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God delights in restoring those who have wandered away. We should be a people of real concern, who care for those wandering from the truth; a people of real discretion in confronting them; and a people of real zeal for bringing them back.
James encourages us to pray. He tells us to pray for ourselves and for one another, and the sick are to call for the elders to pray for them. We are to come to God in faith, in repentance, in honesty and in humility.
Some of us may have been excluded for being Christians, whilst others may have experienced more intense suffering. James calls us to be patient, but he is not insensitive to suffering, nor is he telling us to be inactive. To cope with suffering, we need to learn how to lament. Our ultimate hope is the return of Jesus.
We should not put our trust or find our security in possessions. We should be rich towards God, and generous with our wealth. We should not be complicit in oppressing the poor by our shopping habits. God is not against us having money, but wants us to use wealth for his glory and his kingdom.
God is in control, and Jesus relied totally on God. James isn’t telling us not to plan ahead, but warning us against the arrogance of thinking we are lord of our own lives. If we don’t know God then we can know him today. If we do know God then we can trust him today.
If we focus on other people’s faults, we don’t keep our eyes on what we should be doing. We shouldn’t judge others because when we do, we are looking in the wrong place with a wrong attitude, we are putting ourselves above the law, and we damage church unity. We should deal with our own faults, loving others instead of judging, and remembering that it’s up to God to judge.
Many of our desires are good, but we are looking in the wrong place to satisfy them. We need to remember to ask God. God gives us his Spirit, and we are invited to humble ourselves and draw near to God.
James is addressing people who may be experience many big changes in their lives and are not copying or responding well, so he points them to the wisdom of God - its source, which is Jesus who is the wisdom of God; its character; and its outcome. We can bless the world around us by making peace because we have listened to Jesus.
Just as a horse’s bit and a ship’s rudder can control the direction of the horse or ship, so the tongue has a great implication to the direction of our lives. We can try our hardest to control our tongue, but it cannot be tamed. James warns us that how we use the tongue is important, and although we are all judged by the same standard, teachers will be judged more strictly.
James gives us an encouragement - to love our neighbours whether they’re similar to us or not; a challenge - not to show favouritism, which can be a lot more subtle than in the example James gives; and an assurance - mercy triumphs over judgment, so we no longer have to strive to be accepted.
We need to change not just our actions but also our hearts, which we do by humbly accepting the word planted in us. We accept this by obeying it. True religion involves a change in the way we speak, a concern for the most vulnerable and keeping ourselves from being corrupted by the world.
There are four steps to dealing with our inner desires and temptations. We should keep our eye on the end goal; realise where the temptation comes from and where it leads; deal with our desire, not just our actions; and remember God’s goodness and good gifts to us.
What do we rejoice in? Jesus talks about the deceitfulness of wealth. We shouldn’t rejoice in our wealth or our lack of it, but in Christ and our position in him. Our hope is in Jesus, and we are living for him not for better jobs or better houses.
How do we respond to the trials of life? We are to respond with joy, not because the trials are enjoyable in themselves but because we recognise what God is doing through them. Let’s allow perseverance to finish its work.