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Posted By Nan

James 1:13-15
“Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.” The Message
God may allow us to be tested (see Genesis 22:1) but satan tempts (see Job). Desire, sin, death are the three stages described by James. These can be seen in Genesis 3:6-22 and 2 Samuel 11:2-17. In Genesis 3:6-22 Eve is tempted by the serpent to question whether God really meant she was not to eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She saw that the fruit looked tasty and the desire to eat it arose. As a result of that desire, she took a piece of fruit and ate it. Then she offered it to Adam who also ate it because he had the desire to eat it too. To compound their sin, Adam tried to blame God for his sin by stating that “the woman you gave me tempted me to eat the fruit”. In Matthew 4:7, Jesus responded to the temptation of satan “Do you not the Lord your God to the test”. In this response, he cited Deuteronomy 6:16. The incident referred in Deuteronomy was when the people complained about access to fresh water and challenged God with the words “did you bring us out into the desert to die?”  We are instructed to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Even James tells us in verses 2-4 that we are to consider the temptations of life as “pure joy”. God allows temptation to come our way, but He does not tempt us. When these temptations come our way we should take responsibility for our response to them and not try to dodge that responsibility by blaming God. We should also not try to say it is satan’s fault either. Although later in 4:7, James instructs us to resist the devil (who tempts us), in these verses he does not want us to try to blame our sinfulness on satan. We are to accept full responsibility for our own desires and the actions that spring from them, because God holds us accountable for our own choices.

 
Posted By Nan

James 1:12
“Blessed (happy, to be envied) is the man who is patient under trial and stands up under temptation, for when he has stood the test and been approved, he will receive [the victor’s] crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12 Amplified.
The themes of James letter are testing, prayer and wealth. James has already introduced us to the idea of testing in verses 2-4. Now he returns to it to discuss it more fully. He announces that the person who perseveres under trial and temptation is blessed and happy. From the world’s perspective that is ridiculous, but we are not to look at life from that perspective.  From God’s perspective the person who loves God more than the tests and temptations of life is blessed. If we lose faith in Jesus then we do not love God more than everything else (John 21:15). Just as Abraham proved in Genesis 22:1-18 that he loved God more even than his own son, so we must stand up under the trials and temptations of life and love God more.
What does blessed mean? In my Sermon on the Mount series I discussed this when I covered Matthew 5:3-12. If you read those verses you will see that this is the “blessed” Jesus spoke of that James is discussing here.
The NIV study Bible describes Blessed as “the happy condition of those who revere the Lord and do His will”. It means more than being happy. Happy is an emotion that is dependent on what is happening in our lives, whereas Blessed refers to the feeling of well-being and spiritual joy of those who share in the salvation of the kingdom of God. Joy comes from God and true Joy can only be found in Jesus Christ.
Some of the strongest descriptions of being blessed are found in Jeremiah 1:7-8 and Psalm 1. You can see them below:
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV.
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” Psalm 1 NIV.
So the message for us? Trust God, put Him first. When the difficulties and temptations of life come, love Jesus more than even your own life and resist the temptation to walk away from God. Trust that God is in control and know that Jesus loves you and died for your sin so that you can spend eternity in Heaven with Him. This current life may feel pretty awful, but eternity will be amazing.

 
Posted By Nan

James 1:9-11
James practically applies the use of heavenly wisdom in his description of the humble, poor man and the rich man. In God’s eyes all are equal. The poor man who is a follower of Jesus is exalted in the riches of his life in God and the promised life to come. The rich man who is a follower of Jesus also has the riches of his life in God and the promised life to come. However, Jesus said that it was harder for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25. Luke 18:25). By that He meant that when we love our wealth more than Jesus we cannot enter Heaven. To enter Heaven we must accept our need for our saviour, humble ourselves, take up our cross and allow Jesus to increase in our lives and our desire to control our lives and glorify ourselves to decrease. The rich man who thinks he can control all things with his wealth will find it impossible to submit to Jesus. But James warns wealth, like the grass, quickly fades away. It is just as easy for the wealthy man to become poor as it was for him to become rich. It is not wrong to be rich. It is wrong to put that wealth before following Jesus.
So we must all see our true riches in our life in Jesus Christ and the life to come than in our earthly possessions. We must not place wealth as of higher importance than Jesus and we must not think we are worthless because we do not have earthly wealth.

