Summary of the Text
James, the brother of Jesus, the leader of the earliest Christian church in Jerusalem, writes this letter to scattered Jewish believers who are going through very difficult times. My mom would say “They are going through the ringer.” (Ringer: a hand-cranked device to squeeze the last drop of water out of rinsed, cleaned clothes before hanging them out to dry.) To put your hand in the ringer was to enjoy great pain. His first admonishment (v. 2) is “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” He then adds (v. 12), “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial.” The scattered, strewn, tossed-about young believers are under great pressure, testing their faith, and stretching their power to endure. What was the best encouragement for them?
Like an old football coach at the half-time of a losing game, James says “let’s get back to basics, let’s block and tackle.” Return to the basics of the Christian life and our faithful Father will see you through the rough, hard times.
Remember these two things: 1. (vv 16-18) We are children of an unchanging God because of the word of truth. We are the first, so we must lead the way for others to follow. 2. (vv 19-20) Act as mature adults, controlling your tongues and anger, avoiding evil and filth. God’s word is in you so act like it. Practice righteous living, which will separate you from the pitfalls of the world and enable you to persevere.
Then the heart of the letter comes, (vv. 22-27). At this point James hits them with his most challenging advice for surviving trials and testing–ACT on God’s word, live it out, don’t give it lip-service, give it obedience (v. 25). The one who reads, ponders, wrestles with, meditates on the word of God will know true freedom, freedom from sin and freedom from worldly entice-
ments. The end results of such active, engaging faith is God’s blessing on the disciples life.
It is impossible to not mention Psalm 1 with its description of the blessed life, the life desired by us and the life designed for us by our Father. Blessed is the one who is not centered in the world but who is centered on God’s word. He/she takes it seriously. Their roots will go deep, their branches will spread wide, their fruit will be delicious. Those of the world will not last, but God watches over the righteous.
James concludes his pep-talk, sermon, with the reminder it is easier to talk a good game than to play one (vv. 26-27). Be serious about your faith, walk the talk. Real faith, real religion, real devotion must reveal itself in caring for the least, the last, the lost and avoiding the pollution of the world.
Ideas and themes to be explored
- The Word of God: v 18 “the word of truth”; v 21 “the word planted in you”;
V 22 “Do what it says” What is the scope of “the word”? Why is it so important?
- The tongue, speech: v 19 “slow to speak”; v 26 “keep a tight rein on the tongue”.
What are the down-sides of loose speech? How might our self-control be enhanced?
- Action as a complement of faith: Why are faith and deeds mutually important?
Are they two sides of the same coin? How does a disciple maintain balance
between the two?
- Persecution/trials: How are these overcome by an action oriented faith? Compare
the righteous life to the ways of the world.
Contemporary angle to preaching
Without doubt the last 15 months have been a trying time for almost everyone alive. How might the Christian response to the pandemic be different from the secular, worldly response?
Why? How can the church lead the way, not just to normality, but to furthering the kingdom of God?
Bud Thoreen was raised in Southern California and has a BA from Wheaton College and an Mdiv. from Fuller Seminary. He spent nearly 10 years as an Area Director for Young Life. Retired after 37 years as a remodeling contractor, he now works for FaithQuest Missions, engaging believers in what God is doing around the world. He spent 40+ years as an elder, teacher, part-time preacher at Irvine Presbyterian Church. You can contact Bud at [email protected]
Crises shows what’s inside of a person; It doesn’t create it as much as reveals it.
Alistair Begg, Brave By Faith
“Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions or Faith in Christ. …”It seems to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary.
…The answer to that nonsense is that, if what you call your “faith” in Christ does not involve taking the slightest notice of what He says then it is not Faith at all—Not faith of trust in Him, but only intellectual acceptance of some theory about Him.”
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Mr. Sam Rayburn was Speaker of the United States House of Representatives longer than any other man in our history. There is a story about him that reveals the kind of man he really was.
The teenage daughter of a friend of his died suddenly one night. Early the next morning the man heard a knock on his door, and, when he opened it, there was Mr.Rayburn standing outside. The Speaker said, “J just came by to see what I could do to help.”
The Father replied in his deep grief, “I don’t think there is anything you can do, Mr. Speaker. We are making: all the arrangements.” ‘’Well,” Mr. Rayburn said, “have you had your coffee this morning?”
The man replied that they had not taken time for breakfast. So Mr. Rayburn said that he could at least make coffee for them. While he was working in the kitchen, the man came in and said, “Mr. Speaker, I thought you were supposed to be having breakfast at the White House this morning.”
“Well, I was,” Mr. Rayburn said, “but I called the President and told him I had a friend who was in trouble, and I couldn’t come.
Robert G. Morgan, Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations, Thomas Nelson.
Additional Sermon Resources
Call to worship:
Adapted from Psalm 12
Leader: Help, Lord, for the godly are no more; the faithful have vanished from among men.
People: Everyone lies to his neighbor; their flattering lips speak with deception.
Leader: May the Lord cut off all flattering lips and every boastful tongue that says, “We will
triumph with our tongues; we own our lips—who is our master?
People: Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now
arise, says the Lord. “I will protect them from those who malign them.”
Leader: And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay,
purified seven times.
People: O Lord, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever.
Prayer of Confession:
O Lord, we are too easily discouraged when things don’t go our way, when we face trials, testings, and even persecution. Lord forgive the weakness of our faith. We too often respond in anger and hurtful words. Forgive our put-downs and cutting remarks. We take pride in looking religious and pious while often ignoring the physical and emotional needs of people around us. Father, forgive our lack of putting our faith into action. Teach us to be like Christ.
Assurance of Pardon
Know this, the Lord is slow to condemn and swift to forgive and so we can claim the words of the psalmist who declares, “My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed.” (Ps. 28:7-8)
As you go into the world this week, be blessed with the knowledge of God’s word implanted in you. And be blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit living in you and enabling you to put your faith into action. Amen