James: Genuine Faith
James, the half-brother of the Lord Jesus is the author of this book. It is believed to have been written around 50 AD, and perhaps is the first book written in the New Testament. We are told the following information regarding Jesus’ earthly family: “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? (Joseph). Isn’t his mother’s name Mary? And aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters still with us? “ ( Matthew 13) So taking the ‘sisters’ as a minimum of two- Jesus had four brothers, and at least two sisters a minimum family of 7 children. We believe James was the next to the oldest after Jesus.
There is also a mention of Jesus’ brothers in John 7. “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” Another verse tells us this: “When his family heard about all of this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21) His brothers could not yet understand who he was. This was their elder brother. They had known him all their lives. He did not leave home and begin his ministry until he was 30 years old. Many theologians believe Joseph had died earlier and Jesus as the oldest had stayed to make sure the family was provided for until all could take care of themselves. I believe their concern was for Jesus’ well being and came from their genuine love for him. After all the disciples were with him only a little over 3 years- but they did not want him to be arrested or put himself in harm’s way. None of them had the Holy Spirit yet, so they could not understand who Jesus was. * It should be noted- Dr. Luke records for us in Acts 1: 14 among those praying in the upper room were: Mary, the mother of Jesus and his brothers.
There are other mentions of James specifically which will also provide us with additional information. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul writes of Jesus’ post resurrection appearance: “After that He was seen by James, then by the apostles.” James is also mentioned by name in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem council. He is considered a leader at this time as everyone listens to him. Paul went to visit him after his conversion and after his three years in Arabia. (Galatians 1: 19) In Galatians 2, Paul refers to James as the ‘pillar of the church.
Some of the most well known verses in James deal with genuine faith. James says: “…faith without deeds (works) is dead.” We will see James is not talking about a salvation that comes as a result of works, but works that come from salvation. These works are evidence of our faith- genuine faith. This is what this letter of James challenges us from the very beginning to examine ourselves to see if we possess genuine faith in the following areas:
- Faith that endures trials
- Faith that harbors no prejudice.
- Faith that has power to control the tongue
- Faith that acts wisely.
- Faith that waits patiently.
Paul writes to us to ‘examine ourselves to see whether you are in the faith.’ (2 Corinthians 13) To see if money is counterfeit, bankers are trained to study the real thing. This is what we will do in this study- examine the real thing- genuine faith.
We can start with the definition of faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see.” (Hebrews 11: 1 NIV) “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” KJV.
- Genuine faith is simple faith; child like faith that is not complicated.
- Genuine faith trusts God not self.
- Genuine faith works.
Examine yourselves continuously. Test it. Grade it according to the ‘key’. The key has the right answers which are found in Scripture.
Prove yourselves (KJV) says Paul. Prove yourselves means proof, evidence of your faith. James will tell us the proof is your works; this is the fruit you bear.
Know yourselves. Do you know that you know that you know you are saved? Do you doubt your salvation sometimes?
This is a book that will challenge your faith, Make you question yourself- which is good, but often painful. It was a book written primarily to Jewish Christians. These were scattered among the Roman Empire’s nations. They were persecuted by the Romans, rejected by Gentiles and by their own people, the Jews, who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah.
James is writing to them because they have problems in their personal lives, the same problems we face. Many who professed to be Christians did not live what they professed. We can see how applicable that is to today’s church. They had problems within their own fellowships due to the inability to control their tongue, thus creating divisions. James was dealing with backsliders as well as those who were Christian in name only. We see the same problems today. People who talk one way and walk another way contrary to what they say they are. Being conformed by the world- worldliness was a problem then as it is now. There were persecutions and hardships, also.
But perhaps the common cause, the root of the problems was – spiritual immaturity. These Christians were simply not growing up. In James 1: 4 we read: “But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.” (KJV) “Perseverance must finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV) Perfect means mature and complete. James did not mean sinless, but a mature Christian, balanced, grown up.
Is it not time we grow up?
