James 1: Learning to Rejoice in Suffering

Scholars who study the book of James say this letter defies any attempt to structure and organize James’ thoughts.  Again like Proverbs, James jumps from topic to topic.  This is the kind of book where one verse or small passage in a chapter will catch the eye and speak to the heart.  Because of that, I imagine each of us will have different reactions to each chapter.

In chapter one I was drawn to the way Wright worded verse 2:

My dear family, when you find yourselves tumbling into various trials and tribulations, learn to look at it with complete joy.

I remember reading this verse for the first time, in the New International Version:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

I remember thinking, “What? Are you kidding?  Be glad about hard times?  No way!  Surely not!”

But I had missed the first two words, “consider it.”  In other words, choose to think of it as a blessing.  This is not a reaction that comes naturally.  That is why I like Wright’s way of saying it, “Learn to look at it with complete joy.”  This is a frame of mind that comes with time and training.

May we learn little by little that the fires of life aren’t meant to burn us up, rather they refine us and make us pure!

When did a hardship turn out to be a great blessing?

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12 thoughts on “James 1: Learning to Rejoice in Suffering

  1. For me, it was a good chapter, teaching about manners, righteous, giving hope, etc. It provide logic & common sense.

    Dont let go the hope, make the trials as joy and adventure.-v2
    Perseverance must finish its work-v4
    Ask God for everything, but at the same time dont let go the hope, also if God dont give, don’t think that God is cruel.- v5-8

    A rich should be polite to poor, it the end all of us going to grave. And it true. v10
    Teaching of anger management -v19
    A be a good person and have a good moral – v21
    Preach what you said – v22-23
    Take care of your word and tongue- v 26
    To look after orphan and widows – v27
    Take care of yourself from environment- v27

    How come Martin Luther said this chapter as “The Epistle of Straw”. ( If you dont write in, I also dont know) Sigh..

    Seriously, I put this chapter above all chapter. This is the chapter that Christian can refer as “8th habits of successful people” in Christian way.

    It was full of logic, common sense, example, advise & teaching. May be it was similar to my teaching, so it was easy for me to digest.

    • Luther was referring to 1 Corinthians 3:11-13:

      11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.

      He was saying that while James was certainly inspired and divine, it was in this lowest category of books in the Bible because is emphasized human works not trust in God. Luther was well-known for really playing up the complete depravity of anything humans did. Naturally, James would make him uncomfortable.

      As you will see in my post tomorrow I think there is a better way to understand the interplay between faith and works.

  2. There are so many lessons to practice in this 1st chapter of James that would make life on planet Earth tremendously easier if we diligently practice them. One of the best ones is found in verses 14-15; these verses tell us where sin originates and how to avoid becoming trapped in it. An acrostic that I use to remember this is “DEAD.” The first “D” stands for DISTRACTION, which is where our sin begins. It can be a good distraction or a bad one, but it is something that simply takes our eyes off of God. “E” stands for EVIL DESIRE. If we don’t realize that we are being DISTRACTED, this practice will lead to EVIL DESIRE, and then on to ADDICTION (which is the “A”). ADDICTION totally consumes our thoughts and actions and will, if not stopped, lead to DEATH (spiritual, physical, or both)! When we understand where sin begins, we can pray regularly to see the DISTRACTIONS in our lives and stop our sin at that point. A weed is much easier to pull before it is deeply rooted!

    • Roberta: Wonderful thoughts! I love the acronym! With your permission I would like to move this idea to a regular post. Others need to be sure to read this. It is such an easy, stop on way to remember what is really happening when we sin. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Rhett

    So glad we are starting James, this might be my very favorite book.

    “Do not merely listen to the word,and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says”

    A hardship for me that turned into a blessing was when I took a job for a summer where I worked with many people who mocked Christianity. It was difficult because they would constantly try to point out reasons that Christianity made no sense or had harmed society or was holding me back. I then discovered that two of my coworkers were Christian, and everyday during our lunch break we would sit by ourselves and discuss our faith and share our favorite verses with each other. James 1:22 was one I shared and we discussed at length. It was so refreshing to get away from cynicism and derision.

    • Thanks for sharing Rhett. James is a great book! Several people have mentioned it is their favorite letter.

      I was struck by the fact that if more and more of us Christians would heeds these words from James you quoted to DO the word, not just say it we would likely have fewer people like your former co-workers who find it so easy to point out the very real flaws in our Christianity.

  4. JRay

    Add me to this list of people who love James. It’s pragmatism is refreshing, but it’s more than that for me. James challenges modern readers to remember our ancestral faith tradition, and hopefully take more seriously it’s implications for Christian belief and practice today. Plus, he does it in a remarkably direct fashion. He just sort of channels Jesus and the prophets of old and sets the volume to max.

    Of course, I was most struck today by the sucker punch to my stomach James always delivers when I return to it. I usually leave thinking about how much I love it, and pick it up again with such excitement. Then I run into 1:6-8 and get rather squirmy about how to apply that to my own life. Some days the best I have to offer is to remain faithful to God despite having awfully weak faith at the moment.

  5. Trials like that of an Iranian Pastor to renounce his faith. This was done in a real court. the sentence is death.
    Persecutions, where they are literary beaten.

    I am ashamed to experience trials where I got mock for sharing Jesus. or persecution from friends who saw me carrying a bible.

    but nevertheless. We rejoice! because these are proofs that we are Christ’s

    – grace and peace

    • You are right. We are so blessed that even our trials pale in comparison to what others have to endure even still today. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. “Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.” There has never been a day of my forty-three years so far when I have not needed to be reminded of this. May it be true!

  7. Eddy

    “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭2-4‬ MSG). This verse hit me today. I tend to think of “trials” as the big thinks in life. Here Peterson adds the normal challenges and pressures of life. To be honest, this is were my struggles lay. Letting those “do their work” is hard but seeing them in this new way might be helpful.

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