I have enjoyed going through the first half of the book of Acts with all of you, as the book of Acts is one of my favorite books in the Bible. I am fascinated with the history of the church after Jesus ascended to heaven, and there is no better source to take a look at than the book of Acts. I hope you all enjoyed the first half of Acts as well. Today, we cover the book of James, another real solid book (really all 66 books are real solid). James is one of the first books of the Bible that I would have a new believer read, as it has a ton of applicable information. The book provides great stepping stones to living a godly life. If you haven’t read the book of James before, stop whatever you’re doing (Well, I guess that means stop reading this devotion), and read the book of James for yourself. If you have read it before, I would still encourage you to revisit this piece of gold.
James covers a wide range of topics throughout his book. Today, we are going to spend most of our time covering two topics found in the book. Before we do that though, I want to mention the other topics found in James. If there is a topic that interests you, then go ahead and see what James himself has to say about it. The main talking points in James that we won’t talk about are: hearing and doing the word, the sin of partiality, taming the tongue, wisdom from above, warning against worldliness, boasting about tomorrow, warning to the rich, patience in suffering, and the prayer of faith. Much could be said about each of these different topics. There is simply not enough time/space to mention all of these topics in our devotion.
With that being said, we will talk about the testing of our faith and the relationship between faith and works. I wanted to talk about the testing of our faith because it connects very well with what we have been talking about with the book of Acts. In the first 14 chapters of Acts, we saw a handful of people suffer because of their faith in Jesus. What does James have to say about this? Well, James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:2-4). In summary, James says to consider it a joy!
I don’t know about you, but it is not my initial thought or feeling to consider a trial a joy. I think a large reason is because it is not fun or enjoyable to go through a trial. However, when we think about the effects of enduring through trials of various kinds, we can come away with an appreciation. When we successfully endure through a trial, it can produce steadfastness, which enables us to be a more complete, well-rounded person.
Every single time that someone goes through a trial, they either grow closer or they grow further away from God. The heroes of our faith that we took a look at in Acts went through various trials, and it appears that they grew closer to God.
Our next main topic is the relationship between faith and works; they have an interesting relationship with one another. They have caused a lot of discussion and even some disagreement in Christian circles. According to James, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” (James 2:17). That means that a faith that is not accompanied by any works is useless! We need to remember though that it is by God’s grace that we are saved, and we accept that grace through our faith, not our works (Ephesians 2:8). However, we can’t accept God’s grace with a dead faith; it must be a living and active faith that we have to accept God’s grace. We already mentioned that a faith without any works is dead and useless. That means that we must accept God’s grace through our faith, but we have to accompany our faith with our works.
At an initial glance, it can appear at times that James and Paul (in Ephesians) clash with one another. However, that is not the case at all. They both show how faith and works have a beautiful relationship with one another. I remember being stumped over the relationship between faith and works for some time. It took me awhile to see how they work together, and I hope this very short explanation can help clear up the confusion that any of you may have between faith and works.
Well, there we have it, folks. This past week we got to spend time in Acts and James. We have learned a handful of very valuable lessons from the likes of Paul, Peter, and James. If you have read the devotions for this week, I hope you stick with it! There is lots of great content ahead, as we get to explore the writings of Paul and others. As always, there is also a great lineup of writers to help us all dig into God’s Word. God bless!
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – James 1-5
Tomorrow we read Acts 15-16.