Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 17 2013 - James 1:1-18 – Wise up

James tells us that God, our heavenly Father, has brought us to know him "that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created" (James 1:18). We are to be an offering, pleasing to God, bearing the promise of a richer harvest to come when all creation will be transformed at Christ’s coming. What a wonderful promise.

Even the trials and difficulties we face serve this end. James tells us, “the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3-4). Nor is James alone in this conviction. Paul in similar fashion tells the Christians at Rome, “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). And he goes on to remind these Christians that God is at work through every circumstance they face to make them more like Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Trials, says Peter, are like a furnace through which our faith is refined and proved to be genuine (1 Peter 1:7).

But in reality, we often find that trials and difficulties, far from teaching us patience or perseverance, discourage us, fill us with anger and frustration and may even lead us to doubt God.

In themselves, trials will not strengthen faith. On the contrary, trials expose our weakness; they strip away our self-confidence and teach us that we cannot live the life of faith on our own. But we were never meant to do so. James tells us that when we feel our weakness, we should ask God for wisdom (1:5). Such wisdom is not the sudden injection of intelligence but God’s direction, presence and power that enables us to live well. James assures us that God is always ready to hear the cry of his children and to come to our aid. We should not doubt him but should turn readily to him. Paul tells us that he had discovered by experience that “when I am weak, then I am strong” because God’s grace and power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10, see verses 8-10) – it’s the only thing that can keep us going. James encourages us similarly to prove God in the trials we may face. His wisdom and grace will always prove sufficient for us.

But we should never become complacent. We need always to be on guard against temptation. Temptations are not to be entertained for one moment, not even with the thought that perhaps we can become stronger through the challenge of seeing how far we can go along with them. Such thinking is sheer folly; “after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (1:15). When temptations come knocking on our door we are to give them no house room but to send them packing immediately. If they so much as gain a toe hold they will soon take up residence and breed with deadly effect. Here again, we need to know our own weakness, to turn to the Lord and to depend upon his grace and strength that we might live for him and grow in him.

When you face trials and temptations today, don't try going it alone – you know your own track record. Ask for help. Your heavenly Father is more than ready to give it.

Heavenly Father, we recognise that you are the source of every good and perfect gift. You have given us your Son, and our hope rests in him and not in ourselves. He has triumphed over all the powers of darkness and has defeated sin and death. You have given us your Spirit – the Spirit of your Son – that we might prove your strength in our weakness and your wisdom in our folly. Strengthen us this day that we might not be tossed about by the circumstances of our lives and the temptations of the evil one. Help us to live as the firstfruits of the new creation.

Peter Misselbrook