“Real gold is not afraid of the fire.” James 1:1-12

Dear Friends,                                                          

“Faith without works cannot be called faith. It is dead, and a dead faith is worse than no faith at all. Faith must work; it must produce; it must be visible. Verbal faith is not enough; mental faith is insufficient. Faith must move into action. Throughout his epistle to Jewish believers, James integrates true faith and everyday practical experience by stressing that true faith “works.” It endures trials; it obeys God’s Word; it produces doers; it harbors no prejudice; it controls the tongue; it acts wisely; it provides the power to resist the devil; it waits patiently for the coming of the Lord.  James, the Lord’s brother (see Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3; Gal. 1:19), was one of the “pillars” in the church in Jerusalem (see Acts 12:17; 15:13–21; 21:18; Gal. 2:9, 12). Tradition points to this prominent figure as the author of the epistle, and this best fits the evidence of Scripture.”  Wilkinson, Bruce ; Boa, Kenneth: Talk Thru the Bible. Nashville : T. Nelson, 1983                                                 

“James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  But the brother of humble circumstances (a poor man) is to glory (rejoice) in his high position; and the rich man is to glory (rejoice) in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.  For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:1-12)

God tests our faith to purge out the lies of the world, the devil, and the flesh, on what we wrongly believe about Him as we respond to “various (kinds of) trials” – little and big ones. “You should be exceedingly glad on this account, though now for a little while you may be distressed by trials and suffer temptations, So that [the genuineness] of your faith may be tested, [your faith] which is infinitely more precious than the perishable gold which is tested and purified by fire. [This proving of your faith is intended] to redound to [your] praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7) “Real gold is not afraid of the fire.” (Safely Home by Randy Alcorn)  God wants us to have complete confidence in His love and sovereign care of our lives for our spiritual good (now in this life) and our eternal rewards forever. Jesus and His disciples suffered greatly in this life but they had an inner joy and peace along with a great anticipation of their heavenly rewards. “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Cor. 4:16-17) So the wisdom we seek from God in the trial is not just, “how do I get out of this trial Lord,” but “what do You want to teach me in and through this trial about You?”                                                       

Yet the double-minded man is unstable because he has a divided loyalty between God and this world. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:3-4) So there is constant internal conflict like being spiritually seasick. I had vertigo recently and remembered this passage and the misery a double-minded, worldly believer must experience – like the tossing of the sea. I thought, I had much rather have physical vertigo than spiritual vertigo. Jesus is our Rock and as we trust Him completely we can stand firm. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)                                             

James then gives two examples of how trials can be a blessing if we have God’s perspective on the trial – to purify our faith so we trust and obey the Lord and receive the “crown of life.” The poor man must see how his material poverty can test and purify his faith so that he depends on the Lord more than the rich man who tends to put too much trust in temporal riches. This is the “high position” of the poor man. He has great faith that has eternal value. Likewise, the rich man should rejoice in his business reversals for this trial can cause him to depend more and more on the Lord and build his faith which has eternal value versus wealth which fades away. Poverty is not inherently more spiritual than riches and wealth, which is wisely invested in God’s kingdom, has spiritual and eternal value. But James, like His Lord Jesus, understood “the deceitfulness of riches” (Mark 4:19) and warns us against trusting in money more than our Master. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24)                  

“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”  (V.12) The crown of life is rewarded to believers at the judgment seat of Christ to those, who out of love for God and a desire to hear His well done, remain faithful and obedient in the trials of life. And it is often only in deep trials that we personally experience the tender love of God for us as the chorus of the song below says:

I have been young
But I am older now
And there has been beauty
That these eyes have seen
But it was in the night
Through the storms of my life
Oh, that’s where God proved
His love to me                                                

The Anchor Holds – Words and music by Lawrence Chewning and Ray Boltz

“As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” (James 5:10-11)

Until He comes again,

Len and Kristen  


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