Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written by hames the half brother of Jesus. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first thirteen verses of the second chapter. When you come to this particular portion of scripture you will find hames writing about something which has haunted and plagued churches throughout history. This far within the epistle James has already written concerning the fiery trials we face within our lives, and our responsibility to consider it pure joy when we endure and face such trials. James has already written within the epistle concerning those who endure temptations and troubles and trials, and how such individuals are blessed of and blessed by the Lord. James has brought us face to face with the possibility that we can be doubles minded and unstable in our ways when we ask of the Lord, and yet while we ask of the Lord we doubt within our hearts and waver in our faith. Within the first chapter of this epistle James seeks to bring his audience and readers into the realm of anticipating, expediting, and even appreciating the struggles and conflicts they face. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto his spiritual son Timothy when he instructed him to endure hardship and affliction as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. If there is one thing we must realize, it’s that many of us can face and experience trials, hardships, afflictions, temptations and the like, yet there is a vast and fundamental difference between experiencing such trials and afflictions and enduring them. Experiencing trials and afflictions is not the same as weathering and enduring them before and in the presence of the Lord. There are many among us who may experience trials and afflictions on a consistent basis, yet not many of us can actually weather and endure such trials and afflictions as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
I can’t help but be reminded of the words Jesus used at the end of His famous sermon on the mount when he spoke of two different types or individuals who heard the words which He spoke. If you read the words which Jesus spoke at the end of this sermon you will find that He first spoke of those who heard and listened to His teachings, and who didn’t merely hear them, but actively and actually did and performed them. Building upon the reality of such individuals Jesus would go on to describe how such individuals were like a wise man who built his house upon the rock—upon a solid and firm foundation. This wise man would face and experience a storm that would threaten his house, for the wind blew, the rain came down, and the waves of the sea crashed against the house. Despite the house being battered by the fury of the storm, however, it neither crumbled nor collapsed as a result. Instead of falling to the ground, the house withstood the fury of the storm, and remained standing even after the storm had passed. Within this same part of the sermon, however, Jesus spoke of another individual—one who was foolish instead of being wise. This particular individual chose to build his house upon the sand thinking and believing it would stand. Jesus goes on to describe how a storm came against this house as well—perhaps the same storm which faces the other house—and with this storm came the fury of the wind, the waves and the rain. This house, however, instead of weathering the storm which battered against it, collapsed and crumbled there on the sand. Jesus describes those who listen to and hear His words and yet do not those words are likened unto this foolish man who built his house on a foundation which could shift, and which provided no security when the storm came against it.
We would be incredibly wise to pay close attention to the words which Jesus spoke in this sermon on the mount, for what we learn about these two men is that they both built their houses, and they both built their houses on a specific foundation, and both men and their houses faced and experienced a storm that threatened the survival of the house. What’s so incredibly interesting about the story of these two men is that they both faced and experienced a storm which threatened both themselves and their houses. It is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand that where and how we choose to build our houses doesn’t make us exempt from facing, experiencing and enduring a storm which threatens everything we have. We would expect the righteous man who heard the words and teachings of Jesus and performed them to not face and experience storms which could threaten their lives, yet Jesus describes how both the wise and the foolish man faced and experienced a storm. It may even be that both men faced and experienced the same storm at the same time, and it was the storm itself that would reveal the foundation upon which the house was built. STORMS REVEAL FOUNDATIONS! Oh, we would be incredibly wise to learn and understand that storms have always and will always show and reveal foundations. Storms have always and will always expose and cause foundations to be made visible—foundations which could and perhaps would otherwise remain hidden and concealed. In all reality, I would dare say and suggest that there are times when the Lord can and will allow a storm to come against us in order that He might expose and cause to become visible the foundation(s) of our lives. There is not a doubt in my mind that the living God allows storms to enter into and come against and come upon our lives in order that He might reveal and expose foundations.
