Chapter 1 Verses 2-4:
“A Progression for Redeeming Suffering”
James 1:2-4 is very similar to Romans 5:3-5. Paul and James provide an almost identical view of what a believer should expect God to do in the midst of suffering. The following steps contain a guided reflection to assist you in using these passages to guide and encourage you in the midst of suffering.
Rejoice in Your Suffering
This rejoicing is not celebration. However, our first instinct in suffering is often shame. Shame is reclusive. It excludes people. Rejoicing is social. It invites people. Suffering is not our fault. Suffering is bad things happening when it is not the consequence of sin. Therefore, Paul and James are encouraging us to resist withdrawing in shame during suffering.
Simply Endure or Persevere
Initially victory is merely resisting accepting defeat. Suffering usually begins with a body blow that wants to sap our will to endure. The basic act of not giving in is an act of faith in the God who redeems. At this stage we await our deliverer (Isaiah 40:29-31).
Develop Maturity (James) or Character (Romans)
Now God moves us from resting in Him to acting like Him. We may have prayed for deliverance in step 2, but now we look for God’s methods of responding to our suffering. It is wise at this time not to get lost in the “why” question. God may not reveal “why.” Questions that we can more profitably find answer to are “What would God have me do in this circumstance?” and “How can I serve God in the midst of this adversity?”
Experience Joy (James) or Hope (Romans)
The joy and hope are not stemming from the circumstance, but the activity of God and the opportunities to know/serve Him. We have walked through this dark season with the Body of Christ (step 1). We have seen God sustain us in more than we were capable of enduring (step 2). We have grown in our ability to rest in and emulate God’s character (step 3). The goodness of that progression energizes our heart (step 4). We are now in a position to enter in with someone else at step 1 with the comfort we receive (II Cor 1:3-5).
Chapter 1 Verses 5-7:
What do you pray for most? Is it wisdom? One way that we can determine what is most valuable to us is by assessing what we pray for. James has just discussed the progression by which God redeems suffering. If suffering is to produce endurance, then maturity, and finally joy, then it makes sense to pray for wisdom. It is more in keeping with God’s purpose in suffering for us to pray for the wisdom to respond/steward the moment well, than it is to pray for God to remove the circumstance. It is not wrong to pray for God to remove the circumstance, but if we are not maturing in wisdom then we missed one of God’s primary intentions. Why was James so hard on those who doubted? Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” When we doubt God’s faithfulness in giving wisdom and redeeming suffering we distance ourselves from the source of our wisdom and redemption. The problem with doubt is that it represents distance. We begin to look for alternative answers to our dilemma. We are no longer seeking God and wisdom. We are seeking relief and escape. These short-cuts are self-sabotage.
Chapter 1 Verse 8:
What are some common examples of being “double-minded”? Being double-minded is most often revealed in pursuing good things in unwise or destructive ways. We are pursuing “Godly things” in dysfunctional, self-defeating ways. Then we feel like God let us down (James 1:13). One example would be demanding respect. Respect is a good thing. But once we demand it, respect is less satisfying when we get it. Another example would be begging for love or affection. Love and affection are good things. But once we beg for them, they are less satisfying when we get them. We enter into a cycle of diminishing returns. We feel like we are doing what’s right, but our methods become more severe, desperate, and unwise.