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James 1:1-8 – ‘Wisdom for trials’



            Introducing the book of James


How to become mature as a Christian (1:2-4)

            Enduring Trials

          Resist temptation


Godly wisdom – how to live in God’s world (1:5-8) – other references (James 3:13-18)

          God’s offer of help

          Period of testing

          Wisdom is a gift

          Not doubt


When we endure we can look forward to eternal life (1:12)












Introducing the book of James (1:1)

The book of James may be the earliest of New Testament writings. Perhaps before any of Paul’s letters or the Gospels were written he was concerned about a Christian worldview. The importance of linking belief with behaviour was what troubled him most.

James’ letter is not primarily about doctrine as other books of the bible may be, but more of a practical paper on living as a Christian. The name of Jesus appears only twice, and the cross or the resurrection is never mentioned in the letter. James just assumes that you know doctrine and he concentrates on the importance of living the truth. If you really believe as you should, then you will not behave as you shouldn’t?

James is identified as one of Jesus’ 4 brothers. He from an unbeliever (John 7:5; Mark 3:21) became one of the most important figures in the early church. James became a leader to the mother church in Jerusalem with their many believers (Acts 21:18-25).

James began as doubter then was transformed into a leader who followed not just in his brother’s footsteps but also as a servant of God and servant of Jesus Christ.

Today I am introducing the book of James and some of the themes in other sermons I will continue to flesh out the principals of this book and how it can change our lifestyles as Christians in our world today.


Trials and Temptations can lead to maturity as a Christian  

Enduring Trials (1:2-4)

 In vv.2-4 James explains that trials are a reason for rejoicing because of the good effects they produce. The word "trials" describes things that put a person to the test. They may be difficulties that come from the community, such as persecution (see vv.2-4), or they may be inner moral struggle, such as temptations to sin (see vv.13-18). An outward trial, rather than being a reason for unhappiness, can be a ground for "pure joy." And it is not merely the coming of a single trial that is described; James speaks of "trials of many kinds.”Face" suggests that one is surrounded by people, objects, or circumstances that try one's faith.


Why can trials be considered grounds for genuine rejoicing? If a person has truth faith, those trials are capable of developing "perseverance". This word promotes stick-to-it-iveness. It is the quality that enables a person to stand on one's feet facing the storm and whirlwinds. In struggling against difficulty and opposition, spiritual muscle is developed.

If perseverance is to "finish its work," faith must persist and not falter or give up. The goal in view is that believers "may be mature and complete." Perseverance in facing trials develops maturity of character that will enrich the Christian life.

Summery point: In facing trials of many kinds know that you can rejoice because of the good it does to build character and Christian maturity.

Resist Temptation (1:13-15)

-          later in James (4:7-10)

The word "temptation" here is the same as "trials" in the NT Greek. These two ideas are not separate. Often our hardships bring fresh temptations to abandon our love for God.

Temptation does not come from God because God himself cannot be successfully tempted by evil. Therefore, it is inconsistent to think that God could be the author of temptation and we cannot say that the ‘devil made me do it’

Instead, the source of temptation lies within us. One is tempted "by his own evil desire." James personifies a person's sinful desire and identifies it, rather than some external person or object, as the efficient cause of temptation. By one's own sinful nature a person is "dragged away and enticed."

When we allow desire to ‘conceive’, to fix upon some bad intention, sin is born, and when sin grows to adulthood, it kills us. This is a powerful metaphor.

James’ point is that instead of blaming God for our temptation, we must keep our desires in check before they conceive and give birth. Desire and temptation are not in themselves sinful; but they will lead to sin if we don’t deal with them firmly. And dealing with our desires and our temptations will also build on our Christian maturity.

Jas 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Jas 4:8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Jas 4:9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.

Jas 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

James is telling us how to resist temptation by submitting ourselves to God, let God deal with our sin and let him change us. V9 talks about showing remorse for you do fall and remember that God is always ready to offer forgiveness when you are genuinely sorry.

Summery point:  Don’t allow temptation to become sin. Resist temptation and the devil and submit to God. But when we fall and sin take heart because God will still forgive you if you are genuinely sorry.

Godly wisdom – how to live in God’s world (1:5-8)other references (James 3:13-18)

Verses 5-8 contain God's offer of help for those who are facing trials. In v.4 he assures his readers that when perseverance has finished its work, the believer will lack none of the needed virtues and strengths. In v.5, however, James speaks of the period of testing before perseverance has completed its work. During such testing, if anyone lacks "wisdom", he or she may have it by asking. People like us facing trials often do lack wisdom. What we need is not based on human understanding or philosophy.

