Summary: We are living in a world that people claim to have faith but what is really a faith that makes a difference in this very different world?
TOPIC: FAITH THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE
(Series on the Book of James)
Text: James 1:1-8
(ILL, Tied to Old Habits - A drunken man entered his row boat one night to cross the river. He picked up the oars and pulled away so he thought. He rowed all night but did not reach the destination. When daylight came, he was surprised to find that he was just where he started the night before. He had forgotten to untie his boat. So it is with many of the Lord’s followers. They are tied to their habits, desires, wills, or some cherished idol or idols of the heart. Consequently, their lives are fruitless. Shore bound Christians never flourish and are of little or no help to others.) . We are in a world and time that is very different to what we believe and what we suppose to live. (ILL. A Christian Mandate - Do all the good you can/By all the means you can/In all the ways you can/In all the places you can/To all the people you can/As long as ever you can). And this condition gives us the challenge to really live and make difference to this very different world. It’s either we influence the world around us or the world around us mold us. That is the reason why Paul reminded and commanded us in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Paul is saying here that we should not let the pattern, thinking, doing and way of the world mold us, but let God alone and His perfect will influence and have in our being. And in order to become a Christian that make a difference to this different world we need to have a change of mind so that we will know what is good and approved to God. We should not only know what we believe but we should also know how to behave as Christians. This morning we will start a book series that deals with our Christian living. And related to what we I shared for last two Sundays, this study will help and bring us to a healthy living in order that God’s bride – the church will bring into maturity. This is not anymore the time to drink milk or soft food for our spiritual life but hard and real food. So let’s open our Bible in the book of James. James is classified as a “general letter” because it was originally addressed to a wider audience than a local church. The salutation in chapter 1, verse 1, “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” James’s personal knowledge of the “scattered” believers, and the authoritative tone of the letter. As leader of the Jerusalem church, James was writing to his scattered sheep. The author simply identifies himself as “James” (1:1). James, the half-brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jerusalem church, is generally regarded as the author. James wrote this letter first, to encourage Jewish believers who were suffering various trials that were testing their faith, second, to correct erroneous ideas about the nature of saving faith, and third, to exhort and instruct the readers about the practical outworking of their faith in righteous living and good deeds. This morning we will start with James 1:1-8. From this passage we can see the heart of true faith, or how our faith grows. Base on Hebrew 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” And the whole chapter 11 of Hebrew is the demonstrations of the nature of the only kind of faith acceptable before God, a faith triumphant in the worst of situations. Faith is being tested and grows not in the times of good times but in difficult times. From our text we will see four characteristics of a growing faith.
1. It has JOY in the MIDST of trials (v. 2)
The word “trials” refers to persecution and troubles from the world or Satan. The believer must meet these trials with joy; James called it “pure joy”. James in his customary forthright way tells us to "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness" (Jam_1:2-3). In case we are inclined to modify these words as the utopian command of one who had not really experienced sorrow, let us remember that James was one of the principal leaders of the Christians in Jerusalem who continually faced persecution from those outside the Church (culminating in his own martyrdom in his sixties), as well as internal dissension associated with a Judaizing element. James surely knew what it meant to "meet various trials!" But James had also learned that difficulties could produce steadfastness or patience, though the natural reaction is annoyance or bitterness. He never tells us to pretend that a trial is nonexistent. Instead he wants us to recognize and rejoice that any problem can be the occasion for God to work in and through us in a way that He otherwise would not. This is indeed a "testing of our faith"; it calls upon us to believe in the goodness of God, and to trust that He is not only willing but also able to accomplish His purposes, no matter what befalls us. Any difficulty, whether great or small, is an occasion for joy, but only when we remind ourselves of the nature of the God who loves us and wills only the best for us.