I would say that if you show me the storms you face within your life I will show you the foundation upon which your heart and life is built. We must recognize and understand that there is absolutely no hiding and concealing the foundation(s) within our lives upon which our hearts are built and rest upon. There would be many of us who would like to hide and keep concealed the foundations upon which our hearts and lives are built, and this is perhaps because many of us realize and recognize that the foundations upon which we have built and staked our lives are faulty through and through. When Jesus spoke of the wise man and the foolish man, He didn’t state that the wise man was exempt and immune from the storm, but rather how the wise man experienced and faced a storm just like and just as the foolish man did. We dare not miss or lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for to do so would be to miss that which the Spirit desires to speak to us. In our natural minds we would expect, and perhaps even want those who are righteous—those who hear the words which Jesus speaks and actively and proactively perform and carry them out—to somehow be immune and exempt from the storms of this life and the storms of this world. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply is not, cannot and will not be the case. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke earlier on in this Sermon on the Mount when He spoke about loving our neighbour and praying for our enemy. If you begin reading with and from the forty-third verse of the fifth chapter you will find written something that is absolutely and incredibly difficult to read—much less actually flesh and carry out. Consider if you will the words which our Lord spoke in this Sermon beginning with this forty-third verse:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and senders rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
Did you catch that? Were you able to notice and pick out that which our Lord spoke in this Sermon on the Mount? Go back and read it again. In the forty-fifth verse of this particular passage our Lord declares that our Father which is in heaven causes and makes His sun to rise on both the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Please don’t miss or lose sight of that which is written and contained within this passage of Scripture, for that which we find here wonderfully and powerfully lays to rest and puts to bed the deception and falsehood that the rain falls only on the unrighteous, and only on the wicked. Here Jesus with on single sentence emphatically declares that the Lord causes to fall and sends rain on both the just, as well as the unjust. When it comes to rain, there is absolutely no partiality in the heart and mind of the Father. Despite how many times we would seek to believe this within our hearts—such a thought and such an idea and notion could not be the furthest thing from the truth. Jesus makes it very clear that our Father in heaven not only causes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, but He also sends rain on the just and on the unjust. When I consider the words which Jesus spoke at the end of this Sermon on the Mount I can’t help but be gripped and captivated with and by the reality that the Lord sent the rain on both the wise man, as well as the foolish man. The rain did not fall only on the foolish and wicked man, and not also on the righteous and wise man—regardless of how much we would like this to be the case. The truth of the matter is that although both of these men built their houses on different foundations—all it took was one storm to reveal and expose the foundation upon which the house was built. We must recognize and understand that the wise man had to face, had to endure, had to experience, and had to endure a storm just as much as the foolish man had to face and endure the same storm. I can’t help but be reminded of recent years when this nation and country were struck by severe and devastating hurricanes—Sandy, Maria, Katrina, etc.—and how such storms not only impacted and affected the unrighteous, but also the righteous as well. We would expect the righteous and the faithful saints of God to somehow be immune and exempt from the fury and force of such storms, and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply is not the case. When these hurricanes struck various parts of this nation, the rain fell, the winds blew, and the waves crashed against the houses of the righteous as surely and as much as they did on the wicked. The Lord showed no partiality over the righteous as opposed to the wicked when these storms rocked the coasts of this nation. When these storms hit—both the righteous, as well as the unrighteous were affected and impacted at the same time.
