READ: James 1
BACKGROUND: James (brother of Jesus) wrote this letter to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (vs 1). This is most likely referring to Jewish Christians. James wrote as a pastor to instruct and encourage his people in the face of their difficulties. James emphasizes a faith that is expressed by good deeds and is accompanied by a consistent life-style.
THINK: Trial. Joy. These two words may as well be antonyms. No one’s natural response to a trial is joy. No one whose hoping to be more joyful throws himself in the line of fire to find that joy. It’s just not natural to respond to trials with joy. But that’s precisely what James challenges us as believers to do. Thankfully, we have the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to respond unnaturally to the trials in our lives.
When you hear the word trial, a specific circumstance you’re experiencing or have experienced may come to mind immediately. If you’re like me, you may want to drag your feet when you hear that you should choose joy in the midst of that trial. I’d like a couple more weeks to receive pity from others, a couple more weeks to wallow in self pity, a couple more weeks to whine and complain, and a couple more weeks to get angry at others and at God. When we choose any response, be it pity or anger or any other myriad of emotions, over choosing joy – we forfeit an absolutely incredible blessing. We read that blessing in verse four, “that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” That is worth it! Mature and complete, not lacking anything – sign me up!
So just how do we respond with joy? We choose to. It will never come naturally to us. We will have to make a conscious effort when trials come our way, to spend some time on our knees asking for wisdom (vs 5) to enable us to face trials with pure joy. And then we must persevere. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (vs. 4). We need the help of an Almighty God to persevere and He often provides us with the strength of faithful brothers and sisters in Christ to help us along the way. “Choose joy” is a simple catchphrase that serves as a constant reminder of the choice we have to make when trials come our way.
DO: Memorize James 1:2-4 so that the Holy Spirit can bring it to mind when trials come your way. If you’re feeling weak and unable to persevere, seek out the friendship and accountability of a brother or sister in Christ to come alongside you.