Summary: Suffering trials is a strange place to find anyone rejoicing, yet that is the surprising instruction of God for us in Christ.
At the heart of the gospel is the amazing truth of how God is willing to suffer to redeem us. Jesus experienced firsthand the greatest human trial imaginable. He endured being betrayed by on of the 12 apostles, deserted by all his closest friends and followers, falsely accused, being mocked and abused, spit upon and reviled, beaten unmercifully and publicly condemned by the very religious leaders whose job was to stand for God’s law. He was turned over to foreigners to be executed in the worst form of death, tormented to death and shamefully hung naked before jeering crowds on a cross. Then worst of all, we hear the cry of Jesus, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" All the while, Jesus had the power to call upon the Father and destroy all those who were carrying on this terrible persecution. Jesus clearly saw himself as the lamb of God who was being sacrificed for the salvation of man. Jesus saw past the pain to the glory he was bringing.
The Hebrew writer put it well. Who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you do not grow weary and lose heart.
Today, we begin a series of lessons from the letter of Jesus’ brother. His name is Jacob, but in the days of king James, and in order to put the king’s name in the Bible translation that bears his name, Jacob’s name was altered to James. Everywhere you see the name James in the New Testament you are actually reading the wrong name. Even Jesus’ apostles should be Peter, Andrew, Jacob and John…
Thankfully, the message of this little letter by Jacob, Jesus’ brother, was not altered in the translation and still speaks a fresh message to God’s people for all time. A message that harkens back to the heart of God regarding how to have joy when you face trial.
Let’s look at the first 15 verses today, and I challenge everyone here to join me in memorizing this together. 102 total verses of God’s word. Give yourself this gift. As he says in verse 21, “humbly receive the word planted in you which can save your souls.”
At the bear minimum, commit one verse to memory for each lesson. Let me see how I do with the first 15 verses.
Let’s reflect on these words. Verse one identifies the author, audience and gives a greeting. This is typical of the epistles of the day. Sort of like our letters that say, Dear soandso, this is Greg. Hope you are doing well.
Verse two begins the actual letter content. What are the first words? This tells us a lot.
Consider it all joy…
What are some things we consider joy? Who is James (Jacob) writing? Jewish Christians. This letter is early on in the Christian movement. Jacob writes this not long after Stephen was killed and the persecution of Saul of Tarsus has broken out. Remember in Acts 8 that the Christians were all scattered because of the persecution? Jacob is writing them to encourage their faithfulness.