Faith Works: A Study in James


How does faith work when you do ministry? 

Growing up in a working-class neighborhood next to an airport surrounded with first generation immigrants, many fleeing poverty and persecution from around the globe, I had a very unusual upbringing. Unlike nearly all my friends in the neighborhood I had two things. One, I had a dad who was still married to my mom and involved in my life, starting with coaching my baseball teams. Since I was the only kid on my first team with a dad, he ended up being our coach even though he’d never played the game. Two, my dad worked very hard to provide for us five kids and my mom – to the point that he broke his back hanging drywall to feed us.

I knew my dad loved his family because he showed it. He stayed married to mom, got up before the sun every day to go work himself to death, and came home to spend his hard-earned money on his family – not his hobbies or addictions. My dad never wrote a book about love, but he served, doing whatever it took to provide for our family. Joseph was the father to James and Jesus, and he was a blue-collar, working class, poor man who said little but did much. He never wrote a book of the Bible, but he raised boys who did. The book of James reminds me of Jesus and James’ dad as well as my dad, who is also named Joseph.

As we come to the end of our study of the book of James it has been a school of practical Christianity from beginning to end. Like His brother Christ who came down from Heaven to get His hands and feet dirty on the earth, James’ version of Christianity is very earthy. For James, faith is less about the things you write than the deeds you do. James could care less if you can win Bible memorizing competitions in Sunday school if you live like hell the other six days a week.

In light of James’ “get ‘er done” attitude as the blue-collar scholar of the New Testament, it makes sense that he ends with ministry. After learning, he expects us to be doing ministry. Like a dad who teaches you how to drive by throwing you the keys, rather than giving us long complicated detailed instructions, as you would expect, he gives us some of the clearest ministry directives you will ever find, expecting the Holy Spirit to help you figure it out by doing it.

1.      Suffering? Pray for them.

2.      Cheerful? Sing with them.

3.      Sick? Anoint and pray for them.

4.      Sinning? Confess it.

5.      Unhealthy? Pray for each other.

6.      Powerless? Pray some more.

7.      Wandering? Bring them back.

8.      Don’t believe me? Elijah was a regular guy like you and God used him for big things so go do something and see what God does.

The Apostle Paul reminds me of a finely tuned German sports car. James reminds me of a dented old farm truck that smells like the hound dog that sits in the passenger seat with its head hanging out the window being driven out to the fields for an honest day’s work. This may explain why scholars love Paul, and sheet rockers like James. I kind of see James writing this letter on a lunch break eating a sandwich because:

           Faith don’t need to be fancy.

           Holiness don’t need to be haughtiness.

           Ministry don’t need to be misery.

           Wisdom don’t need be wily.

           Christianity don’t need to be complicated.

What is God calling you to do? Who is God calling you to serve? Where is God calling you to work? Time to get to work...

Based upon James’ seven ways to do ministry, who comes to mind and how can you minister to them? Do this ministry this week. 

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