Despite Trials, Cling to Your Faith!
“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials.”—JAMES 1:2.
1. Despite what do Jehovah’s people serve him in faith and with “joy of heart”?
JEHOVAH’S people serve as his Witnesses with faith in him and “joy of heart.” (Deuteronomy 28:47; Isaiah 43:10) They do this although they are beset by many trials. Despite their hardships, they draw comfort from the words: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials, knowing as you do that this tested quality of your faith works out endurance.”—James 1:2, 3.
2. What is known about the writer of the letter of James?
2 That statement was penned in about 62 C.E. by the disciple James, a half brother of Jesus Christ. (Mark 6:3) James was an elder in the Jerusalem congregation. In fact, he, Cephas (Peter), and John “seemed to be pillars”—strong, solidly fixed supporters of the congregation. (Galatians 2:9) When the issue of circumcision came before “the apostles and the older men” in about 49 C.E., James made a Scripturally sound proposal that was adopted by that first-century governing body.—Acts 15:6-29.
3. What were some of the problems facing first-century Christians, and how can we get the greatest benefit from the letter of James?
3 As a concerned spiritual shepherd, James ‘knew the appearance of the flock.’ (Proverbs 27:23) He realized that Christians were then facing severe trials. The thinking of some required readjustment, for they were showing favoritism to the rich. For a number, worship was a mere formality. Some were causing harm with their unruly tongues. A worldly spirit was having damaging effects, and many were neither patient nor prayerful. In fact, spiritual sickness had befallen certain Christians. The letter of James addresses such matters in an upbuilding way, and his counsel is as practical today as it was in the first century C.E. We will benefit greatly if we consider this letter as one written to us personally.*
When We Experience Trials
4. How should we view trials?
4 James shows us how to view trials. (James 1:1-4) Not mentioning his family tie with God’s Son, he humbly calls himself “a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” James writes to “the twelve tribes” of spiritual Israel “scattered about,” initially because of persecution. (Acts 8:1; 11:19; Galatians 6:16; 1 Peter 1:1) As Christians, we too are persecuted, and we “meet with various trials.” But if we remember that trials endured strengthen our faith, we will “consider it all joy” when they befall us. If we maintain our integrity to God during trials, this will bring us lasting happiness.
5. What may our trials include, and what happens when we successfully endure them?
5 Our trials include adversities common to mankind. For example, poor health may plague us. God is not now performing miraculous cures, but he answers our prayers for the wisdom and fortitude needed to deal with illness. (Psalm 41:1-3) We also suffer for righteousness’ sake as persecuted Witnesses of Jehovah. (2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 3:14) When we successfully endure such trials, our faith is proved, becoming one of “tested quality.” And when our faith triumphs, this “works out endurance.” Faith made stronger through trials will help us to endure future tests.
6. How does “endurance have its work complete,” and what practical steps can be taken when we are under trial?
6 “But,” says James, “let endurance have its work complete.” If we allow a trial to run its course without trying to end it quickly by unscriptural means, endurance will do the “work” of making us complete as Christians, not lacking in faith. Of course, if a trial exposes some weakness, we should seek Jehovah’s help to overcome it. What if the trial is the temptation to engage in sexual immorality? Let us pray about that problem and then act in harmony with our prayers. We may need to change our place of employment or to take other steps to maintain integrity to God.—Genesis 39:7-9; 1 Corinthians 10:13.
The Quest for Wisdom
7. How may we be helped to deal with trials?
7 James shows us what to do if we do not know how to deal with a trial. (James 1:5-8) Jehovah will not reproach us for lacking wisdom and praying for it in faith. He will help us to view a trial properly and to endure it. Scriptures may be called to our attention by fellow believers or during Bible study. Events maneuvered through God’s providence may enable us to see what we should do. We may be guided by God’s spirit. (Luke 11:13) To enjoy such benefits, naturally we must stick close to God and his people.—Proverbs 18:1.
8. Why will a doubter receive nothing from Jehovah?
8 Jehovah grants us wisdom to cope with trials if we “keep on asking in faith, not doubting at all.” A doubter “is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about” unpredictably. If we were that unstable spiritually, ‘we should not suppose that we would receive anything from Jehovah.’ Let us not be “indecisive” and “unsteady” in prayer or in other ways. Instead, let us have faith in Jehovah, the Source of wisdom.—Proverbs 3:5, 6.
