An outline of the class is available here: 02_James1.2-4.pdf.
Overall I feel the class went well. I joked with my pastor that I planned to title the class “Eschatologische Vorfreude.” He wasn’t impressed. Instead, I stated that this passage has to do with the Christian’s life cycle, and the change of perspective necessary to consider trials to be an occasion for joy. While I did my “academic” homework on the passage, I found Stulac’s commentary helpful for an overall structure surrounding the words TRIAL, TEST, PERSEVERANCE and MATURITY:I opened with a story about a “bad day” that my wife and I had this summer, but I got a real response from the illustration of the brick layer who had a day that was much worse! (See the PDF.) Anyway, I proceeded from there. As I mentioned before, I am loathe to not let James speak for himself, but I could not help but see Christ as the ultimate example of joy in the midst of trial:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
It is because of Christ’s willingness to endure (hupemeinen), that we can be called to joyful endurance.
This past week, I have been listening to a lecture given at Gordon-Conwell by N. T. Wright on Paul’s vision of God’s future. He concludes with a quote from C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters:
Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys (39).
In this chapter of Lewis’ fictional conversation between the devils, uncle Screwtape and his nephew, Wormwood, Screwtape speaks of “the law of undulation.” This law refers to the ebb and flow of life as a human – there are ups and there are downs. The strangeness of this law, from a demonic point of view is that “the Enemy” (from Screwtape’s point of view the Enemy is God) uses the low parts of the human’s life to call them closer to himself. This, I think is at the heart of James’ call to joy in trials.
I ended the lesson by handing out packs of Skittles to the class. James admonishes us to consider our “multi-colored trials” as “all joy.” So, I wanted them to have something multi-colored and sweet. It was a small gesture, but I hope it let the concept sink in.