Are you tired of making foolish decisions? Tired of saying stupid stuff? Are you tired of struggling with your sins and fostering a long-distance relationship with God? Want God to answer your prayers?
If you said yes to those questions, then you’re, well, pretty much like the rest of us. This week, I’ve been hanging out in the book of James. I’m always reminded and impressed by how much wisdom and truth comes packed in this short book of the Bible. In this post, I want to share a few key scriptures from James that will encourage you to grow spiritually and relationally.
God generously offers us His wisdom, but it does seem to come with a condition, that we ask for it with a heart devoted to Him and that believes in Him. See the passage below:
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
James 1: 5-8 (NIV)
Perhaps the only place I see God use the word religion in a positive light is this next verse. Pure and undefiled religion makes a difference in peoples’ lives. It meets practical needs. It animates the love of God throughout the world. Check this out:
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1: 26-27 (NIV)
The next passage has met controversy over the years, and I’m not sure why. If you read this within the greater context of the Bible, it’s simply saying that those who have been transformed by God are going to show it. A true and loving relationship with God inevitably affects our passions, our decisions, our deeds.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
James 2: 18-19 (NIV)
More than ever I’m realizing how much I need to control what I say. What I say can lift people up or crush their spirits. How I say something can draw people to me or push them away. With my words, I can invite success or create failure.
5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
James 3:5-6 (NIV)
I need look no further than the mirror for the source of my marital squabbles, dysfunctional friendships, and relationships grown cold. How often I try to get something with the wrong motives.
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4: 1-3 (NIV)
We often find ourselves distanced from God. But it’s not God Who has moved. What a wonderful promise lies in this next passage:
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
James 4: 7-8 (NIV)
I often greet the day by thinking about my goals—what am I going to do today, how can I prosper or thrive, how can I make a buck. However, the wise man takes an attitude that always seeks God’s will first.
15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.
James 4: 15-16 (NIV)
And finally: Never underestimate the power of prayer.
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
James 5: 13-16 (NIV)
How about you? What other verses in James reach out and grab you?