I love it when I teach a familiar passage and a whole new thought is born. I’ve taught the book of James several times over the years and I KNOW I’ve read this verse many times.
Last week, I saw it for the first time in a new way.
I was getting ready to head out to teach when a song started playing that said what I wanted to teach my ladies that morning. One thought led to another and then this blog post was born.
I think all of the rhetoric in our world is beginning to work itself into the self-images of a lot of Christians. It seems like too many of God’s children are feeling pushed into a position of silence. Many Christians feel like the world is winning the culture wars and it’s best just to steer clear and stay quiet. I’m in ministry for crying out loud, and I’ve started to feel that way on occasion!
Then I taught James 5:17 and it provided an important reminder.
The truth of James 5:17
James wrote his letter to people who had been early Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. After the stoning of Stephen, they were forced to flee the city. James wrote his letter to those people, hoping to help them live strong Christian lives in foreign, probably Gentile, cultures.
Imagine fleeing America to take up residence in a Muslim neighborhood of Belgium. That is a little like what it was like for these Jerusalem Christian refugees.
James closed his letter by reminding them who they were and whose they were. His words are just as true for Christians today, but we need to hear the verse as it would have meant to those first-century refugees. James told them, “Elijah was a human being, even as we are” (James 5:17 NIV).
James told the early Christians something you and I need to remember today. Think of five other biblical heroes in Scripture and hear James say, “They were just human beings like you.”
James reminded those refugees that Elijah had “prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (James 5:17–18 NIV).
Elijah built the altar and called down fire from heaven, proving to all the prophets of Baal that his God was the true God. Elijah is literally considered one of the most powerful, unique prophets from the Old Testament, and he was considered by the first-century Jewish people as their most esteemed prophet.
James told these early Jewish Christians, “Elijah was a human being, even as we are.”
James might tell you:
- Paul was a missionary, just like you.
- Peter was a pastor, just like you.
- Lydia was a businesswoman, just like you.
- Luke was a reporter, just like you.
- John was a friend, just like you.
- Mary and Martha cared about Jesus, just like you.
- Lazarus was a man, just like you.
- Barnabas was an encourager, just like you.
If you are like me, it is easy to see biblical heroes in a different light than we see other people. James would say, “Don’t do that.”
They were men and women, saved by Christ, and filled with the exact same Spirit that indwells you.
All of them were human beings, just like you.
When you look in the mirror, whom do you see?
Last week I asked my readers and the ladies in the Bible study, “Do you underestimate and undervalue your potential in Christ?
In my experience, most Christians are hindered the most by not understanding “who they are in Christ Jesus.”
They tend to think someone else can answer those questions better than they can. They think they could never do this or would never be chosen for that.
The truth is that the most likely person to be effective in ministry is exactly the person who knows they are not able. Why? Because that is the person who will be most likely to lean on and trust the Holy Spirit to do the work through them.
Allowing the Holy Spirit to lead isn’t just a good idea for ministry; it is the difference between human ability and God’s.
Elijah was just like you, yet he called fire from heaven and revealed the Most High God to everyone watching.
Have you underestimated your ministry potential?
Have you limited the Most High God’s calling in your life?
The Most High God
Ben Fuller has a great song that has become very popular. The song is called “Who I Am,” and I’d love for you to listen and think about the lyrics.
His song is the same message James wanted his Christian refugees to understand when he told them Elijah was just a human being. But Elijah was a human being who understood what God could do through his prayers, through his words, and through his life if he would live committed to his Most High God.
After you listen to “Who I Am,” go and find a mirror.
I hope you see the truth of who you are in your reflection.
Head into your day with a high, holy, and humble self-image, borne of pure gratitude and filled with God’s grace.
We are a blessed people.
Let’s live and do ministry with the knowledge of who we are, in Christ Jesus.