Friday, July 14, 2017

Tested and Proven Character

Note from Jesus

Dear Faithful Follower,

About the same time Paul was trying to help the Galatian believers understand grace, My half-brother James was working with believers around Jerusalem and writing to those who had been in Jerusalem but now were scattered around the world. James had to emphasize the importance of putting faith into practice. While their emphases are different, Paul and James shared a common theme:

For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.

(Galatians 5:6)

They both were trying to help Christians face three primary challenges:

  1. Standing up faithfully under trials and temptations.
  2. Correctly understanding grace to mean that they had to be people of righteous character and gracious compassion.
  3. Treating each other as brothers and sisters, giving grace regardless of social position.

James’ first few paragraphs in his letter on how to live godly lives contain these themes. So you shouldn’t be surprised that James’ writing has very practical teaching for everyday godly living. While James’ writing is sometimes called a letter, it reads more like a tract or study guide about wise and godly living. Regardless of what you want to call James’ writing, His message has resonated in the hearts of My disciples over the centuries.

Some, however, have tried to put what James wrote about godly living at odds with what Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians. However, I want you to see these two pieces of Scripture as complementary to each other. Use the good Jewish practice of examining what each says based on the principles implicit in “on the one hand, but then on the other hand.” You will find these two letters to be quite powerful and practical when read together.

I want you to pay attention to the key areas of focus in James’ opening paragraphs:

  1. Trials, tests, and hardships are difficult, but you can joyfully face them knowing that they produce both character in you and the crown of life for you.
  2. Don’t blame your temptations on God; they come from your own desires. Our Father in heaven gives only good gifts. He is consistently good and gracious to you.
  3. If you want to have spiritual wisdom to handle times of trial, testing, and hardship or if you want to avoid being ensnared in temptations that lead you to sin and death, then pray without doubting for the Father to give you wisdom.

Like so many other things you will find in James’ writing, these truths are practical and sound. Do what James urges you to do and you will grow strong in the faith, and your character and compassion will come to reflect Me.

Verses to Live

Remember that James was My half-brother. He did a great job of summarizing My teaching and making it into very understandable and applicable truth. As you read, ask yourself how his teaching sounds like My own teaching. Be blessed by the following excerpt from James’ small powerhouse of a book.

Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line — mature, complete, and wanting nothing. If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking.

The key is that your request be anchored by your single-minded commitment to God. Those who depend only on their own judgment are like those lost on the seas, carried away by any wave or picked up by any wind. Those adrift on their own wisdom shouldn’t assume the Lord will rescue them or bring them anything. The splinter of divided loyalty shatters your compass and leaves you dizzy and confused.

If you are a brother of humble means, celebrate the fact that God has raised you up. If you are rich and seemingly invincible, savor the humble reality that you are a mere mortal who will vanish like a flower that withers in the field. The sun rises with a blazing heat that dries the earth and causes the flower to wither and fall to the ground and its beauty to fade and die. In the same way, the rich will fall and die in the midst of their busy lives.

Happy is the person who can hold up under the trials of life. At the right time, he’ll know God’s sweet approval and will be crowned with life. As God has promised, the crown awaits all who love Him.

No one who is tempted should ever be confused and say that God is testing him. The One Who created us is free from evil and can’t be tempted, so He doesn’t tempt anyone. When a person is carried away with desire, lured by lust, and when desire becomes the focus and takes control, it gives birth to sin. When sin becomes fully grown, it produces death.

My dearly loved brothers and sisters, don’t be misled. Every good gift bestowed, every perfect gift received comes to us from above, courtesy of the Father of lights. He is consistent. He won’t change His mind or play tricks in the shadows. We have a special role in His plan. He calls us to life by His message of truth so that we will show the rest of His creatures His goodness and love.

(James 1:2-18)

Response in Prayer

Father, I thank You for the book of James in the New Testament. It is so practical and down to earth. As I read it along with the book of Galatians, open my eyes and transform my life as I try to put Your teaching into effect in my life. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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From: “A Year with Jesus”
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