Using James 1:1-4 as an example, we can learn how to meditate on a passage of Scripture by following three steps:
OBSERVATION. Begin by asking these questions: Who is the writer? To whom is he writing? What is the passage saying?
Verse 1: says the letter was written by James, who was probably the James who was Jesus’ half brother. He wrote to the twelve tribes who were dispersed abroad. Although these people lived a long time ago, Scripture was written for every generation, including ours. James gave clear instructions regarding what God desires to accomplish through our trials and how we should respond to them.
INTERPRETATION. What does the passage mean, and what can we learn from it? By focusing on these verses, our entire perspective regarding trials will be changed. Instead of being consumed by the hardships, we will understand what God is trying to achieve in our lives through them.
Verse 2: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” In the midst of difficulties or suffering, we want relief from pain and a way out of hardship, but James says the solution is a change of attitude. Instead of becoming bitter or resentful, we are to count it as joy, not because we enjoy the experience but because we know God is sovereign over it and promises to walk through it with us. Our joy is in the Lord and His purpose, not in the situation.
Verse 3: “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” The reason we can consider trials joy is because of what we know to be true. Whatever God sends or allows in our lives is not a random event but a test of our faith. His purpose for testing is approval, not defeat. This is how we become strong and are able to endure. We’ll never develop this quality if life is always easy, and if we lack endurance, we may quickly yield to temptation or give up and walk away from God’s will. This verse teaches us that God is up to something good even when our circumstances look bad.
Verse 4: “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” If we refuse to endure our trials, we short-circuit God’s purpose for allowing them. He has a perfect result in mind—that we may be perfect and complete. The word perfect does not mean sinless but complete, strong, and mature. The Lord loves us so much He doesn’t want us to lack any of these qualities.
APPLICATION. Based on what we’ve just learned, how should we respond? How does God want us to think about our trials? The following are a few specific practices to help us rejoice even in trouble or suffering:
Continue meditating on this passage until it becomes real in our thinking and belief system.
Once we truly believe this, we’ll be able to confidently face whatever we’re going through.
Continually affirm that God loves us unconditionally. Knowing that He always does what is best for us increases our trust in Him.
Ask the Lord to show us what specific areas of our lives He’s targeted for spiritual growth. Each trial is designed to strengthen us in a particular area of weakness.
Agree with God that the end result is worth the pain. Whatever He allows us to go through is for our benefit.
Scripture has a way of giving us the truth we need to hear. Has meditating on James 1:1-4 changed your perspective regarding trials? When we take time to listen to what God has to say to us, we will see how much He loves us and wants to help us through every situation in life. He gives us the confidence to live extraordinary lives in the power of His Spirit and grace.
This article is adapted from the Sermon Notes for Dr. Stanley’s message, “Meditating on God’s Word,” that is airing this weekend on TV.