Theme of James
Topic : James
- Bibliotheca Sacra 135:539:221 (Hiebert)
- Biblical Sermons, H. W. Robinson, Baker, 1989, p. 221
Trial By Fire
F. B. Meyer explained it this way: A bar of iron worth $2.50, when wrought into horseshoes is worth $5. If made into needles it is worth $175. If into penknife blades it is worth $1,625. If made into springs for watches it is worth $125,000. What a trial by fire that bar must undergo to be worth this! But the more it is manipulated, and the more it is hammered and passed through the heat, beaten, pounded, and polished, the greater its value.
Christian, are you wondering about the trials through which you are passing? With impatient heart are you saying, How long, O Lord? The heat of the flame and the blows of the hammer are necessary if you are to be more than an unpolished, rough bar of iron. Gods all-wise plan, though it calls for the fire, produces the valuable watch spring of maturity. His very best for your life has behind it His perfect timing. - P.R.V.
- Zane Hodges, The Hungry Inherit, p. 51
Alexander MacLaren, in a sermon entitled Faith Tested and Crowned, distinguished between being tempted and being tested or tried. He said that the former word conveys the idea of appealing to the worst part of man, with the wish that he may yield and do the wrong. The latter means an appeal to the better part of man, with the desire that he should stand. Temptation says, Do this pleasant thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is wrong. Trial or proving says, Do this right and noble thing; do not be hindered by the fact that it is painful. The one is a sweet, beguiling melody, breathing soft indulgence and relaxation over the soul; the other is a pealing trumpet-call to high achievements.
Every hardship of life holds the possibility of being a temptation and a trial. By resisting all suggestions we know are wrong and accepting all circumstances as opportunities for growth, we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in His sanctifying work in us. We move toward that desired goal of being perfect and entire, lacking nothing (James 1:4). - D.J.D.
- Ask Him Anything, L. J. Ogilvie, Word, 1981, p. 95
The Best Training
The best training is to learn to accept everything as it comes, as from Him whom our soul loves. The tests are always unexpected things, not great things that can be written up, but the common little rubs of life, silly little nothings, things you are ashamed of minding (at all). Yet they can knock a strong man over and lay him very low.
What Is Temptation?
What is temptation? Seduction to evil, solicitation to wrong. It stands distinguished from trial thus: trial tests, seeks to discover the mans moral qualities or character; but temptation persuades to evil, deludes, that it may ruin. The one means to undeceive, the other to deceive. The one aims at the mans good, making him conscious of his true moral self; but the other at his evil, leading him more or less unconsciously into sin. God tries; Satan tempts.
Double-minded man (i.e., field mouse) Driving in country at night when headlights showed up a field mouse dead ahead. He first started toward the left, then right, then left, and finally stood still as the car passed over him.
To Catch a Fly
From the often austere letters column of the scientific journal Nature comes advice on the best way to swat a fly: A piece of tissue paper is taken in each hand and the fly approached from the left and right, keeping the hands equidistant from the fly and moving to and fro slightly. Then both hands simultaneously pounce.
The advice is soundly grounded in fly-neuroscience. Dr. Edward Gray of Englands University College, London, wrote: The fly cannot cope with this situation, since its central-nervous-system circuitry is geared to avoid approaching movement in only one part of its visual field at a time. Two simultaneously approaching threats render the fly immobile, for its central nervous system now cannot compute at which angle to take off.
- Charles Swindoll, One Step Forward, pp. 89ff
- Wake Up Calls, Ron Hutchcraft, Moody, 1990, p. 60
Desire -> temptation -> lust/sin -> habitual sin -> death
Trial -> faith -> obedience -> perseverance -> crown of life
Knowing how much an acquaintance despises his wifes parakeet, I was surprised one day to hear him coaxing it to speak. Upon listening more closely, however, I nearly choked holding back my laughter. Now, along with its constant, annoying jabbering, the bird also calls out a suicidal, Here kitty, kitty, kitty.
