Journeying through James 1:1-18 – a brief summary

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. James 1:1‑18 (ESV)

Jesus Christ hears us and listens to our prayers. He is patient and kind. He is slow to speak; He gives ample time for us to repent and consider the error of our ways. This study is a brief review of James 1:1-20. The section ends reminding us that God wants to produce righteousness in us. So, the following is just to highlight what that “righteousness” looks like in the heart and life of a believer. I’ll give a list below that is in no way complete or comprehensive; on the contrary, it really is meant to be fuel for thought for people who would seek to put their faith in Christ and to be a light of Christ’s love in a world that lives without him.

We must be careful not to make the same mistake that so many in the world make. Just because God is not doling out justice now, we should not assume that He not displeased at our sin. God is slow to anger, but as Peter wrote: “Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-9, ESV).

James starts his books with some basic points:

  1. You know that God has a purpose for your problems—in short, they work character traits like patience. Patience perfects your faith.
  2. Our human nature naturally, resists direction and correction from God, but a sign of healthy and growing faith is asking the Lord for wisdom regarding everything.
  3. Expect the Lord to answer your prayers. Come to Him realizing you are a work in progress.
  4. Doubt is like being tossed in a boat on the sea. The disciples experienced this literally a couple of times. They knew where they were going, but were not sure if they were going to get there. Do you know where God wants you to be (morally, in giving, in being helpful, in loving and trusting Christ)?
  5. Material wealth and success is not the same thing as spiritual prosperity. Define your success based on the person and work of Jesus Christ in you.
  6. The section loops back to endurance (v. 12). Centering on self is a fatal flaw, while focusing on God’s goodness is safe. God doesn’t change and is only interested in our good, so there is great blessing and hope in being “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”

James is only beginning. He wants you to have a depth of character like that of Christ. Next James turns to the importance of God’s Word, the Bible. He’ll give us a concrete and dependable means though which God works healthy, productive faith in Christ.