Jennifer Speer Notes: Week One
Real Endurance/ James 1
Why study the book of James? Historically, some have criticized James for being legalistic and top heavy with rules and commandments. But the heart of James, the half-brother of Jesus and leader in the church at Jerusalem, is love for his fellow Jewish Christians. He desires for these early Christians—and for us—to live an abundant and victorious Christian life. To do this, however, we must live in obedience to Christ.
As we study this little book, we must always keep in mind - the goal of obedience is freedom. James is strongly reminding us that we as believers are designed to live in freedom and true freedom comes through obedience. Obedience always leads to spiritual maturity and spiritual maturity always leads to obedience. It is the beautiful truth of the law of liberty.
I. The Servant
James 1:1 tells us the mindset of the writer. James refers to himself as a “bond-servant”. The Greek word is doulos, meaning, one who is in a permanent relationship of servitude, his will abandoned to the will of the master. As we read and digest this short book, the attitude of a doulos must be our attitude as well.
James is writing to Jewish Christians, the twelve tribes, who are dispersed throughout the Roman Empire. They have fled Jerusalem and Israel because of persecution from Jews. In fleeing, they will encounter oppression and persecution for Rome as well. Life will never return to “normal” for these Christians. They are an outcast and ostracized people simply because they have embraced Christ. James is NOT writing to tell them everything will eventually be ok. He is writing to tell them life may never improve yet even so they are expected to live obediently. The goal, for them and us, is to live ABOVE our circumstances, to live in truth and victory in spite of our circumstances, to be obedient in all seasons of life.
This kind of living is IMPOSSIBLE without three key ingredients.
We must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not religion. Not church going or mass attending. Not Bible study or catechism. These are good things but they are no substitute for knowing Jesus Christ personally. Good things provide no eternal salvation, only Christ can do that.
All of us are sinners. We are born that way (Romans 3:23). None of us can meet God’s perfect standard. The wages or consequence of sin is death. God, however, loves us so much He paid the price for sin; He took on the consequences of sin. (John 3:16, Romans 6:23). God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus lived a perfect sinless life yet He was crucified and died to pay the price for our sin (Romans 5:8).Three days later, God raised Jesus from the dead, defeating sin and death.
Because of God’s great grace, we are invited to have a relationship with the living, victorious, loving Christ (Ephesians2:4-5). We simply acknowledge our need for salvation and forgiveness. We confess we are sinners, receive His forgiveness, and turn away from sin (1 John 1:9). We surrender ourselves to His leadership and His Lordship.
This relationship with Christ is not based on anything we have done or anything we deserve. Salvation is not earned. It is a gift based on the goodness, mercy, and grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Scripture tells us when we have a relationship with Christ, immediately the Holy Spirit of Christ comes to reside in us. He will never leave us. He will guide us in God’s truth (John 16:13). He will empower us to live in the way God has commanded us to live (Ephesians 3:16).
WE CANNOT live the Christian life apart from the HOLY SPIRIT. It is impossible. He is the power, the dynamic, the energy in the Christian’s life. Philippians 2:13 is worth memorizing. “It is God at work IN you, both to will and do His good pleasure.” The Holy Spirt is at work in us, giving us the desire to obey God and then equipping us with the ability to obey God.
C. Seasoned with the Word
We must know the Word of God and then live it. We do that by reading, studying, memorizing, singing, meditating and listening to God’s Word. But we must also obey it, live it, and demonstrate it in our daily living. God’s Word is the primary instrument used by the Holy Spirit to mature us.
The Word of God is the standard of measure for Christian maturity-not other people. We evaluate our own maturity by what God says. Often we compare ourselves to other people to get an estimation of our spiritual maturity. But God’s Word is plumb line. (Hebrews 4:12)
II. Endurance in Trials
Christians must understand that life will be filled with trial, hardships, difficult circumstances, and even tribulation. We live in a fallen sinful world. Trials are a part this world. God does not shield His people from trials. He does, however, equip us to live victoriously in them and through them.
The book of James contains over 50 imperative commands. These are not suggestions of things you might want to try. These are commands. Chapter one starts with imperatives for the believer who will endure in trials. Let’s look at four of the imperatives in verses 2-8.
“To consider” means to judge. We are to willfully evaluate, judge, what God is doing in our lives during a trial. We do not look at the specific hardship, but instead we examine the overall work God is doing in us and through us during the hardship. We are to consider the work of God a joy. Joy does not mean happiness. It means calm, an inner contentment only Christ can give. Christians face trials differently than other people because we know God has purpose in it. There are gracious results waiting even if we cannot see them yet.
James acknowledges we will encounter (fall into unexpectedly) different degrees of trials (various trials). Not all difficulties are the same intensity or have the same amount of impact yet we face each one with a sense of calm and yes, joy, knowing God is indeed at work.
Verse 3, “knowing the testing of your faith produces endurance”. Knowing is something that happens BEFORE the trail arrives. While we cannot be prepared for the unknown specific hardships of life, we can be prepared by knowing God’s Word, walking daily with the Lord in fellowship. If we are walking with the Lord in the good days we are better prepared for the bad days. We know Him. We trust Him. We have seen Him work in the past. When a trial comes, especially the big ones, it can be hard to regain our spiritual footing if we have not already laid a firm foundation during the easier days.