 
Posted By Nan

James 1:5-8
These verses are about prayer and faith.
In the Amplified Bible verse 5 reads “If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God [Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him.”
I love the picture of “the giving God”. The one who gives liberally, ungrudgingly, without reproaching or finding fault. That is so beautiful, so comforting.
There is however a proviso. The asking must be done in faith without doubt or hesitation. Know wisdom is what you, as a servant of God, want and trust it will be given to you. Know also that it is God you wish to serve, not your own advancement, with God that handy friend you call on when you need a bit of a push up. James suggests that the person who doubts and hesitates is like the water being blown around in peaks and troughs, wherever the current takes it. This person is of two minds. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus spoke about it not being possible to serve two Masters. You will hate the one and love the other. The person who doubts and hesitates is trying to serve two Masters. This person wants to believe and ask Jesus in faith, but also serves the master of doubt so does not trust fully. His prayers are more likely to be a superstitious hedging of his bets than prayers of true faith. Therefore, he does not serve the Master Jesus but his own advancement in the world.
Eugene Peterson puts it beautifully in The Message:
“If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.”
So having established the need to ask God for wisdom and not doubt, He will give wisdom generously and willingly. This is a good accompaniment to Galatians 5:16-8, 25 which speaks of the need to live by the Spirit. How do we do that? We ask God and He gives us the wisdom to do this when we trust. This is the practical application of Paul’s admonition to live by the Spirit.

 
Posted By Nan

James 1:1-4
Before discussing verses 2 to 4 it is important to acknowledge that James identifies himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ and addresses his letter to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. As I mentioned in my last blog, it is considered most likely that the James who wrote this letter is Jesus’ brother. It is interesting that he has transformed from the time when Jesus walked on earth and he did not understand what Jesus was doing, perhaps even considered Him to be a big brother who was mentally ill. Now he has a full realisation of Jesus’ identity and does not even presume to elevate himself by identifying himself as having grown up in the same house as Jesus. It sets the scene well for the humility that underlies much of the message of James.
In addressing the letter to the twelve scattered tribes most commentators consider this letter is intended for the early believers who fled Jerusalem during the time of persecution when Stephen was martyred (Acts 8:1-4).
Given this history, it is very fitting that James should start his letter with teaching on how to approach difficulties in life. These difficulties may be persecution, financial, physical, emotional, relationship difficulties, even temptation. To the early Christians James admonishment to consider such difficulties “pure joy” must have seemed really strange. But he hastened to assure them and explain that the trials we face in life help test our faith and develop in us endurance, steadfastness and patience. He adds that it is important we do not interfere with this process because is causes us to grow and develop in our walk with Jesus. These trials lead to improvement. They cause us to grow closer to Jesus’ image. In Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul writes about us being transformed into Jesus’ likeness. Where he referred to this as the result of submitting to Jesus’ will, James extends this to include enduring in faith all the trials of life.
The joy James talks about is not some instruction to forget about your troubles and ‘put on a happy face’. It is about being joyful in our love for God, because God’s love gives us joy. Joy does not mean being deliriously happy, it means the peace that comes from knowing God is in control. That joy is far more uplifting than happiness at the transient things of life. Joy is present when we have faith that God is in control and His promises are true and that Jesus is always our true and constant Saviour who is always interceding on our behalf. We also need to be patient in waiting for God and trusting that His timing is perfect. This is what James speaks about here.
The early Christians were familiar with the concept of perseverance as an important virtue and often pointed to the example of Job and also Abraham’s patience in waiting for his promised son as evidence of the value of perseverance. Now they are being reminded that perseverance is still valid as a virtue and should still be part of our walk with God.
So having set the scene in these verses, James proceeds to move on to ways we can seek to achieve this goal of pure joy in the face of adversity. This discussion will continue in the next blog.

 


 
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Nan
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