Scattered, Struggling & Suffering Saints

Today’s selected reading is found in the New Testament epistle which was written by James the half brother of Jesus the Christ. More specifically, today’s reading is found in chapters one through five of this New Testament book. When you come to the epistle written by James you will find an epistle which I would argue must needs be read and understood in direct connection with the epistle written unto the Hebrews. It’s actually quite intriguing to think about and consider how the epistle written unto the Hebrews was placed in its exact spot within Scripture, and immediately followed by the epistle which was written by James. What makes this truly unique and captivating is when you think about and consider the fact that in the opening verse of this epistle you will find the greeting of the author who identified himself as James “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” What’s more, is that within the first and opening verse of this passage you will find James going on to reveal his audience and who he was writing to—namely, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad. This is actually quite remarkable when you take the time to think about it, for the epistle which immediately precedes it within Scripture was written unto the Hebrews or Jewish people, while this epistle is itself written unto the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how absolutely wonderful and incredible this is, for there is not a doubt in my mind this epistle must needs be recognized and understood in direct relationship to the epistle which comes immediately before it. If we are to truly understand the epistle which was written by James we must needs realize and recognize that it was in fact an epistle written unto the twelve tribes of Israel which were scattered abroad among the nations—and as such, it would have undoubtedly been written to those Jews and those Hebrews who believed in and who believed on the Jewish Messiah. I firmly believe that the words which are found written and recorded in the first and opening verse of the epistle written by James must needs be understood in direct relation to those Jews which were scattered abroad, and those Jews which were scattered among the nations of the earth. This epistle which was written by James must needs be understood and read as an epistle which was written to a displaced and scattered people—perhaps after the great persecution had broken out against the church within the city of Jerusalem.

            The more you read the words which are found within the book of Acts—as well as the words which are found in the epistles written by James and the apostle Peter—the more you will find and encounter the tremendous truth that there were in fact a people which were scattered among the nations, peoples and lands of the earth. If there is one thing we must needs realize and recognize—even from the narrative and account of the apostle Paul within the book of Acts—it’s that there were Jews which were scattered abroad throughout Asia and Europe. Oh we must needs realize and understand that at the time of the apostles and the early church—specifically after the great persecution broke out against the Christians and followers of Jesus in the city of Jerusalem—there were Jews scattered throughout Judaea and Samaria, as well as throughout the various cities within Asia and Europe. We must needs understand that even at the time of the apostolic and missionary journeys of Paul there were Jews which were scattered abroad throughout many of the Asian and European cities he traveled and journeyed to. This is evidenced when you read the seventeenth and eighteenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts and discover how it was the Jews which were in Thessalonica which rose up in direct opposition toward and against the apostle Paul. What’s more, is that within the seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts you will find that the Jews were greatly responsible for the persecution and affliction of the apostle Paul, for it was they themselves who not only opposed themselves, but also blasphemed in the company and presence of the apostle Paul. It is in the seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts we find the Jews which were in Thessalonica persecuting him in that city first, and then after he had departed from that city unto Berea they proceeded to follow him there where they would continue their persecution of him.

            As you read and study the words which are found within the New Testament book of Acts, as well as the epistles which were written by James and the apostle Peter you will be brought face to face with the awesome and tremendous truth that these epistles were written to a people who were scattered abroad among the nations, peoples and lands of the earth. James doesn’t take the time to write and reveal how the twelve tribes were scattered, and James doesn’t take the time to reveal when the twelve tribes of Israel were scattered among the nations of the earth, however, we must needs make absolutely no mistake about it when reading this epistle that the twelve tribes of Israel were in fact and had in fact been scattered among the nations of the earth. It is truly something worth noting and pointing out when reading the epistle written by James that he did not take the time to speak to or reveal how the twelve tribes had been scattered among the nations, peoples and lands of the earth, but we do know from the history of the Jews and of the early church that there was indeed a diaspora and scattering which took place. The book of Acts points to and reveals the scattering of the Christians and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and how it was persecution which broke out in the midst of the city of Jerusalem that did indeed and did in fact cause them to be scattered throughout the nations, lands and peoples of the earth. By the time we come to the writing of the epistles—not only do we find Jews being scattered among the nations of the earth, and not only do we find Christians and followers of Jesus being scattered among the earth, but we also find Christians and disciples being made of Gentiles. IF there is one thing we must needs understand and recognize when reading the New Testament book of Acts—specifically the eighth chapter—it’s that the initial scattering was indeed the scattering of the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, but those disciples which were scattered were Jews. It would be very easy to miss and overlook this when reading the words found in the New Testament book of Acts, however, we must recognize that there were indeed two scatterings and two diasporas which took place—the first which was the scattering of the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ as a result of the persecution which broke out in Jerusalem, and the second was the scattering of the actual Jewish people after Rome invaded Judaea and Jerusalem, and would completely and utterly destroy the Temple.