Two sides to a story - Swift to Judge
The people upstairs are very annoying, complained the tenant. Last night they stomped and banged on the floor until midnight.
Did they wake you? asked the landlord.
No, explained the tenant. Luckily, I was up playing my tuba.
- Zane Hodges, The Hungry Inherit, p. 93
Service to Others
An unknown author captured eloquently the way in which we so religiously fall short of Christs demand of service for others:
I was hungry and you formed a humanities club and discussed my hunger.
I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your chapel and prayed for my release.
I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health.
I was homeless and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God.
I was lonely and you left me alone to pray for me.
You seem so holy, so close to God.
But Im still very hungry and lonely and cold.
We must hear again the words of James: But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only (James 1:22).
Knowledge Outdistances Practice
Many Christians have allowed their knowledge of the truth to outdistance their practice. They remind me of a story in Glad Tidings by James Kallam. He tells of a young book salesman who was assigned to a rural area. Seeing a former seated in a rocking chair on his front porch, the young man approached him with all the zeal of a newly trained salesman. Sir, he said, I have here a book that will tell you how to farm 10 times better than you are doing it now. The farmer continued to rock. After a few seconds he stopped, looked at the young fellow and said, Son, I dont need your book. I already know how to farm 10 times better than Im doing it now. - P.R.V.
Substantial and Fruitful
We must observe that the knowledge of God which we are invited to cultivate is not that which, resting satisfied with empty speculation, only flutters in the brain, but a knowledge which will prove substantial and fruitful whenever it is duly perceived and rooted in the heart.
1912 - Maiden voyage of Titanic. Received message from another ship of icebergs in area. Radio operator put message under a weight at his elbow and went on with his work. It never reached the captain, and 1500 lives were lost. Information without action can result in destruction.
Ive read that when Edward VI, the king of England in the 16th century, attended a worship service, he stood while the Word of God was read. He took notes during this time and later studied them with great care. Through the week he earnestly tried to apply them to his life. Thats the kind of serious-minded response to truth the apostle James calls for in todays Scripture reading. A single revealed fact cherished in the heart and acted upon is more vital to our growth than a head filled with lofty ideas about God.
One step forward in obedience is worth years of study about it.
I read about a man in New York City who died at the age of 63 without ever having had a job. He spent his entire adult life in college. During those years he acquired so many academic degrees that they looked like the alphabet behind his name.
Why did this man spend his entire life in college? When he was a child, a wealthy relative died who had named him as a beneficiary in his will. It stated that he was to be given enough money to support him every year as long as he stayed in school. And it was to be discontinued when he had completed his education.
The man met the terms of the will, but by remaining in school indefinitely he turned a technicality into a steady income for lifesomething his benefactor never intended. Unfortunately, he spent thousands of hours listening to professors and reading books but never doing. He acquired more and more knowledge but didnt put it into practice.
This reminds me of what James said: Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only (1:22). If we read the Bible or listen as it is taught but fail to put to work what we have learned, we are as bad as that man with his string of degrees. His education was of no practical benefit to anyone.
Hearing must be matched by doing. - R.W.D.
What a terrible delusion to be content with, to delight in hearing the word, and yet not do it. And how prevalent the sight of multitudes of Christians listening to the Word of God most regularly and earnestly, and yet not doing it! If a servant were to hear but not do, how quickly the judgment would be given. And yet, so complete is the delusion, that Christians never realize they are not living good Christian lives. Why are we deluded in this way? For one thing people mistake the pleasure they have in hearing the Word of God for Christianity and worship. The mind delights in having the truth presented clearly; the imagination is gratified by its illustration; the feelings are stirred by its application. To an active mind knowledge gives pleasure. A person may study some branch of sciencesay electricityfor the enjoyment the knowledge gives him, without the least intention of applying it practically. So people go to church, and enjoy the preaching, and yet do not do what God asks.
