Why did Jesus influence the world more than anyone else in history? Because his life was perfectly aligned with his message…and to a world jaded by religious hypocrisy, this was incredibly refreshing. What does it mean to follow in his steps? James, the brother of Jesus, wrote a short letter that answers that question—and provides a gut-check for the reality of our faith. When our faith is in the living Christ, it’s not just a faith that is; it’s a faith that does…and we’ll see seven compelling pictures of what real faith does.
"Defiant Joy" James 1:1-18
It’s natural to be happy when life goes well. But when things fall apart—and especially when there doesn’t seem to be any relief in sight--it’s easy to spiral downward. We tend to doubt, envy others, and blame God. James talks about a kind of faith that rises above this circumstantially-based happiness. Through our connection with the Man who was well-acquainted with sorrows and suffering, we’ll begin to taste a joy that only endures bad times; it’s actually strengthened and deepened through them.
"Blind Love" James 2:1-13
Whether intentionally or not, we are deeply prejudiced people—showing favoritism to the rich, the beautiful, and anyone else who we think can benefit us. But in the new community that Jesus is building through his church, we are called to something different. Just as Jesus gave his time, attention and love to people regardless of their social status, we are invited and empowered to live the same way. When we find our value in Him, we don’t need to look for it in powerful people.
"Spiritual Integrity" James 2:14-26
The great news of the gospel is that we are made right with God through faith! But wait…how do I know my faith is real? Does it mean acknowledging the existence of God? Saying the right words about Jesus? Affirming the correct doctrines? James masterfully exposes our false assurance and hypocritical spirituality by insisting that when our faith in Christ is real, our imitation of Christ will be evident. Our actions don’t save us…but they provide beautiful evidence of the faith that does.
"Life-Giving Speech" James 3:1-12
The words we speak have a massive influence on our own lives and the lives of others—for good or for evil. Unfortunately, our speech is one the most difficult things to control, often leading to discouragement, anger, lost trust, and broken relationships. When we recognize the tongue’s power and our inability to control it, we can humbly seek the power of Christ to transform the way we talk—which in turn will transform the direction of our lives.
"Relational Peace" James 3:13-18
Why do our relationships so often go sour? Because our default setting is self-centeredness—and we’re usually blind to it. So we act out of selfish ambition and envy…leading to relational chaos. But our connection with Christ gives us an entirely new kind of wisdom: the ability to clearly see our own self-promoting bias and subordinate our own will and desires for the good of others. When we’re driven by this kind of godly wisdom, we’ll begin to experience peace, healing, and progress in our relationships.
"Hopeful Endurance" James 5:7-20
This world is broken, and we feel the pain of this every day. But when we’re trusting in the One who promised to return and restore our broken world, it changes our perspective. We don’t get quickly discouraged. We don’t let life’s disappointments make us bitter against others. Instead, we develop two beautiful attributes: patience and prayerfulness. Life is a marathon; not a sprint...and Jesus empowers us to stay in the race for the long haul. Because of him, it will be well worth the wait.