            THE SCATTERING OF CHRISTIANS, THE SCATTERING OF THE JEWS! In order to truly understand the context surrounding the writings of the epistle written by James, as well as the epistle which was written by the apostle Peter, it is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand that these two early church leaders sought to write unto a people which had been scattered, displaced, and dispersed from their land. It would be in the eighth chapter of the book of Acts we find the disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ—those who happened to be Jewish by descendant and lineage—being scattered abroad within and throughout Judaea and Samaria. It would be as a result of this scattering and diaspora we find Philip the evangelist who was one of the seven chosen together with Stephen being present in Samaria where he not only preached concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, but also wrought great signs and wonders according to the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. It is in the eighth chapter of the book of Acts we find the disciples and followers of Jesus being scattered, however, we must also recognize and understand that there would indeed be a scattering of the Jews—one which would essentially take place in two parts. There would be the initial scattering of the Jews as those who took to heart Jesus’ words and warnings concerning their fleeing Jerusalem and Judaea knowing that there was an imminent threat that would come upon the land. Oh there would indeed be men and women who would pack up their belongings and their families that they might leave and flee Judaea and Jerusalem to escape that which was to come. This would be the initial scattering of the Jewish people, and one which would be followed by a second scattering that would take place after and once Rome actually invaded the land of Judaea and destroyed the city of Jerusalem with the Temple.

            There is not a doubt in my mind when reading the words which are found within this passage of Scripture that in order to truly understand that which is found in these chapters we must needs recognize and understand that they were written to a people which had been scattered abroad among the nations, lands and peoples of the earth. We dare not seek to understand the words which are found within this epistle without and apart from recognizing and understanding that they were written unto a people who were living abroad in the midst of lands which weren’t their own land. Essentially, we must needs recognize and understand the words which are found within this epistle as having a striking similarity to the words which the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah wrote unto the Jews which had been scattered abroad after Babylon had invaded Judah and had carried away captive men and women into the land of the Chaldeans. If and as you read the words which are found within the prophetic book of Jeremiah you will find the prophet writing a letter to the captives and exiles which were living in the land of the Chaldeans, and not only speaking prophetically unto them, but also providing them with much needed guidance and instruction. The more I think about and consider the words which are found in the epistle written by James—an epistle which was written unto those which had been scattered abroad—the more I find myself encountering and coming face to face with much needed guidance and instruction that was needed in those places wherein they had been scattered and were living. I firmly believe that the epistle written by James is a wonderful and powerful set of instruction unto those who had been scattered as he sought to give them sound counsel and wisdom on how they ought to live in that scattered state. Pause for a moment and think about the tremendous significance of that which is found within this epistle, for we must needs recognize and understand that it was written unto those who were living in a scattered—and perhaps even a fractured state in the midst of the earth. These to whom this epistle was written were those who had either fled from their native land and their homes, or were forced to flee, and as a result were scattered among the nations and peoples of the earth.

            It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading the words found in this epistle that those to whom James was writing unto were those who were scattered, those who were displaced, and those who were perhaps fractured and splintered from their people. It’s quite astounding to think about how in the days of the Old Covenant the northern kingdom of Israel was scattered among the nations of the earth as a result of the Assyrian invasion, and the southern kingdom of Judah was also scattered among the nations of the earth as a result of the Babylonian invasion. Eventually and ultimately both Israel and Judah would be united together in the process of restoration as the LORD would bring them back into and unto their own land once more. During the days of the New Testament we indeed find two distinct diasporas and scatterings which would take place, as not only would the Christians—those who were disciples and followers of Jesus the Christ—be scattered abroad among the nations and lands, but so also would the Jews themselves be scattered abroad among the nations of the earth. By the time we come to the epistle which was written by James we find him writing—not merely to the twelve tribes of Israel, but also to those twelve tribes of Israel which had been scattered abroad. Oh we must needs realize and recognize that there was indeed a scattering abroad of the Jews which would take place during the days of the early Church—one that would ultimately culminate and find its completion and fulfillment in the Roman invasion of Judaea and Jerusalem. There would indeed be a scattering of the Jews within and throughout the nations, lands and peoples of the earth, and that scattering abroad would indeed be sealed by, with and through the Roman invasion of the land of Judaea.

