chap. 1:2-4, (continued)
“My brethren” James writes. There is the affection of the love of God in this address, “My brothers.” The inspired writer means to identify himself with the saints in the dispersion. He wants them to understand that he knows what they are experiencing in the divers temptations they encounter. They must be assured that the admonition of these verses and the sharp rebukes of the letter generally are meant for their eternal good. James writes out of the love of God for the brothers scattered abroad.
They must count it pure joy when they fall into divers temptations “knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” Here’s the reason why they must count it all joy when they fall into temptations. By these their faith is tried and that tried faith produces patience in them.
Faith is the living bond that unites the child of God with his Savior. By faith we live in and out of Jesus Christ even as the branches live in the vine (John 15:1 ff.) Through that living link all of the blessings of salvation merited by Christ become ours. Consciously, by faith, we know God as our gracious Father for Jesus’ sake. He is the God of our salvation Who loved us eternally, gave us to Christ, and Who will love us forever. And, knowing God thus we are assured of salvation, victory, and everlasting life. Now then, this we must know, not just as some cold fact, but by the knowledge of experience, that the trying of our faith works patience.
God, in other words, uses the divers temptations to try our faith, and this is why we must count those temptations all joy. No, God does not tempt us. The very thought of that is blasphemy. God is the “Father of lights” Who gives every good and perfect gift, and Who cannot be tempted with evil, and Who tempteth no man. A man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. (cf. vss. 13-17) But God is God! He is Sovereign over all creatures and Satan is, for all his demonic power, but a creature. God causes all things to work for our salvation—even the temptations of the devil. The supreme example of this in the Scriptures is Job. Satan could not touch him apart from God.
What the text is saying then is that God uses the temptations of Satan for the trying of our faith. That term “trying” means to test out, or to prove. Now, God does not try our faith, test it out, to determine whether or not it is genuine. God’s gift of faith is always genuine. Rather the idea of trying is that God purifies our faith; He gets rid of the impure elements by means of the fire of temptations. How we need just that! Our conscious believing, our knowledge and convictions, our obedience, our striving after the Kingdom of Heaven; all of the activity of our faith is always mixed with the imperfections of the sin of our old nature. Often we are weak and faltering and so we need to be tried. And, when we fall into divers temptations and as a result have to fight and struggle and pray and suffer, we are driven to a deeper knowledge of God and a stronger confidence in His mercies. In the battle against Satan we learn not to rely on ourselves but to cling to Jesus and trust in our God. We look forward with growing hope to the glory that will be revealed in us at the return of the Saviour.
Still more, the trying of our faith works patience. It works that; i.e., it works out or accomplishes patience. A tried faith achieves a wonderful fruit, Patience. Patience is endurance, it’s the “staying power” of the Christian. The word means to remain under and obviously implies suffering. This does not mean that we simply bear the burden of many temptations, or stoically, passively submit to whatever the Lord’s way may be. Patience is not the attitude, “I might as well bear with it—whatever will be, will be, I can’t do anything about it .anyway.” Patience is that virtue of the tried faith of the Christian which enables him to stand firmly in the battle of faith over against the host of temptations of the Evil One. It is that power by which we do not succumb to the evil. It’s the strength which prevents us from faltering along the way. Or again, it’s the power of faith by which we never lose hope, but press on in the struggle as more than conquerors through Him that loved us. In patience we face the world and the devil bravely and courageously with all our trust in the Almighty God of our salvation.
How do we experience the, joy of temptations? Verse four supplies the answer: “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” “But. . .”, the Lord knows we need admonition at this point! He knows our frame and He remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103). We made the point in the previous article that this is a difficult word to receive. To “count it all joy in divers temptations” is not easy. Not only so, this is an impossible Word for us. Exactly because of our sinful natures we do not count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations. We do one of two things and both are sinful, either we complain or we yield. Seldom are we bravely, joyfully bearing our crosses and in self-denial following Jesus. Our inclination is to avoid the offence of the cross by compromising the faith. So the Lord says: “let patience have her perfect work.”
The adjective “perfect” is derived from the noun which means end, goal, purpose. The thought conveyed, then, is that we are to allow patience to work through in us to its goal. What James is saying is: “remain steadfast in the faith; stand in all the divers temptations, do not compromise or yield, no matter how narrow the way, severe the suffering, count everything loss for Christ’s sake.” Let patience have her complete work in you.
In that way the purpose of God is reached with us. The text expresses it thus: “in order that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” God wants us to be perfect: that is, complete, fully matured spiritually, molded perfectly into the image of Christ, conformed to His Son in the fullest sense. And entire this is a further explanation of “Perfect.” The word means complete in all its parts. No virtue of the grace of salvation must be missing. “Wanting nothing” expresses the same thought negatively. “In nothing being left behind” is the literal translation. By allowing patience her perfect work in us, we reach the goal of perfection in every respect. We attain to perfect knowledge, perfect confidence, perfect obedience, perfect praise, perfect joy.
We never reach that on this side of the grave. But we are on the way. The life of the child of God is a steady progressing toward that goal of perfection which is glory—life in the presence of God. That is what God is working in us through the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ. Count it all joy, then, brother, when you fall into many temptations. The trying of your faith works patience. Let patience have her complete work in you, in order that you may be fully matured and complete in every grace and in nothing being left behind. That is glory, glory indeed.
chapter 1; verses 5-8; “Praying In Faith For Wisdom”:
If we are going to hear and do this word and consider it pure joy when we fall into divers temptations we will need the wisdom of God. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Wisdom is precisely what we need and precisely what we lack. “If any of you lack wisdom . . .” is a conditional construction in which the truth stated in the “if clause” is assumed. Paraphrasing we would put it this way; “if any of you lack wisdom, and you all lack exactly that.” In this light we understand the relationship between the thought of these verses with the preceding. The point is very simply this: we cannot count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations apart from the wisdom of God. And this is what we lack; we come behind, we are inferior in the wisdom of God. So, James says, ask of God! But be sure you ask in faith, nothing wavering. A wavering or double minded man must not think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. He is unstable in all his ways.
Before delving into the riches of these verses, we should understand that there is a profound spiritual truth here to which we do well to pay attention. If we are unhappy as God’s children and find ourselves confused and distressed, perhaps even deeply depressed; there can be only one reason. We lack the wisdom of God. When all the searching for answers is over and all the struggling to find reasons is ended, the fact that we lack God’s wisdom remains the deepest cause of our distressful situation. In their deepest roots man’s problems are always spiritual. They originate in sin, not just sin in general, but in specific sins. And when God’s people find no joy in their earthly pilgrimage, and grieve rather than sing amid the conflict, it’s invariably because they come behind in the wisdom of God. And they come behind in the wisdom of God because they are not “asking of God!” Or, if they are asking of God they are not doing so in faith—they are asking, but wavering as a double minded man. God’s people would experience a lot less heartache and a lot more genuine happiness were they to learn this lesson.