Summary: God is making you better through your troubles so consider them an opportunity for joy!
An Opportunity For Joy
Text: James 1:1-4
1. Illustration: "Joy in Christ requires a commitment to working at the Christian lifestyle. Salvation comes as a gif, but the joy of salvation demands disciplined action. Most Christians I know have just enough of the Gospel to make them miserable, but not enough to make them joyful. They know enough about the biblical message to keep them form doing the things which the world tempts them to do; but they do not have enough of a commitment to God to do those things through which they might experience the fullness of his joy" (Tony Campolo. Seven Deadly Sins, 21).
2. This morning we are beginning a series through the letter of James, and I believe that this book can be summed up very simply as "Faith That Works."
3. In order for it to work it must be a functional faith. How do we live this out everyday life. If it's just a bunch of theological concepts that have nothing to do with reality than what good is it?
4. In our opening few verses James hits us right where we live. He says...
A. Let Troubles Become Opportunities
B. Let Your Faith Grow
C. Let Your Endurance Develop
5. Let's stand together as we read James 1:1-4.
Proposition: God is making you better through your troubles so consider them an opportunity for joy!
Transition: James begins by telling us...
I. Let Troubles Become Opportunities (1-2).
A. Opportunity For Great Joy
1. Whenever we are studying Scripture we need to discover...
A. Who wrote it?
B. To whom was it written?
C. Why was it written?
2. So James letter begins with, "This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes”—Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings!"
A. How often do we open a letter without checking to see who sent it? Ancient letter writers signed their names right at the beginning, so readers immediately knew the source.
B. Modern readers of the New Testament, however, frequently skip over the address. It strikes us as unimportant. Our oversight is a mistake.
C. The first verses of New Testament books often tell us the writer’s identity and how the writers perceived their roles.
D. In James’s case, these helpful insights prepare us for the entire letter. We treat letters with more respect when we understand who sent them and why.
E. James is only mentioned by name a few times elsewhere in the New Testament. As the leader of the Jerusalem church, however, he was known on a first-name basis by the rapidly expanding Christian world.
F. By simply using his first name, James manages to convey both humility and authority as he signs his letter. He could have identified himself as “brother of Jesus,” or “leader of the Jerusalem church,” but the only addition to his name is the title of slave of God.
G. The Greek word doulos (slave, servant) refers to a position of complete obedience, utter humility, and unshakable loyalty.
H. Many of the first followers of Christ were, in fact, slaves. But among Christians, the idea of being a slave of Christ became not a position of humiliation, but a place of honor. There can be no greater tribute to a believer than to be known as God’s obedient, humble, and loyal servant.
I. The three names, Lord Jesus Christ, refer to the unique character of Jesus.
i. He is the heavenly, exalted Lord who will one day return in glory to this world.
ii. He is Jesus, God come to earth as a human being.
iii. He is Christ, the anointed one who fulfilled God’s purposes by dying for us.
J. The Jewish Christians scattered among the nations referred to Jewish believers who had left Palestine by force or by choice.
K. The deportation of Jews to foreign lands had been practiced since the days of the Assyrians over six hundred years before Christ. But many Jews had also emigrated to other lands in the quest for wealth and opportunity.
L. This network of Jewish communities scattered throughout the Roman Empire became the stepping stones for the spread of the gospel.
M. The book of Acts describes the missionary pattern of Paul and others. In almost every town they visited, the presence of a Jewish synagogue gave them an open forum from which to communicate the Good News.
N. What history records as the splintering of the nation of Israel was used by God to facilitate the spread of his Word (Barton, Life Application New Testament Commentary, 1070).
O. All of these things will come into play as we study this letter.
3. Now that we have discovered some of the elementary issues behind the letter, let's get into the heart of the letter.