May these words instruct and encourage and strengthen believers.
As usual I’ve used several versions of the Bible depending on which one comes closest to the Greek, and sometimes adding the Strong’s definition for individual words.
From James chapter 1
1 James, a servant of God, to the twelve tribes scattered among the Gentile nations:
Consider what James is saying in the context of a patriot speaking to his countrymen who were scattered among Gentile nations often if not always hostile to them, and contrary to their Jewish faith. But not necessarily to their Christian faith.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations,
“Trials” and temptations of all sorts were guaranteed for “the Diaspora”, “the [Jews] scattered among the [Gentile] nations”. If you’ve ever read the accounts of missionaries struggling to adapt to foreign cultures, you have the beginning of an idea of what it was like for Jews to live among people they considered “unclean” and “cursed”.
Oh yes: “joy”? We’ll come to that a little later on …
3 for you know that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.
I imagine many of the Diaspora would say at this point, “How about if we do without endurance, steadfastness, and patience? Dude, who really cares?” Which James answers in the next verse –
4 But let endurance and steadfastness and patience finish [have full play and do a thorough work] so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing, complete in every part, sound, perfect, entire.
The Greek word for “finish” is “τέλειον”. It’s closely related to “Τετέλεσται”, the Greek word translated “finished” in John 19:30 – “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished: and he bowed his head, and yielded up His spirit.’ “
That kind of finish. Doesn’t leave much room for quibbling, does it? To the bitter end. To the death. When I read the autobiography of China missionary Gladys Aylward, she replied to a Chinese official that some apparent Christians who had denied the faith were not Christians, because, she said, “Christians don’t quit.”
I remember reading a book about Air Force pararescue teams. There was a particularly dangerous mission in which they and their helicopters were shot up pretty bad. Some of the rescued Marines were sitting on the deck of the carrier. One of the Marines pointed to the many holes in the choppers, and said to a buddy, “These guys don’t quit on you when it gets rough.”
“Christians don’t quit.” Do we?
There is a war raging. Spiritual, but lethal just the same. If we are not at our posts, if we are spiritually (or literally) hung over, flabby, not committed to the fight, people get needlessly hurt. People who should have lived die. It’s not only about us being “perfect” or “fully developed”. It’s about us using our fully developed spiritual gifts to bring people to the Savior, so He can save and heal them. It’s about casualties or rescue.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, Who gives to all [including all the forms of declension; all, any, every, the whole] liberally and ungrudgingly, simply, sincerely, graciously, bountifully, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given to him.
In other words, long before some human said, “There’s no such thing as a stupid question”, God said it. He won’t laugh at your question. He won’t embarrass you. He won’t make you feel like an idiot. You have a question, just ask Him. 🙂
6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt [without withdrawing from, or opposing] because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
Many years ago I came across the perfect illustration of what “doubting” means in this verse. The bracketed words above come from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance definition, and they fit this case like a glove. I was present in a religious studies class in college when the professor told the class that in his youth he had requested a “small” miracle on behalf of a friend. He said to God, “I don’t believe You do such things, but if you do, would you just show me?”
His “small” miracle showed up on his doorstep in just a couple of minutes. He said to God, “That’s one.” That was all. He went on to become a professor of religion – but not a possessor of faith. He doubted, he withdrew. He opposed. So he received no wisdom from God, because he withdrew from it when God gave it.
Now let’s talk about the “pure joy” James mentioned and I promised we’d get to!
Have you ever seen a video of a rescuer reunited later with the one he or she rescued? Remember the joy? Maybe it was someone who had been rescued from a flood when they were about to drown. Or someone a firefighter rescued from a blazing hell at the risk of his own life. Maybe it was an organ donor and the one who received the vital organ. But the emotion was always the same – “You saved my life! Thank God you were there! Thank God you were willing to take the risk!”
That can be you, brothers and sisters. For many of you, it probably already is. If you try to “live Godly in Christ Jesus”, you are a firefighter, rescuing people from the fires of hell. You are a paramedic or surgeon, giving medical treatment to desperately wounded souls. You are a cop who answers an emergency call at top speed bent on to protecting victims before it’s too late. You are a soldier who goes into battle to extract victims or destroy enemies.
YOU. In all your human defectiveness, all your flaws, all your weaknesses. Because GOD CHOSE YOU.
You are not inadequate. “For [simply] consider your own call, brethren; not many [of you were considered to be] wise according to human estimates and standards, not many influential and powerful, not many of high and noble birth. [No!] For God selected (deliberately chose) what in the world is foolish to put the wise to shame, and what the world calls weak to put the strong to shame.” (1st Corinthians 1:26-27)
“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ ” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)
When we walk and pray and work in the power of the Holy Spirit, in Christ, we become powerhouses. Dynamos. Even though it may not feel like it at the time. We may think we’ve failed. We may feel like we’ve just put both feet in our mouths. But the Holy Spirit, through willing and committed, believer’s lives, can accomplish miracles of rescue and healing that we may never see in this life. But they’ll will have us dancing for joy when we see the results in God’s Kingdom.
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For ‘In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.’ And, ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’ But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:35-39)
*Note from duckie~ I was watching the Ravi videos I posted this past Saturday when he said something that made me pause him and go look for the incident he described on youtube. I haven’t watched the Olympics for a number of years, since I don’t watch TV so I hadn’t heard of the story of Derek Redmond. I gotta say I bawled watching this version of his incredible determination in Barcelona, but not only that- that this is what lawngren, and James, is talking about Finishing. No. Matter. What. Especially no matter how battered or in pain it may be to take that last ‘lap’. I knew I had to add it to this article, but the similarities not only evident to me, but the person who made this video, and Ravi and so many others, that a Father’s love is helping us every step of the way.