[James' epistle to a still mostly Hebrew church shows this as one of the earliest writings of the Christian church. James is the half brother of Jesus and was the bishop of the church at Jerusalem mentioned in Acts as the author of the Jerusalem decree regarding Gentile believers and their obligation to the Mosaic Law. Without a doubt the trials mentioned reference the persecution faced by early Christian Jews.]
Greeting to the Twelve Tribes
1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.
Profiting from Trials
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
[The meat of the teaching is right here. The trials of verse 2 are a proving or refining, to reveal the true value of a person. In many businesses we apply trials and testing to find and correct the flaws in parts components or software. You don't want to fly in an airplane made of untested parts, nor would you want to trust untested software to file your federal tax return, because the risk of loss is too great.
So it is in God's kingdom. God builds his church stone by stone but he tries and proves each of us to guarantee the fidelity of His work. Many times we are too impatient for the process to work out. Many young converts are eager to do the work of the Lord, but they run off unproven and fall without patience that the Lord would have provided were they willing to be tested.
No one looks forward to trials, but we are told to respond with joy to the testing which the Lord allows. Joy in knowing God has a future purpose in your life. Joy that God considers you a candidate for the work he is doing. Joy that whatever you are a part of, will glorify the Lord, once you have learned patience and wisdom.
Verses 5-7 shows that God is the source of all we need to bring him glory, but without faith, we will not pass the test, and we will fail to give God the glory He deserves.
To be perfect lacking nothing means to be complete fulfilling God's design, his intended purpose.
The Perspective of Rich and Poor
9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, 10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. 11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.
[If the rich are not brought down in humility they would focus only on the material things which will perish. If the poor were not exalted they might despair of their poor circumstances which are also temporary. But in God both know the eternal treasure is God Himself, and that knowledge leads to faith, righteousness, and eternity.]
Loving God Under Trials
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
[God's purpose in testing is not to watch you fall into sin. We learn from the book of Job that even when Satan afflicts us, God is still in control.
I Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted
beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Left unchained, lust leads to sin, and sin leads to death, this is the natural course of men left to their own desires, and human history is full of examples. But God did not leave us to our own desires, he gave us a redeemer, and a salvation that includes regeneration, meaning he does not leave us the way he found us. Under the new covenant we read about in Hebrews, God changes our hearts and minds so that temptation can have a far different outcome leading to wisdom and patience, instead of sin and death.
When God allows His children to be tempted it is to build us up in the faith, not bring us down in the flesh.]
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
[I have to be honest, when Christians endure hardship our first response is to feel compassion for their trouble, to focus on the short term pain. But we need to resist the temptation to question God's sovereignty. God knows our troubles, but if he took away all the troubles, where would we learn patience, how would our faith increase. Finding Joy in troubles comes from faith, knowing that God is in control. Yes, God enjoys giving gifts to his children, but not to our detriment. There were times in my youth when I needed discipline more than ice cream, and my father gave me both as he saw fit. So it is with God, "the Father of lights" maker of the sun moon and stars.
We are saved because God was willing to pay the price for our redemption. That was at great expense and with much hardship and suffering by His own son. Moreover through men of God we have received the word of truth; that was also God's will. But we still sometimes question God, complain against the pain of each trouble. But that trouble is never without purpose; and joy comes from understanding God's purpose.]