            The words which are written and recorded within the epistle that originated from the hand of James are such that warrant strong consideration within our hearts and minds, for these are words that weren’t written to a people who were living and dwelling securely within their own land. As you read the words found in this epistle you will find them being written to a people who were displaced, a people who were scattered, a people who perhaps felt as though they no longer had any place within the earth. It’s truly something worth thinking about and considering when you read these words, for you  can and will be brought face to face with the fact that during the days of the early Church, and during the days of the early church fathers and apostles you find two distinct people that were scattered abroad throughout the nations and lands of the earth. By the time you come to the epistle which was written by James you find the Jewish people having been scattered among the nations of the earth, and you will also find the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ being scattered among the nations. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this incredibly awesome and powerful truth, for when reading the words found in the epistle written unto James we find instruction that was given unto a people who perhaps weren’t living in the land of their heritage and the land of their fathers. Scripture gives absolutely no indication as to how long the twelve tribes of Israel had been scattered among the nations of the earth, however, we know that the entire purpose for this epistle was to provide instruction and encouragement to those who were living displaced lives in the midst of the earth. Pause for a moment and think about how absolutely critical and necessary such an epistle might very well have been for those Jews which were scattered among the nations of the earth, and how they would receive this epistle designed to offer them encouragement—and not only encouragement, but would also challenge them in the midst of their present situation and location. What we must realize and recognize when reading this epistle is that it would begin by and with speaking concerning the trial of faith and divers temptations before transitioning into a place where James would actually warn, challenge, and even rebuke those who had been scattered among the nations of the earth.

            Before I delve into the words which are found within this epistle I am absolutely and completely convinced that we have great need of considering the words which the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah wrote unto the captives and exiles of Judah which were living in the land of the Chaldeans. If you come to the twenty-ninth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah you will find this ancient Hebrew prophet writing unto those who were living as captives and exiles—those who were living as displaced men and women who have been removed from their land and their homes. I am absolutely and completely convinced we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how necessary the words found within this letter truly are, for the words which are found in this letter bring us face to face with this ancient Hebrew prophet who also wrote unto a people that was scattered among the nations of the earth. Within the prophetic book of Jeremiah we find this ancient Hebrew prophet seeking to encourage—and not only encourage, but also strengthen and instruct those who were living their lives as displaced and fractured in the midst of the earth. The words which you find in this letter are words which were designed and intended to instruct these captives and exiles as they were forced to live in the land of the Chaldeans. What’s more, is that as you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find the prophet Jeremiah expressing and writing three distinct realities which would be manifested in the midst of them—namely, the time frame of their captivity and exile, the instruction that was needed in the midst of their captivity and exile, and the promise given unto them of restoration unto the land, and relationship with the Lord. With this being said, I feel compelled to draw and call your attention to the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Psalms, for the words found in the book of Psalms helps to serve as the backdrop and foundation for the words which the prophet Jeremiah spoke and prophesied unto the captives and exiles in the land of the Chaldeans:

            “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sin us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof. O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; Happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones” (Psalms 137:1-9).

            “Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon; (After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem) by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (Whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD. For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearkened unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD: and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 29:1-14).

            UNTO ALL THAT ARE CARRIED AWAY CAPTIVES! WHOM I HAVE CAUSED TO BE CARRIED AWAY FROM JERUSALEM TO BABYLON! THE CITY WHITHER I HAVE CAUSED YOU TO BE CARRIED AWAY CAPTIVES! I WILL TURN AWAY YOUR CAPTIVITY! I WILL GATHER YOU FROM ALL THE NATIONS! FROM ALL THE PLACES WHITHER I HAVE DRIVEN YOU! I WILL BRING YOU AGAIN INTO THE PLACE WHENCE I CAUSED YOU TO BE CARRIED AWAY CAPTIVE! BUILD! DWELL! PLANT! EAT! TAKE! BEGET! INCREASED AND NOT DIMINISHED! SEEK THE PEACE OF THE CITY WHITHER I HAVE CAUSED YOU TO BE CARRIED AWAY CAPTIVES! PRAY UNTO THE LORD FOR IT! IN THE PEACE THEREOF SHALL YE HAVE PACE! AFTER SEVENTY YEARS BE ACCOMPLISHED AT BABYLON, I WILL VISIT YOU! PERFORM MY GOOD WORD TOWARD YOU! CAUSING YOU TO RETURN TO THIS PLACE! THEN SHALL YE CALL UPON ME! YE SHALL GO AND PRAY UNTO ME, I WILL BE HEARKENED UNTO YOU! YE SHALL SEEK ME, AND FIND ME, WHEN YE SHALL SEARCH FOR ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART! I WILL BE FOUND OF YOU! I WILL TURN AWAY YOUR CAPTIVITY, AND WILL GATHER YOU!

