Fuel4Thought (Page 2)

Journeying through James, 1:12

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 (NIV)

Usually when people think of “perseverance” (v. 12) synonyms like persistence, resolve, grit, determination help amplify the meaning. Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as: “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition,” * but I think we lose the meaning of this verse if we aren’t able understand how trials magnify the power and love of Christ.
Remember that Daniel was thrown into a lions’ den. The lions were very real, and hungry, but Daniel’s testimony to King Darius was, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty” (Daniel 6:22, NIV).

The Greek word for “perseverance” * means something very different than the English word. It comes from a word that means ‘to remain’ or ‘abide’. Then, to this word ‘remain/abide’ is added a preposition which means ‘under’ even ‘under the control of’ in some cases. So, to use Daniel as an example of God’s grace, Daniel really wasn’t under the control of the lions. Rather, the lions were under God’s control and that was good news for Daniel and a powerful testimony to the king, Darius, and his kingdom. And if we think of Daniel getting a “crown of life” (v. 12), it’s hard to see how Daniel could take any credit for it at all.

There are times in life when you may feel like a trial has got control of you, but the Holy Spirit wants you to see that God’s control is greater. Daniel spent the whole night in the lions’ den. Imagine how he felt when the lions looked at him. Was he afraid to move? I wonder if he went to sleep at all that night. If he did, he must woke up amazed at the depth of peace God provided. God rescued him from the lions, and if that weren’t enough, God also overcame his fear. Whether he slept or whether he prayed through the night, Daniel’s faith in God was surely strengthened as a result of the trial he endured. This is really good news for you because God has no intention of dumping you in the midst of any trial and leaving you to fend for yourself. I think we need the Holy Spirit to remind us always of this. May we wait for God’s promised deliverance, and not give up, though the night be long, we will have joy in the morning.

Journeying through James, 1:11

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:12‑15 (NIV)

When we see children walk for the first time, there’s a certain joyous expectation that captures us. Even though the little ones almost always fall, we count their steps in anticipation and in joy to see them growing up. And the little ones get so excited that everybody is cheering them on. Let me try to relieve some stress for you regarding how God looks at you.

You’ve probably heard the story of Job in the Bible. Job gained a very interesting perspective on God. He came to the conclusion that “Surely then you will count my steps, but not keep track of my sin.” (Job 14:16, NIV). Job’s friends didn’t understand this.

James points to perseverance as a true sign of Christian faith. We are not exempt from trials. Jesus takes our hand as we walk through them. Job’s friends saw God as a judge making note of where they sinned. Job knew he was not perfect, yet he praised God because he knew that God was his hope no matter what. Doesn’t this define true perseverance? “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5, NKJV)

Journeying through James, 1:10

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. James 1:9‑11 (NIV)

Why would James say “the rich in his humiliation?” Many rich people have money and power enough to avoid significant humiliation in this world. In Jesus’ and James’ day, most thought the rich were blessed, and today, many think the same.

Jesus gave us a great parable on this subject. Remember that James was Jesus’ brother, so I wonder if James heard Jesus say, “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops… 18 he said, ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’” (Luke 12:16, 18-20, NLT). Jesus brought the punchline: “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God” (Luke 12:21, NLT).

This is serious fuel for thought for everyone, because James says, “For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes” (v. 11, NKJV). James is not referring to crops, but to the human soul. Our earthly end may come sooner than we expect, and what we have cannot accompany us, but only the memory of how we used it. This is something that God keeps excellent records on, and, sadly enough, many are oblivious to that fact when they leave this world.

God doesn’t want anyone to be humiliated. He wants to exalt us—doesn’t that sound amazing, but it is true! Jesus told the story of a Pharisee and a tax collector—both of whom were typically wealthy in Jesus’ day: “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like… like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:11‑14 NIV)

We are all poor in spirit, but the good news is that Christ has paid the debt that our sins have piled up, and now we are free, blessed, with only one debt remaining: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8, NIV). Whether you’re rich, or poor, or somewhere in-between, the call is to share the love of Christ. We can do that in a material way, but that’s not the only way. Let us give serious thought to how we can share the love of Jesus, with what God has given us, in the station of life that He has called us to.

Journeying through James, 1:9-11

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. James 1:9‑11 (NIV)

James is not passing judgment on being either rich or poor. Consider the immediate context: just prior to these verses, he wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). He made no distinction between being rich or poor in verse 2, so why now?

