Exhortation 7/12/03 Reading - James Chapter 1
讲道词 2003年12月7日 读经：雅各书第一章
My dear brothers and sisters,
As James begins his letter to the believers, he speaks of the trials and temptations that try our faith. These are often the hardships of everyday life which put our faith to the test, but the result is that they develop patience in us. James encourages us not to become depressed, but rather to “count it all joy” because we realise that these trials are developing that faithful patience that is pleasing to God. This is very difficult at times for us all, particularly when desperate circumstances come on us, or we feel very lonely, and may be the only believer in our area. Perhaps we earn very little money and struggle every day to have enough food to eat, often working very long days just to have these basic things of life. Yet to “count” all our trials “joy” is to see that in all these things God is with us and, even though the way is difficult, He won’t forsake us but will rather give us the wonderful reward of the Kingdom at the end. In order to “count it all joy” we need to have faith—faith that God is going to honour His Word, faith that He is always with us, even in those times when we feel perhaps He has left us. Faith is a very important thing to God, in fact it is impossible for us to please God if we do not have faith (Hebrews 11:6).
However at times we may be perplexed at the trials we face, unable to see the reason for them. If that is the case James says: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally” (v5). This wisdom helps us to understand the lessons we may learn from the trial. It will enable us to believe that God is in control, for He knows what we are going through and cares for us. We must ask in faith, as James says: “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed” (v6). We must have a solid unmoveable faith, no matter how turbulent the trial is to our mind. We must not be “double minded” which means we must not have “two minds”. A “double minded” person is one who does not know whether to trust in God or not. He is torn between the cares of this life and a complete trust in his God.
James now contrasts two brethren in the ecclesia, the lowly brother and the rich brother. The brother of “low degree” or of “lowly status” in this life must “rejoice in that he is exalted” in Jesus Christ. He must always remember the wonderful status he holds as a brother of Christ and a son of the living God. In Jesus Christ the honour, riches and glory of the Kingdom will be his when Jesus Christ returns. James says in 2:5: “Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?”. Our treasure is in heaven. So if you are not a wealthy person by worldly status, don’t be concerned by this and spend all your mental energy thinking of ways to become rich or how you can get more. Rejoice because the riches of the Kingdom will be yours.
To the rich brother or sister, and there are some in the brotherhood, James says to rejoice, not because they have riches, but rejoice because they are made low! This brother or sister must realise that any wealth they have has been given to them by God to use in His service. Such wealth cannot give eternal life. James reminds us that we are all mortal and like the flowers of the field we will finally pass away in death.
James returns to the original thought about enduring under trials. Trials are for a specific purpose, James says: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (v12). When we see the great purpose of God we can see trials in the correct perspective.
God is going to fill the earth with His Glory—His Glory is His character. How will the earth be filled with God’s character? By filling the earth with people who have developed in their mortal life, a character like God’s. But how do we develop the character of God? Or, how does God develop His character in us? By trials! Trials are designed specially for us as individuals to test our faith and teach us lessons that God wants us to learn. God knows every one of us individually and because He knows our natural character faults, the trials are suited specifically to each individual according as God thinks best, to develop His character or Glory in us.
The only thing that we are going to take with us from this life now into the kingdom is our character! If our character is not like God’s there will be nothing about us that God will love and desire to make immortal. This is why trials must be understood and endured because, at the end, they will have developed God’s character in us, and then we “shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (v12).
James in v 13-15 shows that the temptations that arise from our sinful nature are quite different from the trials that come to test our faith. The trials to test our faithfulness God allows, but He certainly is not the source of temptation to sin. It is a fundamental of the character of our God and Father that “God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man” (v13). In contrast to this James quite clearly tells us, “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (v14).
It is our own human nature that tempts us to sin. The sinful desires that our mind invents to satisfy it and give it pleasure are the source of temptation. It is at this point we must immediately put away the thought or the temptation from our minds. Paul says that those who follow Christ “have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof” (Galatians 5:24). By this he means they must always strive to put to death the evil thoughts and desires that come into their mind.
Then in v15 James shows the great disaster that results if we do allow those evil thoughts to gain control over our actions: “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death”. Note how James describes the way we are led to sin. He uses the analogy of the way a child is begotten. First the little lustful thought enters our mind and if we nourish it and encourage it to grow it will. Because we loved the thought and let it grow, finally it brings forth that horrible result—sin. Finally we allow it to turn into an action of disobedience to God’s ways. And as James so clearly points out, sin “when it is finished, bringeth forth death”. The wages of sin is death. We have allowed that first lustful thought to develop and take us down the path to death.
As we have come today to remember our Lord how thankful we are that though he “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet (he was) without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He always did his Father’s will and has given us an example to follow.
Let us remember that God “of his own will begat he us with the word of truth” (v18). God has begotten us to be His children and He has done this through His Word. His Word has taken root in our minds and if we continue to nurture it as we daily read and meditate upon it, then it will develop in us a character like our Father in heaven. In the days of James those who believed were like the firstfruits of God’s children, but here we are now 2000 years later and we likewise are children begotten by God through His Word.
Rather than allowing lustful temptations to grow in our minds and bring forth sin and then death, we must let the Word of God dwell there and develop in us the character of our Father. By this we will be seen to be sons and daughters of the living God. How are we to do this? James tells us that we must be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (v19). If we are busy talking we are not listening. James says we must be quick to take the opportunities to hear the Word of God and allow it to be our meditation.
We need to take decisive action to ensure we are listening to the Word of God each day. To do this James says we must “lay aside all filthiness and abounding of wickedness”, and when we have done this then we must “receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (v21).
However just reading or listening to talks about the Bible is not enough. James goes on to say: "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves”. We can deceive ourselves if we just listen to the Word but do not then try to live by what we learn. We must be “doers of the word”. It must become a way of life to us.
In concluding this section James points to one of the easiest way we can examine if the Word of God is not having the effect on our minds that it should. It is in our speech. We may have an appearance of religion or Godly fear, but if we cannot control our tongue and what we speak it shows that we have not allowed the Word of God to control our mind and what we think.
However it is not just the words that we speak but also our actions that will show that we truly have been begotten by the Word of God as His children. Thus James concludes by saying: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (v27). And so the person who both “hears” and “does” the Word of God will demonstrate its effects in his life in both positive and negative ways. He will do those positive things of caring for the widow and fatherless, but he will also remove from his life any worldly ways that can defile him in mind or body.
So as we now partake of the bread and wine, let us remember that our Lord has given us the example. He was not just a hearer but a doer of his Father’s will. He was obedient in all things, refusing to allow temptation to turn him from doing his Father’s will. Let us now partake of the bread and wine and seek strength to follow in the steps he has shown us.