I have an obsession with the book of James. Maybe I am way off base but I feel like James and I are kindred statements. Possibly because he makes giant, soul searching statements that shake you to your core. He isn’t someone to read if you want to be a “comfortable” Christian. If you want to examine yourself, strip away what you think Christ wants from you, and then fill yourself with a fervent passion to change all aspects of yourself, to be a true radical Christian… read James.
He makes statements about suffering being a blessing.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have it’s full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
That is how he starts out his letter. Yes, that is only the beginning. Who starts out a letter with saying to consider suffering and trials a blessing? James, that is who. He is radical.
We think of being radical in a negative way. I don’t mean it that way at all. Merriam-Webster defines radical in this way:
very new and different from what is traditional or ordinary
: very basic and important
: having extreme political or social views that are not shared by most people
James was different from what is tradition and ordinary. He was a Christian, and Christianity is of the upmost importance.
James warns us against the sin of partiality in James 2. He then goes on to tell us how faith, without works, is dead. They go hand in hand folks, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?” James 2:18-20
This should be an eye opener for us. James is being radical again. He is telling us we can’t simply believe and be saved. We also can’t “work our way to heaven”. We have to show our faith BY our works. We have to be true Christians who not only mean what they say, but do what they say. We can’t preach and not act out what we preach.
In chapter 3 he tells us how dangerous our words are. He compares our tongue to a fire, a small light that in any given moment of carelessness can set a forest ablaze. James tells us to bridle our tongue for it is a small member of our body, yet it “boasts of great things”. Chapter 3 is where I struggle daily, but James, by the inspiration of God, has called ME and YOU to be radical. So I am working on taming my tongue.
Chapters 4 and 5 are where I fall in love with James. It is where he tells us that making friends with the world makes us enemies with God. Whoa. Radical? Right. But for James that is mild. Here is where he gets really radical, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.” What? Okay, so as Christians we get the whole no pre-marital sex, no drunkenness, no stealing or lying, we can’t murder or commit adultery, but James is taking this a step further. James through the inspiration of God is telling us that we are not even to SPEAK evil against our brethren.
Chapter 5 is a real doozie from this radical Christian. James begins with a warning to the rich. He basically tells us that storing up for ourselves here on earth is not going to get us to heaven. In fact, it will do the opposite. Storing up for ourselves here leaves us with nothing but moth-eaten materials and a selfish heart. The selfish won’t be inheriting the kingdom of God.
So, why am I bringing up the book of James in this blog? As I look toward our mission trip next month to Tanzania, Africa I am seeing how much I need to change my life. I want to become more radical, like James, but with the heart of David. I have skipped a couple of verses from James that I want to bring up now. These verses don’t just apply to our upcoming mission trip but to the mission field right outside our own door. Let’s change the world, brothers and sisters, let’s become radical Christians.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27
I am going to be radical here, so listen up. I do not care how many times you sit your fanny in a pew. I do not care if you believe in God. If we are not out taking care of the orphaned and the widows, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and living the words that we preach… then that fanny in that church pew isn’t going to get you to heaven, and neither is your belief. We have to get out into the world, whether it be at school, work, or Africa and BE Christ to this dying world.
How are we going to do that? James has already told us. We need to count our trials as blessings. They are shaping us for our battle against the dark forces, so that we can overcome the evil one. These trials are pushing us one step closer to our goal of eternity in heaven. Rejoice!
We need to start taming our tongue. Out of the same mouth we bless God, we curse our brethren. This has to stop. Instead, let’s fill our mouths with God’s word, with praises, and with blessings. Let’s be a joy and light to others.
Here is a hard one, here is where we really have to be radical. Stop trying to be rich. Stop working your life away for earthly gain. God will provide the necessities, food, shelter, clothing. Everything else we don’t need! Instead let’s use what we have stored up and help those around us. Let’s feed and clothe the world, let’s house and love the orphans, let us give until it hurts!
God has called us to be radical. To set our eyes on things above and never look back. How are you going to do that? Tanzania has changed me and I have not even been there yet. Read the book of James and be transformed.
I will leave you with these last words of James. Here is how James ends his radical book:
“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20
How many sinners are you willing to save from death? Let’s start today.