Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:  Meditations in James

PART ONE: Chapter 1

Meditation Title: Overview 





Part 1: Chapter 1






Welcome to Servant heartedness



Scattered in the world



Joyful Testing



Steps to Maturity



Asking for Wisdom



No Room for Doubting



Pride within Humility



Persevering under Trial



Opening the Door of Temptation



Goodness from God



God's Fruit



When Slowness is Good



Cleansed and Planted



The Mirror of Truth



Rein in your Tongue



Practical Spirituality



Part 2: Chapters 2 & 3



Beware Favouritism



Understanding the Rich & Poor



How to Avoid Becoming a Lawbreaker



Judgement & Mercy



Faith needs deeds



Faith needs good deeds



Faith without deeds



Faith is more than just believing



Abraham's Faith



Rahab's Faith



The Responsibility of Teachers



Stumbling Christians?



Steered by the Tongue



Burnt by the Tongue



Inability to Tame the Tongue



Forked Tongue



Humility with Wisdom



Earthly Wisdom



Heavenly Wisdom



Part 3: Chapters 4 & 5



Battling Desires



Right Asking



Enemies of God



God's Jealousy



Pride & Humility



Strategy for Warfare



Approaching God Wisely



Beware what you say about others



Rash Planning



At Peace in God's Will



Opposing God's will



Accountability for the Rich



Unjust Employment



Be patient, stand firm



God is the Judge



More on Patience & Perseverance



Be Simple & Straight Forward



Praying out Sickness



The Place of Confession



The Example of Elijah



Recovering the Wanderer








Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:  Meditations in James

Meditation Title: Prologue


Jas 1:1,27 To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations….Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this…


James' letter perhaps lends itself to meditation more than most letters in the New Testament, because he deals with lots of subjects in short, sharp ways, and thus we are provided with lots of ‘bits' to consider. As we'll see when we get into it, it is a letter that is particularly appropriate for the day in which we live and it comes to us as an encouragement and a challenge.


When James speaks of the twelve tribes this may simply be shorthand for ‘God's people' or ‘the Church'. As various historical characters have somewhat caustically commented, it has little about the doctrines of the son of God or of salvation but without doubt it is a sharp wake-up call to a church that, living scattered in the world, may be allowing itself to take on the characteristics of the world. It is both spiritual and practical and as such ensures we neither become too heavenly minded to be of any earthly use, or become so earthly that we loose the spiritual dimension. James brings these together dynamically, and so watch out if you have either of these tendencies!


Having previously written Daily Bible Studies for James I have wondered what value there is in writing meditations for his letter. The answer I came to very quickly is that in meditations we can allow our thoughts to roam far more widely and to see the teaching in a broad context, which shows it in the face of the world in which we live and in the light of the rest of Scriptural teaching. This broad context is not, of course, possible in the Bible Studies. You should, hopefully, find the teaching covered by James, being covered far more deeply in these studies and I hope you will find it very beneficial.


There is one final thing to be noted about meditations in general: because Biblical Meditation is simply chewing on the Scriptures and seeing what the Lord brings out of them, we can meditate on a verse one day and see certain things from it, and then repeat the exercise on another day and see a completely different set of things. You will find that my style of meditation often seeks to link what is being said in our verse with other teaching in Scripture, while at the same time seeking to ensure there is comment on how it may apply to our daily lives. Thus these meditations may possibly be seen as a combination of commentary plus devotional thoughts. If you can accept that, I hope you enjoy what you read and as a result, your walk with the Lord will be that much closer. May it be so!






Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:  Meditations in James

Meditation No. 1

Meditation Title: Welcome ot Servant-Heartedness


Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ


Leaders in the church of the first century seem to be so different from so many leaders in the church of the twenty first century. In big churches in the United States , leaders seem not far removed from a CEO of a big company. Some have big cars, big houses and big minders. Even in smaller churches, church leaders often seem to be ‘big people' who command awe and respect. Now I may be wrong, but when I read some of Paul's writings, his second letter to the Corinthians for example, although there are times when he speaks strongly, when he writes to them he spends much time appealing to them on the basis of his weakness. James starts us of in his letter referring to himself as a servant. Now this is remarkable because commentators and scholars tend to think that he was probably one of the brothers of Jesus: Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?” (Mt 13:55).


Now if he was a worldly person he would drop this little fact for us, just to quietly remind us of his closeness to the Messiah. I mean, a member of that special family! What tales he could have told of Jesus' early years, probably the closest in age to Jesus, coming at the head of that list we've just quoted. But no, there is nothing of that. He tells us virtually nothing of himself. Even if the assumption that he was one of Jesus' brothers is wrong, he is clearly a leader who is well known, but still he doesn't put on airs. He simply sees himself as a servant, and that is the only designation he wants to go by.


Yet when he refers to himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is a confidence implied within that. A lot of people wouldn't have the confidence to call themselves a servant of God; they might feel it sounds too pious, but James knows who he is and who has called him and who he serves. Some people might feel that it would be too presumptuous to call themselves that and might feel that God might hold them to account for saying such things, but James knows who he is. If he is the brother of Jesus, the designation he gives himself is all the more amazing, the servant of… the Lord Jesus Christ . There is no familiarity about this designation. He could have said, I am a servant of my brother Jesus, but he doesn't! He elevates Jesus for he has come to see him as he truly is – the Lord. It hadn't always been like that. Once he hadn't even believed Jesus was who he said he was (see Jn 7:3-5). Now he understands, now he realizes Jesus is the One who has the right to call on James as his servant. There is a humility that comes out in James in this, that not only doesn't draw attention to his pedigree, but also bows the knee both to God and to Jesus.


Servants are those who serve another and don't draw attention to themselves. Jesus called his disciples to be servants: whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mt 20:26-28) To have a servant heart was to be the starting place of a disciple, yet as they developed their relationship with him, Jesus was able to say to them, You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (Jn 15:14,15). A servant doesn't tend to know what is in his master's mind, yet as Jesus shared his heart with his closest disciples he changed their designation from ‘servants' to ‘friends'. Why, we might ask, doesn't James call himself a friend of Jesus then, why a servant? Well the Greek word that James uses for ‘servant' is doulos which means a bond-servant or slave, one who willingly submits themselves to their master. It is as if James says, yes, I know what our position is today, we are God's children or friends of Jesus, and in my case he is my brother, but I want it to be known that I submit to him, he is my Lord and I don't want to make any presumptions; I just want to be available to him, as his slave if need be.


How many of us come to God with this sort of self-imposed humility I wonder? Such humility only comes when there is a true awareness of just who Jesus is and just who we are. When we realise that he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords ( Rev 19:16) and that left to ourselves we are but helpless sinners, this gives us no room to boast and no room to feel great about ourselves. It only creates gratefulness and thankfulness and a desire to bow before our liege-Lord, as the servants of old did in feudal times, acknowledging their allegiance (do you see the similarity in words?). This is what James is doing as he describes himself like this; he is declaring his allegiance to Jesus as his Lord. It is almost as if he feels that he can only come as God's representative to His church, if he comes in this manner. He can only speak the things he is going to speak to God's people, if he comes with his heart bowed before his Lord. What a good attitude for any leader!







Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:   Meditations in James

Meditation No. 2


Meditation Title: Scattered in the World

Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.


The Industrial Revolution in Britain, for the first time, split up families as men and later women went to work in mills and other industrial units away from the home. Until then the ‘family business' tended to be where the home was and the family was largely together. The extension of that change, as now expressed in today's living, we take for granted. Men and women leave for work, and children leave for school or college, often miles away from the home. The family is dispersed into the world each day. When young people leave home to set up on their own, it is now frequently many miles away from their parents. There has been a dispersion of families into the world. Although we take all this for granted and see it as a natural part of modern life, it has its dangers. The family, with individuals dispersed and alone, do not have the mutual support of one another and so the values of the family can be attacked in a secular society. It was for this very reason that James wrote his letter. The church was dispersed.


