I recently read James. If you haven’t already, read it. It’s a short book, only five chapters, but … wow, so much good stuff! I thought I’d share some of my thoughts.
Chapter one talks about the patience trials bring. It also brings faith. Is it stressful when I’m in a situation that I can’t control or I have a problem I don’t know how to solve? I’d love to say that it isn’t because my faith is so strong, I give it to God and leave it with Him without another thought about it. That isn’t true though. But it is true, that through the years of seeing Him come to my rescue and take care of me time and time again, my faith is stronger and my stress is less when I face these situations. We are going to go through trials on this earth. There is no way to avoid that. But knowing the Creator of this earth, having a personal realationship with His Son, will bring you a peace in the storm if you continue to trust Him. And we can not only ask Him for help, we can ask Him for wisdom, for the ability to understand that He is in control, He fights our battles, He loves us. I don’t know why we face certain situations. Often it’s the result of our own decisions, rather it be in the physical or spiritual. But not always and we may not always know what the purpose was, but we can know that God will bring about His purpose if we trust Him.
James 1: 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
It isn’t God’s fault when we do things we aren’t supposed to do. And we can’t blame the devil like Flip Wilson, for those of you who are old enough to get that reference. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible says the enemy is seeking whom he may devour. Don’t ever stop being vigilant. The enemy’s goal is to destroy and kill you. But the process starts in our own mind. I believe that although the devil isn’t able to read our minds, he is good at reading our actions. Don’t give him ammunition by giving place to these thoughts. Because if you do, you will eventually act on them. And even if you don’t completely give in and act on the thought, just a little compromise in your actions is all the enemy needs to know where and how to attack. If you let these thoughts linger, they will evenually manifest. Proverbs reminds us that as we think, so we are. The battlefield is in the mind, friends, keep your thoughts on the things of God.
The rest of chapter one talks about bridling your tongue and being doers of the Word and not just hearers. I wonder why those two things go together? Verse 19 reminds us to be swift to hear and slow to speak. It also reminds us to be slow to wrath. Everything you hear is not true. I’ve always been one to jump a little too quickly. That’s not the way to be. Know what you are talking about before you talk about it. Proverbs 29: 20 says Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him
Chapter 2 talks more about being doers of the Word and Chapter 3 talks more about the tongue.
We are saved by faith, not by works. You can’t work your way into Heaven. But faith produces works. Verse 19 reminds us that even the devils believe there is one God. They aren’t doing good works though , instead they are doing evil. A head knowledge of God will not get you to Heaven and makes you no better than the devil and his demons. But a true heart knowledge is a saving knowledge and one that will produce works and show compassion. You may not be called to work in every ministry, but you are called to work in something and to have compassion for all. And there is a difference between tolerance and compassion. We need to stop tolerating all that is going on in our world that isn’t in line with God’s Word, but we need to have compassion for all those we meet.
Chapter 3 goes back to the tongue. That small part of our body sets the course for so much of our life. Proverbs 18: 21 says Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. There are those, and this a battle I have myself, that don’t speak life into their own lives. My first reaction to be honest is usually along the lines of, “what am I going to do now?” instead of “I trust my Father”. I’m working on that as I touched on at the beginning of this post. But there are some who don’t speak life onto others. I remember years ago, a child in Florida was murdered after her mother let her walk to a friend’s house alone. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember that although the child was young enough I personally wouldn’t have been comfortable with letting her make the trek alone, she was old enough that it wasn’t a ridiculous notion. I remember thinking that I couldn’t make any kind of judgement because I knew nothing of the neighborhood and how safe it was. But I also remember some ladies at my church at the time getting that tone in their voice and that look on their face – you know the one I”m talking about, that pious look/tone- saying well, they would never let their child walk alone. Wow. Some mother was facing the worst heartache a mother could face. We may have not known her, we may not have been able to physically do anything for her, but we could have prayed. We could have had compassion.
And this is why I think chapter one talked about the tongue and being doers of the Word together. Because it goes together. If you are doing the right things for the right reasons, because you love God and want to share Him with others, because you have compassion, it shows in your speech. But even if you are doing good things, if you are doing them for the wrong reasons, it shows in your speech as well. I see the perfect example of what I’m trying to say with homeless people. I understand sometimes people worry that giving money to someone on the street may actually go into supporting their habit and they’re reluctant to do that. I personally try to rely on God’s leading in each of these individual situations I face. But there is a difference in someone who says to me something like “I stopped and talked with them about Jesus” or “I gave them food instead of money” or “I prayed for them” and someone who get’s that look and tone I’ve already mentioned and says something like “I’m not buying their drugs” or “they need to get off the streets/get a job….” The actions were the same, in both scenarios cash wasn’t handed out. But one scenario showed compassion and one, the one I usually hear even from Christians, shows judgement and no compassion. Be careful, your speech is showing.