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Introduction to the Book of James - James Part 1

So What? / Lon Solomon
The Truth Network Radio
November 3, 2022 7:00 am

Introduction to the Book of James - James Part 1

So What? / Lon Solomon

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We're glad you came this evening. We're going to begin studying together the book of James.

And so I'd like to ask you to turn there with me. The book of James towards the end of your New Testament. Now the book is entitled The Epistle of James. And so what we know about the author is that his name was James. Now we cannot be absolutely positive as to exactly which James this was. But it's normally taken to be the James who was the half-brother of our Lord.

In Matthew chapter 13, and you don't need to turn there, but I'll read to you. In Matthew chapter 13 verse 55, the people who are confronting our Lord in His hometown say, is this not the carpenter's son, and is not his mother called Mary, and his brothers, and the first one they name, is James. Meaning therefore he probably was the senior brother, the eldest brother, next of course to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This same James was apparently one of the leaders of the Church of Jerusalem. He's referred to in the book of Galatians several times, called a pillar of the Church of Jerusalem in Acts chapter 15. And so it is normally taken that this is the man who's responsible for this book.

Because I don't have much information to the contrary, that's what we'll assume. This is the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who did he write the book to? Well he says James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad greetings. Now by saying the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, I'm sure most of us realize that we're dealing here with Jews. We realize that we're normally told that there were twelve tribes in Israel. Actually there were thirteen, because Levi was one of the tribes who got no inheritance. There were twelve sons of Jacob or Israel, therefore the twelve sons of Israel, the twelve tribes of Israel. But in the inheritances that were given out, one of the sons, Joseph, got a double portion. Manasseh and Ephraim were both his sons, so really there are thirteen portions.

However, only twelve portions of land were given because Levi got no land. He was to circulate among the tribes and act as priests and Levites. And so when we're talking about the twelve tribes, James is writing to Jews. You would not refer to Gentiles as the twelve tribes scattered abroad.

I'm afraid it just wouldn't make much sense. So he's writing to Jews, and yet due to his constant references to the Lord and the Lord Jesus and Christian truth, we have to see these Jews as believers. Not unbelieving Jews, but believing Jews. Apart from that, we know nothing about the recipients of this letter.

But knowing that they are Christians, whether they're Jews or Gentiles, should make no difference. We should expect to find some references to the Christian life and Christian truth in this letter, and so we do. Who wrote the book? James. Probably the half-brother of our Lord. To whom did he write it? We really don't know.

But to believers, and that's what matters. The date of the book? Well, we don't know that either. Our early church records tell us by way of tradition that James was reportedly killed in 69 A.D. just before the Romans captured Jerusalem. Assuming there's some truth to that, then obviously he wrote the book, if that James wrote it, before 69 A.D.

There's no mention in here of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 at which James was a primary protagonist. So maybe the book was written before then. Most people hold the book to be written very early. Some would even say this is one of the earliest books in the New Testament. The truth of the matter is, we really do not know exactly when this book was written. So you're saying, well, you're telling us you don't really know who the author is, and you don't really know where he wrote it, and you don't really know when.

That's right. But we do know the Holy Spirit wrote it, and we do know he wrote it to believers, and if he wrote it to believers, it doesn't really matter when. It's just as good today as it was whenever it was penned. The purpose of the book, well, it deals with an assortment of Christian truth, and if you've ever tried to outline the book of James, you have a real task on your hands.

I'm afraid it just doesn't lend itself to much of an outline. It has a heavy stress on putting faith into action, putting faith into practice. This is not a book of ivory tower theology, but a book of practical, rubber meets the road Christian truth. So with that little bit of introduction, not as much as we'd give in a seminary class, but plenty for us in our context tonight, let's begin. James chapter 1, James starts off by dealing with trials in the Christian life. He will deal with this subject through verse 18 of chapter 1. We this evening will only cover verses 2, 3, and 4, and let's see what he has to say. Verse 2, my brethren, James says, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James begins by telling us that we as believers are to rejoice when trials enter our lives.

Now it's always a good idea whenever we start something to make sure we know what we're speaking about. So let's define what is a trial? James says when a trial enters your life, rejoice. Fine James, if we knew what a trial was, we would. Tell us what it is.

Well, he doesn't tell us. But let me give you a definition. A trial is any circumstance of life that challenges or tests your willingness to obey God. A trial is any circumstance of life that challenges or tests your willingness to obey God. Now, I don't know what kind of trials you have.

I have an assortment of them. One of the greatest trials I ever had was working for giant food. Now, I know this is on tape, and so let me be quick to say there was nothing wrong with giant food.

