Starting this week, a friend and I are going to be going through the book of James, one chapter a week, and posting about it on our blogs! We just wanted to encourage each other to stay in the Word, and also (hopefully) spend some time discussing what we read. So here goes, James Chapter 1 for this week! I won't copy it all on here, just certain verses and portions that spoke to me....
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." (vs 2-4)
Trials are outward circumstances - conflicts, sufferings, and troubles - that all of us, as believers, will encounter. But God doesn't call us to concentrate on the unpleasantness, or grief, associated with the trials we face. Instead, he calls us to consider trials as an opportunity for rejoicing, because when we go through troubles and difficulties it refines and purifies our faith, producing patience and endurance! If we never went through anything that challenged us, we would never grow. This is still really hard for me, because in my flesh, I don't want to suffer. No one wants to experience pain or hardship! But I am truly learning how, even when I do fall into trials or heartaches, God is always sufficient. He's always enough.
Also, I was reading in one of the notes below (I have a study bible with extra stuff), and it says that the term "testing of your faith" comes from when coins were tested to see if they were genuine and not debased. So when we are allowed to go through trials, God isn't trying to destroy or afflict us, but instead he wants to purge and refine us. It is all for our own good. Does it make it easy? Not always. But when we have the right perspective going into trials, it will make it easier, knowing that when we come through at the other end we will be better for it, and one day will be "perfect" and "complete."
"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 you. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." (vs 5-6)
The first thing that comes to my mind is, "You have not because you ask not." So let's ask! And not only just ask, but let's believe and show faith and commitment, for the wisdom of God begins with genuine reverence for Him, and a steadfast confidence that God is in control of everything.
We can't have any doubt or division within ourselves. If one part of us is set on God and the other is still set on the world, there will be a constant conflict within and God doesn't want that for us! In the next verse it describes that uncertain person as "a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." Let's not be that guy.
"Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death." (vs 13-15)
I think what stands out the most to me in this portion is fact that it is a process. It first starts with a desire, which then pulls the person away into temptation, and then temptation turns to sin, and then sin, in the end, leads to destruction. One of my Project Director's on the Africa trip gave us this quote:
"A thought sows an action,
an action sows a habit,
a habit sows a character,
and a character sows a destiny."
There's this really cool song by Casting Crowns that I like called "Slow Fade." It's basically about this whole "process" - how it never just happens in an instant, but it's a slow fade... Sometimes it may seem like it was just a snap decision - "Man, I don't know what I was thinking, I just lost it!" - but if you take a careful look backward, and rewind a little, there's all sorts of little decisions, thoughts, or actions that led up to it. So I guess what my "take-away" from this section is...STOP IT BEFORE IT STARTS.
In 2 Corinthians 10: 4-5 it says, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ..."
If our thoughts are not on the things or Christ, we're heading down the wrong path. We shouldn't be clinging to thoughts that do not conform to the life and teachings of Christ, because when we walk in the flesh...we know where that's going to end.
"There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death." - Proverbs 14:12 AND Proverbs 16:25. I think there's definitely a reason the same advice is given twice here.
"Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." (vs 21-22)
If we truly believe what we say we believe, and we hear (or read) the word of God, we need to receive it with a teachable spirit, and then apply it to our daily lives. If we hear and do not obey we deceived ourselves...for what is the point of hearing but not doing? It's empty.
"But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does." (vs 25)
So yeah...that's basically what I got and what fired me up in this chapter. But for all my gleanings and passionate words, do not mistake my intent. I by no means think that I've got this all together, or that I'm more spiritual because I'm typing it up on my blog. I'm just learning with the rest of everyone, and I want to share in hopes it might help someone else learn as well. God is so good! He wants to bless us and give us peace, but I think too often we settle for less. I don't want to settle anymore.
So jump on board. I've found that Jesus is where it's happening, and if you think that too, great! If you're not so sure, but want to know more about Jesus, or have any questions about anything from this chapter, feel free to comment or email me!