January 10, 2016 – manuscript

consider-it-pure-joy-my-brothers-whenever-you-face

Scripture Text: James 1:1-4 (ESV) – 1James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:  Greetings. 2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James is the author of this small book of the Bible.  It’s just 108 verses, but filled with life-shaping teaching for each of us.  Before we dig in, I want to give you some background information on James himself.  First, we know from Matthew 13:55 that James was the half-brother of Jesus.  Second, we know from John 7:5 that James did not believe Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, during Jesus’ public ministry.  Third, we know from Acts 1:14 that James was converted at some point prior to Pentecost in Acts 2, possibly when Jesus appeared to him in 1 Corinthians 15:7.  Fourth, we know from a handful of passages in the book Acts that James had become the leader of the Jerusalem church.  Fifth, we know from Jewish history and Acts 15:16-18 that James was a very educated man.  The fact that James is quoting from Amos shows his progression through the educational system.  The minor prophets were only learned by young men after the age of 15, most boys were learning the family business by that age.

James was a guy who knew Scripture and could hold his own in a conversation about religion, but didn’t know Jesus until later in life.  I don’t much about this church, but there could be people here today that are able to say all the right things but don’t know Jesus.  Matthew 7:21-23 warns us of counterfeit Christianity.

As we dig into James, I invite and beg you to open yourself to whatever the Holy Spirit wants to say to you.  I encourage you to allow God to move in your life in a way you didn’t expect.  James became one of the spiritual giants of Christianity because he opened himself up and allowed God to use his knowledge in a way he didn’t expect.

Scripture Text: James 1:1-4 (ESV) – 1James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:  Greetings. 2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Right away, James declares who he is by stating that he is a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.  This designation indicates a humble willingness to be at God’s disposal and to live according to his principles.  By stating God and the Lord Jesus Christ, James is not discrediting the Trinity, rather he is using terms that are familiar to the Israelites.  God is judge.  Lord is owner.  Jesus is Jehovah.  Christ is the Messiah, the anointed one.  The Israelite nation that he was primarily writing to understood each of these names in separate contexts.  James’ declaration of purpose and use of language puts Jesus at the very center of everything Israel knew about God, worship, religion and life.  James wanted to challenge the Jewish Christians to see if their faith was genuine or counterfeit.  James wanted to challenge the Jewish Christians to place Jesus at the very center of who they were.

Do you strive to place Jesus at the center of you who are?  Is it noticeable?  Do you pass the test of genuine faith?

Scripture Text: James 1:1-4 (ESV) – 1James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:  Greetings. 2Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Verses 2-4 give us three phrases to help us keep Jesus at the center of our lives and measure genuine faith.

Count it all joy…

Verse two tells us to “count it all joy when you meet trials of various kinds.”  Trials come in all shapes and sizes.  I guarantee there are a people here today that have trials in their lives.  I guarantee there are people here that are struggling with a something today.  I guarantee there are people here that are stressed out about something that God has already provided the solution for.  Whether we are in a trial, just finished a trial, or are getting ready to have a trial ~ the text tells us that we will meet a trial.  We stumble upon it.  We fall into it.  We don’t schedule trials, they come at us.  How many times have you had a good day go bad because of something you didn’t expect?  That could be a trial!  A trial can be as simple as getting every member of your family out the door on time.  A trial can be as large as you spent too much money during the Christmas season and now you have an opportunity to learn to overextend your budget.  A trial can be anything large or small but always has the purpose to lead us into giving God glory.  The text tells us when we meet one of those trials, we are to think joyfully about the experience.

Trials come into our lives for several reasons; I’ll give you three.  A first reason is to strengthen our faith.  God doesn’t want us to be the same person that we were last year, last month or last week.  Our country is not the same as it was a year ago.  God refines his followers.  God convicts us to be better followers.  God doesn’t want us to keep stumbling over the same problems, but wants us to be a usable vessels for his glory.  A second reason is that we often need a reminder that God is our provider.  We grow through trials and we understand God has already provided the solution.  We’ve been taught for years that God is in control.  Sometimes we want the solution before we are ready for the it.  Other times, we ignore the solution because it’s not what we’re looking for.  In either of those situations, the result is a lack of joy because we take matters into our own hands and try to provide a solution, any solution.  LISTEN, not choosing joy through the trials robs us from experiencing the closeness of God and assurance of genuine faith.  A third reason is for us to help other people through life.  Our life experiences should allow us to care for other people more effectively.

…Faith produces steadfastness

Verse three tells us “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  When we choose joy through trials, our character is revealed and strengthened.  Our integrity shines brightly.  People will notice what we claim to believe actually makes a difference in our lives.  When we choose joy, we are more valuable to the kingdom of God.  The more valuable we are to the kingdom of God, the bigger of a target we become.

How many of you realize there is a spiritual storm brewing in America?  I think verse three will begin to take on more significance in the next decade of our country.  The testing of our faith.  The testing of our convictions and beliefs.  The articulation of our convictions and beliefs.  The proving of our convictions and beliefs.  The standing firm in our convictions and beliefs.  The segregation that will come because of our convictions and beliefs.  The prejudices that will come because of our convictions and beliefs.  Get ready!  James wrote this in a period of time when there was great persecution.  I believe we are entering a period of time where Christians in America will experience persecution like never before in our history.  This testing of our faith will produce steadfastness.  This testing will birth a hopeful waiting, a dependence on Christ.  This testing will reveal the true followers of Jesus Christ.  This testing will reveal if we strive to place Jesus Christ at the center of our lives.

Are you ready to persevere through that type of testing?  Are you preparing your children and grandchildren for that type of testing?  Only about 9% of Christians and about 51% of pastors believe the Bible is 100% accurate, that absolute moral truth exists, that Jesus was completely sinless, that God is omnipotent and omniscient, that salvation is by grace alone, that Christians have a personal responsibility to evangelize and that Satan literally exists.

If we do not strive to keep Jesus at the center of our purposes, we could compromise our convictions and beliefs very easily.

…lacking in nothing.

Verse four tells us let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  The end result of all the trials and testing of life is that we are finished and without defect.  We are designed to point others to Jesus.  2 Peter 1:3-4 gives us hope that we are able to live with Jesus Christ at the center of our purposes and intentions.  “3His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

I don’t know what is happening in your life right now, but I know this for certain.  If you choose joy.  If you stand firm in your convictions and beliefs.  If you strive to point your life toward Jesus Christ.  If you strive to place Jesus Christ at the center of your purposes and intentions.  You will be made complete.  You will become a partaker of the divine nature.  You will experience the divine power that has been placed in your life.  You will become contagious.  You will become more valuable to the kingdom of God.  You will point others to Jesus.

James, a guy who was religious before he was a Christian, challenges us to pursue Jesus Christ with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our strength, and all of our mind.  James challenges us to choose joy and show our genuine faith.  Will you consider choosing joy this week?