Christianity Where the Rubber Meets the Road
Part 1: Believing in God’s Blessings
Sermon by: Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Feb. 12, 2012
*One of my favorite Scriptures is Matthew 7:7-11, where Jesus told His followers:
7. "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
8. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
9. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?
10. Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11. If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
*Our Heavenly Father wants to bless His children beyond measure! We can trust Him to bless us. That’s the message tonight from this introduction to the Book of James.
1. First: Trust God to bless you through His transformation.
*God wants to change us the way He changed the man who wrote this inspired letter. We see him in vs. 1: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.”
*Who was this James? -- There are four men named “James” in the New Testament who could have written this book. One was the Apostle John’s brother, James. But Bible Scholars believe that he died too soon to have this letter. So most agree that this James was the half-brother of Jesus.
 What can we say about this man? -- Well, he grew up in the same home as Jesus. Matthew 13:54-58 tells us:
54. When He (Jesus) had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, "Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works?
55. Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?
56. And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?"
57. So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house."
58. Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
*What do you think it would be like to grow up in the same home as Jesus? -- Surely there were good things about it: The best spiritual atmosphere you could ever have, and the best big brother anybody ever had.
*But it also must have been tough in a way. How would you like to grow up in Jesus' shadow? -- That goody-two-shoes never did anything wrong!
-James grew up in the same home as Jesus.
 Another thing that we can say about him was that he was a sinner like you and me. James was lost, probably until after the Lord’s resurrection.
*Luke 4:16-30 records an earlier visit of the Lord back to His hometown of Nazareth. And there we see how harshly the locals turned against Jesus:
16. So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.
17. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
18. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19. to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.''
20. Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him.
21. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.''
22. So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, "Is this not Joseph's son?''
23. And He said to them, "You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’”
24. Then He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country.
25. But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land;
26. but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.
27. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.''
28. Then all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,
29. and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.
30. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.
*Imagine the pressure that James and the rest of the family must have felt in that atmosphere. Mark 3:21 tells us that at one point the Lord’s own people, His friends, maybe even His family “went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, ‘He is out of His mind.’”
*And in the last year of the Lord’s earthly ministry, John 7:1-5 confirms to us that James was as lost as can be.
1. After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.
2. Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.
3. His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.
4. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.''
5. For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
*This all reminds us how far off track people can be, and that we should not give up on lost people.
 James was lost, -- but then he got saved!
*James got saved, because after the Lord’s resurrection, Jesus appeared to His brother. The Apostle Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 15:1-7:
1. Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,
2. by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you unless you believed in vain.
3. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4. and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
5. and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
6. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
7. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.
*There is no evidence that James got saved before the Lord Jesus appeared to him. Now this reminds us how much Jesus loved him and what He was willing to do to save him.
*We could think, "I wish Jesus loved me that much." -- He does!
-Jesus died for us just as much as He died for James or Peter or John.
-And He comes to us too, but just in a different way.
 James got saved and then he became a very good man.
*He was so good that people started calling him “James the Just.” “Halley’s Bible Handbook” tells us that James “spent so much time on his knees in prayer that they became hard and callous like a camel’s knees.” (1)
*Can you imagine being so devoted to prayer that your knees became hard and callused?
-James became that kind of man. And he became a leader in the church. In Acts 12:17, Peter wanted James to know that an angel had set him free from prison. In Galatians, Paul wrote about his first trip to Jerusalem. It was three years after he was saved. Paul saw Peter, but said, “I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother.” (Gal 1:19)
-Then in Acts 15:13-22, James took a strong role in accepting the Gentile believers who were saved under Paul’s ministry.
*James was a leader, but he was also a humble man. We see this here in vs. 1, where he introduced himself by saying, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.”
*James could have bragged about being the Lord's brother or a leader in the church. But he was happy to call himself a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. And the Greek word for servant here means “slave.”
*In other words: “My life belongs to God. My life belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.” And that goes along with how James died.
*Early Christian historians tell us that it was about 70 AD, just shortly before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army. Many Jews had embraced Christianity, and so the High Priest had James arrested, and ordered him to proclaim from one of the balconies of the Temple that Jesus was not the Messiah. Instead, James cried out that Jesus was the Son of God and Judge of the World!
*Then his enraged enemies threw him to the ground and began to stone him until one man mercifully ended his suffering with a club. Just before the final blow, James was on his knees praying the same thing that Jesus prayed from the cross: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (1)
*The man who wrote this book was totally transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ. And that’s what He wants to do in our lives.
*We may never have knees like camel’s knees. But we can grow in the Lord, and we can be more like Jesus every day.
-So trust God to bless you through His transformation.
2. And trust God to bless you through His truth.
*As we go through this verse by verse study of James, we are going to explore some of God’s greatest truths.
 And we will see that James is a practical book.
*This study will tell us how to be a Christian 24/7. Think of that old expression, “where the rubber meets the road.” I really like that expression. It’s talking about getting down to where the action is. That’s the kind of book James is. -- It will help us become victorious Christians in the every-day struggles of life.
