341 - A Letter from James, the Brother of Jesus (Part 1)
December 7 - Nº 341 James 1:1-18
In his Gospel, Matthew explained that following the miraculous birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had four sons and at least two daughters (see Matthew 13:55) of their own. He recorded the names of their sons—and one of them was James. Although they were siblings through Mary, James and Jesus had different fathers. Early in his life James had not supported his half-brother’s claim to be the Son of God. But shortly after he had been raised from the dead, Jesus had visited his younger brother (see 1 Corinthians 15:3-8). This startling appearance changed James’ life forever. He became a leader in the fledgling Christian movement along with Peter. Eventually James was chosen to be the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. Each time Paul returned from a missionary journey (see #302 - October 29, #312 - November 8, and #322 - November 18), James was there to listen and offer encouragement. Because he had become a strong and vocal supporter of the resurrection and deity of Jesus, James was targeted by the Jewish leaders. There is no mention of his death in the Bible, but several different historical accounts tell us he was martyred sometime during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. Prior to his death, James wrote a letter to Jewish believers who had been forced to flee from Jerusalem and Judea for fear of persecution. They had been uprooted from their jobs and homes and scattered all over the Roman world. Their lives were filled with hardship and fear. The letter James wrote to them was an instruction manual on how to grow in their faith despite the tough circumstances they were facing. The first instruction James gave these suffering believers was to look at the various trials they were facing as reasons for joy—not sorrow. He explained that God allowed them to go through trials in order to test their faith and make it stronger. As they faced trials, their faith would grow and their relationship with God would mature. Soon there would be no weak places in their lives for Satan to exploit. James explained that if anyone had difficulty finding the kind of joy he was talking about, they should ask God. He would give them all the wisdom they needed to view their trials from His point of view. The key was to trust Him! Then James addressed the believers who were struggling to make ends meet. He told them not to feel bad about their low position in society. Instead, they should be proud of the high position they had received as children of God. James then warned the believers who were not struggling financially to be careful. They should not become boastful or proud, because they had no idea how long their wealth would last. “It could pass away as quickly as a wildflower withers in the sun,” he explained. Their joy should be based on their relationship with God—not on their financial status! James promised that those who persevered through this time of testing would be rewarded. Just as athletes in their day wore laurel wreaths to symbolize their achievement, believers who grew through their trials would one day receive a “crown of life”—a reward that would set them apart as champions.
In what ways have you experienced suffering? How do you respond when things get tough? The way we choose to respond to trials reveals how well we know and trust God. If we believe that He loves us and is in control of our lives, we will have joy!