Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, January 6, 2019 0 comments

by Logan Ames

As I have been contemplating what to write going into 2019 for this wonderful ministry of Worldview Warriors, I’ve sorted through several ideas that ultimately all come back to a single point: it’s as important now as it’s ever been that followers of Jesus Christ exemplify their faith in action as much as in word. That’s not to say this day and age is more crucial than any other. This just happens to be the one in which I am living, the one in which YOU are living. We can’t do anything about the ways we may have failed in the past, nor should we waste the time we have been given today to worry about tomorrow. Jesus made that point directly in Matthew 6:25-34. This tells me that each and every day provides us with an opportunity to live by the faith which we say is our guiding light in a dark world.

There is an old expression that dates back to at least the 1950s that references “where the rubber meets the road." You have probably used this phrase in telling someone that it’s time to get serious. A vehicle can appear to be built tough, designed to be fast and smooth, and have a reputation for being dependable, but appearances don’t matter once the rubber of those tires actually get going on that pavement. Where the rubber meets the road is where we find out the truth about that vehicle, and it doesn’t always drive the way it appears. The expression has been and can be used in a lot of different contexts, but for the purposes of this post, let’s just say that the “rubber” is our Christian faith and the “road” is life. God designs us, builds us, and then refines us so that we are prepared for whatever challenges that road might present, but we’re the ones operating the machine! How it works will depend largely on our willingness to trust the rubber that comes into contact with the road.

The book within the Bible that is the best representation of the rubber of faith meeting the road of life is the letter that James wrote to some of the earliest Christians. So, what better way to explore the ways that faith is put into action during life’s toughest moments than to go through the book of James? For you regular Sunday morning readers of this blog, we will go through it little by little over the next few months until we complete it and are ready to move onto something else. It’s a great letter for all Christians to read, but especially those who are looking for a fresh start or need to go back to the basics of faith. I pray it will be as impactful in your life as it has been in mine.

James was one of the earthly brothers of Jesus, yet we find nowhere in the gospels where he was a committed follower. We know that Jesus had committed followers, yet it appears that his biological family was not necessarily included in that group. One of the few times we even hear mention of Jesus’ biological brothers is in Matthew 12:46-50, when they were waiting for him and trying to get his attention as he was preaching to a crowd. Based on the context of that passage, as well as the direct words of John 7:5, it’s likely that they and Jesus’ mother were trying to rein him in a bit as he taught things that offended the religious zealots. In that moment, Jesus made it clear that only those who DO the will of the Father in heaven could be Jesus’ true “family members." It’s not surprising, then, that James writes a letter that is about faith in ACTION.

In James 1:1, we see that he views himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ," indicating he has come to understand that he probably should’ve paid closer attention when his brother spoke and he is now fully committed. In 1 Corinthians 15:7, Paul tells us that the resurrected Jesus appeared to James before appearing to the apostles, which means THAT James is likely also THIS James. I’m personally guessing that is probably when James went from, “My brother is a knucklehead and a rebel-rouser," to, “My brother really was God in the flesh!” I don’t know about you, but that would probably seal the deal for me. I was at a conference last year with author and pastor Andy Stanley and he made the point that “anyone who could correctly predict his own death and resurrection is someone I figure I ought to be listening to."

We also see that the letter was not sent to a congregation in one location, but to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations." This is an interesting statement because it causes many to wonder whether the book is for all believers or only those of Jewish ethnicity. I hope you’ll see as we go through it that it clearly applies to all believers. That being said, the way that James addresses the letter actually gives even more credence to it and to the entire New Testament, in my humble opinion.

We know that a good majority of the New Testament letters were written by the Apostle Paul, and in 1 Corinthians 15:8, Paul himself states that Christ appeared to him last, after James and then all of the apostles. Paul is converted from Judaism at that point, and according to what the Lord’s disciple Ananias is told in Acts 9:15, Paul would be God’s “chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings." If James was converted well before Paul, and Paul was the one who mainly brought the gospel to the Gentiles, it’s reasonable to believe that James wrote his letter before Gentiles were widely accepted into the Church. This doesn’t mean that James was personally against Gentiles receiving salvation, but simply that he understood that most believers were Jews at the point that he wrote it. This also suggests that the widely-held belief amongst scholars that James was the first letter written in the New Testament is probably accurate. And in case you were wondering, “the twelve tribes” was a common way of addressing the Jewish people as a whole back then. Yet, the persecution and scattering of the very first believers, who were all Jewish, meant that there was at least some Christian presence in almost every Jewish community around the world.

While his opening address gives us some good information, I think the most important part of it is what James did NOT say. Nowhere in his letter does he identify himself as the brother of Jesus. If you or I were the brother of Jesus, we might be tempted to let others know that from time to time. We brag about our siblings’ or children’s accomplishments now, so I can’t imagine what it would be like if those accolades included BEING GOD! Yet, it’s like James understands that his sibling relationship with Jesus means nothing now that he recognizes his brother was both Lord and Messiah, and he is no more than a servant (the Greek word used is more accurately translated as “slave”) just like everyone else. He knows he is getting ready to share some hard, direct truth with the scattered followers of Jesus and he wants them to know that he’s in the same boat they are.

In 2019, WE are also in that boat. We struggle to find joy in the midst of trials, to do what the Word says, to show mercy, to tame our tongues, to get along with other brothers and sisters that seem to be against us, and to take our concerns to the Lord in prayer. These are just a few of the topics that will be addressed as we go through this wonderful letter. Whatever you are facing, know that James and the earliest Christians had their struggles too. This letter was written for YOU, so get ready to see where the rubber of faith meets the road of YOUR life!

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