Not long after Christ had risen from the dead, appeared to his followers, and ascended into heaven, the newly formed church He left behind had much maturing to complete if they were going to fulfill the Great Commission, taking the gospel beyond Jerusalem, into Samaria, Judea, and even the remotest parts of the earth.
The Goal Is Maturity in Christ
The epistle of James was written within this context and was directed to Jewish Christians spread across Palestine because of the persecution that had broken out after the martyrdom of Stephen. Dispersed to the remotest parts of the earth by the sovereignty of God, it was only a matter of maturity that separated the gospel from the perishing. It was for this purpose that James wrote his epistle to those early Christians. “The mature believer,” teaches James, “will become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing, only by joyfully persevering in faith, and by confidently asking of God, even in the midst of trials and temptations.”
Maturity Through Trials
James 1:2-8 is a clear outline to us for the change that needs to happen before our maturity can take place. His first command to us is concerning the unavoidable trials and temptations that we will all unexpectedly fall into at some point in time (v. 2). His command is simple: Consider those trials and temptations as joyous occasions. James leaves no situation exempt from warranting a response such as this.
The believer is, first of all, to have complete joy. James knows how easy it is for us to become anxious and worrisome over unforeseen trials and temptations in our life. He admonishes us to do this no longer, but to have complete joy in the situation. When our joy is complete, when all we have is joy, there will be no more room for anxiety, bitterness, or self-pity.
In All Situations
Second, James modifies the term trials with the word various. It is of no matter where the trial came from, whether you expected it or not, or even if it never leaves your mind, but continually exists as an inward battle of emotions. His command is simple. We are to consider all trials and all temptations with all joy.
Results In a Perfect Union With God
Joy in the midst of trials, however, is not the purpose of James message to us. It is but the means to our perfection and completeness. Our perfection, says James, will present itself only after our faith has been tested, and our endurance has run its perfect course within us. The believer who can endure, standing strong in his faith, while a barrage of trials and temptations strike him from every side, and yet have only joy permeate his body… that believer has grasped what it means to be in perfect union with God, obeying him in every situation, for the sake of the glory of God!
What does a mature believer look like and how does he obtain that maturity? He must first be perfect and complete, obtaining that through the joyful preservation of his faith… regardless of what the situation yields around him.
Maturity Through Prayer
The second characteristic of a believer seeking maturity is that he is lacking in nothing. “But if any of you are lacking wisdom,” says verse 5, “you must ask God, who gives freely to all, without finding fault.” Once again, James is clear-cut with his expectations for us. There is no excuse for those who fail to reach maturity in Christ because they are lacking in wisdom. James offers at threefold rebuttal to anyone who supposes they are incapable of maturity due to their lack.
God Gives Freely
First, God gives freely. There are no conditions other than that the individual must first ask. He who fails to ask of God will be in continual lack, and thus, keep himself from completion and maturity in Christ. God gives freely to all men.
To Everyone Who Asks
Second, the believer is not at liberty to cower rather than request wisdom from the Lord. James is saying, “No one will be condemned by the Lord on account of the questions that he asks. This is not an valid excuse for your lack.”
Without Finding Fault
Third, James promises us that it will be given to us. Those who are lacking in wisdom yet don’t ask because they fear their request will be turned away, hold to false and erroneous view of God. The truth is that God gives to all men freely without finding fault. The only ones who will not receive are those who do not really believe. James now turns to an illustration of this, hoping to dispel any remaining hindrance to our maturity.
An Illustration: Ask with faith
If you have stood the test of faith, and now ask God for wisdom, you must make sure that there is no doubt within your request. If you were to approach Him who you know gives to all freely and without finding fault, and to ask him for wisdom, but doubt that he will give it to you, you are compared to the waves of the sea. There is no honesty in your request and the natural result will be a continual lacking of wisdom.
To those who do not truly believe they will receive when they ask, one must consider if they were ever asking in the first place. James says that they were not. “For that man should not think that he will receive anything from the Lord, he is a double minded man, unstable in all he does.”
What does a mature believer look like and how does he obtain that maturity? A mature believer is lacking in nothing and he obtains this by asking of God who gives freely to all without finding fault… even in the midst of trials and temptations. And when he asks, a mature believer does so without doubt.
James letter was sent to an immature group of believers in the midst of many trials and temptations. His desire was that they would become perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James contends that even in the midst of trials and temptations, it is possible to find perfection, completeness, and a need for nothing.
This is the path a believer must be able to take if maturity is his goal.