“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
“knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3).
Writing to give encouragement and correction, James, the brother of the Lord, sends this message to spiritual Israel—that is, Jews who have been converted to Christianity.
This book actually contains practical teaching for Christians as they deal with the realities of life: James recognizes that the people to whom he is writing are humans who are tested and sometimes stumble spiritually along the way. But he gives them hope by encouraging them to be joyful in the Lord and to endure patiently whatever comes their way.
Exhortation like this is appropriate for Christians in every Age. Who does not endure testing? Who does not become discouraged from time to time? Who does not stumble? The answer is: we all do. James says we are to endure with patience and allow our trials to be stepping stones for an even stronger faith.
“For My people have committed two evils:
“They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters,
And hewn themselves cisterns--
broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
The prophet Jeremiah here speaks as the voice of God as he describes the situation in which the Israelites find themselves. God is totally frustrated with His people because they have left Him and turned into a totally corrupt nation, including the sin of worshiping idols.
The metaphor of the cisterns here is used to represent the sin of idolatry. The gods to which the Israelites have turned have no power—they are like broken cisterns that can’t hold water. They are simply wood and stone; yet God’s people have chosen them over Him.
This indictment of the Israelites contains a strong message for every generation: God is the creator of mankind and expects His creation to be devoted to Him. We show our devotion by being faithful to Him and by placing Him first in our lives.
“Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Surrounded by idolaters as she struggled for strength and courage while in Babylonian captivity, Israel hears these wonderful words of comfort from God at a time when she needed them the most.
While we are not in captivity and we don’t wait for a physical deliverer like Cyrus, we sometimes find ourselves in the same kind of despondent mind-set as Israel—perhaps because of a sin we have committed, because of a hurt we have felt, or just because of an offense we may have inadvertently committed toward others.
Unsure of what to do, we struggle for a clarity that will bring us out of our despair. If we are fortunate enough to rely on God, we turn to the scriptures, we allow their message to penetrate our hearts, and there we find the kind of powerful, life-changing encouragement that this verse provides.
Even though God does not lead us miraculously in this age, He is our God, He will strengthen and help us, and He will uphold us—through the power of His wonderful word.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
In the middle of this Hall of Fame of faith, the writer comes forth with this aggressive declaration about the absolute necessity of faith if one is to have a meaningful relationship with God. He actually is trying to convince these new Jewish converts to Christianity that they should stay with Jesus and not revert to the Law of Moses.
But the message that comes through to us is just as powerful as it was to those converts. And that is that we must make Christianity a priority in our lives—it can’t be in second place. To please God, we must seek Him diligently, meaning we must be aggressive in our quest to be what God wants us to be.
If we try to live life without seeking God diligently, we try in vain to create a life that has any real or lasting meaning; however, being diligent in our quest gives us hope—hope for a good wholesome life now and for an even better one in the age to come.
“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you: abide in My love” (John 15:9).
Attempting to prepare His closest followers for His departure, Jesus here uses the concept of love to encourage them to remain faithful. He knows of the many trials and persecutions that await them as they began the ministry to which He has charged them.
The apostles surely realize the great love existing between Jesus and His Heavenly Father, and most assuredly they understand the intense love He has for them. He says, then, continue in that love—in fact, He says, live in that love. In other words, He tells them not to forget it.
As the knowledge of that love is to bolster the apostles so they can endure what awaits them after Jesus departs, so we today can allow the knowledge of His intense love for us to bolster us to the point that we, too, can make it through life’s struggles and remain faithful to Him.