Jas 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
Is there really no such thing as too much joy?
Or – maybe – sometimes we’re just not ready for the amount of joy coming our way?
Or – maybe – what we’re getting isn’t the kind of joy we were expecting?
Or – ???
In light of all the stuff going on, I’ve been thinking about this verse a lot lately. Partly because there’s just so much stuff and its been going on for so long. But also because, in spite of that – it could be a whole lot worse. I don’t live in a part of the world where war is going on. People where I live aren’t dying of horrible diseases or from mass starvation. Many, if not most, of the people in the world would be happy to trade places with me and have my “problems”. So- in that regard – there should be a type of joy.
But that isn’t the kind of “joy” I’m writing about.
James is writing about the kind of “joy” that “produces perseverance”.
To be sure we’re on the same page as James, let’s see what he meant by the word perseverance.
First look at “perseverance” –
5281 ὑπομονή [hupomone /hoop·om·on·ay/] n f. From 5278; TDNT 4:581; TDNTA 581; GK 5705; 32 occurrences; AV translates as “patience” 29 times, “enduring” once, “patient continuance” once, and “patient waiting” once. 1 steadfastness, constancy, endurance. 1A in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings. 1B patiently, and steadfastly. 2 a patient, steadfast waiting for. 3 a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
So we see words like “patient continuance” – which reminds me of Job. I always thought Job wasn’t patient, like “church” people say (I think because it’s what they were taught) so much as he was persistent. Like it says above – Job didn’t let his problems get in the way of his belief that if he could only talk to God, Job could make his point.
So to use a word the way we actually use it today – this is saying we need to be persistent in our pursuit of God – in our attempts to walk the path God has set for us.
And – we are to try to do it no matter what’s going on. No matter how bad things get. Even to the point of what Job was going through. I’m no where near that. I’m guessing that, while many, many people are there – many of my readers aren’t. Even if we are where Job was – we still have his example to follow. If we’re not where Job was – he certainly should be giving us hope that we can stay persistent with our smaller problems.
Second look at “perseverance” –
25.174 ὑπομονή, ῆς f: capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances—‘endurance, being able to endure.’ τῆς ὑπομονῆς τῆς ἐλπίδος τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ‘endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ’ 1 Th 1:3. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 307). New York: United Bible Societies.
This one kind of tones down the problems – calling them “difficult circumstances”. And yet – it also makes things relative. What seems difficult for some people could seem trivial for others. And what seems difficult for some could seem impossible for others. So while I’m saying “tones down” on the one hand, on the other hand I’m also saying that we’re not all the same. No matter how much society today tries to tell us we’re all the same – it’s just not true. We need go no further than the previous few sentences to see the lie in that claim. If we truly were “all the same” – then we’re saying that some people are incapable of handling what’s trivial to some, while others are unfeeling because the extreme tragedies of one person are like trivial experiences to them.
No – we aren’t all the same – at least in that regard. However, we should all be the same as relates to the verse pointed out here – 1 Th 1:3 – endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
So – in terms of perseverance, we’ve come full circle now, seeing that what James is saying – in words that we would use today is this –
The goal talked about in James 1:2, regarding perseverance, is that we learn to be persistent – to endure – based on the inspiration we receive by the hope we have in Jesus. That hope, of course, is that through His death on the cross and our belief in Him – we will spend eternity with Him. And – as it says in Rev 7:17 –
Rev 7:17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
That’s something worth enduring / persisting / persevering for.
Now – for one more thing before we reach a conclusion.
What is meant by “face trials”?
First look at “face trials”
4045 περιπίπτω [peripipto /per·ee·pip·to/] v. From 4012 and 4098; TDNT 6:173; TDNTA 846; GK 4346; Three occurrences; AV translates as “fall into” twice, and “fall among” once. 1 so to fall into as to be encompassed. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
It’s interesting to note the references to falling into. It’s not like these trials dropped onto us, like something unexpected. No – it’s more like things that happen in the everyday things we do in our lives, and then we fell into them. And, once we fall into them – they are big enough to encompass us – to have a major impact on our lives. That goes back to what I said earlier. That things happen that can really shake us to our core, things that happen in the midst of life as we know it. Not someone else’s life with the problems they may experience, but our lives with the problems that are in line with our lives. We are not all the same, even in the problems we experience and the impact they have on us.