We must also know we will have trials. Our faith will be tested. God does not test our faith so that He can see what we are made of. Our faith is tested so WE can see what we are made of. Sometimes we think we are so strong and put together-- then WHAM- a trial comes and we fall apart. We begin to see our deep need for the Lord, our short comings, and our lack of maturity. It is in the hour of need, the Lord begins to do a work in us, producing maturity in us. That maturity comes in the form of endurance.
Endurance is the ability to “remain under”; the ability, in the strength of Christ, to remain in the difficulty. This is not what we want. We want escape! God says,” Stay put, remain under and let Me do a work of maturity in you.”
Verse 4. “Let endurance have its perfect (maturing) result, that you may be perfect (mature) and complete, lacking in nothing.”
LET is key to God working in us. We allow God to do the work in us. We don’t have to allow His work. We choose it. When the trial comes, we can refuse to let God accomplish anything. We can fuss and pout, fume and stomp. We can become bitter and joyless. OR --we can let God work.
I believe the word let is where spiritual maturity or immaturity hinges. It is the deciding factor between abundant, victorious Christian living or defeat and immature Christian living. What are we willing for God to accomplish in us?
Verse 5-8 tell us to ask for wisdom during a trial. Godly wisdom only comes from God. We must ask for it—especially when life has thrown a curve ball and we are faced with unexpected circumstances. Scripture emphatically states, God gladly gives us wisdom when we ask. Asking indicates a humble, dependent, believing heart. We ask for wisdom so we do not waste the opportunity God is giving us to mature.
We are warned, however, not to be doubleminded. It means inconsistent, vacillating, or unstable. Doublemindedness is a hallmark of immaturity. Immaturity and instability always go together.
It is easy to look around at others who are not going through a difficult time and be jealous or envious. Verse 9 and 10 redirect us, telling us we are actually in a great position—one of God at work in us. James tells us we are blessed as we persevere in trials. Persevere means to patiently and courageously endure, knowing God is at work, there is an eternal reward, and God loves us immensely. Our response in trials is an outward expression of our love for God. Love is at the heart of God’s relationship with us.
Our choices and our mindset are immeasurably important if we are to endure and mature during hardships. Unfortunately, our sinful nature is easily drawn to sin during a trial. We can be tempted and if we are not careful, succumb to sin during hard times. James addresses this pitfall in verses 13 ff.
III. Endurance in Temptation
James is clear. God does not tempt us to sin. He does not entice us to fail. We have an enemy who is the deceiver. Satan uses the world system to get our attention and then our sin nature kicks in. Verse 14 uses some interesting phrases from the outdoors sporting world to describe what happens in temptation.
carried away—to set a trap that will lure the animal, get his attention. (Think fishing lures, duck or deer calls hunters use)
enticed---to bait a hook.
No fish will bite a bare hook. The fisherman will get the fish’s attention with a lure and then dangles the bait in front of the fish. The bait is the exciting part. It looks delicious. It is even nutritious for the fish. But the bait is hiding the deadly hook.
For us, the world gets our attention and we look away from obedience to Christ. Then our sinful, fleshly nature desires what we see. The bait looks good. It may even seem to be just what we need to comfort us in a difficulty or appease us or soothe us. However, when we take the bait, the hook sinks in. The hook is the consequences of sin. Our enemy, Satan, always wants to hide the consequences or at least minimize them. Verse 15 explains that once the hook is in us, it brings forth death. Death may not be immediate physical death. But it is death of peace, joy, fellowship (not relationship) with Christ and with others.
The progression of sin is desire, disobedience and then death.
B. The Warning
The warning could not any clearer. “Do not be deceived..”(James 1:16).This is an imperative command from which we cannot waver. Certainly the enemy is a deceiver but most of the time we deceive ourselves. We think we are too mature to be tripped up by sin. We may deceive ourselves by rationalizing that our circumstances are unique and God will understand if we do not obey Him. We may think our personality, upbringing, or the region we are from allows a “free pass” to behave badly or embrace sin during times of duress. It may not be the “big” sins we indulge in. It may be a bitter spirit, biting words, cranky disposition, laziness, self-loathing, a perverted perspective, unkindness, or selfishness in any form that we excuse or allow into our lives. Don’t be deceived. It is a hook that will destroy you.
James goes on to explain in verses 17-18 that God’s gifts do not have hooks in them. They are good and they do not change. There is nothing hidden in the things that God has for us. Verse 18 explains that we are the best of God’s creation and He desires the best for us.
So what is the solution?
C. The Solution
The practical, unglamorous, answer to endurance in temptation is obedience to the Word of God. Verses 21-25 give direction for us.
Put aside(verse 21). This is a willful choice to put aside sin. Get rid of it. Abandon it. Never look back.
Receive (vs 21). Willfully, gladly receive the Word of God. Embrace it, know it, lean in to it. It will anchor our minds, our emotions, our words, our actions. The Word of God anchors us, it anchors or saves our souls.
Prove (vs22). Prove yourselves or show yourselves to be both a hearer of God’s truth but also a doer of truth. The proof is in the pudding so to speak. Do the right thing. Be obedient. It sounds so anticlimactic and mundane. Obedience is the key. We obey by the power of the Holy Spirt working in us as we yield to Him and decide to live obediently. God equips us to live as He has commanded us to live. We simply must choose it.
James uses the phrase the law of liberty several times in this short book. The word law and the word liberty seem to be an oxymoron—things that do not go together. God’s law, His standards, His precepts, and His ways are not designed to hem us in, restrict us, or limit us in any way. They are intended to set us free and make us to walk in liberty (Psalm 119:45).