PAGE BY PAGE THROUGH THE BOOK OF JAMES: CHAPTER 1
So James says, “count it all joy when trials come” (verse 2) I get great encouragement from that statement. He also mentions he is a servant of Christ Jesus. Isn’t it interesting the first thing he says is to “count it all joy” when hardship comes on you? He can only mean this in light of the fact that faith in Jesus means trials. Trials are where we are empowered to grow in character. The idea is that without faith in God and the associated trials that we would grow less or not at all.
It’s odd to me how some folks seem to think faith removes hardship like taking a shower… faith just washes trouble away. What James talks about here is quality of faith because it has been tested. It is completely true that faith placed in God does save us, but James is speaking to a living faith that passes the test by perseverance. The result is we act in love for God. Understand, James speaks of a faith that is dead (without action) and faith that is living (acts through love).
James says we need “wisdom” (verse 5). Living faith is found when we persevere which is an exercise of wisdom (that is how I read it) because God is generous and will provide. This must be asked for without doubt… doubt in God’s willingness to feed faithfulness. It should be God’s wisdom that we pray for in trials. Wisdom is the vital thing to pray for because the goal is to reflect God’s likeness, not merely a way out of pain and troubles. Wisdome is beyond the healing, money, or fix of our issue. James points out we are tempted out of what we desire from our hearts. Unrighteousness is the real issue and should not be ignored in trials. James clearly says a living faith overcomes selfishness and through hardships produces character and in that way comes deliverance.
Whether out of innocence (because we’ve not yet built up the moral muscle) or lack of integrity (due to carnal tendencies of taking the easier path rather than the road less traveled), we need wisdom and the Bible tells us, Christ on the cross is the wisdom of God on display for us. It is of that wisdom which Christ does possess that we should request in prayer.
James is speaking to people who are already believers in Jesus Christ and he is talking about how we are sanctified in our lives by getting rid of this and that, listening to this command, and having freedom. In the middle of talking about sanctification, James uses a simile about two people who look into a mirror (verse 23). He is comparing and contrasting them. Jesus often did that when teaching… He taught about the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matthew 7:26-29), Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-31), The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14), and the Parable of the Two Servants (Matthew 24:45-51, Mark 13:34-37, Luke 12:35-48). Comparing things lets us see truth. Contrasting two items allows us to understand the point of what is being taught. James wants to explain why sanctification is so important and he does it by comparing two people who look into a mirror.
In the metaphor that James presents, about a mirror, is about the Bible. The mirror is the teachings of Jesus. The mirror is God’s way of living. The mirror is God’s will. The mirror is Christianity. The overall purpose of a mirror is examination. I think James uses a mirror in his simile between the two people because it is easy to read God’s Word or hear a message and see where someone else needs to change. It is a whole other matter to read God’s Word or hear a message, examine ourselves truthfully, and apply it right to us.
We are to Persevere in Faith, 1:2-5; Deal with Temptation, 1:13-15; Have Proper Anger, 1:19-20; Get rid of moral filth (verse 21); Humbly accept the Word of God as it is planted in us (verse 22); Do what God commands and live His way (verse 22); Watch what we say (verse 26); Look after orphans and widows (verse 27); and Keep ourselves from being polluted by the world (verse 27). That’s pretty deep.