Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Joy of Trouble

  The book of James was written about 15-20  years after Jesus’ death.  As the first letter to circulate among the early followers of Christ, it was addressed to a large group scattered all over the world, not just those living in a specific locale (i.e., Corinth). 
     Two key cultural events that had a “scattering” effect:  Persecutions had begun around AD 45, and a major famine had hit a large portion of the world.  The persecution had scattered the Jewish Christians, and the famine had hit what has recently been referred to as the “99%”  pretty hard.
    In this context, James writes the following (this is my paraphrase from multiple translations and commentaries):
                                 From James 1  and James 5
    In spite of what you might think, there is joy in facing the tests, trials, and dangerous temptations of life.  When your faith is tested, your endurance has the opportunity to grow.  Endure so that you can experience the full effect of  these experiences; you will become mature and complete, not lacking anything.     When tempted to sin, you have to stop saying, “God is tempting me.”  God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn’t tempt anyone to do evil.  People are tempted when they are lured and then carried  away by their own desires and lusts.  If they nourish the lust conceived in them, they will eventually give birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, will bring death to them.    Blessed is the one who patiently endures both temptations to sin and trials of hardship because, having passed the tests, that person will receive the victor’s crown of life that the Lord has promised in this life and in the life to come to those who keep on loving him.     As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. As an example of patience in the face of suffering, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Or think of Job’s perseverance, and what the Lord finally brought about for him.     There are people teaching you falsely about the character of God as it relates to trials, temptations, and suffering. Don’t be misled and deceived.  The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.  Every  good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights who shines His light on you.  He does not change like shifting shadows.  God gave us life through His word of truth, that we might be the beginning of a new kind of creature – his most important and prized possessions.    Be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains?  You too should be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return, when you will finally be delivered from all of these hardships.  Stand firm, and don’t give up hope; His coming – and your deliverance and reward - is near.

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