Initially the church was focused on Jerusalem and Judea (but Jesus had indicated that the church would go to the ends of the world – Acts 1:8). Stephen was killed and On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem , and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” (Acts 8:1). This was the first of a number of persecutions that would come upon the church and each time the Christians would be dispersed more and more, but this had a very positive effect: Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there(Acts 8:4,5). The truth was that God wanted the word to be shared across the world.


Initially the church was very largely simply made up of Jews and they obviously found it very difficult at times to let go their Jewish culture and upbringing as we see in the case of Peter's vision (Acts 10:9-16) and his subsequent comment to Cornelius, You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.” (v.28). Thus they still struggled with this idea of Jew and Gentile mixing, and the church initially was still seen by them as Jewish. In fact when the word got back to Jerusalem that Peter had gone to Gentiles, the circumcised believers criticized him and said ‘You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them' (Acts 11:3). So when more and more persecution came and the believers (largely Jewish) found themselves isolated and away from Jerusalem's strong influence, they would first be confused and then there may have been a tendency to blend in with whatever society they found themselves amongst. It was to counter these tendencies and meet the needs of the believers in their new situations that James wrote.


We in the West, live in an age of constantly increasing materialism and secularism and of multicultural and multi-faith living. Without doubt Christians are, at present, a minority and in many ways there are similarities with the early church of James ' day. There is a tendency, in the beginning of the twenty first century in the West, in the face of secular government and materialistic media, to wilt in the face of the barrage of the enemy's propaganda that casts doubt on the Christian's belief. With the popular writings of such people as Dan Brown questioning the faith and proposing things that are not true, and the atheistic attacks of people such as scientist, Richard Dawkins, who interprets scientific facts in ways that satisfy his atheistic leanings, for Christians to wonder about their faith. There is in fact nothing to fear but that doesn't stop the enemy seeking to sow doubt and fear, and so we need the constant encouragement of people like James to remind us of the basis of our faith and particularly how that faith should be working out in very practical ways in our normal, every day lives.


The truth is that our faith is very practical and belief in Jesus, and in the salvation he brings, should touch every area of our lives. James is going to help us see that, but even before we consider what he says to us, can we check our hearts? Are we open to the Lord to challenge us over how we are coping with this secular, materialistic, unbelieving age? Do we hold firm to the truth in the face of all the untruth that is spoken around us? Are we sure about the truth, why it is the truth and why we can believe it? These are key questions for Christians living at this point of time in the West. Be ready to be challenged. Be ready to be stirred. This letter was written for such a time as this. Enjoy it and be changed by it!






Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:   Meditations in James

Meditation No. 3


Meditation Title: Joyful Testing


Jas 1:2,3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.


Living in the West in the early part of the twenty-first century, we are more affluent and have more technology than any people who have ever existed before us. Life should, therefore, be easy and pleasant, but so often it isn't. If you asked most people, they would pause, reflect and then say something like, “Life is tough!” Why is that? It is, I suggest because we live in a Fallen World where sin prevails and therefore things go wrong and people are nasty. As a dispersed people (see yesterday) we are out there in the world, largely alone, having to learn to cope with the less-than-perfect life that rolls out before us. A lot of the time it may be humdrum, ordinary with no particular problems, but then suddenly something happens, something goes wrong and we are in conflict or stress and anxiety, or we are struggling with illness or infirmity. That's what life in this Fallen World is like. The staggeringly wonderful news for Christians, of course, is that we are not alone; we have the Lord with us. Moses was able to encourage Israel with, Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you ; he will never leave you nor forsake you .” (Deut 31:6) and the writer to the Hebrews was able to take that and apply it to us when he wrote, be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you ; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Heb 13:5,6).


So the first thing to note from our verses today is that we live in a world where things go wrong, things that James calls ‘trials'. The second thing to keep in mind, which isn't in this verse, is that whatever happens the Lord is with us in it. Perhaps we would to well to remember a third thing, that however difficult the trial seems to be, the Lord will be there seeking to bring good out of it for us: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28 ). Bear those two things in mind: the Lord is with us and He will be working to bring good out of what otherwise might be a bad situation!


But then James says something about what is going on. He says God is testing your faith. Our education system, at the government's direction, seems paranoid about testing. Our children seem to be getting constantly tested. Why do the government want teachers to do this? They do it because they want to check a child's progress and ensure that they are learning. That is exactly why God tests us. There is a clear indication in Scripture that God expects us to mature – we'll see that tomorrow. The writer to the Hebrews chided them saying, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil (Heb 5:12 -14).


There he indicates he expects us to grow up, understand the truth and live it. God's testing, however, doesn't merely monitor our position; it acts like a work-out in the gym and strengthens us. Whereas a physical workout brings strength to our muscles, God's work-out develops perseverance in us, that ability to just plug on when life seems difficult. Yes, there are times when life seems glorious and wonderful and easy, and at those times you don't need any special resources, (and that is a danger for we forget our need of the Lord), but we've been saying that in this Fallen World life is sometimes difficult and the enemy would want us to give up on our faith, and so perseverance is something the Lord builds in to us. How does he do that? By allowing us trying times!


It's not only James; Paul says the same thing: And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance” (Rom 5:2,3). It's not only James and Paul; Peter says the same thing: “ In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Pet 1:6,7)


So there it is; these trials, these tests, work to bring perseverance which we need to handle the dark side of life, and as we do, our faith is seen to be genuine and all the angels looking on give a mighty applause because they see it is the work of Jesus and so when he returns, and every knee bows to acknowledge his wonder, this will be part of the reason for all the praise he receives. Our lives have the means of glorifying Jesus!


Which brings us to the first part of the verse that most Christians struggle with and focus upon: “ Count it pure joy ” when these things happen to you. Why? For the reasons we have been seeing: because we are taking part in God's strategy which strengthens us, reveals us for who we are, encourages us as we realise that we can cope with His grace. It also brings great glory to Jesus as we triumph as he, standing alongside us is working out the Father's purposes and bringing good out of every situation for us. Wow! Rejoicing in whatever life is holding for you at the moment? Go for it!







Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:   Meditations in James

Meditation No. 4


Meditation Title: Steps to Maturity


Jas 1:4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.


Vitamins DO things for you. Antibiotics DO things in you. When you take antibiotics, the doctor tells you to keep taking them until they have finished their course. They need to build up in your system until they overcome whatever it is you are suffering from. They must finish their work. In a similar sort of way, an author must ‘finish their work'. I'm told that those who write books, regularly often come to a point where their ‘creative juices' seem to dry up for a while and the book comes to a grinding halt. Getting out, getting some fresh air, going walking; all these sorts of things I'm told help stir life and creativity and enable the author to persevere until the work is complete and the manuscript is ready to go to the publisher.


Some people age but never mature. Why is that? What is maturity? What is it that is missing from them? Well it's not a physical thing because they look the same as anyone else and can do all the physical things that everyone else can do. No, maturity involves ways of thinking, ways of coping with emotions. There are probably dozens of criteria for measuring when a person is fully mature and they cover physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of their life.


The writer to the Hebrews wrote,let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity(Heb 6:1) He saw that there were basic teachings that all new Christians should be taught, but there was deeper understanding of the Faith that should also be brought. Jesus warned in one of his parables about not going onto maturity: The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (Lk 8:14). Jesus was thus teaching that maturity was not letting worries of life, or seeking after material pleasures, hinder spiritual development, hinder coming to a deeper and deeper knowledge of God, a relationship that was fruitful. That was what that part of the parable of the Sower was all about. Paul, describing one of the Colossians, said, He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” ( Col 4:12). There he says that maturity is being able to stand firm in God's will, being fully assured of who you are, someone loved by God, cared for by God and provided for by God. A mature person knows all these things.


Paul described the role of spiritual leadership ministries as, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:12,13). For Paul the work of the church was to raise up people to full development (maturity), so that the body (the church) could act fully as Christ on the earth, expressing his ongoing ministry. A mature church is one where each person is operating as God designed them to be: From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love , as each part does its work.” (Eph 4:16)


Thus a ‘mature' Christian is one who understands their faith, understands God's love for them, is secure in it, has their heart set with right priorities on doing the will of God, not being distracted by materialism, working out their gifting in harmony with others in the church to create an instrument in the hand of God that brings blessing to this world and glory to God.


