James 1

James 1 is filled with wisdom about how to live life as a Christ Follower.  There are several men named James mentioned in the New Testament, but reliable tradition assigns this book to the one called James the Just, the half-brother of Jesus and the brother of Jude, who led the church in Jerusalem.  He starts off with a very counter cultural approach.  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”.  Most of us run from trials.  When they come, we’re immediately asking God to take them away.  But wait, there is a reason they come.

Trials lead us to develop steadfastness.  James tells us that trials as inevitable. He said ‘when’, not if you fall into various trials. At the same time trials are occasions for joy, not discouragement or frustration. We can count it all joy in the midst of trials because they are used to produce patience – another word for steadfastness.  But there is even more value.  Faith is tested through trials, not produced by trials. Trials reveal the depth of the faith we have; not because God doesn’t know how much faith we have, but so that our faith will be known to us and to those around us. But wait, there is more. The work of patient endurance comes slowly and must be allowed to have full bloom.  Patience means we learn to wait on God, trusting Him to act on our behalf.  It is a sign of true faith lived out over time.

How important is faith?  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  Faith unlocks God’s wisdom in our life.  It is right there for the asking, and God will give it to us, if we have faith.  Without faith, it is impossible to receive God’s offer and in fact, as it says in Hebrews, without faith it is impossible to please God.

The chapter is filled with lots of other wisdom, but James ends this first chapter reminding us that the life of a Christ Follower is not spent sitting on the sidelines.  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like”.  If we follow Jesus, we have to get out of the pew and into the game.  We can’t watch from a far.  Jesus spent His entire life where people were, not sitting in the synagogue waiting for them to come to him.  He was in homes, the marketplace, and the highways and byways of life.  We have to live the Word, not merely hear it.  It demands action from each of us that claim Jesus as Savior and Lord!


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