“No Pain, No Gain” ( James 1:2-3, KNOX ) by Carley Evans


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You’ve heard it before – there is a wall a distance runner hits that hurts considerably, then as that wall is breached, the pain dissipates. People who exercise every day know the adage well: “no pain, no gain.”

James reminds us that we work under a similar adage:

“Consider yourselves happy indeed, my brethren, when you encounter trials of every sort, as men who know well enough that the testing of their faith breeds endurance.”

As we live through ‘trials of every sort,’ we are asked to consider these as opportunities for growth. As a matter of fact the only difference between our trials and those of the rest of humanity is that we have faith. Our faith is strengthened as we face the tribulations which are common to all human beings.

Therefore, we may as well be happy. For our happiness is not dependent upon our circumstances, but upon the victory won by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Don’t Forget Who You Are” ( James 1: 22- 25, WYC ) by Carley Evans


Mother and child union, immediately after birth
Mother and child union, immediately after birth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

23 For if any man is an hearer of the word, and not a doer, this shall be likened to a man that beholdeth the face of his birth in a mirror [this shall be comparisoned, or likened, to a man beholding the cheer of his birth in a mirror];

24 for he beheld himself, and went away, and at once he forgot which he was. [for he beheld himself, and went away, and anon he forgot what manner man he was.]

25 But he that beholdeth into the law of perfect freedom, and dwelleth in it, and is not made a forgetful hearer, but a doer of work, this shall be blessed in his deed.

Imagine the cheer of your birth. Your mother is relieved and over-joyed simultaneously, glad to be rid of the pain of childbirth and overwhelmed at the sight of your existence. Your father is glowing with pride and happiness. Everyone is thrilled to greet you as you enter the world.

Imagine God’s cheer when you are born again. James says, Don’t forget the cheer of your birth. Don’t see it, then turn and forget the Word who brought your freedom to you. Don’t be “a forgetful hearer.” Don’t forget who you are, and so deceive yourself.

“In Mildness” ( James 1:20-22, WYC ) by Carley Evans


My anger at injustice, at the evil [in myself and in others] isn’t going to result in the righteousness that God demands. Turning away from injustice and evil is, however, a necessary consequence of receiving [in humility] the Word of God, which is joined to me.

Listening to the Word is not enough, says James. We must be “doers of the Word” and so not deceive ourselves. What is “doing” the Word?

Look to Jesus for the answer. Doing the Word has nothing to do with hate. Doing the Word has more to do with sorrow. Jesus rarely shows even His anger for evil; rather He shows sorrow over evil. He shows His longing to gather His children to Himself as a mother hen seeks to gather her chicks to herself. Jesus loves His enemies; He does good to those who hate Him. He prays for those who seek to destroy Him and His Kingdom. And, this love isn’t self-righteous or haughty. Rather, Jesus is genuinely humble.

In mildness, receive the Word of God which may save your soul.

20 for the wrath of man worketh not the rightwiseness of God.

21 For which thing cast ye away all uncleanness, and plenty of malice, and in mildness receive ye the word that is planted[and in mildness receive ye the word inset, or joined], that may save your souls.

22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

“Mercy: The Highest Standard” ( Colossians 3: 13, NCV ) by Carley Evans


English: Nablus image in Palestine, Never Forg...
English: Nablus image in Palestine, Never Forgive, Never Forget (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Bear with each other, and forgive each other. If someone does wrong to you, forgive that person because the Lord forgave you.”

Paul says to put up with each other. He says put up with your friends’ faults, your neighbors’ mistakes, your enemies’ wrongs. He reminds you to forgive the other person “because the Lord forgave you.”

I ask you — what’s more critical: to hold the other to a high standard of behavior or to forgive the other for not reaching that high standard?

I maintain Jesus comes to earth to give us the highest standard which is mercy. James tells us that “mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 3:13, NIV) He writes:

“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.” (James 3:12-13)

Yes, Jesus tells you to be perfect because your Heavenly Father is perfect. But God’s perfection is attained not by your groping efforts or by your demand for good behaviors, but through the mercies of Christ on the cross. The blood of bulls and goats are not able to appease God’s wrath; only mercy is capable of bringing you to holiness.

