The trials of life can shake our faith and cause us to give up on serving others.
James, the half brother of Jesus, recognized this reality and wrote a book explaining how
we should endure amidst trials and what are the marks of true faith.
In chapter one, James explains how to endure in the midst of trials and suffering. He
encourages us to recognise that we may profit from our trials, as hard as they may be
(1:1-4). He calls us to seek wisdom from God in our trials (1:5-8); to maintain a proper perspective on wealth (1:9-11); to distinguish between trials which may be from God and temptation which never comes from God (1:12-18); and to avoid anger and focus on being “doers” of the word.
In the middle chapters, James gives us the three marks of real faith: caring for the needy (2:1-26), controlling our tongues (3:1-12) and living lives of personal purity (3:13-5:6). According to James, true Christians care for the needy. This means that we do not favour the rich or show partiality (2:1-13) and that we recognise that a faith that does not care for others is not true Christian faith (2:14-26). True Christians also control their tongues (3:1-12) and live lives of personal holiness. Holiness means that our lives display godly wisdom not earthly jealousy or ambition (3:13-18); that we reject pride and cultivate humility (4:1-10); that we refuse to speak behind other peoples’ backs or to judge them presumptuously (4:11-12); that we avoid arrogance or misplaced self confidence (4:13-17); and that we do not hoard wealth or withhold money owing to others (5:1-6).
James finishes his book with a closing exhortation encouraging us to endure trials patiently, prayerfully and pastorally. This means we endure trials patiently while maintaining our integrity (5:7-12); that we pray for those who are sick or suffering (5:13-18); and that we pastorally restore those who are straying from the truth (5:19-20).