James was written by Jesus’ half-brother, who also considered and called himself his bondservant. (James 1:1)
Now, how many of us would call ourselves the servant of anything of our brother? I know my introduction would be, “I am John, Jesus’ brother.” And I would leave it at that!
Here we see James writing to the twelve tribes of Jews scattered all over, and he is saying some pretty significant things about how they should handle life circumstances as disciples of Christ.
4 Ways to Live as Christ’s Disciples (James 1)
How to Handle Life’s Trials (James 1:2-8)
Count It All Joy (vs. 2)
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”
James 1:2, NKJV
One thing to note here is that verse 2 doesn’t say IF you fall, but WHEN you fall. We often get frustrated when life doesn’t go how we want it to go, and the truth and reality is that we will have challenging moments, issues, and frustrations in life. Especially in following Jesus because contrary to belief, it is no bed of roses! James tells us to count it all joy as we follow Jesus, and while at the moment, it may be hard to do that, it will be necessary. As I look back over my own life and the seasons where I struggled, I didn’t always do that. But now that I have gone through a few things that have helped me mature in the Lord, I can endure the hard times without frustration or fear because I know that God had brought me through and will continue to bring me through!
Romans 8:28, NKJV says, “And we know that all things work together for those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purposes.”
All things work together for good, and do you know why I can confidently say that? Because I have enough history with God to trust Him in that. I remember a season where I was interviewing at church after church searching for a pastoring role. I also remember the countless times I didn’t get called back for the position. Was it hard at that moment? Absolutely. I cried tears upon tears and asked God question upon question. However, I realize now that God had something better for me. Maybe you are struggling here as well. Someone didn’t choose you for that job position? It’s okay; God has something better for you. Someone doesn’t want to marry you? It’s okay; God has someone better for you.
Know the Benefits of Trial (vs. 3-4)
You can only become perfect (or mature) and complete (or have everything you need) by having your faith tested. Not only do trials allow you to grow in patience, but as you allow it to mature you, you will lack in nothing. Many people seek to avoid challenges and trials, making their decisions according to comfort. I don’t know if you have ever met someone who was lacking in a skill or a character trait – intelligence, patience, common sense – but it makes things a little more complicated and, not to mention, frustrating. Let me encourage you, let patience do its perfect work in you because, through these hardships, God brings you to a place of maturity. And patience will allow you to stick with God even as you walk through difficult times.
Ask God for Wisdom (vs. 5-8)
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
James 1:5, NKJV
What is wisdom? Well, it is seeing from God’s perspective, His vantage point. So many of us look at our trials from our own viewpoints, and when we do that, we are looking at it through our pain based on circumstances. However, wisdom has the capacity and ability to stop you from looking at situations from the ground level and enables you to look at them from a 30,000 feet level! I know that some hardships are too much to bear, but believe me, when I say, this too shall pass. If God allowed something to come into the domain of your circumstances, then He has already equipped you to handle it. Along with this knowing that God has prepared us, we also must be active in asking for wisdom, in faith, and without doubt!
Verses 7 and 8 go on to warn that a double-minded man is unstable in every way!
Are you double-minded? To be double-minded means that you are thinking with the world’s standards while also thinking with the kingdom of heaven. So, for example, you ask God for something but don’t believe He can do it. This is a dangerous mindset and can ultimately be the downfall of our faith. Seek God and ask Him for wisdom in what you should do and how you should respond in all things. And when you ask for understanding, be bold, and believe!
For more about wisdom, study 1 Kings 3:1-15.
Responding Properly to Temptation (James 1:12-18)
Endure Temptations (vs. 12)
You have to learn at some point in your life that when faced with temptations, you are equipped to say no. God says that if you endure it, you will be blessed. And He promises the crown of life, a special reward when you do!
Don’t Blame God (vs.13-14)
Lots of people want to blame God for challenging circumstances. However, God doesn’t tempt us. There is a vast difference between being tested and being tempted. You see, God will test you to test your faith, but He will never tempt you with sin. One thing we can be sure of is that our faith will be tested. It is how we strengthen and know our faith’s strength and how we understand our capacity in the spirit. As you mature, it allows the following tests to be much easier because you have a history of seeing God work miracles, answer prayers, and do the unfathomable in your own life.
Know the Consequences of Yielding (vs. 15-16)
When desire comes, it gives birth to sin. As humans, we are cursed with being curious about it; we are attracted to it, we want it! But let me tell you that when sin is fully grown, it is never satisfied! You take a bite; it wants five. You dip your toes in the water, and it will pull you in. It takes you further than you wanted to go and longer than you ever wanted to stay. And while there are natural consequences to giving in to sin, there are spiritual ones as well. Nothing can separate you from the love of God, but when you dapple in sin, it will separate your ability to fellowship with God. Pretty soon, your prayer life will go stagnant, and you won’t be able to hear His voice as clearly as you used to.
James is warning us to take heed to how sin affects our lives.
Remember the Nature of God (vs. 17-18)
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
James 1:17, NKJV
Very simply, if something comes your way and it is not good, it is not from God. It may look suitable and sound right, but deception is real when imitating the Lord. This is where you need to seek God’s wisdom and ask Him to help you discern. God is so faithful, and His nature doesn’t change. He pulled us out of the lifestyle of darkness we were so enchanted with, and He brought us out. As a result, we are a part of his creation and kingdom, and we have life – eternal life! James encourages and reminds us to remember who God is.
Instructions When Communicating With Others (James 1:19-20)
God gave you two ears and one mouth, and for a good reason!
We Should Be Swift to Hear, Slow to Speak, and Slow to Anger (vs. 19)
One of the very characteristics and nature of what it means to be a Christian is that we are to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Are you in a debate with someone? First, try to seek to understand them and then be understood. Once we have stopped to listen and slowed to speak, we must remember to be slow to anger. How are we demonstrating the character of God in heated arguments? Are we popping off, hollering, and screaming at other people? Verse 20 explains that a man’s anger will not cause him to be right. It will not produce the righteousness of God in others, and it almost always cuts the other person down, leaving them questioning the mercy and grace that God bestows.
Challenge to Live Right (James 1:21-27)
This portion of James 1 is a challenge to righteous living.
Lay Aside Filthiness and Wickedness (vs. 21)
We are called to choose to lay aside the overflow of wickedness in our lives.
We always have a choice.
Receive and Do the Word (vs. 21-22)
“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
James 1:21, NKJV
If we look closely, we will see two portions to this scripture: hear the word and do the word. As you hungrily seek God’s word, don’t only stop with your quiet time, but apply what you receive! Implementing what God is speaking to you will not only transform your life but the lives of those around you!
Consequences of Failing to Hear and Do (vs. 22b-24)
Be careful. When you only hear the word and don’t follow up with application, your run the high risk of being deceived. Can you look in a mirror, walk away and forget what you looked like? No! The same applies to when you get in the word. The Scriptures show you who you are in Christ, and if you close your Bible with no application, you are engaging in what verses 22-24 suggest.
Rewards of Hearing and Doing (vs. 25)
There are some rewards when you hear and do the word. James says that the perfect law of liberty is the word of love. As we hear and do, God promises to bless us. And whatever we may put our hands to will flourish in the kingdom as we step into obedience to the Lord.
Evidence of Doing (vs. 26-27)
How do you know you are doing the word? Furthermore, how do you recognize that the word of God has impacted you? One way that you will know is in how you control your tongue, for an unrighteous man doesn’t know how to control his speech. Secondly, you will have compassion for the orphans and widows. You will take notice of the needs of the less fortunate, and God will give you compassion for the poor. I am grateful for FBCG because we have a heart for those in need. Not only have we invested in our local communities, but we have also gone beyond the city limits by adopting poor villages in Peru and have built schools, hospitals and dug wells so they could have sources of water. I am thankful to be a part of a church family that cares for the orphan, the widow, and the oppressed. And lastly, you will know the word of God has impacted you if you remain unspotted from the world. This is evident if you consistently choose not to get entangled with the world. When you have a relationship with God, He takes that desire out of your heart and replaces it with righteousness. You don’t get caught up in wanting the world to like you. For that is not what we as Christ’s disciples were called to.
SO take heart, while the world shifts and changes, our God remains the same yesterday, today, and forever.
What part of James chapter 1 challenges you the most?
How can you be intentional about being doers of the word this week?