            I am absolutely and completely convinced we must needs read the words which are found within this letter written by the prophet Jeremiah unto the captives and exiles which were living in the land of the Chaldeans, for within the Old Testament book of the Psalms we find many of these captives in a discouraged, sorrowful, hopeless and helpless state. Within the Old Testament book of the Psalms we find many of the captives and exiles being unable to sing anymore, unable to worship anymore, unable to play and make music anymore, and unable to be joyful and experience joy. The tremendous significance and importance of the words which are found in the letter written by the hand of Jeremiah is that through this letter this ancient Hebrew prophet not only foretold of an expiration date for their captivity, but he also gave them promise of return and restoration. Through the words found in this letter the prophet Jeremiah would encourage and strengthen the captives and exiles in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans—those who were undoubtedly discouraged, disheartened, and dismayed. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of just how incredibly powerful this truly is when you think about it, for Jeremiah not only sought to encourage the captives and exiles, but he also provided some much needed instruction. Despite and although they were living as captives and exiles, and as strangers and foreigners in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans among their captors—not only were they to seek the peace of the city wherein they were living, but they were also to pray for it. This is incredibly important, for the living and eternal God would declare unto them through His servant Jeremiah that in the peace of the city wherein they dwelt they themselves would have peace. In other words—perhaps the single greatest instruction given and spoken unto the captives and exiles which were present in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans was that of seeking the peace and praying for their captors, and praying for those who had carried them away from and out of their own land. Moreover, the prophet was warning the people of Judah and Jerusalem to not grow offended, bitter, angry, and even resentful within their hearts—not only toward their captors, but even toward the living and eternal God. It would be through the prophet Jeremiah the living and eternal God would speak directly to them concerning their captivity and exile that He might bring them to the place where they could actually grow in the midst of it rather than diminish.

            I sit here today thinking about the words which are written and recorded in the letter which Jeremiah sent unto the captives and exiles, and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the overall and underlying truth the Lord wanted them to understand—namely, that they ought to increase rather than diminish. In other words, it was the heart and mind of the living and eternal God that the captives and exiles actually grow and flourish in the midst of their captivity and exile knowing that the time of their restoration and return would one day come. The LORD of hosts sought the captives and exiles in the midst of the land of the Chaldeans to grow and flourish in the midst of their captivity and exile that there might actually be a people who were able to return unto the land when that time came. BE READY FOR YOUR RETURN! BE READY FOR YOUR RESTORATION! Oh, if there is one thing I can’t help but think about and consider when reading the words which the prophet Jeremiah wrote unto the captives and exiles it’s that the instruction the LORD had for them was not that they decrease, not that they diminish, and not that they disappear from the midst of the land, but rather that they might grow, that they might increase and that they might flourish. Would it shock and surprise you to think about the fact that one of the greatest necessities within the captivity and exile of the Jews, and one of the greatest necessities within the scattering of them in the midst of the nations and lands of the earth was that they grow and increase rather than decrease. Oh we must needs recognize and understand this, for although the LORD would indeed drive them out of the land and permit them to be scattered in the midst of the nations, He never intended, nor did He desire that they decrease and diminish within the land. What we must recognize and come face to face with is that there was a great need for the captive Jews to increase and experience growth in the midst of the land of their captivity that they might be a people who would be able to return unto the land at the appointed time. Their captivity was not meant to destroy, decrease and diminish them, but was meant for their good, for their increase, and for their prosperity. This reality is evidenced in the words the LORD declared unto them concerning His knowing the thoughts that He thought toward them—thoughts of peace, and not of evil, and to give them an expected end.

            The more I think about and consider the words which are found within this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the words which James wrote unto the twelve tribes which were scattered among the nations of the earth, and how the words which were written unto the twelve tribes of Israel was meant for their good, for their growth, for their increase, for their maturity, and for their prosperity in the midst of the land. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for when and as you read the words found in the epistle written unto the twelve tribes of Israel which were scattered abroad among the nations you will find a similar reality and concept to that which was written and recorded in the twenty-ninth chapter of the letter written by the hand of Jeremiah the prophet. We have great need to recognize and pay close attention to the words found within the letter, for those words bring us face to face with the reality that James was seeking to accomplish within the hearts, within the minds, and within the souls of the tribes which were scattered something similar to that which the prophet Jeremiah sought to do within his letter. You cannot read the words which are found within the epistle written by the hand of James and not encounter and come face to face with the truly wonderful and powerful truth that this epistle was written for the edification, for the growth, for the maturation, and for the prosperity of the twelve tribes which were scattered among the nations. James sought to write these words which were found in this epistle unto the twelve tribes which were scattered among the nations that they might come face to face with that which was asked and required of them by the living God. What’s more, is that just as the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah sought to provide instruction and warning to the captives which were living in the land of the Chaldeans, so also would James seek to provide the scattered twelve tribes with additional instruction and encouragement—this in addition to words of warning, words of caution, words of rebuke, and words which were meant to challenge them. Oh how absolutely intriguing it truly is to read the words which are found within the epistle written by James, for the words which are found in that epistle bring us face to face with the undeniable truth that they had need of instruction as well as encouragement. James sought to provide a tremendous amount of instruction unto these people which were scattered abroad—not only that they might live in a manner that pleases God in the midst of those nations and lands, but also that they might be able to grow, flourish, prosper and increase in the midst of the lands into which they had been scattered.

