Scattered & Suffering: Heeding the Warning While Your Faith Is Under Fire

Today’s selected reading is found in the New Testament epistle written by James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus. More specifically today’s passage begins with the first verse of the first chapter and continues through to the fourteenth verse of the second chapter of this New Testament book. “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting” (James 1:1).

 

            “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. Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: but the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:2-12).

 

            “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (James 1:13-18).

 

            “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh. Not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:19-27).

            “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not them partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them t hat love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and y et offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also. Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed n o mercy: and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:1-14).

 

            When you come to the epistle written by James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus you will find him opening it with the emphatic declaration that he was a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is that when you read the words which are found in the opening verse you will find this epistle written unto the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad. It’s actually quite interesting to consider the words which are found in the opening verse of this epistle for within it we find James writing unto the twelve tribes of Israel which were scattered abroad upon the face of the earth. What makes this all the more astonishing is when you consider the fact that it comes directly on the heels of the epistle written unto the Hebrews. It is truly intriguing when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture to find this epistle being written unto the same group of people whom the previous epistle was written unto. The epistle written by James was not written unto Gentiles as were the epistles written by the apostle Paul, nor were they written unto the Gentiles as were the epistles which were written by the apostles Peter and John. This particular epistle was written unto the twelve tribes of Israel—those who had obtained and were the recipients of the covenant, the promises, the blessings, the Law, the sacrifices, the ordinances of God and the like. As you read this epistle you must needs recognize and understand that it was written through the lens of the twelve tribes of the Hebrews which were present within and throughout the earth. In order to understand this all the more I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the ninth chapter of the New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul written unto the saints which were at Rome:

 

            “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I love, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:1-13).

 

            It is absolutely necessary we pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words presented here demonstrate this epistle was written unto those who had received the covenant, the promises, the ordinances of the living God, the Law, the tabernacle and the temple and even circumcision. When we read the words found in this epistle we must needs recognize that it was written unto the Jewish people—those who had vehemently opposed and rejected the Messiah when He came unto and among them. It is in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find the Jews in Judaea and Jerusalem staunchly opposing and resisting the Lord Jesus and taking offense—both to His words and His works. Not only did the Jews take offense to the Lord Jesus healing on the Sabbath day but they also took great offense to His making the claim that God was His Father. Within and throughout this New Testament gospel we find the Jews repeatedly and continually seeking to find occasion wherewith to accuse the Lord Jesus and ultimately put Him to death. From the fifth chapter on—from the time the Lord Jesus healed the man who was at the pool of Bethesda—the Jews sought to persecute and kill Him. Even when the Lord Jesus returned to Jerusalem after departing for a season He would speak unto them of their wanting to kill Him because of one work—namely, healing a man on the sabbath day. It is throughout the rest of the epistle we find the Jews continuing in their offense with the Lord Jesus and their rejecting and opposing both His words and His works.

 

            I find it incredibly intriguing reading the epistle written by James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus and how he not only referred to himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ but also how he wrote this epistle unto the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad. In fact if you read the epistle written by James as well as the two epistles written by the apostle Peter you will find epistles written unto those who were scattered abroad throughout and upon the earth. James wrote his epistle unto the twelve tribes of Israel which were scattered abroad while the apostle Peter wrote his epistle unto the saints and brethren which were scattered abroad and suffering. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous reality surrounding the epistle written by James unto the twelve tribes of Israel which were scattered abroad throughout the earth. That which adds even more to this is when you consider the fact that this epistle was written in 60 A.D.—or was assumed to have been written in A.D. 60. This would have been a full ten years before the invasion of the land of Judea, the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Temple of the living God which stood in the midst thereof and the scattering of those within the land. What’s more is that when you consider the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew you will find the Lord Jesus speaking of the coming persecution that would break forth upon the land. Not only this but the Lord Jesus spoke of not one of the stones of the Temple and its buildings being left upon another and the coming abomination which causes desolation.

 

            I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in this epistle and I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto those to whom He was sent. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in this epistle it’s that the Lord Jesus came unto His own and took upon Himself the seed of Abraham. The Lord Jesus Christ came unto His own in the form of flesh and blood and walked and dwelt among the children of Israel—those who were the descendants of Abraham. With this being said, however, we must needs recognize that while still among them the Lord Jesus gave strong warning concerning the coming desolation, destruction and devastation that would come upon the land. This is something which must needs be understood for I am convinced there were those who heard the words of the Lord Jesus and took them to heart and heeded them. I would dare say there were those who heard the words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers and decided to flee from Jerusalem and Judaea that they might spare their lives. Despite the fact that they might be scattered among the nations of the earth they heard and heeded the words which Jesus had spoken unto them. Oh when I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful truth concerning the twelve tribes of Israel and how many of them were scattered because of the words of the Lord Jesus. Not only this but we also know from the eighth and eleventh chapters of the New Testament book of Acts that there were believing Jews who were scattered throughout Judaea and Galilee at the time of the great persecution which broke out against the Church after the death of Stephen.