The world does not need a definition of religion as much as it needs a demonstration.
D. L. Moody
While D. L. Moody was attending a convention in Indianapolis on mass evangelism, he asked his song leader Ira Sankey to meet him at 6 oclock one evening at a certain street corner. When Sankey arrived, Mr. Moody asked him to stand on a box and sing. Once a crowd had gathered, Moody spoke briefly and then invited the people to follow him to the nearby convention hall. Soon the auditorium was filled with spiritually hungry people, and the great evangelist preached the gospel to them. Then the convention delegates began to arrive. Moody stopped preaching and said, Now we must close, as the brethren of the convention wish to come and discuss the topic, How to reach the masses.
Moody graphically illustrated the difference between talking about doing something and going out and doing it.
Three Types of Dogs
Dr. A. T. Schofield used to point out that there were three sorts of dogs in his city of London: the wild, masterless dog that roamed the streets at will, stole his meals from garbage pails, and often came to an inglorious end in the lethal chamber of the humane society; the chained dog, which could not be trusted for more than a few feet; and the dog that knew and loved his master and responded obediently to his voice. The first of these had liberty but no law; the second had law but no liberty; whereas the last enjoyed the perfect law of liberty.
All men seem to be like one of these three dogs. The masses are utterly lawless when it comes to the authority of God. They are dominated by sin, and sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). And then, there are many who are like the dog on the leashthey have law, but no liberty. These are legalists in the religious realm. The cheerless Pharisee is the representative of thousands who, being ignorant of Gods righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:3). But the Christian who knows the truth of New Testament deliverance is like the third dog. He needs no chain but is guided by his Masters eye and his Masters voice.
Two theological students were walking along a street in the Whitechapel district of London, a section where old and used clothing is sold. What a fitting illustration all this makes! said one of the students as he pointed to a suit of clothes hanging on a rack by a window. A sign on it read: SLIGHTLY SOILEDGREATLY REDUCED IN PRICE. Thats it exactly, he continued. We get soiled by gazing at a vulgar picture, reading a course book, or allowing ourselves a little indulgence in dishonest or lustful thoughts; and so when the time comes for our character to be appraised, we are greatly reduced in value. Our purity, our strength is gone. We are just part and parcel of the general, shopworn stock of the world. Yes, continual slight deviations from the path of right may greatly reduce our usefulness to God and to our fellowman. In fact, these little secret sins can weaken our character so that when we face a moral crisis, we cannot stand the test. As a result, we go down in spiritual defeat because we have been careless about little sins.
Rotten at the Core
After a violent storm one night, a large tree, which over the years had become a stately giant, was found lying across the pathway in a park. Nothing but a splintered stump was left. Closer examination showed that is was rotten at the core because thousands of tiny insects had eaten away at its heart. The weakness of that tree was not brought on by the sudden storm; it began the very moment the first insect nested within its bark.
With the Holy Spirits help, lets be very careful to guard our purity. - H.G.B.
I read in a Taste of Joy by Calvin Miller about a wealthy woman who was found dead in her home. She had lived alone. The coroner found no organic reason for her death. Miller commented, I think the cause was neglect. She was weary of setting a single plate at the table and fixing her coffee one cup at a time. The old woman had written on her calendar only one phrase, No one came today.
- The wealth of an individual is no measure of the worth of that individual.
- The real measure of a persons wealth is how much he would be worth if he lost all his money.
I remember reading a story about a plainly dressed man who entered a church in the Netherlands and took a seat near the front. A few minutes later a woman walked down the aisle, saw the stranger in the place she always sat, and curtly asked him to leave. He quietly got up and moved to a section reserved for the poor.
When the meeting was over, a friend of the woman asked her if she knew the man she had ordered out of her seat. No, she replied. Her friend then informed her, The man you ordered out of your seat was King Oscar of Sweden! He is here visiting the Queen.
In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India.
