Profiting From Trials
Regarding the author of the book
of James. James is the English form of Jacob. There were three
people named James in the New Testament. James, the son Of Zebedee and
brother of John (Matthew 4:21; 10:2; Mark 1:19; 3:17; Luke 5:10). He was
martyred by Herod (Acts 12:1-2). There was also James, the son of Alphaeus,
who was another apostle (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13).
If he were the author however, it would be almost certain that he would have
signed himself an apostle. We are left with the almost indisputable
conclusion that the author is James, the brother of Jude (Jude 1:1), the half
brother of Jesus. (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; 1 Corinthians 9:5).
It seems that James was not a
believer in Jesus' lifetime (John 7:2-3). However after the resurrection
of Christ he was with his mother and his other brethren in the upper room in
Jerusalem praying and waiting for the Holy Spirit to come upon the apostles.
(Acts 1:14). James was well qualified to speak about trials. He
became very influential in the church at Jerusalem. Eventually becoming an
elder, and serving alongside the apostles. (Acts 15:6, 13). Paul
later referred to him as one who seemed to be a "pillar" in the church.
The word "pillar" means a post or support. Thus James was one of the
backbones to the church at Jerusalem. A glimpse of his godliness was
gleaned from the writings of Eusebius who preserved a fragment from
Hegesippus a Jewish Historian which says that James was: "wont to go alone into
the sanctuary, and used to be found prostrate on his knees, and asking for
forgiveness for the people, so that his knees grew hard and worn, like a camel's
because he was ever kneeling and worshipping God, asking forgiveness for the
people" James' eldership at Jerusalem was served during a time of immense
trials. The church, since it's beginning on Pentecost had suffered extreme
persecution from Jews who objected to the intrusion of Christianity into their
lives. Stephen was stoned (Acts 7), James the apostle executed (Acts
12), and Peter had only managed to escape death by the miraculous intervention
of God, when he was released from prison on the night before his planned
execution (Acts 12:5-11). Persecution had caused the church at Jerusalem
to scatter, leaving the apostles alone in leadership (Acts 8:1-4). James
however, remained in Jerusalem. James was therefore well suited to write
about "Profiting Through Trials". He was in the forefront of
the battle that took place between Christianity and Judaism, and would therefore
have suffered much at the hand of the Jews. Tradition concerning James
says. "The death of James reportedly was at the order of the high priest
Ananus, and was either by stoning (Flavius Josephus,) or by being cast down from
the Temple tower (Eusebius)" If this tradition is right, then he, like the
apostles eventually died as a martyr.
The recipients were well in need
of the exhortation. The book was written to Jewish Christians dispersed
throughout the Grecian world (James 1:1). The book of Acts reveals that
persecution was much wider spread than at Jerusalem. The early Christians
had "turned the world upside down" through their preaching of the gospel.
(Acts 17:6). This made the Jews so hostile that they even followed Paul
from city to city stirring up strife. (Acts 17:13). This made the
exhortation in our text also very relevant to the recipients.
We need the exhortation today.
After the apostolic era, history Reveals how the church suffered extreme
persecution from the Roman Catholic Church. In our country today
persecution is more subtle, but it still takes place. Zealous
denominational people object to the church claiming to know the truth. If
one says that he belongs to the one true church today he is immediately branded
as legalists and often ridiculed or shunned in some way. In other
countries even today Christians are still being jailed by Muslims and other
religious radicals for their faith.
Even worse than this is
persecution which comes from within the church. We live in an age of
relativism, where truth is hated and unrighteousness is praised. The
prevalence of fornication, adultery, homosexuality, drunkenness and other
worldly sins has dulled Christians' conscience and caused many to surrender
their values. Ecumenism has also made its mark on the church, resulting in
Christians surrendering the Standard of Scripture to a spirit of compromise.
Consequently, godly brethren are sometimes branded as "legalists" and ostracized
by those who seek to compromise the Bible and justify their own sinfulness.
People today want smooth words that do not offend. They are like the false
prophets of old: "Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a
book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a
rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the
LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us
right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:" (Isaiah 30:8-10)
Persecution from within is not
new. The apostle Paul includes "perils among false brethren" among
the list perils he had to face: “Of the Jews five times received I forty
stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice
I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings
often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own
countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the
wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren “ (2
Corinthians 11:24-26). No generation has been free from "false brethren:"
All of us therefore can profit from James' exhortation in the text.
