Summary: Christian Faith demands vigorous, virile lives.
WIMPS NEED NOT APPLY
“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. 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.”
If you have followed the message of James to this point in our studies, you will have undoubtedly drawn the conclusion that unlike much of modern religious activity, Christianity as practised by the earliest disciples was a vigorous Faith. The Faith of the first believers was virile in its conduct and they were valiant in pursuit of truth. There was no place for wimps in the first blush of the Faith; rather, the Faith called for stamina and courage. Surely these first believers were bold for the cause of Christ.
Contemporary Christianity differs significantly from biblical Christianity. Modern Christendom suffers from an unbiblical feminisation of the Faith once delivered to the saints. To a disquieting degree, males appear to have concluded that church is no place for a man. Contemporary Christian music is composed essentially of love songs that compel a man to sing of his love for another man. Theology is sacrificed for repetition in the music, and contemporary preaching is judged by how it makes us feel rather than whether it equips us for a righteous life. Churches appear to have concluded that since men will not fulfil their God-appointed role as leaders, women will assume oversight of the churches, with disastrous consequences. Few people are actually happy with the state of contemporary Christendom, but fewer people still are willing to return to the teaching of the Word in order to become all that God intended His people to be.
The first disciples were men—men of action and courage. Though there were occasional failures when they faced the foe, following the Resurrection of the Master, there were no further major retreats. Any fair assessment of the account provided in Acts leads to the conclusion that Christianity is a dynamic Faith, calling for noble ideals of courage, consistency and compassion—all manly qualities.
James, in this earliest of Christian literature, addresses the need for manly Faith. In the churches James addressed, wimps would not need to apply as the Faith required stamina and steadfastness, qualities that are increasingly rare among the faithful today.
THE CALL TO STAND FIRM IN TRIALS — “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial.” James began his letter by encouraging believers who were even then undergoing severe trials. Now, in the portion of the Word under consideration today, James pronounces a benediction on those who withstood those same trials. We do not often use the term “benediction” in our everyday language; it is literally a “good word,” the pronunciation of happiness for those who are recipients of the statement of approval. James says that those who remain steadfast despite trials are happy.
In previous studies, we have reviewed the types of trials the first Christians endured. Certainly, their trials were physical—they paid an awful price to be followers of the Master. However, we saw that an even greater trial for these suffering saints were the challenges to their faith. Today, we could summarise such challenges by listing the plaints that are commonly voiced when believers face reversals or disappointments.
“Why is this happening to me?” is one complaint frequently heard. Focused on himself or herself, the weeping saint complains about the unfairness of his or her situation. Another complaint leads down the dead end of supposed intellectual philosophical musings as the disappointed individual questions whether God is omnipotent or whether He is good. “God cannot be good, or He would not let me experience disappointment,” is one aspect of this sanctified grousing. Another aspect is the cry that God must not be all-powerful or the one experiencing setbacks would not be rocked by frustration. Other saints turn to introspection as they wonder what sin they must have committed to experience disappointment.
What is important for those who would honour God is to realise that trials are common to the life of a follower of the Son of God. Peter wrote in a similar vein to encourage believers who were called to endure trials. Listen to the opening words of his first letter. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” [1 PETER 1:3-9].