So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned. If Christians have caste differences also, he said, I might as well remain a Hindu.
That ushers prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior.
- Zane Hodges, The Hungry Inherit, p. 109
A deplorable incident occurred in the life of Mahatma Gandhi. He said in his autobiography that during his student days he was interested in the Bible. Deeply touched by reading the gospels, he seriously considered becoming a convert. Christianity seemed to offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. One Sunday he went to a church to see the minister and ask for instruction on the way of salvation and other Christian doctrines. But when he entered the sanctuary, the ushers refused him a seat and suggested that he go and worship with his own people. He left and never went back. If Christians have caste differences also, he said to himself, I might as well remain a Hindu. - H.G.B.
- D. James Kennedy, Evangelism Explosion, 3rd Edition, pp. 98ff
Roots or Fruit'
If you hired someone to plant a garden and he asked if you wanted all roots or all fruit, what would you think? Both are essential!
Dead or Alive'
In his letter, Jamess concern is about those whose faith has no effect in their lives. His purpose is to show the difference between a dead faith and an alive or true faith (2:17-18,26). His conclusion is that any faith that is not an active faith resulting in acts of love is no faith at all. Dead faith is not valid faith. Paul would say the same thing. If we ask, Did Paul know of a faith that does not work? the answer is a resounding No! In Pauls letters, the plural works often acts as a shorthand expression for the works of the law (for example, see Rom. 3:28; 4:2), which refers to human efforts to present oneself as righteous to God. In this context the word is almost wholly viewed as negative. On the other hand, when Paul used work in the singular, it is almost always a positive term that refers to the productive life of faith. It is this latter sense of the term that James is concerned with, and his conclusions are one to which the apostle Paul would say Amen.
Faith apart from a productive life would not be acceptable to Paul. In 1 Cor. 13:2 he writes, If I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. In Gal. 5:6 he writes, In Christ Jesus circumcision accomplishes nothing nor does uncircumcision, but faith working through love does. The parallel passage in 1 Cor. 7:19 is even more surprising: Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is.
Such passages could be multiplied over and over, and the result would be the same. We are, as 1 Cor. 15:58 puts it, always to be abounding in the work of the Lord.There is no such thing as faith without obedience. In fact, Paul sometimes uses faith and obedience interchangeably (for example, in Rom. 10:16). Paul could even summarize his missionary purpose as seeking the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles (Rom. 1:5). When we consider the message of Jesus and the other New Testament writers, the result is the same.
Everywhere there is the expectation that a life in relation with God involves loving obedience to God and love for our neighbors. There is no such thing as salvation without obedience. We cannot have faith without being faithful.The only time there is tension between faith and works is when there is a misunderstanding of one or the other. There is no tension between faith and works because, properly understood, faith encompasses works and necessitates productive living. Faith works, but is does not use its activity to prove to God or people that the believer is righteous.
Faith and Works
Faith and works should travel side by side, step answering to step, like the legs of men walking. First faith, and then works; and then faith again, and then works againuntil they can scarcely distinguish which is the one and which is the other.
Law and Faith
The question is asked: how can justification take place without the works of the law, even though James says: Faith without works is dead? In answer, the apostle distinguishes between the law and faith, the letter and grace. The works of the law are works done without faith and grace, by the law, which forces them to be done through fear or the enticing promise of temporal advantages. But works of faith are those done in the spirit of liberty, purely out of love to God. And they can be done only by those who are justified by faith. An ape can cleverly imitate the actions of humans. But he is not therefore a human. If he became a human, it would undoubtedly be not by virtue of the works by which he imitated man but by virtue of something else; namely, by an act of God. Then, having been made a human, he would perform the works of humans in proper fashion.
Paul does not say that faith is without its characteristic works, but that it justifies without the works of the law. Therefore justification does not require the works of the law; but it does require a living faith, which performs its works.