            What makes the words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament epistle written by James so absolutely incredible is when you take the time to think about the fact that he begins and opens up in and with a place you would not typically expect or anticipate. As you read the words which are found within the opening chapter of this epistle you will find James writing, speaking to and addressing those who had been scattered abroad as brethren. Not only this, but within this epistle you will find James deliberately and intentionally choosing to speak to these brethren by inviting and encouraging them to count it all joy when they fall into divers temptations. What’s more, is that within this passage of Scripture you will find James going on to not only speak about divers temptations, but also the trying of their faith. It’s worth noting and pointing out that in the second verse James writes and speaks about divers temptations which they would fall into, while in the third verse we find James writing and speaking about the trying of the faith. I happen to find the words James used to be absolutely and incredibly intriguing and captivating—particularly and especially when you consider that not only do his words seem to be directly linked and connected to the words which are found in the epistle written unto the Hebrews, but they also seem to be directly in line with the words which the apostle Peter wrote in his first epistle. In fact, if you take the time to read the words which are found in the opening verses of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter you will find him writing unto the strangers which were scattered abroad throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. Not only this, but you will find the apostle Peter writing unto these who were scattered and speaking unto them as being the elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father through the sanctification of the Spirt, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. It is actually quite astounding and captivating when you think about and consider the words which are found in the opening chapter of the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Peter, as well as the words which are found in the opening chapter of the epistle written by James, for both authors sought to write unto those who were and who had been scattered abroad within and throughout the surrounding nations, lands and peoples. It would be the apostle Peter who would actually go on to include some of those places which these strangers and the elect of God were and had actually been scattered.

            The more I read and consider the words which are found in the opening chapter of the epistle written by James, and the more I think about and consider the words which were found in the first epistle written by the apostle Peter the more I am drawn into and captivated with and by the awesome and incredible truth that both of these authors wrote unto a people which were scattered and displaced within and among the nations, lands and peoples of the earth. Not only this, but there is this underlying current and tone of trial, of trouble, of tribulation, of suffering and affliction. You cannot read the words which are found in the first chapters of each of these epistles and not be brought face to face with the absolutely fascinating and tremendous thought that when these New Testament authors wrote unto those who were scattered they recognized and understood the tremendous trials, troubles, tribulations, struggles and afflictions they faced within and among the peoples they were living and dwelling among. I am absolutely and completely convinced that in order for us to truly understand the words which are found in the epistle written unto James we must needs read and consider those words—not only with the words which are found in the opening chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter, but also the words which are found in the fourth and fifth chapter of the same epistle which was written by the apostle Peter. Oh we must needs read and pay close attention to the words which are found in these opening chapters of these two epistles, for there is not a doubt in my mind that they are intrinsically linked and connected as both authors recognized and understood the struggles and conflicts these scattered and dispersed individuals were facing within their present situations and circumstances. Consider if you will the words which are found in the first chapter of the epistle written unto James, as well as those words which are found in the first, fourth and fifth chapters of the epistle written by the apostle Peter in his first 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. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: but the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him” (James 1:3-12).

            “Blessed  be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 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: whom having not seen, ye love; in whom though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:3-11).

            “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 murderer, 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 glorify 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 keepint of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).

            “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that ye 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 of Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-10).

            FALL INTO DIVERS TEMPTATIONS! THE TRYING OF YOUR FAITH! THE TRIAL OF YOUR FAITH! TRIED WITH FIRE! THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST! THE FIERY TRIAL! THE FIERY TRIAL WHICH IS TO TRY YOU! PARTAKERS OF CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS! REPROACHED FOR THE NAME OF CHRIST! SUFFER AS A CHRISTIAN! LET THEM THAT SUFFER ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF GOD! THE SAME AFFLICTIONS ARE ACCOMPLISHED IN YOUR BRETHREN THAT ARE IN THE WORLD! AFTER THAT YE HAVE SUFFERED A WHILE!

