2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
James 1:2-8 NKJV
Many of us have been struggling. Many people are having a tough time just making ends meet. Household incomes are going down, while expenses have been skyrocketing. Jobs are hard to find, and the few that are available usually don’t pay enough to live on. About 100 million Americans — one in every three — live either in poverty or in the distressed zone just above it. The Democrats blame the Republicans for the failing economy; the Republicans blame the Democrats; and most Americans blame both.
Americans are worried and scared. We’re uncertain about the future, and are fearful that we will lose everything we have worked for all of our lives.
Yet, James tells us to “count it all joy” when we face trials. How is this possible? First, notice that James addresses this comment to the brethren. He’s talking to Christian believers. Apart from a relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ, it is impossible to truly have joy in the face of distress and suffering. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that God can supernaturally bestow on us peace and joy despite difficult times.
James acknowledges that such times are a test of our faith. Do we truly trust God despite the fear and uncertainties, or not? Do we continue to believe in God’s love and power, even though everything seems to be crashing down all around us? God’s purpose for trials, at least in part, is to produce patience and perseverance, which, in turn, produces mature Christian character which lacks nothing.
TRIAL => TESTING => PERSEVERANCE => MATURITY
If our response to trials is to resist God’s working to produce Christ-like character in our lives, we set ourselves up for a very difficult time indeed.
James continues by reminding us to seek wisdom from God when facing trials. In biblical terms, to be wise is to know and understand godliness, and to do what is pleasing to God. God desires us to be godly and wise, so when we truly seek wisdom from Him, He will surely grant it to us. This does not necessarily mean God will give us the wisdom to solve our problems or end our struggles; rather, He gives us the wisdom to become more Christ-like in how we overcome the struggles we face.
We are next warned to ask God in faith, without doubting. We are to avoid becoming double-minded. “Double-minded” literally means “two-souled.” This refers not to mere mental hesitancy, but rather to having one’s thinking divided within himself, such as an inner moral conflict, or a distrust of God. It comes back again to faith. James compares this division between faith and distrust with being tossed about like a ship in a storm. Faith in God’s love and character is the anchor that holds us despite the storms that rage around us. Sin and mistrust of God remove this spiritual anchor. To ask for wisdom in faith is to cling to God’s way of righteousness and to be committed to it, despite the difficulties we struggle with daily. If we are not willing to commit to allowing God to produce godly character in our lives, we should have no expectation that He will give it to us. Spiritual growth and maturity require commitment, and cannot be attained without it.
Economic uncertainty and the fear it produces are natural consequences of sin in a fallen world. Overcoming the fear and distress is only possible by seeking wisdom from God. Although He may or may not take the physical struggles and suffering away in this life, He can grant us the peace and strength to grow closer to Him through the trials, if we seek His wisdom, and commit to following Him, whatever the circumstances. We may be poor in worldly goods, but be richly blessed with God’s righteousness and power to overcome the difficulties we face in this life, and with the promise of unimaginable blessings in eternity.
Please pray for those of us who are struggling in these tough economic times, and for all who are struggling to grow in their faith in Jesus Christ.
Thanks for reading, and may God bless you!