The problem was me. I really could not stand the cash register. My job was running a cash register, and I couldn't stand it.

You stand there in that one spot, you never move except to turn around and bag a grocery and back and forth you go. And the people who come through line, they have no way of ever saying something mean to the meat cutter. They don't see him. If the milk costs too much, there's nobody standing there at the milk counter for them to say anything to. My manager was always in the back stealing grapes and cherries out of the produce department.

So he wasn't around. The only person that anyone can say anything to is you. So there you are, ringing up their food.

And they're watching the tally go higher and higher. And I'll tell you, I ran into some nasty people. I ran into some nice people.

But I ran into some people who really challenged everything in my Christian life. I'll never forget one time we had a lady come in. She couldn't speak much English. Had her son with her. She was a Spanish speaking lady.

A little short lady. And we had just been told you could not double bag anything. This was back in about 1973 when the paper shortage hit.

You remember that? Oh, big paper shortage. So we couldn't double bag anything. Couldn't double bag. You could lose your job if you put two bags together. So this lady gets in my line, it was a busy Saturday, six or eight people in every cash year's line. And she says to me, double bag. I think that's the only English she knew. I tried to explain to her, ma'am, I can't double bag. I could lose my job, you know.

Double bag. Finally, I turned to her son who I could perceive understood more English. And I said, you have to explain to your mother.

I can't, I can lose my job. I can't do it for her. So he talks to her, she talks back.

She looks at me and she's glaring at me. And finally I said, all right, look, I'll tell you what I'll do. She had a lot of meat. And you know, I tend to drip and get the bag wet. So I said, I'll double bag your meat. But I can't double bag everything else. She says, if no double bag, they care.

I said, well, ma'am, I'm sorry, I can't do anything about it. So I'm bagging this grocery, it's about a hundred dollar order, six or eight, ten bags of groceries. And I double bag the meat and I bag everything else.

Wouldn't you know it? The last bag had a big one, these big one pound things of potato chips in them. And the way the thing was sitting, when I leaned over to put it in the cart, you guessed what happened.

Right down the side, potato chips rolled out on the floor. And I said to myself, uh-oh, she looked at me, she walked over, took this bag of groceries, dumped them all on the floor, balled this bag up in a ball. And she cooped and threw this bag, hit me upside the head. And she starts yelling and screaming, I don't know what she was saying, I'm glad it was in Spanish.

And just going crazy. So her son started going, I'm going to get the manager, I'm going to get the manager. I said, go get the manager.

So he did. Manager came up and just as sedately as you ever saw, said to me, why didn't you double bag her groceries? And I said to myself, Lord, you better help me now because I'm ready to lose it all right here.

That's a trial, really. I was so close to going over top the cash register onto that manager. I thought, I can't believe this. I stand here, confront this lady. I'm the one who's embarrassed.

I'm the one she threw the bag at, I'm the one she's yelling at, and you tell me I should have double bagged her groceries. That's a trial. I could tell you story after story, but I won't. Working with the public is an interesting affair. Now, I don't know what kind of trials you have, probably not some exactly like that. But I guess in many instances or perhaps in many ways, every situation in life is to some degree a trial we're always called upon to challenge our obedience to God.

But you know, we all run across those very special ones. The wife who's trying to make the budget balance when food just costs too much. The husband who's having a difficult time with his boss at work. The pressures of trying to raise a family and deal with kids who just don't want to be dealt with.

If you're single, dating habits and the pressures and problems of that, we all have our trials. And James is telling us what to do when these trials come. He says, consider it joy, count it joy when these trials come into our lives. And would you notice, please, he did not say feel happy. He didn't say feel joyful. He didn't say feel anything. He said, count it, consider it joy.

The Greek word here is a word that means to reckon, to consider, to think about something and being in a certain way. It's a word of attitude, not a word of feeling. And what God is saying here is we need to have an attitude. Feeling is not involved.

It doesn't matter how you feel. We need to cultivate an attitude of joyfulness and thankfulness when God brings these things our way. Now, God's not saying that we should stand around and say, oh boy, I am so excited. My roof just fell in. No. God is saying, oh, a hot dog, my tire just blew out just what I wanted, a flat tire. Boy, am I excited. No, that's not what he's saying.

That would be abnormal. What God's saying is that when something unpleasant happens, we say, Lord, I don't like this. I'm not happy about it, but I will consider it to be from you. I will accept this unpleasant situation and I will rejoice in it and thank you for it because that's what you tell me to do.

