Ezekiel 35:1-36:15; James 1:1-8; Psalms 114:1-8; Proverbs 24:17-20
NT: “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God — who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly — and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, being double-minded and unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:2-8 CSB)
Tradition holds that the book of James was written by James the brother of Jesus. James was apparently an unbeliever during Jesus’ years of ministry, but most likely became a believer after Christ appeared to him post-resurrection. He then became a leader in the church and was a key member of the Jerusalem council as recorded in Acts 15. The epistle of James is a very practical letter calling believers to have a walk of life that demonstrates their profession of faith. It is not enough to say you have faith. The mature believer in Christ needs to apply that faith to every area of their life and live in an ethical and intentional way that demonstrates practically the faith they claim to have.
Early in the life of the church, strong persecution came to those Jewish Christians that were living in Jerusalem and Judea. That persecution caused those Jewish Christians to be disbursed throughout the region, and eventually the known world, taking the gospel of the kingdom with them. This epistle is written to Jewish Christians of the diaspora who were likely experiencing trials and persecution in the parts of the world where they settled. James’ first direction of how to practically apply faith to life was regarding the trials and persecution they were facing. James challenged those believers to not run away from trials in fear, but to embrace those trials in faith. Instead of moaning and complaining about the trials, consider them great joy – not because the trials are enjoyable, but because of what those trials produce in your life when you embrace them in faith. Trials and persecution test your faith to see if you truly believe what you say you believe. The testing of faith produces endurance, steadfastness, perseverance and constancy. The end product of increased endurance is completeness, wholeness and maturity of faith and walk.
James went on to say that if, in the midst of the persecution and trials, you need wisdom in order to persevere and overcome, then ask God for it. That is another practical application of faith. I have known of many people who say they believe that God will give them wisdom, but they never act on that belief and actually ask God in faith. God has abundant wisdom to share and will give it willingly and liberally, provided we ask for it in faith without doubting. The word doubting has to do with having divided loyalties or wrestling within yourself. If we truly apply our faith to our need for wisdom, and ask God out of the settled confidence that comes from believing His word, then He will generously and unreservedly give us the wisdom that we need in the moment. However, if our faith is just talk and not genuine – if we are divided within ourselves whether God is true to His word, and we struggle to ask with doubt – it is doubtful that we will receive what only faith can open the door to. For faith to be effective in our lives, it needs to be active, applied and acted upon.
Proverbs: “Don’t gloat when your enemy falls, and don’t let your heart rejoice when he stumbles, or the Lord will see, be displeased, and turn his wrath away from him. Don’t be agitated by evildoers, and don’t envy the wicked. For the evil have no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” (Proverbs 24:17-20 CSB)
While we are to consider our trials a great joy, we are not to rejoice in the demise of our enemies. It seems in recent days – at least here in the United States, with our highly divided political climate – that these words of wisdom have fallen on deaf ears. God does not delight in the demise of people – even those who stand against Him, and neither should we. Though justice is deserved, it should never be a joyous thing. It is definitely good to be thankful and to give God praise for His justice, but to celebrate the fall of someone, even your enemies, is not godly. God calls us to love and forgive our enemies and leave the justice and retribution to Him… and when wickedness receives it’s due, we thank and praise God for his justice while, at the same time, we grieve the loss of a human soul to our ultimate enemy.
Prayer: Lord, though trials are never pleasant, I thank You for what you are able to accomplish through them as I live out my life in active, living faith. Help me to confidently put my faith in You and align my actions with that faith, so that I may experience all the benefits and blessings You want to work in me and through me. And help me to truly love and forgive those who stand and scheme against me as I actively place my faith in You. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.