“James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:1-3)
James was an early disciple of Jesus Christ. Also, it has been widely believed this same James was the brother of Jesus and may have at one time been skeptical of His divinity. Eventually James came around the recognize Jesus as truly God’s Son and the long-awaited Messiah the Jewish people were waiting for.
In the first part of the letter James wrote to fellow Israelites dispersed outside of Israel, he, like several other followers of Jesus, considered himself to be a “slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1). Why would James and many other followers of Jesus consider themselves to be His slaves? Isn’t that a demeaning and negative word? Would Jesus want His people to be called such a thing?
In order to understand slavery in first century Israel, we must understand the cultural context in order to best understand the meaning of the Bible. Many people actually sold themselves into slavery in order to gain a greater status in life for themselves and their family or future family. This certainly wasn’t the case for all slaves because there were differing levels and types of slaves. For James to call himself a slave of God and of Jesus, he most likely meant that he was completely submitted to God’s will and he desired to be fully obedient, following Him even to death. It was a declaration of allegiance and deep love for his Lord and Master.
James continues the beginning of his letter by commanding his readers: “Consider it a great joy…whenever you experience various trials…” (James 1:2) What? Joy in experiencing trials? Surely James must be delusional or at the minimum unrealistic in his exhortation to those who would eventually read his letter. However, James is getting at the heart of what it means to truly follow Jesus. He knows that following Jesus is counter-culture and for many it will bring trouble on them. It is not an easy life. So James is commanding them, for their own sake, to have a different perspective – a view of any situation they will come on as one to be joyful. What does this imply? That how they respond and how we respond to any situation is mostly up to us? Will we respond with doubt and anger or will expectation and joy?
Then James continues with his command by stating, “…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (James 1:3) James recognizes that trials are tests of faith. Will we continue to believe in Jesus and His way of salvation and life in the midst of difficulty or will we cave-in to the challenges? So he says to “know”! Know what? To know that the testing produces or results in endurance. What is endurance? To be durable and lasting through the trials of life.
Throughout my 50+ years of life, I have had my share of trials but much less than some others. Whether you believe you have had only minor trials in your life or many, I can almost guarantee you that there is someone in the history of the world that has had it worse than you and me.
So what should our response be to trials? Not to try and get out of them, to avoid them when they come or to respond in great anguish and grief. No, our response should be one of faith, joy and an endurance that causes us to trust God through them all and get back up to continue experiencing this great life God has given us.
Where are you today? If you are down, go to the Lord and express your faith and trust to Him. Then say something similar to, “God, I am yours. I know that you love me. I want to trust you through this trial that you will use it to grow my faith in you. Help me to keep going. Amen.”
William “Carey” Northington of One Master Ministries in Xenia may be contacted at www.OneMaster.org.