Big Idea: Blessing comes to those who are steadfast not unstable nor sidetracked nor seduced but single minded in living out their faith and love for God.
What would it take for you to call your big brother ‘Lord’ or ‘Master.’ Headlock, crow peek, typewriter? Even if that was the case you wouldn’t really mean it.
I’m the eldest of six … that would never happen in our family … and rightly so.
But look at what the younger brother of Jesus says, Read v1a.
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
James states that Jesus is … Lord; divine, on par with God the Father. Christ; Messiah, King.
James identifies himself as servant of Jesus.
Opening this letter to the church James could have identified himself as the bishop of Jerusalem – he was the head of the church in Jerusalem and exercised authority even in the ministry of Peter and Paul (Acts 12, 15, 21).
James could have claimed some street cred, a bit of swag and reminded every one that Mary was his mum and that Jesus was his brother.
Rather he says that Jesus is his Lord and God, his Saviour and he is a servant or slave.
James’ identity is found not in position or pedigree; but through being in Christ; trusting him as Lord and Saviour.
And what we will see as we work our way through this great letter I want you to be convinced that there is no greater identity, no greater status than to be in Christ, to be a follower of Jesus.
This was not always the way for James. John 7:5 didn’t always believe. Mark 3 thought Jesus was out of his mind.
But church history teaches that James’ response to Jesus’ death was refusal to eat, out of regret and sorrow. But Jesus appeared to him after his resurrection, (see 1 Cor 15), and James was staying and praying with the other believers in Jerusalem in the lead up to Pentecost (Acts 1).
James became leader of the Jerusalem church. Very faithful pastor and teacher. From antiquity we know him as ‘James the Just.’ Early writings tell us that he was also known as ‘Bulwark’ (steadfast in faith), and ‘Camel Knees’ – due to long periods of prayer for the church. [that has certainly been a challenge to me]
So, what we are embarking on here is instruction and encouragement from James to the church (v1b), God’s people in the last days, to be single minded about following Jesus.
Here is someone who is absolutely convinced that Jesus is Lord and absolutely committed to the church of Christ and the cause of the gospel and his call as a servant of the Lord Jesus, his challenge to us is Concrete Christianity, to be steadfast.
As we work our way through this letter we will again and again be called away from being unstable and encouraged to being steadfast. When I was at Bible College learning Greek steadfastness – hupomone´ was one of my favourite words, it’s just fun to say … hupomone. Steadfastness; that’s what it sounds like …
What does steadfastness look like?
Someone has suggested a long obedience in the same direction even, as we will see today, as you face attacks from the outside and attacks from the inside. Be steadfast. Continue on, push on.
That’s the challenge that James presents us with in our passage; How to remain steadfast when we face trials and temptations;
Let’s take a look.
Be steadfast … When you face trials (v2-12) How do we remain steadfast when we face attacks from the outside?
We will do that by seeing the benefit of trials. Read v2
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds
Face trials with joy. That’s not how we normally face trials, and I guess that’s why we need instruction. But the weight of James’ instruction here is on JOY – it’s a command. Be joyful in these circumstances.
Count it, consider it, reason in your mind that this situation is one to relish and delight in.
Notice the he is talking to brothers; Count it all joy, my brothers; brethren, brothers and sisters – those whom I love and care for, pray for. James did not boast about being the brother of Jesus but he boasts about being a brother of the church, fellow followers.
And he is lovingly informing us that there will be lots of opportunity to decide for joy because these trials will come (when you meet trials), they will just pop up.
MTB videos on YouTube – riders with cameras on helmet, screaming around a corner and there is a bear, right in front of him. I’ve experienced that with a snake a few times but a bear seems to be far more serious.
That is the sense that James is conveying.
Trials will pop up unexpectedly and they will come from all directions, come in all different flavours – various kinds.
At our prayer meeting yesterday we heard about the Birchley’s (Mission Partners) – 11 young men trying to break in to their house the other night. In the bulletin: “Coming on top of the spiritual and theological assaults of the past year, this one has felt particularly malevolent and designed to push us out of the country sooner rather than later.” These a trails.
QTC – board and staff waiting to see if they will be able to secure the building. That’s a trail.
PCQ facing the possibility of bankruptcy, loss of property, reduced capacity to fund ministry. That’s a trail.
Andrew Thorburn and Essendon Football Club and the flood of chatter this issue caused in the media and the way it makes you feel about the future of Christianity in Australia, or in your own work place. These are trails.
An unfavourable diagnosis delivered in the Dr surgery. That’s a trial.
