2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
Read the passage several times and note anything that stands out to you or questions that come to mind. Then, reflect on the following questions as a way to help you understand these verses.
Note verse 2. Why does this at first glance seem like crazy talk?
Note that this is directed at believers. Why is it that believers can indeed “count it all joy”? (Verses 3-4)
Why, however is this easier said than done?
How do unbelievers typically act/react in times of crisis and difficulty?
vs 3-4 Why is perseverance important to our faith?
v. 4 How does “maturity” lead to not lacking anything?
What is the most difficult thing that you have gone through in your life? How did you respond with regard to God? In retrospect, can you as yet see how God used this to grow and develop your faith?
Note that in verses 5-6 James encourages the believers to pray during difficult times. How does what he encourages believers to pray for differ from the way that we usually pray when life is hard?
v.6 How do we ask in faith without doubting? Especially when going through trials?
v. 8 What does it mean to be a double-minded man? Can you think of any examples found in Scripture?
What are some areas of life where double-mindedness often comes into play?
What is the purpose of verses 9-11? How do they relate to what comes before and to what comes after?
v.12 What are some examples in Scripture of people who have been blessed by persevering? What are some examples of people that you are familiar with who have been blessed by persevering? What are some examples of how you have been blessed by persevering?
v.12 What is the “crown of life” that James is referring to? (see Revelation 2:10)
What are some actions that you can take NOW to prepare you for the trials that WILL come?
Read each of the illustrations below and discuss which verse from this passage it illustrates and how it can help us to better understand and put this passage into practice.
A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared. He watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as it it could go no further. So the man decided to help the butterfly. He snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man expected that the wings would enlarge and expand the support the body, which would contract in time, but neither happened. Instead the butterfly spent the rest of it’s life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never flew. What the man, in his kindness and haste, did not understand was that the restricting cocoon was God’s way of forcing fluid from the butterfly’s body into it’s wings, so that it could fly once free from the cocoon.
In the 1996 summer Olympics, sprinter Michael Johnson set records in the 200- and 400-meter races. To do so he had trained for some ten years to cut a mere second or two from his time. In Slaying the Dragon he writes:Success is found in much smaller portions than most people realize. A hundredth of a second here or sometimes a tenth there can determine the fastest man in the world. At times we live our lives on a paper-thin edge that barely separates greatness from mediocrity and success from failure. Life is often compared to a marathon, but I think it is more like being a sprinter: long stretches of hard work punctuated by brief moments in which we are given the opportunity to perform at our best.
Temptations and trials are two different experiences. Though they often occur at the same time, there is a fine line between them. In the New Testament a single Greek word covers both situations. James 1:2 tells us to rejoice when we fall into various trials, but in Matthew 26:41 Jesus tells His disciples to pray that they enter not into temptation. The first is an occasion for good, the second a danger to avoid.
In a sermon entitled “Faith Tested and Crowned,” Alexander Maclaren distinguished between being tempted and being tested or tried. He said that “the former word conveys the idea of appealing to the worst part of man, with the wish that he may yield and do the wrong. The latter means an appeal to the better part of man, with the desire that he should stand. Temptation says, `Do this pleasant thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is wrong.’ Trial or proving says, `Do this right and noble thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is painful.’ The one is a sweet, beguiling melody, breathing soft indulgence and relaxation over the soul; the other is a pealing trumpet-call to high achievements.”
Every hardship holds the potential to be a temptation and a trial. By resisting all suggestions we know are wrong and accepting all circumstances as opportunities for growth, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in His sanctifying work in us. We move toward that desired goal of being “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4). —Dennis De Haan (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Satan tempts us to bring out the worst in us; God tests us to bring out the best in us. .