Thursday, July 21, 2011

James 1: 16-18 Faith and Endurance (part 5)

 “16So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.  17Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God above, who created all heaven’s lights.  Unlike them, he never changes or casts shifting shadows.  18In His goodness He chose to make us His own children by giving us His true word.  And we, out of all creation, became His choice possession.”

(James 1:16-18 NLV)


Yesterday we discussed how God doesn’t lead us into sinful temptation.  The reason God allows us to go through troubles and trials is to grow our faith and endurance in Him.  We will know that He is trustworthy.  He will never EVER give us trials to where He presents Himself as fraudulent.  As our faith is grown and perfected, we learn that no matter what we face, His motives for our lives are genuine.  Our trials do have a purpose.  They are meant so that we grow our wisdom and faith simultaneously.  We also become reliant upon Him for our source of help (or refuge).  He is there right beside you in your present struggle(s), and He desires that you learn to depend on Him to get you to the end. 


James begins these verses using a term of endearment for his audience.  “My dear brothers and sisters” he cries out in (almost) desperation as he gives us fair warning of our future misconceptions.  He says, “Do not be misled.”  He goes on to talk about the gift and the giver by saying “Whatever is good and perfect” comes to us by God.  He gave us the ultimate gift, His only son to die on a cross so that we may have eternal life (John 3:16).  How differently those words would sound if it read, “For God so loved His son, that he gave Him the world….” (Source here)  Instead, His gift to me is eternal life (Romans 6:23).  Even though trials and tribulations may come into our lives, God chooses to lavish us with His love and grace, giving us far more than we ever deserve.  He is good, and all that is good in our lives come strait from Him. 


So, why if He is good does He allow bad things to happen?  Think of it this way: 

Many people make New Year’s resolutions of exercising.  Some people fail because they push their bodies too hard too quickly.  Once they resolve to miss a session or two, they are thrown completely off track and eventually give up.  (I’ve been there!)  However, modern exercise programs are designed to start off slow and build up your endurance so that you can handle a little more every day.  I said that to say this:  Basically, by handling troubles through out our lives, God is training us up to handle more and more difficulties.  We do live in a world full of tribulation and trials.  But, we can turn that trial into triumph.  That is His desire for us.  He is building our endurance and faith so that we can finish strong.  He will be our Coach! 


Sometimes God uses bad things to get people’s attention.  At times when you hit rock bottom, all that’s left to look towards is Him.  Its bad circumstances that God uses to make us perfect…or complete.  We still may have the bad thing hovering over us, but we are better off with God by our side.


As I struggled with infertility, I often felt as if I was being punished by God for my past sins.  I bought into this “lie” for a really long time before I was able to distinguish that there was difference in punishment and disciplined.  Jesus was punished for all sins (past, present, and future) at Calvary.  I cannot be punished for something He has already taken care of.  However, I can be disciplined in a way that any loving parent strives to correct their children.  I am a child of God, and He may discipline me to draw me away from sinful behavior, but He will always do so in a loving manner.  If He turned a blind eye to our sin, He would contradict all that He is, was, and will ever be.  He’s unchanging.  He loves us so much that we are His choice possession, and He corrects us for our benefit.  The discipline itself may not be enjoyable, but it is an opportunity to learn and conform ourselves to the image of Christ.  So, you see…even when we don’t think it’s good (let’s say we are being lovingly corrected by God), it really is…a greater good will come of it.


One thing that really grabbed hold of me as I studied this portion of the text (James 1:1-18) is that although life seems so unbearably hard for us now, even in biblical times Christians faced struggles, heartache, and trials.  The enemy didn’t waste any time in making life difficult on Christians, did He?  We often see that today even in our own churches.  We look around at fellow Christians who are struggling just as much (if not more) than the people James is talking to.  There are an abundance of Christians who are facing tests.  Being a Christian doesn’t omit you from struggles.  You may even be subjected even more to tribulation.  However, you no longer have to handle them on your own.  He is waiting on you to ask Him for wisdom.  He will use this time in your life to make you more like Him and bring glory to His name if you allow Him to.   



I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on Faith and Endurance as much as I have.  I have learned so much about why my faith is tested, and I now understand that I face those things to bring me more and more reliant upon God to supply my needs.  He, and He alone, will be my source of refuge.  He will grow my faith.  He will give me wisdom.  He will pour out His blessings upon me.  He is good. 