The difficulties you have at school or uni, Or the challenge of navigating social media and friendships and acceptance, Questions concerning identity, Dissatisfaction with your body image or personality, or station in life These are trails for the follower of Jesus.
This is what James is talking about.
It maybe possible that you have not experienced any significant, life altering trials – yet. You will. They are coming. This is how you prepare; this is first aid training. Understand that a response of joy is required. Airline Steward: Very optimistic, “In the unlikely event of an emergency.” James not so optimistic. They will come.
Or maybe such trials have already made themselves known; maybe you are feeling the push of them now.
They are not a sign that God is angry with you or is ignoring you or forgotten you, or that he doesn’t know you.
That thought doesn’t cross James’ mind and it ought not cross ours either …
Rather it is an opportunity for joy Read v3
for you know [if you didn’t know before you do now] that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
See what he is saying. When you are experiencing trials, the assorted difficulties of life, it is for your benefit, your good. Trials refine, purify (testing) and strengthen you faith. Trials are spiritual workouts to produce spiritual muscles with spiritual endurance, steadfastness.
Trials are the spiritual equivalent of the farmers carry exercise. Have you done one of them? 32kg kettlebell in each hand, maintain good technique and go for a long walk.
Steadfastness – carrying a heavy burden for an extended period.
In the gym it produces a solid core. Where it really counts, in your life as a follower of Jesus it produces Christian Maturity.
Steadfastness of faith is to continue on in single minded trust in Jesus; seeking to live his way, trust in His commands, and His promises, growing in Him. And our joy comes from experiencing His provision, care, comfort and his grace. We delight in Christ.
And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing
Growing in firsthand knowledge, understanding and trust in Jesus. That you may be the person that God has called you to be. Trials, endured wisely, shape you and strengthen you as a mature, persevering, growing follower of Jesus.
In a past life I was a member of a Bootcamp; our mantra “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”
We were not rejoicing in pain, we were grimacing, but we were rejoicing in the benefits.
We don’t find joy in the trial, but we rejoice in the benefits. Spiritual weakness leaving the body in the one who is single minded about trusting in and following Jesus through the challenges.
So be right minded about trials … Count it all joy.
And count on God. Develop your own set of Camel Knees.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God [invitation to pray], ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him
Do you see what James promises here …
If your desire is to develop in steadfastness under trial, to grow as a follower of Jesus just ask, pray.
You will learn that God is far more willing to answer your prayers than you are to offer them.
What is your picture of God? Far Side view – God at His computer; smite button.
Maybe that thought has become embedded in your mind. That God is miserly and hard to get along with. I’ve needed to remind myself of God’s true nature recently.
The Biblical truth. (v5) God is Generous. Gracious. Giving.
So when we ask … v6 ask in faith Overcome your doubts by applying to your thinking biblical truth about the nature and nurture of God Otherwise you will be unstable, blown this way and that – not a picture of steadfastness.
You will be like one of those 15 second celebrities on YouTube trying to embark a canoe or SUP board. One foot on the jetty, one foot on the watercraft, the distance between their feet increasing at an alarming and uncontrollable rate. Going to get uncomfortable and then wet.
v8 such a person is double minded [a foot in the world and a foot in the kingdom], unstable in all his ways. So, that unstable person needn’t think that he will receive anything from God (v7), not because God is not generous, gracious and giving, but because that person can’t stand still long enough to receive it. That person is not serious about being on about what God is on about. Not serious about being wholeheartedly in God’s kingdom. If we try to live with one foot in the world and one in the kingdom we are not being steadfast.
Which is why I think that James talks about the lowly brother and the rich person (v9).
From the world’s POV, point of view… The lowly brother is not a social influencer. Not someone worth following.
But the rich person. They have made it. They are winning at life. They are to be admired and envied and listened to liked and followed.
That is not kingdom thinking.
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me …
James will have more to say to the rich later in the letter. But here, v9 exaltation of the lowly brother is the inheritance that all followers of Jesus have (poor or rich) an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, nor fade. One that is being kept safe for us in eternity.
The lowly brother might not have two pennies to rub together in this world, may not attract the favour or fervour of this world but he is a king in the world to come.
The humiliation of the rich is that this earthly status is short lived.
Now earthly treasures can and do fade away – if you have an app reporting up to the minute status of your superannuation then you can actually see it plummeting.
But what James is saying here is more alarming. It is that the rich man will pass away (v10) and fade away (v11) even as he is chasing wealth. And at that point his wealth will not help him, and as we will see later in the letter, might even speak against him.
