In my last blog I began to cover the book of James from the Bible. During the week, I lead a Bible study called The Forum, and as we have begun to study the book of James, I thought it would be beneficial to blog about what we are learning, because so much detail is packed into the compact book.
Last week’s teaching drove home the idea that through our many trials in life, one major benefit is that one can gain perseverance, which produces wisdom. Therefore, we should rejoice in our trials, because we are building up a good character to take with us into the next life.
Heavenly Wisdom From Trials
The kind of wisdom we gain is a Godly enlightenment. This wisdom is not temporary, yielding effort and ability to problem solve. It is the permanent work of God coming through challenges. I have the idea that the church must have really lacked it for James to discuss it and drive it home. The most amazing thing about this Godly wisdom, too, is that we only have to ask for it!
God gives liberally, without reproach.
James Confronts Our Sinful Nature
James tackles the subject of sin head on. He instructs us that we need wisdom to avoid the temptations that come our way. Sin is attractive and addictive. Think about it. Scientist, philosopher, anthropologist, scholar, author Arthur Custance says “Embedded deep within our subconscious is the desire to sin because it reminds us that we are free.” God cannot be blamed for our sin. Not individually, not corporately and not globally.
James 1:19 tells us we need to be quick to hear the word of God and truth. Quick to hear the wisdom of God, which is produced in us through trials. Because of our own sin and slowness to learn, we need to be patient with others. Beating them into submission or force-feeding someone doesn’t generate a desire to know God within a man.
So, it’s like this: we face a challenge, we encounter temptation, we ask for God’s help. He gives it. We get more wisdom. We face a tougher challenge. We ask for more wisdom from God, He gives it. It becomes easier and easier to overcome the simple challenges that once made us stumble. As our faith grows, we can jump the old hurdles. As the years go, you will be able to look back at how God trusted you with bigger and bigger hurdles. You might even look back and upon seeing the size of the hurdles exclaim, “HOLY COW! I never knew I could jump that high!”
James Command Us
I emphasize here what we learned last week, that out of the 104 verses found in the book of James, 54 are commands. Read chapter one and see how many you can find. Test yourself to see the commands you are already implementing in your daily life. Focus on the ones that challenge you. Ask for wisdom in these areas!
For instance, James tells us to be quick to hear, slow to speak. Early in my walk with God, I had to rearrange my patterns. For I had these two in reverse! I was quick to speak and slow to hear. Decades on, sometimes I still have to quiet myself, reminding myself to be quick to hear and slow to speak.
James is slow reading because James gives us a lot of homework, which is really a process more complicated than learning a sport or an instrument or any discipline. We must first remind ourselves of proper form. Take the golf swing for example, a golfer must think about his form, visualize good form, keep thinking about it, practice it right, get their muscle-memory flowing, and within a couple of years, or months, they will be able to just swing the driver without struggle, like breathing.
The Extra Benefit of Trials
I just want to say, on top of gaining wisdom through our trials, we get closer and closer to seeing the Face of God. This is truly remarkable. In fact, describing the Face of God is quite impossible. One just has to see God for themselves, but it is perhaps the main thing that keeps me running toward Him. I cannot explain the marvel of just sitting quietly in His presence and the peace and love I feel knowing that HIs eyes are fixed on me!
In verse 21 James commands us to lay aside the bad things flowing out of us. Notice God doesn’t do this for us, and we shouldn’t expect Him to. We must do it. We must pull the weeds.
Custance says that cultured man is not natural man. In order to witness the true nature of a man, we must look to the mentally ill, those we consider behaving abnormally, without restraints of culture. This is the true nature of man. He says, “Culture is an artificial restraint of natural conduct.”
This anthropological conclusion agrees with James.
This also reflects the psychological view of the “unconscious,” which according to Freud is that “man’s basic nature is primarily made up of instincts which would, if permitted expression, result in incest, murder, and other crimes.”
The theological view has been stated with remarkable insight by Karl Barth: “Sin is man as we now know him.”
And Custance says, “It is a common experience to find ourselves acting in shameful ways which we scarcely believed possible. Such experiences mortify us, for they reveal to ourselves what we really are.”
When we agree with God on this and want to align with Him to be overcomers, then we can become more than just hearers of the word, we can become doers.
The Hearers and the Doers
James emphasizes to not be the type of man who looks in a mirror, walks away, and then forgets what he just saw. He implies that people that are hearers of the word only and not doers are deceived. What are they deceived over?
I think, not only do they forget what they just saw in the mirror, they think they saw something that wasn’t there. They think they look better than they really do. They, then, deceive themselves. On spiritual terms, they think they’re good people, or pious, because they have just heard the truth. But they have not responded to it.
I think people can actually be doers, too, and not hearers. Today the bent is that people are humanistic. They believe they can reach the common good within themselves. In the end, they will just be running in circles. The letter of James was addressed to Jewish followers of Christ who needed some good mentoring. The body was so weak it was unable to jump any hurdles.
If we claim to be followers of Jesus, we need to follow James instruction and look outside and in. The seed is planted, and has taken root. This is the word of God that we have heard. If the seed has landed on good soil, it will sprout and push down into the soil, and grab on, taking root, establishing themselves.
“Man will believe almost anything, so long as it is not in the Bible.” Napolean
Written by Jori Sams
Jori Sams is a Christian author and freelance writer with nearly 2000 published pieces on the Internet, with over 1500 being published by Yahoo. Her books are published through Writeious Books. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her following the sun…