Jas 3:13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

Jas 3:14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.

Jas 3:15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil.

Jas 3:16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

Jas 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Jas 3:18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

What we need is God-given understanding that enables us to live in God’s world, God’s way. Such wisdom is available to the one who will "ask God" for it, not once only, but repeatedly; the promise is that wisdom "will be given to him." It is God's practice to give "generously" and "without finding fault."Wisdom is a gift even if we don’t deserve it.

James’ point is simply that when you ask for wisdom you should do so with an attitude of sincere devotion to God, if you’re split between being devoted to the world then don’t expect anything from the Lord.

The extent of faith that God looks for is emphasized by the words "not doubt".  "Doubt" describes one who is divided in the mind and who wavers between two opinions. One moment he says yes I believe; the next it is the no I can’t believe. Such an attitude is graphically illustrated by "a wave of the sea." Completely lacking in stability, it is "blown and tossed by the wind."  If you can visualize a wave at say Bondi beach and then imagine it was a really windy day and trying to surf  it can become unstable and dangerous, this is like the person who ‘doubts’.

An example of a man with faith - an anguished father who cried, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mk 9:24). This father was not changing between belief and unbelief. He desired to believe but because he understood the limits of his faith, he asked for help in believing. He was not facing both directions at the same time like the "double-minded man" of Jas 1:8. In spite of his conscious weakness, he had set his heart to believe. And Christ responded to his faith and healed his son (Mk 9:25-27). In response to this kind of faith, God will give wisdom to those who ask for it and enable them to persevere in times of trial.

Ask God for good gifts from above (1:16-18)

 Instead of sending temptation, God is the giver of "every good and perfect gift." The concept of God's goodness rules out the possibility that he would send an influence as destructive as temptation. His gifts are marked by kindness and helpfulness, not destructiveness. They are "perfect", which in this context excludes any possibility of evil as coming from God.

Here God is designated as "the Father of the heavenly lights"--presumably the stars and planets. "Father" probably has a twofold meaning, pointing to God as the creator of the lights and to his continuing control over them.

Unlike the "shifting shadows" that are caused by the sun, moon, and stars, God "does not change." With him there is no variation at all. The shadows cast by the sun are minimal at noon, but just before sunset they stretch out for yards across the landscape. God is not like that. He does not change. He is always the giver of good gifts.

This is the same idea that Jesus presents in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’:

Mt 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Mt 7:8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Mt 7:9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?

Mt 7:10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?

Mt 7:11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Mt 7:12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets

Summery point: If we ask God for wisdom and not doubt he will provide wisdom to help us persevere through our trials and temptations. God is the giver of all good things - ask, seek, knock when has He not provided?



When we endure we can look forward to eternal life (1:12)

Think of a cooking recipe, you put the ingredients together and in the hope that the outcome will be tasty – the food will look good and taste good even though it was kinda weird putting it together. This is our final outcome when we put all our ingredients of testing, faith, trials, temptation, perseverance – we cook up the ‘crown of life’.

James stresses that the Christian life is lived in light of the future. He concludes his discussion of the testing of faith with a promise of the reward to be given to the one who successfully stands the test. The expression "Blessed is the man" is similar to the language of the OT and the beatitudes of Jesus (Mt 5:3-11). "Blessed" describes the state of the person who does not give up when confronted with trying circumstances but remains strong in faith and devotion to God. Perseverance under trial or temptation results in approval from God, and approval results in "the crown of life." Although "crown" may designate a kingly crown, it more often refers to the crown given to a victorious athlete. This life is often described in the NT as the race we run after much training and hard work – which is to do with building our spiritual muscle – like praying, reading God’s word, maturing as a Christian through trials and temptations, we finish the race to win the prize of the ‘crown of life’.

Now you can make your own mind up whether James here is talking about an additional reward over and above eternal life. His entire emphasis in this chapter and in fact in the whole of James his main theme discussed is that you have heard the message now go and live it – that is the living out of the Christian life.  So whether it is eternal life or more reward it’s not James’ foundational point.

For James, this word refers to the reward given to believers who are in a right relationship with God. So this means that just because you are a good person it doesn’t mean that you will be rewarded or go to heaven as many people often believe.

Summery point: Even though we will experience trials and temptations we can still live in light of the future hope rather than just living for the here and now. Eternal life awaits us, stand firm and look forward to that hope.



In order to live as a Christian today in God’s world we need to ask God for wisdom not just once but continually as God is the giver of good gifts this will help us persevere in times of trial and in resisting temptation so that we can ultimately win the race and receive the ‘crown of life’

Let’s pray

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