            We cannot read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture and not be absolutely and completely gripped and captivated with and by the fact that both the apostle Peter and James were not only writing to scattered people, but they were responding and writing to suffering people. You cannot read the words found within these chapters and not come face to face with the absolutely incredible truth that both of these authors realized and recognized that they weren’t simply writing to scattered people within and among the nations of the earth, but they were responding and writing to a people that were suffering, a people that were afflicted, a people that were in the thick and throws of the battle and conflict within their hearts and lives. It is absolutely undeniable when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that these two New Testament authors took the time to deliberately and intentionally address the very reality that those brethren to whom they were writing were indeed and were in fact suffering, and were indeed struggling. I absolutely love the language that is found within these passages of Scripture, for the words which we find in these passages of Scripture bring us face to face with a scattered and struggling people—and not only a scattered and struggling people, but a scattered and suffering people. It would be very easy to forget and lose sight of this truth when reading these epistles, and yet the truth of the matter is that when these authors were writing unto these brethren they were writing unto individuals who were in the midst of a great conflict and were in the midst of tremendous trials, trouble and tribulation. In fact, it was the apostle Peter who not only wrote about the trying of your faith, but also the fiery trial of their faith. In fact, it was both James and the apostle Peter who spoke of and address the reality and manifestation of the trial of faith, thus indicating and suggesting that what these individuals were experiencing and going through was not merely a struggle and was not merely suffering, but was indeed a trial—and not merely a trial, but that which was intended to reveal both the evidence and substance of their faith.

            I am absolutely and completely convinced when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture that those to whom these New Testament authors were writing to were those who weren’t merely displaced, but those who were displaced, scattered, discouraged, and perhaps even frustrated, disheartened, filled with sorrow, filled with anguish, filled with helplessness and hopelessness. I firmly believe that at the very heart and core of both of these epistles was indeed the faith of these brothers and sisters who were indeed scattered among and scattered in the midst of the nations of the earth. There is not a doubt in my mind when reading the words which are found in these passages of Scripture that those to whom these authors were writing were indeed experiencing more than simply being scattered, and more than simply being displaced from their home and their land. There is a very real and underlying truth that is found in this narrative that speaks to the faith of these brethren, and as the apostle Peter wrote how their faith which was more precious than gold which perishes. We must needs realize and understand that at the very heart of these epistles is a genuine and authentic concern for the faith of these brethren who were scattered among the nations, the peoples and the lands within and throughout the earth. What’s more, is that these epistles were intended to truly zero in on—not only the trial of faith, not only the testing of faith, but also the dangers to faith. The more you read the words which are found in the epistle written by James the more you will be confronted with the tremendous truth that there wasn’t merely the trial of their faith, but also divers temptations which they faced and experienced within their hearts and lives. What’s more, is that both the apostle Peter and James not only spoke of the trying and the trial of faith, but also of “divers temptations” which James wrote about, and “manifold temptations” which the apostle Peter wrote and spoke about.

            HAVING THE FAITH OF THE LORD JESUS WITH PARTIALITY! SHOWING FAITH BY WORKS! FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD! FAITH WITHOUT WORKS ABIDES ALONE! The more I read and consider the words which are written and recorded in the New Testament epistle written by James the more I am brought face to face with the tremendous fact that within the first and opening chapter—not only do we find this early church father writing concerning the trial and testing of our faith, but we also find him writing and speaking concerning the temptations we face within this life. The epistle essentially opens with the emphatic declaration and invitation to count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations, and then continues with an even bolder declaration that the trying of our faith works patience within us. What’s more, is that when you transition to the thirteenth verse of this same chapter you will find James writing and instructing his audience to not say when one is tempted that they are tempted of God, and then goes on to state that God cannot be tempted with evil, neither does God tempt any man. James would go on to write even further how every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Once lust has conceived within the heart and mind of a man it brings forth sin—and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found within the opening chapter of this epistle, for the words we find here bring us face to face with the tremendous truth that the audience to whom James was writing was one which was not only scattered, but also one that was struggling and suffering. It is not by coincidence, nor is it by accident the epistle opens with the words from James to count it all joy when we fall into divers temptations, nor is it any accident when James goes on to write how the trying of our faith works patience within us. I am absolutely and completely convinced we must needs pay close and careful attention to the words which are found here in this epistle, for they confront us with a people who were scattered abroad among the nations, peoples and lands of the earth, and in the midst of their being scattered they faced tremendous pressure from both divers temptations, as well as the trying of their faith.

            What makes this epistle so incredibly intriguing is when you think about and consider the fact that when writing unto the twelve tribes of Israel which were scattered abroad among the nations of the earth, James wrote unto them concerning their divers temptations, as well as concerning the trying of their faith, but in the second chapter of this epistle we find James going on to not only write concerning holding the faith of the Lord Jesus in partiality, but also declaring how faith without works is dead. It’s worth noting and pointing out when reading this epistle how in the first and opening chapter James wrote of the trial and the trying of faith, and how in the second chapter James goes on to write and speak of the demonstration and manifestation of that faith—namely, that not only can it not be with any partiality, but neither can it be without works. You cannot read the words which are found in the second chapter of this epistle and not be confronted with the substance and evidence of our faith, and how it is possible for faith to be dead—and not only dead, but also abide alone. When writing unto this audience James is very clear that we hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ in partiality when we judge others based on their appearance—and not merely based on their appearance, but also based on our opinions of them. It is important that we recognize and understand this, for I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is another form of judgment that is found within the second chapter of this epistle—namely, that judgment which looks upon another based on their appearance, based on our opinions, based on our thoughts, and even based on that which others have spoken, and casting judgment upon them as a direct result. It should be noted when reading the words found in the second chapter that James began by writing of having the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory with respect of persons, and then he goes on to write how those who do such tings are not only partial in themselves, but are also become judges of evil thoughts. Not only this, but James would take this a step further and boldly declare that those who have the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ with partiality, and those who are partial within themselves are not only judges of evil thoughts, but are absolutely incapable and unable to fulfill the royal law of the LORD which is indeed to love our neighbour as ourselves.

