This is a book on Christian psychology and the need for spiritual maturity. James is more concerned about emphasizing duty than about expounding doctrine. His illustrations are arresting; his phrases are brief, rugged and abrupt.
Here is Christianity tested and triumphant through faith in God. Ch. 1: The Proving of Faith; ch. 2: The Practice of Faith; ch. 3: The Proof of Faith; ch.4: The Piety of Faith; ch. 5: The Patience of Faith.
The Delightful Man,vv. 2-4. James tells us that we can use our varied trials as instruments for advancement into Christ-likeness.
A Progressive Experience."Count it all joy”. We can turn trials into triumphs by a candid assessment of certain truths. We are related - “brethren”; our faith is tested; life’s trials result in steadfastness-stickability, v.3. This, when allowed, produces a consistent Christian character, “lacking in nothing”; see Rom. 5. 3-4; 1 Pet. 1. 6-7.
A Practical Experience.Trials are inevitable, and they come uninvited and unexpected. What attitude can we adopt? A victorious spirit, v. 2; counting all trials a joy is an act of the will based on faith in the overruling goodness of God. We can rebel, Heb. 12. 5, faint, or rejoice. Our values determine our evaluations.
(3) A Productive Experience, v. 4. Submit to God, “let”; then He can accomplish His work in us. He can develop patience and character in our lives through trials. To have its full effect, this special work requires courage, knowledge, patience, time and high purpose. The issue is a mature, full-balanced life of holiness.
The Defective Man,vv. 5, 6, “deficient in wisdom”. The requirement is “wisdom”, with encouragement, “ask of God”. Trust God as Job did, Job 13. 15.
Wisdom Required.Wisdom is the basic need in life. We need God’s wisdom to enable us to tackle our problems in a new and positive way. We need spiritual insight that saves us from slipping back to former ways of folly.
Wisdom Requested,"ask of God”. James speaks of the failure to pray, 4. 2-3. The selfish petition is not prayer. Endure the trial, using your privilege of prayer, with dependence on God through the ever-open door of intercession.
Wisdom Received.God gives, without asking embarrassing questions or harsh words. He loves supremely. He gives liberally and generously, without reproaching us.
Wisdom Refused,vv. 6-7. The most important condition for answered prayer is “faith”. Where there is “wavering”, v. 6, and double-minded-ness, v. 8, instead of simplicity and sincerity, God will not answer. Ask in faith, Eph. 3.12.
The Double-minded Man,vv. 6-8. Like Reuben, “unstable”, Gen. 49. 4. What a graphic description of this unfortunate man. Doubting, driven, double-minded, destitute, unable to receive anything from the Lord, v. 7. Doubt, in a state of continual flux and upheaval, threatens one’s very survival spiritually.
Loss of Protection,v. 6. “Blown hither and thither by the wind”. The wavering man is not wholly committed to the Lord. He is looking two ways at the same time. He lives like a cork on the waves, tossed back and forth. He is immature and has no stability, Eph. 4. 14, being vulnerable to every destructive agency. He is caught in the cross currents of life.
Loss of Potential,v. 7. Deprived of inward peace, he disqualifies himself of divine blessings. We deceive our selves with vain hopes and thoughts. We distrust God, we pray doubtingly. We lose the potential of prayer through unbelief, Mark 6. 5-6.
Loss of Purpose,v. 8, “can never keep a steady course”. Here is the deadly effect of harbouring secret doubts. God never fails His child who wholly leans on Him. Doubt spells the death of desire and devotion. Abraham-like, may we “stagger not” at the promise of God through unbelief, Rom. 4. 20. The doubting man lacks fixity of purpose and clear vision on the path of progress.
The Dual-role Man,v. 9: two extremes, poverty and riches. The poor man who has Christ should rejoice in his spiritual wealth. Disparaged by man, but distinguished by God, so he rejoices.
(1) The Emphasis: "but”, v. 10. Wealth can seduce a man’s mind, and he finds satisfaction in worldly ambitions. Wisdom appreciates true values; it enables us to see heaven clearly, and to see earth clearly. There is a disposition among Christians to exaggerate the importance of the rich man and despise the poor man, 2. 2-4.
Enrichment.The poor man rejoices in spiritual wealth, Eph. 1. 3; 2.13. Exiles have been exalted; strangers are now fellow-citizens, 2.19. The rich brother is enabled to see his wealth in its true colours, transient, fading and perishing.
Evaluation.The rich man, as a rich man, fades away; the Christian, as a Christian, never fades, by reason of the mercy of God. He is enabled to go on with God because his eyes are opened to see how perishable are earthly things.
The Disappearing Man,w. 10-11, is like the flower of the field. Riches are not altogether inconsistent with Christianity, but they can be a great snare. It is a hard matter to enjoy the world without being entangled with its cares and pleasures. “The crown of the wise is their riches”, Prov. 14. 24.
The affluent society has produced self-sufficiency. The rich man should see that all his wealth is perishable- there one moment and gone the next. He is really no more stable than the “grass”; the burning heat of some calamity reduces him to mere ashes. We should learn to accept from God things that we cannot change. The rich man rejoices in his humiliation, v. 10.
The Durable Man,vv. 12, 14,
remains steadfast in trial. Never has this quality of spiritual durability been under such pressure. The man emerging from trials is blessed, and gains a crown.
(1) The Principle Involved. By the operation of an impartial, inexorable law, nature ensures the survival of the hardiest strains, whether of plant or of animal life.
"Tried” means “approved”, Rom. 16. 10; 2 Cor. 10. 18. Christian maturity can be reached only by travelling the path of suffering, 1 Pet. 1. 6-8. Like Job, only when we are tried, shall we come forth as gold.
(2) The Promise Invoked, "the crown of life”. This is a wonderful promise from the Lord preserved for us only by James.
This beatitude is a great encouragement, because it promises a crown to those who patiently endure trials, Rev. 2. 10-11; 3. 10-11.
The Disciplined Man,vv. 19-21. Here is the highest form of discipline engendered from within. This issues in a right relationship to the truth of God.
The Influence of the Word,v. 19. There is silent contemplation-"slow to speak”, and solitary communion - “swift to hear”, leading to saintly conduct - “slow to wrath”. Spiritual growth comes through hearing and obeying the Word of God.
The Importance of the Word,v. 21. We not only listen, we receive the Word. The Word saves us and sanctifies our service. There must be the continual appropriation and application of the Word to assure moral rectitude and maturity.
The Deceived Man,vv. 22-26. He sees himself in a mirror and goes on his way. Reception of the truth brings reality into the life. The doer is like the one who looks carefully into the mirror or revelation, sees what needs to be done, and does it. “Looketh”, v. 25, signifies a careful, earnest gaze, and involves stooping down and “peering into”, because there is something important which the viewer desires to see. This is used literally of Peter and Mary, Mark 16. 5; John 20. 5, 11, and is applied spiritually in 1 Peter 1. 12. By so doing we will be empowered with energy, endowed with beauty, and graced with purity. This holy activity brings a continuous blessing to the heart and life. Do not be selfdeceived, v. 22; be disciplined, v. 19; be durable, v. 12; never double-minded, v. 8; accept trials as from God, and you will be delighted, v. 2, and daily manifest a practical love for those in need. Is your religion true?, v. 27.
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