James 1.9-12


1.   Turn to James chapter 1.  When you find that portion of God’s Word, please stand:

1      James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

2      My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;

3      Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

4      But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

5      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.

6      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.

7      For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

8      A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

9      Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:

10     But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.

11     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.

12     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.


2.   As near as anyone can tell, this letter written by James, the half brother of our Lord Jesus Christ and pastor of the church in Jerusalem, was the first of the New Testament books to be written.

3.   Just a bit of background and context leading up to our text for today:  This letter is written to Jewish Christians who had been dispersed by persecution and who were experiencing hardship and suffering.  James termed such experiences “divers temptations.”

4.   Please understand that what James means by “divers temptations” has nothing to do with any enticement to commit sin, but refers to the trials and opportunities God gives us to demonstrate strength and to enable us to grow to spiritual maturity.[1]

5.   In verses 2-4, we find explained to us the purpose of a living faith being tested by God; to develop patience, which is spiritual endurance here, so that the believer will be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.[2]

6.   In verses 5-8, we see the prayer of a Christian’s living faith tested.  How wisdom from God is so vital, how wisdom can be obtained, and what dangers are encountered as you seek wisdom from God.

7.   Today we will examine two things in verses 9-12:  First, we find described for us the participants in testings.  Second, we find described for us the prize for enduring testings.  Another way of saying it would be the prize for being patient, when patience is understood as courageous endurance of difficult circumstances.

8.   Two main points for this morning:  Point number one recognizes the participants in testings.  Point number two recognizes the prize for enduring those testings.  Keeping in mind that our text speaks directly to Christians, and has nothing to say to that person who is unconverted,



You know what poor people say when you ask them about the hard life?  They say, “If I wasn’t so poor life would be a lot easier.  Those rich people have it easy.”  But you know what the rich say when you ask them the same question?  They say, “Headaches and pressure all day long.  You know, if I just punched a time clock instead of handling all of this responsibility and fighting through government red tape all day long, life sure would be simpler.”  The rich man says it is easier being poor.  The poor man says it is easier being rich.  Neither is right.  Each person has his own set of problems and trials in life.

1B.    Notice what James says about the Christian who is poor in verse 9.

“Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted.”

1C.   What is his predicament?  He is of low degree.  “The phrase ‘of low degree’ (tapeinov) means one in humble circumstances; one of lowly rank or employment; one in a condition of dependence or poverty.”[3]

2C.   For some people, being of low degree ruins their whole day.  Their entire self-esteem is derived from the amount of money they have.  For that reason, they fail to see the dignity of the person who is in poverty and the dignity of working a job that does not pay much, which is quite another thing from self-esteem, or thinking much of yourself.

3C.   But such is not to be the case with the child of God.  So-called self-esteem and a concept of self-worth should be entirely unrelated to the amount of money a man possesses.  Mere outward circumstances should have nothing to do with a person’s perceived value as a human being in the sight of God.  Therefore, James directs the brother of low degree to rejoice.

4C.   But what does the poor man rejoice in?  Certainly not wealth.  No, something infinitely more important than perishable material wealth.  The poor man who knows Christ can rejoice in any circumstance . . . because he is exalted.

5C.   You see, this world has everything backwards.  Not realizing that Jesus taught that we would always have poverty in our midst, the world system that knows not God is working to wipe out poverty in our lifetime.  Focusing on poverty, many people ignore their eternal destiny.

6C.   FDR’s New Deal, designed to combat the effects of the Depression, is now seen by many economists as having actually prolonged the Depression rather than providing a remedy.  The real remedy for the deep Depression of the 1930s was World War two.

7C.   Then there was JFK’s New Frontier and LBJ’s Great Society programs.  Enacted by Congress to obliterate poverty in the United States, literally trillions of dollars were spent on government programs, some of which still exist.  The result?  An explosion in illegitimate births in the United States, as young girls figured out that they didn’t need husbands to get by so long as the government gave them money to subsidize their children.  Now you have adults who think the government at some level should prepare kids for school, that the government should feed kids their lunch, and that government should take care of kids after school.  Parents?  They are not even allowed to monitor their children’s phone conversations anymore.[4]

8C.   Finally, there was Bill Clinton’s attempt to remake Medicare several years ago.  Folks, these measures were all unscriptural attempts to do that which the Word of God says cannot be done, to end poverty here on earth, to bring heaven down to earth by the efforts of man.

9C.   When you feed a man you prolong his life by one day.  But when you concern yourself with the King’s business, when you bring a man to Christ, you are used of God to prolong his life for all eternity.  And though he may oftentimes be poor in material possessions, he is exalted to the very throne room of heaven with his Savior. 

10C. Paul wrote these words to the Ephesians, in Ephesians 2.4-6:

4      But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

5      Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

6      And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus


11C. Poor Christian, don’t gripe about your predicament.  Praise God for your position in Christ!  That done, and with a right attitude, Christians ought to do what they can to help Christians deal with the daily issues of life, but only after the issues of the soul are first dealt with.  Amen?

2B.    Now notice what James says about the man who is rich in verses 10-11.

1C.   What is this man’s station in life?  He is rich.  This is the Christian who enjoys all the material possessions.  Is there anything wrong with material wealth, in and of itself?

2C.   Not as long as such a Christian also realizes his stature in Christ.  As the poor man is to rejoice in his exaltation as a believer, the rich man is to rejoice in his abasement as a child of God.

3C.   Do not be puzzled by this seeming contradiction, for had this man not humbled himself in the sight of God he would have continued in his pride in this life and would have been punished forever in the life after.  This is because, as James reminds us in James 4.6, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

4C.   Additionally, the wealthy Christian must realize that no matter how much of this world’s wealth he may have, his wealth is tenuous, at best.  Notice the picture of wealth’s frailty painted in verses 10-11:

10     But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away.

11     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.