Therefore, Jesus says:

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 7:27-28, NIV)

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that… But love your enemies, do good to them without expecting to get anything back.” (Luke 7:32-33, 35; NIV)

“Do good…without expecting anything…” Ultimately that is the Christian life : being merciful.

“Swift To Hear” ( James 1:19, WYC ) by Carley Evans


Here James offers one of those tidbits of wisdom that might define my life if I would but follow it diligently —

“Know ye, my brethren most loved, be each man swift to hear, but slow to speak, and slow to wrath;”

Listening is key —

Open my ears and shut my mouth, and attend to what you are saying without formulating my response while you are still speaking. (Do this sometimes in a group, and you can wind up completely ignored; but I imagine you are also the group member most likely to know what was said — and meant  — by the other members.)

If I listen without a mind active in figuring out my own response, then it follows I have a better chance of fully understanding you and your viewpoint. Perhaps then I will be “slow to speak, and slow to wrath.” Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

“Powerful Requests” ( James 5:16, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


Woodcut for "Die Bibel in Bildern", ...
Woodcut for “Die Bibel in Bildern”, 1860. Deutsch: Holzschnitt aus “Die Bibel in Bildern”, 1860. Erster Tag, Gott scheidet das Licht von der Finsternis. Français : Gravure en bois pour «Die Bibel in Bildern», 1860. Português: 1º dia: Criação da Luz. Gn 1:3. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What makes an “urgent request” powerful? James says that righteousness makes our prayers effective, i.e. “very powerful.” And what does James define as “righteousness?” He says that righteousness is the direct result of healing. How does James say we are healed? He says that healing comes from confession of sins.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The urgent request of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.”

Simply put, don’t go before God the Father in prayer without first confessing your sins. With confession comes His healing, and with His healing comes righteousness, and with righteousness comes power.

“Of Anger, Swearing, and Lies — Sin” ( James 5: 12, HCSB ) by Carley Evans


James exhorts, “Above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. Your ‘yes’ must be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ must be ‘no,’ so that you won’t fall under judgment.”

Yesterday, on the interstate driving to pick up my daughter from an international airport, a man dangerously cut me off as I was changing lanes at 65 to 70 mph. I am ashamed to say, in my moment of terror I was angry at him. He must have known by my gesture how angry I felt, because he suddenly put on his brakes and moved his car in my direction. Sensing immediate danger, I pulled around the right side of the truck I had been attempting to pass legally on the left. The car continued to follow me. I thought I saw a police officer on a motorcycle on the exit ramp, so I got off the interstate. The car continued to follow me. By this time, I was fearful and very ashamed of myself for losing my temper. A bout of ‘road rage’ had struck, and I was afraid was now about to backfire on me.

As I came up the ramp I realized the motorcyclist was not a police officer. The red light caught me; the car pulled up beside me in the other turning lane. I quickly glanced at the driver. An African American gentleman was sitting behind the wheel screaming at me. I looked away. I never looked back at him. He continued to call me names — names used by racists. I smiled to myself even as I grew more and more afraid. I got out my cell phone and tried to dial the highway patrol to no avail. So, I called 9-1-1. All through this, the man continued to scream obscenities at me and once he threw something at my window. That ‘plink’ on the glass startled me, but I still did not look at the man. As the light turned green, he sped away from me as I followed him back onto the interstate. I let him pull away while I spoke to the dispatcher at 9-1-1.

She asked me all sorts of questions, but the important one — what caused him to behave that way? — was the only one I didn’t answer truthfully. I told her I was carrying a gun, but that I didn’t pull it out of my glove compartment. I told her the man was very angry and kept yelling at me, that he threw a rock or some item from his car at my car. Did he damage your car? No, m’am. Can you see him now? Yes, m’am. Her questions continued for quite awhile; this is not common in my area of the country. Usually, the dispatcher listens and then closes the conversation rather quickly. This woman kept asking me about the incident, seemingly trying to locate the man in the car along the interstate. I began to drive into a rainstorm and ended the 9-1-1 call so that I would not have an accident.

I kept driving. Only later did I cry, realizing how evil (and stupid!) I’d been and how blessed I’d been almost at the same time.

“Therefore, confess your sins one to the other and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)