            I am absolutely and completely convinced we must needs pay close attention to the words which are found in the second chapter of this epistle, for not only do they bring us face to face with a form of judgment within our hearts that is both deadly and dangerous, but it also directly confronts our willingness and our ability to fulfill the royal law of the Lord. In fact, James was incredibly bold when writing the words which we find in this second chapter, for not only did James boldly declare that those who are partial within themselves and judge others are unable to fulfill the royal law of the Lord of loving our neighbour as ourselves, but James would also write and declare that faith without works—faith without a demonstration and manifestation of works abides alone and is dead. A DEAD FAITH & AN ABSENT LOVE! A DEAD FAITH & LOVE THAT IS ABSENT! We must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for the words we find here directly confront how we live our lives within this life—and not only how we live our lives, but also whether or not we are truly able to fulfill the royal law of the Lord, and whether or not we can truly declare that we have faith. We must needs pay close and careful attention to the words which are found within this passage of Scripture, for the words we find here directly confronts us with how we are holding and handling the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not only this, but the words we find in this passage of Scripture also directly confront our ability to love others and fulfill the royal law of the Lord. Oh I cannot escape the words which are found in the second chapter of the epistle written by james, for the words we find here within this epistle directly confront a form of judgment within our hearts and our minds which is just as deadly as judging others based on sin within their hearts and lives while choosing to ignore the sin that is found within our own hearts. We would like to spend a lot of time focusing on that judgment which is linked and connected to the sin which is found in the hearts and lives of others, and yet we fail to recognize and understand that there is another form of judgment which can indeed be far more sinister within and among our hearts and lives—namely, that form of judgment which we feel gives us the right to be partial within ourselves toward others and have respect unto persons.

            Oh the more I read the words which are found within this epistle the more I can’t help but be absolutely and directly confronted with the tremendous fact that within the second chapter James was incredibly bold with his approach when writing unto the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad. Despite the fact he would begin and open the epistle written unto this scattered people by writing of divers temptations and the trying of our faith, James would go on to write concerning some of the dangers that are found within this world, and those dangers which threaten our ability to truly walk with and serve the living God. You cannot read the words found within this epistle and not be brought face to face with the words found in the second, third and fourth chapters, for within these three chapters we find a tremendous word of warning and word of caution that was written and spoken unto this people who were scattered and dispersed among the nations and peoples of the earth. It would be in the second chapter of this epistle James would write about that form of judgment which would not only prevent us from fulfilling the royal law of the Lord in loving our neighbour as ourselves, but also the tremendous danger surrounding the profession of faith without and apart from works. When reading the words found in the second chapter of this epistle we must needs recognize and understand that the words found within it are a direct confrontation and a direct challenge given unto those who were scattered concerning their ability to love others as themselves—and not only love others as themselves, but also demonstrate and manifest their faith in the midst of the earth. Those words which are presented before and unto us in the second chapter of this epistle are such that serve as a powerful challenge within our hearts and our lives, and as a means to directly confront whether or not the faith we profess we hold and possess is truly a faith at all. James made no mistake about it, nor did he hold any punches when writing how faith without and apart from works was dead and abides alone. Not only this, but James would also write in the same chapter how we are partial within ourselves, how we are judges of evil thoughts, and are even unable to fulfill the royal law of the Lord when we have respect of persons within our hearts—and not only have respect of persons within our hearts, but also cast and pass judgment upon them based on their appearance when they enter and come among us.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within this epistle, and I can’t help but be absolutely captivated with the fact that in the second chapter James writes about partiality, favoritism and judgment within our hearts and lives, as well a faith which is dead and abides alone because there is no outlet or expression of it. With that being said—as you come to the third chapter you will find James going on to write even more truth unto his audience of those who were scattered abroad, for James would write about the tremendous need to bridle, tame and control our tongue. It was Jesus Himself who emphatically and boldly declared that it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but rather it is that which proceeds out of and comes forth from the mouth of a man that actually defiles, pollutes and corrupts us. Oh we must needs recognize and understand this, for it allows us to truly see and understand the words which James the half brother of Jesus wrote in this epistle—namely, how one of the greatest demonstrations of our faith in this life is the taming and controlling of our tongue. We cannot read the epistle written by James unto the twelve tribes which were scattered abroad and not encounter and come face to face with the truly awesome and powerful truth that one of the greatest demonstrations of our faith—and not only of our faith, but also of our relationship with the one true and living God is that of our ability to tame and control our tongue. What’s more, is that when James writes and speaks of taming and controlling the tongue—that which he is writing and speaking about is the ability to control those words which proceed out of our mouths. Oh it is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to the words found in the third chapter, for not only does James write about faith which is dead and a love which is non-existent in the second chapter, but now we find James writing of the great need to bridle, tame and control our tongue. In all reality, I would dare say that James might very well have been considered incredibly controversial with the writing of this epistle, for James held no punches when writing unto these twelve tribes which were scattered, nor did he make any apologies for what he wrote. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the words which are found in the third chapter beginning to read with and from the first verse:

