Hello and welcome to Coffee and the Word with Sherry. I'm Sherry Poundstone and I hope you have a cup of coffee or tea and the Word.
We're going to talk this morning about wisdom from James. The book of James is absolutely amazing for instruction on how to live our life and how to follow God's principles. I want to start this morning with a four-line poem from an unknown author that I love.
It says, “It's easier to preach than to practice. It's easier to say than to do. Most sermons are heard by many, but taken to heart by the few.”
You know what? James stresses practical christian living and moral and ethical teachings. It's about how to walk out our talk and practice what we preach. I love that little poem because it says “It's easier to preach than to practice.”
I'm going to begin this morning in Chapter 1 of James. I hope that you will follow along with me during this series on wisdom from James. I hope that you will dig in yourself and read the book for yourself and meditate on the scriptures. It's great to listen to a teacher, to go to church, to listen to sermons, and to go to the Bible study. But, when you read on your own, just you and God and the Word, He can speak to you in much more specific ways. All right. Verse one of the Book of James.
James a bond servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings. James 1:1 (NKJV)
James 1:1 (NKJV)
This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the lord Jesus Christ. I'm writing to the twelve tribes of Jewish believers scattered abroad: Greetings.
James 1:1 (NLT)
Now I read two different translations but the same verses - the New King James version and then the New Living Translation (NLT). The reason I do that is to really get us started on who wrote this, the reason for it and what was behind it. So this was written by James which is Jesus’ brother. It was written to the Christian Jews who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire - the diaspora - the dispersion of the Jews beyond Israel. So, James is introducing himself first as one such servant or slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, he's saying, “This is who I am. I am a servant of God.” I love that!
James is about servanthood and the whole book is about the relationship in which all Christians are to persevere and to be servants. I really believe that that introduction in that first verse absolutely sets the tone for what he's teaching us throughout the book.
Verse two of James says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” Now, I love verse two. I love to read that and teach that, because people think, “How can we possibly be joyous when troubles come our way?”
Here James is telling us to consider trouble as an opportunity for joy. That doesn't make sense to us, but becoming a Christian doesn't automatically exclude us from trouble, does it? Wouldn't that be great? But, we still have our problems. We still have difficulties. We still have tough circumstances.
So, trials and hardships really are situations that we're going to encounter throughout life, even though we're following the Lord.
So, what are some examples of a trial? Let's just go there today. Maybe you get to work and you find out that you can't log on to your computer. Then you find out you've been terminated or laid off, or the company is closing. These things have actually happened to my husband and I, or we've been part of having to have that happen to other people when we were in business. That's a tough time. That's a trial.
Or, you go out to get to work. You're kind of running late and your car won't start. Or, you look at your bank account and it's overdrawn, or your teenager skips school and you have no idea what's going on. These are trials. They're tough situations and no one is making light of them. But, when I bring them up in this context, James is telling us to be joyful. So, how does that work?
Well, counting it all joy is not an emotional reaction, but it's a deliberate approach to a problem. In other words, we can look at the situation and know it's a trial, but know God is with us. Using his wisdom and Biblical principles, we can make an approach to the problem while we still maintain our joy. Remember, joy is not happiness. It's not necessarily that you're happy about the situation, but we can maintain our joy. We can look at it from God's perspective and recognize that there could be spiritual growth coming out of it.
Now, we might not think about those things when the situation's happening. It can come later. But, we can train ourselves. We can ask the Holy Spirit to help us so we can actually look at trials with a different approach. We're not joyful about the trial. We're not happy about the trouble but about the possible results.
Now, I want to read very quickly a story that I heard about a pastor years ago. I absolutely love this and I always share this when I'm teaching about the Book of James because it is powerful. I heard a story about a pastor who used to have “Count It All Joy” Parties. He would have those once in a while. He so believed this verse that when he had a trial in his life, a circumstance that was tough or a difficult situation, he would call all his friends over to his house. And, he'd say, ”I want you to come over to my house for a party.” His friends would usually ask, “Is it your birthday?” “Is it your anniversary?” He would say, “No!” His friends would then ask, “What's the situation?” He told them, “Well, I'm going through a tough time, a terrible difficulty, a crisis, whatever it might be.” So, I'm going to have a “Count It All Joy” Party. We're going to celebrate the difficulty because I know that this difficulty is going to bring something special and valuable to my life. So, I don't know what it is, but we're going to celebrate it before it happens. I want you to come with me.
Now, I've never hosted a “Count It At Joy” Party. To tell you the truth, it's really tough to consider it “pure joy” because sometimes these situations hurt or they can be frightening. But, it's important for us to realize that unless we go through some kind of a test, we'll never know what our faith is made of.
That can be a benefit of a trial. When those external pressures come, what if we begin to look at the good and not always jump to the negative? What if we don’t use it as an excuse to give up or to give in? Lots of times that would be the easy way, wouldn't it? When trouble comes, God is working out something in our life that we probably cannot know at the time what it is. We have to trust that He is working on something. He may be working on a part of us, or bringing spiritual growth or some kind of reward. Whether we understand it or not, this is what we need to keep in mind.
My challenge to you today as we go through this series of James is to read the Book of James over and over as many times as you can. There's only five chapters. It's just not that long. As you're reading, look for themes, look for things that will apply to your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what He wants you to see throughout this teaching.