This is our last study in this series in the book of James. Although we have divided it up into sections, it’s important to remember that this is a letter, meant to be read in one sitting. When James’ letter was first passed around the small congregations of scattered Christians, someone would have taken the wrapper off the scroll, unrolled it and read the whole thing to them! Reading a whole letter in the Bible in one go is a brilliant thing to do, it is so rewarding and refreshing. James is short, and not complex – so please take a few moments now to click on this link and read James’s letter.
I hope you agree that that is a stunning, wonderful read; inspired by the Spirit of God, and written by James, the half-brother of Jesus. James was clearly well versed in the Old Testament book of Proverbs, and in the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, notably the Sermon on the Mount; all of which are apparent in the way he writes.
James has a reputation as one of the most practical writers in the Bible. That’s one of the reasons that I chose to study it this Summer.
Sometimes, I need a practical plan to help me turn good intentions into actions. Early in lockdown I thought I was becoming a lazy couch potato. Now, I understood the health implications of that; I understood the effects of being immobile on my body.. I didn’t need any more information or education. What I needed was a plan to help me to put what I knew into practice. Then the NHS, the health service here in Scotland, published a plan they called, “From Couch to 10K!”, to get people off their comfortable chairs and running until they could go for ten kilometres (about 6 and a half miles). It starts with very small runs, and sets daily targets, plus rest days. I am now four weeks into the five week plan, and am on target to run 10Km next week! What I needed was a plan.
Do you know, it is the same for progress in the Christian life!? Sometimes we need a bit of help to get us to put into practice, things we already know are true! James is amazing at giving us definite plans and directions for us to follow, as we seek to grow into maturity in Christ!
So here are five important lessons from James to take away!
1. Endure trials with patience. (1:12)
Trials are not “temptations” which appeal to our flesh; but are hard circumstances which come into our lives. Health crises, family crises, the loss of a job or a home are all hard trials. James’ first readers had all fled their homes under intense persecution and been exiled from their homeland. James wrote to teach them how to endure these trials with faith, patience and Christlikeness. Jesus, of course, suffered greatly in life – and knew awful opposition from the world. We are no greater than our master and should not expect less then him. Jesus, of course has overcome the world and sin, Satan and suffering will not have the final word. Yet still, our passage through this life can be difficult. James explains that if we face these trials in a Christlike way, we will bear great fruit for God forever. The alternative is bitterness, brokenness and abject misery.
2. Faith without works is dead. (2:17)
Genuine faith in Jesus cannot lay dormant in the heart and not be seen in life and action. Faith without works is dead in the sense that it is unfruitful, unproductive and useless. There is nothing more urgent for you in your Christian service than to let your faith in and union with Christ start to shape what you do with your money, home, relationships, words, and time. Don’t keep Jesus bottled up in your heart – let his power and presence flow out through your life – because that is what real life is!
3. Of all the “Good Works” you must do – make controlling your tongue a priority! (3:1-12)
When James says that our words are hugely powerful, and that we must be ‘perfect’ that sounds impossible. But take note, he also admits that we all “stumble” here – he is addressing sinful folk like you and me! What we also need to remember is that when James says ‘perfect’ he doesn’t expect us to be God. He is rather calling us to “wholeness”, “completeness” and “integrity”. Integrity is such a beautiful thing, because it means having a consistent, coherent life, focused on Jesus. It means not being different things to different people, and someone else again when you are alone; but have an integrated life. A heart in tune with God expressing the words of God, is a thing of huge worth and great beauty. Control your tongue!
4. Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you! (4:7)
The key to spiritual warfare here is submission to God. Joyful, precious, holy submission to God is not merely life in all its fullness, but is also powerful in defeating evil. Don’t be deceived, the powers of darkness are real and powerful – but they are overcome by the Name of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit! Bring your life in tune with God, His word, His character and His Spirit combining to make you more like His Son. In that place there is victory over every evil scheme.
5. The Prayer of Faith is Powerful (5;15-16)
“The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much!” is how they used to say it back when I memorized these verses! Prayer in faith is our great weapon against the enemy which will advance the Kingdom of God in our day and our time. The enemy will do anything to stop us praying so we must do everything we can to keep each other praying. Let’s pray for our nations in their darkness and division. Let’s pray for prodigals, pray for the lost, pray for governments and politicians. Most of all let’s pray that God would visit the USA and the UK with a great revival that would sweep vast numbers of people into the Kingdom of Jesus. Pray, pray, pray – and never give up!
I am so grateful to God for the book of James. Now may The Lord in His infinite grace and kindness help us to be do-ers, not just hearers of the word! Amen.
Angela Courte MacKenzie is a broadcaster, pianist, vocalist, and worship leader. Her music has traveled all over the world through her Facebook live events and The Power of Praise program as a witness to the glory of God. Angela holds a B.A. degree in music/vocal performance from the University of Central Florida, and a M.A. in apologetics from Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.
Her desire is to awaken hearts to Christ through music, Bible Teachings, blogs, one 2 one chats, the gifts of laughter and simply life in “real time.”
To find out more about Angela visit www.angela.org. To hear her music and other offerings visit her YouTube channel www.youtube.com/angelacourtemackenzieofficial.