Rich and Poor Can Exult
9. Why do we have reason for exultation as Jehovah’s worshipers?
9 Even if poverty is one of our trials, let us bear in mind that both rich and poor Christians can exult. (James 1:9-11) Before becoming Jesus’ followers, most anointed ones had little materially and were looked down upon by the world. (1 Corinthians 1:26) But they could exult over their “exaltation” to the standing of Kingdom heirs. (Romans 8:16, 17) Conversely, rich people who were once honored experience “humiliation” as Christ’s followers because of being despised by the world. (John 7:47-52; 12:42, 43) As Jehovah’s servants, however, all of us can exult because worldly wealth and high standing amount to nothing compared to the spiritual riches we enjoy. And how grateful we are that among us there is no place for pride as to social status!—Proverbs 10:22; Acts 10:34, 35.
10. How should a Christian view material wealth?
10 James helps us to see that our life does not depend on wealth and worldly achievement. As a flower’s beauty cannot prevent it from dying in the sun’s “burning heat,” so a rich man’s wealth cannot lengthen his life. (Psalm 49:6-9; Matthew 6:27) He may die while pursuing his “ways of life,” perhaps in business. Hence, the important thing is to be “rich toward God” and to do all we can to promote Kingdom interests.—Luke 12:13-21; Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 6:17-19.
Happy Are Those Enduring Trial
11. What are the prospects for those who cling to their faith in the face of trials?
11 Rich or poor, we can be happy only if we endure our trials. (James 1:12-15) If we endure trials with our faith intact, we can be pronounced happy, for there is joy in doing what is right in God’s sight. By clinging to their faith unto death, spirit-begotten Christians receive “the crown of life,” immortality in the heavens. (Revelation 2:10; 1 Corinthians 15:50) If we have earthly hopes and maintain our faith in God, we can look forward to everlasting life on a paradise earth. (Luke 23:43; Romans 6:23) How good Jehovah is to all who exercise faith in him!
12. When experiencing adversity, why should we not say: “I am being tried by God”?
12 Is it possible that Jehovah himself tries us with adversity? No, we should not say: “I am being tried by God.” Jehovah is not trying to induce us to commit sin but is sure to help us and give us the strength needed to endure trials if we remain steadfast in faith. (Philippians 4:13) God is holy, so he does not place us in circumstances that would weaken our resistance to wrongdoing. If we get ourselves into an unholy situation and commit some sin, we should not blame him, “for with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” Though Jehovah may permit a trial to discipline us for our good, he does not try us with evil intent. (Hebrews 12:7-11) Satan may tempt us to do wrong, but God can deliver us from that wicked one.—Matthew 6:13.
13. What can happen if we do not reject a wrong desire?
13 We need to be prayerful because a certain situation may give rise to a wrong desire that could induce us to sin. James says: “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire.” We cannot blame God for our sin if we have let our heart dwell on sinful desire. If we do not dismiss a wrong desire, ‘it becomes fertile,’ is nurtured in the heart, and “gives birth to sin.” When sin is accomplished, it “brings forth death.” Obviously, we need to guard our hearts and resist sinful inclinations. (Proverbs 4:23) Cain was warned that sin was about to overcome him, but he did not resist. (Genesis 4:4-8) So, then, what if we are beginning to pursue an unscriptural course? Surely we should be grateful if Christian elders try to readjust us so that we do not sin against God.—Galatians 6:1.
God—The Source of Good Things
14. In what sense can it be said that God’s gifts are “perfect”?
14 We should remember that Jehovah is the Source, not of trials, but of good things. (James 1:16-18) James addresses fellow believers as “beloved brothers” and shows that God is the Giver of ‘every good gift and perfect present.’ Jehovah’s spiritual and material gifts are “perfect,” or complete, lacking nothing. They come “from above,” from God’s dwelling place in the heavens. (1 Kings 8:39) Jehovah is “the Father of the celestial lights”—the sun, the moon, and the stars. He also gives us spiritual light and truth. (Psalm 43:3; Jeremiah 31:35; 2 Corinthians 4:6) Unlike the sun that makes shadows change as it moves and is at its zenith only at high noon, God is always at his peak in providing what is good. He will surely equip us to face trials if we take full advantage of his spiritual provisions supplied through his Word and “the faithful and discreet slave.”—Matthew 24:45.
15. What is one of Jehovah’s finest gifts?
15 What has been one of God’s finest gifts? The bringing forth of spiritual sons by holy spirit, working in conjunction with the good news, or “word of truth.” Those experiencing a spiritual birth are “certain firstfruits,” chosen from among mankind to be a heavenly “kingdom and priests.” (Revelation 5:10; Ephesians 1:13, 14) James may have been thinking of barley firstfruits offered on Nisan 16, which was the date when Jesus was resurrected, and of the offering of two wheat loaves on the day of Pentecost, when the holy spirit was poured out. (Leviticus 23:4-11, 15-17) In that case, Jesus would be the firstfruits and his joint heirs “certain firstfruits.” What if we have an earthly hope? Well, keeping it in mind will help us to cling to our faith in the Giver of “every good gift,” who has made everlasting life possible under Kingdom rule.
