October 7, 2022
FAITH THAT WORKS – James 1:1-8
Listen to last week’s sermon entitled : Faith That Works found in James 1:1-8
Pastor Eric’s sermon today focused on a type of faith that yields results. His message was intended to convince both non-Christians and ‘unbelieving believers’ alike that faith is indeed powerful. If we choose to have faith in God, the Bible will prove useful to us, we will succeed in our Christian life, and our prayers will be answered if they are in alignment with His will.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:7, Galatians 2:16, and Hebrews 11:6
Faith has been a point of discussion throughout the years because it is more than a topic: it is a fundamental element of Christian belief. In light of this, it is important that we discuss faith, learn about faith, and encourage ourselves to walk in faith, since:
a – The Bible commands us to live by faith and not by sight;
b – We are called to grow in our faith over time;
c – We come to Christ by trusting in Him rather than relying upon our own efforts;
d – The devil seeks to undermine our faith; and,
e – Without faith, it is impossible to please God.
Our faith must sustain us, not only in good times but also during the darkest periods of our lives. As Christians, we must have faith when we pray about something but do not receive an answer from God at the time or in the manner we expect. In the message he delivered today, Pastor Eric stressed the importance of maintaining our faith throughout our lives. If we have faith only during times of good fortune, then it is not faith at all.
Read James 1:1-8
To explain the essence of this passage, Pastor Eric unpacked it verse by verse.
Read Matthew 13:55 and Acts 15:13
It should be noted that the person mentioned in Matthew 13:55 and Acts 15:13 is not the apostle James, the brother of John, who was executed by Herod Agrippa I, but rather Jesus’ half-brother, the leader of the Jerusalem church. Due to this fact, Pastor Eric considers his greeting to be extremely humble. Jesus’ half-brother said, “From James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is the man to whom the apostles turned for guidance. While he could have easily introduced himself as the brother of Jesus; as someone with inside information about the Messiah; or as an individual who could recount stories about the early years of Jesus, he chose to introduce himself as a servant of God.
In Greek, the word servant means slave. Therefore, James is essentially saying, “I am a slave of Christ.” That word could also be translated bond-servant which refers to someone who is in a permanent relationship of servitude to another individual. Therefore, this word does not refer to someone who occasionally does something for another when he feels so inclined, but rather, to someone who is permanently devoted to the Lord.
Read John 7:5
James could have said, “I’m Jesus’ brother”, but he chose to say, “I’m a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. James regarded Jesus as more than just a half-brother: He considered Him to be his Lord. In John 7:5, we learn that even Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him. Thus, somewhere along the way, James believed in the divinity of Christ and was saved. It is noteworthy that his status as Jesus’ brother did not ensure his salvation. He became a child of God through the faith and trust he placed in Jesus Christ. It is important to remember that even if we were born into a Christian family, or raised by missionaries, or if our great great great great grandparents were descendants of an apostle, it will not be sufficient to save us. Faith in Christ is essential regardless of our name, ethnicity, gender, or skin colour. It was necessary for James to place his trust in Jesus. Rather than referring to Him as his brother, he addressed Him as his Lord.
The society and culture of today seem to promote the marketing of ourselves to others. As a result, we are encouraged to demonstrate our knowledge and showcase our qualifications, accomplishments, certificates, and degrees in order to impress those around us. There is no doubt that education is valuable, but it can sometimes lead to arrogance. In the end, it does not matter how much education or training we received, how close we are to Jesus, or how the Lord has used us in the past. It all boils down to this: we are God’s servants.
Read James 1:1
James then addressed the recipients of his letter. He said, “…to the twelve tribes scattered abroad. Greetings!” There has been much speculation as to what he meant by the twelve tribes, given that he wrote this in the New Testament era. It should also be noted that the twelve tribes have a profound significance in the Old Testament and throughout the Bible. However, regardless of whom he may have been referring to, the people were dispersed. James suggested the following approach to dealing with persecution:
Read James 1:2
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” James reminds us to rejoice when we face challenges and temptations in life. It is important to note that he refers to when, not if. As trials serve as a means of growing our patience, they should be regarded as a source of joy. Trials will either make us or break us. They will strengthen us or weaken us. They will make us better or bitter.