 

            Having said all of this I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts. There is not a doubt in my mind that each of these passages of Scripture helps us understand the context surrounding a people who could and would be scattered throughout and upon the face of the earth. The Lord Jesus warned those present in the midst of Jerusalem and Judaea of the coming desolation, destruction and devastation and there is not a doubt in my mind there were men and women who heard those words and took them to heart. As a direct result of their hearing the words of the Lord Jesus they chose to pack up their belongings and depart from the city of Jerusalem and the land of Judaea that they might spare their own lives. Oh none of them knew the day or the hour when the devastation, destruction and desolation would come and yet there were more than likely countless men, women, families, children and the like who departed from the land. With this being said I would dare say there was one more event which would cause the believing Jews to be scattered throughout the earth during those days—namely the persecution of the Church which would break out during the days of Stephen’s death and Saul’s rage. In other words both warning and persecution would cause the believing Jews to be scattered throughout the world during that time. With this in front of you I invite you to consider the following words which are found in each of these passages of Scripture beginning with those presented to us in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:

 

            “And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:1-2).

 

            “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matthew 24:15-22).

 

            Consider all the following words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of this same New Testament gospel as well as the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke:

 

            “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:234-39).

 

            “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:34-35).

 

            “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, if thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).

 

            “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and hailing men and women committed them to prison. Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:1-4).

 

            “Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was at Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord. Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch” (Acts 11:19-26).

 

            Please don’t miss the incredible importance of the words found within these passages for within them you will not only find a great persecution breaking out in the midst of Jerusalem against the Church but you will also find a powerful warning of coming destruction and devastation upon the city of Jerusalem. If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning the words which the Lord Jesus spoke it’s that He not only prophesied and spoke of coming persecution against those who were followers of Him but He also warned and prophesied of the coming destruction and devastation that would come upon the city of Jerusalem. We dare not and must not miss how absolutely incredible this truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the reality surrounding the twelve tribes of Israel being scattered abroad throughout and upon the face of the earth. There is not a doubt in my mind that there were those who were scattered because of the words and warnings the Lord Jesus spoke concerning the coming destruction and devastation of the city of Jerusalem while there were others who were scattered abroad because of the persecution which would break out against the Church during the days of Stephen’s death and Saul’s rage against the church. By the time James wrote this epistle there were perhaps countless families from among the twelve tribes of Israel who were scattered abroad upon the face of the earth simply seeking to survive and stay alive in their new environment. There were those who had left everything they had known—either because of the words and warnings the Lord Jesus had spoken concerning the coming destruction of the city or because of the persecution which would break out against the church during the days of Saul.

            What adds even more weight to this particular truth is when you come to the second verse of the opening chapter of this epistle. It is in the first chapter beginning with the second verse James exhorts and admonishes these dear saints to count it all joy when they fell into divers temptations. Not only this but James would also go on to exhort and admonish them that if they counted it all joy when falling into divers temptations they knew that the trying of their faith works patience. Furthermore James would go on to instruct them to let patience have her perfect work that they might be perfect and entire wanting nothing. This would immediately be followed by James inviting any of them which lacked wisdom to ask of God who gives to all men liberally and upbraids not and it shall be given him. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s that James would speak unto them—not only concerning the divers temptations which they themselves would fall into but also concerning the trying of their faith. This is something which James the half-brother of the Lord Jesus and the apostle Peter would write of in their epistles—epistles which I would say bear a strong similarity to each other. In all reality I would dare say that when James was writing this epistle—not only was he writing to those who were scattered abroad upon the face of the earth but he was writing unto those who had perhaps already suffered in the midst of Jerusalem and Judaea and/or were presently suffering in the flesh in the current city and land they were living. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider if you will the following words which are found in the fourth chapter of this epistle as well as the words which are found in the fourth and fifth chapters of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter unto the saints and brethren which were scattered abroad:

 

            “Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:4-8).

 

            “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busy body in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).

 

            “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am an also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:1-11).

