Alan Richardson – Trials & Tests (Epistle of James)

James 1:1-6, 12-14: “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations…. drawn away of his own lust and enticed…”
The word “temptations” in the English language has more than one meaning. It can mean “trials and tests” or it can mean “evil”. It’s a wonderful thing when we can, in spite of every difficulty and test, still give thanks to the God of heaven. Many people in the scriptures, even though joyous at times, could give thanks to the God of heaven for temptations. God doesn’t tempt, but He does sometimes just stand aside and let things take their course.
Hezekiah – God let things take their course. The messengers that came were shown the gold, and precious vessels: maybe not a wise thing that he did, in that instance.
I was thirty-nine, when I read a verse: Hezekiah began to reign at twenty-five years of age, and he reigned fourteen years and was told “Prepare to die”. And here I was, thirty-nine too. Not easy for Hezekiah to prepare to die. He’d been a good king and done many wonderful things. He turned and wept. Well God conceded him another fifteen years, but they were not as good as the first fourteen years.
Job was another person whom God allowed to be tested. He was not perfect, in the sense that Jesus was perfect, but as perfect as he could be. God doesn’t expect old heads on young shoulders. Wonderful if we can be what God would like us to be, and expect us to be.
God said of Job – “test him but don’t touch his life – spare his life.” Job came forth as gold – and in the last chapter he recognised he was just dust and ashes. Not easy to accept every experience that comes. We should count it all joy – every experience.
Sometimes we have to have patience with others, and others have to have patience with us, and we need patience with ourselves. Disappointment in ourselves takes patience to lift ourselves up and go forward. It takes patience in that sense too, even on a daily basis. A good start to the day, maybe, and then things can go wrong. Someone may speak sharply to us, and we reply in kind, and so we’re disappointed in ourselves. We need to go to God, and tell him, and leave it there, and go out the next day to try again.
Verse 5-6: “If any man lacks wisdom…. but let him ask in faith…”
Like Proverbs about wisdom. Knowledge – understanding and wisdom.
Knowledge is a mere mental state – an acquisition of facts – knowledge and facts stirred up in the mind. Knowledge can puff us up – we could feel we are better.
Understanding helps us appreciate a situation, and Wisdom helps us continue.
The Gospel is a good illustration of these three things:
Jesus lived – was born to Joseph and Mary – He was cradled in a manger – at twelve He came to Jerusalem, and at thirty He left and went out to preach for three and a half years – then He died on Calvary – that’s knowledge.
Understanding is: why He came; why He lived as He did; and why He died like He did. He had to come – He had to live, to show us how to live – and He had to die to allow the sins of men and women to be forgiven – the Gospel brings us understanding of that.
Wisdom – If He died, and if He lived for me, what effect does that have on me? Wisdom helps us to put into practice that understanding. How can I better be a witness? How to be a better person? “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” “God gives to all men liberally.”
Verse 7: “Let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.”
Verse 14: The sin question.
I John 5:18 “Whosoever is born of God sinneth not….” Hard to understand, when we’re aware of all our faults and failures. Uncle Walter once said to me, “When we come short and fail it’s not the born again nature, it’s the human nature taking control again. Born again nature never sins.”
“I write that ye sin not, but if you do, you have an advocate.”
An advocate is one who, in court, pleads for the person he represents. Wonderful to know that we have an advocate to plead for us before God.
Advice James gave in verse 19: “Wherefore my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” I was about twenty-four or twenty-fine years old and visiting another family (with my family) and there were three servants of God there (one from Australia, one in New Zealand and one who had returned from the Middle East.) I was enjoying the conversation, but I asked the question, “Is there any such thing as righteous anger? Jesus threw the money changers out and tossed their tables over.” They answered that, Yes there could be, but in most cases it’s really only the wrath of man. I could feel right in certain circumstances, but if it’s analysed, it’s really just me.
Verse 20: “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
Paul to the Ephesians: “If ye be angry, sin not. Let not the sun go down on your wrath”
I recognize that with our human nature, we’ll feel a little bit hurt, or angry. What we do and say, or DON’T do and DON’T say, will be important. Be angry, but don’t do, or say, anything wrongly.
Verse 22: Sometimes we’d like to show or teach others, but James says don’t do that.
Verse 26: Unfortunate (on some occasions) that gossip is repeated too freely. Had to admit [to] myself that, yes, there is too much gossip among God’s holy people.
Matthew 12:36 “Every idle word that we shall speak.”
Gossip: idle words, according to the dictionary. Gossip is a problem when people talk about private situations to others who are not concerned with the problem. When someone repeats things to those who are not part of the problem, nor part of the solution.
A young woman in a meeting one time spoke from the 6th chapter of Galatians about the need to bear one another’s burdens: “Tell one, and they tell one more, and so on. A secret is something that is told to one person at a time. Someone could be getting the victory over something, and then it gets back to them through gossip, and I could be adding to that person’s burdens.” I thought she had a very mature attitude. There’s a responsibility to bear other people’s burdens.
Verse 26: If any man among you seems to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue…. this man’s religion is vain. People need to bridle their tongue.
Chapter 2:18 “Faith without works is dead.” Paul also mentions works – and speaks against them.
The terminology – Paul means the works of the flesh, not moved or inspired by God, but by good human nature. James here means God-inspired works. Faith is not a passive thing, but an operative thing, a practical thing. James calls them the works of the spirit – Paul says the fruits of the spirit: kindness, patience, longsuffering, Godly love, so many things…
Verse 23 – works.
Chapter 5:10: Patience again.
Verse 11-16: [These verses are] all capable of [being] misunderstood. This is not written to the Gentiles, but to Jews.
The Jews had special promisesnot made to the Gentiles. If they kept all the commandments of God, they’d be free of diseases. That was never extended to the Gentiles of the New Testament; James is writing to Jews here.
Verse 15: “IF he has committed sins” [this is] an allusion to the connection between sin and disease; an association in the Jewish mind: if they were sick, they must have sinned. But those promises were only to the Jewish people.
Verse 16: Confess one to another and pray one for another. There are some beliefs where it’s deemed necessary to have sins confessed in detail before others.
Confession – If you’ve sinned against another, and they know it, you have a responsibility to go to that person and confess it. But if only God knows, then He’s the one to confess to.
Verses 17-18 James is saying “I would encourage you to be a prayerful person like Elias was.” It goes without saying that we should be a most prayerful people in the world today. So much deterioration in the world today – standards are slipping – but we’re conscious that God’s in control. Beware that we don’t let their standards affect our way of thinking.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” One aspect of “pure in mind (heart)” is the motives we attribute to other people. Very often the way we see others, reflects the level of purity in our own heart.
Chapter 2:2-4 “For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?” Seems to mean the assembly of God’s people? But not at all. In the original Greek the word “Synagogue” translates as “assembly”. James is using an allusion to the situation in the synagogue.
Verses 8-12: If ye fulfil the royal law of the scripture…. shall be judged by the law of liberty.
Law of liberty means this: If Christ is in control, we don’t need any other set of laws and regulations.
In New Zealand, if everyone was in the control of God, 100% of the time, there’d be no need for Parliament, or police, or courts & judges – everyone would know how to behave unto all men. The problem is that there are very few peoplewho are seeking to serve God 100% of the time, in 100% of the way. The way is perfect but God’s people are not yet perfect. We can have perfect desires and perfect motives.
We want to grow in knowledge and understanding and as the years pass, we’ll be more and more like Christ, and then be able to awake in his likeness.