I’m really excited! This Sunday we begin a new series for the summer - the book of James. I love this book! It’s raw, honest, painful and direct. It was written by Jesus’ half-brother, James. We don’t read any of his thoughts any other place than in this book. In just five chapters we see the heart of the man who grew up with Jesus and went from a doubter to the leader of the church in Jerusalem.
I can imagine the frustration of James as he grew up hearing his mother, Mary, say, “Why can’t you be more like your brother, Jesus?” It sure would have frustrated me!
Years ago I memorized the book of James. It was the first book I tried to memorize and I’ve loved it ever since. (Don’t ask me to quote it today, I’ve lost it somewhere over the years.)
James begins with this amazing verse (I know Steve will talk more about it Sunday), when he writes, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” Honestly I have never mastered this! It still eludes me. In the NIV translation the word is “trials.” Trials, tests, temptations and troubles rarely ever make my heart rejoice, but James invites that response.
He writes that they are an opportunity to grow in faith and I must admit they do make that happen. Later in the chapter James goes further and writes, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”
Tests, temptations, trials and trouble, what do we do about them? Who causes them? What is our response?
Paul writes these words to further challenge us, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.”
Living in a fallen world is challenging! It’s a challenge to see the trials, tests and temptations as an opportunity to trust God. And, it’s a challenge to say “no” when the trial or test is something we really want to do!
As we begin the study of this wonderful book about real life and all it means, be praying that God will help you do two things:
1. See your trials with joy as an opportunity to trust God and grow in faith,
2. Ask for God’s help to say “no” to the temptations that lead you away from trust in God.
We are about to start an exciting odyssey together. Ask God to help you as trials, tests, temptations and troubles come into your life. And rejoice! It means God thinks you can handle the pressure and grow from it. Exciting, isn’t it?