These are my notes from a sermon series. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
If you have your Bibles you can open them to James 1:19. Today, we begin a new series of lessons on Genuine Faith and what it looks like in real life.
- While you are turning to James, let me say thank you. This past month you showered your pastoral staff with various gifts and words of encouragement. We thank you and consider it a joy to be your pastors. We are glad God called us here and has appointed us to you.
James 1:19-21 says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls” (NLT).
To understand what James is saying you must understand the context of these verses.
James addresses God’s Word and salvation
James addresses God’s Word and how to receive salvation
James addresses God’s Word and how to respond to salvation
This is not really about being quick to listen to others, or slow to speak in a group, or slow to become angry when others offend you. It is really about being quick to listen to God’s Word, slow to speak in writing off God’s Word, and slow to become angry when you disagree with something in God’s Word.
James understands that you are going to read God’s Word or hear it preached and taught and you are going to struggle with it. You are going to come across sections that are going to be hard to understand and it will be frustrating. You are going to see sections in God’s Word that you don’t like what it says about being a man, being a woman, parenting, money, suffering, heaven, and hell and you will be tempted to get angry at God and His Word. James knows that God’s Word can be used to make you angry, irritated, mad, frustrated, and annoyed at God.
So, James wants to help us receive the Word of God even when we don’t like what we just read. He gives us five things we need to apply to our lives, as believers, when it comes to receiving His Word. These things will help us maximize the benefits of letting God’s Word take root in our lives. If you want to receive the most from God’s Word here are some things James tells us we need to do.
Concentrate: I am to listen carefully to God’s Word
The first thing we are told deals with your concentration: you are to listen carefully to God’s Word. We are told that we are to “be quick to listen” when it comes to God’s Word. Remember, the first part of James 1 is about facing trials and temptations. So “be quick to listen” to what God’s Word says about the trial and temptations you are facing. Be quick to find out what God says about the problem you are facing.
- When you are reading the Bible, don’t read it quickly. Read it slowly, but listen quickly. Focus on what God is saying to you. Think about what the Bible means and how it applies to you. The Holy Spirit will help you in this.
- When you are listening to a sermon. Ask God, “God what are you saying to me through this?” Pay attention to what God may be telling you.
Be quick to listen to what God has to say about you and your trial. He wants to talk to you and He wants you to hear from Him. Let Him share His wisdom into your life. Be quick to listen.
Control: Pause your reaction to God’s Word
The second thing we are told deals with control: you are to pause your reaction to God’s Word. That sounds funny, but let me explain. James says, “You must all be quick to listen [and] slow to speak….” What does this mean? What does be “slow to speak” mean? James is specifically talking about how to react toward God’s Word when we don’t like it, when it bothers us or upsets us. James is saying, “When you are hearing the Word of God and you come across something that makes you angry be slow to speak against it.” When you don’t like what you have heard from God pause and think about it. Reflect on what God is saying, before you rush to judgement. If we are not careful, what we will do is in our mind start saying things like…
- I don’t believe that’s true
- That doesn’t apply to me
- I do need to change my life in that area, but God doesn’t really care about it
- God does not mean that
We will start telling ourselves and speaking to ourselves things that help us to ignore God’s Word, reject God’s Word, or completely redefine it from what it really is saying.
So when you are facing a temptation or a trial be quick to listen to what God’s Word says and slow to speak against it. Sometimes God allows things to happen that seem unfair, unjust, and unkind. Job faced all this during his trials and temptations.
In the book of Job, we are told about this man named Job who went from one disaster after another. All his children died, his employees died, His live stock was stolen, and he became deathly sick with boils on his body. God allowed all this to happen. Job did not know what was actually going on in the spiritual world behind all these tragedies, but God was up to something very specific and incredible. As Job goes through all this he is getting advice from his wife and his friends. He is seeking God and trying to understand what is going on. You go through 39 chapters of this horrible time in Job’s life, but then you get to chapter 40 and God shows up and talks to Job. So, in Job 40:1 we hear this…
Then the Lord said to Job,
2 “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty?
You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”
3 Then Job replied to the Lord,
4 “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers?
I will cover my mouth with my hand.
5 I have said too much already.
I have nothing more to say.”
Job said, “Lord, since I really don’t know what’s going on here, I am just going to be quiet. I am going to listen to what you have to say about what is happening to me and how I should respond.” Job is through arguing with God about his situation and he is now ready to listen and hear what God has to say. So the very next thing God says to Job is this, “Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: ‘Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them” (v.6, NLT). In other words, “Job, what you are about to hear is going to hurt and you may not like the answers I’m about to give you.” Sometimes God’s answers to our trials and temptations are not what we want to hear, but it’s what we need to hear. Therefore, we need to be quick to listen to God and slow to speak against Him and His plan.
