Today’s selected reading is found in the New Testament epistle which was written by James who was the half-brother of Jesus. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first eighteen verses of the first chapter. This particular set of verses opens up and begins the New Testament epistle which was written by James the half brother of Jesus. This epistle has a unique element to it, for it wasn’t written by one of Jesus’ disciples who walked closely with Him during those three and a half years He walked upon the earth. Undoubtedly this epistle was written by someone who eventually followed Jesus during His public ministry, and would eventually go on to write an epistle that would be found within the New Testament. What is both interesting and unique about this particular epistle is that it was written by one who perhaps knew Jesus better than many others. Since James was the half brother of Jesus it is absolutely unmistakable that he grew up with Jesus. There is not a doubt in my mind that James spent a considerable amount of time with Jesus during His early years, and might have even been with Mary, Joseph and Jesus when they went to Jerusalem when Jesus was only twelve years of age. The interesting fact concerning this epistle is that it was written by one who not only knew Jesus based on walking with Him for three and half years, but one who actually spent years with Jesus leading up to the public revealing and manifestation at the Jordan River. We know from scripture that Jesus was thirty years of age when He began His public ministry within the earth, which means that Hanes undoubtedly had a great deal of experience and encounters with Him for a number of years. Before Jesus was publicly revealed by the Father and the Spirit, and before the Father openly and publicly endorsed Jesus as His beloved Son, James as well as the other half brothers and half sisters knew Jesus in a way that most others did not. This reality would include even the disciples, for although they walked with Him for three and half years, James had the unique advantage of growing up with Jesus.
I have to admit that I absolutely love the New Testament epistle written by James, for this epistle is one that has directly challenged me throughout the years. It is this epistle which brings us face to face with the tremendous reality of just how vital and crucial the tongue is within our lives. It is within this epistle that we encounter and learn that the tongue has the power of life and death. It is within this epistle we encounter the words of James concerning faith and works, and how James declared that just as the body without the spirit is dead and lifeless, so also is faith without works dead. It is within this epistle where James emphatically declares that pure religion and undefined is to look after and care for orphans and widows, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. It is within this epistle where we read how Elijah was a man of like passions as we are, and how Elijah was a man of prayer. It’s within this epistle that we encounter the instruction concerning any among us who are sick, and how such who are sick should call upon the elders, and they shall anoint them, and the prayer of faith shall heal the sick. This particular epistle contains the awesome reality that every good and every perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights in whom there is no shadow of turning or variance. It is within this epistle where we find James writing and speaking about a double minded mind who is unstable in all his ways—that man who might ask, and might even ask in prayer, and yet he wavers within his heart. This particular epistle contains and incredible amount of truth, and even contains a statement that we say we believe in the living God, and we do well to do so, but even the demons believe and do tremble. I can’t help but be absolutely and completely overwhelmed with and by the truth that is found and contained within this epistle. What’s more, is that it is within this epistle that we find games asking concerning that which causes fights and quarrels among us, and then goes on write how we do damage and engage ourselves in inappropriate behavior because we engage our lists, our pleasures and our desires.
The epistle written by James the half brother Jesus is one that contains an overwhelming amount of truth which stands and serves as practical application within our hearts and lives—truth which must be carefully read, study and fleshed out within our lives. We dare not move too quickly through this particular epistle, for that which is found within this epistle was written by one who had a relationship with Jesus that was vastly different from the one the disciples had with Him. I happen to find it incredibly unique and interesting that within this epistle we find such an overwhelming amount of instruction and application that was written by one who perhaps at first didn’t understand, and even doubted Jesus when He first stepped on to and emerged on the scene. I am absolutely overwhelmed when I read the words which James wrote in this epistle, for James had a great deal to say to us who claim we serve, walk with and follow the living God. James the half brother of Jesus has a lot to say to us who claim we are disciples and followers of Jesus within the earth, and we would be incredibly wise to pay attention to what was written within this epistle. I feel compelled to pause for a moment and declare that I am in no way placing the epistle written by James on a pedestal. I am in no way elevating the epistle written by James above those that were written by the apostles Paul, Peter and John, nor even the gospels which were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I am in no way painting the picture that the epistle written by James somehow has a greater purpose contained within it then do the various other writings contained within the New Testament—or even within the canon of scripture. What I am saying, however, is that this epistle has a unique edge to it, in that it was written by one who perhaps not only walked with Jesus at some point during His earthly ministry, but one who knew Jesus before all the pomp and circumstance, before all the fame and fanfare, and before all the public manifestation(s) and appearances. James has a unique advantage in that he knew Jesus beige the Jordan River experience, and before the voice of the Father spoke from heaven and the Spirit descended as a dove upon Him.
