Posts tagged James
The Power of Words

The way children pick up language is amazing. Over a relatively short period time—something like 18 to 36 months—children go from cooing and babbling to speaking in simple, but complete, sentences. Some of these sentences are sweet and make parenting worth it: “I love you, mommy.” Others are a little hard to deal with: “Go away, daddy. Leave me alone.” Isn’t it amazing how even 2 and 3-year-olds can use their words to lift someone up or tear them down? Words have power, even when they’re wielded by a toddler.

The Bible also reveals the powerful nature of words. We see it in its explanation creation. When God created the world, He exercised His power through speech: “And God said, ‘Let there be light’” (Gen. 1:3). We see it in God’s relationship with humanity. After creating Adam and Eve, “God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…” (Gen. 1:28). Later, when He called Abram from Ur, “the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your father’s house to the land that I will show you…I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:1–3). Scripture tells us that God’s speech makes him unique, all other gods are like “scarecrows in a cucumber field…they cannot speak” (Jer. 10:5). God alone speaks to His people, giving them His instructions and revealing to them His saving power. The Bible is God’s Word, breathed out by Him and written down for our progress in spiritual maturity (2 Tim. 3:16). God exercises his power over creation and in relationship with His people through speech.

But God’s speech is significant, not just for the he uses it, but for how it reveals to us his nature. John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). This Word is the Son of God, revealed to us in the person of Jesus, who “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3).

If speech is inherently powerful and closely related to who God is and what God does, it is unsurprising that James would instruct Christians in its proper use. There is power in speech: the power to woo one’s lover, to instruct children in the proper way to live, to express hopes and dreams for the future. There’s also the power to “defile the entire body, and set on fire the course of our life” (James 3:6). Scripture tells us that we must put away unedifying speech (Eph. 4:29), and be diligent to speak as “from God” to the world (1 Jn. 4:5–6). To put it simply, human speech must become more like God’s speech, “always…gracious, as though seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6).

How does your speech compare to God’s speech? In what ways does your speech need to change?
The Law is Good

There are times when an activity’s rules keep us from enjoying it like we should. For example, have you ever been to a hotel pool with a “NO DIVING ALLOWED” sign? Without fail someone breaks that rule. Can you really enjoy a swimming pool if you’re not soaking everybody with the waves from your world-class cannonball? On the other hand, there are times when an activity’s parameters actually increase our enjoyment of it. Just think, if you’ve never learned the rules of the piano—the scales, time signatures, or how to read music—your enjoyment of the instrument is severely limited. Maybe you can play “Chopsticks,” but without learning the rules of music, you’ll never know the joy of playing Chopin.

Which one of these examples best explains the function of God’s law in our lives?

  • Does the law keep us from behaviors that make life more enjoyable? or
  • Can it actually enhance our joy?

When we look to Scripture, what we find might surprise you. Paul tells us “the law is good” (1 Tim. 1:18), and James describes it as the “law of liberty” (James 1:25; 2:12). So, though our obedience to it can never earn us a place in heaven (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:15–16), the law should be seen as serving a positive role in our lives. In fact, it reveals to us the lifestyle that God intends for his people to live. Of course, the law functions differently for believers today than it did for the Israelites in the Old Testament, and it has been fundamentally changed through the work and teaching of Jesus who rendered the sacrificial laws obsolete through his once-for-all death on the cross (Heb. 9). Nevertheless, we must strive to view the law positively.

One way to do that is by remembering this simple phrase: “Discipline without direction is drudgery.” [1] If God’s law was simply a set of regulations given by an absent deity, it would feel oppressive—on the order of a “NO DIVING ALLOWED” sign. But since it comes from a loving and compassionate God, it is purposeful. He gives us the law for our good as he remakes us into the image of the One who lived in perfect obedience to him, Jesus. In that way it truly is a law of liberty and something we should strive to live out as we pursue the goal for which we were created.


  1. Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 1991), 15.  ↩

The Hamster Wheel

Hamsters must be the most physically fit rodents on earth. Rather than letting them sit around stuffing their jaws with little pellets of food, their owners supply them with an exercise machine, the hamster wheel. You know what it looks like, and if you’ve ever had a hamster of your own, you know what it sounds like at 3 AM! The hamster runs in the wheel, and if you think about it too long, you can almost start to feel sad for them. They exert so much energy, but never actually get anywhere. Maybe you can relate.

Our hurried lives are often punctuated by setbacks, frustrations, and, to use the apostle James’ word, trials. While you’re in the middle of one of these setbacks, you feel powerless to get out of it. No matter how hard you push or how fast you run, you just can’t get out. As they say online, “The struggle is real.” What’s worse, it’s not always apparent what we did to deserve the trial we’re facing, and it can sometimes feel like God has abandoned us to go it alone. Thankfully, God knew that we would fall into this “Hamster Wheel Perspective,” and in James 1:1–18 we’re told two things that get us out of the hamster wheel and on with our lives. First, there is a purpose to our trials (Jas. 1:2–4), and second, we’ll be rewarded for our perseverance through them (Jas. 1:12).

There seems to be little purpose to the hamster’s ceaseless running. Clearly, he’s going nowhere and fast. Not so for the believer! God has begun a work in us and He promises to complete it (Phil. 1:6). He has stretched a path in front of us, and though it may prove difficult at times, His purpose is for us to reach our goal and to finish our race. Life is not a hamster wheel. Each trial has a purpose as God shapes us and molds us into the image of His Son, Jesus (Rom. 8:29).

In addition to never actually going anywhere, the hamster doesn’t win anything for running in his wheel. It’s a mindless exercise in futility. But, Christian, we are promised a wonderful reward for our perseverance. James refers to it as “the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (Jas. 1:12), and Paul calls it a competitor’s “prize” (2 Tim. 2:5). Both argue that it is a motivation for our perseverance.

So when you find yourself facing an obstacle, give up the hamster wheel perspective that keeps you from seeing its point. Remember that God is at work to change you and make you more like Jesus, and that He promises a great reward for your faithfulness to Him through it.