A lot of difference. You see, my friends, we cannot control our feelings, but we can control our attitudes. God's not telling us and James is not telling us to feel anything but to have an attitude, an attitude of thanking God when he brings rough things our way. Now, you might ask why. What good reason can you give me to thank God for a flat tire? What good reason can you give me for thanking God that my washing machine broke?

What good reason is there that my basement flooded? Give me a good reason. I'll give you two. James gives us two. Two good reasons why this is what we ought to do.

Let's look at them. He says in verse three, fact number one, reason number one. He says in verse three, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

Reason number one, that the testing of our faith produces endurance and steadfastness in the Christian life. Now there's two words in Greek for patience, both translated patience in English, but they're vastly different words. There's one word that means patience with people. It's a compound word. It's the word for anger or wrath and a little preposition on the front, which means to be far away from. And so the compound means to stay far away from wrath, to stay far away from anger. And this is meaning patience with people, long suffering with people. That's not the word that's used here.

That isn't what God says these things produce. There's another Greek word, which again is a compound word. It means, it comes from the verb meaning to remain or to stay, with a preposition hyphenated on the front meaning to under. And so there's another word for patience, which means to remain under something, to stay under something, to stay under the pressure of something and be able to cope with it. And that's the word that's used here. A better translation might perhaps be endurance, steadfastness.

And this word is always used to refer not to people, but to circumstances. And so God tells us that only by facing difficulties in the Christian life, only by facing trials in the Christian life, only by having problems do we learn endurance, do we learn steadfastness, do we learn to stay under the burden and cope with it. Caesar had an elite group of bodyguards called the Praetorian guards.

Paul alludes to them in Philippians chapter 1. He says, through me the whole Praetorian guard has heard the word because I've been chained to one of them for 12 hours at a stretch for months. How'd you like to be chained to Paul if you were an unsaved person for 12 hour watch?

That'd be fun, wouldn't it? He are. You don't want to know anything about God. You don't want to know anything about the Lord.

All you want to do is finish your watch so you can go do what you want to do. And of all people that you have to watch, you're chained to Paul for 12 hours. You think the whole Praetorian guard heard?

I'll bet you they heard so many times, it's coming out of their ears. This was an elite group. You didn't volunteer for the Praetorian guard. You only got there by direct commission from Caesar himself. And the only way you could get there was through battle valor, through proven valor and courage in battle. And that's how you earned your way into this elite bodyguard. Now I don't blame Caesar. Would you want a bodyguard right out of boot camp?

I wouldn't. What happens if here comes Attila and all the Huns, right? Into Rome. And you line up your Praetorian guard and say, all right, fellas, you're the last line of defense.

And one of them turns to you and goes, how do you use this thing anyway? Don't really think that's the kind of guy you'd want on the last line of defense. I don't blame Caesar. You don't want to recruit. You want a hardened, seasoned military man. How do you get to be a hardened, seasoned military man?

Only one way I know to get there. And that's to be involved in battle. How are you going to prove your valor unless you have to fight? How are you going to demonstrate your courage sitting in the barracks?

No way to do it. How did these men prove their valor and earn their position and move up through the ranks to this elite bodyguard and demonstrate steadfastness and endurance and courage they had to fight? And the more they fought, the better they got. And eventually they got seasoned and hardened and they were ready for the honor of being in the Praetorian guard.

You know something, my friends? Christians move up the same way. God doesn't want an army full of recruits.

Now that's where everybody starts. But to win this fight we're in, we've got to have a few seasoned veterans, my friend. If you plan to be a seasoned veteran, you better plan on problems. If you plan on moving up to God's Praetorian guard and having Him be proud of your service and having the kind of endurance and steadfastness that God can be proud of, you're going to have to fight some. It's the only way to get there. And that's what James tells us, that trials produce steadfastness and proven dependability. Why should I thank God for my trials?

Because it's the only way to develop this kind of endurance. But there's another fact that he shares with us, and that's in verse 4. And he said, let this patience, let this endurance have its perfect work, that you might be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. You know this endurance that trials produce is not an end in itself. It goes on somewhere. It leads to something.

What does it lead to? Verse 4 tells us. It leads to maturity and solid Christian character.

This endurance has a goal in mind, maturity. And when James tells us that we should be lacking nothing, he doesn't mean possession. He doesn't mean money. He means spiritual qualities, that we should be lacking no spiritual traits.

Another way to translate this word is to say flawless, spiritually. So then trials in our life are really opportunities for us to grow. Because as we face the trial, we develop the endurance and the dependability and the proven character that goes on to maturity.

So really my friends, trials are just a means to an end. And the end is maturity. I hear so many Christians pray, oh God, make me mature. Oh God, make me like Christ. Oh God, make me a real man of God.

