Harvest House Publishers
James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve
tribes who are dispersed abroad, greetings.
JAMES 1:1 NASB
No doubt this was James the disciple, right? The guy who followed Jesus around for those three years. The one who got mad at the Samaritans and wanted to call down fire from the sky to wipe them out. The man who was with Peter and John when Jesus had His chat on the mountain with Moses and Elijah. No doubt this was the same James, right?
According to most scholars, this was an entirely different James. This James had some important family connections…
He was Jesus’ brother!
That’s right. (Well, actually, they were only half brothers because James’ father was Joseph and Jesus’ Father is God.) But can you imagine growing up with a brother who just happens to be the Son of God? I mean, we may have brothers or sisters who always think they’re right; but when Jesus was right, HE WAS RIGHT! In fact, according to Scripture, Jesus was perfect. He never sinned. He never did anything wrong.
Now let’s face it, at times that must have been a pain. I mean, how do you win an argument with someone when He just happens to be God the Son?
But look at how James begins his letter. We would probably start off with something like this:
James, Jesus’ favorite brother, who always let Him use my bike, who always let Him have first dibs on borrowing Dad’s car, who roomed with Him for 18 years, and who probably knows Him better than anyone else alive…
But not James. He uses only one word to describe his special relationship with Jesus:
(a polite word for “slave”).
Talk about humility. Instead of trying to impress us with his family ties, he simply refers to himself as a slave of God and Jesus Christ.
Not that it was always that way. Back in John 7:5 we see that “even his own brothers did not believe in him.” In fact, in Mark 3:21 we read that at one point Jesus’ family actually tried to “take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”
Seems kind of strange. How could a person hang around Jesus all those years watching Him heal the sick, raise people from the dead, and dramatically change lives, yet never really believe?
But then again, how many people today hang around the church all their lives, watching others being changed, while they never really make a serious commitment themselves? Oh, they’re there every Sunday, know most of the songs, know when to sit and when to stand—they have the whole routine covered. But when it comes down to the real stuff, when it comes down to the decision to really giving Christ 100 percent control, how many hold back, not really believing, afraid that if they give Him everything, He’ll somehow mess up?
But isn’t that what He wants? To be in charge of everything? Not because He’s some sort of egotist, but when He’s in charge, when He’s our Lord or boss 100 percent of the time, He’ll make sure we don’t mess up. He’ll make sure we don’t settle for second rate. He’ll make sure He’s always there to help us taste and experience life at its fullest. To live the type of life He dreamed we would live when He first created us.
It’s a scary thought to put someone else in charge (even if it is God), but eventually that’s what James did. No one is sure when, but somewhere along the line he went through an incredible change. Somewhere along the line he took the chance and decided to “go all the way” with the Lord. Somewhere along the line he was willing to become God’s slave.
And it wasn’t too long before he wound up in charge of the whole church in Jerusalem (see Acts 15). No small deal.
It was probably when he held that position that he wrote this letter to all the believers outside Jerusalem. As a leader he had seen the tremendous victories of his fellow Christians, as well as their heartbreaking defeats.
So with the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, he set out to give some solid, practical advice. No doubt he was hoping it would be a guide—a road map to help us through dark valleys and over insurmountable mountains so we can always experience victory…
Have you given God total control of your life?
What are you holding back?
If He really loves you and if He’s really on your side, do those reasons hold up?
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance
must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Somehow, some of us may have the impression that once we became Christians, life would be a piece of cake. No problems, no headaches—we just sort of sit back and cruise to heaven.
Nice idea, but not exactly what the Lord has in mind. Instead of sitting nice and cozy up in the bleachers, chowing down on hot dogs and popcorn, we suddenly find ourselves down on the track, working out!
Trials come. They come in all shapes and sizes, from little irritations to mega-heartaches. They seem baffling, confusing. You may even find yourself falling into the ol’ “If God really loves me, why is He letting this happen to me?” routine.
And that’s the answer:
God lets all those things happen to you because He loves you.
That’s right. You see, you only own one thing that’s eternal. You’re only taking one thing to heaven: yourself. That’s it. The cars, the grades, the relationships, the jobs—none of those things count in the long run.
People. You and me. We’re the only things that are important, the only things that are eternal.
So God takes that one important element, you, and begins to give you a workout—to exercise and to build your muscles, to run you around the track again and again and again some more. And then—when you’re sure you can’t take another step—He gives you one more lap. Not because He’s some sort of dictator, but because He loves you. In the end He wants you to really be happy, to “be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
But James doesn’t let it go at that. He doesn’t just say, “OK, guys, try your best not to complain or mutter when trials come your way.” He actually takes it a step further. His command to us is:
“Consider it pure joy.”
He’s got to be kidding!
Nope. You see, there’s some sort of truth here that he’s trying to clue us in on. If, as Christians, we could begin to look on pain as actually being something that’s good for us—as an athlete does when he’s working out—if we could begin to understand that tough times are not supposed to flatten us, but that they are supposed to strengthen us and help us become winners, then we could see things from a totally different perspective.
We could actually begin to welcome pain. Or, as the Bible says, “always giving thanks for all things” (Ephesians 5:20 NASB). We could really begin to understand that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NASB).
Life isn’t always a piece of cake. In fact, sometimes it can be a real pain. The trick is to figure out how the hard times can help you, how they can make you better, how they can make you more like Jesus, “mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
What tough stuff are you going through?
How could God use it to make you more like Jesus? (The trick is not to ask why something’s happening, but how God can use it.)
Try worshiping Him and thanking Him—not for the hard stuff, but that He’s still in charge and will somehow use that hard stuff “to work together for the good” if you hang in there and love Him.