ConflictJames and Paul
The well-known apparent conflict between James and Paul focuses especially on this verse. The Apostle Paul says emphatically: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8,9). Yet James, also an apostle, insists: But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:20).
There is no real conflict, of course. In our text verse, there is a definite article before the word faith. That is, James question is, literally, Can that faith save him? This is obviously intended as a rhetorical question, with a negative answer. In the context, James is saying that a profession of faith is not enough to produce salvation, if that faith have not works.
Since that kind of faith does not save, then what kind of faith does save? The answer is given by Paul, in the very verses quoted above. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and thati.e., that faith (which is the inference in the original)is not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. In other words, true saving faith is not a man-generated faith of some kind; it is a supernatural gift of God! And that faith does save, because it is part of the new nature implanted by the Holy Spirit when a new believer is born again. Furthermore, this faith does inevitably produce good works, for the verse following says that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
Faith must be faith in something, of course, and true saving faith must have its proper object. It must be centered in the saving gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in His inerrant Word. Such faith will inevitably result in a changed life and good works, as well as a sound and growing confidence in the deity of Christ, His substitutionary death and bodily resurrection, the full authority of Scripture and the assurance of ones personal salvation. That is the faith that saves. - HMM
- Belief and BehaviorIf you dont live it, you dont believe it.
- Faith in many ways is like a wheelbarrow. You have to put some real push behind it to make it work.
Faith and Works
An old boatman painted the word faith on one oar of his boat and works on the other. He was asked his reason for this. In answer, he slipped the oar with faith into the water and rowed. The boat, of course, made a very tight circle. Returning to the dock, the boatman then said, Now, lets try works without faith and see what happens. The oar marked works was put in place and the boatman began rowing with just the works oar. Again the boat went into a tight circle but in the opposite direction.
When the boatman again returned to the wharf, he interpreted his experiment in these strong and convincing words, You see, to make a passage across the lake, one needs both oars working simultaneously in order to keep the boat in a straight and narrow way. If one does not have the use of both oars, he makes no progress either across the lake nor as a Christian.
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was brushing his mane-like white hair when his son Bramwell stepped into the room. Bramwell! he cried. Did you know that men sleep out all night on the bridges? Well, yes, the son replied. A lot of poor fellows I suppose do that. Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself to have known it and to have done nothing for them! his father retorted. And when the son began to talk about the Poor Law program, General Booth waved a hand and said, Go and do something! We must do something! What can we do? Get them a shelter! That will cost money, replied Bramwell. Well, that is your affair. Something must be done. Get hold of a warehouse and warm it, and find something to cover them. But mind, Bramwell, no coddling!
That was the beginning of Salvation Army shelters.
True Faith = True Godliness
You will never find true faith unattended by true godliness; nor will you ever discover a truly holy life which does not have at its root a living faith based upon the righteousness of Christ. Woe to those who seek one without the other! There are some who cultivate faith and forget holiness. These may be very high in orthodoxy, but they shall be very deep in condemnation, for they hold the truth in unrighteousness. There are others who have strained after holiness of life, but have denied the faith, like the Pharisees whom the Master said were whitewashed sepulchers.
We must have faith, for this is the foundation; we must have holiness of life, for this is the superstructure. We need the superstructure of spiritual life if we would have comfort in the day of doubt. But do not seek a holy life without faith, for that would be to erect a house which can afford no permanent shelter, because it is not founded on a rock.
- So Great Salvation, Charles Ryrie, Victor Books, 1989, pp. 132ff
- Difficult Passages in the Epistles, R. Stein, Baker, 1988, p. 31
Root and Fruit
Insist on itinwardly, in the spirit, before God, man is justified by faith alone, without works; but outwardly and publicly, before the people and himself, he is justified through his works. That is, he thereby becomes known and certain himself that he honestly believes.