BEFORE THE NOISE! BEFORE THE FAME! BEFORE THE FANFARE! BEFORE THE MANIFESTATION! BEFORE THE RECOGNITION! One of the realities that most intrigues me when reading the epistle written by James is not only that he was the half brother of Jesus, but also that he knew Jesus before the Jordan River. It is quite clear from Scripture that James knew Jesus long before His public appearing at the Jordan River, and long before He was publicly endorsed by the Father at the Jordan River through a voice speaking from heaven declaring Him to be His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. James was one who knew Jesus before all the fame and before all the fan fare, and there is something truly unique about this. There is something unique about James knowing Jesus prior to His public life and public ministry, and at some point within his life he made the decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ—Jesus this one whom he spent a considerable amount of time with growing up. I would love to know at what age Jesus was when James was born, for it would reveal just how long James knew Jesus before the experience and encounter at the Jordan River. While we might not know and understand how long James did in fact know Jesus prior to His public ministry, we do not that he was one who knew Him before His fame took off throughout Judaea, and Samaria, and Galilee, and Jerusalem, and the surrounding regions. The disciples who would later turn apostles would know Jesus for three and a half years, but James had the unique privilege of knowing Jesus before the disciples ever did, and I can’t help but wonder what Jesus was like growing up. I can’t help but wonder what it was like growing up with Jesus and having Jesus as your older brother. GROWING UP WITH JESUS! What is so incredibly interesting and unique about James’ relationship with Jesus is because he represents a reality that is mentioned within Scripture—a reality concerning us as the brethren of Jesus Christ. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which h the apostle Paul wrote in the eighth chapter of the epistle which he wrote unto the saints which were at Rome: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom he did foreknow, He also did predestination to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29). Within this particular verse the apostle Paul writes and speaks of Jesus not only as our brother, but also the firstborn among many brethren—a reality which speaks to our unique relationship with Jesus as being more than just Savior and Redeemer. This reality is echoed even further in the second chapter of the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews:
“For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in Him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children which God hath given men. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:11-18).
I have to admit that I absolutely love the words which we read concerning Jesus as being the firstborn among many brethren, for not only does it speak of our relationship with Him, but it also speaks of just how unique that relationship truly is. Pause for a moment and consider the reality that it is true you can know and experience Jesus as Savior, and it is true that you can experience Jesus as Savior, but it is also true that you can experience Jesus as the firstborn among many brethren. What I mean by this, and what the Scripture portrays with this reality is that Jesus is indeed the Son of the living God, and as the eternal Son of the living God, He has authority to give us power to become sons and daughters of the living God as well. Consider if you will the words which the apostle John wrote in the first chapter of the gospel which he wrote concerning the life and ministry of Jesus: “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:10-14). I am also reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the eighth chapter of the epistle which he wrote unto the saints which were at Rome. Beginning with the twelfth verse of this chapter we find and read the following words: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaners and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 9:12-23). This reality is further echoed in the first chapter of the New Testament epistle which was also written by the apostle Paul—albeit, the epistle which was written unto the saints which were at Ephesus:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:3-14).