3986 πειρασμός [peirasmos /pi·ras·mos/] n m. From 3985; TDNT 6:23; TDNTA 822; GK 4280; 21 occurrences; AV translates as “temptation” 19 times, “temptations” once, and “try” once. 1 an experiment, attempt, trial, proving. 1A trial, proving: the trial made of you by my bodily condition, since condition served as to test the love of the Galatians toward Paul (Gal. 4:14). 1B the trial of man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy. 1B1 an enticement to sin, temptation, whether arising from the desires or from the outward circumstances. 1B2 an internal temptation to sin. 1B2A of the temptation by which the devil sought to divert Jesus the Messiah from his divine errand. 1B3 of the condition of things, or a mental state, by which we are enticed to sin, or to a lapse from the faith and holiness. 1B4 adversity, affliction, trouble: sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s character, faith, holiness. 1C temptation (i.e. trial) of God by men. 1C1 rebellion against God, by which his power and justice are, as it were, put to the proof and challenged to show themselves. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
Trials – not an unexpected definition, including temptation. However – not only temptation. That serves notice to those who think God tempts us. It is a fine line, but the difference between God tempting us and God allowing things to happen is major. Based on what we are like after the fall, it seems like God would be entirely correct to wipe us out and start over. However, after the flood, God promised never to do that again. But there’s still the issue of the fall – of Satan and our seemingly impossible mission to follow the God who created and loves us, rather the the one who is out to destroy us.
Having said all that, however, there is still definition 1B4 – which talks about things sent by God. Even here though, it’s important to note that the reason for what God sends isn’t to destroy us – but to do exactly what this verse from James is all about. It’s to test us, with the goal of getting us to turn to God, trust God, realize that God is the one we should pursue, and the one who will lead us to the right path.
Second look at “face trials”
90.71 πίπτωk; περιπίπτωc; ἐμπίπτωb: to experience somewhat suddenly that which is difficult or bad—‘to come to experience, to experience, to encounter, to be beset by.’
πίπτωk: ἵνα μὴ ὑπὸ κρίσιν πέσητε ‘in order that you might not experience condemnation’ Jas 5:12.
περιπίπτωc: πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε … ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις ‘consider yourselves fortunate … when you experience all kinds of trials’ Jas 1:2.
ἐμπίπτωb: τοῦ ἐμπεσόντος εἰς τοὺς λῃστάς ‘of the one who is beset by robbers’ or ‘who suddenly found himself attacked by robbers’ Lk 10:36; ἵνα μὴ τυφωθεὶς εἰς κρίμα ἐμπέσῃ τοῦ διαβόλου ‘in order that he may not be puffed up and thus experience the condemnation meted out to the Devil’ 1 Tm 3:6. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 807). New York: United Bible Societies.
This one includes an interesting and incredibly important take on why we “face” the things we do.
Yes – they cause pain. However bad it is, the thing we tend to forget is that the pain is temporary. The really hard thing to remember in the midst of the pain – even pain that lasts for the rest of our time on earth is still temporary, when compared to eternity. Compared to eternity – even lifelong pain is but the blink of an eye.
Easy for me to say. Hard for me to remember. Even harder for me to live like I know this.
However – what get’s lost in the middle of the pain is what’s included here as the reasoning behind the pain we feel – ‘in order that you might not experience condemnation’ Jas 5:12
27.46 πειράζωa; πειρασμόςa, οῦ m; ἐκπειράζωa: to try to learn the nature or character of someone or something by submitting such to thorough and extensive testing—‘to test, to examine, to put to the test, examination, testing.’
πειράζωa: ἑαυτοὺς πειράζετε εἰ ἐστὲ ἐν τῇ πίστει ‘put yourselves to the test as to whether you are in the faith (or not)’ 2 Cor 13:5; προσελθόντες οἱ Φαρισαῖοι καὶ Σαδδουκαῖοι πειράζοντες ἐπηρώτησαν αὐτὸν σημεῖον ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἐπιδεῖξαι αὐτοῖς ‘the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked if he would show them a sign from heaven’ Mt 16:1.
πειρασμόςa: μὴ ξενίζεσθε τῇ ἐν ὑμῖν πυρώσει πρὸς πειρασμὸν ὑμῖν γινομένῃ ‘don’t be surprised at the painful testing you are experiencing’ 1 Pe 4:12; ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις ἐκπειράζωa: οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ‘you shall not put the Lord your God to the test’ Lk 4:12; νομικός τις ἀνέστη ἐκπειράζων αὐτόν ‘an expert in the Law stood up to test him’ Lk 10:25. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 331). New York: United Bible Societies.
Again, with this view of the word we’re looking at, we see some reasons.
It’s not like God needs to test us so He can know anything about us. He already knows everything.
Here’s something from the Old Testament –
2Ch 6:28 “When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when enemies besiege them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, 29 and when a prayer or plea is made by any of your people Israel—each one aware of his afflictions and pains, and spreading out his hands toward this temple— 30 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive, and deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of men), 31 so that they will fear you and walk in your ways all the time they live in the land you gave our fathers.
