Tuesday, September 4, 2007

James 1: 1-11 - Perseverance

"Brothers, consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of any kind." ~ James 1:2

James, the half-brother of Jesus and pastor of the Jerusalem church, wrote what is perhaps the earliest book of the New Testament. It's as fresh and relevant today as it was nineteen hundred and threescore years ago. The book is a energetically argued guide to true holiness - that is, lived holiness, in contrast to loud professions of faith. In essence, it's a call for all of us believers to reject Pharisaic pride, that most stubborn of sins.

Trials are part of the Christian life. Jesus promised his followers comfort in an ultimate, cosmic sense, but he never promised a comfortable life. My annotated Bible wisely notes, "Whenever you face trials." Christ-followers will face trials; it's not optional! James says that if we can't withstand trials on our own, we must sincerely ask God for wisdom. The one who doubts God's provision is "a double-minded man, unstable in all he does" (v.8), doomed to estrangement from God when his half-hearted prayer goes unanswered.

Since we will face trials, regardless of earthly station, being poor or rich is inconsequential to God. James mentions the honor of poverty and the futility of riches throughout his epistle. Once, at St. Colette's, a man from the Haitian relief organization Food for the Poor preached. He was born into dire squalor, but rose above it, guided by the word he preached in suburban Detroit that morning:

"The Lord God is King! And He is a wealthy king. He has given me everything I need."