As someone once said, “When you reach a new level, you also reach a new devil.” In other words, whenever we embark on a new endeavour, we may encounter spiritual warfare.
James reminds us to keep our eyes on the prize since trials serve a purpose in our lives. While the Lord may not be the cause of our hardships, He recycles them for our benefit. We should, therefore, maintain our focus on Jesus, as they serve to test our faith and mold our character.
Read James 1:3
James 1:3 states, “…because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience.” This passage does not refer to passive patience. Rather, it is an active endurance that is required to complete our spiritual race.
Read Genesis 21:1-5 and 25:32
Pastor Eric is of the opinion that God does not always answer our prayers in the timeframe we desire, because it is essential that we develop the tenacity to persevere through any circumstances we may encounter. Ultimately, it is those who wait patiently who will reap the benefits. The story of Abraham and Sarah illustrates the importance of patience. When God first revealed to Abraham that he would become the father of many nations, he was 75 years old. Yet, despite this, Isaac was not born until Abraham had reached the age of 100. He and Sarah were thus forced to wait 25 years for the birth of their son. Likewise, we must also be prepared to wait.
Another example is Esau, who exhibited a lack of patience and perseverance. One day, when Esau was severely fatigued, he asked his brother, Jacob, to make him a bowl of stew. Jacob took advantage of this situation by offering to make him a bowl of stew in exchange for his birthright. In response, Esau stated, “I am nearly dead from hunger. If I die, all of my father’s wealth will not help me.” He was, therefore, not willing to wait to reap the benefits of his birthright.
Pastor Eric believes that there are many individuals today who are selling their birthright for a bowl of stew. Some people are willing to sacrifice everything God has done for them in exchange for a one-night stand, a joint, one too many drinks…a bowl of stew. They would rather forfeit everything than wait patiently for the blessings that the Lord has in store for them. It is God’s desire that we develop patience and character.
Trials test our faith, and some trials strengthen it. It is through life’s difficulties that we gain patience and perseverance so that when we encounter hardships, we are better, not bitter, stronger, not weaker.
Read James 1:4
It is through patience that we are completed and perfected. It has been suggested that the ability to remain patient and persevere in the face of various challenges is an indication that our character has been refined by God.
Read James 1:5 and Proverbs 11:14
According to James 1:5, “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it.”
In a nutshell, wisdom is the ability to apply knowledge effectively. Often, in hard times, we find ourselves lacking the wisdom to make the right decision. Thus, when we lack the necessary knowledge or skills to handle a particular situation, we are to ask the Lord for guidance.
Pastor Eric is a strong advocate of seeking wisdom from others. Additionally, it is recorded in the book of Proverbs that “there is safety in a multitude of counsellors”. However, we must first seek the Lord’s guidance. We have a tendency to seek advice from counsellors first, and then turn to God. Rather than seeking wisdom elsewhere, why not begin with the source?
Read Philippians 4:19
It is a common occurrence for Pastor Eric to hear people say that they view God as someone who gives very reluctantly. As a result, they also view prayer from this perspective. It is their belief that God has no desire to bless them. Clearly, James is not stating that in James 1:5. It is also not the God Paul referred to when he said, “And it is he who will supply all our needs from his riches in glory because of what Christ Jesus has done for us.” The Lord has unlimited resources available to Him. Whenever He blesses us, He has ample resources with which to bless others as well. There is no likelihood of Him going bankrupt. When we pray, are we approaching an open-handed God or one who is uncooperative? The God of the Bible is generous. If we doubt Pastor Eric’s assertion, we are simply to take a look at our new church. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to afford this property. The generosity of the Lord is evident.
Since our God is generous, Pastor Eric sometimes feels that our small prayers are disrespectful to Him. Piety and false understanding are often confused. We have a false sense of modesty, piety, or humility when we ask the Lord for little things. The Lord is generous, and it is important to keep this in mind as we approach Him.