In the second verse of the first chapter of the epistle written by James we find him instructing and encouraging his readers and audience to count it all joy when they fall into divers temptations, knowing that the trying of their faith works patience. It is this patience that must have its perfect work, in order that such men and women might be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. IN the twelfth verse of the same chapter James declares how blessed is that man and that woman which endure temptation, for when they are tried, they shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him. It is necessary that we recognize and understand that which James is writing in this particular passage of Scripture—particularly and especially when we consider that which Jesus spoke in His Sermon on the Mount. It is one thing to face and experience temptations, trials, troubles, affliction, infirmities, suffering and the like, and it is something else altogether to count it all joy when facing and experiencing such realities within our lives. It’s necessary and worth noting that not only did James write and speak about counting it all joy when we fall into divers temptations, but James also wrote and spoke of enduring such temptations. In both cases, James goes on to write concerning “the trying of our faith,” as well as “when we are tried,” thus indicating that when we face and experience such manifold and divers temptations we are ultimately experiencing the trial of our faith here in this life. It is one thing to face and experience manifold and divers temptations, however, it is something else altogether to count it all joy when we experience and face them—and not only count it all joy, but also endure such temptations. COUNT IT ALL JOY & ENDURE! The question I can’t help but find myself asking as I am sitting here engaging in this writing, it’s how many of us are not only able to endure such manifold temptations and trials, but how many of us are actually able to count it all joy when we face, experience and endure such temptations. It was the apostle Peter who wrote “wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). It was the apostle Peter who would go on to write in 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” (1 Peter 4:12-14). It was the apostle Peter who also went on to write: “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” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
I can’t help but be absolutely and wonderfully captivated by the words which James writes in this epistle, for while he begins and opens up with a powerful word of instruction to count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations, he goes on to transition to writing concerning those who lack wisdom, and how they are to ask of God, who gives to all men liberally, and upbraids not. James immediately transitions and instruct such as those who ask for wisdom to ask in faith, nothing wavering, for those who waver are like waves of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. James would go on to write how such men and women should not think that they shall receive any thing of the Lord, for they are double minded and unstable in all their ways. Where James takes the epistle next is actually quite remarkable and astounding, for James goes on to instruct the brother of low degree to rejoice in that he is exalted, but the rich, in that his made low, because as the flow of the grass he shall pass away. In essence, that which James is writing unto those who were scattered abroad was that no one should think of themselves more highly than they ought. What James is writing in this particular passage of Scripture is that we should think of ourselves soberly without elevating and exalting themselves beyond their stature and appointed place ordained by the living God. Within the first verse of this chapter James contrasts both the rich man, as well as the brother of low estate, and how the rich man can be abased and brought low, and the brother of low degree can be exalted and raised up. I can’t help but be reminded of the parable which Jesus spoke concerning the rich man and Lazarus to help demonstrate and reveal the tremendous reality of that which James wrote in this particular epistle. If you journey to the gospels you will find Jesus comparing and contrasting both a rich man, as well as a poor beggar named Lazarus, and how both men faced and experienced death, but whose lives here on the earth were completely and vastly different. The apostle Paul wrote and declared that it is appointed unto men once to die and then the judgment, and such a reality was portrayed in the parable which was told concerning the rich man and Lazarus. It is within this parable that we find and discover Jesus contrasting a rich man who experienced a lavish lifestyle here on the earth, and yet who was utterly and completely shocked when he transitioned from this life to the next. A similar reality could be said about Lazarus, for Lazarus experienced a poor and impoverished lifestyle here on the earth, and yet when he transitioned from this life to the next, he experienced tremendous joy, peace, and rest in Abraham’s bosom. Consider if you will the parable which Jesus spoke concerning the rich man and Lazarus:
“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s Boston: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime recevedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:19-31).
When you come to the end of the first chapter of the epistle written by James you will find James emphatically and without hesitation and reservation writing and declaring how “pure religion and undefined before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). This is actually quite remarkable when you consider it—not only in light of that which James has already written concerning those of low estate and those who are rich, for I am convinced that our faith is put on trial on how we care for, and how we treat and respond to those around us who might be of low estate, and those around us who are in need. In the final verse of the first chapter of this epistle James wrote how pure religion and undefined before God and the Father is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and then when you come to the second chapter of the same epistle—particularly the fourteenth verse—you will find James writing and speaking about the partnership of faith and works. Consider if you will the words which James writes in the second chapter beginning with the fourteenth verse:
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not be faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26).
