What completes a Christian (James 1:1-4)
The James of this letter is probably the brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem Church. This most practical of all the letters in the New Testament comes from a man who knows about having his faith tested by the enduring of various trials. Some of the soundest advice for the practical Christian life can be found in these five chapters.
If we were asked if we wanted to be a complete Christian, being perfect and lacking nothing, I am sure there would be an immediate positive response. We may not be quite so ready to go through the process James describes to get there!
These verses are so foreign to the thinking of many of us as Christians. We always expect God’s blessings and we always expect Him to give us exactly what we want. If the trial we receive is in the guise of hardship that could not be God, some would say, because we are not being “successful.” If the trial we receive is in the guise of illness that cannot be right, some might claim, because God “always heals”. However I think you can see the difficulties we can get into if we look at things in that way. And the message of James reflects that of Jesus who declared:
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt.5:11-12)
There is a pattern here, beginning with the prophets, continuing with the experiences of Jesus and His disciples, and carrying on with a promise that much the same will be the lot of all those who believe - and encouragement. We are told to count it all joy when we encounter these trials because they will work a depth of spirituality in our lives that nothing else can.
We are also to draw from this that these trials may even come direct from God (Gen.22:1-2 c.f.) who knows all things and certainly will always seek to do what is best for us - He is on our side! Indeed, it is the embracing of these trials, whatever their source, and the permission given to God to let them work in our lives what he wants to work, that brings us through to a position of perfection and completeness.
The converse will also, therefore, be true. If I reject these trials as not coming from God, or not capable of being used by God, and refuse to let them do His work in my life I will inevitably be shallow and lacking so much in my Christian life. Tragically I believe we see that the result of a “bless me” mentality in the Christian Life is a lack of depth and knowing Christ as we really should.
James later writes:
“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.” (v.12)
The writer to the Hebrews encourages us with these words:
“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained…There fore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:10-11, 28)
For someone with a vision of the kingdom every trial, every test of our endeavour and every discipline will met with joy and determination. Crowns await the Christian determined to be complete in their faith and devotion, crowns of righteousness and peace and life, a kingdom and acceptance before a God who disciplines those he loves.