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Intro to James

The Book of James  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  28:00
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OPENING PRAYER:

Turning Point?

We are living in what could very well be a great turning point in history. People of all faiths and no faith are reflecting on who they are, where they’ve been, what they’ve done, what they should’ve done, and how to move forward. People are genuinely looking for answers to the divisions that we see in our world: divisions along racial and ethnic lines, division along socio-economic lines, divisions between nations, divisions, divisions, divisions, divisions… the list is endless.
In the past several weeks people of every color have had difficult conversations with their friends of other colors. I believe all of us have been faced with the hard realization that we do indeed hold biases based upon the color of a persons skin. In response people of all melanic shades have been more than willing to point to others and demand what “they” should do; but that’s not the biblical way. Jesus asked us questions - “Why do you look at the speck in your siblings eye and neglect the log in your own?” (Matthew 7:4-5). Paul told us there was “no Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” (Galatians 3:28).
These divisions we see can be traced all the way back to the beginning, in Genesis chapter 3. Before that the man and the woman lived together in the garden with no sense of shame, no sense of one was better than the other though both were clearly different, no division between them. God too walked in the garden and enjoyed the ones made in His very image. Yet, as soon as sin entered the world division started.
They saw they were naked and they were ashamed of those differences and so they hid themselves not only from God, but from one another. They cast blame instead of looking at themselves.
This is the cross roads we come to again and again in Scripture, and we see in our culture as well. We too are far too quick to note the differences between people in our world and equally quick to judge them for it.
During the past several months I have been praying what God would have me preach on for our next series. I have kept coming back to James. It is a book that I believe speaks to such a time as this.
THE BOOK OF JAMES:
Perhaps the earliest of New Testament writings (A.D. 40-50)
Believed to have been written by Jesus’ half-brother, James (Gal. 1:19)
Sometimes call “the Proverbs of the New Testament”
Book written to Hebrew Christians
Practically and faithfully reminds Christians how to live.
The letter of James is not a letter of theory. It’s a faith gauge, and in fact that’s a great way to remember the them of James:
Here we have a J and what’s it doing? It’s aiming at the faith gauge and aiming to make its faith strong.
James speaks directly to how we walk in a living faith.
A living faith is one which is not defeated by trials, is no respecter of persons, is a mirror of God’s Word, is a controller of the tongue, and displays heavenly wisdom. Above all, a person with a living faith waits patiently, but actively, for the return of the Lord.
(Walk thru the Bible - Curriculum).
So, let’s jump into God’s Word and read from James:
James 1:2–8 ESV
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. 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.
Read that first verse:
James 1:2 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
James right away calls us to turn our view of things on its head. He starts out with a bang, telling us how we are to view any and all of the trials we face:
Count it ALL JOY!
The Amplified version of the Bible makes it abundantly clear:
James 1:2 AMP
Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations.
This is not looking at a trial that is frustrating or disappointing and trying to find something positive in it - to see one optimistic point.
NO!
This is full on considering that trial your experiencing something that brings you joy, not just temporal happiness, but rather spiritual, enduring, “complete joy” in the Lord who is sovereign over all things, including trials.
Talk about an attitude adjustment!
What was it Paul wrote:
Philippians 4:4 ESV
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Rejoice - (in what?) in the LORD (when?) ALWAYS. It’s so important that Paul repeats it, again, I will say, rejoice!
Life is full of unexpected and unwelcome experiences. No matter what we’re facing we are to take an attitude of Joy within it. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a work in progress here.
Now again, this isn’t saying, “Hey, be happy you just lost your job.” It’s not calling us to be a pollyanna that nothing effects us. No, this is not speaking of temporal happiness, but of the deep joy that is eternal, enduring, and complete!
I think the next word bears some discussion as well. Notice it does not say, “Count it all joy IF you meet trials?”
James 1:2 ESV
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,
No, WHEN you meet trials of various kinds.
James seems to be saying to all of us, “Hey y’all, life comes with trials. Be joyful.” In other words, “Stuff happens. Rejoice.”
James goes on to elaborate his point in verse 3.
James 1:3 ESV
for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
You know - it’s not hidden from you, it is obvious
that - the testing of your faith
produces steadfastness -
“steadfastness” is a word we don’t use much anymore.
The word that is being translated here as “steadfastness” means the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances. James is reminding you that you can get through this, whatever “THIS” is. We might use the word endurance.
And, when we stand up under that trial, when we endure whatever it is with joy, we are letting it have its “full effect.”
James 1:4 ESV
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
The trials are for our good, that we may be made perfect and complete. Eugene Petersen in his translation The Message put it this way:
James 1:4 The Message
So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.
The Apostle Paul, in his letter, in Romans 8:28 he wrote: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
He goes on in verse 29: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, ...”
Paul and James I believe are speaking of the same thing. As we face various trials and temptations, and struggles, and have difficult conversations, and wrestle with all the ups and downs of this life, we need to understand that they are working together to make us complete in Christ.
We may not know how to resolve every issue; often we don’t know what to do when we face certain situations, and James goes on to tell us exactly how to do that.
James 1:5–8 ESV
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.
I love it in Scripture when there is a really hard statement - you know one that makes you really wonder about whether this faith stuff is for you - and then God gives us a promise we can hang our hat on.
I don’t think it’s just me that faces certain trials and just wonders “How long? How long will this go on?” And James points us in the right direction.
James 1:5 ESV
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
James reminds us that God is bigger than any challenge or trial - God is in control. God is the one who provides us the wisdom we need to get through whatever trial we might be facing, and God does so when we ask. God doesn’t disapprove of our asking either - there is no disappointment or disapproval in our asking for wisdom.
Yet, when we ask for such wisdom - in fact when we pray and ask God for anything, we need to do so in faith not allowing doubts to creep in. The person who asks and doubts, James says, is like the wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind, (v.6).
James 1:6–7 ESV
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 concludes that person who doubts must not think God will provide anything.
The doubt here that James wants us to avoid is doubt that leads to temptation. When we doubt God in this way we’re being double minded. We can say this because we’re praying to God, we’re saying we believe in and trust in God and yet we’re doubting. Doubt is a waffling back and forth the result of which is inaction.
This waffling is what James describes in v. 8
James 1:8 ESV
he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
In reality we all doubt. Don’t take this as a judgment on your life experience and faith. Who among us does not have doubt when life’s most difficult trials hit us: the loss of a job, a critical medical diagnosis, the death of a child. Doubt is a human experience, we see it so often in the Psalms, “How long O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1 or “O Lord, how long will you look on?” (Ps. 35:17).
The Psalms again and again present to us honest human doubt, driving us to remember all that God has done in the past and therefore to remember the steadfast, trustworthy character of God.
James encouragement in vs. 5 draws us back to God in the midst of our doubts. If any of you lacks wisdom, ask God who gives generously to all without any sign of disappointment in the one who asks.