Here are some points about
“profiting from trials” (James 1:1-8). "My brethren, count it all joy when
ye fall into divers temptations" (James 1:2). Notice he does not say
"if" you fall into temptation, but "when". James considered suffering of
the recipients of his letter to be a foregone conclusion. 2 Timothy 3:12 says:
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution".
We notice also that James does not ask us to go out and look for temptations but
indicates that we just "fall" into them. The Greek word "fall" means "to fall
into something that is all around". We don't have to look for temptations, as
they are everywhere. The Christian life is full of trials and testings. An
important thing to realise is that much of the suffering that takes place is
actually caused by our stand for truth. In order to go to heaven, we must
pass the test of trials. Peter said: “That the trial of your faith, being
much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire,
might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus
Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7). This is why the disciples could rejoice even from
suffering persecution for the cause of Christ: "And to him they agreed:
and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they
should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from
the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer
shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they
ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.” (Acts 5:40-42)
Only the faithful Christian can
understand these verses. He does not fear what persecutors can do to the
body, because he is primarily concerned about the preservation of his soul.
Jesus said: "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the
soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
(Matthew 10:28). Peter points out the importance of suffering for
righteousness "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as
an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a
Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf." (1
Peter 4:15-16). Consider John the Baptist who stood for truth against
Herod and Herodias.. "For Herod himself had sent forth and laid hold upon
John, and bound him in prison for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's wife: for
he had married her. For John had said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to
have thy brother's wife. Therefore Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would
have killed him; but she could not: For Herod feared John, knowing that he
was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many
things, and heard him gladly." (Mark 6:17-20). The account goes on to
inform us that Herod, yielding to the pressure of his adulterous wife, beheaded
John because of his stand for truth. Even though John was his prisoner, Herod
feared him. However, it was actually the message that Herod feared, he
liked John as a person, but it was John's mouth that he wanted to stop.
John lived a godly life but suffered persecution and eventually death for
standing up for Christ on Marriage and Divorce. If such persecution was
allowable today, many brethren would brethren would be executed as John
was. We hear of preachers being ostracized or even fired for preaching on
this subject. Churches that stand for truth are branded as "legalistic
traditionalists" or "ultra- conservative. The reason why there is so much
liberalism today is because preachers bow to the pressures of the masses.
They are afraid to preach the truth because of worldly peer pressure around
them. Some compromise for "filthy lucre's sake" in that they want to keep
their jobs. Preachers who back off from preaching truth because they fear
persecution should no be in the Lord's pulpit. (2 Timothy 4:1-5). All
preachers are to be willing to teach the "Whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27)
Consider also how Stephen lost his life. He was a godly man,
preaching against the stiff-necked attitude of the Pharisees. Instead of
responding in repentance, the Jews gnashed on him with their teeth (Acts 7:54).
Even when they "stopped their ears" they could not drown out the self-conviction
that they had. They therefore took stones and slew Stephen.
What profit did such people as
Stephen and John the baptizer get from being martyred for preaching the truth?
On the surface they seemed like complete losers. People of the world would
call them fools for losing their life. In both cases, compromise
would have saved their lives. However the profit they received was far
greater than anything man could offer. Like Paul, they had the "crown of
righteousness" awaiting for them. Paul who also died in prison as a martyr
said at the close of his life: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my
course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of
righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day:
and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (2
Timothy 4:7-8). Notice that the crown of life is available to all faithful
Christians. Those who surrender to temptations will have a temporary
easing Of persecution but have no eternal profit. All that awaits them is
"But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which
shall devour the adversaries." (Hebrews 10:27). Concerning Stephen
The Scriptures say "he saw the glory of God, And Jesus standing on the right
hand of God" (Acts 7:55). I have often wondered why this verse pictures
Jesus as standing while the other Scriptures depict Him as sitting on the right
hand of God! Perhaps the Lord was standing and applauding the courageous
stand he was making against his persecutors. Or perhaps he was standing to
beckon him into his place of reward. Whatever the reason, this scene was
of great encouragement to Stephen. This was Stephen's time of victory.
He would now realise the truth of what Paul was speaking about when he said.
"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far
more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Unlike those of the world, Christians look upon death as the time of triumph.
