Thought to be the earliest piece of NT writing, characterised by its excellent Greek and style similar to the wisdom writings in the OT, James contrasts refreshingly with the tough but vital arguments of Paul’s letters. He writes to encourage a group of Jewish converts to The Way who have been those scattered across the areas beyond Judea after the stoning of Stephen.
James was Jesus’ brother, one of the leaders of the early church in Jerusalem, someone who had initially struggled with a family member turning out to be the Messiah, but along with his brother Jude, eventually becoming a key leader in the infant church made up of Jewish believers.
James’ advice is simple and beautifully put together. This isn’t the closely argued rhetoric of Paul, but a letter to help us consider how to walk with Jesus, how to face the day to day challenges and obstacles trusting in a God who is sure and steady: our God the Rock.
I am challenged many times to see that what goes wrong in the everyday is actually part of the transforming process of God in my life, but this is what James means when he tells us to ‘Consider it all joy....’ Joy implies celebration. I need to reaffirm my trust in you, Jesus, to use everything in my day as part of Your transformation of my life!
The character of God that James celebrates in this passage is a God who is generous and trustworthy, He builds us up, He gives generously (so ask for what you need 1.5 and 1.17), He is a good God, Good all the time. James encourages us to keep going in the everyday, not to misread circumstances either as punishments or as permanent but as part of a process. His ideas in this portion encourage us to think of our faith and life as processes of development, God’s growing something. Twice in our passage James makes us think about processes, positive (1.4) and also negative (1.14&15): we can either see our difficulties as what grows us into God’s friends or allow them to turn us away from Him. He is clear that we battle with circumstances without and sometimes evil thoughts from within but He is convinced of the goodness of God, pointing several times to pictures from the natural everyday world to help us understand (the sea, the flowers, the contrast of light and shifting shadows and the idea of birth).
He sees these early believers in their tiny meetings as the first signs of harvest, the first indication that perseverance will finish its work by the growth and spread of the amazing message of life.
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We bring our greatest challenges of today to You, the LORD OF ALL, and the smallest of irritations. Jesus, we need You. Thank You that You are transforming us through our circumstances. You are able to do more than we can ask or imagine.