Sunday, April 26, 2009

James 1:1-15


The ACTS OF JESUS was all about the early gatherings around Jesus and His kingdom, it seems right to continue in the early days with the earliest of books written to the believers at that time. Remember that in the early "church or synagogue" of Jesus, there were more Jews than Gentiles. I like to call them Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles. One of the earliest books written to these believers (primarily to the Messianic Jews) was JAMES.

JAMES was most likely written by the apostle who presided over the leadership group of Messianic Jews in Jerusalem. We saw him in Acts 15. This is one of four James' mentioned and is the half brother of Jesus. It was written between 48-50 A.D.

The book is filled with the most practical issues of walking with Jesus and walking with one another. It's like the Proverbs of the New Testament. I see the entire book's theme as faith in action-I call it FAITH IS A VERB. You see, faith works when life doesn't. There is also an interesting play between faith and works that is introduced in this book.

Let's get into it: 1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

James, although an apostle, maybe the chief apostle, and the brother of Jesus, doesn't reference either but sees himself in the "highest calling" of all-a bond-servant. We'll see this term more throughout the New Testament (NT). It refers to a slave or a person who is hired on as a servant.

NOTE that this letter from James is written specifically to the twelve tribes who are dispersed. This refers to those Messianic Jews who lived outside Palestine, scattered around the world among the Gentiles. There were 2 great dispersions-the eastern and the western. The first was when 10 of the 12 tribes were carried away by Assyria and in the time of the Babylonian captivity (586 B.C.). The other was the western dispersion that happened during the reign of Alexander the Great (early 300's B.C.). This placed Jewish communities throughout the world in large numbers in some areas where they were united in their synagogues. This gives better understanding to why Paul felt the need to travel all over in his mission trips. He knew of these communities throughout the world who would be interested to hear the messages of the kingdom of God and the Christ (Messiah).

James begins with a section on trials. It's something everyone faces from day to day and especially those who were living outside Jerusalem who might easily get discouraged when their new faith is attacked even by other religious people in their communities, let alone those outside the fellowship of faith. I see this as a time of lifting the faith of believers outside of Jerusalem. So, when you need a faith-lift, what do you do? I think the answer is REFOCUS.

FIRST-REFOCUS BY REJOICING IN THE PRODUCT! 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 

Are you serious? Count it all joy when you face a variety of trials in your life? There is a way of refocusing so that no matter what comes your way, you may be able to reframe it to see the good in it.

There are two kinds of temptations or testings. One has to do with tripping you up-to trick you into doing something wrong. The other is to test with the view toward approval-to prove you as genuine! When you are faced with a test that might trip you up, God wants you to view it as a test of genuineness.

Don't focus on the trial or testing itself. You'll end up wallowing in it-the problem will get bigger and bigger! Instead, focus on the end-product! "Here comes another testing or trial. What will I learn from this?" James says the primary thing you will gain from trials is perseverance. The testing of your faith produces perseverance-the ability to hang in there and get through it. And, if you allow perseverance to have its way, you will be more mature and complete in your life-lacking in nothing! WOW!

Therefore, when a trial comes your way, refocus and look for what's in there to make you more mature and complete to the point of lacking in nothing! This goes along with that promise of good endings-Romans 8:28, where God causes all things to work together for good!

NOTE when you brood over your problems, you'll hatch despair! NOTE that many times you'll find yourself being overwhelmed by problems that aren't that big-like mountain climbing over molehills! NOTE-it's not what happens to you, but how you handle what happens that counts!

SECOND-REFOCUS BY REQUESTING A NEW PERSPECTIVE! 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 

Now, in the midst of a trial it's difficult to know what to do. Many times these trials call for decisions to be made. So, in a time such as this, refocus by asking God for wisdom. NOTE that you are encouraged to ask God for wisdom and He will give it to you, if you ask. I hang on to that with everything I've got! I ask Him for wisdom and I believe He will give it to me as I need it. NOTE that you must ask in faith without doubting. In other words, ask Him for wisdom and count on that fact that He will give it to you and act out accordingly with this wisdom from God. If you doubt, you will not get it and you will be tossed about on the surf by the winds of life's circumstances. You cannot expect to receive anything when doubting. HOWEVER, if you ask for wisdom in faith without doubting, you can expect that you will receive it!

This seems to coincide with the promise of great escapes-I Corinthians 10:13, where God provides a mountain pass in order for you to get through it!

THIRD-REFOCUS BY RECONSIDERING YOUR POSITION BEFORE GOD! 9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. 12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, ``I am being tempted by God''; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

Trials are the great leveler of both the rich and the poor! In ICU, it makes no difference what you own or what you owe. If you are rich, glory in your humiliation before the Lord. if you are poor, glory in your high position with God. You came into this world naked and you'll go out in the same condition-with more things wrinkled and drooping. After you die, there will be a big garage sale of all of your treasures.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial-God will reward this kind of response to problems with the "crown of life"-one of five special crowns given to those who love Him. It's interesting that perseverance is tied to loving God. We persevere due to our relationship with Him-love for Him.

NOTE James points out the cycle of how temptation works. It doesn't come from God, but from inside ourselves. 1. Temptation-the thought of it. 2. Carried away and hooked by internal lust for it. 3. Then lust gives birth to sin. 4. When sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

God will not take you into that kind of temptation, but will use it all for the testing and proving out of your genuineness. It's like a refining process, burning off all of the dross and impurities out of our lives.

The promise of great expectations seems to work well here-Philippians 1:6, where He promises to continue His work inside us until Jesus returns!

Remember, faith is like a kite-a contrary wind makes it go higher and higher!