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.
Who is James?
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?
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.
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.
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):
Paul to the leaders of the Ephesian Church in Acts:
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
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.
It is the road to glory.
Check last weeks sermon for more.
When going through trials we need wisdom.
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.
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 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.
What is in Jame’s mind when he wrote these verses?
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
and a more full unpacking in v19-26
Let God’s word transform you
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.