 

            If there is one thing you can learn from the epistles written by James the half-brother of Jesus and the apostle Peter it’s that both epistles were written unto those who were scattered abroad upon the earth. With this being said there is not a doubt in my mind that these epistles were written unto those who were not only scattered abroad upon the earth but also those who were suffering in their present location. The more I read the words which are found in the opening verses of the epistle written by James the more I am brought face to face with the incredible truth that those who were scattered abroad throughout the earth at that time were not only scattered because of a warning issued by the Lord Jesus but also because of persecution which had broken out in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. What makes this all the more interesting when you take the time to think about it is when you find that James spoke unto those to whom he was writing concerning their falling into divers temptations. James would write unto his audience and readers concerning their falling into divers temptations and then emphatically declared unto them that the trying of their faith works patience. In other words—not only did James write and speak unto them of temptations which they would face within their lives but he also spoke unto them concerning trials and the trying of their faith.

 

            Perhaps one of the greatest truths found within this opening chapter of the epistle written by James is that of the trial of faith. We know from the epistle written by the apostle Paul that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. We know and understand from Scripture that we walk by faith and not by sight. We also know that faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. In addition to this we know and understand that without faith it is impossible to please the living God. What we find here, however, is something entirely and altogether different as James writes and speaks of the trying of one’s faith. This is something which must needs be recognized and understood—particularly and especially in light of the words which the apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle—for within this epistle the apostle Peter admonished and exhorted his readers not to be surprised or taken back by the suffering they faced in this life as though some strange thing were happening unto them. It is important that we recognize and understand this for through the words of the apostle Peter we almost get the sense that trials, troubles, tribulation and temptations are not only a part of regular life as a saint of God and disciple of Christ but should be expected. There is not a doubt in my mind that there are men and women among us today who are somehow shocked and surprised when trials, troubles, tribulation, affliction and suffering is manifested in their lives. Not only this but there are those among us who treat it is as something strange and unusual within their lives—something that is sort of foreign and alien in concept.

 

            When reading the epistle written by James unto the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad we find him writing unto them concerning their own trials, troubles, tribulations and temptations they faced. Through this epistle James sought to invite them into the place where they realized and understood that the trying or the trial of their faith works patience. Oh there are in all reality two things which must be noted here in this passage of Scripture for on the one hand we read of the trial of faith while on the other hand we read of the trial of faith working patience. This is something we must needs acknowledge within our hearts and minds for James clearly states and demonstrates the reality that there will indeed come times within our lives when we can and will experience the trial of our faith. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to declare unto you that a faith which cannot be tested is a faith which cannot be trusted. There would be those who would like to somehow guard and protect their faith from experiencing any outside pressure from the things around it and I am convinced that such individuals who do so are those whose faith cannot be trusted in the sight of the living God. Those who would dare seek to guard and protect their faith from the pressures of the outside world are those whose faith cannot be trusted by the living God and those whose faith cannot be entrusted with the things of heaven here upon the earth.

 

            I find it absolutely astonishing when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that James emphatically writes and speaks of the trying or trial of faith for he seems to suggest that although we would say we have faith and although we might even say we can and will demonstrate our faith by works that faith must needs be able to be tested and tried by the living God. If there is one thing we must needs understand when reading this passage of Scripture it’s that the trying or trial of our faith is not undertaken and performed by any mere man upon the earth but is instead undertaken by the living God Himself. When we speak of the trying and trial of faith we must recognize that this trial of faith is such that is performed and completed by the living God—and not only the living God but of the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember it was the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews who declared that Jesus is the author and the perfecter of our faith when they instructed us to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us that we might run the race before us with endurance and patience. The more we speak of this trying and trial of faith the more we must needs understand that no mere man can try our faith within this life. There is absolutely no man upon the face of the earth who would or could ever be in such a place where they are able to try and test our faith and when we speak of this trying of our faith we must understand that it is only the living God who can indeed test and try it. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the opening chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter:

 

            “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold the perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now we see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:3-9).

 

            The words which are found in this opening chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Peter are absolutely necessary to recognize and understand when seeking to understand that which James wrote for both authors wrote unto those who were scattered—and not only scattered but also those who were suffering. What adds even more weight to this particular truth is when you consider the fact that the twelve tribes of Israel and the saints of God which were scattered abroad throughout the face of the earth during these days—although they were not in captivity as were the children of Israel during the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel—might have very well faced similar challenges. We know from the New Testament book of Acts that there was a great persecution which broke out in the midst of the city of Jerusalem after the death of Stephen who would become the church’s first martyr. What’s more is that if you study church history you will find that eventually persecution would take on an entirely different level during the days of Nero emperor of Rome. It would be during the days of Nero emperor of Rome persecution would break out in the midst of the empire toward and against Christians. From being tortured to being imprisoned, to being cast into the arena to face wild beasts or fierce warriors, to being crucified and being burned at the stake the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ during those days faced tremendous challenges to their faith. Just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego faced the challenge in the land of the Chaldeans to forsake their faith in the living God and bow down and worship the golden image made by Nebuchadnezzar so also were those who were alive and present during the days of Nero challenged to forsake and abandon their faith in the sight and presence of the living God.

