James 1 can be divided into two parts and is packed with both spiritual and life lessons. In this article, we’ll explore some of the lessons we can learn from the first part which has to do with trials and temptations. The lessons are: face trials with joy, hard times make us stronger, rewards come after trials and our desires tempt us.
Face Trials With Joy
The first lesson we can learn from James 1 comes from James 1:2. It says “consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (NIV). Normally when we are facing trials, we may become anxious. We may blame the devil or question God for the situation we think he placed us in. In general, we don’t consider it the pure joy that James 1 says we should consider it to be.
By using the word whenever rather than if, James indicates that trials will come. If we continue to view them the way we usually do, when we inevitably encounter trials we’ll continue to experience negative feelings. But, a simple switch in how we perceive them can make a big difference in how we experience them.
We Can Control Our Response
When faced with trials, looking at them as James 1:2 says we should is often the only thing we can do to make the situation better. As Phil Harding puts it “We can’t always control what happens but we can control our response.” As we’ll see in the next lesson, there is a good reason we can “consider it pure joy”; they make us stronger.
Hard Times Make Us Stronger
The next lesson is the reason James says we should consider it pure joy when we face trials. James 1:3 says it’s “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (NIV). In other words, hard times make us stronger.
The NIV version of James 1:3 uses the word perseverance to describe what the testing of our faith produces. It means “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success” (Oxford). The NLT version uses the word endurance. James then goes on to say “let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4 NIV).
Unlike challenges we get ourselves into that we can easily get out of when it gets hard, we rarely have a choice when we are faced with the trials of life. Having to work our way through it no matter how long it takes forces us to grow.
So building on top of facing trials with joy, realize that we can do so because it produces perseverance/endurance. As we develop more endurance we can take on more in life, and as James 1 says, eventually not lack anything.
Rewards Come After Trials
Another lesson we can learn from James 1 is that rewards come after trials. Although producing perseverance is a reward in and of itself, there are often other rewards that follow trials.
James 1:12 says “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (NLT). This verse teaches us that while we may not see any benefits of enduring testing and temptation immediately, ultimately it will lead to receiving the crown of life.
To learn more about crowns and eternal rewards, you may be interested in my article How To Get Rewards In Heaven.
Rewards In Life
James 1:12 speaks of the spiritual rewards that come from enduring testing and temptation, but this lesson applies to rewards from other trials in life also. Take weight loss for example. The reward of being in better shape doesn’t come until after the trials of exercise. Similarly, if you read the stories of some of the people that achieved greatness in life, there is usually a period of difficulty that each of them first went through.
So be encouraged and patiently endure when you are faced with trials. Whether it be testing, temptation, or self-inflicted trials, we can be sure that there is a reward in the end.
Our Desires Tempt Us
The last lesson changes our perspective of temptation, giving us more power over it. James 1:13-14 says ‘When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their evil desire and enticed’ (NIV).
We might think that God is tempting us to see what we would do, but according to James 1, that is not the case. I once heard someone say “God already knows what we would do when placed in certain situations. The situation reveals to us what we’d do.” In reality, James 1 says it’s our desires that are the source of temptation. This explains why everyone is tempted differently.
Our Desires Can Change
Since temptation stems from our desires it means that our temptations can change because our desires can change. And if our desires can change, it means they can be changed in a way that reduces/eliminates the temptation to do wrong. How to change our desires deserves an entire article. In regards to changing them in the context of obedience, I wrote about it in my article 3 Steps To Obeying God’s Commandments.
The other part of what James 1 says about our desires tempting us is that we are tempted when we are dragged away by those desires and enticed. This implies that even though we may have evil desires we can avoid being tempted by them if we don’t let them take control over us.
If we aren’t tempted to begin with we are much more likely to not sin. As James Clear in his book Atomic Habits puts it “It’s easier to avoid temptation than to resist it” (p. 95). Similarly, when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, he didn’t say help us resist temptation, but rather “lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13 NIV). So if you’re vulnerable to being tempted when you are in a certain place or around a certain thing, by staying away from it you can avoid being dragged away by it.
To learn more about temptation and how we can avoid them read my article: 5 Lessons We Can Learn From The Temptation of Jesus.
In this article we looked at 4 lessons we can learn from part one of James 1. The lessons learned were: face trials with joy, hard times make us stronger, rewards come after trials and our desires tempt us. Remember these whenever you are faced with trials and temptations.