Make me a real woman of God. That's a good prayer. That's a good prayer.

But yet so many of these people balk as soon as the problems start to come. They go, I prayed God would make me a mature person. I prayed God would make me like Jesus and what he does is dump all these problems on me. That's right. But I pray that I would be mature. That's right. I prayed I could grow up.

That's right. Why didn't God give me all the problems? Because that's how he's going to do it. And what these people don't realize is that God is sending difficulties their way in answer to their prayer. When you pray for God to make you mature, when you pray for God to make you a man or a woman of God, you better buckle your seatbelt because problems are on their way.

That's the only way people get there. Look at all the great men and women of God throughout history. Look at Abraham. God says, leave your land. Don't worry about what's back there. Abraham said, where am I going?

God said, doesn't make any difference. Just follow me. So he left. And God said to Abraham one day, I want you to take your son, I want you to walk up on this mountain.

I'm going to show you. I want you to lay him down on an altar and I want you to kill him. And I believe with all my heart that if the angel had not yelled to Abraham when his hand was up and about to start down, he would have killed that child. I believe that with all my heart, he would have killed him in obedience to God himself. Now, I don't know about you, but if God asked me to take my son and lay him on a table somewhere and run a knife into his heart, I don't know what I'd do. I imagine the first thing I'd do is kind of laugh and go, you know, that's very funny. But then when it began to hit me, God wasn't kidding. I don't know what I'd do.

I'll bet you if you're honest, you don't know what you'd do either. But Abraham, you don't think this was a difficulty? But he did it. I think of Joseph, sold into slavery, thrown into jail. Think that was easy? I mean, let's face it, in those days, they didn't have ping pong tables and tennis courts and pool tables in jail. They didn't have heat and air conditioning and running water and everything in jail. Jail was pretty tough in those days.

That was before the age of enlightenment. And Moses, driven in the wilderness, 40 years on the backside of the desert. And David, pursued by Saul for years, I mean literally years, running around and sleeping in caves and running for his life and going from city to city just to stay away from this man Saul. And then Goliath, how'd you like to face somebody 10 feet tall whose armor weighed 250 pounds?

And David's just a little fella, just a little fella. You don't think he had some problems? And how about Daniel, carried away captive, thrown in a lion's den? And the early church persecuted, slaughtered, martyred. Martin Luther, he was a very prosperous university professor, had a home, had a family. And yet for nailing those feces on the door, he had to live in a cave for a year.

He lost everything he owned. My friends, if you plan to become spiritually mature as one of God's children and to make an impact for our Lord, then you are going to have to face some trials along the way. Not because God hates you, not because God wants to make your life miserable, not because God's upset with you, but because only by facing trials can you become strong, can you become mature, can you really grow? And steel, we all know this, has to be forged in intense heat in a furnace to make it strong. If the heat is not intense, if the heat is not incredibly hot, you get poor steel. And Christians, too, need to be forged in the heat of problems and in the heat of trials and in the heat of testing to come out strong. You don't get much heat.

You don't get much strength. Now I need to balance and say that God, as He brings trials our way, never brings trials He knows we can't handle. You know, that's what's nice about our Lord.

He knows all about us. First Corinthians 10.13, God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted, to be tried beyond what you can handle. I can't tell you how many times I've gone back and read that verse and read that verse and said, Lord, if I didn't have that verse. When I was working at Barcroft Church years ago, I had a real problem. I was really struggling with it. It just seemed like I couldn't get on top of it. Every time it seemed like I got on top, it was like a ball. I rolled off the other side again. I rolled off. I couldn't stay on top of it. And I remember going in to talk to Pastor Hardman and I shared this with him. And I said, you know, I just don't think I can take this a whole lot more.

I just really don't think I can handle this. And he flipped his Bible open to that verse. He said, read that for me. Now, I know that verse, he said, we'll read it anyway.

So I read it. He said, what does God say about this trial or any trial that you face? I said, well, God says he won't tempt me beyond what I can handle. Reverend Hardman said, that's right. He said, now, are you prepared to call God a liar? What can you say? No, I'm not going to call God a liar.

And of course not. And Butch said to me, okay, then you can handle it. What you need to do is believe you can handle it and tap God's strength and go handle it. You see, a lot of times we're convinced we can't handle it and that's why we fail. When God says, my friends, I won't send a thing your way that I don't first inspect and make sure you can handle it.

It's fitted just for you, has your name on it. It's just the right time, just the right trial, just the right place. And hey, I know what I'm doing.

Tremendous comfort. When God sends things our way, we can handle it. Now, God never said he wouldn't push you right to the breaking point. He just said he'd never push you over. Because in the Christian life, my friends, James says when they come to rejoice, to be glad, to say thank you, God, because they're really your friends in disguise.

