The Book of James: Faith and Endurance — First Christian Church of Macon (2024)

Faith and Endurance—James 1: 1-18

One of the things we tend to hear a lot from parents, teachers, and other authority figures is the phrase, “Oh will you grow up!?” or some version thereof. Perhaps it’s even been shouted at you or by you in the midst of heated argument, “Just grow up!” Now luckily, I never heard this much growing up. But then, the running joke in the family was that I didn’t hear this phrase because I was born a grumpy 60 year old man. The Book of James deals throughout with this idea or concept of maturity, of what it means to be the “mature Christian.”

In talking about growth and maturity, we focus in on the first part of the first chapter which deals with faith and endurance. These two things are discussed in the context of dealing with the trials of life. Now Paul tended to finesse his New Testament letters a bit before getting into the deep water. You might hear a bit of a greeting and some “grace and peace” language that provides multiple verse of warm well-wishes. James, is about as subtle as a heart attack. He basically says, “Greetings,” then hits the reader with a punch square to the gut: consider it joy when trials come your way.

James talks about God giving us strength through a trial when we let our endurance grow and be tested. Endurance is the key for James—our ability to lean on God for strength through the trials of life. Endurance means getting through the trial without compromising or wavering. If you talk to someone who has continued with a strong faith in Christ, you will find a common theme. In all the most difficult times of life, they endured, and they did so by relying on God to be with them. In times of trial we must run TO God not FROM God, and we must ask for wisdom.

The two go hand in hand. You cannot endure a trial unless you go to God and ask for wisdom, and ask in faith. James is very blunt in saying if you come to God asking for wisdom, and you do so without faith or with a divided loyalty, you’ll end up with nothing. I am reading a book about a brilliant pianist who escaped the war in Syria as a refugee to Germany. It details the harrowing suffering of him and his family at the hands of the military. He is a Palestinian, and his family were refugees in Syria. What sticks out is that sense of endurance and wisdom to mold and meld to the circ*mstances for hope and for survival. While his faith is not Christianity, the same parallel can be seen: trials mild to severe must be faced with endurance, seeking wisdom, and fully relying on God’s help.

But at the same time, we may face both trial and temptation in life. Now, interestingly, trial and temptation have the same Greek root, and to know the difference you use look at the context. Are you suffering through a trial that will test your faith, or are you being tempted away form God to something that seems enticing but is actually evil? The answer is the same. Verse 12 says, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation.” Both are found in the Lord’s prayer: lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

We live in a time when both trials and temptations are rampant. Coronavirus is certainly a trial. But the animosities, the politics, the manipulation of faith all around us are also trials that add to our burden and stress in our modern times. Humanity’s sense of dread and worry has grown in recent years. The trials have grown around us both physically and mentally taking their toll. But we also face temptation in more ways and outlets than ever before. The internet has brought interconnectedness, but it has also brought us misinformation, a platform for hatred and evil, violence, immorality, and horrible things all at the click of a button.

The answer to these growing troubles is within us: to remember to seek God’s help and guidance to resist and endure the trials and temptations. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Navigating trials and temptations without God’s help will leave us broken and weary. It will damage our relationship with God and with loved ones around us to the point that we will be lost. Instead we should run to God, rely on God, there we will find our answers. We are told consider it joy when you find yourself in trials. We are told patiently endure when temptation comes your way. With the help of God’s love and might you will be carried through the trial, and you will overcome the temptation.

Do not be tempted to let trials and temptation ruin your relationship with the Holy One who created you and loved you each and every day and each step of the way. James tells us, “So don’t be misled my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God.” James reminds us that we are chosen by God. We are God’s prized possession. Remember that during trials and temptations. You are loved, and you are wanted. Even Christ had to endure struggles on the Earth. He was not spared trials or temptations. And yet Christ endured the trials and resisted temptation in the wilderness.

One of the hardest things people face with faith is this expectation that if our God is all-powerful, then things should be made perfect—all should be fixed. Why do trials exist? Why is there temptation and trouble? I think James here gives us a hard answer but the best advice. The hard answer is that life may not be easy for us regardless if we have faith or not. Suffering, trials, and temptation will touch the followers of Christ just like it will touch those who do not.

But here is the difference: when we follow Christ, we have One who is mighty enough to give us the strength to bear through and find peace and a quiet resolve. God will help us find a way to a mature faith response to trials and temptations: consider it all joy. So in the midst of trial and temptation be reminded that this too shall pass. But in the meantime when the way is dark and rough, remember that God will help you endure through as you ask for the wisdom to deal with life. And in the end, we are created by God, loved by God, and given strength by God every single day, for every single trial and temptation. So, lean on God’s love, and count it all joy.

The Book of James: Faith and Endurance — First Christian Church of Macon (2024)

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