As we continue our study of the book of James we now find ourselves in the first chapter, the prelude to one of the most debated section of the bible. In last week’s message we established the most likely author of this epistle was James, the half brother of Jesus.
Through studying the word we learned that James, at first, was not a believer but that after Christ’ resurrection he became a disciple. Later James became a leader of the church of Jerusalem.
The first chapter of the letter begins with a salutation during which James greets his audience. “1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.” (James 1:1)
Not intended for a specific church, the epistle of James was targeted at Jewish Christians scattered outside the land of Palestine. It is important to remember this letter and the text found therein was meant for believers who had strayed from righteousness rather than new believers.
Following the salutation, James mentions the presence of trials among believers. Much like ourselves, early believers faced trails and challenges meant to strengthen our faith and teach us patience and perseverance. “2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:2-5)
For many among us honoring God when we face trails is not an easy thing to do, but it is a quality we must possess as we grow spiritually in Christ. “12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. ” (James 1:12)
Enduring trials does more than build character, it enriches our crown of life as we honor the Lord through righteous ways and acceptance of the commands brought on by the word of God. “19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 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.” (James 1:19-21)
To endure trails and resist temptation, believers are called to be “doers” of the word, not “hearers” only. “22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22-25)
To be “doers” of the word means to receive the word with an open heart and to apply the teachings brought on by the word into our lives. Those who hear the word of God yet ignore it not only deceive themselves, but they rob others of the gift that comes with witnessing acts of righteousness that are pleasing to the Lord.
James also writes about worthless religion among those who do not carefully keep a tight rein on their tongues. Yes, even believers can and do speak in ways not acceptable to God.
“26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:26)
For most people abiding by the word and accepting one’s mission does not come naturally. Helping those in need poses challenges that offer opportunities to serve the Lord according to the word. In the last verses of the first chapter James mentions widows and orphans, the most vulnerable groups of people in ancient society.
Applying the traits included in the first chapter of the Epistle of James to our lives can be tricky. Looking after those in need, being patient when tried, resisting temptation and applying the word are all attributes found in those spiritually mature.
To show perseverance when enduring trails, to honor God by resisting temptation, to be doers of the word and not hearers only, to carefully use our words, these are attributes of the righteous.
I invite you to read the first chapter of the Epistle of James and as you become familiar with its teachings, to apply each element to your daily life remembering that life without trails is useless and that doers of the word will be greatly rewarded. Let’s pray.
We thank you for your forgiveness in our sins
And for your perfect word and all that is in it,
We thank you for your all mightiness
And for your strong hand in directing us.
Lord father we ask that you continue to shine your light bright,
Upon us, our families and all those who seek you
And help us serve you and lead others to you in this life
So we all can rejoice with you in the next.
God strengthen us to be doers of the word and not hearers only
Through trails teach us patience and perseverance,
Allow us to honor you by resisting temptation
As we offer to you our lives as daily sacrifices.
God we thank you for all that surrounds us!
This message was written by Daniel St.Pierre