But how do we reach this maturity? Is it simply by reading God's word, and receiving teaching in the church? Well those things are certainly important, but James is focusing on a crucial ingredient in these verses – trials! We can agree in our minds to the fact that God loves us and His grace is there for us, but it is only when we go through trials that we prove it. It is only in those times that we truly come to ‘know' that he is there for us on a daily basis, and His grace is what keeps us going. It is only when we face such a trial that we suddenly find within us a determination to keep going. It is the Holy Spirit within us, linked with out Spirit encouraging us. Suddenly we ‘know' we want to fight our way through this trial with all the ability that God gives us. Suddenly it seems important. We've got to get through this. We've got to keep going. This is perseverance at work! Perseverance, a dictionary says, is the act of keeping going. But it is more than the physical act; it is the act of will, the determination not to give up. As this works in us so it brings us into maturity, so let's repeat what we said about, so that you really take it in: a ‘mature' Christian is one who understands their faith, understands God's love for them, is secure in it, has their heart set with right priorities on doing the will of God, not being distracted by materialism, working out their gifting in harmony with others in the church to create an instrument in the hand of God that brings blessing to this world and glory to God. Be mature! Let perseverance work and work in you to bring you to full development (maturity).







Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:  Meditations in James

Meditation No. 5


Meditation Title: Asking for Wisdom


Jas 1: 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.


Wisdom isn't something that is much talked about today. ‘Wise' men are either relegated to the Christmas story or to fairy tales. Yet wisdom is something that is spoken about a number of times in the Bible, in fact over two hundred times! For instance the psalmist said, Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psa 90:12) and The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psa 111:10). But wisdom isn't some mystical thing; it is very simply “the knowledge of how to…” so when the psalmist spoke about the fear or awesome respect for the Lord, he meant that this was the start for how to live a right life.


Bearing in mind that James was speaking to the scattered church, the church that lived out in the world away from the strength and security of Jerusalem , knowing how to cope with life would have been a very real concern for them – and us. Of course there has to first of all be an awareness that we are called to be different before we have a need or concern for how to be different. The Christian who is like a chameleon, blending in with the word and doing nothing in service of their King will have no need of wisdom. It is only when you realize your calling to be different and your calling to serve, that you become aware of a need to know how to live, how to serve. For myself, I don't think there is anything I ask for as much as wisdom: “Lord how I am supposed to do this? How am I to go about doing that?” Not only is it the thing I ask for most, it is the thing for which I find I get the most answers to prayer.


Why is that? It is because, as James says, God gives generously to all without finding fault . Notice some of the words in that verse. Generously: a generous person isn't stingy or half-hearted in the way they give. To the contrary, they give freely and without restrictions, they give lavishly. The apostle Paul spoke of the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us” (Eph 1:7,8). When God gives, He gives in abundance. If we have had a poor upbringing we may still have a feeling of poverty where we are always thinking in limited terms, but this doesn't apply to God. He delights in giving in abundance. The apostle John said the same thing: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us (I Jn 3:1). God pours out liberally in His giving to us, and that is true of the wisdom He gives to us.


Probably the best example of this is Daniel in the Old Testament: I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom(Dan 2:23) God had given him the knowledge of how to respond to the king's dream. Listen how Daniel came to be referred to: There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods.” (Dan 5:11). How did Daniel come to have such a reputation? Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery (Dan 2:17 ,18). He knew God had the answer and he asked God for it! You find the same sort of thing with Nehemiah: Then I prayed to the God of heaven (Neh 2:4). How simple those words are, but how little they occur in so many of our lives. When we know that our Lord is generous in His giving, then we will ask of Him.


But there's another significant word: all . Simple, but significant, because there are some of us who feel we are so insignificant that God wouldn't turn up for us. If we say that we deny His word and we deny His love. No, He wants to give generously to ALL and that includes every one of us. The only criteria is that we ask and believe.


The final words to note are the final phrase: without finding fault. Because some of us grew up with parents who were constantly critical of us, we think God is the same. No He's not! When Paul said, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus(Rom 8:1), he meant it. God isn't constantly looking to criticize us, put us down and make us feel bad. To the contrary, He is for us (Rom 8:31) which means everything He does seeks to bless and build us and help us succeed in our lives.


If we need wisdom, it means that we are in circumstances that are beyond us, but God realizes that and doesn't chide us, because they are not beyond Him and He delights in showing us how to walk through the particular difficulty. Whatever it is – knowing how to cope with a difficult relationship, knowing how to cope with the children, knowing how to do school or college work, knowing how to cope with your job – God has the answer and all we need do is ASK Him for it. Check out the day. What are the things that concern you in it? Ask Him about them. Ask Him for wisdom to know how to deal with them – and then watch for the thoughts you start finding you are having! Be a receiver of God's wisdom. Enjoy living!







Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme: Meditations in James

Series Contents:


Meditation No. 6


Meditation Title: No room for Doubting


Jas 1:6-8 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.


I think if we are honest, there are verses in the Bible that we hurry by because we either don't understand them, or we have a feeling about them and don't like what we feel. I'm afraid these verses are like that for me. Yet I wonder how many of us relish what we read here today? It's those words he must believe and not doubt. I mean, it is easy to believe and not doubt when everything is going well but the context of this is what we've already looked at – trials! But it's more than ‘just' trials; it's trials that require perseverance because they go on and on, and they are trials that need wisdom to know how to cope, and it's all about asking for wisdom that he is talking about here. In such situations it isn't easy not to doubt. Because of the whole nature of a trial your faith is being tested and your temptation is to doubt, but James is quite uncompromising: he must believe and not doubt!


We live in a day when much counseling is gentle and understanding but for the apostles the truth is something to be taken hold of and used, and so for them they haven't got time to be gentle. James is so often right in your face. You want to ask for wisdom from God who gives generously without finding fault? Then don't be half-hearted about it! Don't let there be any room for doubting. Grab hold of the truth and believe it: God loves you, is for you and wants to give you wisdom to help you through. Believe it! No messing around, believe it! But it gets worse. He explains what a doubter is like. You're like a wave in the sea that is at the mercy of the wind, so it gets buffeted about all over the place. Imagine a little boat on the waves or a cork bobbing around. They are both being pushed all over the place, changing direction all the time, driven by whichever way the wind is blowing. It's a powerful picture and, says James, that is what the man who asks without faith is like.


It gets worse. This person is double minded he says. They say they believe but they doubt. They pay lip service to God's word but when it comes to it they are driven by desires or other people or circumstances. When we come to the Lord, our motivation should be the truth of the word of God which has captured our hearts. We shouldn't just pray because in trial we want peace, or because other people tell us we ought to pray, or because the circumstances are so annoying us we're forced to pray. No, prayer should come as a natural expression of our relationship with the Lord, out of a sure conviction that He loves us, if for us, and loves to give generously and without finding fault.


If we don't have that conviction then it will be those other expressions of ‘wind' buffeting us that will have motivated us to pray, and they will all be self-centred, and as such our praying will be off-beam and we won't get what we ask for. James is going to pick up this theme a bit later and develop it some more. Very simply, prayer should not be ‘driven' by self-concerns but should be an act of faith, responding to the word of God and the prompting of His Spirit. When we pray in this way we will find the things we are asking for are in line with God's heart, in line with His will, and because they are, He will grant them. How often Christians come to God with a ‘shopping list' of things they want, instead of enquiring, “Lord, what do you want for me?”


There are times in the prophetic Scriptures of the Old Testament when the prophet or psalmist receives a word from the Lord about the Lord's will and the next thing we find them doing is praying for it. The person who lacks understanding will say, “Why is he praying for what he has already declared?” and the answer is because he has heard that this is God's will and he knows that the things to ask for in prayer are the things that are on God's heart. The things that simply emanate from our hearts, that are self-centred, are so often wrong and we wonder why they are not answered!!!


