James addressed a congregation whose members had made a dichotomy between faith and practice – as long as a person believed right, behaving right didn’t matter. In terms that are clear, James presented his audience with this biblical truth: We are held accountable by God for what we know.
We sometimes think that we are invincible, that we are without vulnerability, that we are beyond the reaches of disaster and calamity. Then along comes an unexpected, colossal reminder that, indeed, we are exposed and unprotected, that we are susceptible, that we are without defense. Then what?
I have a distaste for the word religion. In fact, I object to the use of the term, especially when it comes to Christianity. Yet, James used the words religion and/or religious three times in two consecutive verses. Yikes! What do you think he meant? Is Christianity nothing more than a religion? Are you religious, and is being religious enough? I wonder. Do you?
Paul had a problem. His tendency toward arrogance could easily get in the way of his kingdom usefulness. So, what did God do? God gave Paul a gift, actually, several gifts. What were those gifts? Here’s the answer: weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions and difficulties. If that seems unacceptable, stop here and go no farther. The weaknesses, insults, distresses, persecutions and difficulties will not go away. However, if you proceed, what has been a gut-wrenching grind just may be transformed into a life-changing, energy-charged gift.
I love stories with happy endings. Yet, how do we handle life when happy endings don’t come? What happens when no rescue takes place? What happens when the alcoholic does not sober up? What happens when a marriage ends in divorce? What happens when cancer takes the life of its victim? What happens when a teenager does not come home to parents? Such questions not only stand at the heart of Habakkuk’s book, but they also plague our own lives. What then?
Through twelve verses, James offered information from God concerning the trials of life, that is, the outward circumstances that rail against us. In verse 13, James switched direction and began to instruct his readers, not about attacks from without, but attacks from within. He addressed the inner solicitation to evil that is characteristic in all of us. Unbelievably, James’ readers believed that God was responsible not only for the temptations they faced but for their own propensity to sin. Is that what you believe? If not, just how do you deal with temptation and its results?