            “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ moths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: but the tongue can no man tame; it is an untruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these tings ought not to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Either a vine, figs? So can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh” (James 3:1-12).

            The words which are written and recorded in the third chapter of this epistle take that which James was writing unto his audience a step further and to an even greater and deeper level, for the words which he writes goes on to challenge his audience and his readers with the control of their tongues. As you read the words found in the third chapter of this epistle you can and will be brought face to face with the truly captivating truth and reality that not only do we have great need of being mindful of that form of judgment within our hearts and lives which causes us to have favoritism and show partiality toward others, and not only do we have great need for our faith to have a demonstration and manifestation of works within the earth, but we also have great need to pay close and careful attention to the words which proceed forth out of our mouths. That which James writes in the third chapter of this epistle brings us face to face with the truly astonishing and incredible truth that we have great need to not only pay close and careful attention to the words which proceed forth out of our mouths, but also to truly take the time to listen to the words which come forth from out mouths. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—when was the last time you stopped to truly listen to the words which proceeded forth from your mouth? When was the last time you truly took the time to hear and to listen to how you speak and how you talk within this generation? Have you ever taken the time to hear and listen to yourself and the words which come out of your mouth in a single day? Oh even as I am sitting here I find myself thinking about and considering what we would think if every word we spoke within and throughout the course of a given day was recorded, and when the day was drawing to a close we were forced to listen to each and every word we spoke from our mouths. I can’t help but think about what many of us would face if we were followed around all day with a recorder which not only recorded every word we spoke, but also was played back for us at the end of the day. I am truly and completely captivated with and by this thought, as this thought directly challenges me concerning the words I speak within and throughout the course of a day. For you who might be reading the words which are found in this writing I feel the great need to ask you what you would think and how you would feel if at the end of every day each and every word you spoke within and throughout that day was played back for you, and you heard exactly what you said and how you spoke unto others. Permit me to ask you who are reading these words if you think you would be disgusted with and by the words which you spoke throughout the day, or whether or not you would be pleased with the words which you spoke.

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words found in this epistle, for what begins with an expression concerning divers temptations and the trying of our faith would quickly transition to James writing of that form of judgment within our hearts and lives which would not only keep us from fulfilling the royal law of the Lord in loving our neighbours as ourselves, but would also keep and prevent us from truly demonstrating, manifesting and expressing our faith in this life as we rise up to minister others. What’s more, is that in the third chapter of this epistle we find James going on to write about what is perhaps one of the greatest challenges that is found within our lives—namely, the challenge to bridle our tongues and to control the words which proceed out of our mouths. If that which Jesus declared is indeed true, and if out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks, then the question we must ask is what is found and present within our hearts. If the words which proceed out of our mouth is indeed an expression of that which is present within our hearts, then the question we must needs ask ourselves is what we have filled and what we are filling our heart with. There is not a doubt in my mind that the truest expression of what is found within our hearts are the words which proceed forth from our mouths. One of the greatest challenges we have within this life is that of not only replacing what’s in our hearts that causes our mouths to sin, but also controlling, taming, bridling and truly taking the time to be deliberate and intentional with the words which proceed out of our mouths. One of the greatest signs of the Holy Spirit truly dwelling inside of us is the taming and bridling of our tongues, and I can’t help but wonder if this is an underlying reason and manifestation of the cloven tongues of fire that rested upon the one-hundred and twenty souls which were present in the upper room. I cannot help but think about and consider how one of the absolute greatest needs within my heart and life is that of not only hearing and listening to the words which proceed out of my mouth, but also diligently and faithfully work to remove from my heart that which would corrupt, defile and pollute every part of me because of the words which come out of my mouth. Oh as we read the words which are found within this epistle we must needs be directly willing to confront our hearts and that which is truly present within it, and whether or not we are truly walking in the faith which pleases, glorifies and honors the living and eternal God.

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