This passage is not saying the rich are bad, and it’s not saying that it’s bad to be poor. What it is saying is that whether someone is rich, or poor, or anywhere in-between, the “testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3b‑4, NIV).

James is concerned about our spiritual life. A person’s economic and social standing presents unique challenges to his spiritual development. God is making us like Jesus Christ. The rich person wrestles with this with his own unique challenges, just a poor person does with the difficulties that he has to face.

Both poverty and prosperity present trials that test our faith. Either may result in spiritual disaster. The Christian who is poor materially can rejoice in his high spiritual position as a child of God. At the same time, the rich person can rejoice in new values. The apostle Paul described what those values look like for a wealthy Christian: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:17‑18, NIV). The circumstances of your life are an opportunity to ask God how you should live for Christ. On this point we are all the same. James will return to social responsibility to the poor later in his epistle, but what he’s arguing here is that poverty and riches have their unique challenges to living in Christian faith.

Rich or poor, Christians share the challenge to love all people regardless of social or economic status. Love others the way Jesus loves you. At the cross of Christ, where Jesus was crucified, and at the tomb, where His body was laid, rich and poor were united in their love for the Savior. My heart-felt prayer is that we would really ponder what James is teaching. How is the Kingdom of God (of which we are now citizens) different than this world? Where do you need to seek wisdom from God to live your life in a Christ-like way?

Journeying through James, 1:8

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6But 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. James 1:5‑8 (ESV)

Why should a person “suppose that he will not receive anything from the Lord?” That’s a really strong statement and seems so hard to understand. Isn’t God’s favor unearned and unmerited? James wrote in verse 5, that the same Lord “gives generously to all without reproach,” so how are we to understand this? James’ primary concern here is that we would ask God for wisdom and not doubt that the Lord will give it to us. He’s saying that doubting gets in the way of receiving the goodness and blessings that God has for us.

He knows that doubting makes our love for Jesus, and for His followers, grow cold. James was Jesus’ brother. John tells us about him: “But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, 3 and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! 4 You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” 5 For even his brothers didn’t believe in him” John 7:2‑5 (NLT). It’s hard to imagine that James went from such cold-hearted indifference to ardent belief. He knows firsthand that doubting makes us indifferent and even hostile to the kind and loving Jesus.

Doubting can lead to not seeing the amazing miracles that could happen in our lives. For example: “Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” 58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” Matthew 13:54‑58 (NIV). Even today, everyone has an opinion about who Jesus is, but those who simply put their faith in Him will see Him do good things in their lives.

So, James really knows what he’s talking about. He’s come full circle in understanding and appreciating who Jesus is; and he doesn’t want anyone to miss that. It might not seem apparent upon first reading his epistle, but James is very understanding and compassionate toward others in their struggles to believe and follow Jesus.

Journeying through James, 1:7-8

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6But 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. James 1:5‑8 (ESV)

Many times in James, his words are right to the point; they are so direct that it’s difficult for people to hear them. I think the hearers have to make a choice to not listen to their human pride and guilt and rather to have an open mind to what God is saying. Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, human beings have considered themselves as the fourth member of the Trinity and can become easily offended if God says, “Don’t do that; do this!”. By nature, we don’t like people correcting us, but ironically, we can’t really see what’s best for us.

James’ words in verses 7-8 are like the words of a friend trying to help us understand two important points. One, God has a good and perfect will for us, that is ours for the asking. Two, our human nature doesn’t want to submit to God and therefore it is a battle for us to ask, to follow and to be at peace with what God would direct us to do. James is focusing in on the inherent internal struggle that Christians face. The word for “double-minded” in Koinè Greek literally means ‘to have two souls’, namely we have the Old Adam and Spirit of God dwelling within us. The Apostle Paul described this struggle very clearly in Galatians 5:17: “The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (NLT).

Let’s say you and your spouse are trying to decide which takeout food you want this evening. You leave the house without a firm decision, but with a couple of options in mind. You finally settle on one, and of course, you don’t take away anything from the other two, except the thought, “Well, maybe next time we’ll stop there.” Isn’t that how most people approach wisdom and input from God? It doesn’t always occur to us that God wants us to ask Him for wisdom, and to listen to Him, and to follow His wisdom, continually. This is vital, not just a good option that we might try next time.

