I've always loved the Book of James. I guess part of the reason is that it uses my Christian name, but as I grew older I realized that this writing by Jesus' brother had a strong yet simple message that really explained to me how a Christian should live. Faith in action is what James is all about, for he asks the simple question: How can we truly have faith if we don't live our faith in what we do? Simple yet so clear, it is a great reference to use when we have doubts about what is expected of us.
God expects us to have faith in Him, His Son Jesus Christ, who came to earth to die for our sins, and the Holy Spirit, who was sent to us after the Ascension so that we might have a moral and spiritual cheerleader with us always. But as James explains, if we have the level of faith that He wants us to possess it is natural that we will want to live our life according to that faith, meaning we will show our faith in our good works. And good works don't just refer to major projects, for simple daily actions of kindness are just as important, sometimes even more so. We often don't know the impact of the things we do for others, but we can be assured that they have a purpose and sometimes it just might be the turning point in a life searching for answers.
The author, the earthly brother of Jesus, offers in his work a guide to daily living. His advice includes how to handle wealth by not letting money replace God, controlling the tongue and all of the harm it can create and, most importantly, loving your fellow man. Loving your fellow man, particularly one who has been cruel or unjust toward you, is a very difficult thing to do, yet James explains that we must keep our hearts open to forgiveness. Being such a short book and easily read, it is a great anytime guide for anyone having questions about what God expects day or night, 24/7.
I can just see James growing up in the shadow of Jesus, not necessarily taking it all in as things happened but absorbing a wealth of knowledge from his time with the One and then later, after He was gone, taking up the cause to keep the faith growing and alive. James ministered primarily to the Jews who had left Jerusalem under pressure because of their acceptance of Jesus, yet his message was quickly passed on to all who sought the truth of Jesus' grace.
We are fortunate that he was another of those great early Church leaders who actively performed a living mission which has since been accepted by so many in all corners of the world. Oh, some are persecuted and tortured and others have to flee for their lives leaving behind all of their possession, but all of them have found the peace and solace that comes with accepting Christ as the Savior and being rewarded with eternal life. And those of us who have an easier life must be aware always that forces are always present who want to treat us in the same inhuman way. If so, it becomes our duty and our honor to stand with Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and never falter in our faith.
Wear this burden as a badge of honor, for suffering for the One who saved us from permanent death as the giver of life opens a special door for us when life on earth is done that will be so special and so divine that we will rejoice in staying the course. And thanks to James for making it so clear what we must do, but especially thank God for His love and grace.
Onward, Christian soldiers. Bear the Cross of Jesus in whatever you do, knowing that with Him you need never fear again.