Call the one a public justification, the other an inward justification, in this sense that the public justification is a fruit, a result, a proof of the justification in the heart. Accordingly, man is not justified by it before God, but must previously be justified before Him. In the same way, the fruits of the tree proclaim the obvious goodness of the tree, which follows and proves its inner, natural goodness. This is what James means in his epistle when he says: Faith without works is dead. The fact that works do not follow is a certain sign that there is not faith, but only a dead thought and dream, which people falsely call faith.
A familiar story tells of an old Scotsman who operated a rowboat to transport passengers. On one oar he had written the word Faith, while the other bore the word Works. The point of the story, of course, is that pulling on either oar alone would simply make one go around and around in circles. Both oars must be used to make any progress at all.
James and Paul
James stresses the work of the believer in relation to faith; Paul stresses the work of Christ in relation to faith. James is concerned that the outcome of faith be fruit (2:14) so that no one be able to confuse creed with Christianity; Paul in concerned that the object of faith be Christ, unmixed with self-reliance or self-righteousness.
James writes shortly after the resurrection, when the church was Jewish and the Old Testament well known; Paul writes later, when the conversion of gentiles raised questions never asked or thought of earlier.
James argues straightforwardly that Abraham was justified by works. When was Abraham justified by works? When he offered Isaac on the altar. To understand this, we need to bear in mind that James is using the term justification in a different sense, with a different nuance, than Paul does. Paul deals with the issue of how a sinner is reconciled to a just and holy God.
He uses the term justification in its supreme theological sense. James, however, is asking how a person is justified before men, not before God. His question is: How do we know that a person has authentic faith? Jesus said, By their fruit you will recognize them (Matthew 7:16). James labors in the second chapter of his epistle to show that a persons true faith is shown outwardly by acts of obedience or works of righteousness. He says, Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do (James 2:18).
Now, does God need to see your works to know if you have faith or not? Of course not. James is speaking of mans sight. Paul says that in Gods sight, Abraham was justified by faith (Genesis 15). However, James says that in mans sight the most telling proof that Abraham was a justified man is that he was willing to obey God even to the point of offering up his only son on the altar.
Theme of James
How can we reconcile James and Paul? We have to remember the theme of James 2. James is arguing against those who profess faith but have no good worked to prove it. consider this question: Is justification by faith or by profession of faith?
Clearly, justification is only by true, humble faith, which always and inevitably issues in faithful works. Paul is speaking of legal justification before the eyes of God, while James is speaking of visible justification before the eyes of men.
Martin Luther on Living Faith
The true, living faith, which the Holy Spirit instills into the heart, simply cannot be idle.
- Leadership V, 1, 55
How Much Do You Care'
A young boy, on an errand for his mother, had just bought a dozen eggs. Walking out of the store, he tripped and dropped the sack. All the eggs broke, and the sidewalk was a mess. The boy tried not to cry. A few people gathered to see if he was OK and to tell him how sorry they were. In the midst of the works of pity, one man handed the boy a quarter. Then he turned to the group and said, I care 25 cents worth. How much do the rest of you care?
James 2:16 points out that words dont mean much if we have the ability to do more.
When we believe in Christ as Savior and Lord, we long to express our faith through some act of love. The apostle Paul spoke of faith working through love (Gal. 5:16). We demonstrate what we believe, not only by what we say but also by what we do. The genuineness of our faith, therefore, is proven by our works.
An incident in the life of John Wesley illustrates this truth. An associate of Wesley, Samuel Bradburn, was highly respected by his friends and used by God as an effective preacher. On one occasion he was in rather desperate financial need. When Wesley learned of his circumstances, he sent him a five-pound note (then worth about $10) with the following letter:
Dear Sammy: Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Yours affectionately, John Wesley.
Bradburns reply was prompt.
Rev. and Dear Sir: I have often been struck with the beauty of the passage of Scripture quoted in your letter, but I must confess that I never saw such a useful expository note on it before.
Someone has said, Pious talk cannot take the place of downright helpfulness. This is especially true in the matter of both faith and love. To profess faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and ignore the needs of fellow believers is incongruous, for the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).
