VERSE DISCOVERY: James 1:1-12 (KJV, Public Domain)
What do you do when life doesn’t seem to want to play fair? When all the boxes don’t check off in all the right places and everything seems out of whack – what do you do?
For some, remaining optimistic during trials is harder than others. Firstly, every trial that every individual person deals with is not the same. Some things that may be troubling to one, but in reality, is only a minor inconvenience and annoyance, to others, they may be battling tooth and nail to keep their head above the water of the adversity they are facing.
Then, we have each person’s natural dispositions on how they specifically handle tumultuous events. Where one sees the dark clouds others can readily point out the silver lining.
For those whom James was addressing in his letter, he knew they were being hounded by real troubles and not just a matter of inconvenience. He knew of the hardships and oppression they were experiencing. Yet, through it all, he wanted these believers to focus on the positive fruit all the things they were experiencing in their life could produce.
Let Patience Have Her Perfect Work
James 1:1-4 “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
This “James”, who addresses himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” is supposed by many to be the actual brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. While Jesus was going about fulfilling His earthly ministry, his brothers were not part of those who supported that ministry (see John 7:3-5). As a matter of fact, it is supposed that it wasn’t until after he had seen the risen Lord for himself, that James, the natural, half-brother of Jesus Christ, believed and became a follower and a leader in the early church (1 Corinthians 15:7; Acts 1:14).
Which is why he is writing this letter “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.” As a leader in the early church (Galatians 2:9; Acts 15:13-22), his care for members of the body of Christ is evident in the time and care he takes to write to them about their personal growth in the Lord, the discipline of the faith, conducting personal behaviors pleasing to the Lord, and yes, remaining hopeful in the midst of it all.
In this section of Scripture, James didn’t downplay the suffering some were experiencing. Rather, he encouraged them to remain focused on what truly matters. Therefore, he begins this letter by admonishing then to “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.”
“Count it all joy” – when you really think about that statement, it’s naturally a very difficult thing to do. It’s very similar to the Apostle Paul’s teaching to which he says, “In every thing give thanks…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Those words “all” and “every thing” can encompass a great many circumstances. Circumstances that wouldn’t need encouragement to remain joyful and thankful if they weren’t adverse. Nobody needs to be encouraged to be happy when they are already happy. It’s when things become hard and unbearable that leaders such as James try to cheer them on to see that silver lining in a dark cloud.
James goes on to say, “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations,” or, various trials. You know what, I have given birth to four different children and each labor experience was different. Some were scary, some were painful, some were eventful, while others were uneventful. No two were alike. Each one was different. During one, I thought I was going to lose that baby, and during one, my own health was compromised.
But life is like that. The degrees and variables surrounding each hardship are unique to that particular time, place, situation, and person. They all don’t come packed in the same neat packaging, for if they did, we could really prepare our actions and reactions to each case. Trials come looking and feeling many ways and sometimes it’s hard getting a grip on it all and adjusting one’s mindset to see the positive.
But James didn’t focus on the many things people see, feel, and experience now. He focused on the many things it would produce.
First, he said, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” If you have ever exercised with resistance bands, you know how difficult it can be. You are using your own body’s strength, be it little or big, to purposely add pressure and pull to an already hard work out.
The “trying of our faith” is working for us, for our good, even though it seems to be opposing us. That which is hard to deal with is actually teaching us in a way that an easy path, with no resistance, ever could. It is producing in us virtues and spiritual fruit (Romans 5:3-6) that really will have no way of growing in us if it were not for the adverse circumstances we become occasionally planted in.
Here, in James’ teaching, he is showing them the flip side of what they are feeling. He’s showing them that what they are going through, those things that feel like they are wearing their faith down, is actually producing “patience” in them. This patience is all about endurance. One will never know how to go through hardships and stand if they have never been given the opportunity to exercise that faith and endure.
We read about Bible characters and their stories, and we think, oh, put me in the lion’s den, or let me at Goliath, or some other situation alike, and I know what to do because the Bible tells us what they did. When reading the lives in these stories, we must not become desensitized to the power and faith it took for an individual to keep remaining true to their faith despite a death threat or to face a monster of a man on the battlefield. Until we have our own Nebuchadnezzar to stand before with the resolve to refuse to bow and worship a false image, no matter how hot the situation was getting, we will never know what it’s like to endure trials such as these that build our faith unless we go through it for ourselves.
