This sermon is based on James 1:1-18. Click here to read the text.
James says we should count, or consider, it all joy when we meet trials of various sorts. He says that such trials are a testing of our faith that produces endurance for us. This spiritual endurance, built up no doubt over the course of numerous trials throughout the years, has a sanctifying effect on our minds and hearts. Through the trials of life God works in and through us to make us healthier. More than that even, James says that enduring such trials by faith will have the full effect of making us “perfect and complete.” Like an athlete who embraces the hard work of training with joy in order to prepare her body for a sporting event, so are we called to face the trials of life with a joy in the Lord, knowing that through them we will be made spiritually whole for eternity.
An athlete would be unwise to prepare alone. Rather, an athlete seeks out wisdom from coaches, trainers, nutritionists, and other experts. If we are going to face trials in faith, we must do so wisely. James wrote that any who lack wisdom (he means us all) should seek it from God through prayer in faith, fully expecting Him to grant it. James warns that the “double-minded, unstable” person will not find his prayer answered. James is not critiquing each individual prayer, nor is he expecting only people of perfect faith to ever utter a prayer. Rather, he is rebuking the person with “a basic division of the soul that leads to thinking, speaking, and acting that contradicts one’s claim to belong to God,” (Douglas Moo). The double-minded person will likely not ask for wisdom to rightly endure the trial by faith. Instead, such a person will be looking for a shrewd way to escape the trial rather than growing through it.
A double-minded person might seek to serve God and money, even though Jesus taught against such attempts at dual devotion (Matthew 6:24). For example, the poor person must remain singularly devoted to God and rejoice in her exalted status in Christ, even in the face of her present humble condition. She might be tempted within the trial of poverty to believe that if she just had enough money all her problems would be solved. But such temptation is not from God. Rather, it is conceived by her own desire and it could give birth to sin, such as an idolatrous pursuit of money. Left unchecked it could bring forth spiritual death (see also Romans 6:23). The rich person must also remain solely devoted to God through faith in Christ. Though he has the riches of the world in hand, he must constantly remember that both he and his wealth can (and eventually will) fade away, like the grass and flowers of the field in their seasons. The trial for him is not dissimilar from that of the poor woman. The rich man must endure the responsibility of his wealth by faith, using it wisely in the here and now to the glory of God and for the good of others. He may be tempted by his own desire to trust in his material exaltation but he must resist and instead boast in his own spiritual humiliation before God.
Though the riches of this world fade, and life in the here and now passes, the person who “remains steadfast under trial” is rewarded with the “crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” This reward will not fade, nor perish. It is eternal. The “word of truth” (v. 18, see also Ephesians 1:13-14; Colossians 1:3-6), by which we have been “brought forth” according to the will of God (v. 18), is that Jesus has secured this crown of life for us by His own trial on the cross. Though He is eternally rich beyond all measure, Christ endured a crown of thorns and so much more so that we might receive the crown of life.
Discuss and Pray – James 1:1-18
- What are some of the “daily trials” you face in your own life?
- How have you “counted it all joy” to face them?
- Have you ever asked God for wisdom to endure trials? How have you seen such prayers answered?
- What evidence of being made perfect and complete have you seen spiritually in your own life and in the lives of others who have faithfully endured through trials?
- What might double-mindedness look like in the life of someone who professes faith in Christ?
- What hope do you take (for yourself and others) from knowing that God is single-minded in His will to bring forth a people for Himself by the “word of truth,” that is the Gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ?