This past winter and spring, our Wednesday night Coffee Hour group has been doing a study of the book of James. James was one of Jesus’ brothers, which gives him a truly unique perspective of Jesus’ life, especially prior to Jesus starting his ministry. I believe that James was most likely quite skeptical of Jesus claims to be the Son of God, and though he came late in his belief, he came on strong and sure. James offers believers a practical way to live for Christ. It has been a wonderful study, and I have learned quite a bit that should help me on my journey in this world. I would like to share a few of my thoughts:
• “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). How much do I thank God for what I have? How much do I take for granted? This is a strong reminder to me to be thankful in all circumstances, because without Christ, I am nothing. I also find it comforting that God does not change – He is who He is from the beginning until now – trustworthy, faithful to His promises and worthy of my praise. I don’t believe we can that about anyone in our lives – we humans are fickle.
• “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22) Guilty. I am guilty of this. I wonder how many times I am able to pick out a verse that relates to how I should behave, what I should say in certain situations, yet I chose my own way – I chose what I want. Knowing Bible stories and verses means nothing unless they are applied to your life.
• “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism”. (James 2:1) How often do we judge others based on what they look like, what they wear, the type of car they drive? Does that then lead to our judgment? Or perhaps our envy? Jesus taught in Matthew 22, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” When we judge others, we do not love our neighbors as ourselves. I try to remember that regardless of a person’s looks, the money they make (or don’t make), the car they drive, we cannot know what is in that person’s heart. They may be full of the spirit, or they may not. Only by truly knowing that person and loving that person can we know where they are spiritually.
• “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17) What? Wait a minute! Don’t the gospels teach us that faith in Christ is all that is needed? Big discussion around the table on this night. I think here that James is speaking of deeds (action) as a natural outcome of faith in Christ. How do we witness to unbelievers on a daily basis? Most likely, through our actions – we are being watched, whether we know it or not. “I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18). As James Stulac’s commentary of James states, “This is a justification through faith, with good works coming forth as the natural and expected expression of faith.” Am I living out my faith through my actions? Or am I living an empty life? Are you?
• “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord……the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5: 13-14, 16b). Pray in all circumstances! I personally struggle with this. I am a very task oriented person, and while I do often seek God in prayer for both myself and others who are struggling, how often do I just take a moment to say thank you? How often do I simply start my day or my work by praying for God’s guidance, and asking the Lord to show me what He wants me to do today? Not often enough. Instead of going to God for guidance before starting my work or my day, and having Him lead me, I tend to jump right in, then follow-up with prayer if I get stuck. I intend to change this, with His help.
This is only a sampling of James that really stuck out for me. If you have never read the book of James, I highly suggest it. It is a wonderful guide to leading a Christian life.