I have the joy of co-leading the college-age small group and it truly is a joy to be in community with them as we intentionally walk through a book of the Bible together. It’s one of the highlights of my week to open the book of James and discuss the living and active Word of God with these students.
Quick side-bar: If you aren’t reading the Bible in community with other believers, I strongly encourage you to do so. You learn so much more when studying with others.
So what are we learning as we read the book of James together? In short, a LOT. I’ll briefly touch on the opening verses of James.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (vs. 2-4)
Our natural response to trails is never joy – not until we have an active understanding of what God is up to in our lives. This is different than a passive knowledge of Scripture. I’ve read and known this passage for most of my life as a believer. Has my response to trials always been joy? No. That kind of response goes against everything within our fallen and broken humanity. My prayer is that my joy would be ever increasing even when I am met with trails of various kinds.
Life is a process. A journey. A road often marking with suffering and confusion and doubt. For the Christian, life is a process of continual sanctification that will bring trials that are designed to produce an increasing steadfastness of faith, a greater trust in God, and a joy-filled life.
Each week, our small group closes a passage with three questions. I’ll wrap up my thoughts by asking and answering these three questions in regard to the opening passage found in James 1.
1. What does this passage say about God? It’s clear to me that God wants His best for His people. He never tempts us (v. 13), but He tests our faith to produce steadfastness. He is generous to provide us with what we need (v. 5). He has great love for us as He has graciously given us salvation, the “crown of life” (v. 12).
2. What does this passage say about our relationship with Him? We can trust God completely. In the process of sanctification, He makes us complete – lacking in nothing (v. 4). We can call upon Him asking for wisdom as we need it and He answers (v. 5). Further, we receive every good and perfect gift from Him, the “Father of lights” (v. 17). Our relationship with God is personal and lacking in nothing.
3. What does this passage say about our relationship with others? This is the question that isn’t always clearly addressed in a given passage. But as we learn in community, we then go to the community around us with the gospel love and truth in our hearts and on our lips. This passage reminds me that we are all broken and in need of a Savior. I can’t imagine walking through life without the joy of the Lord WHEN being met with trials. Our relationship with others should be one of understanding, love, and compassion.
Count it all joy, brothers and sisters. Count it ALL joy.