Spiritual maturity is one of the greatest needs of the church today. “The church should be a workshop for adults, not a play pen for children and babies” (Warren Wiersbe)
This is what we will do in this study, study the real thing- genuine faith and the maturity it brings about.
The Marks of Maturity:
- Patient in testing and trials
- Practices the truth.
- Controls his/her tongue.
- Peacemaker, not troublemaker
- Prayer warrior who prays in times of trouble.
Now when I selected James as our next study, I was considering the attribute of the faithfulness of God. I figured out James must have known and experienced the faithfulness of God as the younger brother of the Lord Jesus. Growing up with Jesus as his older brother- James had learned he could trust his brother Jesus to do what he said he would do. Understand this principle- trust is a learned response. Paul learned to be content- because he learned through experience the Lord could be trusted to supply all his needs.
I want to be able to make sense of James’ first statement contained in verses 2-8 which in KJV reads: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diver’s temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work that you may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. Let no man thing that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. (KJV) How did James come count it all joy?
God tests our faith to create confidence and give us experience. Satan tests our flesh to cause us to sin.
How do we turn the trials and temptations of life into victory that produces a more mature faith? The answer is found in these four commands we are to obey.
- Count (consider in NIV) it all joy when you fall into divers (various) temptations (trials of many kinds). This our first hurdle isn’t it? One that trips us up more than anything else. How can we count trouble, trials and temptations a joy? First of all the immature believer has the unrealistic expectation that life will be without problems or trouble. The Lord Jesus told us in this world to expect trouble, tribulations. Peter said you should not even consider it strange when you encounter fiery trials. But joy? Does this mean I take joy in painful trials? No. The joy is not in the trial but in the outcome of the trial. The word ‘count’ in financial terms means to evaluate. We must evaluate what this means in light of what God is doing in and through us. Remember when Paul wrote God
Was working all things together for good for them who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose. What was the purpose? The next verse tells us God’s purpose is for us to be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus. (Romans 8:28&29) James valued being conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus more important than comfort. James valued having his character conformed more than he valued comfort. *Here is an important truth- what we value determines how we evaluate life. If we value success, material wealth and physical comfort, then we will not be able to ‘count it all a joy’ when we fall into various trials. I wonder do we try to straddle both- having a life of physical comfort, with all the trappings of success and yet find we cannot serve two masters- for we will love one and hate the other. For where our treasure is there will our heart be also. If the treasure of James’ heart was to be more like his older brother Jesus, then he would count it all a joy anything that helped him accomplish that goal and grow more like Jesus. Warren Wiersbe says: “If we live only for the present and forget about the future, the trials make us bitter, not better.” If ever anyone had a right to be bitter, it was Job, yet he possessed an amazing outlook: “But He knoweth the way that I take; when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10) Are you familiar with the word- ‘assay’? It is a word used to describe the test or analysis of an ore such as gold to determine the quality of its properties. To end a trial with joy means we must start the trial with joy. How do we do this? The second command tells us how to count it all joy.
- Knowing this. Knowing means having an understanding. First of all know this- your faith will always be tested. Testing increases our faith- this is the purpose of tests sent by God. God tests us to bring out the best- to remove the impurities. Satan tempts us to bring out the worst. As a result of knowing this we realize testing works for us not against us. Peter said – ‘the trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes. (I Peter 1:7) Paul was speaking of this when he said “we know all things work together for good”; and again in 2 Corinthians 4 Paul writes of the being troubled on every side- but has the long term future vision to know- ‘for our light affliction, which is but for the moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.: (2 Cor 4:17) Trials help us mature our faith. Paul says trials produce patience (if we respond the right way) patience in trials produces experience and experience produces hope that does not disappoint. Patience is courageous endurance in the face of suffering and difficulty. And remember- God knows how much we can bear and will not allow us to be tempted or tested above that which we can bear. Immature people are always impatient. Mature people are patient and persistent. Impatience and unbelief go together just as faith and patience do. “Who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:23) “For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God you might receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:36) God wants to make us patient because that is the key to every other blessing! We must learn as James did, as Abraham did, as Joseph did and everyone else we read about in the Scriptures did- we must not run ahead of the Lord in impatience. The only way the Lord can develop
Patience is through testing. Knowing this is the result- we can face trials with joy- not in the trials but in the result the outcome of the trials. This is why knowing is so important. There is no substitute for the understanding mind. This is why Paul prayed for the eyes of our hearts to be opened to know the hope to which He called you. To have wisdom, depth of insight and understanding.