Lets learn from John Wesley and from James by giving a practical exposition of our faith every day. - P.R.V.
- Charles C. Ryrie, So Great Salvation, (USA: Victor Books, a Division of Scripture Press, 1989), pp. 132ff
- Charles Swindoll, Starting Over, p. 25
- Charles Swindoll, Growing Strong, p. 169
War Over a Soccer Game
- The Rest of the Story, p. 157
Man Doesnt Want Whats Best
Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give because He would give the best, and man will not take it.
Suppose that in a certain community lives a man and his wife who love each other very much. Across the street lives a man who develops a hatred for the womans husband. One night he invades their home and kills him. Although he is arrested, a loophole in the law allows him to escape punishment, and he is released to return to the community. Now imagine that in a few short weeks you see the widow and her husbands murderer walking down the street together. Her hand is slipped into his arm and she looks smilingly into his face. She says to him, Im so happy. What would you say about a woman like that? Surely you would brand her as disloyal to her husbands memory and unworthy to bear his name.
We must never forget that this godless world hated Jesus enough to kill Him. One who walks hand in hand with a system headed by our Lords enemies and becomes friendly with them is disloyal to Jesus Christ. Only those who keep themselves unspotted from the world (James 1:27) have a right to bear the name Christian. Lets avoid all unholy alliances. -P.R.V.
Like many sheep ranchers in the West, Lexy Fowler has tried just about everything to stop crafty coyotes from killing her sheep. She has used odor sprays, electric fences, and scare-coyotes. She has slept with her lambs during the summer and has placed battery-operated radios near them. She has corralled them at night, herded them at day. But the southern Montana rancher has lost scores of lambsfifty last year alone.
Then she discovered the llamathe aggressive, funny-looking, afraid-of-nothing llama. Llamas dont appear to be afraid of anything, she said. When they see something, they put their head up and walk straight toward it. That is aggressive behavior as far as the coyote is concerned, and they wont have anything to do with that. Coyotes are opportunists, and llamas take that opportunity away.
Apparently llamas know the truth of what James writes: Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you (4:7). The moment we sense his attack through temptation is the moment we should face it and deal with it for what it is.
- Restoring Fellowship, Ken & Joy Gage, Moody, 1984, pp. 25ff
- Decision Making and the Will of God, p. 210
Hiding from Death
An old legend tells of a merchant in Bhagdad who one day sent his servant to the market. Before very long, the servant came back, white and trembling, and in great agitation said to his master: Down in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd, and when I turned around, I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture. Master, please lend me your horse, for I must hasten away to avoid her. I will ride to Samaria, and there I will hide and death will not find me.
The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant galloped away in great haste. Later, the merchant went down to the market place and saw Death standing in the crowd. He went over to her and asked, Why did you frighten my servant this morning? Why did you make a threatening gesture?
That was not a threatening gesture, Death said. It was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bhagdad, for I have an appointment with him tonight in Samaria.
Each of us has an appointment in Samaria. But that is cause for rejoicingnot for fear, provided we have put our trust in Him who alone holds the keys to Life and Death.
Red Velvet Dress
Leo Buscalia spoke of an older man whose wife always wanted to buy a red velvet dress. He objecteddidnt like it. He thought it looked too showy, too expensive. Finally she died, and he asked, Do you think it would be okay if I buried her in it?
A Specific Application
This familiar passage is a difficult passage. Many suffering Christians have tried in all sincerity to follow the instructions given here, yet have not been healed. This may be because the promise has a specific, rather than general, application.
First, is anyone afflicted? This word means troubled, referring especially to persecution or deprivation. For such a person, the admonition is: Let him pray. Assuming that he is right with God, and is praying in His will (1 John 5:14,15), he can expect either the needed relief or the needed grace.
