Today we begin our dwell into the book of James. Now, hang on because James can be direct and really “tells it like it is”, expecting us to step up our Christian walk and to know that trials will come, but there is much to gain in them.
James, who we believe is the brother of Jesus, is also the same James that Jesus specifically saw after His resurrection - see 1 Corinthians 15:7. His unwavering devotion to Jesus and leadership within the Jerusalem church eventually led to his death as he was martyred when he was thrown off the top of the temple. He apparently did not die and was then beaten to death, but while being beaten, prayed for those beating him. Sound familiar?
The book was addressed to the 12 tribes, who at the time, were scattered all over the known world to encourage them to remain strong as there was great persecution of the church during this time. While this book was written around 30 and 40 A.D., it is still a powerful book used to encourage Christians facing trials and persecution today.
Now, let’s talk about James Chapter 1. Have you ever gone through a trail? Duh! Yes. Have you ever questioned God? Why are you doing this? Why am I going through this? Have you ever said, “the devil made me do it” or ask, “why is God tempting me”? Well, James addresses all of these in the first chapter.
A little over a year ago Lisa and I were sitting at Braum's with Tim and Mandey, and my girls “Pres and Pai Pai” having an ice cream. I made a huge mistake. I told Tim, I am in such a good spot right now? Life is good. Things are great at work, my walk with Christ is strong, Lisa and I are teaching a marriage class as a couple and things just couldn’t be better. Wow did things change in a hurry.
My life went from things are great to all out chaos at work. For over a year I went through one of the most difficult times in my professional career and this trickled down into every part of my life. Work life has made everything difficult! Through this time, God has revealed so many things to me and this chapter has been one of the key chapters that has helped me to get through a challenging time.
I would like to read James 2-5...
"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (Perseverence). But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him."
Now, can I just share from my heart a minute? This seems a little cruel at first, right? Especially if you are going through a really difficult time right now. I mean it’s hard enough to go through a trial but being told to “count it all joy”? How many of you walk around saying, "Praise Jesus, I am going through some trials….?" NOT ME! I have prayed with many who are going through some really difficult trials and hard times and not one time did someone come down front and say to me or Lisa, "I just want to come down and say we are so joyful today that we are going through a hard time." Not one time has someone said, "I don’t want prayer, I just want to express joy for this terrible event I am going through or my family is going through." NOPE. Everyone shares their pain and asks us to pray for them, that God would help them, heal them or give direction to them. And, it doesn’t matter if pain is physical, spiritual, or emotional, the pain is very real.
About 6 months ago in the middle of this trial I believe the Holy Spirit revealed something to me and helped me understand what James is saying, and I in fact have shared this with my mentors and some close friends. I found myself many times pleading with my Heavenly Father to deliver me from this very difficult time. To give me wisdom. To show my what it is he wants me to learn from this so I can get over it.
In asking for wisdom, I was taken to James chapter 1. The Holy Spirit began to speak to me through this chapter and especially verses 2-3. I’ll explain but can I just say that as I look back over my life I can see that my greatest season of growth has been during my greatest trials and through it all God never left me. Now that I have gone through a difficult year, and the Holy Spirit has spoken so loud to me, here is how I read James 1:2-4. Now, I do not ever want to add to or take away from God's Word. I just want to share what I believe the Holy Spirit spoke to me and how I should interpret these few scriptures...
"Robert, be glad when you are going through trials, you are learning how to persevere. How to be more patient. Don’t you know that there are things God wants in you? Do you not see that God wants to make you more complete, more like Christ? You are lacking some things that prevent you from growing into the man God wants you to be. I know it’s hard but just ask God for wisdom, (not the world's wisdom we sometimes seek but spiritual wisdom to learn how to take the trial and apply it to our lives to bring spiritual growth so that we can become more like Christ. Wisdom to apply to a trial – to growth!) He will be generous, but you must not doubt what God is doing. Trust Him! He will show you what you need to do to be more like him."
This changed my view of this season! I have been reminded of so many scriptures that have also helped encourage me and carry me through this time. Proverbs 3:5, "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, lean not on your own understanding but acknowledge him in all my ways and He will direct my path!"
Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to His purpose!"
Philippians 4:6-7, "Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and petition, make your request known to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:12-13, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want, 13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
And I could go on! Learning to pray scriptures over my situation changed my perception and my view! It is still hard but I know from where my help comes from!
We should also remember that faith is not produced in a trial but is what is tested during a trial. Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. So, to stand strong when tested, our faith must be strong, and this is not possible without being in and knowing Gods word."
James tells us in verse 12 – "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him."
And a great reminder that when we are going through hard times, don’t blame God. He cannot be tempted, nor does He tempt anyone (verse 13). Rather, we are tempted by our own lust and evil desires and if we give in to them, they give birth to sin and eventual death. How can we fight temptation if our daily walk doesn’t reflect Christ. God’s word must be a daily part of our lives.
James tells us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger for our anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires in us so get rid of moral filth! OUCH! This one has been hard for me. Slow to speak…not too good at that one.
James ends chapter one by reminding us to not just be listeners but doers of the word! I like how Jesus said it in John Chapter 8 verses 31-32, "If you abide in My Word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” To abide is to dwell. Get into God's word and stay there for a while! We cannot be doers of the Word if we do not know the Word! Want to be free from sin, moral filth, or do you want to overcome temptations or be slow to anger? The answers you seek and the strength you desire comes through the knowledge of God’s word! Starting James is a great reminder to establish a daily time, even more than listening to or watching a Dwell devotion, let’s make God's Word a daily priority in our Christian walk so we can be all God wants us to be and overcome the trials we face!