 

            I am sitting here today thinking about and considering the truth of the three Hebrews who were alive and present during the days of the Babylonian empire and how they were faced with the challenge to bow down and worship the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar had set up or refuse to bow down and risk being cast into the fiery furnace. Of course we know and understand that when the music played and all sorts of instruments were heard throughout the land everyone seemed to bow down and worship this image made of gold—everyone except these three Hebrews. Eventually they were brought before the king who would be filled with sheer and utter fury and rage when they emphatically and boldly declared unto them that whether the living God delivered them from the fiery furnace or not they would not bow down and worship his golden image set up in the midst of the land. The king—upon hearing these words—would  immediately order the furnace to be heated seven times hotter before having Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego cast bound and alive in the midst of it. Much to his shock, horror and amazement he witnessed not three men in the fiery furnace but four men with the fourth being likened unto the Son of man. Not only this but those who walked in the midst of the fiery furnace appeared to be untouched and unscathed by the flames of fire and when Nebuchadnezzar ordered them to come forth from the midst of the furnace they came forth without the smell of smoke upon them, without a hair on their body being signed and without their clothes bearing any marks of being burned. Oh consider if you will the following words which are found in the third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel:

 

            “Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: and whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:8-12).

 

            “Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abe-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?  Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:13-18).

 

            “Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace, one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery fgurnace. Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. And these three men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellers, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellers, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed upon them. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation and language which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon” (Daniel 3:19-30).

 

            When we speak of the trying of one’s faith and even when we speak of the trials of one’s faith being tried with fire there is a great need to consider this particular narrative found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel. There is perhaps no greater passage of Scripture that highlights and underscores the trial of faith—not by a figurative or symbolic fire of temptation, trials, troubles, affliction, suffering, persecution and the like but by actual fire. In fact when you read the eleventh chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews you will find in the final section of the chapter the author speaking of those of whom the world was not worthy and how there were those who through faith quenched the fires. There is not a doubt in my mind that the author of this epistle—when speaking of those who through faith quenched the flames of fire—wrote and spoke of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego just as when they spoke of those who through faith stopped the mouths of lions spoke of Daniel. This is something which we must needs recognize and understand when considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for when we speak of the trial of faith we must acknowledge that it was and is indeed a trial by fire. Oh although we might not face a literal fire like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego faced, and although we might not face a literal fire like certain during the days of the Roman Empire faced who were burned at the stake we can and nonetheless will experience the trial of our faith through the fire(s) of affliction, of suffering, of persecution, of tribulations and that which we face within this life.

 

            In the opening chapter of the epistle written by James we find him writing and speaking unto his brethren inviting them to count it all joy when they fell into divers temptations. Perhaps the single greatest question we must needs ask ourselves when reading these words is how and why we could and would count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations. The underlying reason and answer for our counting it all joy and rejoicing when we fall into divers temptations is knowing that the trying of our faith works patience within our hearts and souls. Not only this but James goes on to write unto his audience inviting them to let patience—that patience which was wrought about by the trying of their faith—to have its perfect work in them that they might be perfect and entire wanting nothing. This is something we must needs recognize and understand when seeking to understand the words written in this passage of Scripture for within it the author of this epistle clearly and emphatically declares and speaks of “falling into” divers temptations thus suggesting that it is not something we actively and proactively seek after and search for but rather something that more often than not comes upon us unexpectedly which more often than not we might not be ready for. When I think about the words which James wrote in this passage of Scripture I can’t help but think about Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego who “fell into” the burning fiery furnace bound and still clothed with all their royal garments from the Baylonian empire.

 

            If there is one thing we must needs understand about Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego it’s that although they would indeed “fall into” the burning fiery furnace they knew what they were facing. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego knew the risk they were taking by not bowing down and worshipping the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar had set up in the plain of Dura in the land of Shinar and yet they were still unwilling to bow down and worship this image made of gold. Not only this but when they stood in the presence of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon they knew that he had the authority and power to cast them bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Oh there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if they neither resisted nor struggled when the strongest men in the Babylonian empire bound them in their garments as they prepared to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Not only this but I wonder if they struggled and resisted as they were being dragged to the mouth and entrance of the fiery furnace or if they walked that path with courage, with strength and with boldness within their hearts and souls. Scripture is entirely unclear as to the thoughts, emotions and feelings which were present within the hearts and minds of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego as they were being bound to be cast into the burning fiery furnace, however, we do know that after they were bound they were brought to entrance of the burning fiery furnace and “fell into” the midst of it unsure of what would befall them.

