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James 1  Click on this link to read the passage. You may select your preferred version of the Bible after the link opens.

The book of James was written not by the James in Jesus’ Twelve Disciples, but by James, the brother of Jesus. James was writing to the “twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” I interpret this to mean the Christian Jews (the twelve tribes) who had scattered among other nations because they were being persecuted for their Christian faith. That understanding makes this book especially valuable to Christians today who are suffering persecution. Unfortunately, most Christians (myself included) are woefully ignorant of the persecution that is being targeted at Christians today, especially in foreign countries. This persecution of Christians is also picking up momentum in the United States. The skeptical need only type the words “Christian persecution” into a Google search to locate a wealth of convincing information on the topic.

In the first chapter, James is writing to the persecuted Christians who have scattered to the surrounding nations, and he is encouraging them to persevere in their trials. He is also encouraging them to be “doers” of the Word and not just hearers only. We all need to take this instruction to heart.

Father God, stir in our hearts a greater compassion for the suffering Christians around the world. Let their perseverance motivate us to pray for them and to reach out to them as you lead us to do. Enable us to recognize the shallow areas of our own faith and to commit ourselves to seeking to know you better by studying your Word that our faith may be strengthened.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

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1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–

2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:1-11 (NIV)

This passage starts out with the words “For this reason…” This tells me we need to look at the previous verses to learn what reason and to get the whole picture of what Paul, the writer, is trying to say. The previous verses had expounded on how the crucifiction and resurrection of Christ welcomed the Gentiles into the family of God giving them new hope. The walls of separation between the Jews and Gentiles had been broken down. At the time of this writing, Paul was in house arrest awaiting trial in Rome.

Today’s passage is quite long, so I will focus on Paul’s humility. As those who have followed this week’s writings may have noticed, humility has been the underlying theme this week.

Paul refers to his conversion with a sense of awe. It is clear that he is continually overwhelmed that God should choose him, one who had previously persecuted Christians unto death, to preach the Gospel, and not only to preach the Gospel, but to present it to the Gentiles – people who had previously been considered forever outside of God’s grace. Paul declares that he is “less than the least of all God’s people.” These are not words of pride. He refers to himself as a servant, not some high priest. He speaks of his ministry as God’s grace given to him for the Gentiles, and he speaks of his strength to do so as God’s power. He speaks of the message he brings as the “unsearchable riches of Christ” and the mystery that God made plain through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul has taken credit for nothing, yet Paul was an Apostle known throughout the known world, a preacher who brought hundreds to Christ everywhere he went. Paul wasn’t keeping count. He wasn’t counting feathers in his cap or hits on his web page. He was simply and faithfully spreading the message God had entrusted him to preach to the Gentiles.

Lord, help us to follow Paul’s example, to humbly reach out to others with your message of hope, and when we have seen success, may we give all the praise to you.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NIV) are from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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