Thanks for sticking around!



Tuesday, July 19, 2011

James 1:12-15 Faith and Endurance (part 4)

12God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13And remember, no one who wants to do wrong should ever say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and He never tempts anyone else either. 14Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. 15These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death.”


We’ve been experiencing a recurring theme during the Faith and Endurance Series of testing one’s faith. Let’s review what we have discovered so far:

  • When we have troubles, it presents an opportunity for us to choose joy

  • The explanation behind the tests of our faith or trouble in our life is to grow our endurance and faith

  • Growing our endurance makes us perfect, ready to take on future troubles with God by our side

  • Wisdom is available for those of us who ask with the expectation of God answering

  • Wavering faith is useless

  • Comparisons of poor and rich aren’t needed. They have the same God who desires they both become spiritually rich and reliant upon Him

In James 1:12, he re-emphasizes that God blesses those who face troubles (just as he honors the poor). Again, James is choosing to write specifically to those who are facing struggles. Oftentimes, people are under the assumption that once they give their life to God their life is supposed to get easier. I will say, at times, this is true. It will get easier to do some things. For instance, I no longer have to go through tests of faith alone! (Can I get an Amen to that?!?) However, there are times when people find that their lives are harder as a Christian. Why? The Enemy is mad! Fighting mad, I tell you! The devil has lost yet another soul to the hand of God, and the enemy wants nothing more than to tempt us to turn our ways on God and follow his (the devils) wicked ways on a pathway strait to the depths of H*ell.

When I initially read that God “blesses” people who endure testing, I questioned the meaning of blessed. We associate blessings with good things. The Lord has blessed me with a roof over my head, food to eat, shoes on my feet… We rarely see bad things as blessings, right? We even give the devil credit for wrecking havoc on our lives when really it could be a test of faith coming from God to grow us spiritually (but not to tempt us into sin).

The question James is trying to answer for us in this section of chapter one is in light of our trials, “How do we handle troubles as Christians?” In James 1:9-11, he also tells us that we can’t look to “wealth” to get us through tests of faith (unless, of course, it is spiritual wealth). So how do we do it? We seek solace in God. One of the most important points that James makes is that regardless of what we are going through, there is an end in sight, and it will be more magnificent than we can ever imagine it to be. A Crown of Life! He will be our resolution in the midst of heartache, and even when we can’t imagine there is an end, He will walk beside of us and give us His wisdom until we reach our end…our own specifically designed ending by Him.

Also, James wants us to truly understand Temptation and that God will never tempt us to do wrong. Our doing wrong is a “me” problem. We must take ownership in our decision making. Remember we talked about self imposed trials and uncontrollable trials? Temptation falls into self-imposed. Temptations present themselves in our lives so that we have a chance to grow our endurance. The first few times we turn away from sinful desires it’s hard—sometimes, very hard if not down right impossible. However, each time we stand fast on God’s wisdom to know right from wrong, it will get easier. Eventually, turning from our sinful ways will become second nature to us. We will do right by God’s word because it has been embedded into our thoughts and hearts. What James wants us to understand about God is that His intentions regarding our lives are always pure and good. He will never play “mind games” with us and place us in tempting sinful circumstances.

James also uses a parallel with death that illustrates, just as there is an end point to troubles in our life, there too is an endpoint with temptation. The desire to sin usually occurs before the action(s) of carrying out the sin. Ultimately, living in a sinful ways puts us back on track to leading a sinful life which will result in death………not Life after Death as God has promised. Did you get that?!? Death. The End. Period.

Summing up this group of scripture, wouldn’t you say that James is encouraging us that in the midst of struggles that we are to wait on God? Even when there seems to be a quicker solution present (which may in turn bring worse self-imposed temptations or trials to our lives). God isn’t the type to toy with us or play those awful mind games we tend to play as humans. His intentions will always be what are best for our lives, even if we disagree or wonder what He is thinking?!? We must keep in mind that He, too, sees the end point to our suffering and its benefit to our spiritual well-being. We don’t have to like it; we don’t even have to agree; but what we must do is believe and trust Him with unwavering faith knowing that ultimately He knows best. One day, we will be able to look back and thank Him for the heartache and appreciate its pain…and experience true joy simultaneously as we serve Him. Until then, we are to count our blessings (both good and bad) as joyous and patiently wait on Him to show us the “joy” we maybe can’t see at this time in our lives.