Maybe wealth is your trial. Maybe a trial can be something alluring, enjoyable but short lived and not eternally useful. Maybe your challenge will be steadfastness in putting wealth in its proper place – invested in the kingdom of heaven. Certainly not your security or identity. Maybe you need to grow some Camel Knees as you consider how you need to show steadfastness in the face of wealth.
Reminder that Australians all get a HD in wealth on the world scale. And it is the love of money which causes the problems – not that you actually have it.
Whatever your trial or trials they are where you can find blessing, if you remain steadfast.
This is a great memory verse. Read v12
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
A beatitude reminding us, calling us to remain joyfully steadfast under trials for these are light and momentary troubles which are preparing us for a greater weight of glory – the crown of life, the eternal prize for those who will enjoy forever with our King.
Be steadfast when you face trials, and…
Be steadfast When you face temptations (v13-18) How do we remain steadfast when we face these attacks from the inside?
By saying “NO!” through the grace and power of the Lord Jesus.
What James has to say to us today is very counter intuitive. Normally we would flee from trials and embrace temptations. James is saying embrace trials, flee temptation.
Need to understand temptations correctly. Read v13
Let no one say when he is tempted,…
Temptation is a normal Christian experience.
v13 Let no one say when he is tempted
We have been tempted. We are being tempted. We will be tempted.
I’m not sharing anything new. But understand temptation correctly. Not a sin to be tempted. Just what happens next.
If I’m on a diet and some one offers me some moist, rich, dark, home made chocolate cake, with butter icing, well those calories don’t work their evil until l take things to the next level.
We are going to be tempted. But understand where this comes from. Temptation does not come from God.
v13 Let no one say … “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
Sin holds no attraction to God. He is not trying to get us to sin. He is not to blame for our temptation.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
Someone suggested that the picture of v14 is one of fishing. I can see why they think of fishing – luring, enticing. We are lured by our own (evil) desires toward the sparkly temptations to depart from God’s ways.
The problem is us. We are our own worst enemies.
The Bible never tells us to trust our heart. In fact …
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
James’ imagery a little bit like fishing – lures etc. But I think more in line with reproduction.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Desire enacted on conceives sin and sin brings death.
Jo and I were planning to have two kids. Then we found out Jo was expecting number three. Conception happened, birth happened and now he is 6 foot 5 and about 120 kg. When he stands next to Jo it’s hard to believe that Jo gave birth to that. I’m not saying our youngest is like sin.
James paints a picture of the lifecycle of temptation that takes the next step. Desire, conception, giving birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. You couldn’t kill it with a shovel.
v16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
Sin is the malicious genie that is out of the bottle and cannot be put back in.
The wages of sin is death. Sin is born of temptation that takes the next step. So I’d suggest that when you feel that you are tempted… STOP. REVIVE. SURVIVE.
Titus 2 the grace of God teaches us to say NO! To ungodliness… Heard of an old fella who use to randomly yell, NO! Turns out it wasn’t random, it was whenever he felt tempted in some way. NO!
Don’t enter that house/building, that room. No! Don’t proceed with that action or thought. No! Don’t utter that word. No!
I know a guy who would not buy petrol at certain fuel stations because they sold pornographic magazines up near the cash register and he didn’t even want to awaken the temptations which he knew would come.
We will think that we have it under control. That we can pull back whenever we want. But very soon it takes on a life of its own, the path of which is destruction, the fruit of which is death.
We cannot overcome this ourselves. We cannot be good enough, strong enough, disciplined enough, alert enough.
If this was something we could handle Jesus wouldn’t have had to come. No need for his sacrifice. James wouldn’t have had to write.
So where is our hope?
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Our hope rests completely on our generous, gracious, giving God. The unchanging creator (Father of lights, no shadows)
And loving redeemer Read v18
Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
… bought us forth (new birth, born again) by the Word of truth – the gospel of the Lord Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for many. We have been redeemed though him. That we would be His holy, set apart, His precious personal possessions (first fruits) OT sacrifice imagery.
God has given us new birth with a new heart with the power to overcome. Be steadfast and overcome to His glory and praise as we prayerfully (think Camel Knees) much on in His power.
In 62AD the Jewish religious leaders arrested James and demanded that he deny that Jesus was the Messiah. When he refused they took him to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem and threw him down to the pavement far below. Although he was very badly injured James struggled to his knees and began to pray for his persecutors, Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Prayed just like his older brother.
While he prayed for them they proceeded to stone him and finally he died when one of them hit him with a club.
James not only teaches Concrete Christianity. Steadfastness in the face of trials and fleeing from temptation. He lived it, even to death.
So I guess the challenge before us today is this … WILL YOU?