Verse 30 has some interesting stuff in it –
- then hear from heaven, your dwelling place.
- and deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of men)
Let’s look at these one at a time –
then hear from heaven, your dwelling place.
So – we’re asking God to hear us. Not surprising.
But – the question is, when God listens, what will He hear? Lots of complaining? Or a call for help? Or nothing?
Again – not surprising.
However, look what comes next.
deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of men)
Or is it Uh Oh!
The request is for God to deal with us as we really are – what we really do – what’s really in our hearts.
It’s not for God to deal with us as we would like to be – or as we try to pretend we are.
No – it’s as we really truly are.
After too much lying to ourselves, we may not even know who or what we really are anymore.
Do not forget The LORD
This kind of begs the question – how are we to know what’s really in our hearts? What we’re really like?
Staying in the Old Testament, here’s one way –
Dt 8:1 Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. 2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
This was from the Exodus – something to tell the people the need to remember what happened.
But much of it applies to us today as well. The actual events are different, but the circumstances really aren’t.
Fast forward to the New Testament
Now we read these words from Jesus –
Treasures in Heaven
Mt 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Mt 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
Mt 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
While it may be difficult to determine the real motives behind why we do something (we’re very good at lying to ourselves) it certainly shouldn’t be all that hard to figure out what we spend most of our time on – what we do – what we think – what we say. There will certainly be clues. And whether the ‘treasure’ is things, words, or even people – the clues will be there to show us where are hearts are.
Certainly, church people will remember how often the Jewish leaders were called out for various things –
Mt 23:1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
Mt 23:5 “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’
Mt 23:8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Mt 23:13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
Note – not included in the NIV and many other versions, is verse 14, which reads as follows in the KJV –
Mt 23:14 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
There is some question as to whether this verse was left out of a copy, or if it was inserted later to make Matthew more in line with Luke 20:47.
Some would say that it doesn’t need to be included in Matthew, since it’s already in Luke.
I kind of like the way some have treated it, with an obvious footnote in Matthew, pointing to Luke. Since people often read / listen to only portions of Jesus’ words (let alone the entire Bible) – I think it’s important for us to actually realize what these words from Jesus actually say.
Mt 23:15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
Mt 23:16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
Mt 23:23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Mt 23:25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
Mt 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Mt 23:29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!
Mt 23:33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.
Mt 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’’”
While it may be somewhat ‘comforting’ to know that all these woes are directed at teachers of the law and Pharisees – I think it’s a false sense of security.
Many people – myself included – are in fact ‘teachers’. We ‘teach’ by our words. By example, through the things we do. And for me, by actually leading classes.
However – just because we may think we don’t do those things, and therefore they don’t apply to us – how about this –
Lk 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Lk 6:39 He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
Lk 6:41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Yeah – that’s for all of us.
So – where does that leave us?
When things happen to us – regardless of why –
God is listening. Waiting to see if we curse Him, call out to Him for help, or ignore Him.
And then, He will deal with us / discipline us / give to us according to what we need.
BTW – that would be what we need in His eyes, not ours.
Further, it is as a Father to a son – or more correctly as a good Father to a son.
So, again – when God listens to us after things happen to us, what does He hear?
And, when God examines our hearts, does He see the same thing that He hears from our lips?
What then, can we expect?
Verses, like these – conclusions like these, they worry me.
I worry that I’m missing something.
I worry that I’ve gone to far off course – and that I seem to need more and more “discipline”.
Or, maybe what I need is to let my words and reactions be more like I know they should be.
Would that be to let my heart express what my head knows?
Or would it be to let my heart express what it really feels – instead of trying to keep things inside?
I think a highly unlikely alternative is the situation Job found himself in.
Maybe that works for some of you – but I just don’t see it for me.
Long term – I pray I don’t walk away.
Short term – I feel like I don’t really cut it sometimes.
But still – I can’t finish without looking at Job’s words and how he reacted –
after the first test –
Job 1:20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
Job 1:22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
after the second test –
Job 2:9 His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!”
Job 2:10 He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
I’m just not ready to curse God and die.
I sometimes ask Him if I can go home yet. But that’s pretty far from cursing Him and dying without Him.
It’s certainly not ignoring Him.
Ultimately, I think I more often feel like David in Psalm 13 –
Ps 13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
Ps 13:2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Ps 13:3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
Ps 13:4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
Ps 13:5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
Ps 13:6 I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.
And that can’t be a bad place to be.
|↑1, ↑3, ↑4||Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.|
|↑2||Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 307). New York: United Bible Societies.|
|↑5||Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 807). New York: United Bible Societies.|
|↑6||Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 331). New York: United Bible Societies.|