eternity when we will see the point, when we will behold the truest good and perfection—our Heavenly Father. He is the Crown of Life and the point of it all, and His promise to us is Him. It could be no better than that!
Study/Meditation: Verse 4 told us that our steadfastness in trials will make us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” How is that statement related to today’s verse? What does “remaining steadfast” look like in your life?
*Father, thank You for the promise of You. Keep me during the trials of this life and remind me daily that You are the Crown and the Glory of this earth. Amen.
James 1:9-11 “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.”
Probably one of the hardest trials any human being can face is the trial of self-centeredness, or pride. It is our general inclination to see everything with ourselves as the center, filtering all of life through a “me lens.” In these verses, James is pointing to two opposite situations in order to illustrate where our thoughts should be. You see, the poor man could easily fixate on his situation, thinking he would be so much better off if he just had more money or more things, whereas James says he should instead fixate on his wealth in being a child of the King. On the other hand, the rich man may be satisfied in his money, thinking life is right because he has a lot of wealth, but James says this man must cast his eyes not on the gifts but on the Giver. In both cases, James is calling us to look beyond ourselves and our situations, whatever those situations may be, and in humility place our eyes and our hearts on the Lord of the Universe and Lover of our Souls. In Him we have peace and prosperity, and this is where we will find the wisdom we need to endure the trials of earthly things.
Study/Meditation: In this illustration, how can a poor man be accused of pride? These things are also forms of idolatry. How is that so?
*Father, forgive me of the times when I’ve placed anything of this world above You and my love for You. You are the Giver of all things and the Author of salvation. I love You and give you all praise and honor. Amen.
James 1:6-8 “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
Jesus told us that the number one thing we are commanded to do is to love the Lord with everything. In order to do this, we have to be single-minded in our devotion to Him. Another part of successfully fulfilling the first of the Ten Commandments is to have unwavering faith. James tells us to also demonstrate this faith when we ask for wisdom in dealing with this life’s trials. We know that we can only receive this kind of wisdom through God, but He has to be the center of our thoughts and our faith in order to fully receive it. The prophet Jeremiah wrote one of the most well-loved verses in Jeremiah 29:11, but often we don’t read on. In verse 12 he wrote: “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Go to the Father and ask Him for the wisdom you need to meet life’s trials and tribulations, but also set your mind only on Him, not looking sideways at the very world you’re trying to escape for an alternate solution. He is our light and our salvation.
Study/Meditation: Why do you think our lack of faith inhibits our receiving the total wisdom available to us from God? How can you be successful in being single-minded instead of double-minded when asking God for this kind of wisdom?
*Father, help me in my pursuit to be single-minded about You. I know that You are my everything, that You are omnipotent and omniscient. I know that only You are God and worthy of all the glory, praise, and honor. Help me to remember that and forgive me when I don’t. Amen.