You just don't know it. They come not to hurt you, but to help you. God sends them your way to build maturity and growth and character into your life. And without the trials, there'd be no growth. Without the trials, there'd be no character building. Without the trials, there'd be no maturity.

We'd just be weak and flabby and fat and lazy, and that's where we'd say. Howard Hendrix says when you do something for a child that he can do for himself, you make him a cripple. That's so true. I've seen families where this has happened.

I've seen families where the parents, with very pure motive and really intending to help, run total interference for their children. Oh, we don't want him to have to face that problem, but we solve it. Oh, we don't want to have to face it. Oh, so we solve this one. Oh, that wouldn't be good at this stage in his life. And he wouldn't know how to take it. And we solve that.

Oh, that kid took his big wheel or his bike, get off of him. And we go out and we solve all their problems until they get to be about 18. And then they really have problems. Because what happens is that these children never learn how to cope. They never learn how to deal with problems themselves. They never grow and mature and develop in the ability to grapple with things. And then when they're on their own, they're helpless.

They're crippled, just like Hendrix said. And sometimes the most effective thing a parent can do is keep his hands off and let the child take a fall and let some other kid take his bike and let him get into a fight. Sometimes it's the best thing you can do for your children.

It just stay out the way and let them learn. Now I have children and believe me, I know that's not easy. But if you do for your children what they can do for themselves, you're crippling them.

And our heavenly Father is a good Father. And there are certain things that He probably would like if He had it His way, in many respects, to take away from you and not make you face and run interference for you. But He knows it's not good for you. He knows it's not going to accomplish anything.

It's just going to prolong the agony. And God knows as a good Father we need problems. And we need problems that He helps us with but that He doesn't solve for us that we have to grapple with.

That's how we grow. And they're never fun to go through. But I'll bet you every one of us sitting here this evening, who's been a Christian much of any time, can look back in our lives and say, oh God, I remember that problem. That was so tough.

I never thought I'd get through that, but I did. And man, I see what you did in my life through that trial and how much I grew through that. Thank you, God. But see, we never turn and look at what's facing us now. We say, oh God, thank you for that, but no more.

As long as you want to keep growing, there's always more. What should our attitude be? Oh God, take it away. Oh God, get it off.

Oh, what do you... No, no, no, no, no. James says that's not to be our attitude. Our attitude is to be, God, thank you. Thank you for taking enough interest in my life and concern for my growth that you send these things my way. That you inspect them first and then you just lovingly send them my way. And dear God, I'm not going to ask you to take them away. How could I grow? What I'm going to ask you to do is teach me and help me to learn to deal with them. You take that attitude and my friends, you will grow.

James chapter 1, did you get the point? If you leave here tonight and your car is flooded, oh, thank you God, I appreciate that. You get home, enough water to rent paddle boats in your basement, thank you God, you're going to teach me something. Battery dead, thank you God, flat tire, thank you God, washing machine broke, thank you Lord.

Happy about it, but thank you God for the opportunity to grow. I can assure you, not because I'm that smart, I'm certainly no soothsayer, but I guarantee you every one of us will have a chance this week to practice these verses. I don't know what's going to happen to you. I hope your washing machine doesn't break. I hope your glasses don't fall off and crack. I hope you don't break your foot, but something's going to happen. Say, oh great, boy, I'm so glad I came tonight, it's exactly what I needed to hear. Well, when it happens, open your Bible, or better yet, memorize the verses and sit down, just take a second to get your thoughts together before you come totally unglued and say, God, thank you, thank you Lord. Now teach me what you want me to learn.

Just practical, it's as practical as what's going to happen to you and me this week. I trust you'll implement, and we'll talk more next week about the rest of what James has to say about dealing with trials in our lives. Let's pray together, shall we? Heavenly Father, we thank you for your word, and Lord, I can't think of a single one of us here, especially me, who enjoys trouble, who enjoys problems. But Lord, we know that you tell us that we're to thank you for them, because that's how we grow. So Lord, work in our lives, teach us to see life not through our own eyes, not through the world's eyes, but through your eyes. Teach us to see our problems as they really are, our friends in disguise. Help us, Lord, this week and every week to thank you as you bring problems our way. Help us to grapple with those problems and trust you to produce growth in our lives. May the Spirit of God take what we've talked about, Father, and change the very way we see things around us, the very way we evaluate, for your honor and glory. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen. Amen.
Whisper: small.en / 2022-11-09 18:36:56 / 2022-11-09 18:44:42 / 8

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