The Servant Life! – James 1:1-8
By Pastor Lee Hemen
April 27, 2014 AM
I have discovered that those who often have personal problems with fellow believers or with their churches are usually the ones who all of sudden have been confronted with their insincerity of faith. What many American’s think is biblical and scriptural concerning how to deal with fellow believers or a church that suddenly does not meet their needs has absolutely no basis in correct theology. Far too many do not read and study their Bibles but rather use them to justify their sin, their immaturity of faith, or to excuse their disobedience. Sound harsh? Then you will fit right in with those who have had problems with the “right strawy epistle” of the Book of James. As the Bible Knowledge Commentary states, “Few books of the Bible have been more maligned than the little Book of James. Controversy has waged over its authorship, its date, its recipients, its canonicity, and its unity.” Yet, there is no denying that James teaches us how to live the servant life that his brother Jesus desired us to.
How do we live the servant life Jesus commanded, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all”? (Mark 9:35 NIV) This teaching follows on the heels of Jesus stating, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34 NIV) Few followers come anywhere near what Jesus commanded us to do. A life in Christ that is healthy, happy, and whole is one founded on being a servant! James gets right to the point in teaching us the servant life; let’s discover what he teaches…
Notice that James immediately writes, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. He has already qualified himself not only as a “servant of God” but also “of the Lord Jesus Christ.” He wanted his readers to understand that he did not place himself above God or his Master, Jesus! And James is addressing the entire church and therefore all believers when he writes, “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.” For James his life in Christ began and ended with Jesus! Therefore, for James…
I. Being a servant means personal perseverance! (Vv. 1-4)
1. One of the most played songs is the one by Pharrell Williams called “Happy.” One of the stanzas goes, “Here come bad news talking this and that, yeah, Well, give me all you got, and don’t hold it back, yeah, Well, I should probably warn you I’ll be just fine, yeah, No offense to you, don’t waste your time… Here’s why… Because I’m happy!” Yet, we often find it tough to persevere in a world full of sin, disease, and sadness. Singing a little song ain’t gonna help when the rent is due! Yet, James remarkably writes, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds”! (Say what?) Interestingly, Pherrell’s little ditty follows on the heels of a songster named Bobby McFerrin, who wrote, “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. McFerrin wistfully sang, “Here’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note; don’t worry be happy. In every life we have some trouble. When you worry you make it double; don’t worry, be happy!” Wow! Who would have thought that all we have to do in life is not worry and be happy! Sadly, while this may sound hip, it is far from reality. James places one’s happiness squarely where it should be, in Jesus Christ. Why? James reminded his readers that “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Far too often we gripe and complain about what we are going through, and we even blame our circumstances on God. But we forget one universal truth: sin exists. This is why bad things happen to good people, or at least to the people we think are good. Believers all too often forget that God does not test us like some malicious ultimate being, but he does allow us to go through the mess we have created, including the affects of original sin. Now we can either curse and complain or discover what James is teaching us, namely, that “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” More than our escaping hard times, God desires to mature us in our faith. James was not some masochist who liked beating up on himself or others. He knew believers needed to be discipled in their faith walk with Jesus. He did. It is important to note that James did not say that a believer should be joyous for the trials but in the trials. The verb translated “face” might more literally be expressed as “fall into,” peripesēte, like falling off a precipice or cliff! We mature in our faith when we realize that the trials we face are part of life and how we handle them says a lot about our walk with God. James taught that being a servant means personal perseverance!
EXAMPLE: CNN wrote, “It’s hard not to get swept up in the emotion of singer/rapper/producer Pharrell Williams as he breaks down while discussing his hit song ‘Happy’ with Oprah Winfrey.” Pharrell tearfully related during an Oprah Winfrey interview, “It’s overwhelming because it’s like I love what I do,” he continued, “I just appreciate the fact that people have believed in me for so long, that I could make it to this point to feel that.” Winfrey responded, “I so now get why it’s so infectious, because it came from such a clear space that the energy was absolutely uninterrupted by anything other than allowing it to flow from heart to heart.” Okay? Whatever. Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” caught the attention of the entire country in 1988. He believes in the healing power of music. And some studies have shown the positive or negative effects music can have of folks, however, when “the music fades, all is stripped away.” Christian song writer Matt Redman, wrote in his chorus, “Heart of Worship”, “I’ll bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You have required. You search much deeper within. Through the way things appear, you’re looking into my heart.” James taught that being a servant means personal perseverance!
Where do you go when you are looking for advice? Often we go to feckless friends, reclusive relatives, or pathetic peers and or the exalted “experts” such as teachers or counselors, but we should look first into the Word of God. There are many who claim to seek God’s wisdom through his words, but few who actually do; especially when it may counter what we had already decided was God’s wisdom for our life! However, James teaches us that…
II. Being a servant means following your Master! (Vv. 5-8)
1. Much of the world is confused by what constitutes good wisdom, it isn’t knowledge. Knowledge comes from facts, events, or studying while wisdom comes from using those facts, events, or studies in the real world. Wisdom often comes from our experiences coupled with our knowledge. This is why having more education does not necessarily make one wiser, just perhaps more knowledgeable! Facts are useless unless you know how to use them. James knew this to be true and why he wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Anyone, anywhere, can ask God at anytime for greater wisdom and this is the key, the wisdom James refers to is the wisdom that comes from God. It isn’t the wisdom of the world which often leads believers astray concerning spiritual matters. However, James says there is a caveat, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” Now James is not saying you can never have doubts concerning your faith what he is referring to is an individual doubting that God can give them the wisdom they need when they ask! The problem arises when we are uncertain we can trust God! When we doubt we are like “a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” Often we do not recognize the answer given from God because we have doubted we would receive one in the first place or we only look for the answer we desire and ignore everything else! Too many believers have fallen into the false doctrine of thinking God is involved in every minute detail of their lives, when in fact he is not. Now do not misunderstand what I am saying, God does know what you are about after all he is omniscient – all knowing. He does know the hairs on our heads and when a sparrow falls to the ground, but he does not necessarily get personally involved in every detail of our daily lives where it truly does not matter what choice we make or when we know the choice we should make! In our hurried lives we often want answers in our timing and not in God’s. We therefore willingly forget that God can answer yes, no, wait, or not at all! Contrary to what Copernicus taught and many Christians think; the universe and creation does indeed revolve around the Son! His plan does not revolve around you personally. Jesus related to his disciples what James is teaching here when he taught, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27 NIV) The problem is that too many sheep do not recognize the voice of their Master because they are so busy listening to their own wisdom or that of the world instead. They are trying to get God to agree with the answer they desire so that it will justify their ungodly wisdom. James teaches us that being a servant means following your Master!
EXAMPLE: Lisa knew she shouldn’t date a boy who did not share her faith. She did everything she could to justify her decision to date him. She lamented to her friend, “My parents just don’t understand me! He promised to go to church with me! He said he believes in God! He says he loves me! I prayed about it and God did not say not do date him! What should I do?” So her friend replied, “Your parents have raised you for 16 years, don’t you think they know you by now? Don’t most boys promise anything in order to get what they want when in fact they often do not follow through? Since when is just believing there is a God the same thing as placing your faith in Jesus? And don’t you know God’s answer is probably ‘no’ because he is an unbeliever and not good for your life.” Lisa dried her eyes, blew her nose, looked at her friend and responded, “Well who asked you!?” We discover that James teaches us that being a servant means following your Master!
Being a servant means personal perseverance! Being a servant means following your Master!
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.