James focuses on our need to receive God’s direction, and he fully understanding our inherent desire not to. He concentrates on certain “problem areas” into which God must speak so that our Christian lives would give glory to His name. What’s interesting about James is that the book highlights only certain personal faith and social issues; also, the topics he picks are applicable to believers of any culture or time period. He assumes that a believer will ask for God’s direction. In verse 7‑8, he’s basically saying, “Don’t think twice or be offended about what I have to say.” God’s not against us; He’s for us. In verse 6, above, he explained that if you ask for wisdom, God’s not going to bring up what a failure you are. He “gives generously to all without reproach.” In Christ, the Lord sees you completely and thoroughly cleansed us from all sin. Let us then make it our goal in life to come to Him and receive from Him. God will generously give!

Journeying through James, 1:5-6

But if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous to everyone and will give you wisdom without criticizing you. 6 But when you ask God, you must believe and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like a wave in the sea, blown up and down by the wind.James 1:5‑6 (NCV)

What an amazing promise we have in James 1:5. The key expression is “without criticizing you.” In the Greek text, the word “criticize” means ‘to insult or reproach someone, with the implication that the person is evidently to blame’ * . The word denotes mocking or ridiculing. It’s the type of conduct that some of the people present at Christ’s crucifixion displayed, saying, “‘Let this Messiah, this king of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him” (Mark 15:32, NIV).

Why is this so important in regards to our faith? Life is full of choices, and if you look at all the choices that you’ve made in your life, you’ve probably made some bad ones. James 1:5 assures us that God gives to us without reminding us of our unworthiness. The verse from Mark, above, is a good example of this. Notice that it says, “Those crucified…” That means that both thieves were hurling insults at Christ, but one of the thieves looked into the eyes Jesus and saw someone who knew his very soul. Jesus responded to his cry for salvation and ignored the stupidity of his conduct. That’s pure grace and it’s really impossible for people to understand, but James is saying it’s essential that we understand this. Why? Because we will doubt God if we don’t. God has every intention of saving us and yet we have to look to Him for help. The benefit is well summed up by Paul in the letter to the Ephesians: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Ephesians 1:17, NIV).

Journeying through James, 1:1

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. James 1:2‑5 (ESV)

James hits the ground running. He introduces himself as a “servant of God and of Jesus Christ,” then he starts telling you right away how to live like a servant of God and of Christ. He begins his epistle quite differently than Paul begins most of his epistles. Take Galatians, for example:

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 Jesus gave himself for our sins to free us from this evil world we live in, as God the Father planned. 5 The glory belongs to God forever and ever. Amen” (Galatians 1:3‑5 (NCV)

Why the big difference? Is it of any significance for us? Both are writing God’s Word, but James is writing to “the tribes in the Dispersion,” which means Jewish people who were not living in Jerusalem, where James was a church leader. Paul is writing to Gentiles. We don’t see that as a huge difference today, but then it was.

James never once mentions the Law of Moses, but rather the “law of liberty” (James 1:25). Meanwhile, Paul mentions Moses’ Law twenty-eight times in Galatians. Some false teachers preyed on the Galatians ignorance of the Law in a way that would never have worked with James’ audience. Just as it wouldn’t work with us today. We, as 21st century American Christians, are not likely to be tricked into following circumcision; it’s a common practice that has nothing to do with being Jewish for us. We’d start following Jewish dietary laws if we thought it would help us lose weight. I can just see a new fad diet: Fat Burning Jewish Law Diet.

What we would be easily deceived about is the importance of Christian living. What these two epistles have in common is connecting our freedom in Christ with sound Christian living. James writes “This royal law is found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” If you obey this law, you are doing right. 9 But if you treat one person as being more important than another, you are sinning” (James 2:8-9, NCV). Paul writes: “My brothers and sisters, God called you to be free, but do not use your freedom as an excuse to do what pleases your sinful self. Serve each other with love. 14 The whole law is made complete in this one command: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Galatians 5:13-14, NCV).

So, for 1st century Christians, and for 21st century Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles, James is concerned with telling you the truth. And the truth is that none of us are perfect and all of us have a lot to learn. The tenor of James is straight-talking truth, which though sometimes hard to hear, is a blessing if heeded.

