Tuesday in the First Week of Ordinary Time

James 1:2-4

Count Tribulation All Joy

James was writing to Jewish Christians who had been scattered throughout Palestine due to persecution.  As bishop of the Jerusalem Church, these were his people—meaning that the letter of James is different from the other letters of the New Testament in that this letter was written from the very bishop and pastor of the people to whom he writes.  It is, thus, pastoral in the most genuine sense.  And his people were harassed ethnically as Jews by Gentiles, and then treated with disdain as Christians by both Jews and Gentiles.  Consequently, they were doubly mistreated.  It was, no doubt, hard to bear up under such circumstances.  It is thus with a true pastor’s heart with which James writes.

But unlike pastors today who would think they must pamper and coddle their flock, James is a pastor who is unafraid to speak the word of truth, and as we shall see later, admonish the sheep for their sins even in such trying times.  James knows that temptation and persecution is no time to go wobbly with one’s faith but to grow stronger in faith and holiness. 

So how does James encourage the believers in their time of trial?  Not by telling them that trials will soon go away, or to lay low for awhile, or that compromising, refusing to meet together, or just plain being inconspicuous might afford them the invisibility they might crave.  No.  James expects trials.  He understands the “binary,” the contradiction, the discontinuity, between the world and the Christian, and how the former must war against the latter—the flesh against the spirit. 

And as this is the case, how should the Christian respond?  With joy!  Nothing proves the genuineness of the Christian life like trials.  First, they confirm the faith, be they from within (the flesh) or without (the world and the devil).  To feel these trials is to feel our alienation from the world—an alienation that is completely natural for a believer to experience living in the world.  Second, such trials afford believers the opportunity to grow in the faith.  They must learn to lean on Jesus, to be patient in suffering, to focus on the upward call, to slough off sin which though may not have caused the trial is certainly the hopeful result of it, and to become more steadfast in the faith, more grounded, more firm.  And all of this has a perfecting work in us, the perfecting work of holiness and purity.  And that is the purpose of trials.  They are due to man’s sin; God uses them to quash our sin and fit us for heaven.  Count it all joy, indeed!

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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