In the twenty-seventh verse of the first chapter James writes concerning looking after and caring for the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and in the second half of the second chapter he goes on to write about seeing and encountering those in need, and choosing neglect over compassion. Notice in the second half of the second chapter beginning with the fifteenth verse, James writes concerning a brother or sister being naked, and destitute of daily food, and we say unto them, “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled” and choose not to give them those things which are needful to the body. In all reality, that which James is writing and speaking about in this particular passage is sheer and utter neglect—perhaps even contempt for such individuals within our communities, our cities, our towns, and our neighborhoods. James concluded the first chapter by writing and speaking about looking after and caring for the orphans the widows, and in the second half of the second chapter he writes concerning our negligence of those around us in need while at the same time professing that we have faith. We need to be wise and understanding when reading such words as are found here, for I am convinced that our faith goes on trial when we profess to have faith, and yet we through negligence and ignorance choose to ignore the needs of those which are around us. I can’t help but wonder how many of those whom Jesus spoke about when referencing the sheep and the goats professed they had faith, and yet are going to be shocked and stunned to find out and discover that although they professed to have faith, there was no manifestation, no demonstration of such faith within their lives. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize that mere declaration of faith is not enough, for there must be a demonstration which matches our definition and declaration of faith. James wrote of caring for and looking after widows and the fatherless in their affliction, and in the second half of the second chapter wrote of those among us seeing and being aware of that brother or that sister which is naked and destitute of food, and yet instead of providing help and assistance to such individuals, we instead declare unto and speak to them out of good intentions, saying “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled.” Instead of giving unto them those things which are needful for the body, we instead do nothing more than offer lip service and words and talk which is absolutely and completely cheap in light of their need. I am absolutely and completely convinced that what we find here in this particular portion of James’ epistle is the response of those on the left hand of the King in Jesus’ declaration concerning the last days. Consider if you will the words which Jesus speaks unto His disciples concerning the last days—words which are recorded for us in the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew:
“When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungred and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed med: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:31-46).
I am convinced that what we find and what we read in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew’s gospel is the direct result of two areas of neglect and ignorance within our hearts and lives as the saints of the living God. It’s worth pointing out and noting in second half of the second chapter how James spoke about faith absent works—faith which speaks in and faith which speaks with good intentions, and yet which chooses inaction over action. James writes in the second half of the second chapter concerning faith being dead without works, and how there are many among us who are very much aware of the need that is present all around us, and yet instead of providing and offering assistance, we only offer our words. TALK IS CHEAP! WORDS MEAN NOTHING! The words which James writes in the second half of the second chapter describe how instead of offering our assistance to those who are naked and destitute of food, we offer words instead of assistance, talk instead of help, and some measure and degree of compassion without any form of action. Did you know that it is possible to have compassion within your heart, and yet there is no action that is directly connected to and linked to that compassion? Did you know that it possible to profess and declare faith within our hearts and lives, and yet there is absolutely not fruit linked and connected to our faith? Did you know that it is possible to speak of and profess faith within our lives, and yet there is absolutely no demonstration and manifestation of faith within them? We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand that those whom the King instructed to depart from Him into everlasting punishment might very well be those who professed faith in this lifetime, yet their faith was never matched with action and works. What’s more, is that I am convinced that those goats on the left hand of the King which He will instruct to depart from His presence are also guilty of another sin which is found in the first half of the second chapter. If you read verses one through thirteen of the second chapter of this epistle you will find James writing and speaking of holding the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect of persons, or with partiality. James then goes on to write about one coming into our assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment, and we have respect on him who wears gay clothing, and offer unto him to sit in a good place, while instructing the poor man to stand over there, or to sit under our footstool. James then goes on to ask whether or not we are being partial in ourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts.
That which James is writing and speaking about in this passage of Scripture is describing the sin of partiality within our hearts—a willingness and intentionality of treating differently those who are of a higher stature than those of lower stature. James writes in this epistle concerning the sin of partiality, and I am convinced that this sin is one of the greatest sins which plagues the church of the living God. I am convinced that one of the greatest crimes we as the saints of God commit in our assemblies, and in our midst is that of showing partiality and favortism to those of a higher stature than others. The more I read the epistle which James wrote, the more I am completely and utterly convinced that more often than not our faith is put on trial—not only through the sin of partiality and favortism, but also through the sin of faith without and apart from works, which is a demonstration and manifestation of such faith. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay careful attention to that which James is writing in this epistles, for the words which James writes brings us face to face with out negligence and ignorance when it comes to the declaration of our faith absent any type of demonstration and manifestation. Oh that we would read the words contained within this epistle and allow the very Spirit of the livinG God to bring conviction to the very depths of our heart and soul in this generation. Oh that we would carefully examine our actions—and even our inactions—in this generation as it pertains to the trail of our faith in the furnace of the needs and afflictions of others.