Greetings Summit Family,
Yesterday we took a look at the opening salutation in the letter James sent to fellow believers in Christ. Remember the primary theme of the letter is FAITH. Many theologians believe this letter is an outline for a sermon James would have either delivered to his local congregation or one he would “fill in” at some point in the future.
James certainly would have shared a weekly message to the church in Jerusalem. However, it doesn’t make sense that James would have sent just an outline to the twelve tribes scattered around the world. There is no evidence James went on a series of missionary journeys to elaborate on the contents of his letter. It seems more reasonable to conclude his letter is complete in its message and should be studied from that perspective.
He continues by sharing “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” For most of us, we wouldn’t consider facing trials as something that would bring us joy. There are many things that can bring joy into our hearts – our spouse, our children, definitely our grandchildren, going on vacation, etc. One has to wonder why James would suggest that we could/should find joy in our trials.
Probably a good place to start is by evaluating what James was trying to convey when he said trials of many kinds. The Greek word James used was “poikilos,” which is translated as “many-colored’ or “variegated.” One can conclude that he is referencing a wide variety of trials: physical, emotional, financial, social, etc. It is likely those scattered throughout the world were experiencing persecution. However, they could have also been experiencing “trials” associated with relocating to a foreign land, a place where they may have been struggling just to survive physically and financially. They were Christians living in pagan societies. One can only imagine the difficulties associated with their circumstances.
James goes on to say facing these trials will test our faith. I am sure we can all identify with that challenge! I am also certain everyone reading this communique can reflect on the various trials they have personally experienced. Trials will test our faith…..our faith in God. Ironically, James is sharing with us why we should rejoice in the midst of our trials – because working through them produces perseverance. Perseverance is defined as persistence in doing something despite the difficulty of achieving success. It seems James is saying that the trials we all experience are a test to see if we will persevere in our faith.
Unfortunately, there are many who were once public witnesses of Jesus Christ only to have their faith and their testimony falter when they came face to face with the trials of life. Jesus also shared a parable that speaks to the challenge of possessing genuine faith. It is the parable of the four soils.
“While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, He told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, it was trampled on (trials of life), and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground (more trials), and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns (and the trials continue!), which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still some seed fell on good soil (a heart with genuine faith that can persevere through the storms of life). It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.’” (Luke 8:4-8)
The parable just referenced is a wonderful parable on the subject of evangelism. We know that as believers, we are called to plant gospel seeds but God is the Lord of the harvest. And we know the reception of those seeds depends upon the condition of the heart receiving those “seeds.” However, this parable also speaks to those who have received the seeds. If those seeds have fallen into the heart of a person where the soil (their faith) is not strong and healthy, it will not survive the “rocky times, when there isn’t ample refreshment and when the “thorns” of life overwhelm them, those seeds will not grow. I believe James is sharing with his fellow followers of Christ living in strange and foreign lands that if their faith is genuine, they will face the various trials of life with a sense of joy because of the reward that comes through their perseverance – a complete/perfect faith. We will share more about that on Monday.
Think of the glory we will bring to Jesus Christ if this current world crisis will translate into a joyful demonstration of our faith, one of assurance that God is in control and one of where we demonstrate a resolve to persevere. We also have to consider how others will view our Savior and our God if we allow the fear and anxiety of this situation to rob us of our joy. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
Join me on Monday as we take a look at what happens when we allow our perseverance to finish its work.
Have a blessed weekend.