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.
James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
It may seem at first glance that James has jumped from one subject to another as we read verse 5. He had just been writing on trials and the necessity of them and now he quickly moves on to wisdom. James has not changed subjects. On the contrary, it is as if he is saying: “The help you need to understand the meaning of your trials and tribulations comes through wisdom, and you must ask God if you want that kind of wisdom.” This term James uses here for “wisdom” was a common one used in that day for knowledge of godly things. Getting through the trials and tribulations of this life requires knowledge far beyond what is offered in man’s meager brain. This kind of knowledge only comes from God, so our first response in looking for it is to pray. Additionally, it is important that we ask for that kind of wisdom before the trials begin, preparing ourselves in God’s wisdom so that we respond in godly knowledge. Pray today, asking God to give you the wisdom you need to look beyond this world to the eternal purpose behind your life. We prepare by praying.
Study/Meditation: Many of the sayings in the book of Proverbs have to do with wisdom, saying that looking for wisdom is like looking for gold or silver. (Proverbs 2:1-11) Why is that an appropriate comparison? How do we look for this kind of wisdom?
*Father, please give me the wisdom necessary to see the things of this world from a godly perspective. Help me look at my problems through a lens that is You. Amen.
James 1:4 “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
When the scientists were building the Biosphere in Arizona, they included all manner of flora and fauna, including many different kinds of trees. Once it was completed and filled, everything seemed good. However, the scientists ran into a perplexing problem. All of the tallest trees were simply falling over. The trees seemed healthy and were well-fed and watered, but without fail, as they got to a certain height, they would topple to the ground of the sphere. The scientists were confused and worked diligently at a solution. Finally they saw the problem—there was no wind in the Biosphere. Without wind, the roots of the trees could not grow stronger and eventually the weight of the tree itself was enough to topple it to the ground. This is exactly what James is telling us in today’s verse. Trials and troubles are the wind in our lives, wind that is needed so that the roots of our steadfastness will grow stronger and stronger. Without those problems, the weight of our own existences would take us to the ground. But God loves us much too much to leave us that way. James tells us to let the trials of this life be what they are intended to be; put them in the perspective of the King where they are a means to our sanctification and to His glory. Only then will we be “complete, lacking in nothing.”
Study/Meditation: What is it about trials and tribulations that make us steadfast? How do they also bring us into closer communion with God?
*Father, thank You for bringing me through all of life’s trials, and thank You for orchestrating only that which is for my good and to Your glory. Amen.