“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:1-4
It seems strange to begin the first day of fasting with a verse that talks about not lacking anything. In fact, today may feel very palpably like a day where we lack much! But as we journey through the book of James and spend the next 21 days in focused prayer and fasting, there is a wealth of practical application packed into each of our focus scriptures. Take a minute right now to pause and ask God to meet you in a fresh way as you prioritize time with him.
The writer of the book of James is widely believed to be James the Just, the brother of Jesus. He is writing specifically to Jewish Christians, as evidenced by the fact that the letter is to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. The application for us – Christians in the year 2021 – is the same. The primary theme of his letter is an exhortation to live out the faith we’re professing in a practical way rather than just giving it lip service.
Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds is a profoundly counter cultural approach to the difficulties of life, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but when I face a difficult experience or am subjected to pain, my first thought isn’t, “What a joy this is!” But James encouraging us to look at trials as opportunities for joy is similar to the posture of Jesus explained in Hebrews 12:2-3. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him, who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
When encouraged to consider it pure joy, we can take comfort in knowing that our joy is not to be in the trial itself, but in the perseverance it’s producing in us which will one day be completed when we see Jesus face to face. The testing of our faith and the resulting perseverance works a maturity and completeness in us that isn’t fashioned any other way. And when that work is finished, we’ll lack absolutely nothing.
What’s your go-to response or posture in the difficulties of life, both large and small?
In what specific way today could you view a trial in your life through the lens of the joy that is set before you?
Pray a prayer of surrender over that trial and ask God to give you eyes to behold the joy rather than the trial itself.
God, in your sovereignty and great love for me, you’ve designed my trials to be my teachers. Your word says that the testing of my faith is sure to produce perseverance in me. Please give me the grace to endure joyfully and to trust you for the maturity and completeness to come.