The Book of James

Lesson 1 - "The Purpose for our Problems"

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

James 1:1-12, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”


-Introduction:

James is a very practical book because it deals with issues of life such as problems, temptation, money, prejudice, anger, misuse of the tongue, social injustice, etc. Written by James (the half-brother of Jesus) who became a leader in the church at Jerusalem, this epistle is basically a manual on having a "faith that works." It was originally written to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad (1:1).


After the death of Stephen, persecution caused many believers in Jerusalem to flee for their lives, leaving their jobs, homes, and properties (Acts 8:1-3). Therefore, James writes this letter to Jewish Christians living outside Palestine and also to us today who are scattered abroad. Believers of James' day, as well as we today, will experience what truth revealed by Jesus in John 16:33b? (“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”)


James wrote this letter to teach believers of all time how to deal with the stress, problems, and trials of life. In this passage James reveals four purposes for our problems, beginning with...


#1) Problems refine our faith.

Look again with me at James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”


James writes: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations (1:2). James doesn't say "if" you fall into divers temptations but when (emphasis mine). The word translated temptations refers to trials or adversity for the purpose of testing.


We can count on having problems. We are either in a problem, coming out of a problem, or going into a problem because life is basically a series of problems. Thus, our problems are a test of our faith and are divers, which means they come in all shapes and sizes. One nice thing about problems is we don't get bored because they come in such a wide variety.


Why should we consider our temptations or problems all joy? James tells us in the next verse: Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience (1:3). Then, what does James tell us in verse 4? (“But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”)


Problems develop patience , which means they help us become stronger in our faith, but they also expose our weak areas. Someone has said, "Christians are like tea bags. You don't know what's in them until they get in hot water." Peter tells us problems come upon us so our faith, which is more valuable than gold, may be refined (1 Pet. 1:7a). What is the result of the refining process through problems, according to 1 Peter 1:7b? (“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”)


Our values determine our joy. If we value character more than comfort, then we will count it all joy when we have trials designed to make us spiritually mature. Job had the right attitude toward problems. How does he express his attitude in Job 23:10? (“But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”)


Trials are really gold "in the making" as far as our faith is concerned because problems refine our faith and...

#2) Problems cause us to rely on God.

Look again with me at James 1:5-8, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”


If we never have problems we are unable to handle on our own, we will never sense our need of God. This is why James tells us: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God (1:5a). Wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge to our problems. Divine wisdom enables us to allow problems to refine our faith and develop our character.

So, when we have a problem, we should ask God for wisdom to see what He is trying to develop in us through this problem. However, pride can block divine wisdom in our lives. That is why we find what truth in Proverbs 11:2? (“When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.”)


The first step in receiving wisdom from God is admitting we need it. The reason our problems sometimes overwhelm us is our pride causes us to try to handle them all by ourselves. When we swallow our pride and ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, wisdom shall be given to us. God will never respond to our request for wisdom by saying something like: "You made your own bed; now lie in it." He will never scold us for our deficiency of wisdom.


Not only are we to pray for wisdom, but James also writes when we ask we ask in faith, nothing wavering (1:6a). The greatest enemy of answered prayer is doubt. James says doubt causes us to be like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed (1:6b). One minute we're up, and the next we're down. Instability is nothing but lack of faith, and if we lack faith, we should not think we shall receive any thing of the Lord (1:7). As someone has said, "Pray and believe, and you will receive; pray and doubt, and do without." How does Jesus express this truth in Mark 9:23b? (“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.”)


When we lack faith, we are double minded (Jas. 1:8a). The word translated double minded means "two souled." It is being wishy-washy and vacillating between God's way and our way, God's desire for our lives and our desires. If we are double minded we will be unstable in all we do (1:8b). That means God can't count on us to fulfill His purpose for our lives. Being single-minded means we are totally committed to God. There is a divine purpose behind every problem God allows us to have.


Therefore, problems refine our faith, they cause us to rely on God, and...

#3) Problems refocus our priorities.

Look with me at James 1:9-11, “Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”


Problems are not respecters of persons. Thus, James writes: Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted (1:9). Low degree refers to those who are economically poor. Poverty, or having less than others, embitters some Christians. However, as believers we should recognize though we may be materially poor, we become spiritually rich when we endure problems.

In contrast to poor believers, James writes: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away (1:10). Trials and problems teach well-to-do believers that possessions and prosperity cannot buy peace and tranquility. Trials teach the wealthy the vanity of riches because problems reveal that in spite of having wealth they still need God.


Solomon owned more livestock than anyone in Jerusalem. He amassed enough silver and gold to be wealthier than Wal-Mart's Sam Walton or Microsoft's Bill Gates (Eccles. 2:7-8, “I got me servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house; also I had great possessions of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.”)


Yet, what does Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, say in Ecclesiastes 2:17b about his enormous wealth? (“Therefore I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me: for all is vanity and vexation of spirit.”)


The phrase vexation of spirit refers to grasping at the air. Therefore, all our earthly stuff means nothing because "you can't take it with you." The only thing we will take into eternity is our character. Problems cause us to refocus on what's really important, reminding us of what truth in 1 Timothy 6:7? (“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”)


In verse 11 James says problems remind us life is short and we too can pass away suddenly like a flower in the heat of the sun. Problems remind rich and poor alike that it is not what we have but who we are that's really important.


We said that problems refine our faith, cause us to rely on God, refocus our priorities, and...

#4) Problems result in rewards.

James 1:12, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”


James mentions two rewards for enduring problems according to God's purpose.

-The first reward is: Blessed is the man that endureth temptation (1:12a). The word translated blessed means "divine delight." It is a deep joy that comes from knowing we are pleasing God. Some people think happiness comes from escaping trials, but for us as Christians it comes from enduring trials by letting them fulfill God's purpose in our lives.


-The second reward is we shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him (1:12b). God's purpose for allowing our problems in this life is to produce spiritual growth and maturity. However, there is an eternal purpose as well—that we might receive the crown of life. This crown doesn't represent eternal life because our salvation is not based on works (Eph. 2:8-9).


The word translated crown refers to a wreath given as a prize at Greek athletic games. Therefore, James is referring to rewards based on works or how we respond to our problems. Jesus said He will come in His Father's glory with His angels (Mt 16:27a). Then, in the last part of that verse what does Jesus say He will do? (“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”)


However, our motivation for enduring trials shouldn't be for reward, but as James says because we love him (1:12). As someone has said, "Trials make our love for the Lord show and grow or tilt and wilt." Problems make us better people or bitter people. There is a divine purpose for every problem God allows us to have because problems refine our faith, problems cause us to rely on God, problems refocus our priorities, and problems result in rewards.


Let’s pray.



Lesson 2  —>