Trials (1:2-12)

When I was a non-Christian college student, the loving acceptance of Christian students in an InterVarsity chapter helped me to begin a serious investigation into the Christian faith. I was asking questions and discussing issues: Does God exist? How could a good and holy God allow evil? Is the Bible a reliable historical record? Are the claims of Christ true? How can I know? I was reading every book I could find on such questions. One of my non-Christian friends, whom I liked very much and whose esteem I valued, offered this commentary on my search for God: "I admire your open-mindedness." His comment made me glad.

Eventually God in his grace brought me to some answers. I accepted Christ as my Savior and gave my life to him as my Lord. Since discussions of religious issues had become a part of my relationship with my non-Christian friends, it was not long before some of my remarks exposed my new stance of belief. The friend who had admired my open-mindedness confronted me with a stare and then a question: "Are you starting to believe that Christianity?"

I testified that I had become a believer, but I was naively unprepared for his disgusted response: "I'm sorry you have become so narrow-minded."

I was perceived to have changed from "open-minded" to "narrow-minded" because I believed my investigation had yielded some answers! That was my first experience with being rejected for my faith in Christ. It was a small matter compared to the persecution many Christians have suffered. But it illustrates the promptness of the separation which comes between Christian and non-Christian, manifesting itself in diverse magnitudes of rejection.

It illustrates as well the primary focus of "trials" in James's epistle. It is not that Christians are the only ones who have ever been persecuted. Nor is the letter intended to give comfort to Christians who suffer as a consequence of their own sin. For example, people who suffer conflicts with other people because of their own malicious talk are not told to consider it pure joy; James tells them to control their tongues. When he writes about "trials," he means hardships and sufferings that Christians encounter even as they are following the Lord. This would include tragedies unrelated to their public stance as Christians, such as young Jim's death in the automobile accident. James will explicitly include poverty as one of the trials of many kinds. But he most particularly has in mind the trials of being persecuted, the trials that come as a consequence of one's faith in Christ.

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