The past few weeks have been deeply challenging for me. The more time I spend reflecting on James, the more acutely I’m aware of how far I fall short of God’s standards. I struggle to find joy in my trials. I’m slow to hear, quick to speak, quick to anger. I know what God’s word demands of me, but I’m reluctant to do it. The list goes on and on, and that’s only the first chapter of James! And yet, it has also been a rewarding past few weeks. As God’s word holds up a mirror for me to stare into, forcing me to identify my many flaws, I know that this is God rebuking me so that I will become more like Christ. For that, I am grateful. The challenge, though, still remains: how can I make progress in my godliness so that I will look more like Jesus?
James is a practical book, full of practical ways to reflect our genuine faith, and for good reason! Unsurprisingly, this means it’ll be easy to spot things we don’t do that we should, or things we do that we shouldn’t. But the temptation is to then think that that’s all James is—a list of dos and don’ts. In fact, in the past few weeks, I have found that my default solution to my struggles was exactly that: making resolutions to do better next time. To try harder. In a bid to make progress in my godliness, my first instinct is to rely on my own works. Suffice to say, it didn’t work.
But as I reread James 1:17-25, I’m reminded of what does work in creating lasting change—the word of God. James tells us that it’s through the word of truth that we are made into God’s new creation (James 1:18), and it’s the word planted in us that can save us (James 1:21). Real change is only possible through the work of God’s word in us! God’s word needs to reshape our mindsets, our hearts, and our priorities before we can make true progress in godliness. That’s why we’re not just called to be doers, but to be doers of the word.
As we continue to work through James, my prayer is that we will be deeply challenged by what it says. My prayer is that it will spur us on to make progress in our godliness and display of genuine faith. Most of all though, my prayer is that as we pray over it, meditate upon it, and speak it to one another, God’s word will work powerfully in us to transform us from within. Only then will we do better.