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James 1

James: Faith that Works  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  25:17
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As we work through chapter 1 of James we’ll see how James is calling us to choose growth, not sin, in the face of suffering, persecution or other trouble.

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Hypothetical

Imagine you’ve lost your job because of your faith and now you’re really struggling financially.
Then one day as you’re walking along the street you see your old boss who fired you and he’s just jumped out of his beautiful BMW Series 3 left the keys in the car while he runs into the local shop to grab some milk.
Here before you is a car you can jump in and take. It might help you get back ahead. Your boss doesn’t really deserve it anyway does he? He’s the one who put you in this mess in the first place. Why not take it from him?
Suffering produces opportunities to sin doesn’t it? Whether it be like in that hypothetical where we think we can justify stealing, or whether it be the temptation that was before Job to curse God. Suffering where sin and spiritual growth are live options for us as we face up to our circumstances and figure out what to do next.
As we work through chapter 1 of James today we’ll see how James is calling us to choose growth, not sin, in the face of suffering, persecution or other trouble.
But first:

Background

Who is James?
James 1:1 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.
There is scholarly debate about who this James fellow is.
But, that’s how they make their money and having read through some of the arguments this week, I’m pretty convinced the long standing view that the James who wrote this was James the brother of Jesus. James the disciple so prominent in the church council meeting in Acts 15.
Who did he write to?
James 1:1 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.
That sounds like Jewish people. But of course in verse 2 and at the start of Ch 2 James calls these people his brothers and sisters. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
James 2:1 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism.
In fact this shows us a theological truth. That Christians are the true people of God.
In Gal 6:16, Paul calls believers the “Israel of God”.
We are children of Abraham (Gal 3:7; Rom 4:11, 16).
This is a letter for all Christians!
It is a letter that is packed full of goodness. So much could be said. But we’re going to do a flyover of each chapter land occasionally to focus on something and carry on. My hope is that this series will give you a framework for your own deeper study and absorption of this letter in your own time.

Real Relationships - Big Idea.

Before we dive into chapter one it’s also bare mentioning one more thing. That is a letter that is about relationships. It’s a practical letter about how to honour God in our many relationships in the world. It’s about how we have a faith that works. But as we come to look at Chapter 1, we see that it is primarily about the individual, and the individuals relationship with God. This is a foundational idea for James.
Motyer:
The Message of James First Priority

James, in fact, puts first the duty of self-care in the things of God

Similar to the teaching of Jesus in Luke (last year):
Luke 6:41 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
41 ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
Paul to the leaders of the Ephesian Church in Acts:
Acts 20:28 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
If we’re going to do any of the good things James encourages us to do throughout the rest of his letter we need to do a self-check first. How are we going with God?
And the two points James makes to test how we are going is,
wether or not we are trusting God in troubled times?
and whether or not we’re doing what God’s word says - are we allowing God’s word to transform us?

Trusting God in Troubled Times

V2-17
James 1:2–4 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, 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.
When we face trouble. When we face trials. We are called to be joyful for this is how God has chosen to grow us and help us to carry on in the faith.
James 1:12 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
It is the road to glory. Check last weeks sermon for more.
When going through trials we need wisdom.
James 1:5 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
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.
When we go through trials we can experience
Guilt - this is my fault.
Confusion - why is this happening?
Fear - will this ever end?
Anger - I don’t deserve this?
To have joy in suffering we need wisdom. To get wisdom we need to ask God. And James tells us that God will indeed give us wisdom when we ask (v6-8).
Faith that God will give us what he promises. What doe he promise? Grace to enable us to stand strong in the faith even in hard times.
These are not words encouraging us to name and claim, or saying it’s wrong to have doubts and questions about how everything fits together. It’s an encouragement in the midst of hard stuff to trust God’s grace and ask for help. For wisdom. Have no doubt’s God will answer this prayer to enable you to joyfully persevere!
(Next we get some stuff about the rich which we’ll leave on the table until a later week as it comes up again in James (v9-11).)
Well, aside from wisdom which we know is a good idea from v6-8). I wonder what you’d pray for if you found yourself in the middle of great suffering or persecution for your faith?
Probably that it’d stop.
When we’re in trouble, we tend to think that the thing troubling us is the biggest problem we have. But what we see from vv13-18 is something totally different.
You are more of a risk to yourself, than a trial or suffering is.
George M. Stulac:
The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: James Temptations and Good Gifts (1:13–18)

The Bible says that the trial itself is not the most seriously life-threatening factor. The greatest danger to me is not the wrong being done to me, but the wrong that may be done by me. The real threat is that when wrong is done to me, I may be tempted to fall into sin myself.

James 1:14–15 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
What is in Jame’s mind when he wrote these verses?
The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: James Temptations and Good Gifts (1:13–18)

The temptations he has in mind now are especially those that come in the context of his readers’ trials—for example, the temptation to harbor hatred or to take revenge toward those who have persecuted them, or the temptation to be covetous and jealous in their economic hardship

James is basically now showing us the opposite outcome of trails.
In verse 1-12 it was about how if we persevere in trials trusting God we will grow as Christians.
Now (v14-15) he’s warning us that it can go the other way.
Our trials lead to temptations which lead to sin which ultimately leads to death.
What do you do when you face tough times?
Do you let it drag you down and lead you to sin, give you an excuse for sin?
Or do you name the temptation to sin and instead seek God’s wisdom to persevere through the trial with joy knowing it will bring you growth and maturity?
How is it possible to make the choice for maturity and growth instead of sin in the face of persecution and trouble? We get a hint in v18
James 1:18 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
and a more full unpacking in v19-26

Let God’s word transform you

v19-26
He opens with some good advice about listening instead of speaking when we are angry (v19-20). This is the exact opposite of what we do when we are angry about how life is going. About the trouble we’re in.
James says, stop it. Get rid of it.
James 1:21 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Get rid of anger and all moral filth and accept God’s word. Accept the good news about Jesus. This saves you. It slows you down. It helps you get your perspective right.
But of course there is a great danger when it comes to spending time in God’s word:
James 1:22 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
We read it but ignore it.
Sometimes I do this. I can make reading my bible a box ticking activity to keep my streaks going in my YouVersion app, rather than pausing and taking a little bit longer to really think about what God is saying and asking me to do.
And it’s really very stupid to read the bible and not put it into practice.
James 1:23 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror
James 1:24 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.
It’s about as dumb as looking at yourself in a mirror and forgetting what you look like.
But the road to blessing?
James 1:25 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Looking intently into God’s perfect law
Doing what it says
This is the road to blessing, what kind of blessing? Joyful suffering, growth through trials, and the avoidance of sin which leads to death.
We really need to work hard at recalibrating how we use the word blessed.
Often actually we use blessed to refer to the sort of life James talks about in v10
James 1:10 NIV (Anglicised, 2011)
10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.
We think in our wealth we are blessed. We don’t have time today, but will do later in this series, unpack Jame’s theology of wealth, but nonetheless, being blessed is not about that.
When you book your next holiday or world travelling adventure, you’re not blessed. You might be resting, or learning, but you’re not blessed. Put the hashtag blessed away. For you are blessed when you trust God and do what he says in both the good, but especially in the troubled times.

Grow Your Relationship with God first and foremost through His word.

As we reflect on James 1 today, we want to be people who do what God says in his word and as we carry on working our way through the book we’ll see more about the sorts of things he highlights in the final two verse of chapter one which we don’t have time for today.
But the encouragement today I think is this.
In the troubled times you are guaranteed to face in this life it is God who will get you through it. So grow your relationship with him through his word. This is the foundation for living the other person focussed life that James is going to call us to in the coming weeks.
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