Monday, July 18, 2011

James 1:9-11 Faith and Endurance (part 3)

9Christians who are poor should be glad, for God has honored them. 10And those who are rich should be glad, for God has humbled them. They will fade away like a flower in the field. 11The hot sun rises and dries up the grass; the flower withers, and its beauty fades away. So also, wealthy people will fade away with all of their achievements.”


How does God honor Christians who “are poor”? Well, first we must realize that typically we associate poor with socioeconomic status and our ability to buy luxury items. However, James is associating the word “poor” above with those of us who face many tests of our faith.

We live in such a materialistic world, do we not? Especially during my infertility journey, I was guilty of looking at people and thinking, “You don’t have a clue as to what this feels like. Oh, boo hoo. You broke a nail!” I would look around at others and think that their lives were perfect…perfect job…perfect kids…house with the picket fence. I looked upon others as “rich” and designated myself as “poor Elaine.” Haven’t we all been there? Then, I’ve also been where I look at others with that attitude and I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth. Here’s an idea of what I’m talking about:

Me: “Gosh, how do you keep it all together?”

Them: “Well, I just take it one day at a time. You know, my husband and I aren’t getting along…” (or whatever)

Me: [Open mouth, insert foot]. “I had no idea. You seem so….together.”

I guess it goes back to the old cliché of “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

We’ve been talking about how James encourages us to count our troubles as joy, but I don’t feel as if God expects us to ignore the hurt, sadness, or anger that our troubles bring us. He was once human, and I choose to believe that God understands those emotions (or else why did He give them to us?). However, I think those of us who are tied down by trouble after trouble fail to recognize that what we lack physically, romantically, socially, or financially God is trying to give us spiritually. He is trying to make us spiritually rich by testing our faith.

James understood this concept, and he was trying to tell his audience to turn to God and trust Him no matter what troubles we face. I believe he specifically chooses to speak of rich and poor because of the idealisms we associate with those who have more than us (whether it be money, education, children, etc). But, what I love about James’ frankness is that he calls out the Christians who believe that riches are means of “an easy out.” Even though God has humbled them (physically, financially, etc), He still desires that they become rich spiritually. These other types of riches do not help the “rich” to see what God has to offer. This person suffers spiritual poverty, which is far worse (in my opinion) than the man who is “poor” because of tests of faith.

I struggle with comparisons and often think that others do not suffer as I do. I’m guilty of saying, “I’m glad that’s not me…” which would be the equivalent of being “rich.” And, it’s inevitable that we will find ourselves between these two categories throughout our lives. The good news is that James is trying to tell us that the same God covers both groups. There is no valley lower than God’s ability to reach! I recently told someone that when you are deepest in your valley (poor) that it’s the hardest to see God, but it is also when He is the closest to us (hoping to evolve our spiritual richness).

Basically, James says this: In any trial, big or small, life changing or not, I don’t need to make comparisons because I never know what the other person has faced or will face in the future. I don’t know how the prior circumstances have been used to grow his/her faith in God, just as this person doesn’t know my trials. I believe God hand picks our “tests” specifically to foster trust in Him. It’s a specialized plan just for me…and no matter how dire those circumstances may be, He chose me. If He has that much faith in me, can’t I put 100% of my faith in Him????

Friday, July 15, 2011

James 1:5-8 Faith and Endurance (part 2)

Yesterday we discussed how troubles in our lives give us an opportunity to choose joy. We know that the tests of our faith are purposeful: when our faith is tested our endurance grows and gives us the strength (grace) to handle situations.

There are typically two types of situations which hit our lives: self-imposed and uncontrollable. Examples of self imposed tests may include falling into temptation to fill our own sinful nature(s) or failure to comply with the Bible and its teachings. Examples of uncontrollable tests may include sickness, disease, or death. An example which may fall in between the two categories is poverty. Perhaps you are victim of the recession and have lost your job and been unable to find employment. Uncontrollable. Perhaps you are addicted to gambling and have lost your life’s savings. Self-imposed. There are so many more examples which may be included here. Basically, everything bad in our lives can be categorized into one of these categories.

