Intro: Martin Luther regards the epistle of James as lacking emphasis on the Gospel, as compared with Galatians and Romans. He calls it the “epistle of straw.”
However, in this instance, Luther who comes from a background that sees works as a means to salvation, failed to see that the epistle of James does not contradict the truth that salvation is by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ. James’ message is clear: true faith results in good works. He does not contradict Paul’s focus on faith but complements it.
What we learn from James 1:2-4
Trials are sent to lead us to steadfastness. (This is in contrast to temptations which attempt to lead us to sin)
- In life, trials are inevitable: It is not a question of “if” (that is, speaking of a probability) but of “when” (that is, speaking of a certainty!). Verse 2 tells us to “count it all joy… WHEN you meet trials of various kinds.”
- Truths about trials or suffering: 1 Cor 10:13, 1 Peter 5:8-11, Romans 8:18, John 16:33, 1 Peter 4:12-16– trials are common for all, they are of many kinds, they bear fruit in one’s life, they are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us
- The believer’s preparedness for trials is always a matter of choice— “Consider it as an opportunity for great joy.” In the original, the believer is commanded to approach life with a unique attentiveness: “Count it all joy.” The believer anticipates trial and makes a decision ahead of time. “The natural human response to trial is not to rejoice. Therefore, the believer must make a conscious commitment to think, then, with joy” – John MacArthur. Mark the example set for us in 2 Cor. 12:8-10. Paul resolved concerning his thorn in the flesh, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
- The believer’s gladness in Christ is not dictated by external circumstances! —the “joy spoken of in this context is whole, great, pure, joy (without any mixture of sorrow!). The root word signifies the idea of “to be calmly happy.” How can a believer be cheerfully calm when anticipating the testings and troubles of life? When you look unto Christ and have a proper perspective of who God is, your response to trial is one of peace. Peace is impossible apart from Christ. Read Romans 5:1-5, Habakkuk 3:17-18
May each one of us be able to say that we can fully rest in God because we have placed our trust in Christ who has finished the work of our salvation! “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
Listen to the sermon here.