James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.(James 1:1-2 NIV)
This letter is addressed to the Church.
The Church, the body of Christ, was birthed in Israel. The book of Acts reveals what happened as the people formed, organized, believed, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The majority of first-generation believers were Jewish.
The watching world watched, and what they did not understand they persecuted. Under extreme trials, hardship, and persecution, the people gained an enduring faith. They survived, and so we see they multiplied and thrived. Meanwhile, as this letter was passed from hand to hand, those who persecuted the Church violently and viciously stoned James to death.
Yet they scattered.
In the scattering still united in Christ. A handful of believers became the Church, and history tells the tale of God’s faithfulness.
James was the brother of Jesus, a pillar of the Church, a leader of the council of Jerusalem, and Peter and Paul’s friend.
The Letter – Epistle
This letter, better known as an epistle, was read aloud from people to people, town after town, and nation upon nation. They were encouraged, strengthened, and inspired by it. This epistle survives today to do the same thing for you.
Only five chapters, but each line of instruction and passage of inspiration was enough to ignite then to face trials with joy and persecution with wisdom.
As you open this letter, imagine reading it for the first time. Slowly allow the Holy Spirit to empower you and stir your faith. A great cloud of witnesses is watching you and spurring you on to thrive. They know that the Holy One is with you. They are watching for the hand of God to remove your fear, touch your soul, and revive your heart.
Read this letter carefully and be doers and not hearers only Present yourself to the watching world, the great cloud of witnesses, and Christ Jesus as one who belongs to the Lord: pure, wholeheartedly committed, and undefiled.
Write these words on your heart, engrave them on your soul, and etch them in your mind.
The Epistle for Today
We may have found ourselves unable to meet as a Church because of COVID19. We, too, are scattered yet united. Let us use social distancing to draw closer to Christ: strengthened under trials, rightly handling temptation, unhindered in prayer, and united in an enduring faith.
James’s letter may appear brief, but it is a call to action to turn from our worldly ways and follow God with undivided devotion – in faith, word, and deed. Here is a powerful epistle with explicit instruction on personal integrity, spiritual maturity, unselfish relations, and living responsibly.
Listen to the wise and humble writer as he is used by God to address the Church.
Outline of the Letter
Introduction – 1:1-2
How to Handle the Issues of Life – 1:2-18
Rules for Life within the Church – 1:19 to 3:18
Do what you Know – 1:19-27
Relate without Favoritism – 2:1-13
Act on What you Believe – 2:14-26
Discipline your Talk – 3:1-12
Trust only Godly Wisdom – 3:13-18
Rules for Life Beyond the Church – 4:1 to 5:6
Live peaceably with all – 4:1-12
Live Humbly Before God – 4:13-17
Deal Honestly with All – 5:1-6
Concluding Remarks – 5:7-20
Wait Patiently for the Lord – 5:7-12
Practice Congregational Care – 5:13-20
Two thousand years separate us from James. But God continues to use these words breathed into his soul and written by his hand. This epistle remains as a witness and a legacy.
I am exceptionally grateful for his obedience and encouragement.
This month, as we read this epistle, let us remember James, one of the first spiritual leaders, and allow the Holy Spirit to teach, guide, and direct our own spiritual journey.
He says to us, “What you do matters, and your attitude makes a difference.” How do you treat a stranger, a solicitor at your door, your co-worker, and your family? Jesus is within you to sustain you, empower you with wisdom for every day, and strengthen our faith.
Slowly open your soul and allow Christ to enter your ordinary day. Watch how you face trials and temptations differently. Not as problems but as opportunities to strengthen our faith.
My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.James 2:2-4
Heavenly Father, You have authored this book for a reason – a good reason. I want to know You and know what You want me to know. Open my eyes to see, clear my ears to hear, set my mind to receive, and my heart to feel You. Let the truth wash over my soul as you create me into your masterpiece. Thank You – a thousand times thank you. Amen