“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, . . . greeting.”
As mentioned in an earlier devotion, one of the most powerful pieces of evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity’s claims is the testimony of changed lives. In this connection we often think of the great apostle Paul, whose life the Lord changed radically and permanently (Galatians 1:13-24; Philippians 3:4-8). Something caused this revolution in Paul’s thought. He claimed to have had a personal encounter with the living God in Christ (Acts 22:6-10; 26:12-20; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8-10). Is there a better explanation? As captivating and impressive as Paul’s conversion narrative is, especially with respect to the rational defense of our faith, I think that James’ conversion is at least as impressive and at least as persuasive as an argument for the truth of Christianity’s claims. James (actually, Jacob) is introduced to us as the Lord’s earthly [half] brother in Matthew 13:55. We learn from Luke that very early on in the Lord’s life, His commitment to His Heavenly Father would lead Him to do that which was misunderstood and even troubling to His earthly family (Luke 2:41-50). According to Mark, His own family was so disturbed by His actions that they concluded He had gone crazy (Mark 3:20-21 cf. 3:31-32). John was as frank as could be when he wrote, “For neither did his brethren believe in him” (John 7:5). Imagine being in James’ position, being fully convinced that your big brother is a self-deceived lunatic. What do you suppose the crucifixion would do to your beliefs about Him? Certainly it would serve to confirm that your beliefs about Him were true. Nevertheless, we suddenly see James in the Book of Acts, not only a believer in Christ, but a “pillar” in the church alongside Peter and John (Galatians 2:9). In fact, as we read through the Book of Acts, we see James wielding at least as much authority in the Jerusalem church as any of the original apostles (Acts 15:13-22; 21:18-26). James opens his general epistle (today’s verse passage) by referring only to his name, as though no further identifying information is needed. His brother, Jude, opens his epistle by identifying himself as the brother of James (Jude 1:1). So what happened to James? Paul explains that he received a special post-resurrection visit from His brother (1 Corinthians 15:7). The encounter apparently changed his life forever. Until the day of his death, James labored hard to bless and encourage the saints. The early church referred to him as “camel knees” because of the amount of time he spent in prayer. Little wonder then, that his epistle contains some of the most powerful and encouraging instructions on prayer (James 5:16-18). In AD 62, James went to his reward after glorifying his big brother in martyrdom. May James’ life and teachings be a great help to us today, for God’s glory and the good of others.
God bless you,