James 1: 1 – 4
As we read the first chapter and verse of this book as the introduction by James, one would have expected him to start his introductory notes as being the brother of our Lord Jesus, but he didn’t. Rather, he introduced himself as His servant. Another word that can be used to describe a servant in this context is the word SLAVE. The Greeks used the word ‘DOULOS’, which when transliterated means SLAVE. The use of this word by James was based on the notion that slaves were bought by people and were also set free by the people who bought them. In other words, Jesus bought James from the slave market and set him free through His death, burial and resurrection.
He directed his letter to the uncountable Jews who were in diaspora – in the many cities and countries outside Jerusalem, which was their home. Many rulers did not particularly like them especially that of Rome – Caligula and Nero were prominent rulers who couldn’t stand them. The resultant effect of this hatred turned out to be abject suffering, persecution, and painful trials (also described as tribulation). Many other trials and pains suffered by these people (Jews) came from their own people – particularly from the Jews who had refused to accept the message of the Gospel. Some were subjected to socio-economic pressures by their taskmasters who thought they would refute Jesus as the Christ and turn back to Judaism.
In present day jargon and lingo, we would describe these people as having a very difficult time. One would have wondered how these people coped with their situations and circumstances. One would have thought or expected that James would have advised these suffering Jews to bind and lose the Devil like we do today. We could also have thought that he would tell them to hold the Devil responsible for their pains, or that the various attacks had come from their said ‘enemies’. Rather, he had to make them see that they were the objects of their present pains.
We must come to terms with the fact that God has allowed our pains, sufferings and persecutions because He wants to use them for us.
When James said, “Count it all joy”, he wasn’t telling them to pretend that the pain wasn’t there, he wasn’t telling them not to make negative confessions (as in they should make positive confessions) but what he was trying to tell them was to see their present situation as a sheer gift and also to view their troubles as opportunities for great joy. They should see the pains and setbacks as a testing of their faith after which patience or endurance is set at work.
As far as James is concerned, Faith + Patience = Maturity.
Rather than look for a way of escape prematurely, under pressure, our faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. He (James) wants us to know that when our faith is tested, our patience (perseverance is another word that fits into this) has a chance to grow. We are therefore advised to let it (our patience) grow, for when our patience is fully developed, we will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
Apostle Paul shared the same sentiments as he progressed in his walk with God and ministry. His outlook to pain and tribulation was to rejoice because he knew, if eventually he died in the course, he would be going to a better place. He wasn’t looking for a way out especially when he was captured. He believed in God and His timing. He believed God was still in control and that His Will couldn’t be stopped or thwarted by any form of force; and most importantly, his focus remained on God who created the Heavens and the Earth.
He told the Church at Rome, “We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”
Paul described the pain he went through by telling them at the Corinthian Church that, “ 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! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”
Finally, Apostle Peter opines, he said, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
Patience is hypomone in the Greek, which means To Endure Constantly. As far as James is concerned, we have need of patience, which can only be realized when there is pressure. Are you patient? Then wait until pressure comes and you’ll find out.
“Time is precious, but there are occasions when the best use we can make of it, is to let it run on. If time flies, that is no reason why I should try to fly. For God is in no hurry. His purposes can be accomplished without haste, and though he would have us redeem the time because our days are evil, yet in his eternity he can afford to wait, and by his wisdom he so orders his delays, that they prove to be far better than our hurries.” – C.H Spurgeon
Keep it right here and be refreshed!