Be a ‘Doer of the Word’
16. Why should we be ‘swift about hearing but slow about speaking and wrath’?
16 Whether we are experiencing trials of our faith right now or not, we must be “doers of the word.” (James 1:19-25) We need to be “swift about hearing” God’s word, being obedient doers of it. (John 8:47) On the other hand, let us be “slow about speaking,” carefully weighing our words. (Proverbs 15:28; 16:23) James may be urging us not to be quick to say that our trials originate with God. We are also counseled to be “slow about wrath; for man’s wrath does not work out God’s righteousness.” If angered by what someone says, let us ‘slow down’ so as to avoid a vindictive reply. (Ephesians 4:26, 27) A wrathful spirit that may cause us problems and become a trial for others cannot produce what faith in our righteous God requires of us. Besides, if we are “abundant in discernment,” we will be “slow to anger,” and our brothers and sisters will be drawn to us.—Proverbs 14:29.
17. What is accomplished by removing badness from heart and mind?
17 We surely need to be free of “all filthiness”—everything that disgusts God and promotes wrathfulness. Moreover, we must ‘put away that superfluous thing, badness.’ All of us should clear out of our life any uncleanness of flesh or spirit. (2 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Peter 1:14-16; 1 John 1:9) Removal of badness from heart and mind helped us to “accept with mildness the implanting of the word” of truth. (Acts 17:11, 12) No matter how long we have been Christians, we must keep on letting more Scriptural truth be implanted in us. Why? Because by God’s spirit, the implanted word produces “the new personality” that attains to salvation.—Ephesians 4:20-24.
18. How does one who is only a hearer of the word differ from one who is also a doer of it?
18 How do we show that the word is our guide? By being obedient “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (Luke 11:28) “Doers” have faith that produces such works as zealous activity in the Christian ministry and regular participation in meetings of God’s people. (Romans 10:14, 15; Hebrews 10:24, 25) A mere hearer of the word “is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror.” He takes a look, then departs and forgets about what may be needed to correct his appearance. As “doers of the word,” we carefully study and obey God’s “perfect law,” which covers everything he requires of us. The freedom we thus enjoy is the very opposite of enslavement to sin and death, for it leads to life. So let us ‘persist in the perfect law,’ constantly scrutinizing and obeying it. And just think! As ‘doers of the work, not forgetful hearers,’ we have the joy resulting from God’s favor.—Psalm 19:7-11.
Much More Than Formal Worshipers
19, 20. (a) According to James 1:26, 27, what does clean worship require of us? (b) What are some examples of undefiled worship?
19 If we are to enjoy divine favor, we need to remember that true worship is not mere formality. (James 1:26, 27) We may think that we are acceptable ‘formal worshipers’ of Jehovah, but it is his estimation of each one of us that really counts. (1 Corinthians 4:4) One serious flaw may be failure to ‘bridle the tongue.’ We would be deceiving ourselves if we thought that God is pleased with our worship if we slander others, tell lies, or misuse the tongue in other ways. (Leviticus 19:16; Ephesians 4:25) Surely, we do not want our “form of worship” to be “futile” and unacceptable to God for any reason.
20 Though James does not cite every aspect of clean worship, he says that it includes ‘looking after orphans and widows in their tribulation.’ (Galatians 2:10; 6:10; 1 John 3:18) The Christian congregation shows special interest in providing for widows. (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 5:8-10) Since God is the Protector of the widow and the fatherless, let us cooperate with Him by doing what we can to help them spiritually and materially. (Deuteronomy 10:17, 18) Clean worship also means “to keep oneself without spot from the world,” unrighteous human society lying in Satan’s power. (John 17:16; 1 John 5:19) Let us therefore remain free of the world’s godless conduct so that we may glorify Jehovah and be useful in his service.—2 Timothy 2:20-22.
21. In connection with the letter of James, what further questions merit our consideration?
21 The counsel of James that we have considered thus far should help us to endure trials and cling to our faith. It ought to heighten our appreciation for the loving Giver of good gifts. And the words of James help us to practice clean worship. What else does he bring to our attention? What further steps can we take to prove that we have true faith in Jehovah?
During private or family study of this article and the two that follow it, you will find it especially beneficial to read each cited portion of the faith-strengthening letter of James.
How Would You Answer?
□ What will help us to endure trials?
□ Despite trials, why can Christians exult?
□ How can we be doers of the word?
□ What does clean worship involve?
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When under trial, exercise faith in Jehovah’s power to answer prayers
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“Doers of the word” are proclaiming God’s Kingdom worldwide