“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (Jas 1:2–8).
Attitude to Trials
“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (Jas 1:2). The Apostle James calls his readers, “brothers.” He was writing to fellow believers—Christians (1 Cor 5:11, 7:15, Gal 1:19, Col 1:1).
James exhorts all believers very forcefully with a command, “count”, “consider,” “regard”. He commands them to be always joyful. The word “all” has the idea of totality or completeness.Believers are to consider it pure joy whenever they fall into various temptations. The word “temptation” can either mean (1) testing (like taking an exam) or (2) temptation (as in trying to cause someone to sin). Here, the temptation refers to the trials or testings. God sends such trials to perfect or mature the faith of believers. Trials can come in different forms. The word “divers” means of various kinds. There are various kinds of trials that bring about sufferings, eg bereavement, sickness, poverty, persecution etc. At the time of writing, the believers were facing persecution. The infant church in the first century suffered no less than five persecutions as recorded in Acts 4, 5, 6, 8, and 12. Even in such a time, James says “count it all joy”, for “Man’s disappointments are God’s appointments.” There is a purpose in such trials and testings that come from the Lord.
Purpose of Trials
“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” (Jas 1:3). The persecuted believers were perhaps very dejected that they had to go through so much hardship. James here encourages them that they should begin to understand that there is a reason or purpose for such hardships in the Christian life. God is putting their faith to the test. The faith here is the faith that is exercised by every believer when they trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. The Epistle of James is really first of all an Epistle of Faith. Faith is mentioned before works. There can be no works when there is no faith. Faith must always come first.
The word “trying” here speaks of discovering the genuineness or quality of something by examining it. It is like a student taking his exams so that the school might know the kind of student he is. The testing of one’s faith produces “patience”. It comes from the Greek hupomone (from hupo meaning “under,” and meno, “to remain”). It has the idea of being able to bear up under difficult circumstances. It is a “never say die” attitude. It is endurance, even super endurance. A person with such endurance will not give up easily even under extremely trying circumstances. One example is Job, the “patience of Job” in James 5:11.
“But let patience have her perfect work” (Jas 1:4a). The ability and capacity to endure is not an overnight work, but involves time. The “perfect work” speaks of a maturing process—a gradual and constant development towards spiritual maturity, “that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (Jas 1:4b). The word “whole” refers to “a totality, ie the total person. God does not want us to be lacking in the spiritual strength we need to live the Christian life in all its fulness.
Help in Trials
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (Jas 1:5). It goes without saying that all of us need wisdom. Some may need more, others less, but everyone needs wisdom. What is this “wisdom?” James has been speaking of the necessity of trials and testings and the need to be thankful for them because of the spiritual good that comes out of them. To those who feel or think that this is a difficult truth to understand or accept, James tells them to ask the Lord for wisdom. Calvin rightly said, “to be wise is to submit to God in the endurance of evils, under a due conviction that he so orders all things as to promote our salvation”. God alone is the Giver of wisdom. God assures the one who seeks wisdom that He will give simply, sincerely, openly, and without reproach, without reviling, without heaping insults. God will never turn away the sincere and genuine seeker. He is ever ready to help those who seek Him with all their heart. “But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.” (Deut 4:29–31).
However, the seeker of wisdom must do so in the right way. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” (Jas 1:6). The seeker must pray in faith, believing that God is faithful to His promise. God is faithful to give us what we need whenever we ask for anything according to His will. However, the faith we must have must be unwavering. We must pray without doubting, without having two minds, ie to doubt God’s ability, to doubt His promises, to doubt what God says in His Word. Prayers offered with such an unbelieving mind and a faithless heart will not be heard by God: “For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (Jas 1:7–8).
We must pray in faith believing in God’s word and will. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom 10:17). “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Heb 11:6). Calvin rightly said, “We cannot pray without the word, as it were, leading the way, so we must believe before we pray; for we testify by prayer, that we hope to obtain from God the grace which he has promised.” JK
CHOIR HYMNS ONLINE
The True Life Choir under the direction of brother Bee Heng did not cease to minister to the church in song despite the suspension of physical worship last year due to COVID-19. The hymns the choir painstakingly recorded were presented at the church’s online services from March 29 to December 31, 2020.
The choir continues to sing, record, and present the sacred songs digitally even though the church is regathered for physical worship. By so doing, they help all True Lifers to fulfil Ephesians 5:19–20, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Here is the list of hymns thus far that you can listen to at the church’s YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj_nzmkvUV_N7heAUOdTTCg):
A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
Arise, My Soul, Arise
Christians, Awake, Salute the Happy Morn
Come, Ye Thankful People Come
God Be with You
God Will Take Care of You
God’s Perfect Gift
Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Help, Lord, For Men of Virtue Fail
I Will Never, Never Leave Thee
Like A River Glorious
My Father Watches over Me
O Come, All Ye Faithful
O Father All Creating
O Holy Night!
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Old, Yet Ever New
Silent Night! Holy Night!
Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above
Sovereign Ruler of the Skies
Tell It to Jesus
The KJB vs the Hundred Versions
The Lord Bless You and Keep You
The Lord Himself Has Built the Church
Three Witnesses There Are Above
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
What Child Is This?
When the Morning Comes
Many of the choir hymns and those by Deborah Mae are played at our church prayer meetings (via Zoom). One favourite is an original—“God My Father Reigns”—composed by Deborah with lyrics from Joycelyn Chng.
Besides the hymns on True Life BPC’s YouTube channel, there are many hymns in our brother Christopher Tan’s traditional hymns podcast at http://hymnpod.com. “Music is next to theology” (M Luther).The Lord bless all our church musicians for their labour of love. JK
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