Scripture: James 1:1-27
Observation: James opens his letter by encouraging people to rejoice in their troubles, for it’s trouble that develops endurance and endurance that strengthens our faith. He reminds them of God’s faithful, unchanging nature and encourages them to put their faith in God alone. He finishes by showing them the importance of not only listening to their Father in heaven, but obeying him, leaving behind a life of evil and sin.
Application: Growing up, one of my favorite books was “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” I’m not sure why because I was a pretty bright and bubbly child (a.k.a. often obnoxiously excited and loud), but for some reason, I just loved reading about Alexander and all of his calamities – gum in his hair, lima beans for dinner, and of course, getting punched by a guy he thought was his friend. This was no Disney fairytale, and if I remember correctly, the tension was never resolved – the book ended after sharing the last terrible thing that happened to him. It was equal parts entertaining and depressing.
Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly down or discouraged, I find myself convinced that I lead a life full of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Caught in construction on my way to work? Terrible. Completely frizzy hair even after using practically an entire bottle of the “no-frizz-salon-quality” shampoo that I paid $18 for? Horrible. Can’t find my cell phone, freak out, run around the house like a crazy person looking for it for a good seven minutes, and then realize it’s been in my back pocket the whole time? No good. Tore my favorite jeans right down the behind and walked around like that all afternoon because I didn’t realize it? VERY BAD. (Like, really, really embarrassingly bad.)
Yes, ALL of those things have happened to me. (My life is a joke some days.)
You know what else is terrible, horrible, no good, and very bad? Fighting with my husband. Losing a friend over a big misunderstanding. Watching people I love lose a boyfriend to cancer. Eating disorders. Financial issues. Emergency hospital visits. Broken relationships. Unanswered prayers.
Yes, all of those things have happened to me. Many of them have probably happened to you, too. And when they do, we feel a range of emotions -- hurt, scared, frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, and uncertain.
You know what we don’t feel? Joy.
Yet, James opens his letter to these people, these Jewish Christians who were dispersed across the area because of the persecution they faced, urging them to find joy in their troubles.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” (verses 2-3)
When your relationship falls apart, when the diagnosis comes, when your financial stability disappears, consider it an opportunity for great joy because you serve a great God.
“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (verse 12)
So, patiently endure your testing, your temptation, your troubles, for when you do, your reward will be great. The joy James speaks about isn't some temporary, fleeting joy that we find in the "simple pleasures" of life. It's a sustaining joy, a forever joy, a permanent joy, and it comes from the One who is good and perfect, who never changes, who considers us (yes, us!) his prized possession.
Let’s find peace in our problems today. They won’t defeat you or destroy you. Through Jesus, you are stronger. You can endure. You can overcome.
Prayer: God, I offer you all of my troubles right now, the ones that seem small and the ones that seem overwhelmingly big. I pray you’ll help seek joy in all of them. Help me endure them. Give me strength. Allow me to overcome. Amen.
- How do you find joy in your troubles?
- Do you know people who find peace in their problems, who exhibit great patience and endurance? Who are they, and how do they rise above their circumstances?
- What’s the most difficult trial you’ve had to endure, and how did you do it?
- James talks about temptation in verses 12-15. How do you overcome temptation?
- In verse 22, James reminds us not just to listen to God’s word, but also to do what it says. How do you practice putting his word into action in your own life?