5C.   Can we not see the situation of each man more clearly now?  Each Christian, the relatively poor one and the relatively rich one, has substantial cause and occasion to praise God for where he happens to be at the time.  The poor Christian rejoices in his exaltation, while the rich Christian rejoices in his humility.  A good lesson on contentment for everyone.  Amen?



As I said before, no matter who you are and no matter where you are, your faith will be tested and tried by the “divers temptations” of life.  As with the new Christians in Thessalonica in their difficulties, and the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad in James’ day (those persecuted and scattered Jewish Christians), you will feel like quitting from time to time.  You will feel like giving up.  You won’t want to be patient through it all the time just because the experience will make you a better Christian.  Few of us are that noble.  So, to motivate us God has offered us a reward to look forward to in anticipation.  We find this motivation in verse 12:

“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.”


1B.    First, there is explained your responsibility.

1C.   “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation.”  What a paradox this statement seems to be, that a person is blessed who is tempted, who is tried.  But it is true, is it not?  The blessed person is the person who is truly born again.  And his blessedness will be put to the test to verify its authenticity, its real nature.  Thus, the trials and testings of life serve a glorious purpose, to verify and attest to the reality of a person’s Christianity.  That’s why it is needful for you to endure.

2C.   Our Lord Jesus should not be expected to reward sinful behavior, should He?  That would be counterproductive.  But He will reward your obedience and your faithfulness.  Your responsibility, then, is to endure the temptation and testing, to handle it, to not bail out.

2B.    Second, there is explained your reward.

1C.   “for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life”  Notice that James does not write “if he is tried.”  No, he writes, “for when he is tried.”  So, it is a certainty than the genuineness of your Christianity will be determined, will be tested, will be verified in some way.

2C.   Jesus Christ will give you a crown if you faithfully and responsibly handle your trials of life in a Christ-honoring way.  Oh, it’s going to be glorious to wear that crown in heaven, and then to be able to cast it at the feet of the One Who made it all possible . . . the exalted Lord and Master Jesus Christ.

3B.    But what is the Lord’s receipt?

1C.   Love.  This reward goes to them that love Him.  “he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.”

2C.   Is that not interesting?  Apparently, only those who really love the Lord Jesus Christ will endure afflictions, trials, and temptations for Him.  Those who don’t merely say they love Him.

3C.   So, when you understand it at its bottom, the difficulties and trials of life, the temptations and testings, are really all about love.  The trials of life are not given to prove to the Savior that you love Him, since our all-knowing Lord already knows that.

4C.   So, what do you think trials and testings are about, if they are about love and the Savior already knows who loves Him and who does not love Him?  I would suggest two possibilities: 

5C.   First, trials and testings put love for Christ on display.  What you will endure for Christ’s sake while continuing to serve Him glorifies God by putting your love for Him on display for one and all to see, even under adverse circumstances.

6C.   As well, consider that you may think you love God when you actually do not love Him at all.  In his classic book, Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards makes the observation that sometimes a person will mistakenly think that he loves God when he is only somewhat grateful for what he perceives to be God’s blessings.  But that isn’t real love, Edwards argues, it’s only self interest.[5]

7C.   Consider the example of Naaman, the Syrian general in Elisha’s day.  When Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy, was it real love he then evidence for God?  If so, then why did he indicate he would continue his observation of pagan rituals after God had so blessed him?[6]

8C.   There are other examples in the Bible, each suggesting that sometimes people persuade themselves that they love God when actually they do not.  What they are exhibiting is a natural thankfulness and gratitude for blessings given to them by God, that in no way guarantees the presence of real life in Christ.

9C.   Sometimes, then, God sends trials and difficulties into your life to show you whether or not you really do love Him.  What happens to you when the heat is turned up?  What do you do when the circumstances of your well-ordered life begin to crumble? 

10C. Do you abandon the cause of Christ, or are you faithful and true to Him?  What about tragedy or persecution?  It could very well be that my Lord has sent that experience into your life to verify to you that you love Him . . . or to show that you are lost because you do not love Him.



1.   Boy, I’m telling you, Biblical Christianity gets down to where the rubber meets the road.

2.   Look at 2 John 6.  “And this is love, that we walk after His commandments.”  Apparently, love for Christ is manifested by obedience.

3.   But from the text before us, we see that love is also seen by your willingness to endure difficult things for Him.

4.   Does that surprise you?  No?  It doesn’t surprise me, either.  I’ve known for many years that talk is cheap.  Haven’t you?

5.   “Oh, how I love Jesus,” people oftentimes say.  “If you love me, do what I tell you.  If you love me, quit running away from every difficult learning situation I put you in.”  That’s what Jesus would say in response.

6.   Folks, from this text we learn two things:  First, we learn that everyone goes through it.  No matter whether you are rich or poor.  Each Christian goes through particular testings and trials suited to making you into a mature Christian, and suited to establishing for your own spiritual assurance whether you really are a Christian.

7.   Secondly, and this is so good, the Savior will reward you for just staying with Him through all of this.  Be faithful. Demonstrate your love by sticking, and He will exalt you and crown you with the crown of life.

8.   But my friend, if you are not saved, this can’t happen to you.  You won’t go to heaven and you haven’t any chance of being rewarded by the Lord . . . only punished.  But, oh, what glory it will be for His Own once we get to heaven.

[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 793.

[2] Ibid., pages 1039-1040.

[3] Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[5] Jonathan Edwards, Religious Affections, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), pages 171-173.

[6] 2 Kings 5.17-18

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