These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the book of James. It has not been proofed for grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
Real life involves ups and downs. Real life includes things going well and things going not-so-well. Real life includes acceptance and rejection, understanding and misunderstanding, and happiness and sadness. Real life involves births and deaths, and health and sickness. Real life includes peace and war, laughter and crying, winning and losing, standing up and getting knocked down. Whatever you are going through and no matter what’s happening, it’s call life and it’s a real life.
As you go through life, you will need real faith. A faith that trust God when life doesn’t make sense, isn’t fair, and doesn’t turn out the way you wanted… a faith that trust God and remains humble when life feels successful, abundant, and it is turning out better than you dreamed possible. You need a real faith for a real life. This is what the book of James is all about… faith.
But what is faith? Let’s start with a simple definition. Faith is the ability and attitude to believe what God says is true and to respond in obedience. This is saying, “God, I don’t understand this trial I’m going through, I don’t know why you let this happen at this time and I sure don’t want it… but I trust you and I’m confident that all things work together for good to those who love you and are called according to your purpose. So, by faith I’m going to believe you and by faith I’m going to obey you.”
The book of James is given to you, to help you to have real faith for real life. James 1:1 says, “This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am writing to the “twelve tribes” – Jewish believers scattered abroad. Greetings!” (NLT). Last week we learned some lessons from the person of James, today I want us to consider some overall lessons from the book of James. I want us to take a look at “this letter.” I want us to fly over the letter of James and get the big picture and look at the landscape that we are about to walk through over the next several months.
Today, I want to give you five points, five lessons that summarize each chapter of James. They all have to do with real faith.
Real faith perseveres through problems (James 1)
Number one, real faith perseveres through problems. In the middle of chapter 1 in verse 12 we are told, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation” (NLT). You are going to be tested. You cannot escape it. You will be tested by troubles and by temptation. You will be pressured to give into problems and you will be pressured to give in to sin. But the way you are able to “endure” these troubles and temptations is by faith – by your complete trust and confidence in what God says.
In James 1, God is going to tell you that your trouble is an opportunity for you to grow. Your faith and trust in God causes you to see problems as an opportunity to develop some spiritual muscle, to grow a spiritual backbone and become stronger than you thought you could be. The only way you are going to get spiritually stronger and have greater spiritual endurance is learning to walk by faith through problems.
According to chapter 1 you will need to trust God through your trial (vs.2-4), you will need to ask for God’s wisdom (vs. 5-8), and when things start getting really bad you need to remember that only good things come from God (12-18), you must trust God with your emotions (19-21), you must trust God with what He tells you to do (vs. 22-25), and have a determination to live out your faith in God by blessing others (vs.26-27) even while going through your personal temptations and troubles.
Real faith perseveres through problems. Real faith doesn’t quit. Real faith keeps on trusting God. Real faith does what God says to do. Real faith blesses. Real faith prays. That’s what James 1 is all about. Is that something you and I need in our life? Yes it is!
You can summarize this chapter by saying, By faith I will see my problems as an opportunity to grow and mature and become a stronger follower of Jesus. I will seek out God’s wisdom. When my problems get bad I will not blame God because I know every good thing comes from Him and I will control my emotions so that I continue to walk by faith and not by feelings so that I can be a blessing to others even when it seems like my world is falling apart. I will not quit and I will not give up.
Real faith applies the truth (James 2)
Number two, real faith applies the truth. James 2:17, “Faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless” (NLT). The kind of faith this is talking about is the kind of faith that believes in the existence of God, but not in the authority of God. You may believe in the existence of God, but so does the devil. Real faith believes in Jesus, but also lives for Jesus. This real faith demonstrates itself in “good deeds” called authentic love.
In chapter 2, James is going to tell us what real faith looks like when it expresses authentic love by not showing favoritism (1-13), what authentic love looks like when meeting real needs (14-17), and what authentic love looks like when loving God (19-26).
In James 2, you will be introduced to three types of faith…
- One is called dead faith: Involves only the mind. This deals with the intellect and knowledge. The person with death faith has heard and believes the facts about Jesus, about God, about heaven and hell and other subjects. They intellectually accept the information they have heard, but there is no transformation. This is information without transformation. Dead faith.
- Another one is called demonic faith: involves only the mind and emotions. This person hears the truth and intellectually understands it and emotionally responds to it but without transformations. This is what James tells us in 2:19 when he says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.” The demons believe the truth about God and have an emotional response, but no obedience, no change, no transformation. It’s a demonic faith.