Asking God for wisdom is coming to God acknowledging our lack and His ability to provide. This is a good heart position to have, but that is only stage one. Stage two is built on that good start. Yes, it is good to realize our own inadequacy and our own inability and it is good to realize the Lord's ability, but stage two requires that we believe about Him what the Bible teaches, that God is good, God is love, and that God delights in giving to His children. There are those who wallow in half of stage one, that they are inadequate. That isn't faith. It is realism. Faith is the sure belief (because we've heard it in His word and by His Spirit) that God knows the answer to every problem, every difficulty, and God wants to give us the answers to the difficulties that face us daily. Faith also says, “He wants me to have His answers, so I can ask Him in assurance that He will give when I come with an open heart.” This person's faith is anchored by the truth. They are not being blown all over the place; they are not firing up desperate petitions of all shapes and kinds. They know they have a problem and that God has the answer and that He delights in giving generously and without finding fault. They ask with assurance; they ask in faith. Let's be those sort of people!







Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:  Meditations in James

Meditation No. 7


Meditation Title: Pride within Humility


Jas 1:9-11 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.


If yesterday's verses were those that we didn't like the sound of, today's are verses that make you do a double-take of what is being said. One of the problems of living in the affluent West in the beginning of the twenty-first century, which we have commented upon elsewhere, is that it is so easy to loose perspective. Our value systems say that the successful person is the rich person who has done great things in business or achieve fame or stardom in the entertainment world. These are the people we so often put upon a pedestal in our thinking. These people we elevate to the ‘great and the glorious' but for James the heavenly perspective, or perspective from the kingdom of God , is quite different. In the kingdom of God , the poor are elevated and the rich are debased. Why is it like this?


Well let's start with the poor. Jesus taught, Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God .” (Lk 6:20) Why should the poor be blessed? Well, very simply, the poor are likely to be more aware of their own poverty and be more open to the Lord and find it easier to receive the salvation that is being offered. Also the Bible is full of references to God's care for the poor, e.g. Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.” (Psa 82:3) and Blessed is he who has regard for the weak (Psa 41:1). Also much of Moses' Law was about caring fro the poor, e.g. When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien .” (Lev 19:9,10). There are many such references. The reality is that God wants the poor to be cared for. In this world of abundance, He doesn't want anyone to starve.


But James is speaking to the church and recognizes that not everyone has the same level of provision and so refers to the brother in humble circumstances. At this point he's not chiding the rest of the church; he's just saying to that person, you can take pride in, or rejoice in, the fact that your position makes you high up on God's agenda, you are under His eye. You may feel poor in material things, but in spiritual things you are rich in God's love and concern for you.


Let's look next at the rich. As the Bible shows God's concern for the poor, so there is also concern for the rich, but it's a different kind of concern. It is concern that the rich don't become self-reliant and loose their spiritual inheritance: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt 6:19-21). The reason that people are rich is usually because they have devoted their life to making money. Jesus felt so strongly about this he went on to say, No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Mt 6:24).


When James says the one who is rich should take pride in his low position he is saying that the rich man should realize his vulnerability, his disposition to rely upon wealth and not God, and realize the danger he is in and realize that spiritually he is in fact a small person, even if he is big in wealth or stardom. To emphasise what he feels, he illustrates it by reference to a plant growing up but being scorched by the sun. The rich and famous are often like that, is what he is saying. They grow up to riches and stardom, but how easily their business can collapse or their stardom collapse. There is great vulnerability in being rich and famous!


The teaching of these verses is first of all a challenge to us to assess our personal circumstances. If we are poor, can we rejoice in the fact that in God we are rich? Do we appreciate the shear wonder of God's salvation? Living dispersed in this world, other people's affluence is so often made very obvious to us, and this in turn makes us feel even more inferior. It shouldn't, if we are Christians. We are rich in Christ. If we are rich, are we really aware of how spiritually vulnerable we are? It is so easy to focus on the money making side of our lives and neglect our spiritual health. In the money making process it is so easy to stray into unrighteousness in our dealings with money or injustice in our dealings with people. James' call to the church dispersed into the world is to hold a right perspective in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. Make sure you do it.







Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:  Meditations in James

Series Contents:


Meditation No. 8


Meditation Title: Persevering under Trial


Jas 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him .


The temptation to give up is a common one. It arises when we have stepped out in some new venture and it doesn't seem to be working out quite as we thought. All of our early enthusiasm seems to have melted away in the face of struggles, and thoughts of giving up float into our mind. When that new venture was a new area of learning, again we might have started out with great enthusiasm, relishing the picture of us obtaining new knowledge and new understanding. I've done it with a new language and I've envisaged speaking fluently to other peoples. It could be a whole range of learning experiences. When we heard about the course, its newness excited us and we thought, “I could do that” and then, after the first few lessons, we thought, “This is hard work!” Then we were required to do extra reading and at the end of the day you found yourself reading the same paragraph over and over, wondering whatever it meant. Then there was the homework, the assignments that needed to be in by a certain day, and suddenly it is pure hard graft, and you wondered about the wisdom of having started it, and you wondered about giving up. Going to the gymnasium to start a keep-fit regime is just as bad. You hear others telling enthusiastically how much healthier they feel and so you enrol and the first workout was exhilarating but then came the aching muscles the next day. Next time wasn't quite so exciting and the thought of aching muscles seemed to bring them on. You began to wonder if it was worthwhile, you begin to wonder about giving up.


Now all of these examples have similar characteristics. There is the flush of early excitement, the growing awareness that effort is required, the sense that this is really hard and the wonderings about giving up. It is at this point that perseverance comes in. As we noted in an earlier meditation: perseverance is the act of keeping going. But it is more than the physical act; it is the act of will, the determination not to give up. Now all of this first part of James' letter is about surviving in this sin-weary world, especially when the going gets hard, especially when you are in the midst of a trial – life not going as you think it should. In those circumstances you start getting tired, in those circumstances you start thinking about giving up. In the midst of such times you can feel quite down. Physical weariness is often accompanied by emotional weariness. You can read all the verses but all you are aware of is a weariness and a desire to escape. If you are a Christian leader it is very likely that you will have gone through times (note the plural!) when you have felt like giving it all up and retiring somewhere quiet, where you have no responsibilities, no people criticizing you, no ungrateful people after you have poured out your life to them. Oh yes, Christians are just as vulnerable to these feelings as the rest of the world, if not more so.


Now why should that be? Well, the apostle Paul knew a thing or to about this stuff when he wrote, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand (Eph 6:13). Let's not focus on the armour, focus on what he says it enables us to do: to stand . Imagine your Christian life is like a plot of ground that you have inherited and it is wonderful. The land all around it is horrible. What is Satan's desire? To push you off that ground, to relinquish your inheritance. He will do it by whispering or shouting lies at you to make you believe things that aren't true and forget the things that are true. He will whisper or shout temptations at you to make you think the grass is greener off this patch you have inherited, and seeks to get you to step off this holy land into things that are unclean, impure, or generally unrighteous. If the trial is severe then he even has the capability of bringing physical or emotional or mental upheavals. Oh yes, read Job and you will see his capabilities, but if you do read Job see Satan is only allowed to go as far as God allows him to.


And there we have gone the full circle. This trial is a test! Tests are made for you to pass them. God cheats, He gives you help! He is there with you in the middle of it to help you. His grace is available to you in a variety of forms. Oh yes, it is a test and a hard one at that, but God is doing everything He can to help you pass it. Part of the test is ALWAYS how long will it take for you to turn to Him for help, how long will you keep on asking for help? That's where perseverance comes in.


This is where the famous quote from Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego comes in: "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Dan 3:17,18), i.e. we're going to trust God to turn up, but even if He doesn't, we know the right thing to do and we're going to carry on doing it ! And of course the Lord turned up.