What’s testing you? Is it a self imposed or uncontrollable test? It’s important to distinguish their difference and to take ownership in your own contributions to the trials in your life.

Typically when troubles or “tests of our faith” are encountered we seek solace from God. We oftentimes ask for His guidance and wisdom to know what to do or how to handle the tests. (I have my hand up waving it frantically). However, James tells us,

5If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask Him, and He will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. 6But when you ask Him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8They can’t make up their minds. They waver back and forth in everything they do.


So, what does James want us to know? Easy, huh? (Don’t you just love his straightforwardness?) Well, first he says that it’s okay to ask God for wisdom when you ask with the expectation of Him answering you. James also says to ask without expectation of the Lord’s answer is unsettling and you should not expect to receive anything from Him. What’s this “asking without expectation?” What I call indecisive faith, James calls wavering faith.

Here is a really great article on faith. The line in the article which really hit the nail on its head for me was “The problem with a little faith is that it is of little benefit” (Hill). Wow! Isn’t this also what James is speaking of? If we ask with the anticipation of God answering us, He will. Does that mean He will give us the answer we hope for? Not necessarily. However, in His time, He will answer us and provide us wisdom. On the contrary, if we ask doubtfully, our request will be as unsettling as “a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”

What answer(s) are we expecting? Wisdom. It goes beyond scoring outrageously high on one’s SATs or earning a Ph.D. Wisdom in the biblical sense refers to “Wisdom is the affectionate application of truth to every situation and relationship of our life” (Thomas). Do we just wake up one day and say, “Well, I think I’ll be wise today.” No… True wisdom is something we all should strive for in our religious lives.

“Being wise is actually considering any trial pure joy, and developing perseverance and maturity from it. Wisdom is applying the knowledge found in the Bible to our daily lives. It's more than an intellectual or even a moral response, it is an emotional response to the Scriptures, a trembling at the Word and also a delight in it. The fear of the God of the Word is the beginning of wisdom. We can also say that delight in the God of the Word the beginning of wisdom. So wisdom is true Christianity lived out day by day.”

You can read here for more information on Becoming Wise

If you don’t get anything I am trying to say, at least get this point: If you need wisdom, ask Him. It is available. Did you hear that!?! Available! At our own request, especially during troubles and tests of life! (Even though God desires that we ask for wisdom at other times too!) The problem in the world lacking wisdom doesn’t come from God. It’s self imposed by failure to ask (and/or comply with His direction).

It doesn’t get much simpler than that! James would just tell us this is “good ol’ common sense!"

In what areas of your life do you desire wisdom? I"ll go first. I desire that God will give me the wisdom to have a purpose driven life. I ask for wisdom in my career as I strive to find meaning. I ask for wisdom in my finances so that I make smart decisions. I also ask that God give me the wisdom for His teachings through James. Most of all, I ask that like James suggests that I will seek God in times of trouble and ask Him for wisdom of how to react. I seek His guidance and direction in all that I do...

Who's next?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

James 1:2-4 Faith and Endurance (part 1)

Wow, I could hardly sleep at all last night. I read this passage so many times yesterday and was looking for insight to begin my bible study of the book of James. Each time I read it, I noticed something different (which is proof enough for me that the Bible is alive! And if I needed even more confirmation, I can consult the following scripture which tells me

“For the word of God is living and powerful…”

Hebrews 4:12 NKJV

The Bible is alive! We may at different times find things more powerful than at other times; we may interpret what its saying differently. And since I want to “dissect” this particular group of scriptures, I expect that I will have different interpretations and feelings on what I am reading depending on my personal experiences, similar to scripture may speak to you differently than me.

It was this group of scripture which first caught my eye and shifted my attention from the study of Revelations.

2Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. 3For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.

(James 1:2-4 NLT)

That’s so much easier said than done, right? But, something that really spoke to me was the “let it be an opportunity for joy.” I consider this an attitude or my own personal reaction to circumstances. I cannot control troubles that come my way, but I can control my reaction to them. This “let it be” phrasing is an attitude that we can all adapt to our lives and circumstances. Am I saying it will be easy? Absolutely not! It may even feel humanly impossible, “but with God EVERYTHING is possible (Matt 19:26 NLT)

When I was going through some of the troubles I faced, I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that those circumstances would eventually bring me joy. Romans 5:3 told me “we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience” (KJV) “No offense Lord, but my patience didn’t need anymore working,” I felt. I was so distracted by the “tests of my faith” that I couldn’t see anything besides the hurt. I didn’t have a thankful heart, and if I’m honest, I couldn’t have cared any less about growing my endurance in that moment. All I was certain of was the hurt I felt. I had no idea how to be “joyful” when I felt so….sad or angry or mad (insert your own emotion here).

