Summary: James gives us some practical advice about how to pass through times of difficulty and testing.
The book of James was written by the brother of our Lord as a circular letter; a letter of instruction to be copied and passed around among the churches (v. 1). Many believe he was specifically addressing Jewish believers scattered from Jerusalem in the persecution following the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8:1). In this letter, James gives instructions on several different practical issues in the Christian life.
He wasted no time in flowery introductions and greetings; but goes right to the point and deals with an issue every child of God will face. That issue is the issue of “passing the test” - how to get through times of difficulty as we live our lives in this world.
As examine these verses, we discover that James tells us five things about facing trials in this world:
1. The reality of testing - “whenever you face trials of many kinds”
James does not say, “if you face trials” but “when you face trials.” His emphasis is on the fact that times of trial and testing are a part of the reality of life in this world.
When James speaks of “many kinds” of trials, he emphasizes that there are there are difficulties we face in life that vary in their size, duration, and intensity. James says there are big trials and little trials. Also, the word “trial” can refer to a call to sin, as it does in 1:12, or to suffering persecution, or a flat tire, or the death of a loved one.
James’ point is simple, in life, we are going to fact tests and trials of various size, kind, and intensity. It is a part of life. It doesn’t matter who we are, where we live, or even when we live, the nature of this world is such that trials and tests are a reality of life.
“In this world you will have trouble.” - John 16:33 (NIV)
“The world to too big for us. Too much going on, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind in the race, in spite of yourself. It’s an incessant strain to keep pace . . . and still, you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen so rapidly you’re out of breath trying to keep pace with who’s in and who’s out. Everything is high pressure. Human nature can’t endure much more.”
Believe it or not, that editorial appeared in The Atlantic Journal on June 16, 1833. In the November 13, 1857 edition of the Boston globe, the headline article read, “Energy Crisis Looms: World To Go Dark?”
No person, no generation is exempt from facing difficulty in life. The Christian is not exempt any more than is the non-Christian. The only difference is in the way we can face testing.
2. The response to testing - “Consider it pure joy”
James echoes what the Bible teaches elsewhere.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” - Philippians 4:4
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” - Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
“Whatever happens, always be thankful. This is how God wants you to live in Christ Jesus.” - 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (Easy to Read)
But we say, “That’s impossible! There’s no way I can rejoice in times of difficulty!” One lady once told me that the only thing she knew to do in times of tribulation was to “tribulate!”
But James says we can respond to testing and trial this way if we make to choice to do so. The word, “consider” implies decisiveness. We have a choice in how we respond to times of trial. James counsels us to make the “choice to rejoice.” And while this is not always an easy thing to do, it is a possible thing to do, and as we will see, a beneficial things to do. As we think about making the “choice to rejoice” and “considering it pure joy” when facing trials, consider the following:
A) James is counseling us to look to Christ.
Joy isn’t the same as happiness. As the old saying goes, “Happiness depends on happenings; while joy depends on Jesus.” When James counsels us to find joy in times of trial, he is calling on us to take our eyes off our circumstances and put them on Christ. As we do, we are reminded that while this world is temporary, Christ is eternal; that though this world often changes, Christ never does. Every trial we face is an occasion to be reminded afresh of the reason why Jesus is an all-sufficient Savior.
B) James is counseling us to trust in Christ.