James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. (James 1:1, ESV)
Today we’re beginning a study of the book of James here on the intranet. I’ve wanted to walk through a book of the New Testament for some time and James has been at the forefront of my mind. It is a book filled with wisdom and bold challenges to live out the faith we profess to believe and I’m looking forward to studying it together.
As we read the opening verse, we discover the author is James, who considers himself a servant of God and of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t introduce himself by his list of accomplishments or rattle off his resume. He’s simply a servant. How many of us, I wonder, would be content with such a bio? If someone chose one word to describe us, would it be anywhere near “servant”? Would we want such a label?
Jesus taught that such a mentality should pervade our lives. If we are to be well thought of by God, we must be a servant to all (Mark 9:35). Certainly runs against the grain our natural inclination, doesn’t it? Giving ourselves completely over to Christ, putting aside my wants and desires, is a daily step of faith but it’s God’s path to greatness – greatness in his eyes.
We are also told in this verse the name of the author: James. Most Bible scholars agree that this James is the same one who was Jesus’ half-brother (Matt. 13:55). James became an important leader in the church (Gal 2:9) and lent his opinion on crucial issues faced by the early believers (Acts 15:13-21). But he wasn't always such an ardent follower of his brother who would be the Messiah. The Gospel of John tells us that earlier in Jesus' ministry: For not even his brothers believed in him. (John 7:5, ESV)
I find that intriguing. James went from being a critic and skeptic to being a sold-out follower of Jesus. What changed? When did this happen? Scripture doesn't tell us, but my best guess is the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:7). He encountered the risen Christ and all of a sudden it made sense. Everything Jesus had been saying was true and the one written off as the "crazy brother" had now proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was the Son of God. The power of God's saving grace has the ability to save even the staunchest doubters. Are you praying for a skeptic? Don't give up. Never underestimate the power of God's relentless pursuit of sinners.