James 2-4 is trying to show us that there is a process in circumstances. It looks something like this:

Troubles/Tests = Opportunity for Reaction = Patience/Endurance=Joy

Like any other process (the grieving process, for instance), does it necessarily happen in this order? No. Sometimes we have Tests and don’t even have time to plan an appropriate reaction when our faith is tested once more, or several more times. Patience and Endurance are not instantaneous. However, we have to focus on our ultimate prize: Joy.

So basically, I have surmised that the “how” and the “why” can be explained in these two scriptures:

How: Tweak my attitude or “opportunity” to be joyful

Why: My end result will be JOY, even if I can’t see it now or how it possibly could be in the future

Something that I wasn’t aware of, and maybe you aren’t either, is that the Bible makes a distinction between the words “joy” and “happiness.” Joy is “the stronger and the more spiritually dynamic of the two emotions” (Barker). I found a really great article on Joy here if you want to know more.

Have a blessed Thursday!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bible Study: James the Just (Introduction)

I recently began reading my bible again.  I came across the book of James and was immediately enthralled by what I was reading.  So begins my first bible study hosted on my blog (with the help of other sources on the internet of course).


But before I can begin with said bible study, I knew I had to understand who James was in order to make sense of it all.  The historical context behind James is quite interesting.  I’ve learned so much about who James the Just was already.  He was a martyr counted among Stephen and James the brother of John.  One of the most poignant thoughts I have discovered is unlike Paul, who wrote on how to become a Christian, James wrote on how to act like one.  He blatantly told the Jews to not only listen to the Word, but to do what it (the Word) says (James 1:22).  I love his straightforwardness; he is so frank that it is hard, if not impossible, to miss his point. 


There are conflicting accounts of his death.  Some sources say he was stoned (like Stephen) while others say he was tossed from a temple and beaten with a club.  He is often referred to as James the brother of Jesus (although I did find conflicting information on his relationship to Jesus; he may be his step brother or cousin).  He is also often referred to as James the Righteous. I found the following quote which comes from the Christian historian Eusebius and can be found in the 23rd chapter of the 2nd book of his Ecclesiastical History:


“…he was holy from his mother’s womb…he prayed upon his knees insomuch that his knees were like the knees of a camel by means of his being continually upon them, worshipping God, and praying for the forgiveness of people….This James was a true witness, both to Jews and Gentiles, that Jesus is the Christ.”

(Source Cited Here)


Topics included in James (the biblical book), taken strait from the NLV Bible include:

  • Faith and Endurance
  • Listening and Doing
  • Warning against Prejudice, Judging Others, and Self Confidence
  • Faith without Good Deeds Is Dead
  • Controlling the Tongue
  • True Wisdom Comes from God
  • Drawing Closer to God
  • Warning to the Rich
  • Patience in Suffering
  • The Power of Prayer
  • Restoring the Wandering Believer


I have absolutely no idea how long it will take me to complete this study and post it here.  However, what I do know is that I want it to speak to me so that I am applying the Word to my life rather than being a listener only.


**Please note, I am not a biblical scholar.  I would rate my experience with the Bible as novice for all there is to learn.  So (please) if you notice corrections or things to add…do so!  I will not be offended at all!  I invite you to participate in this journey with me!  In fact, I would love nothing more than to have an accountability partner!  I will cite all the sources I found along the way.  I welcome you to become a follower and/or refer others here as well.


So who’s  with me? 


What do you know about James the Just?  If you have anything to add, please leave it in a comment below!



I began blogging several years ago in search of new friends who, like me, were having a difficult time getting pregnant. Five years, 2 miscarriages, 4 failed IUI's, and a doctor who told us "It will never happen" later, we are the proud parents of Kade and Kohen. They are each an example of God's absolute perfection. We thank God where medical intervention stops, Divine intervention begins.