So here we are already three weeks into a new year and that means we are three weeks into our mission to memorize the book of James. (If you think it’s too late to join in with us, it’s not! You can be caught up within a week or two.) This week we will be memorizing James 1:6-8, but before I get to those verses I would like to do a brief overview of the verses we have learned so far.
One of my goals in doing this is to gain a better understanding of the book of James. This is not simply about rote memory so that I can pat myself on the back a year from now! It is about discovering more about how God reveals Himself to us in through the book of James. One of the ways I would like to make that a reality is to write a brief explanation of the verses that we are working on each week. I didn’t do that for the first two weeks so I would like to provide that overview of verses 1-5 now.
James; what do we know about the book, who was the author, when was it written, and to whom was it written? Well, the author seems fairly obvious since he identifies himself with the first word of the letter. But it’s not as simple as saying, “The author is James.” Why, because there were lots of guys named James in the Bible. However, it is widely believed with a fair amount of certainty the James who wrote the book of James is known as James the Just, the half-brother of Jesus Christ. He was a leader in the early church in Jerusalem. (Acts 15) We know that he was writing to the “twelve tribes in the Dispersion” which simply meant that his initial audience was to Jewish followers of Jesus Christ who — because of persecution due to their new found faith — had left their homes in Palestine and had scattered, or dispersed into Asia Minor and the various provinces of the Roman Empire. Most scholars believe that it was one of the very first New Testament books written with the date being set prior to AD 62. The reason they can be so certain about that date is because James was martyred for his faith in the year AD 62. He was condemned to death by stoning by the high priest of the Jews.
In the first few verses we get a glimpse of two of the key themes in the book of James. First, we see that God allows trials, tests, and suffering into the lives of those who follow Him (verses 2-4). Secondly, we see God as the gracious giver of all things. (i.e. wisdom in verse 5)
James certainly doesn’t waste any time in getting to the tough questions about life as he opens the second verse with “Count it all joy . . . when you meet trials . . .” Immediately we can see that James is presenting a new and radically different attitude for those who follow Christ. First, the certainty that we will face suffering in our lives. The Christian life does not come with an exemption status from suffering and trials. Next, that when we encounter suffering our response is to be one of genuine joy. Lastly, that the suffering we face is ordained by God. These are not easy things to wrap our minds around, but they are the truth of the Gospel. As we continue through James, I hope to continue to address these themes and specifically provide a better understanding of these verses and how they apply to our lives. Let me add this little disclaimer about the first few verses. Yes, God allows suffering into our lives. No, that does not make Him guilty of causing sin. God is holy, just, and good and to think that in any way sin comes from God is to impugn His holiness. The trials and temptations that Satan places into our lives are placed there with the sole purpose of having us fail. The trials and testings that God allows into our lives are put there for us to win through the grace of Jesus Christ.
This week we are memorizing verses 6-8. These verses refer back to the previous verses and further explain how we are to ask God for wisdom. We are to ask “in faith”. What kind of faith? A faith that is completely sure in the goodness of God. We are not to be “double-minded” which simply means that we are to have our faith solely place in God alone. We are not to have a faith that is dependent partially on God and partially dependent on our own strengths. That type of faith is “unstable”, “doubting”, and the result of that type of faith is that we will not receive anything from the Lord. Increase our faith Lord, that we may trust you truly.
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.
(James 1:6-8 ESV)