Journeying through James, 1:4

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1:2‑5 (NKJV)

With respect to the word perfection or the verb form to be perfect, God alone is perfect because he needs nothing. He is complete, whole, lacking nothing, and needing nothing. The whole universe, and everything in it, depends on Him. If He didn’t keep it all going, it would cease to exist in an instant. We live and exist only because He does.

When God, in the Scriptures, uses the word perfection to refer to us, His human sons and daughters, He is not referring to what you are. Rather He’s describing what His grace and power in Christ is making you to be. A good analogy for this is a telescope. The word in Greek for perfect is actually where we get the word telescope or telescopic.

When you look at where you are going through the lens of a telescope, you focus on the goal of your journey, where you want to be, more than where you are presently. You fix your hope on that goal, and your journey is aimed at that goal. That’s the way that the Bible speaks of perfection. You have been called by God to be like Jesus. Jesus is the image that we are to focus on as we live out our journeys in this world. The world in general is not focused on Jesus Christ, nor concerned with being like Him, but we are. God’s grace has done this.

Perfection, for us, is a life-long process of being like Christ. We, at best, are an example, a pattern, we’re not the original. God has already made believers perfectly acceptable to Himself by the blood of Christ, so now let us focus being like Christ. As Jesus taught, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” John 13:15-17 (NIV).

The apostle Paul has a very beautiful prayer in 2 Thessalonians that can remind us that God is really with us in this and that being like Christ is what perfection is all about: “That is why we always pray for you, asking our God to help you live the kind of life he called you to live. We pray that with his power God will help you do the good things you want and perform the works that come from your faith. 12 We pray all this so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will have glory in you, and you will have glory in him. That glory comes from the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” 2 Thessalonians 1:11‑12 (NCV).

Journeying through James, 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2‑4 (NIV)

James begins his epistle is such a bold way‒“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (v. 2). Why?

There’s a story in the book of Daniel where three friends of Daniel are thrown into a fiery furnace. The king did this because they refused to worship him‒they only wanted to worship God. Normally the fire would have consumed them, in fact, the fire was so hot that it killed the king’s servants when they threw Daniel’s friends into it. But while the king watched, these believers stood and walked around in the fire. Then the king saw a fourth person with them, and in his amazement, the king said, “he looks like a son of the gods!” Of course, it was the Son of God, Jesus, who was with them and saved them. The King was amazed when the three believers came out unscathed, and he praised their God. *

The three believers were given the privilege of going through the fire so that God would be glorified. Of all the nations in the world, God chose only one, Judaism, to draw into such a relationship with Himself. He showed His glory and His steadfast love to those who trusted in Him. I wonder how many Gentiles found faith in the God of Jacob as a result of these three men enduring this amazing trial? And isn’t that the point?

What James is saying is two‑fold. One, our problems change when we see that God is working in the midst of them. What James is saying in this passage is: don’t deal with your problems apart from God’s grace. Instead, when difficulties trouble you, remember that Christ is with you in the midst of them. Two, God likes to boast about how much He loves His children. When James says, “the testing your faith produces perseverance,” he is speaking of a good quality that God works in you for a purpose, so that others will see the glory of God through your life.

We all know how fragile glass is. But when workers heat-treat glass, and put it in under great pressure, it becomes four to five times stronger and safer than untreated glass. Safety is the reason they do this; so that the glass won’t break so easily. The book of James is an exceedingly practical epistle. In it, James assures us that God will keep us from breaking under the pressures of life. For us, as God’s children, trials are carefully engineered by God, not to break us, but to make us stronger‒tried and true.

68.17 ὑπομένω: to continue in an activity or state despite resistance and opposition—‘to continue, to remain, to endure.’ μακάριος ἀνὴρ ὃς ὑπομένει πειρασμόν ‘happy is the man who experiences temptation and still continues (to trust)’ Jas 1:12. For another interpretation of ὑπομένω in Jas 1:12, see 39.20 below.1

39.20 ὑπομένω: to resist by holding one’s ground—‘to resist, to hold one’s ground, to not be moved.’ μακάριος ἀνὴρ ὃς ὑπομένει πειρασμόν ‘happy is the man who holds his ground when he is tempted’ Jas 1:12.2


1. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 655). New York: United Bible Societies.

2. ibid. (p. 494).

Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. 1996. Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 436). New York: United Bible Societies

“Then Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.’” Daniel 3:28‑29 (NIV)