Summary: Problems and trails are a fact of life - the issue is what are we learning from them?
"How to Profit From Your Problems"
Open: Welcome! It's good to be in the house of the Lord today as we begin a study on a new book. Today we are going to start a study through the book of James as we start a series of messages called "How Faith Works in Real Life" I've heard a number of people through the years claim James as their favorite book in the Bible. I've always wondered about that. I think that this book is one of the most challenging in the New Testament. There's virtually no fluff in this book.
Who is the Author? James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. James...the Greek, Iakobo, it's really the word "Jacob." James is the same as Jacob. This was a very common name in first century Palestine. Eventually it came to be James in English because it kind of lost its original identity in the translation of Latin. Iakobo became Iakobos and Iakobos became Iakomos and Iakomos became James in the English transliteration. And so what started as Jacob ended up James.
We ask the question then...who is this James? There are 4 "James" in the New Testament.
* James the son of Alpnaeus. One of the apostles. -- We don't know much about him. . The only thing we can sort of assume about him is that he may have been the brother of Matthew. In the gospel of Mark chapter 2 verse 14 it says, "Matthew who's also known as Levi, was the son of Alphaeus." If it's the same Alphaeus then James and Matthew were indeed brothers.
* James the father of Judas. In Luke 6:16 it mentions James the father of Judas, Judas not Iscariot, the other apostle named Judas. But he's a very obscure James and there's no reason to credit him with writing this epistle
* James the son of Zebedee and the older brother of the Apostle John. -- One of the original, "sons of thunder" He was also an apostle -- one of the original twelve. Originally a fisherman who left his nets to follow Jesus.
He wasn't the first martyr, Stephen was, but he was the first apostle to be martyred. Acts 12:2 tells about his martyrdom. He was beheaded by Herod. So it is not possible for him to have written this book.
* James, the brother of our Lord. When our Lord Jesus came into this world, His mother was a virgin. But after the birth of Christ, she went on with her husband Joseph to bear children, male and female, and one of those, most likely the oldest son, was named James. He was a pillar in the early church -- all though he was never called to be an apostle. An apostle was a sent one, he was never sent. By the way, he was present in Acts chapter 1 when they were seeking to replace Judas and they did not choose him, they chose a man named Matthias. He wasn't even in the running. He was not even considered. You read Acts 1:14 to 23 he's not even considered. He was never sent out with the gospel. He does not rank with the apostles. What we know about him is that his calling was to shepherd the church in Jerusalem. -- In Acts 15 when a controversy stirs in the early church over how Gentile believers are to interact with the Old Testament Jewish believers, this James is the one who presides over the meeting and issues the decision that is then sent out among the churches. Josephus tells us that he was martyred in 62 AD -- stoned to death because of his faith in Jesus Christ.
Notice what James calls himself -- "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ"
- He is a leader among God's people, a world renown leader. Yet his glory is not in the title of his position, but in the fact that he is a servant of God and Christ. Despite his position, and world-wide reputation, what matters to him most is the intimacy of his relationship to God and his Lord. This is clearly seen when the word servant is understood, for the meaning of the word shows that James deliberately chose the word to describe his relationship to the Lord.
How do you define yourself when people ask you; "Tell me about yourself"?
What would you have done if you were James? Hey, being the brother of Jesus Christ could carry a few perks couldn't it? Imagine filling a job application and being able to legitimately put on it, "I'm the brother of Jesus Christ" Just do a little bit of name dropping... That would most likely give you a slight advantage over other applicants, wouldn't it? Or how about , "I'm the leader of the church in Jerusalem." That would certainly impress people, right? James doesn't do any of that. He simply says I'm a servant -- the word is doulos -- it means slave- "one who is deprived of personal freedom, one who is fully come into the control of his master." It's from the verb "to bind," he is bound. A doulos had no concern for his food, no concern for his clothing, no concern for his housing. His master cared for all of that. In the Old Testament Moses was called "the doulos of God." Daniel was called "the doulos of God," Joshua and Caleb, "the doulos of God," Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, so was Job, so was Isaiah and other of the prophets. And when James calls himself doulos, he is identifying himself with many honored men who were the servants of God.