There is a glorious end to this, the promise of a crown of life. What is a crown? A symbol of a ruler. The reward for passing the test is that we are made rulers over life by God, given the ability to go through life, living it to the utmost with love, joy peace etc., ruling over the circumstances, being in control rather than being oppressed and driven by the circumstances. You are in the driving seat! May it be so as you and your Lord persevere and triumph through the present trial, whatever it may involve!







Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:   Meditations in James

Series Contents:


Meditation No. 9


Meditation Title: Going through the door of Temptation


Jas 1:13-15 When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.


Trials, tests and temptations are all expressions of the same thing. Trials, we might say are simply the general descriptions seen from our perspective when life gets difficult. Tests are the same thing but seen from God's perspective. God allows trials to act as a test of where we are in terms of spiritual maturity, and as a means of strengthening us. Temptations are the same things but seen from Satan's perspective as a means that he can use to cause our downfall. Every test actually involves a temptation, even if it is just the one to give up.


James, you will remember, is very mindful that the people of God are now scattered in the world, dispersed to be light and salt in fact, and is aware that living in the midst of the world we thus live in an environment that is sometimes hostile and very difficult. He wants to call us into a place of awareness of what is going on. In fact this call is really not seen so clearly anywhere else is the Bible. He wants us to be clear about trials, tests and temptations and now moves on to clarify our thinking about the temptation aspect of all this.


Look, he says, when you are tempted, don't blame God. God NEVER tempts us because temptation is a prompting to do wrong – and sometimes we fail and give way to it, and God doesn't ever want us to do wrong. God is always working to lead us into righteousness, into doing what is good and right. When there is a trial, and there is a temptation aspect to it, that temptation aspect doesn't come from God. Yes, God uses the trial and the temptation but he never brings the temptation part of it, because that part always has a different origin. To see that origin, let's go first back to the Garden of Eden. The very first temptation came to a sinless couple, Adam and Eve. He prodded them to take unilateral action, separate from God, disregarding what God has said, in other words to be disobedient. They chose to respond to him and temptation became sin.


Now because we all are tainted by sin, which Paul refers to in Christians as our old nature, if we allow that old nature to remain, then we become vulnerable to the whispers of the enemy who suggests that we give way to that old nature and do our own thing regardless of God. Thus in the midst of a trial, when we are feeling pressurised and weak, that old nature that James calls evil desire, rises up in self-centred concern and submits to the suggestion from the enemy. Some people wrongly say, “Satan made me do it!” No he didn't; you simply made an act of will to submit to his suggestion. He has no power over a Christian unless you give him it. Because there was an areas of your old life that has not been put to death, you were vulnerable at that point and temptation rose up, either from within that old nature or by Satan whispering to you, and you either had to battle with it and overcome, or give way and sin. No wonder Paul uses such language as, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Rom 6:12) and Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature ( Col 3:5)


But temptation is like a doorway that appears before you in your life and if you go through it, it has consequences, dire consequences! James spells it out. He starts out each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. That is the temptation, your unsanctified desires, desires of the old nature that you have not put to death, tugging at you to pull you off course, enticing you away from what is good and right. It is like a doorway of temptation stands there inviting you to go through it, leaving the holy ground that you've been called to, to step outside the kingdom of God and do the same as the occupants of the dominion of darkness (see Col 1:13). When we do give way and go through that doorway, we sin. When we do wrong we have two paths immediately ahead of us. The first is the path of repentance back to God: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9). The other path is the path of self-justification and blame of others (see Adam & Eve – Gen 3:12,13) and because the sin has not been properly dealt with, it makes us more vulnerable to further attacks or temptations from the enemy, and the eventual consequence of ongoing sin is death.


So, are there things in our lives that fit into the category of the things that Paul tells us to ‘put to death', sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed” (Col 3:5) and anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips (Col 3:8). If we tolerate these things they will be the means of our downfall. Yes, it is sometimes a difficult world and yes, temptations do sometimes come, but we can minimize them by getting God's help to deal with these issues which, if left, make us vulnerable and cause our downfall. Ensure you deal with them. Don't risk the alternative. You aren't as strong as Satan would like you to think you are. The old nature, if not put to death, will rise up and bite you. Don't let it happen. Go to God, confess it, and deal with it before Satan has any further opportunity to cause your downfall. Do it!








Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:   Meditations in James

Series Contents:


Meditation No. 10


Meditation Title: Goodnessom God


Jas 1:16,17 Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.


There is, in the world, a lie that has been generated by Sin and by Satan, that God is a hard and harsh God. It runs from blaming God for minor injuries right through to blaming Him for the Holocaust. With little thought about the matter it blames God for creating evil and it blames God for suffering generally. Rarely does the Bible ‘defend' God because the foolish will always think and say foolish things and the wise will seek and come to the truth anyway. Yet it is a clear truth that the sinful nature always looks on the black side when it comes to God. People have been deceived by Satan ever since that first deception in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3) and have listened to his lies (Jn 8:44 ) and have thus been blinded to the truth (2 Cor 4:4). Sin generally has a blinding effect (Jn 12:40, 1 Jn 2:11). When things go wrong sin suggests that it is God's fault. When we are tempted, we say it is God's fault. These are the silly things that come into our minds and out of our mouths and James warns against these things, warns against being deceived.


James starts his attack on this way of thinking, aware of the struggles we cope with in this Fallen World, dispersed among the world, referring to everything good that is part of our existence. It's one thing to focus on all the bad things of the world (actually brought about by sin in mankind) but rarely do we hear anyone categorising all the good things of this world. James doesn't bother to stop to think about what they are, but you might like to do that sometime. Stop and consider the wonderful provision that this planet has for us. Consider the potential for enjoyment that God has given to us. Consider the wonder of such things as love, joy, peace. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to see the wonder of His goodness in your life. I did that a number of years ago and have been marvelling ever since, as I have started to realise even more how God's hand has been on my life, throughout it, and that hand has only ever brought good, wonderful good!


No, James simply acknowledges that there are things in our experience that are actually good and faultless and, he says, they come from God. Only good things come from God because God's character is good. Indeed everything that God does is good. It started, as far as we are concerned, from when He created this world: God saw all that he had made, and it was very good (Gen 1:31). Before sin entered the world, that was a description of it, very good! When Moses spoke of the land, even though it was occupied by sinful pagans, he said, God is giving you this good land to possess (Deut 9:6). When one of the scribes recorded what happened he declared, Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled(Josh 21:45), i.e. God had promised good for them and all that had come about. When Abigail spoke to David she said, When the LORD has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him” (1 Sam 25:30). She acknowledged what was generally accepted, that God had promised good for David.


Solomon also, at the dedication of the Temple , reiterated the same thing: Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.” (1 Kings 8:56). David wrote it as a song to be sung, Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (1 Chron 16:34). This came to be something declared at great moments, such as the dedication of the Temple referred to above, “they raised their voices in praise to the LORD and sang: ‘He is good; his love endures forever.'” (2 Chron 5:13). This had practical outworkings, for instance, when Hezekiah reinstigated the Passover and some came not having had time to purify themselves: But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, " May the LORD, who is good , pardon everyone who sets his heart on seeking God--the LORD, the God of his fathers--even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary." And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.” (2 Chron 30:18-20). He trusted in God's goodness in the situation and God honoured that.


But even more than that, James says, not only is God like this but He is always like this. He doesn't change! In the beginning when God made everything He made the sun and the moon and the stars and as fixed as they are, so is His character. Even as He shed natural light on the earth, so it is a reminder of His own glory that shines, ever giving us light, a glory that is unfading in the Gospel (2 Cor 3:11). For ever His love keeps pouring out and will not stop because it is simply an expression of His character. This is what He is and so this is what we receive. No, we don't need to let the gloom of the world, or the gloom that Satan would bring on us through difficult circumstances, bring us down. From our God come good things, even in the midst of this world, wherever we are. So, if the enemy has been spreading lies in your mind about God, it's time to refute them with the truth of Scripture. Let's join with the saints of old and continually be found declaring and singing, “God is good; His love endures for ever!”








Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:   Meditations in James

Meditation No. 11


Meditation Title: God's Fruit


Jas 1:18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created .


