TODAY’S READING: JAMES 1-5
Patience in tribulation; encouraging impartiality; the power of the tongue; true humility; the failure of money; the power of prayer.
HIGHLIGHTS & INSIGHTS:
The same question we asked at the beginning of Hebrews is applicable as we get started today in the Book of James: To whom is this Book written? Most people come to the Book of James and read it without considering that fundamental question. We usually read James (as we do Hebrews) just like we read the letters written to local churches or leaders of local churches (Romans-Philemon). However, the Book of James is not written to a local church or a leader of a local church. Notice that in 1:1 it is written to “the twelve tribes scattered abroad” – Jews!
The key principle God is communicating in the Book of James is that genuine, biblical faith results in a changed life. Historically, this Book was written to Jews that had made a profession of faith in Christ, to teach them their faith should and will change their life. In a doctrinal, or prophetic sense, this Book is written to Jews living during the tribulation to teach them how to live out their faith in difficult circumstances. In a devotional sense, this Book is a very practical manual to help us understand how our faith should be lived out.
The Book can be broken down as follows:
Chapter 1 – Real faith should endure temptation.
Chapter 2 – Real faith should show no partiality.
Chapter 3 – Real faith should change our speech.
Chapter 4 – Real faith should transform our relationships.
Chapter 5 – Real faith should anticipate His return.
As mentioned above, there are many practical applications we can make to our lives from the Book of James. Here are a few to help you get started as you read this Book:
1. Be a doer of the Word. (1:22-25) What a slap in the face these verses provide to our Laodicean generation. As Laodiceans, we often feel that we are sitting in a good place spiritually because we “know” quite a bit about the Bible. God clearly reveals that it is not what you know, but what you do with what you know that is important! We need to judge ourselves the way God does – not based on our knowledge, but based on our walk.
2. See how God sees. (2:1-13) What kind of people do you give preferential treatment? We may not banish the poor to the back rows while escorting the rich to the front as James talks about in this passage, but do you view the poor and/or other people groups the same way you esteem the rich and successful? Are you willing to talk to the visitors at church that you view as “sharp,” but don’t have time or interest for those that don’t look like they would be “your kind”? God help us. We must seek to reach out to those whom Christ is touching regardless of their socio-economic status, race, or background.
3. Watch your mouth. (3:1-18) The questions James suggests in this passage deserve an answer! How is it that the same mouth can speak both blessing and cursing? How can we pray and sing such awesome words to God, but be so rude and cutting in talking to people and about people? James is right, “My brethren, these things ought not so to be.”
4. Humble yourself before God. (4:1-10) We live in a culture that teaches us to watch out for ourselves. Our natural thought process is to lift up ourselves in the sight of others. God’s command is the completeopposite. We are to humble ourselves before Him, and then His grace will work in us to lift us up. I love Andrew Murray’s comment concerning humility: “Humility is not thinking meanly about yourself. It is not thinking of yourself at all.”
5. God answers prayer. (5:14-18) None of us would dare say that God doesn’t answer prayer, but do our actions reveal that we really believe that He does? Do we really believe God hears us and cares about the needs we bring before Him? Do we really believe that the “effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much”?
May we apply the incredibly practical truths of this Book, allowing God’s grace and power to be displayed in and through us.