Secondly: Is there one who is sick? Here the Greek word actually refers to physical illness. However, the context shows that this particular sickness has come specifically since (the true connotation of if) he have committed sins. There are many weak and sickly believers who have so persistently refused to judge and confess their sins (1 Corinthians 11:30-32) that the Lord finally has laid them aside with sickness or injury. The remedy is for such a person to call for the church elders (not the reverse), and let them pray (after he has first openly confessed and repented of his sins) in faith anointing him with oil. then the promise is that, if the elders themselves have faith and are right with God, the Lord will forgive his sins and raise him up.
Furthermore, their prayer of faith will save the sick. The Greek word in this case means wearied, rather than ill, and it tells us that the sinner has been delivered from the heavy burden of guilt which had wearied his soul, as well as the illness which had weakened his body. There are other reasons for illness besides unrepented sin, when other courses of action are indicated, but this is a wonderful promise of both spiritual and physical healing when sin is the problem. - HMM
- Loving Across Our Differences, by Gerald L. Sittser, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), pp. 103ff
- Bibliotheca Sacra, 138:551:258
Men of the Cloth
Four men of the cloth, taking a short breather from their heavy schedules, were on a park bench, chatting and enjoying an early spring day.
You know, since all of us are such good friends, said one, this might be a good time to discuss the problems that are disturbing us. They all nodded in agreement.
Well, I would like to share with you the fact that I drink to excess, said one.
There was a gasp from the other three. Then another spoke up. Since you were so honest, Id like to say that my big problem is gambling. Its terrible, I know, but I cant quit. Ive even been tempted to take money from the collection plate.
Another gasp was heard, and the third clergyman spoke. Im really troubled, brothers, because Im growing fond of a woman in my churcha married woman.
More gasps. But the fourth man remained silent. After a few minutes the others coaxed him to open up. The fact is, he said, I just dont know how to tell you about my problem.
Its all right, brother. Your secret is safe with us.
Well, its this way, he said. You see, Im an incurable gossip.
I would let no man take confession away from me, and I would not give it up for all the treasures of the world, since I know what comfort and strength it has given me.
- Will God heal usa re-examination of James 5:14-16a, Gary Shogren, The Best In Theology, v.4, p. 75ff
- Divine Healing Today, Richard Mayhue, Moody Press, pp. 109ff
Research at San Francisco General Hospital has revealed that victims of heart attack, heart failure and other cardiac problems who were remembered in prayers fared better than those who were not. Cardiologist Randy Byrd assigned 192 patients to the prayed-for group and 201 patients to the not-prayed-for group. All patients were in the coronary intensive care unit. Patients, doctors and nurses did not know which group patients were in. Prayer group members were scattered around the nation and given only the first names, diagnoses and prognoses of patients. The researcher said that the results were dramatic.
The prayed-for group had significantly fewer complications than the unremembered group. And fewer members of the former died. The latter group was five times more likely to develop infections requiring antibiotics, and three times more likely to develop a lung condition, leading to heart failure. These findings were published in the American Heart Association.
Too often our petitions fit the description of prayer given by Thomas Brooks, who said, Cold prayers are as arrows without heads, as swords without edges, as birds without wings; they pierce not, they cut not, they fly not up to heaven. Cold prayers always freeze before they reach heaven. To become more effective in our praying, we should heed these words of Bishop Hall: It is not the arithmetic of our prayers, how many they are; nor the rhetoric of our prayers, how eloquent they be; nor the geometry of our prayers, how long they be; nor the music of our prayers, how sweet our voice may be; nor the method of our prayers, how orderly they may be; nor even the theology of our prayers, how good the doctrine may bewhich God cares for. Fervency of spirit is that which availeth much.
James reminds us that Elijah prayed earnestly. And what answers he receivedthe very forces of nature were changed! By contrast, indefinite praying by indifferent people brings little results. Fervent prayer, if it be for Gods glory and presented in the name of His Son, will accomplish great things for time and eternity. - PR.V.
- Evangelical Preaching, Charles Simeon, p. 185