May I Introduce You to James?
James 1: 1-8
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
- Introductory Matters
- Audience and authorship
The audience are first century Jewish Christians who are not living in Israel. They will be under pressure because of their Jewishness and they will be under pressure because of their commitment to Christ.
The author is Jesus’ brother James. This is the testimony of the early church. The text does not define which James. James the brother of Jesus is the leader of the first church in Jerusalem. He presides over the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.
If you could have a conversation with James what would you like to ask him?
- Tell me about growing up in your household with Jesus, as a brother.
- I Corinthians 15:7 mentions specifically that Jesus appears to James after His Resurrection. Tell me about that meeting.
- What was the process in your mind going from skeptic, (wondering what in the world Jesus was doing going around gathering crowds and teaching) to believer. You are a doulos (slave, bond slave: a slave by choice) of the Lord Jesus Christ, who just happens to be your half- brother.
- A general prescription for discipleship
“General Epistles” letters written, not to a specific church, like Romans or I and II Corinthians or to a specific person like Timothy, Titus or Philemon. But a letter written to groups of churches in response to more general theological issues.
Look at the introduction and conclusion of the letters to see if there are specific people and things mentioned!
A different kind of “letter”
Greetings! That’s as personal as it gets! Although we can tell from the topics that James chooses to discuss that he is aware that they are in need of areas of growth and are experiencing areas of trial that threaten their faith.
And James is not building topic on topic in a linear fashion. His writing is less connected than Paul, Peter or John.
- James has significant themes
* Patience/perseverance under trials
* Prayer as a means to endure trials and minister love
- Treating people properly, especially rich vs poor.
- Dealing with differences without condemning.
- Wisdom as it relates to pride and humility
- Riches, poverty and wisdom
- Having your words controlled by the Holy Spirit
Here in the first section of the letter James addresses what to me is the most important theme of the letter. And it is one of the most fundamental themes in Scripture. A theme that has an entire OT wisdom book about it! And that is how to manage suffering in our lives.
Here is what James says in our passage today:
- In a Trial Attitude is Everything
- What is a trial
It is an unwelcome and unanticipated experience.
They come from people,
from the weather,
from all manner of environmental factors.
Trials are not what we think of when we think about abundant life. They are not what we think of when we think of blessing!
So, that is what a trial is, how are we to address them in our lives?
- Celebrate the purpose and meaning in the trial
What is now, is not what will be. What will be is joy!
It is wisdom that teaches us this.
The Book of Job is the Biblical manual for suffering. What is the resolution of Job’s suffering?
- God speaks to him from the whirlwind.
And God reveals His incredible character to Job personally.
God does not explain Himself, God reveals Himself!
And this knowledge of God’s being and character becomes the relevant issue. Is this not what James says to us? God will give you wisdom.
- Job’s circumstances are returned to blessing.
It is God’s default setting to bless.
But, and this is really important, according to Jesus, sometimes God blesses with persecution. With people speaking and acting against you in malevolent ways.
I Peter 4: 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
- Faith grows stronger under pressure
This is really important since we are not going to see God. The righteous are going to have to live by faith!
“Let perseverance finish its work!”
Similar to Ephesians 6: 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then,
Notice that we are not taking ground. We are just not giving ground!
Jesus has taken the ground and we share in His victory!
We are not giving back what Jesus has given to us because we are having to deal with hardship.
Later James will tell us:
to draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
to resist the devil and He will flee.
And it works in THAT order!
The second main response to unwelcome and unanticipated circumstances is to ask God for wisdom because…
III. God Promises You Wisdom
- You are openly invited to ask God for wisdom
What is wisdom? It is the knowledge of how to act. It is the understanding of what God is doing in a certain situation.
- God is generous in giving wisdom
God is not hiding His will from our lives. Do what you know to do right now. That is God’s will. Do not feed the flesh. Read the Bible, pray, find Christian fellowship. Pray for one another, serve one another, help care for each other’s needs. Love your spouse. Serve your spouse. Love your kids. Pour yourself into loving other people the way that Jesus did!
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Jesus bore the burdens of people.
“Each one must carry his own load.” V.5
You cannot demand mercy from another person. You are not owed mercy. You have a load and it is yours. Jesus promises to help you. The question that I have for us is whether or not we are following Jesus and doing His will.
- Ask God with a strong mind!
We are believing that God is generous and does not reproach us for our request. Matthew 7: you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more will your Heavenly Father give good things to those who ask of Him!
But when God answers, then we must hold on to that answer.
Hebrews 11:6 God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
We might oughta say this to ourselves in the mirror each morning!
If you bail on God’s answer, what are you left with? You will be buffeted by circumstances.
Read the Psalms! Cry out to God, complain to God, challenge God, wait for God, express faith in God’s character. Wait for God.