Introduction to the Book of James

Chapter 1 Verse 1-12

Pop quiz.  Okay, who wrote the Book of James?

This is an amazing book. Even though it was written over 2,000 years ago, it is relevant to our lives today in the 21st century. This book is very short-no more than 100 verses. In fact, you can read, in less than 20 minutes, those 100 verses packed with practical wisdom for dealing with several important life issues.

Without a doubt, it is the most practical book in the New Testament in teaching us how to mature in our Christian faith.

Who is James?

The first verse serves as sort of a cover page because the author identifies himself there as:

“JAMES, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…”

Now, there are several men named James mentioned in the New Testament but this JAMES is the half-brother of our Lord. I say half-brother, because James’ biological father was Joseph whereas Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

It may surprise some of you, but the gospels of Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus had several half-siblings-brothers as well as sisters-and the author of this book is one of them.  (Matthew 13:55-56, Mark 6:3)

The gospels also tell us that in the beginning James and his siblings did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. (John 7:1-5, Mark 3:31-35)

At one point, they were trying to “institutionalize” Jesus by taking him away from the crowds when He was claiming to be the Son of God.

Can you image the conversation his half brothers and sisters had with Jesus?

Jesus, you can’t be talking about this Son of God stuff, people will think you’re nuts!

Think about this, if there was ever a person who could disprove the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, it would have been James.

Your brothers and sisters, they know about those dark little secrets that no one else knows about you.

What do we know about James?

*  Well, the book of Acts tells us that, following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem-the first Christian church ever founded!

* In Galatians 2:9 Paul refers to him as “a pillar” of that church.

*  Acts 12 says that when Peter was delivered from prison by the angel, he made a point of sending a message to James to let him know all that had happened.

*  It was James who moderated the church conference described in Acts 15 which dealt with the potentially divisive issue of what to do with Gentile converts to Christianity.

*  James was a mediator who was able to bring peace and unity within the church.

*  When Paul visited Jerusalem, it was James to whom he brought the special love offering from the Gentile churches to help the persecuted Christians of Jerusalem.

*  It is said that James received the nickname “James, the Just” because of his holy life.

*  Tradition also tells us that he was a man of prayer-which explains his emphasis on this particular spiritual discipline in his book.

Some say that James prayed so much that his knees were as hard as a camel’s.

But in spite of being renowned for his spiritual maturity and for the fact that he was Jesus’ half-brother-I want to point out that James was obviously a very humble man.

We see that in the way he begins his book-for he doesn’t identify himself as, “James, Half-brother of the Messiah-leader of THE church at Jerusalem.”

* Nor did he identify himself as an apostle like Peter and Paul did when they began their own books.

* No…James simply says that he is  “…a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Biblical record is fairly silent about James’ death but tradition tells us that he was martyred in 62A.D.

Apparently, the Pharisees in Jerusalem hated James so much they had him cast down from the temple and then beaten to death with clubs. It is said that James died like his Savior, praying for his murderers by saying, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Let’s look at the Book of James

In the first verse, he says his book is written to “…the twelve tribes scattered among the nations…”

At Pentecost, the Church was centrally located in Jerusalem.  At that moment in time, the Church was mostly made up of Jews. It would have been easy for the Church to stay local. God allowed persecution to scatter the Church throughout the known world.

God was making a radical shift.  The Church is no longer made up of people who had a Jewish heritage, God was now adopting Gentiles.

Book of Romans 11

Paul compares Israel to the natural branches of a cultivated olive tree and the Gentile believers to the branches of a wild olive tree. The natural branches (Israel) were broken off, and the wild branches (Gentiles) were grafted in (verse 17).

That was a huge paradigm shift for the Jewish Christians to make in the early Church.

The Jews had nothing to do with Gentiles and now God is calling them to accept them with open arms as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul wrote in Galatians 3, There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The Book of James was probably the first epistle to be written, 49-50 A.D.

James wrote this book to Jewish believers to encourage them to endure and live bold Christian lives.

Nero was one of the emperors. Nut case…

Tacitus described the Christians as a “class hated for their abominations” and guilty of “hatred of the human race,” Theirs was not a “religion” but a “deadly superstition,” and hence worthy of repression.

One of the main themes in the Book of James is suffering.

Have any of you experienced any type of suffering and pain?

Brian Harbour writes: “Everyone either IS a problem or HAS a problem or LIVES with one.”

We all face a wide variety of tough times in life and James realized this.

How do we deal with suffering?

Verse 2:  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.

Note that in verse 2 he does not say, “if” you have “trials of many kinds” but “when.”

The truth is that hard times are inevitable both because of our own sinful choices and because we live in a fallen world where bad happens every day-even to good people.

How are we to respond to the everyday problems of life?

THANK GOD FOR THEM.

Another way of putting it is to EMBRACE THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS IN YOUR LIFE as God’s tools, to shape YOU and mold YOU in order to become the person that God wants you to be.

That seems like a paradox. It makes no sense at all.