Double-minded?

There is a clear distinction being made between honest doubt and duplicity. Duplicity that is active in us - is what James is warning us against. It truly is a doublemindedness claiming or stating a trust in God, but unable or unwilling to step forward and follow through in that trust.
David Nystrom in his commentary on James puts it like this:

Active doubt, double-minded doubt, can range from the extraordinary to the mundane, from the religious charlatan masquerading as an honest television preacher, to the faithful churchgoer with a heart devoid of compassion. Whenever God’s name is invoked to sanction personal power, prejudice, economic stratification, or a national political policy, we have most likely strayed into the dangerous territory of the double-minded.

It is in such times that prayer is needed. Prayer that is not superfluous or done in vain, but an honest seeking after God. Such prayer opens us to the wisdom and will of God while at the same time often exposing our mixed motives and our human frailty.

Turning Point

I began this morning speaking of a turning point in our history. I believe the winds of change are blowing and I know people are genuinely seeking answers to the divisiveness we see in our world today.
The truth is these divisions will never be healed by the efforts of humankind. The rifts and tears in our communities will not be mended simply by enacting new laws. The truth is these divisions cannot be healed from the outside in, but must be healed from the inside out.
And it begins with each one of us embracing the trials that come our way, not in fatalistic indifference but recognizing each one of them as yet another opportunity to grow in our faith and our endurance.
Another opportunity to confess our lack of wisdom and our reliance on what God gives.
Another opportunity to demonstrate God’s lovingkindness and grace.
Another opportunity to demonstrate that we’re not there yet, and we’re striving to become the people God created us to be - perfect and complete, lacking in nothing in being made in the image of God.
Everyday is a new day to seek God’s wisdom.
Everyday is a new opportunity to follow after Jesus.
Everyday is a new day to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal in us the need for repentance and empower us to change.

Your Trials

I don’t personally know all the trials you are facing today. Yet I know the One who does. And I know God’s love for you is greater than anything you are facing. I know that God has promised to never leave you in the midst of those difficult journeys.
Wherever you are in your journey of faith, whatever your burdens might be, whatever weighs heavy on your heart our God is there in the midst of it all working in you.. May that be a source of uncontainable joy, a fountain of hope that strengthens and encourages you. AMEN.
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