Summary of passage: James is speaking to the 12 tribes scattered among the nations. He tells them to consider it pure joy when they are faced with trials because it tests their faith and develops perseverance, which we need in order to finish the work God wants to do in us. If we lack wisdom, ask God and believe the Lord will answer and He will. The humble brother should be prideful in his position but the rich should take pride if he becomes low; otherwise he will fade away like the flower if he puts his trust in material things of this world.
Blessed are those who persevere under trial for he will receive the crown of life from God. God does not tempt anyone. Temptation comes from our own evil desire, which leads to sin and then to death. Every good and perfect gift is from God who never changes.
3) We learn in 1:1 this letter was written after the diaspora in 70 AD when the temple was destroyed by the Romans so the tribes are no longer in their homeland but in foreign nations and amongst unbelievers. The rich are apparently exploiting the poor and dragging them into court (2:6-7) and are being favored. And 1:2 tells us they face “trials of many kinds”. Living in the first century AD was a struggle just to survive for many people.
4a) Personal Question. My answer: As I’ve said before, I don’t face anything like what Paul did or the other early Christians. My main trials are doing the right thing (which I try to do) and living according to God’s calling and not according to the world’s.
b) I think 1:4 says it best: look at trials as working in you, giving you perseverance and maturity to finish the work God has for you. There is a reason for whatever is happening in your harried life and even if we can’t see it, we must trust God and believe in the end we will come out stronger for Him.
5a) Ask God for wisdom and it will be given. But you must believe and not doubt that God will answer.
b) Great question! Depends on what kind of doubt we are talking about here. In my mind, doubt is human nature. We all question whether we are doing the right thing or not, making the right decisions, or if we are following God’s will. Sure, we must ask and believe but that doesn’t mean Satan is not throwing darts to pop our balloons. We must be wary as well.
According to Webster’s, doubt is: fear; to lack confidence in; distrust to be uncertain; uncertainty of belief that often interferes with decision-making.
Sin is “offensive to God; an offense against religious or moral law; transgression of the law of God” says Webster’s.
Jesus said in Matthew 21:21 “If you have faith and do not doubt”. Doubt is the antithesis of faith. If we doubt then we lack faith. We must have faith to have Jesus. So can we make the jump to saying all doubt is sinful?
I would argue no. To have doubt in the first place you must believe in something. Otherwise, why would you fear repercussions? I believe you can doubt and still have Jesus. You can’t doubt Jesus. But you can doubt whether or not your new job offer is a God-thing or not.
We doubt because we are human. Because we have an Enemy who attacks us daily. And, yes, because we are unsure of God’s answer. But it strengthens us. Gives us perseverance to finish the race. When we doubt, we pray. When we pray, we become closer to God; we hear Him more. So the next time doubt surfaces, we can believe and trust Him more.
Doubt is a symptom of weak faith. Can we have God and still doubt? Yes. Because we are growing in Him. And every time we pray and ask God to remove doubt from our lives, to show us the way–clearly–we grow in Him. And our doubt lessens every time.
Mark 9:24 “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” is a prayer we all need to pray at certain moments in our life.
6) Personal Question. My answer: I think it’s saying that we all (no matter if we are wealthy or not) face trials and ups and downs in life and all the material goods will fade away like a wild flower. We must put our faith in God who never fades.
7a) Temptation–desire–sin–death. Temptation is everywhere. We are told sins are okay (premarital sex, indulging in whatever our heart desires, etc). That life is short so live it up. If we are not grounded in God, we will Fall.
b) Personal Question. My answer: Use the word of God as a shield and sword. Pray. Trust and believe everything is for my good. (Romans 8:28) “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). I think we all know our weaknesses so avoid situations where we are weak and tempted. When the desire arises, pray and flee from it or the situation if possible. If we do sin, repent immediately and God will forgive.
Conclusions: Great lesson. I liked the personal questions and it’s a great passage to study. James certainly doesn’t mince any words. I’ll be interested to see what BSF says about doubt. I could be wrong on this but I think doubt is so common and is used by the devil so much against us that I see it as part of the life we must traverse and not as a sin. It’s part of our Fallen nature, one we must overcome. Another step in God’s direction. Our growth process. Another test of our faith in Him. Another trial we must persevere. Until the day comes when we can fully trust in Him.
End Note: In lecture this week we talked about the process of sanctification (the process or result of being made holy). Our leader mentioned how we are all born as infants, starting out in doubt but growing up in faith. Thus, doubt is a process, one we are meant to go through as we grow in our relationship with God. One we all go through.