Whenever You Face Trails:
Believe and Not Doubt
James 1: 1-12
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 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 man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
Life Application Bible Study Notes
The writer of this letter, a leader of the church in Jerusalem (see Acts 12:17; 15:13), was James, Jesus' brother, not James the apostle. The book of James was one of the earliest letters, probably written before A.D. 50. After Stephen was martyred (Acts 7:55-8:3), persecution increased, and Christians in Jerusalem were scattered throughout the Roman world. There were thriving Jewish-Christian communities in Rome, Alexandria, Cyprus, and cities in Greece and Asia Minor. Because these early believers did not have the support of the established Churches. James wrote to them as a concerned leader, to encourage them in their faith during those difficult times.
James doesn't say if you face trails, but whenever you face them. He assumes that we will have trails and that it is possible to profit from them. The point is not to pretend to be happy when we face pain, but to have a positive outlook ("consider it pure joy") because of what trails can produce in our lives. James tells us to turn our hardships into times of learning. Tough times can teach us perseverance.
We can never know the depth of our character until we see how we react under pressure. It is easy to be kind to others when everything is going well, but can we still be kind when others are treating us unfairly? God wants us to make us mature and complete, not to keep us from all pain. Instead of complaining about our struggles, we should see them as opportunities for growth. Thank God for promising to be with you in rough times. Ask him to help you solve your problems or to give you the strength to endure them. Then be patient. God will not leave you alone with your problems; he will stay close and help you grow.
By wisdom, James is talking about not only about knowledge, but about the ability to make wise decisions in difficult circumstances. Whenever we need wisdom, we can pray to God, and he will generously supply what you need. Christians don't have to grope around in the dark, hoping to stumble. We can ask for God's wisdom to guide our choices.
Wisdom means practical discernment. It beings with respect for God, leads to right living, and results in increased ability to tell right from wrong. God is willing to give us this wisdom, but we will be unable to receive it if our goals are self-centered instead of God-centered. To learn God's will, we need to reach his Word and ask him to show us how to obey. Then we must do what he tells us.
To "believe and not doubt" means not only believing in the existence of God, but also believe in his loving care. It includes relying on God and expecting hat he will hear and answer when we pray. We must put away our critical attitude when we come to him. God doesn't answer every thoughtless or selfish request. We must have confidence that God will align our desires with his purposes.
A mind that wavers is not completely convinced that God's way is best. It treats God's Word like any human advice, and it retains the option to disobey. It vacillates between allegiance to subjective feelings, the world's ideas, and God's commands. If your faith is new, weak or struggling, remember that you can trust God. Then be loyal to him. To stabilize your wavering or doubtful mind, commit yourself wholeheartedly to God.
If you've ever seen the constant rolling of huge waves at sea, you know how restless they are--subject to forces of wind, gravity, and tide. Doubt leaves a person as unsettled as the restless waves. If you want to stop being tossed about, rely on God to show you what is best for you. Ask him for wisdom, and trust hat he will give it to you. Then your decisions will be sure and solid.
Christians who aren't in high positions in this world should be glad, because they are great in the Lord's eyes. This "brother in humble circumstances" is a person without status or wealth. Such people are often overlooked, even in our churches today, but they are not overlooked by God.
If wealth, power and status mean nothing to God, why do we attribute so much importance to them and so much honor to those who possess them? Do your material possessions give you goals and you only reason for living? If they were gone, what would be left? What you have in your heart, not your bank account matters to God and endures for eternity.
The crown of life is like the victory wreath given to winning athletes (see 1 Corinthians 9:25). God's crown of life is not glory and honor here on earth, but the reward of eternal life--living with God forever. The way to God's winner's circle is by loving him and staying faithful even under pressure.