LIVING OUT YOUR FAITH
by Jeffrey Hagan
The book of James walks us through the practice of living the Christian faith. This is a practical book exhorting us to spiritual maturity and faithfulness. James takes the sort of abstract concept of faith and makes it more concrete. And when faith takes form in our lives through our actions, it turns into that which sustains us through trials.
We can learn some valuable lessons from this short book:
1. Rejoice in trials (1:2-4).
James calls us to rejoice in our trials and suffering, but we all know our natural instinct is to stress and worry. But when we stress and worry it inevitably leads to feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness, and "unforgiveness," and when these emotions get the better of us sin is the result. Trials serve God's purpose in us by giving us a chance to turn our faith into action. When we exercise trust in God's presence in our lives, especially in trials, our faith comes alive. Being able to rejoice in our troubles becomes easier when we focus on the reason for our hope.
2. Do not show favoritism (2:12-13).
James tells us that when we show favoritism, we’ve discriminated amongst ourselves and become judges with evil thoughts. The grouchy cashier, the rude person in line in front of us, how do you treat them? What thoughts go through your head regarding them? Do you snap at them or straight up ignore them, but smile at the woman pushing her child in a stroller or at the gentleman walking his dog? All of these individuals need an encounter with God who is alive in you. Remember how God has accepted you and then extend that acceptance to all. Mercy triumphs over judgement. You’ve received mercy, now extend it to others.
3. Watch your mouth (3:9-12).
At first glance, James presents us with an impossible picture: the untamable tongue. He likens controlling the tongue to a forest set completely on fire by a single spark. One wrong move or "gust of wind" and the results are devastating. Our words have the power to bring life or destruction. If, with your speech, you praise God and curse man, how can you truly say that your faith changes your life? Let God redeem your speech by thinking before you speak.
4. Submit to God (4:7-10).
Our God is the God of love and victory (not necessarily victory as the world defines it), and the way to experience that love and victory is through submitting to him.
We submit to God’s love when we recognize that the only reason we live and move and have our being is because of His love. If we want to live from a place of victory, then we must submit to our Lord, which means that we might actually have to remove certain behaviors or patterns of thoughts and actions from our lives. Submission leads us into a deeper grace with God because it requires us to humble ourselves before him. God gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud.
5. Be patient in suffering (5:11).
Maturing in faith requires patience and perseverance when we suffer. But who wants to be patient in their suffering? It's admittedly very difficult. We run to the closest thing that gives us comfort. We numb our emotions with food, drink, shopping, entertainment, and the pursuit of pleasure. But when the numbness goes away we feel the suffering again. So, we run right back to our vices. We could learn much from Naomi. She owned her suffering, she entered into it, and didn’t try to numb it away. We call her blessed because she persevered, but she called herself blessed because God redeemed her suffering. Be patient in suffering. Persevere in trusting God. God is moving even when we can’t see him and it feels like he's not there.