The resurrection of Jesus is proof that a victorious resurrection awaits all the
We must pass the test of trials.
“Knowing this, that the trying of Your faith worketh patience.” (James
1:3). In suffering we are being put to the test. Peter said:
"Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in
heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith,
being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with
fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus
Christ:" It is impossible for us to develop a true faith without
trials. It is easy to serve God in good times. If Christians never
suffered, then everyone would be a Christian, but their faith would not be
tested. They would have no backbone or maturity (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Therefore whenever we are under trial, it is important to remember to pass the
test. The Crown of life is only for who endure till the end (Revelation
We must produce the fruits of
suffering (James 1:4-8). When a tree is first planted, it is vulnerable to
the perils around it. It must pass the test of droughts, floods, insects,
winds etc. in order to survive. Once it is big however, it is almost
indestructible. Some trees are thousands of years old. They have
become hardened against the same type of droughts and floods that would have
almost wiped them out in infancy. Jesus used a similar illustration to
this in Matthew 7 where he likened the Christian life to a house built on a
rock. Only the house that is able to withstand the boisterous challenges
of the environment can stand. In the Christian life, only the strong will
grow to maturity and withstand the storms of persecution and suffering. It is
hard sometimes to understand why we are going through temptations and trials.
But if we have endured faithfully we bear fruit. While we go through the
trials, we need to pray for wisdom and strength to endure the discipline of the
Lord.. Unless we do, it can be very easy to crumble. The author of
Hebrews points this out. "And ye have forgotten the exhortation
which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the
chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the
Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye
endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom
the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all
are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had
fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we
not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For
they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our
profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for
the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it
yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised
thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble
knees" (Hebrews 12:5-12)
The fruits of
suffering from our text. First we have patience (V3) "Knowing this, that
the trying of your faith worketh patience." (Endurance or perseverance).
Long-suffering is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) The Spirit cannot produce
this fruit in us without suffering. Remember the parable of the
seed, how some fell among the stones. (Matthew 13:20-21)
This heart "... hearth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath
he not root in himself, but dearth for a while: for when tribulation or
persecution arises because of the word, by and by he is offended." Also we see
maturity (V4) "But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect
and entire, wanting nothing." If we suffer faithfully it produces "perfect
work", and we "lack nothing" Suffering performs a special work of God in
us. This is why young people cannot be elders, they have not gone through
the testing of time nor experienced its purging powers. Older Christians who are
faithful have stood the test of time. They have contended for the faith
(Jude 3) They have fought the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7), they had endured
shame as Christ had (Hebrews 12:2-3). They have been abused, criticised,
and slandered. They bear the scares of Jesus on their bodies and still
walk around with a smile. They still love the church which they become
qualified to oversee. They have been tempered by time and circumstance so that
they can now qualify for the most exacting and difficult job on earth.
Another fruit listed is wisdom (5-7) "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. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a
wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man
think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord" The faithful man goes
to God in prayer when he suffers. He needs God, and although he may lack
wisdom about what to do, he knows that God has the answers, and is eager to seek
His help. People of the world have no real comfort in suffering. They have
no help. The Christian however is different. He knows that there is
an inexhaustible supply of strength and knowledge available to him from God.
He can endure suffering as a child endures discipline. It is not pleasant
to go through but afterwards it bears peaceful fruit. He needs the wisdom to
decide on the right thing when the wrong thing would be more comfortable.
He needs wisdom and strength to take the difficult path when the easy one would
be temporarily more desirable. (Matthew 7:13-14). He needs the
wisdom that is from above, not that of the earth (James 3:17-18). He needs
strength to cast off Satan who works so hard in times of trial to pull us down.
Notice also the fruit of stability of mind, "For let not that man think that he
shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in
all his ways." The Christian knows the right thing to do, but is often
wavering because he is affected by the peer pressure of the world. The
world is a powerful magnet, able to pull all but the strongest into its
clutches. We must ask ourselves: "Will I deny Christ for the sake of
momentary relief? Or will I stand for him and suffer temporally for a future
reward and peace of mind". The double minded man will waver and make wrong
decisions. Once we have endured the trials we have profited from
suffering, and realised its value and necessity. We learn that life on
earth is not free of it trials. May God help us to endure trials
because only then can we profit from them.