Think about this:

What options do you have when you encounter a problem?

* You can become angry, develop an attitude of resentment and shake your fist at God.

* You can become apathetic and withdraw.

* Escape by becoming involved in addictive behaviors.

* You can give thanks in ALL circumstances.

Clarification here: It doesn’t mean I’m happy.  It doesn’t mean that I accept trials with open arms.

Warren Wiersbe:

Life’s trials are NOT easy, but in God’s will each one has a purpose.

When we encounter various trails we need to remember three things:

  1. Problems purify my faith

Thomas Watson, 17th the century puritan pastor wrote, “Affliction works as our preacher and tutor. Sometimes a sickbed can teach us more than a sermon. Affliction is often the medicine that God uses to carry off our spiritual diseases.”

Put in difficulty or stressful situations, you begin to see the real you. Junk and ugliness deep down in the core of your being, begins to seep through our facade.

  1. Problems fortify our patience/Endurance

PERSEVERANCE…or ENDURANCE…  Tenacity

In other words, trials teach us to hang in there and not quit! Isn’t it easy to say “I quit.  The heck with it.”

* It’s easier to walk out of the room during an argument with our spouse than it is to stay and work through the conflict.

*  It’s easier to stop praying for our co-worker that we hate than it is to hang in there and ask God to help us know how to continually act in love towards that person.

* It’s easier just to say, I’m not going to go to that church again when there is a conflict.

* It’s easier to ignore God and push Him out of your life than to wrestle with God like Jacob did.

*  ENDURANCE is tough for us to grasp because in our culture the EASY way is preferred. I mean you could say we live in the “instamatic” era.

These days we demand overnight stardom, overnight delivery, overnight success, overnight growth, overnight solutions, overnight marital bliss and even overnight spiritual maturity. And there is no such thing.

Spiritual maturity is a life-long process that requires endurance. I think this is why the Bible speaks so highly of PERSISTENCE or ENDURANCE.

Today, many Christians simply give up when they get tired or when the way gets rough or when God doesn’t answer their prayers quickly enough. To grow spiritually we must learn to practice ENDURANCE.

This reminds me of the words of Calvin Coolidge who said, “Press on. Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are important.”

Coolidge was right. You see, when we persevere-when we hang in there-then we grow and mature into the people God wants us to be and are made able to do the things He designed us to do.

  1. Problems sanctify my character

Helen Keller:

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.  Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

* Joni Eareckson

God is more concerned with conforming me to the likeness of his son than leaving me in my comfort zones.  God is more interested in inward qualities than outward circumstances

-things like refining my faith, humbling my heart, cleaning up my thought life and strengthening my character.

What is the result?

Verse 4, “we become mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Nothing produces maturity like pressure!

So, when you face the nightmares of life remind yourself that God has a definite purpose in allowing these times of difficulty.

 ILL.  Mt Lyon.  3800 feet.  Fire Tower.

Beginning it’s easy.

-Half way out now it is becoming more like work.

-Breaking point.  I’m not going any further.!

It’s at this point, I can’t take another step.

There have been times in my life when I have felt I could not take another step.  The trials and temptations continue to come.

Hiking at that point, I can walk to that tree.

I can walk to that next tree.

Mistake that people often make is trying to solve the problem at once.

Break it down.  “God what is one step I can take today, today, that will be honoring to you?”

When you begin to take a few God honoring steps, God begins to intervene.

Priscilla and I are in the middle of nowhere about to yell at each other,

God intervenes. Priscilla’s cell phone rings.  Her sister. After a twenty-minute conversation, our dispositions changed.

The situation didn’t change but our disposition changed.  Attitude is 90% everything.

After the phone call, Priscilla said, 30 more minutes.  That’s it.  If we are not to the top, I’m going down.

Meanwhile I’m praying, please God let us be close to the top.

Less than 10 minutes of hiking I shouted out, “Bingo!”

I see the fire tower.

You would think my wife would believe me.

No.  She said, “You better not be lying.  I’ll kill you.”

After taking a few more steps, there was the fire tower in all of its glory.

When you are in the midst of trials and difficulties, it’s hard to think clearly.  Emotions take over.

If you are in the midst of a difficult moment and you feel like quitting, I encourage you to just focus on the next God honoring step.

“God what is it that you want me to do today?”

How can I weather through this situation in a way that will give you honor and glory?

When you

*  stand firm in your faith,

*  stand firm in your convictions,

*  stand firm on the Word of God,

God promises you that He will give you the strength to take the next step to reach the summit.

When Trials and tribulations come into your life:

Remember God uses those situations to:

* Purify my faith

* Fortify my patience and endurance.

* Sanctify my character

**********

The message was originally addressed to the people at United Baptist-Christian Church in Lewiston, NY.  It bears the weaknesses and strengths of oral delivery.  Its purpose is to assist people in their personal bible study and provide preaching and Sunday School resources for people involved in church ministry.

Pastor Vince Eisaman
9-4-16

For More Sermons from United Baptist-Christian Church, CLICK HERE

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