“But let patience have her perfect work.” If you want to grow and produce things conducive to strong faith, then let that same patience work it out in you. Every Christian should strive for mature, tested, and tried fruit of these spiritual disciplines to be produced in their life.
Every day we should want to do better and to be better, but a lot of that will never come to be unless we work at letting “patience have her perfect work.” Then, will we grow, being “perfect and entire, wanting nothing” in the development of our Christian character, now being ripe fruit, fit for the Master’s use.
Ask in Faith and Don’t Waver
James 1:5-8 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
“Faith” is a key factor in this opening of James’ letter. In the trying and in the producing, faith comes to the forefront of a must-have list.
“Wisdom” is needed in so many areas of life. Proper wisdom is needed all the more when facing opposition. Wisdom is one of the best tools one should have in their arsenal when navigating or combatting trying times.
Previously I wrote,
“Strength and weapons are carnal devices that depend on fleshly know-how and might. Often these are the first resources that man runs to in times of difficulty and adversity. Wisdom is dependent upon God. ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction,’ Proverbs 1:7.
Would it not be more prudent in the days of trials to follow the path of wisdom whose Author is God?” (Wisdom is Better/Word for Life Says).
James said, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” It is very possible to be in the midst of contentions and not know what to do or how to respond. God has opened Himself up to us to receive what we need to succeed in this Christian journey. The Apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ original disciples, wrote, “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3; emphasis mine) and that includes wisdom. God gives it to the one who asks, but when he or she asks, it must be done in “faith.”
Faith supports faith. The one here, who is in a trial and dealing with contentions because of their faith, are to ask in faith, of the Father, for the proper wisdom of how to continue forward in their faith while going through.
Steadfast, believing faith is necessary for every aspect of our Christian walk. To “waver” in that is to sway in that belief and in the one who is the Author of that belief.
James gives the picture of this one being “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” I love the ocean. I love the beach. When vacationing, it’s one of my favorite places to visit. One of the things I most enjoy while there is standing on the shoreline and watching the waves come in and go out. The ebb and flow of the waters are always moving, never still, and never steady.
While beautiful to look at in nature, in our Christian character that’s not what we’re looking for. We want to be rooted and grounded in what we believe and whom we believe – that He is able to answer our prayers and give us the wisdom we need. To shun that, through not asking in faith, is to shun the benefits one would have received otherwise.
James warns, “For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” Too many are living the faith they profess to have without living in complete faith and assurance in the “Lord.” It may be possible for people to live in compliance with regulations of the faith and have the spirit of faith missing.
This one has a divided mindset. James considers them to be a “double minded man” who is “unstable in all his ways.” If he or she can’t get off the fence here, before the very foundation of their faith, when praying and asking of God, other areas of life are guaranteed to be constantly shifting and fluctuating as well, being blown about in uncertainty.
But for the one, who in complete faith, is asking God for wisdom, God will give it “liberally” and “it shall be given him.” Wow! What a promise!
Endure, There is an Eternal Reward
James 1:9-12 “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”
Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter. Everyone will experience trials. And, everyone can be taught valuable lessons through those trials. All social classes and backgrounds can find joy during times of adversity.
How is that?
James explains it like this. For the poor, or him of “low degree,” such a one can “rejoice in that he is exalted.” This one’s “right now status” does not determine their joy in life.
It is easy to see the ones without… without as much as others, without as many financial resources, without proper education, and anything else this world stores up as markers for success and happiness.
This one may think he is justified in being sullen, withdrawn, and living a pity-party lifestyle that no one wants to attend. Contrarily, James points out the opposite. Regardless of what he has or didn’t have; no matter how others view his lowliness, or even how he views himself, James declares that joy and rejoicing should still be found in his heart because of the God whom he has placed his trust in, and not his haves and have nots.
In this, too, he can “rejoice.” When it’s all said and done, when he parts from this world, it is God who will “exalt” him to the things he has never seen with human eyes or even imagined (compare 1 Corinthians 2:9). He may not have as much as another, but in his trials and temptations, he can still count it all joy!
When Jesus was teaching the Beatitudes, at the end of all those “blessed are” statements that would point out circumstances in which one wouldn’t normally find joy in, Jesus speaks these words: “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven,” (Matthew 5:12). His comments were spoken in relation to being persecuted, something James’ readers are all too familiar with, yet, what He points out is that even in that hardship, Jesus Himself said, “Rejoice!”