 

            I find it absolutely remarkable and astonishing when reading the words presented in this passage of Scripture for although Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego knew what lay before them and what awaited them they would fall into the midst of the flames of fire. It is this imagery I can’t help but think about when I read the words which are found in the epistle written by James concerning “falling into” divers temptations. What’s more is that when you read these words you will be brought face to face with the reality of “falling into” divers temptations—and not only falling into temptations but falling into divers temptations. Oh there is something truly unique about this passage for not only do we read of temptation in the singular sense but we read of temptations in the plural sense. Not only this but we don’t merely read of temptations in the plural sense but we read of divers or different kinds and types of temptations. Pause for a moment and consider just how absolutely challenging this is knowing that it is indeed possible for us to “fall into” temptations—and not merely temptations but divers temptations. It is very much possible that we can and will face different types of temptations within this life and that we might indeed fall into those temptations much like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego fell into the burning fiery furnace. Oh what an incredible truth is found in this passage of Scripture for James wrote unto those who were scattered abroad throughout and upon the face of the earth—not only concerning the trying of their faith but also their falling into divers temptations.

 

            With all of this being said we must needs understand that James would go on to admonish and exhort them to let the patience that comes from the trying of their faith have its perfect work that they might be perfect and entire wanting nothing. Moreover James would go on to instruct and admonish them concerning any who lacked wisdom to ask of God who gives unto all men liberally and who upbraids not. What we must needs understand concerning the words which James wrote it’s that he would go on to admonish and exhort them to ask in faith without anything wavering or doubting within their heart. James would go on to declare that the one who wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. Moreover James would go on to write concerning the one who wavers that they ought not think that ought to receive anything of the Lord. Thus within this passage of Scripture—not only do we read of the trying of one’s faith but we also read of asking the living God for wisdom in faith without anything wavering within our hearts and souls. As if this weren’t enough James goes on to write concerning a double-minded man being unstable in all their ways. Oh that we would recognize and understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for what we find here is a truly astonishing and powerful invitation to not only count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations but we are also to ask God if we lack wisdom within our hearts and souls. James emphatically declares that God can and will give unto those who ask Him in faith without anything wavering thus suggesting and revealing unto us that we have great need to not only recognize the trying and testing of our faith but also the need of that faith in the sight and presence of the living God.

 

            Oh if you continue reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find James continuing to speak of temptation which might very well be understood as trials, troubles and tribulation by emphatically declaring that the man who endures temptation is blessed. The underlying reason we need to ask how and why such a man who endured temptation would and could be blessed. If you continue reading the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find that the man who endures temptation—when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love him. How could someone count it all joy when they fall into divers temptations and how is the man who endures temptation blessed? The answer to this question—simply put—is that when and after he is tried there shall await him a crown of life which the Lord has promised to all those that love him. This is precisely what the apostle Paul wrote when writing unto Timothy his spiritual son in the faith when he declared how he had fought the good fight of faith and had finished the course which was before him. The apostle Paul would go on to write and speak of a crown of righteousness which was laid and stored up for him—and not only for him but all those who love the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we have great need of recognizing and understanding when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for we as the saints of God have been called and invited into the place where we not only count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations and when our faith is tried and tested but also knowing we are blessed when we endure temptation.

 

            As I bring this writing to a close I find it necessary to call and draw your attention to the instruction James would write unto those who would read and hear the words written in this epistle. Beginning with the thirteenth verse James would go on to write and admonish his readers not to say when they were tempted that they were tempted of God for God cannot be tempted with evil, nor does he tempt any man. James goes on to declare that every man is temped when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. When lust has conceived it brings forth sin—and sin when it is finished brings forth death. James would go on to declare unto his readers and audience that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. It was of His own will He begot us with the word of truth that we should be the firstfruits of his creatures. Not only this but we are to be those who are swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath for the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. James would instruct his audience and readers to lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness and receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save their souls. James would go on to instruct them. To be doers of the word and not hearers only deceiving themselves. Those who are merely hearers of the word only are like a man who beholds his natural face in a glass who beholds himself and goes his way and immediately forgets what manner of man he was. Those, however, who look into the perfect law of liberty and continue therein and who are faithful doers of the work shall be blessed by the living God. Oh t hat we would indeed recognize and understand the type and manner of men we are to be in the midst of this crooked generation.

 

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