Summary: Showing a need for the Word of God in our lives. We need to receive the Word, embrace the Word and Get movin!
(illustration by Wes Humble @ WesHumble.com) Can you imagine what it was like for the church in Smyrna as they watched their beloved and aged pastor burn at the stake? Polycarp was his name. He was a disciple of Jesus’ disciple, the Apostle John. One could tell it immediately because he possessed the same tenderness and compassion as his mentor.
Polycarp was Bishop of the church at Smyrna (present day Turkey). Persecution broke out in Smyrna and many Christians were fed to the wild beasts in the arena. The godless and blood-thirsty crowd called for the carcass of the leader – Polycarp.
The authorities sent a search party to find him. He had been taken into hiding by some Christians… but the Romans tortured two young believers until they finally disclosed his location. When the authority’s arrival was announced there was still time to whisk Polycarp away but he refused to go saying, “God’s will be done.”
In one of the most touching instances of Christian grace imaginable Polycarp welcomed his captors as if they were friends. He talked with them and insisted they eat a meal. He made only one request before being taken away – he asked for one hour to pray. The Roman soldiers listened to his prayer. Their hearts melted and they gave him 2 hours to pray.
They had second thoughts as well and were overheard asking each other why they were sent to arrest him?
Other authorities also experienced a warmed heart when Polycarp arrived. The Proconsul tried to find a way to release him too. “curse God and I will let you go!” he pleaded.
Polycarp’s reply was: “For eighty-six years I have served him. He has never done me wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King was has saved me?”
The Proconsul again looked for a way out. “The do this old man, just swear by the spirit of the emperor and that will be sufficient.’
Polycarp’s reply was: “If you imagine for a moment that I would do that, then I think you pretend that you don’t know who I am. Hear it plainly. I am a Christian.”
Even with more appeals by the Proconsul, Polycarp stood firm. The proconsul threatened him with the wild beasts.
Polycarp’s reply was: “Bring them forth. I would change my mind if it meant going from worst to best, but not to change from right to wrong.”
The Proconsul threatened, “I will burn you alive!” Polycarp’s reply was: “You threaten with fire that burns for an hour and is over but the judgment on the ungodly is forever.”
The fires engulfed him. The witnesses noticed his faith and joy. He was singing as the flames rose. He was finished off with a dagger. He was buried for the cause of Christ on February 22, 155 A.D. It was as much a day of victory as it was a day of tragedy.
Polycarp faith is an example for us all and it gives us pause to think about our faith. Is our faith deeply rooted as Paul described in Colossians 2:7: Have your roots in him. Build yourselves up in him. Grow strong in what you believe, just as you were taught…
This morning we are going to look at James 1:19-25 as our second sermon in the book of James. James is a book about faith in action. In the first century, Polycarp would have known this passage and read this writing of James. Let’s read it together: James 1:19-25
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
Just like our last passage in James a couple weeks ago, there is a lot here to swallow. James deals with thinking before talking; being slow to anger; fleeing from the evil around us; knowing God’s Word and living by it; and finally does your actions model the faith you claim to have.
For our purpose this morning I want to sum up what he saying by looking at faith in action. I want to look at what it means to be serious about our faith and challenge our way of thinking. Or to sum it up even more I want to look at the Word of God our blueprint for life and how we respond to it.