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10 Lessons from the Book of James on Living Out Our Faith

  • Jessica Van Roekel
10 Lessons from the Book of James on Living Out Our Faith

Do you find it challenging to live out your faith in the wake of suffering, pain, or trials? At times, my sharp tongue displays my inability to live out my belief in kindness. I might be annoyed at my husband and take it out on my kids, or I wake up with a headache and snap at the nearest living thing.

The book of James holds our hand and walks us through the practice of living the Christian faith. This is a practical book exhorting us to maturity and holiness, and James takes the abstract concept of faith to make it concrete. And when faith takes form in our lives through our actions, it turns into a belief that sustains us through trials.

James deals with every area of our Christian life: who we are, what we do, what we say, what we feel, and what we have. A faith-filled life requires us to address each of these areas, and James gives us needed advice to experience the fullness of an active Christian life.

Here are 10 lessons from the book of James on living out the Christian faith:

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1. Rejoice in Trials

[James 1:2-4]

James calls us to rejoice in our suffering, but it’s easier to fret. However, fretting stirs the pot of anger, resentment, bitterness, and an unwillingness to forgive, and when those emotions control your behavior, sin is the result. Trials serve God’s purpose in our lives by giving us an opportunity to turn what we believe into action. Faith comes alive when we exercise trust and joy in God’s presence in our lives. Rejoicing in your trials becomes easier when you can focus on the reason for your hope. 

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2. Resist Temptation

[James 1:13-15]

Desire is a strong motivators in our lives, and temptation plays it like a bow on a fiddle. It’s as if it knows exactly which string to pluck at just the right moment. It’s tempting to respond with hatred to the person who makes your life miserable because, after all, they deserve what they dish out. When this occurs, be aware that your temptations are playing on the desire for revenge; remember, then, revenge doesn’t glorify God. What does glorify God is overlooking an offense instead. Be aware of the tricks of temptations, and don’t be deceived. 

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3. Rest in God

[James 1:21-22]

Resting in God is not passive, but full of action and adventure. James instructs us that living righteously involves getting rid of moral filth and evil in your life. When our spirit is awakened to God’s truth and we choose to do nothing with it, our hearts are filled with unrest. We must decide to live righteously, but then we must act on that choice and follow through. Examine your life for areas where you know you may not be applying God’s principles for living right before him, and as you make the changes to live righteously, your heart will know rest. 

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4. Accept Others

[James 2:12-13]

James tells us that when we show favoritism, we’ve discriminated amongst ourselves and become judges with evil thoughts. What do you do when you meet a cranky person in the store? Do you ignore her, but smile at the woman with the cute toddler because she seems more approachable? Both people need an encounter with the living God who is alive in you. Remember how God has accepted you, and then extend that acceptance to all. Mercy triumphs over judgement. You’ve received mercy, now extend it to others. 

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5. Assist Others

[James 2:22]

James features Abraham and Isaac as proof that faith and actions work together to make faith complete. Would it have been faith if Abraham had waited to obey God before He provided the sacrifice? It’s obedience that grows, strengthens, and enlivens our faith. It takes faith to step out into the unknown as an act of obedience. But our faith grows as God shows up in our obedience. Do you believe God enough to obey Him in faith? He will equip, provide, and come through for you. Serve others as an act of obedience to God, and then watch your faith be strengthened. 

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6. Control Your Tongue

[James 3:9-12]

At first glance, James presents us with an impossible picture: the untamable tongue. He likens controlling the tongue to a forest set ablaze by a single spark. It’s like the time I participated in a paper lantern lighting event: real flames, dry ground, and paper. One wrong move or gust of wind, and the outcome would have transitioned from beautiful to devastating. Our words have the power to bring life or destruction. If, with your speech, you praise God and curse man, how can you truly say that your faith changes your life? Let God redeem your speech by thinking before you speak. 

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7. Pursue Godly Wisdom

[James 3:17-18]

If your tongue is the untamable member of your body, then what must you do? The bridle for our tongues starts in our hearts, moves to our minds, and comes out of our mouths. A changed heart is a heart refined by God’s wisdom, which is what gives us the right words to say at the right time. But how do we know the difference between godly wisdom and worldly wisdom? James provides us with the criteria to decipher between the two. Choose God’s wisdom and let what resides in your heart be pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, mercy-full, good, impartial, and sincere. As you pursue Godly wisdom, your heart changes. 

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8. Submit to God

[James 4:7-10]

Our God is the God of love and victory, and the way to experience that love and victory is through submitting to him.

We submit to God’s love when we recognize that the only reason we live and move and be is because of His love. If we want to live from a place of victory, then we must submit to our commander-in-chief, which means that we might actually have to remove certain behaviors or patterns of thoughts from our lives. Submission leads us into a deeper grace with God because it requires us to humble ourselves before him. God gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud.

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9. Exercise Patience in Suffering

[James 5:11]

Maturing in faith requires patience and perseverance when we suffer. But who wants to be patient in their suffering? We run to the closest thing that gives us relief. We numb our emotions with food, drink, shopping, entertainment, and the pursuit of pleasure. But when the numbness wears away, we feel the suffering again, so we run back to our vices. We could learn much from Naomi. She owned her suffering, she entered into it, and didn’t try to numb it away. We call her blessed because she persevered, but she called herself blessed because God redeemed her suffering. Be patient in suffering. Persevere in trusting God. God is moving even when we can’t see him. 

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10. Pray in Faith

[James 5:13-16]

James references Elijah, an ordinary man who God used to accomplish the extraordinary. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah prayed and God answered, stopping any rainfall for three years. Pray when you’re sad, happy, mad, joyful, hurt, or pleased. Confess your weaknesses to a trusted Bible-believing friend and ask for prayer. Confession stops shame's power, and the prayer of faith brings healing. You might be ordinary, but you serve an extraordinary God who longs to rise up within you to do extraordinary things through you. 

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Practicing Your Faith

James is a handbook to live our Christian faith. He uses multiple examples to show us how to move from reading about our faith to acting on our faith. Photography is my hobby, and I have spent hours reading about it, but I didn’t start improving until I picked up my camera to use it. I needed the book knowledge and the practice to be a good photographer.

Our Christian faith is like that, too. We can read the Bible every day, but if we don’t put it into practice, our lives won’t change. Choose one thing to do today in response to this article. Read the book of James or follow a link to a verse and then do something about what you read. Move your faith from abstract to concrete by acting on it.

Jessica Van Roekel is a woman on the journey to wholeness through brokenness. She believes that through Christ your personal histories don’t have to define your present or determine your future. Her greatest desire is to see you live this “God-life” with all the power and grace that God provides. Jessica lives in a rural community with her husband and four children. She leads worship on Sundays, but seeks to be a worshiper every day. You can connect with her at www.welcomegrace.com  and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/yourJessicaVanRoekel

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