Read James 1:5-8
James was deeply committed to prayer. His knees, which were covered in large and thick callouses, resembled those of a camel. He said, “God gives generously and without reprimand.” Since he had a personal relationship with the Lord, he was speaking from experience. In the following verses, he explains how to ask for help from the Lord. “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”
Read James 4:3 and 2 Corinthians 12:8-9
Whenever we seek the Lord’s assistance, James says that we must do so with faith; otherwise, we should not expect anything from Him. Assurance is being conveyed here. When we approach God with a request, we must believe that He will respond. James goes on to explain why the Lord does not answer our prayers. It may be that we ask with the wrong motives or that we do not ask at all. A common misconception is that God intends for us to experience hardship, a trial, an illness, or suffering as a cross to bear. The apostle Paul was plagued by a thorn in his flesh. Though this would become his cross to bear, he asked God three times to remove the thorn from his flesh, but each time the Lord replied, “My grace is enough for you.”
Read Luke 22:42
Jesus also prayed three times. Three times He prayed to the Father. “If you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Even Jesus did not wish to suffer, but He focused on the joy before Him. Even death on a cross was not an obstacle to His obedience to the Father.
We all have thorns in our lives, and they may be part of His plan; therefore, when we encounter hardships, we must pray and ask God to remove them. Trials of various kinds are testaments to our faith and provide opportunities for further growth; however, we are to bring our concerns to God first before assuming that they are His will.
Read Romans 10:17
How do we achieve a state of assurance before prayer? We are encouraged by Pastor Eric to search the Bible for verses that are relevant to our current circumstances. Then, once we have found the verses, we are to proclaim the Word of God over them. Romans 10:17 states, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing comes from the Word of Christ.”
What is faith? Hebrews 11 describes it as the confident expectation that what we desire will come to pass, and that our hopes will come to fruition, even though they are not yet within sight. When we pray, do we do so with the conviction that what we hope for is within our grasp, despite the fact that we are yet unable to see it? It is important that we reach this point. While it is true that God sometimes grants us the gift of faith, it is also true that we are often required to work on our faith and ask the Lord for assistance in overcoming our doubts. Some prayers do not receive an immediate response because we lack faith.
Read Mark 5:34 and Luke 17:19
There is something very powerful about believing that God can accomplish the impossible. Throughout the New Testament, there are numerous instances where Jesus said, “Your faith has healed you”. Thus, unless one goes to God with faith, nothing can be accomplished.
Read Isaiah 53:5
We must approach the Lord with boldness and confidence. It is important to note, however, that assurance and boldness should not be equated with arrogance. It is not about commanding God. The purpose here is to determine the Lord’s will as it pertains to the situation we are currently facing. We are to ask God for wisdom to overcome the hardship and to help us understand His will, know how it should be applied, and know how we should proceed. Once this has been accomplished, we are to pray with faith and boldness. If our prayer is for healing and we are convinced that God will heal us, then we hold fast to His Word that says we have been set free. Jesus paid the full price for our sins. According to Isaiah 53:5, He paid the penalty we deserved, thereby giving us peace. Through His wounds, we have been healed.
2 Samuel 7:25-27 and Hebrews 11:6
David received a promise from God regarding himself and his family. Since he understood the Lord’s will, he was able to pray with confidence. In verse 27, he prayed a prayer of acceptance in which he said, “For you have revealed to me, O Lord of heaven, God of Israel, that I am the first of a dynasty which will rule your people forever; that is why I have been bold enough to pray this prayer of acceptance.” Only because of the Lord’s revelation did David have the courage to pray this type of prayer. It was for this reason that he approached Him with boldness. Hebrews 11:6 states: “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Some Christians believe that they do not possess this type of faith. In light of this, Pastor Eric invited them to pray with the father of a boy who was possessed by an evil spirit that rendered him mute. Despite their efforts, the apostles were unable to expel it. In verse 22, the father tells Jesus “If you are able to do anything, please have compassion on us and assist us.” If you are able? It is clear that Jesus is capable as He is the author of life. It was He who raised Lazarus from the dead. He healed people of their illnesses. He multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed a crowd of over five thousand…and there were leftovers. “All things are possible for the one who believes.”
Watch the video here.