We are going to learn very practical ways to live out the gracious faith that God gives those who believe in His Son as we study the book of James. As the Old Testament Proverbs give us insight into everyday living, James is the New Testament Proverbs. James is the 1/2 brother of Jesus which makes his beginning statement in 1:1 rather peculiar. He calls himself a “slave of God and of Jesus.” This shows he has a humble heart for he lays his life down so he can follow his own brother. Would you do that if your brother was the savior of the world? Yet, James saw beyond his brother and knew who Jesus was, and He responded accordingly. We are called to respond in the same way.
Today we are going to study chapter 1. James is writing to Jewish believers that have been displaced. We see he is going to encourage them in running their race well for the cause of Christ; see Hebrews 12:1 and 2 Timothy 4:7. He begins by teaching them how to live out faith, walk with endurance, listen more than the need to be heard, and get active in doing what the Bible tells them.
James’ lessons are for us today. Let’s see what we can learn so we can apply it to our lives. Read James 1.
We know that troubles will come our way. It is a part of life. James tells us when issues trip us up, we are to consider them as opportunities for great joy. If you are like me, this is kind of backwards to our human thinking, isn’t it? I don’t react with joy when obstacles cross my path. In fact, it’s the opposite! I get irritated. God has to help me with adjusting my mindset where I am focused on Him instead.
When our faith gets tested, our endurance blossoms according to verse 3. We need to let our faith grow and mature. What happens to us when our endurance is fully developed, see verse 4? Does this encourage you to seek Christ in a deeper way?
Be encouraged with verse 5, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you.” God loves it when we go to Him for everything! We are made to go to Him for everything! We cannot do life in our own merits and strength; see John 15:5. What is the prerequisite for seeking God’s help, verse 6?
Be sure that your faith is in God alone.
A person with divided loyalty, someone who loves Jesus + any worldly thing, will be unsettled like a wave on the sea. God says a person who lives with one foot in God’s ways and one foot in worldly ways is “unstable in everything they do.”8
God honors the poor. A surrendered, repentant man can boast that the Lord honors him. His wealth lies in the heavens where no one can take it away. His wealth is secure. As for a rich man with accumulated wealth on earth, how does James describe him, see verses 10-11.
Verse 12 tells us that God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. What do you receive from God? What is the prerequisite for receiving such a gift? Do you love God? Does your life show it?
Verses 13-15 teach us about temptation. What do learn about God? Where does temptation come from? What kind of temptations entice you? Are you willing to surrender them at the foot of the cross and allow Christ to do what He wants with them? Do you trust Him?
James understands human nature. We can be misled so very easily. We need to keep our focus on Christ, everyday, all day long. We must learn to sit in His presence. We must remember to be grateful for our redeemed lives, for without God’s grace and mercy, we have no hope. How does verses 16-18 confirm this to be true?
We have learned that our faith needs to build up its muscles so we can endure the perils of this life on earth. God gives us muscles of endurance so we won’t be blown around by the ways of the world. Temptations loom around every corner to entice us down a very dark road that leads to death.
Now, James teaches us important skills that every believer must act on. “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”19 This has been a verse that God has to bring me to time and time again. My flesh is opposite of this truth. I need God to help me.
What does James say in verse 20 about human anger? What are we to do, see verse 21?
The Word of God has the power to save your soul.
Besides listening to God’s Word, we must do what it says. When we ignore this, we are fooling ourselves. Verse 23 reveals what happens when we disobey. We forget. We do not automatically walk in the ways of the Lord. We must consciously strive in walking according to the Spirit’s leading. What do you have to do to receive God’s blessing in verse 25?
Study. Obey. Remember.
In the final two verses of chapter 1, James tells us what pure, genuine religion looks like. What do you learn? Why does James talk about our tongue? He ends this teaching with a message for us today:
“Refuse to let the world corrupt you.”27
When we accept the ways of God and follow Christ, we will live out these virtues taught by James. The Holy Spirit will give us the desire to want to live a surrendered life as He plucks away those worldly loves that entraps us. He fills us with His presence, and we soon find that there is nothing else we need. We are complete.