Tucked away in Scripture we sometimes find gems that we were not expecting. I believe this verse is one such gem. James, aware of the needs of those he is writing to, has been telling them how to cope with this sometimes difficult world. He has shown us how we may have a positive perspective of trials and reminded us that we can ask God for wisdom to know how to cope. He's told us to have a right perspective of God, realising that He is good and everything that comes from Him is good, and to that he tacks on this reminder of what has happened to us and why.


Years ago I wrote a short story around the idea that Scripture gives us that before all things the Godhead looked into time-space history future, considered the world they would make and mankind on it, saw the Fall and its effects, and planned accordingly. No, they didn't NOT give man free will so that the Fall would never happen, but instead they allowed it to happen, allowed men and women to sin, but made provision for a possibility that was staggering in its enormity. They planned for the Son to come and provide a way whereby sinful men and women could come back to God and enter into a living relationship with Him. Absolutely everything was provided for, the means of forgiveness, the channel of communication, and even the power source to be given to enable new lives to be lived. The possibility was of a new race of human beings living in harmony with God, empowered by Him, guided by Him and filled with Him. They would still have the old life within them, but they would reject it for the love of God. They would be love motivated and love empowered beings. They would be Spirit motivated and Spirit empowered beings. Out of the old sinful lives would emerge something new and beautiful, but what would be the thing that would bring them to Him? What would be the catalyst that triggered this new birth, this new life?


The answer is very simple: the word of truth. The Son would first come communicating truth and as it was received, some would respond and gather to him. Yet the truth about the past was insufficient. Yes, the beings had heard of God's dealings with His people and understood a little of His greatness and His desire to have a people for Himself, a people who would talk to Him and listen to Him, who would relate to Him, but this truth was insufficient. This human race needed to know that God loved them because, as we said, love would be the motivating force brought by the Spirit. Thus the penultimate part of the plan, that the world had to be told about, was that this Son willingly laid down his life for us. The final part of the plan, was that he would be raised from the dead and ascend back to heaven to retake his place next to his Father. The world had to be told this. This is why it was so important that Jesus had to have followers who would tell what they had seen and heard.


Thus in time-space history, about two thousand years ago, this band of witnesses are waiting and wondering, waiting for God's appointed time and wondering what will happen. God loves doing things with significance and so on the feast day called Pentecost (which was all about first fruits) He came and alighted on these witnesses. The joy they experienced, and the sense of sudden understanding of the truth they had witnessed, drove them out into the streets praising God. As they were questioned, one of them, Peter, stood up and preached the truth. As they listened to that first ‘Christian' sermon, three thousand of them opened their hearts to God and were born again as He came to them with forgiveness and His Spirit. The word of truth brought new birth, and has continued to do so ever since. As someone has said, the Christian Faith is a religion with content. There is truth to be told and that truth, when it encounters open hearts, has the effect of bringing a surrender which God takes and blesses and a new life is formed.


These, says James, with a look back to the Old Testament, are like first fruits of a great harvest. The first fruits of the harvest, according to the Law, belonged to God. Presenting to God these first fruits was an acknowledgement that in fact all the harvest was His gift. The first fruits were reminders that it all belonged to God, it was all His gift. So it is that Christians are to be considered first fruits, or reminders, that everything in Creation belongs to God and is His gift to us. This significant reference says, in the context of the difficult world and the trials we go through, don't forget that this is God's world even though Fallen, and that you Christians are signs to the rest of the world of God's goodness which has been restated through you. The sin of the Fall opened a Pandora's Box of awfulness into the world, and so the world is sometimes hard and difficult to live in. However, God has declared again His goodness and love in bringing forth a new creation, a new expression of His love, a new people who show everyone else what is possible. You can't get more positive than that!


Finding the world difficult? Going through trials? Remember who you are. Remember how you came into being. Remember you are a divinely supernatural creation, a sign to the rest of the world of God's love and goodness. How you respond in your trials will reveal even more who you are and also God's goodness and love. Shine forth!








Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:   Meditations in James

Series Contents:


Meditation No. 12


Meditation Title: When slowness is good


Jas 1:19,20 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.


Sometimes in Scripture you look at a verse and wonder how it comes to be there, but part of our studying should be to see the flow of thought in the writers mind. Our verses here today are rather like that. Let's consider what James has been saying. His overall thought is to write to the church scattered in the world, no longer focused in the little spiritual stronghold of Jerusalem but now scattered all over the place. He's spoken several times of the difficult times that we can face, living in this world, and has counselled us accordingly. One of the bits of counsel, the last one that we saw, was to remind us that God is good, and from that what has happened to us because He is good, to remind us that we are special people who God has drawn to Himself and to whom He has given new Holy Spirit life. He has called us first fruits, those who belong to God who are used to remind the rest of the world that it belongs to Him. With this in mind James now moves on to touch on a way that, living in this sometimes difficult world, we might be tempted to be less than the people God has designed us to be.


Consider what it's like living in this sometimes difficult world. Things go wrong; people do silly or nasty things. We feel frustrated with it and wish someone would deal with the stupidity or nastiness. When you are part of the Christian minority, frustration is a very real factor in life and the main expression of frustration is anger. When we are angry our temptation is to blurt out lots of unhelpful comments (Understatement!). James is a wise pastor, and he knows these are the thoughts and feelings that churn inside sometimes when this world appears to be going stupidly wrong. Notice however, the gentleness with which he approaches us: my dear brothers. Ladies don't worry about this; you're not the ones who tend to struggle in this area. It's the forthright men, men who are naturally macho, who want to do things, achieve things, change things, who get frustrated. Ladies tend to more gently approach the problem. It's like James says, guys, I understand how you feel but we really mustn't let this world and its frustrations get at us, take note of this, pause up and think about it with me, will you.


He then comes up with a little threefold strategy. Part one: be quick to listen . So often we get angry and frustrated because we do not understand what is going on and we don't know what is going on because we don't bother to listen carefully to others. If we listened to what others were saying, we would understand them more fully and if we understood them more fully we would see their need and, as Christians, would have compassion for them, feel sorry for them. Compassion is an incredibly good antidote to frustration with people. It may not be people; it may simply be circumstances going wrong. Again the temptation pushed before us by Satan, will be to launch out with angry, foolish words against God. “Why have you allowed this happen? Why don't you do something?” It's not wrong to have questions, but it is wrong to get angry with God about the frustrations of life. It simply shows we don't understand the dynamics of life on this Fallen World, or the resources that are available to us from God. In the difficult circumstances, go to God by all means, but be quick to listen , listen instead of talking, and see what the Lord will say to you about the situation. He wants you to be a person of understanding. Understanding often counteracts frustration and subsequent anger.


Part two of the strategy: be slow to speak. Solomon wrote, When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Prov 10:19). The more you speak, the more prone you are to say the wrong thing, and sin. For a while now I have been writing a weekly comment on the week's events from a Christian perspective and have come to realize afresh how easy it is to make shallow comments based on little knowledge, or comments based inaccurate or incomplete knowledge. It is a dangerous thing to make comment on the world, yet we all do it all the time. Listen to any conversations in church, in the street or in the office. So many conversations about what is happening in the world. TV, radio and newspapers have made us all much more knowledgeable about what is going on in the world. How easy it is to denigrate someone else. It's so easy to do when you know they are wrong! I find the more I write on the Internet the less I want to speak into such conversations. Be slow to speak.


Part three of the strategy: be slow to become angry . This last part should be the outworking of the first two, but it is something we need to purposefully do. What good does anger do? It merely vents your frustration instead of dissolving it in compassion and understanding. Anger so often breeds anger and, as James says, man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.There is the target we need to keep holding before ourselves: a righteous life. Perhaps a simple check at the end of each day is to ask ourselves, “Is there anything I have said and done this day that is unrighteous, that I know Jesus would be upset by?” Do we have thoughts, ideas and attitudes that come out of frustration, that are tainted by anger, that are in all honesty, unrighteous? If we don't deal with them, God will, and that will be more painful. It's better to confess and crucify them than be caught by them. Let's take on board James' threefold strategy today.









Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:   Meditations in James

Series Contents:

Meditation No. 13


Meditation Title: Cleansed and Planted


Jas 1:21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.


Whenever a verse starts with ‘therefore' it is a consequence or requirement flowing on from what has gone before. Context we have so often said is very important. The verse before, that we looked at yesterday, said, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Our verse today therefore flows on from the thought of the righteous life that God desires .


The most simple thought that flows on from that is that God has specific desires. Some people think that God is just some disinterested ‘Being' who is ‘out there' and who really doesn't care at all what happens here on earth. Nothing could be further from the truth. God has designed this world to work in a particular way and the role of science is to discover part of that way. However, note that it is only part of that way because science has so far locked itself in to measuring only the ‘material' aspects of existence. Part of this ‘particular way' that the world has been designed to work, involved having God in it, and when it comes to human beings this is no less so. God has designed us to operate best when we are living and working in relationship to Him. He is Life and relating to Him means we receive that additional dimension to existence which means we are more than electrically charged brain cells ensuring blood is pumped around the body and breath is inhaled and exhaled to charge the lungs. Now why are we saying all this? We are saying it to convey a broader sense of the meaning of the word ‘righteous'. Very simply a righteous life is one that is living in harmony with God conforming to God's will as received through the Scriptures and confirmed and applied by His Spirit. If we are word and Spirit people we will be seeking to live in harmony with Him, our Lord. When we do this we will be living righteous lives, not lives focused on rules but on Him, lives that are living out in accordance with His design.


Now you don't have to look around you very far to see many people living out lives that are clearly not in accordance with God's design as seen in His word. If we were able to be a fly on a wall we would observe many people who are lacking peace, many people who are stressed and worried and anxious, many people who are being unkind and selfish, many people not caring about anyone else apart from themselves, many people seeking to harm others, many people following self-harming practices as they disregard their Maker. You only have to see the fruit of these lives to know that there must be a better way, for this is fruit that is self-destructive and destructive of others, but then that, we know from Scripture, is Satan's desire for God's creation (Jn 8:44). James sums all this up as moral filth and evil that is so prevalent. Look, he is saying, that is how the world lives, but it is not the righteous life that God desires for us, a life of love and fulfillment being lived out with Him. Get rid of all this he says. That is your responsibility; that is your part of the life in Christ. You have the capability of choosing and making an act of will. Exercise that free will by making sure that none of that stuff is left in your life. As we've said previously, you are a different person, a special person, a God-person, someone living a much better life, a more fulfilling life, a righteous life in harmony with God. As we've recently seen, God is good and therefore evil has no place in Him or in those who relate to Him. Get rid of it.


But James doesn't leave it just with a negative injunction; he adds a very positive one: humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. In verse 18 he had spoken of God choosing to give us birth through the word of truth, a reference to the way that God brought us to Himself. God had brought the truth to bear on our lives and when we saw the truth we realized our need and accepted the truth about Jesus and gave our lives over to God who promptly cleansed, forgave and energized them. Now God's word is described as living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb 4:12). Jesus' parable of the Sower (Mt 13:3-8) was all about the effects of God's word in different heart conditions (Mt 13:18 -23). It finished with, the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (v.23) a clear picture of God's word, His truth working within us to bring great changes.


Now there is one little uncomfortable word that we have not considered so far: humbly ! The old life was proud and arrogant and thought it knew best. When we came to Christ we realize that we didn't know best and so we submitted to him and to his word. In other words we came humbly to him, but I wonder how many Christians as they go through life lose some of that humility? You know the answer to that as you think about how you view God's word and how you think about the sermon that is preached in most churches every Sunday. If you come to it with a hungry, open heart that is teachable, you are coming in humility, but if you come with indifference you have allowed pride and arrogance to regrow. We will only grow in our Christian faith if we come to God and to His word humbly, with open, teachable hearts. See what James says this approach does; it can save you. Yes, you have been saved, but your life on this earth is the process of being saved so that when you get to heaven you will be well and truly saved. The word saved has connotations of wholeness. If you want to come to a place of wholeness under God's hand, allowing Him to restore you to the design He has in mind for you, then you will humbly allow His word to work in you. That is how He has designed it to be. Let His word do that, let Him keep on changing you to bring you into that wholeness that He has on His heart for you.








Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:   Meditations in James

Series Contents:


Meditation No. 14


Meditation Title: The Mirror of Truth


Jas 1:22-25 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does.


Forgetfulness in spiritual matters can be a terrible thing. Such is the waywardness of the human being that a person can sit on a Sunday morning and, under the anointing of God's presence, ‘see' the truth as never before, and yet hours later after numerous distractions the reality seems to have faded and the experience forgotten. In Jesus' parable of the Sower which we referred to recently, Jesus gave two examples of how this happens: The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” (Mt 13:20-22). In one case trouble and persecution come along and the early joy of receiving the word is quickly forgotten. In the other case it was concerns for the world and making money that had the same effect,


James, as a good pastor, is aware of this tendency when you are living among the world, and so exhorts his readers to counter this tendency. Beware of deceiving yourself, he starts out. It's easy to just listen to the word being preached but listening isn't what changes you, it's doing what you've heard. Perhaps James remembers that Jesus told a graphic story of two house builders to emphasise this point (Mt 7:24 -27), because he likewise uses a graphic picture to convey the same truth. James uses the picture of a person looking in a mirror. Having looked in the mirror they go away and forgot what they looked like. Perhaps, the implication seems, they saw that their hair needed doing or their face needed washing, or something similar, but as soon as they turned away from the mirror they were distracted and forget the need to do something. That, says James, is what the person is like who is challenged by God's word but then gets distracted and forgets to do anything about it.


To press home the point, he shows us the wise person. This person looks into God's word, responds to it and is blessed. Ah, but there are some words to be considered. James says this person looks intently into it, into God's word. This person doesn't give a casual look. No, this person realizes the significance of God's word and knows the tendency to be casual with it and forget, and so this person focuses on it intently. Simple question: do we realize these things and do we therefore focus purposefully on God's word to ensure we don't let it drop away?


How does James describe God's word? He calls it the perfect law that gives freedom. Now there are some commentators who say this refers to the Ten Commandments but Paul tells us that his conclusion is that all that the Old Testament Law does is make him more aware of sin (Rom 7:7,8) and bring death (Rom 7:10.11). No, the perfect law has got to be the law of love, the love of God that has been expressed to us through the Gospel. This is what we are called to follow, this is what we are called to respond to, this is what has transformed us and this is what continues to motivate us. As we look into this and respond to it, doing all the things we know are on the heart of the one who has first loved us (so that we now love him - 1 Jn 4:10), this will bring us blessing. As we DO, so we will be blessed. Why? Because God has said so, and in fact, the very doing of all the things Jesus spoke about, and the epistles speak about, actually bring goodness into our lives and through our lives to others. We have used the language and the analogy in previous meditations, of our bodies, our lives, working according to the Designer's plan, rather like running a car according to the manufacturer's instruction book. The big different is, however, that the manufacturer's instruction book gives rules to be followed, but the Christian faith is a mix of guidelines and goodness from God; it is a relationship with a living Being and it is as we respond to the love expressed by that Being that we are blessed. We are first blessed by His love that we receive, and then as we respond to His love and His prompting, we are blessed again, because He blesses obedience to everything that comes from Him, because it is good.


Do you catch what we are trying to convey? It's not hard or difficult to do what God says because IT is good and it brings good, and by definition ‘good' blesses us. James isn't trying to impose legalistic rules on us; he simply paints a picture and says, it would be silly to ignore it, wouldn't it? So, next time you look in a mirror, think to yourself, “Have I been responding to Him today, to what He's shown me?” Reflect on this!









Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:   Meditations in James

Series Contents:

Meditation No. 15


Meditation Title: Tongue and Heart


Jas 1:26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.