Contain: Manage my anger toward God’s Word
This brings us to number three, which deals with containing: This is where you manage your anger toward God and His Word. James says in verse 19, “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (NLT). This word “angry” (orge) does not refer to an explosive outburst of temper but to an inner, deep resentment that seethes and smolders, often unnoticed by others. In this context, James is speaking particulairy about “anger” at God and His Word.
Why would Christians get angry with God?
- God’s children may get angry with God because He didn’t provide the way they wanted God to provide.
- Some of God’s people get mad at God because He didn’t heal them or heal the person they care about.
- Some followers of Jesus get frustrated with God because God let’s bad things happen.
- Some believers get angry with God because God doesn’t answer their prayers the way they wanted.
- Some believers get mad with God because from their perspective God doesn’t seem to care.
- They get upset with God when God allows bad things to happen to good people or to children.
Why does James tell us to be “slow to get angry” with God and His Word? He tells us in verse 20, “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” When you get angry at God and what He says, you will begin to ignore God, reject God, or reinterpret what God says in order for you to justify what you want… and all that “does not produce” the kind of life “God desires” for you. Remember, James is written to believers facing trials and temptations. Trails are tough, hard, difficult, uncomfortable and often painful in many ways and it’s within those trials you may be tempted to become quickly angry at God. James says be slow to become angry, allow God time to show you what is going on. Allow God to work in this and in your life before you write Him off.
Consent: I am to accept God’s Word
This takes us to number four, which deals with consent: I am to accept God’s Word. To consent to something or someone is to agree with them and give them authority over the situation. It doesn’t necessarily mean you like it or enjoy it or understand it, but you accept their decision. As a result of being quick to listen to God, slow to speak against what He says, and slow to become angry with Him you apply verse 21 which says, “So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts.”
- Look at the phrase, “So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives” – The word “so” refers back to what James has just said throughout chapter one. “So” or since God’s Word is used in your salvation, since it is used to help you go through trials and triumph over temptation “get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives.”
Don’t forget what James is talking about. He is telling us how to receive God’s Word when going through trials and temptations. The word “filth” refers to any sort of moral defilement or impurity. It is closely related to a term used of wax in the ear, which hinders hearing. When you have a lot of wax in your ear, you don’t hear as well. James is saying, “Get rid of the spiritual wax (the filth) in your life, because it is clogging up your spiritual ears to hear from God’s Word.” Since you have spiritual wax in your spiritual ears you aren’t hearing a spiritual word for your spiritual life.
- Then we are told, “humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts” – If you are a believer, the Word of God has already been planted within you. It is a past act, a done deal. James is picturing your life as a garden in which a seed has been planted. God planted His truth in you, that’s how you became a believer. You heard the truth about Jesus and your sin. You accepted the truth about Jesus’ forgiveness and grace and as a result you placed your faith in Him for salvation. But along the way, God has also planted truth in you about how you treat people, how you respond to difficult situations, and what is wrong and right. James is saying, while you are going through trials, accept that truth and apply it to your life.
Consequences: Experience God’s Word
When you are quick to listen to God, slow to explain away what He says, and slow to become angry at Him, and humbly accept what He says you will experience the good consequences that come from that. This is where you and I can experience God’s Word. Look at verse 21 again, “So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” James is not talking to people who need to get saved. He is talking to believers, people who are already saved. They are already forgiven and on their way to heaven. So, what does “save your souls” mean?
The word “save” means to rescue, protect, or to prevent something from happening. When you receive God’s Word into your life your “soul” is protected in some way and rescued from something.
The word “soul” refers to three distinct things. Your mind, your will, and your emotions. Here is what this means, when you receive God’s Word into your life by believing it and applying it the following will happen.
- To “save your soul” means your mind will be saved. Your mind will be rescued from thinking only about you, only about things that are temporary, and only things that are of this world. Your mind and way of thinking changes and you begin thinking at a higher level about life and things eternal. You will start setting your mind on things above, things that are pure, just, right, and praise worthy.
- To “save your soul” means your will, will be saved. Your will is your decision maker, your behavior, your actions and why you do and don’t do what you do. You will be saved or rescued from many decisions that are selfish, worldly, temporary and don’t glorify God. That planted Word of God in you will begin to transform the types of decisions you make about things in your life.
- To “save your soul” means your emotions will be protected. You will find yourself being angry, but sinning not. You may still worry, but you don’t make decision out of fear. You may feel lonely or rejected, but you are anchored in your relationship with God so you don’t make foolish mistakes in that feeling of loneliness or rejection. You may feel in a hurry, but you don’t make decisions out of impatience.
Your soul – your mind, your will, your emotions – your soul is saved and rescued and protected by the Word of God that has been implanted in you and that you have humbly accepted. So when the trials and difficult times start, you don’t lose your mind, you don’t lose your way, and you don’t go crazy because you are standing on God’s solid rock of truth.
Genuine faith feels the pain and suffering that life can cause while trusting God’s Word and letting God’s truth guide your thinking, emotions, and actions.