And, He wasn’t teaching anything contrary to what He Himself was not willing to do. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…”
As those who are linked to Him in faith, James said every believer can count it all joy no matter their privileged or underprivileged status and life.
And the “rich” are to remember, in humility, that though they may have a lot right now, their days are moving just as fast as anyone else’s in this lifespan each of us has been allotted. Life is a vapor, here today, gone tomorrow (James 4:14).
“As the flower of the grass he shall pass away.” Riches cannot increase his time or secure him a better end. He, too, must depend on the same salvation, the same saving grace, as one who may be without and lacking. The businesses, the homes, the money – nothing he has accumulated in this life will account for anything in eternity. Outside of Christ, low or high, rich or poor, we are all nothing.
So, when this one faces trials and temptations, he too can count it all joy for he is made keenly aware that his days and life here are very brief. That awareness brings him “low”; it centers and focuses him on what matters the most.
Both types of trials and temptations are a gift for they both, whether for the rich or poor, should keep us before the Lord in humility and dependence. Not a one has a reason to glory in his own flesh or circumstances. Before God, it’s the heart of the man that matters the most. Not what he has or doesn’t have.
James adds, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation.” Counting it all joy is not because we have avoided temptations and trials from ever happening to us. Counting it all joy for the blessedness that is ours for enduring the times of testing they brought.
Even Jesus was tried, tested, and tempted. Hebrews reminds us again, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” (Hebrews 4:15).
Let patience have her perfect work! Because in the end, when the trials and trying times are all over with, that one that was “tried” and endured with faith intact through it – that one “shall receive the crown of life.”
Now, that’s real success. That’s the real goal. That’s the real reason to be happy when troubles just won’t seem to let up.
At one point or another, and many times in between, we are all going to be touched by the finger of adversity. But, as the Word of God declares, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved,” (Matthew 24:13).
Don’t lose your joy! There is a “crown of life” waiting for you with your name on it. We are going through and enduring because there is a prize laid up for us at the end of this race (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
Your running is not in vain. Your joy is not in vain. The “Lord” has “promised” this wonderful gift “to them that love him.”
it is spoken. It is written. It is ours if we remain in our holy joy and keep pushing for it and not giving up.
The opposite of the joy we are called to have is words like misery, sadness, and the like. When one keeps swimming in the pools of these waters, they will soon feel overcome by the displeasure found there, let go of their grip, and drown.
Life may not be perfect but maintaining your spiritual joy will keep you buoyant in the murkiest of waters.
So, count it all joy!
PDF Printable Sunday School Lesson Pack (With easy to read instructions following the P.E.A.R.L. format on how to conduct each lesson with areas for adding personal notes): Sunday School Lesson – Count it All Joy
Lesson Lead In/Happy or Sad Activity: Print out one happy face and one sad face (you can just do one set for the teacher or multiple sets so that each student can have their own). Attach the faces to craft sticks. Prepare a list of things that might make one happy or sad (finding money, losing a tooth, receiving an unexpected gift, losing a puppy, etc.). Ask the class, using the faces, to show how each thing listed would make them feel, and why? Then ask, Is it possible to feel joy even in sad times? (Give them space to answer.)
Use this as a lead in to the lesson. Say, James wrote to people during a very hard time in life and one of the things he did was encouraged them to count it all joy. This concept is difficult for some adults to grasp, let alone children. Let them know a Christian’s joy is never based on the goodness of their circumstances. Rather, their joy is based on the goodness of God, who will give us the wisdom we need to make it through hard times.
Frown Upside Down Craft: Make your own frowning face that can be turned upside down to make a smiling face. If you don’t know how to do this, search the internet for great examples. Use this as a supplement to the lesson Count it All Joy.
Adult Journal Page: Adult Journal Page – Count it All Joy
Kid’s Journal Page: Kid’s Journal Page – Count it All Joy
Blank Journal Pages: Blank Adult and Kid’s Journal Pages (These pages are great to use with the other journaling exercise provided in the PEARL lesson packet or to use to bring out any other area of the lesson you choose to focus on. Enjoy!)
Draw the Scene: Count it All Joy Draw the Scene
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