I am not always lit up with joy or driven by purpose. I descend into dark episodes of resentment, dejection, anxiety, or sloth—even though I believe that death itself, which is at the root of these things, has been beaten for all time. I am thus this weird hybrid creature—half spirit and half flesh. Jesus Christ came into my life to transform me, but he left me this way. Why? And how am I to live?

The early church, the first believers, learned from direct experience that the world was not going to end soon after the life of Jesus. They learned this by seeing the years pass. These people shared the knowledge that Christ had risen, that reality itself had been transformed. However, reality was then (strangely?) left alone to play out further. The world that had been changed was still left spinning on its axis.

God changes us but leaves us in this life. God fills us but also leaves us in our circumstances, leaves us in our roles, in our bodies, and even in our pain. Clearly, he has a continued plan for the world, and a purpose for your place within it.

The early church that had seen the resurrected Jesus come and go must certainly have been wondering what came next, what they were to do. How should they understand their place in the world and how should they answer the confusion, struggle, and suffering they still faced? How now should they live?

These were important questions. These were valid questions. And around 45 A.D., the answers started to come. Starting with James, the New Testament began to be written.

James, in fact, addresses these questions head-on. If one word summarizes this letter, that word is “holiness.” The letter is about what it looks like to live a set-apart, sanctified life—doing so not as an angelic abstraction, but as a real person in the real world. In this real world, we have real troubles. James gets right into this with the second sentence of his letter, setting out to convey the radical and even crazy change in viewpoint that the defeat of death now makes available.

“Consider it joy,” he is now able to say, “when you face trials of various kinds....”

[Coming: 31 Days of James]