- The third word, or command I would call your attention to in the KJV is the word let. (James 1: 4) Let is a word of permission; it is a word of cooperation and submission. I must submit to God so He can finish that which He has begun. God wants a finished work, a whole work, not part way finished. If we are to grow up and be mature and continue to grow in our faith we must submit to God. His goal for our lives is to be mature, lacking nothing. How does this work? First there is the work of redemption. God did a work for us at the cross. If we accept this work and trust Him, He will save us. This is all of God-“for we are saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God, not works, lest any many should boast.” (Ephesians 2: 8.9) Next God does a work in us- we are His Workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. After salvation comes the work of sanctification. This is the work of conforming us to the image of His Son. Maturing us. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like the Son of God. The third work is the work God does through us- our service. For these are the works God ordained before that we were to walk in. Philippians 2 tells us it is God who works in us the desire and will to do His good pleasure. A mature person does not argue with God about his will. Remember Jesus taught us to pray and he said ‘thy will (God’s will) be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ How do you think angels obey God’s will? Immediately without question and with great joy they can serve their Master. Don’t want to do what God is telling you to do? Then consider the story of Jonah. Now when we are born again we are like babes in Christ and God wants us to grow up. This requires ‘weaning’. Weaning is not something the child likes, but it is a step in the process to maturity. There is also the process of being more fruitful which is part of the maturing process to produce more fruit that involves ‘pruning’ which can be painful. So far we see in these first few verses what it takes: count it all a joy- a joyful attitude; this attitude comes from Knowing- that is understanding heart; and then comes the third command- let- which signifies a surrendered will. Now the fourth element.
- A believing heart. James senses there would be many of us having read this command to count all our trials and troubles a joy, knowing it was producing patience which is necessary to mature our faith- were having trouble getting to where he was. So he knows what we need is wisdom. Wisdom is seeing things from God’s point of view. This is a prayer God will answer and He will provide you with wisdom liberally which means generously. The root of this prayer really is a desire to know God better. Charles Stanley says- “prayer is life’s greatest time saver. Instead of remaining confused and wondering what to do and running about trying this and that- come to God first and ask for wisdom. Knowledge is the ability to take things apart, wisdom is the ability to put them together. Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. James is saying the wisdom we need is
Not to waste all of the tests and trials we face in life. The key to this gift of wisdom and how to fully use it is to ask in faith. The greatest enemy to unanswered prayer is unbelief. Doubt short circuits faith. This is how the enemy attacks us by creating doubt in the faithfulness of God who is Faithful and True. James says the man who asks and doubts is ‘double-minded.’ Paul says we are not to be like children (immature) tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine. We need believing hearts to count it all a joy when we fall into divers tribulations, knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh patience and let patience perfect her work, that you may be perfect ( mature) and entire wanting nothing. Needing wisdom to do this – we can ask and know God will provide it- but we must ask with believing hearts not doubting heart.
Our reward for this endurance- maturity, growth in our Christian character. Also we bring glory to God and we will receive a crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
What did most of us ask when we were children on a long trip with our parents? Are we there yet? This study will make you ask yourself – ‘am I there yet?’ This is the examination Paul referred to as we examine our faith. Do not be discouraged. The Lord is not a discourager- this is the enemy who wants to keep you from believing the Word of God. It has been his strategy since the Garden of Eden.
The fact that you are asking your Father are we there yet- will probably bring an encouraging reply from Him- ‘no- but we are getting closer. Such is the journey of life.