I have this picture of a heavenly watcher keeping score of all the different sorts of sins being committed on earth. I've got this horrible feeling that it's not the sins of physical or sexual violence, or of taking other people's property, that score the most, it's sins of the tongue. Why? Because it is so easy to do! Go into any room where there are a lot of people and just listen. People talk. People talk a lot. In the 12 th meditation of this series I quoted a verse from Proverbs which has convicted me in the past: When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Prov 10:19). Some of us are quieter than others. Perhaps they are the wise ones.


Being in a church context, I'm often in a room with lots of other people and I enjoy just sitting and watching what is going on. I hope that in the church the talk is good. Mostly in my presence it is, but what about behind the closed doors where just two or three are discussing the many facets of a church's life. If Jesus was sitting quietly in the background, listening in on what was being said, I wonder if some of the things actually would be said? Paul challenges us about malice, slander and telling lies ( Col 3:8,9). Malice is speaking unkindly about another person. Slander is speaking falsely about another person, and lies are simply not speaking the truth. Listen to the gossip in the street and it's always about other people, and so often it is either unkind or inaccurate. For people in the world, we should expect it for they have no standard to keep to, but for people who claim to be religious, now that is something else!


But it may not be behind people's backs; it may things said directly to someone. They may be unkind and harsh. They may be critical and demeaning. How about the husband who makes derogatory comments about his wife, or the wife who is nagging or even scathing about her husband? According to James' general comment here, these things should not be. Or there is the parent who snaps at the child or the teenager who answers back to their parent's rebuke. These things should not be. Or maybe it is at work. Here is the boss who acts like a bully to his or her employees. Listen to their forceful demeaning words. If they are ‘religious' it should not be so. Or here is the employee making excuses why their work is substandard, and the truth is not being completely told. Then there is school or college, fertile grounds for harsh use of the tongue, especially when discipline is not all it could be. Everywhere you turn, there are people and people have a habit of using their tongue and not for good and edifying purposes.


With his use of the words religious' and ‘religion', James seems to make an all-sweeping inclusion of anyone who purports to have spiritual beliefs, beliefs about God. Forget it, says James, if you can't even control your tongue, your ‘religion' is worthless. Now that is strong language! It actually says to a lot of people that their beliefs and even actions on a Sunday are worthless. Why is he so strong on the subject of the tongue? Well it will come up again in his writings but let's consider the motivation behind what comes out of the mouth.


Isaiah said something very simple: For the fool speaks folly (Isa 32:6). What he was saying was that because a person was a fool, he will speak foolish things. The two go together. The opposite is true also. Later he spoke of: He who walks righteously and speaks what is right ”. If the intent of your walk through life is righteousness, then you will speak righteously. On one occasion Jesus challenged the Pharisees of his day: You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” (Mt 12:34,35). Did you see what he said? The mouth speaks what is overflowing from the heart. If you have a heart that is not fully God -centred then out of the mouth will come self -centred words. Sometimes people speak hostile attacking words because deep down they feel threatened. Their outward angry words reveal an inner defensiveness. Young people today, from broken families, so often speak hard and harsh words as they reflect the inner pain and insecurity that they feel.


Oh yes, the reason James is so strong about what comes out of the mouth is because it reflects what is going on inside. You may ‘say' you are religious, but if that faith is not bearing fruit inside you and bringing inner change to you, as evidenced by the words you speak, then that religion isn't worth much, is it! The truth is that if we really want to we can rein in our words, but that is very difficult if the heart hasn't been dealt with. Becoming a real Christian is a heart experience. Our heart is broken and we give it to God to transform. In that attitude, He works and we are brought into a new place of security and love, and that is reflected by the words that then come out of our mouths. However, all along the path, the enemy is trying to stir up something else within us, so that out of our mouths come hurtful, harmful, unkind or untrue words. Yes, there may be the occasional slip, but if the heart is being transformed, then they will only be an occasional slip. For the most part, our words should be as Paul said, Let your conversation be always full of grace ( Col 4:6). But remember, it's a heart thing first and foremost, so check out your words and then consider whether you need to go to the Lord for further heart surgery.








Front Page
Meditations Contents
Series Theme:  Meditations in James


Meditation No. 16


Meditation Title: Practical Spirituality


Jas 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.


The Human Race seems, so often, to go in for extremes. In Christian circles, in the past at least, there have been charismatics who have never wanted to touch the world, activists who are only concerned with the world, fundamentalists who huddle in holy corners protecting the truth, and liberals who shy away from dogmatic truth. James isn't such a person. Scan back over his letter so far and you will see signs of faith and works.


On the ‘spiritual' side he has spoken about our faith (v.3), asking God for wisdom (v.5), not getting things from the Lord (v.7), the crown of life that God promises (v.12), God not tempting (v.13), all the goodness coming down from God (v.17), the new birth from God (v.18), the righteous life that God desires (v.20).


Yes, very God-centred for there is plenty on the spiritual side, but what about the practical side? Well all along he's been speaking about the trials of everyday life (v.2), the realities of poverty and riches (v.9,10), falling in temptation (v.14,15), getting rid of anger and evil (v.19-21), and controlling the tongue (v.26). However when you consider these two lists, they overlap or interlink so really it is difficult to distinguish between them. The truth is that James really sees all of life as coming under the spiritual umbrella, everything coming in the ambit of our relationship with God.


Now it is necessary to say these things because James has had a bad press historically. There have been those who say that because he hardly mentions Jesus (twice only in passing) he is not very spiritual. We want to suggest that such people entirely miss the point. James is very much concerned, as we have already noted a number of times, to be a pastoral help to the Christians now scattered far and wide. He wants to help them as they combat the ways of the world, and therefore his letter is, in many ways, very down to earth yet, as we have just noted, his thinking of these things is completely saturated with the recognition that we are God's children and everything we do comes within the range of our relationship with Him. Our relationship with the Lord is what under-girds everything that James speaks about. If he chides us about anger, it is because anger doesn't conform to the righteous life God desires for us. If he chides us over the use of the tongue it is because the wrong use of the tongue doesn't fit with the idea of us being religious, having a relationship with God . No, every practical issue comes back in some way to our relationship with the Lord.


When he talks about ‘religion' he is meaning the practical expression of our spirituality, the way we express our faith as Christians in our daily lives. Very well, he says, you have a religion, a faith, an expression of your relationship with God being worked out in daily life, then check it against the sort of practical faith that God wants of you. After all, he surely implies, the most important thing is to be doing what God wants. So you want to be religious? OK, he goes on, then express your faith, the love from God you have, His love that He wants to express to His world, by looking after those who are in need, the widows and orphans who are in distress because they have no one looking after them. You want to be real in the expression of your faith? Then reach out and bless those in need.


Before we go any further, can we counteract any tendency you may have that leads you towards extremism, wanting to go out to one or other of the extremes we started off thinking about. Merely because he is saying express you faith towards people, he is not therefore saying, don't express it towards God. That has already been covered and he will come back to it. Oh no, it's not one or the other; it is both. God wants us to relate to Him AND to people. God wants us to have a strong spiritual aspect to our lives, reading the Bible, praying, worshipping etc., but He also wants us to have a strong practical faith dimension to our lives as well. He wants to see that we are reaching out, not only to bring the word Gospel to people but the whole Gospel to people, expressed in words and deeds, just like Jesus did. How tragic that we so often divide these two aspects of the spiritual life and then only focus on one.


Perhaps to conclude we would do well to check out both sides of the spiritual equation as it applies to us personally. Do we have a strong spiritual dimension whereby we do read the Bible regularly, pray regularly, worship regularly and fellowship with other Christians regularly? We need all those things. How about the practical dimension to our lives, first as it affects those closest to us? How do we treat our partner, our children, people we encounter in the world, those we work for or work with? Are our emotions under control yet free to be expressed in a good way, do we have our tongues under control – just the issues James has covered so far! But what about the wider practical expression of our faith that James has just been referring to, caring for those in need, for those who have no one else to stand with them – there are a lot of such people. There is a whole world out there to be loved with Jesus' love and he's just longing to go to them through you, as you work out your relationship with Him.