*Samuel Chadwick gave this testimony many years ago: “I have guided my life by the Bible for more than sixty years, and I tell you there is no book like it. It is a miracle of literature, a perennial spring of wisdom, a wonder of surprises, a revelation of mystery, an infallible guide of conduct, and an unspeakable source of comfort.
*Pay no attention to people who discredit it, for I tell you that they speak without knowledge. -- It is the infallible Word of God itself.
*Study it according to its own direction. Live by its principles. Believe its message. Follow its precepts. No man is uneducated who knows the Bible, and no one is wise who is ignorant of its teachings.” (2)
 James is a practical book. -- And a purifying book.
*God will use this book to call us out on some things we need to get out of our lives: Hypocrisy, snobbery, and spiritual adultery to name a few.
*This study will help us to become authentic Christians. The world needs to see the real thing. And this letter will help us become Christians that count! It will give us credibility, and help give us a compelling testimony.
 James is a purifying book. -- And a powerful book.
*I like the question the Lord asked in Jeremiah 23:29, “Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”
*God’s Word has great power. And this little book of James is a great example of that.
*In my early years as a Christian, I was afraid of this little book. I tended to avoid it, because it brought me under so much conviction. This book is spiritual dynamite! God can use it to give us wisdom, tame our tongues and energize our prayer life. Let’s trust Him to do all of this and more.
-Trust God to bless you through His truth.
3. And trust God to bless you through your trials.
*We can trust God to bless us even through our trials. This is the first lesson in James and we see it in vs. 2-4. Here James told those Jewish Christians:
2. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
3. knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
4. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
*The “trials” he talks about in vs. 2 are called “temptations” in the KJV. But it’s not what we usually think of as being tempted to sin. James is talking about the hardships and troubles that come into the life of every believer.
*James is talking about our trials and tribulations. And he says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”
*Sounds a little crazy at first. Count my troubles as joy? That’s hard to do. “I sure am happy I got that bad stomach bug last week?”
*But James didn’t say it was all joy. He said to count it all joy. Make a conscious effort to consider even your trials to be joy givers, -- trying to see God’s purpose in the middle of problems and persecution...
-Being conscious that I can choose how to respond to problems.
-Conscious that I can help God’s work go forward in my life.
-Conscious that God can use my trials to make me more like Jesus.
-Conscious that the Lord is always at work, even through bad situations.
*In the darkest night of my soul, God will prove Himself faithful to me.
*Mot Richey was one of the precious senior adults at McClendon Baptist Church. She went home to be with the Lord in 2006. Mot was a lovely Christian lady. She was also a wonderful singer, wife and cook. She used to bring us chocolate pies.
*In my whole life, I never met a more loving couple than Jack and Mot Richey. Married for 60 years, they met at the little parish fair in Olla. Mot was almost 16, and her older sister was dating Jack’s cousin, J.D. Mot went to the fair with her family. And when she got off the swings, she saw J.D. and he introduced her to Jack.
*When Jack died, Mot told me, “I think I knew right then. Jack swears he knew right then.” -- But that was in 1942, and the war was going on. Jack spent the next 2 ½ years serving in Iran. Mot wrote him a letter every day while he was gone. And when he got home, they were married Aug. 6, 1945.
*Looking back, Mot said it was a little bit of heaven on earth. But they knew more than their share of heartaches. In 1979, their daughter Beverly took her own life. Beverly was beautiful and talented, the pianist at FBC in Houston for a time.
*She was a Christian, but depression overwhelmed her, and Beverly took her own life. It was a parent’s worst nightmare, but God came through for Jack and Mot. And in God’s comfort, Mot wrote the words of this poem:
“Sorrow was a stranger to me, I hadn’t known her before --
Until that day she came my way and camped there at my door.
She took away the laughter, and took away my song,
She made the days all dreary and every night so long.
Gone were the joys my heart once knew, and dreams just faded away,
Dark was the path of my sorrow for night had o’er taken my days.
Then ever -- ever so gently, my dear Lord whispered to me,
‘Look up my child and dare to smile, I’ve not forsaken thee.’
His yoke is easy and His burden is light,
On Him my burden I cast,
No more was I tossed in waves of despair,
His peace was mine at last.
Now sorrow is no stranger to me, I’ve come to know her well. -- I’ve walked with her through death’s dark door, into its deepest hell.
From this walk with sorrow has come a glad new song,
For my Lord has walked with me and He has made me strong.
He’s taught me that true peace and joy is found in Him alone,
And if my life is hid in Him, He’ll safely lead me home.” (3)
*We can trust Him. This is the first lesson from our study of James.
-We can trust God to bless by transforming our lives.
-Trust Him to bless us through His truth.
-And trust Him to bless us, even through our trials.
*Let’s go to the Lord in prayer.
1. “Halley’s Bible Handbook” by Henry H. Halley - Copyright 1965 - Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids MI, p. 657
2. SermonCentral sermon “The Power of the Word” by Terry Barnhill - Hebrews 4:12-13 - 08042010
3. Poem by Mot Richey