When you read the opening verses of the epistle which was written by James, the first thing you will notice is James describing Himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before even transitioning into the body and text of his epistle, James first acknowledged and brought the attention of his readers and audience to the reality that he was a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for not only is James written by the half-brother of Jesus, but this half-brother of Jesus regarded and reckoned himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. With that being said, it’s actually quite interesting that this half-brother of Jesus and servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ opened up and began his epistle by writing and speaking of divers temptations or trials. As you begin reading this epistle beginning with the second verse you will find the following words which open up the epistle: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4). Immediately after James referenced and spoke of himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, he immediately transitioned to a place that is not easy for many to read—much less actually flesh out within their daily lives. James chooses to begin his epistle by instructing his readers and audience to count it all joy when they fall into divers temptations or trials. Pause for a moment and consider that reality—the reality that James actually instructed his readers to count it all joy when they fell into diver temptations. Tell me you who are reading this particular writing—when was the last time you faced, experienced and endured a specific trial, a specific trouble, a specific tribulation, and instead of groaning, and mumbling and complaining about it, you actually counted it all joy? When was the last time you actually viewed your trouble(s) and your trial(s) and your temptation(s) as something to rejoice about rather than complain about? I am convinced that one of the hardest things to do within our lives is to count it all joy, and to rejoice when we are facing, experiencing and enduring various temptations, trials, troubles, tests, afflictions, suffering and the like. I am reminded of the words which the author of the epistle unto the Hebrews wrote concerning Jesus in the twelfth chapter of the epistle: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and infisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and fain in your minds” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Lest you think for one moment that it is not possible to rejoice in the midst of our sufferings rather than complain about them, and lest you think that it is impossible to delight in our afflictions rather than murmur about them, I would direct your attention to the fifth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts which was written by the beloved physician Luke. If you read the fifth chapter of this particular book you will find the disciples now turned apostles preaching the good news of the gospel and performing many great signs and wonders in Jerusalem. As a result of that which the apostles were doing and performing in the midst of the city, the high priest rose up, and all those that were with him (those which were the sect of the Sadducees) and were filled with wrath, anger and indignation. Such men laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. If you continue reading this chapter you will find that the angel of the Lord came by night and opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and instructed them to go and stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. Immediately the apostles went into the Temple and began to fulfill and obey that which they were instructed to do by the angel of the Lord which had opened up their prison doors and set them free. Within this chapter we find that the high priest, the Sadducees and all those with him sought to silence the apostles, and even sought to put an end to them. It wasn’t until a man by the name of Gamaliel began speaking that the entire assembly was silenced. It’s interesting and worth noting that when you come to the end of the chapter you find the apostles rejoicing over the suffering they experienced and endured—rejoicing rather than complaining, rejoicing rather than murmuring, rejoicing rather than grumbling against Jesus the Christ, or even against His Father which is in heaven. Consider if you will the words which are recorded in the fifth chapter beginning with the fortieth verse: “And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Acts 5:40-42). It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to what we find in this particular passage of Scripture, for instead of and rather than complaining and growing bitter and angry because they suffered at the hands of men, they chose instead fo rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
COUNTED WORTHY TO SUFFER! Have you ever taken the time to think about, consider and meditate upon those words? Have you ever thought that it was and is possible to be counted worthy to suffer, and to suffer shame for the name of Jesus Christ? Have you ever thought for a single moment that you can actually be counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus Christ, and that it is possible to be chosen to suffer and to experience affliction? Lest you think that I am somehow misguided in this line of thought, I would direct your attention to the words which we find in the Old Testament book of Job—not only in the first chapter, but also in the second chapter of the book. It is within the Old Testament book of Job where we find this saint of God not only experiencing suffering, but also seemingly chosen to suffer and to experience affliction. Perhaps one of the greatest realities concerning the Old Testament book of Job is that his suffering seemed to be a direct result of his being chosen by the living God to take place. There is not a doubt in my mind that it was the Lord Himself who counted Job as being worthy to experience the level of suffering and affliction he experienced. We tend to think that it is not possible for us to be chosen to suffer shame, and to suffer affliction, and to suffer pain, and sorrow, and agony, however such is not the case. We tend to think that a life absent suffering, and a life absent affliction, and a life absent trials and tribulation is somehow a mark of the pleasure and delight of God who is in heaven. We tend to think that a life absent affliction and infirmities is somehow a life that demonstrates and manifests God’s manifest pleasure in an individual, but I am utterly and completely convinced that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I would dare say that more often than not the suffering we face, the affliction and infirmities we experience are a sign of the pleasure and delight of God rather than His displeasure. I am convinced that it was precisely because God was pleased with, and precisely because God delighted in Job that He counted him worthy to suffer, and to experience all that Satan would throw at him. Consider if you will that which is found and recorded in the first and second chapters of this Old Testament book:
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord” (Job 1:6-12).
“Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth,a nd from walking up and down in it. And the Lord said unto Satan, hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? And still he holdeth fast hi integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause. And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, he is thine hand; but save his life. So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his food unto his crown” (Job 2:1-7).
What we find in this particular portion of Scripture is truly remarkable and unique when you consider it, for not only did the Lord present Job unto Satan once, but twice. Within the first two chapters of this Old Testament book we find Satan presenting himself before the Lord among the sons of God—not once but twice. On both occasions, the Lord asked Satan where he came from, to which Satan responded by declaring how he came from going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. It was in direct response to Satan’s words that the Lord immediately and without hesitation and reservation mentioned his servant Job—almost as though he were offering Job up before Satan. The more I consider the Old Testament book of Job, the more I can’t help but consider the fact that it’s almost as if Job was counted worthy to suffer at the hands of Satan himself. It’s one thing to experience suffering, and it’s one thing to experience affliction in and of itself, but it’s another thing to experience suffering and affliction directly at the hands of Satan himself. The more I read and the more I consider the Old Testament book of Job, the more I can’t help but think about how Job was counted worthy to suffer by the Lord Himself. It was the Lord Himself who not only presented a case for Job’s righteousness, but also a case for Job’s suffering. It’s interesting and worth noting that not only did the Lord seem to present a case for Job’s righteousness, but the same case that was made for Job’s righteousness was also a case that was made for Job’s suffering as well. Pause for a moment and consider that reality—the reality that the same case that can be made for our righteousness, and the same case that could be made for our integrity is the same case that could be made for our suffering. In other words, it is possible that our righteousness can and does in fact position us to face and experience suffering and affliction as a direct result of the purpose and pleasure of the living God. Oh, it is worth noting that we cannot, we dare not, we should not miss this reality and concept, for to do so would be to misunderstand the Lord, and to even grow bitter, angry and offended with the Lord Himself. Consider how many men and women have grown bitter and offended with the Lord because they thought that the case for their righteousness meant that their lives would be free and absent any type of suffering, any time of affliction, any time of trouble, any type of trial, any type of infirmity. If there is one thing the Old Testament book of Job reveals, it’s that the case that can be made for our righteousness is also a case that can be made for our suffering, for it is in fact righteousness which positions us to be counted worthy to suffer affliction, suffering, infirmity, trials, tribulation, and the like. Oh how many of us are misguided and deceived into thinking and believing that it is our righteousness which somehow prevents us from experiencing any type of suffering—all the while not even realizing that it is our righteousness that actually positions us to experience suffering at the pleasure and delight of the living God?
I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Peter wrote in the fourth and fifth chapters of the first epistle which he wrote. I leave you with the words which the apostle Peter wrote in this particular epistle, for not only did the apostle Peter instruct us to not be surprised by suffering, but he also wrote and declared unto us that we are not alone in any affliction or suffering we have faced and experienced. When writing this particular epistle the apostle Peter not only instructed his readers and audience to not be surprised by suffering as though it was something that should catch them off guard, but he also would go on to almost suggest that we as the saints of God should anticipate and expect suffering and affliction within and throughout our lives. What’s more, is that we dare not and cannot be selfish with our suffering and our affliction, and what I mean by being selfish is isolating ourselves as the only one who is facing, experiencing and enduring that which we are facing and experiencing. James instructed his readers and his audience to consider it pure joy when they fell into divers temptations and trials, and the apostle Peter instructed his readers to not be surprised or caught off guard by the suffering and affliction we face within and throughout our lives. I leave you with the words which the apostle Peter wrote in this first epistle beginning with the twelfth verse of the fourth chapter:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murder, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorified God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).
“Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have sufffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strength, settle you. To Him be glory and dominion, for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:5-11).