- A third type is called a dynamic faith: involves the mind, emotions, and will. You heard the truth and intellectually accept it and you have an emotional response to it AND you obey it, you change, you repent, you stop doing something and begin doing something. Dynamic faith, real faith involves all of you… your mind, emotions, and will. Another way to say this is, “I will love God with all my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength.”
You can summarize this chapter by saying, By faith I will hear God’s truth, understand it with my mind, feel it with my heart, and obey it with my will. I will have a dynamic faith that produces good deeds, that proves I’m a follower of Jesus, and continues seeks to be transformed by the power of God.
Real faith expresses wisdom (James 3)
Number three, real faith expresses wisdom. James 3:13 says, “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom” (NLT).
In chapter 3, James is going to tell us what real wisdom is and how it is expressed in what we say (1-12) and in what we do (13-18).
In James 3 you will be introduced to wisdom. James 3:13 says, “If you are wise and understand God’s way, prove it by living an honorable life….” Heavenly wisdom is seen in what you do, how you act, how you talk, how you respond, and how you treat others. “if you are wise and understand God’s way, prove it by living an honorable life….” An honorable life is life that honors others, that honors God, and honors you. An honorable life is one marked by humility, gentleness, mercy, and sincerity.
You can summarize this chapter by saying, By faith I will seek out God’s wisdom in order to understand God’s way. I will prove God’s wisdom operating in my life by living an honorable life. I will speak to those in my life with gentle and kind words, I will show mercy to those who have hurt me, rather than exalting myself I will humble myself and instead of wearing a mask I will be sincere and real. By faith, I will honor God, others, and me.
Real faith draws close to God (James 4)
Number four, real faith draws close to God. James 4:7 says, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you” (NLT).
In chapter 4, James is going to tell us that drawing close to God involves resisting the world (1-10), resisting the urge to speak evil against others (11-12), and to resist having self-confidence apart from God for tomorrow (13-17).
The phrase in verse 7 is an invitation, “Come close to God.” God is saying, “Walk toward Me, not away from Me. Sit with Me. Walk with Me. Live life with Me. Let me show you, teach you, strengthen you, and guide you. Come close to Me. Let me hold you when you are weak, let me pick you up when you are down, and let me love you when you feel unwanted.” Come close to God. Put down what you think is so important and come close to God. Don’t stand away from Him, walk towards Him. In chapter 4, you will discover the impact and the difference being close to God has on your life.
You can summarize this chapter by saying, By faith I will draw close to God. I will make time for Him. I will talk to Him and listen to His Word. I will intentionally oppose the devil’s enticements. I will make the presence of God a priority in my life. I will embrace what God has for me and walk with Him through the valleys and on the mountain tops of life.
Real faith prays through difficulties (James 5)
Number five, real faith prays through difficulties. One of the key themes in James 5 is prayer. For example in James 5:17 we are told, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (NLT).
In chapter 5, James is going to tell us that we need to pray through difficult times like when we lose our wealth (1-6), when we are criticized for our faith (7-12), when we are sick (13-17), when a loved one wanders away from the truth (19-20). During those times you need to pray.
I do not know exactly how prayer works, but I do know that God says that talking to Him “has great power and produces wonderful results.” Do you want to experience God’s power? Then pray. Do you want to produce wonderful results from your life? Then pray. Whenever we pray something happens in the unseen world. We may not see what is happening, but God somehow takes our prayers and puts them to work at changing our attitudes, causing problems to become opportunities, to bring restoration where there is brokenness, and healing where there is pain. But I do know that real faith prays through difficulties.
Chapter 5 can be summarized this way, By faith I will be persistent in praying for wisdom and for others. If I were to lose it all, I will keep on praying. If I’m criticized for my faith, I will keep on praying. If I get deathly sick, I will continue praying. If someone I care about wanders away from God’s truth, I will lift them up before God with intensity. I will be faithful in talking to God.
Real life requires real faith. Through James, God is going to teach us what it means to trust and obey Him through real life situations. Some of you are going through the most trying times of your life, right now. You need faith in God and God wants to strengthen that faith through James.
Let me recommend some things for you:
- Last week I encouraged you to sit down and read through the book of James in one sitting. This week I encourage you to read one chapter a day (remember one chapter is only a page long) and then go back to the “Do It” statement in your outline and read that. If you can, try to do this in the mornings. Then watch what God does with what He says throughout your day.
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