Summary: This is the first part of our series on James. We talked about the difference between trials and temptations and how to handle them.
We are starting a brand new series today called a search for what is real. Between now and the end of June we are going to be walking through one of my favorite books of the Bible, and one of the most controversial ones, the book of James.
When I was in college, I led a small group of high school students and we spent an entire school year going through the book of James. I want to lay out a challenge that all 8 of those high school guys took up as we study the book of James. It is a short book, only 3 pages in my bible. 7 years ago, I took up a challenge with a bunch of high schoolers and the challenge was, to read through the book of James each day we studied it in our group. So for a full year, I read through the book of James everyday, we all did. We printed out copies and stapled them together, taking them to classes, we had them in the car, in our backpacks, one guy left his in his “reading room” so he could always redeem the time.
Here is what happened, at the end of the year, high school guys were quoting the book of James in conversations, praying for each other. They probably couldn’t quote any other verse, but they could quote almost the entire book of James. It became a part of them, that is what the bible is to be. If you take this challenge along with me, don’t read through it to find stuff. Just read it. When you get to the end, the next day start again. Maybe you can commit to read through it 3 times a week. Imagine what you will know of this short letter after 3 months of that, you would have read through it 36 times. It changed the lives of 9 guys 7 years ago, and I can guarantee it will do the same to you.
Let’s pray as we go on this morning.
The book of James has been forgotten for the most part in Christianity in past years, but is getting more press recently as more and more Christians are talking about social justice and issues involving materialism and poverty. The book of James is also the book that split the Catholic and Protestant churches hundreds of years ago, and we will look at that in 3 weeks.
We are going to spend the next 10 weeks going through the book of James. Here is what we will look at. Today we are going to look at storms in life, we will also look at favoritism, having an authentic faith, a provocative faith, gossip, knowledge, wisdom, planning our lives out, prayer, suffering, materialism. So this is going to be an action packed 10 weeks.
If you would ask most people, they would probably say they are searching for something real. Whether it is a real friend, maybe to experience real community, maybe it is to have a real, vibrant faith. Even the pope is looking for something.
Anyway, I don’t know if that is real, but that is real funny.
Have you ever met somebody that was just incredibly fake? They always had this fake smile on, you knew that if you turned your back, they would go back on their promise they just gave you? If you know anyone like that or if you are like that, then you understand who the book of James is written to. James is written to Jewish Christians who are mostly faking it, not living out their faith and James is a good kick in the pants. One historian put it this way, “James was a simply, homespun preacher who was perturbed at people who were not living right.”
One author describes it like this, “James wrote to a church beset by a number of problems. These problems included divisiveness, intolerance, favoritism, and the overpowering desire for wealth and status. Giving shape to and electrifying these problems were the presence and popularity within the community of errant teaching that was vibrant enough to question the great commandments as expressed by Jesus and yet to maintain an influential place in the community. It was a teaching tailor-made for the time, for it allowed its followers to understand the church as one among many opportunities for social climbing and the exhibition of social snobbery.” Sounds like a lot of churches I’ve been to.
If I could sum up the book of James it would be stop sitting around and do something. The book breaks down into two different sections. Either roadblocks to living out a vibrant, real faith; or ways to live out that kind of faith. The passage we are looking at today would fall into the roadblock category.