6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: This is the sixth in a series walking through the book of James, and exploring ways to make our faith practical in daily life. This week explores true faith combining knowledge and emotions with action.

(This message was introduced with a clip from the movie "Signs", featuring Mel Gibson. During the movie, there is an evening conversation between the character played by Gibson and his brother. It takes place on a coach, with the children sleeping beside them, and is a powerful reflection on people that believe, and those that don’t. The clip was well received by the audience, and drew them right into the message.)

Two groups of people. Miracle men. Those who look at everything that takes place in the world around them, everything that takes place in their lives, and believes there is a being, someone behind it all that is watching out for them. Their lives are surrounded by signs, evidence that a greater being exists. Not just coincidence and luck.

Then there are those that just think life is one gigantic roll of the dice. The situation is 50/50. No one is watching out for us. We are all on our own. And that causes them to live, deep down inside, in great fear.

But actually, there may be a third group of people. Kind of a mix of the two groups. A third group that is a group of people who claim to be in the first group. They claim that they believe in miracles. They claim there will always be someone there to help them. They claim to be filled with hope, and promise based on all the signs and wonders around them.

But they live their lives like the people in group two. Their actions betray them. And no matter how strongly they might protest, no matter how vocal they may be that they are people of great faith. When it comes to the daily living out of that faith. The day to day application of that faith to the real world situations and challenges they are facing week in and week out, they look a whole lot more like the people in group two. Living in fear.

The title of our sermon series is “The Search is On. . .For a Faith that Works.” Not just a faith that we think in our heads, but a faith that actually works in the daily grind that is life. A faith that works in awesome, powerful, sometimes supernatural ways. A faith that those around us see as anything but dead.

And in our series title are two of the major themes and words that you find throughout the book of James: Faith & Works. Throughout the history of the church, those have been two words that have been disputed as to their relationship. Their connection. Their ability to go together.

James thought they did. He thought there needed to be some relationship between faith and works. You couldn’t just say you have faith, and not do anything with it. You couldn’t claim to be in group A, but live like you are in group B. And at the same time, you couldn’t walk the walk of a life of good works in the world without any faith. And in this week’s passage, he really dives into this relationship, this question of the correlation between faith and works.

James 2:14 (read). Good questions. What if you have faith, but nothing outward to show for your faith? Will your faith alone save you? Pretty good question for people to reflect on. Whether in James day, or in 2005.

In fact, as that question has been asked, many people throughout time have argued a contradiction between this teaching James is launching into and a teaching of Paul’s. So there is a couple things you need to know and understand right off the bat. Let’s look at Paul’s teaching that is often held in contrast to this passage in James. Keep a finger in James, and turn in your Bibles to the book of Ephesians. Ephesians 2:8 (read through verse 10). James asks if faith without works can save you. Paul says emphatically, grace through faith, not works saves you.

A couple things to understand about these two passages. First, James and Paul were addressing different problems. When Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, when he was expounding on this correlation between faith and works, Paul was fighting the problem of legalism. The problem of people caught in this trap of having to keep all the Jewish laws and regulations in order to be a Christian. So Paul writes to them and says, that stuff isn’t what saves you. God didn’t set it up like that. It is by grace that you are saved through faith.

James on the other hand is not fighting legalism but laxity. Those people that say, “It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you believe.”

After spending weeks reflecting on it, I still can’t figure out which one is more relevant to us today. Especially in holiness denominations. For every person I come across who is struggling with legalism, I can find one struggling with laziness. So we have messages from both Paul and James, but the different views aren’t contradictory. They are just addressing different audiences. Different problems. Both of which are prevalent in the church today.

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