Note: This series is written as a first-person narrative in order to present Jesus in the context he walked with the unknown disciple that narrates presenting my thoughts and sparking more thoughts with his questions. Enjoy.
The return trip across the lake went much smoother. We didn’t almost die in a storm or encounter demons. The last day had been eventful.
“Look!” Thomas pointed. A large crowd awaited. One of the boats that went with us must’ve got there first.
They surrounded Jesus when he climbed down. A man was running through the crowd, Jairus, one of the synagogue leaders, came and fell at Jesus’ feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”
So Jesus went with him.
A large crowd followed us and pressed around him. Then Jesus stood still. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” Matthew answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then a woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.
“I’ve been bleeding for twelve years. Many doctors tried to help and I spent all I had, yet instead of getting better I grew worse. I heard you had returned and I thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately my bleeding stopped and I felt in my body that I was free from my suffering. My strength had returned.”
He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
She had touched all those people while ceremonially unclean to get to Jesus. Jairus was looking impatient while she spoke.
“Jesus…” he said. Then while Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”
Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. I watched them leave us. Later they returned and Peter told us what happened.
“When we came to the home of the synagogue leader, there was a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. We went in and Jesus said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him.”
“Laughed at him?”
“Yeah, said he was crazy. So Jesus made them all leave. Jairus made sure of it. He took the child’s father and mother and us and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!”
“Little girl, I say to you, get up!” I thought.
“Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around. She was 12 years old. It was amazing. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.”
I was given the opportunity to teach the Deaf Connections class on Sundays. Having only taught once, I wanted to start with something ‘simple and practical’ like James. Except James pummels you like a boxer, and then helps you up. After preparing a few lessons, I thought I could do a series here on James.
James was the half-brother of Jesus and didn’t believe he was the Son of God. He was pretty antagonistic (John 7:2-4). It was only after Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection that he believed and led the Jerusalem church until the High Priest pushed him off a building in 62 AD.
Before that happened, he wrote a letter to the Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman Empire. It’s a very practical letter on Christian living. We’re going to start with James 1:1-18.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Life happens, it’s not easy, and contrary to popular belief, being a Christian isn’t puppy dogs and rainbows. At least not on this side of eternity. The hard times is where the depth of your faith is proven. As you endure, you’ll mature and become stronger.
Then there are times where we don’t know what to do. What then?
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.
God won’t hold back wisdom when we ask for it. Solomon asked for it in 1 Kings 3:9-10. How wisdom is described here is an analytical heart and an ability to tell right from wrong. This will help us endure.
There is a warning though.
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. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
We have to trust that we’ll receive wisdom and be ready to apply it. Get off the fence and make our choice.
You see, God is there with us in these times. It’s not like He’s looking down and saying ‘sucks to be you’. No, He’s our Father, willing to guide us if we listen.
Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
This is contrasting the rich and the poor. Now there’s nothing wrong with having money; it can and is used for good. It’s the love of money that is the issue (1 Timothy 6:10). James is telling that the rich Christian with everything has the same priceless treasure that the poor Christian with nothing has. Jesus.
Neither money nor status can get us salvation. Being an heir to God is an invaluable gift. This is where we put our focus.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
This is a beatitude like in the Sermon on the Mount. A conditional promise and description of one who’s blessed.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
We sometimes look at trials as God tempting us. James corrects that line of thinking. Our temptations come from our own evil desires. The thought pops into our head, we entertain the idea, then we act on it and sin.
Jesus said this about our hearts in Mark 7:20-22. “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly.” If we’re even angry at a person, we’re just as guilty as if we killed them (Matthew 5:22).
Why is he so strict on this?
Because he’s revealing our sinful nature and telling us how dangerous it is. That’s why we need Jesus as Savior because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
While God doesn’t tempt us, He does allow us to be tested. Not to see us fail, but so we can grow. We see life as maybe 80 years. He sees our eternal lives, and the testing and enduring are so we can grow up before we get to Heaven.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
Look at every good thing you have. It’s from God. Matthew 7:11 also says that God will never give us anything less than good gifts when we ask Him. His definition of good. He’s not going to change now.
In fact, one gift is our salvation. As Christians, we’re born-again. Not because of our parents or another person. Born of God.
This passage stresses having an enduring faith-perseverance. A theme that runs throughout the Bible. Peter and Paul’s letters for example.
Jesus persevered, always doing God’s will, even to the point of going to the cross for us. He is the Son of God, and because we have God the Holy Spirit in us, we can also endure.
Here’s what we can do to gain perseverance, and that’s to trust God daily, in every situation, even the hard ones. If we need help, we can ask God for the wisdom to choose rightly. No matter our circumstances, our hope in being one of God’s children. He will reward us for sticking it out. God doesn’t test us to cause us to fail, but to teach us to endure, and by doing that we mature in our faith. Only good and needful things come from the God who saved us. Isn’t Jesus proof of that?
Have you ever dealt with doubt? Doubting the faith? I have, occasionally still do. I couldn’t pin it down until I did Bible.com’s “Doubting Towards Faith” reading plan. I linked to it in the title. One of the days dealt with intellectual doubt.
What’s Intellectual Doubt?
I’ve studied and made the case for Christianity. I can make it evidentially thanks to books such as Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels and God’s Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe by J. Warner Wallace. William Lane Craig’s Defenders and Reasonable Faith podcasts help me make it philosophically.
However, some days it just doesn’t feel real, and other days vibrantly so.
Everyone deals with it. C.S Lewis did and had something to say in the Faith chapter of Mere Christianity.
C.S Lewis’ Thoughts On Doubt
“Now faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods and which Christianity looked terribly probable.”
“This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why faith is such a necessary virtue: Unless you tell your moods where to get off, you can Never be either a sound Christian or a sound atheist. Just a creature dithering to and fro.”
“Consequently one must train the habit of faith. The first step is to recognize the fact that your mood change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of it’s main doctrines shall be deliberately Held before your mind for some time every day. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.”
But what about unanswered questions?
Here’s an excerpt from the reading plan I mentioned earlier:
“With an increasing number of unanswered questions, how does a Christian keep his passion for Christ intact? Hank Hanegraaff, The Bible Answer Man, once told me: “Instead of being crushed by a gigantic snowball of questions, let your questions increase your awe for God. If we could figure God out, He’d be a pretty small God.” That resonated with me.”
I got hung up on ‘devotional”. Aren’t those touchy-feely? It’s taking an act of God to make me touchy-feely. It is a good point though.
Here’s a tip I read: just begin thanking God for stuff. You’ll be a one-person worship service. Don’t neglect one for the other, though; remember the Greatest Commandment.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
Have you, or do you struggle with doubts sometimes?