It was November of 1993. My sister Jennifer, a new youth pastor at a church in Louisville, KY, had just taken one of her youth out for a ‘thank you/get to know you’ dinner. She sat across from a tall 17 year old boy, chatting about the move he had just helped her and her husband make into their new home. Chatting, that soon turned to the age old question that every teenage boy is asked…’So do you have a girlfriend?’ Now I’m not sure the exact response, but whatever words he uttered were met with ‘Oh, you sound just like my sister.’ And for the next 45 minutes she spoke of me. Again, not knowing what words she said…a young Christopher Andrew went home and said to his mom ‘I’ve just heard about the girl I’m going to marry.’ We were married three years later and we have just crossed over the 20 year mark as husband and wife. There is power in the spoken word!
About a month following that encounter, Chris asked my sister if she had my address because he wanted to write me a letter. (Yes, an actual pen to paper, put it in an envelope, place a stamp in the corner, put it in the mailbox – letter. We were pre-email my friends!). Who knew that simple request would turn into 6 months of writing back and forth. Who knew that genuine feelings would spring forth and that two teenage kids would fall in love – never having talked face-to-face, never having been on a date, never having spent any time together. Love that came through writing letters. There is power in the written word!
I have always been an introvert! Always. I’ve learned to put myself out there, but that takes a concerted effort because to my very bones I’m an introvert all the way. Add in a strong dose of low self-esteem and insecurities and it’s a wonder I ever spoke as a child. But give me a pen and a piece of paper or a keyboard and a blank screen and I can’t seem to fill it fast enough. I think it is for this reason I am so drawn to the letters written in the New Testament, but to the letter James wrote in particular. He didn’t just write a letter…he got real and to the point better than most of the New Testament writers (in my opinion). He uses illustrations that not only make you think, but also smack you upside the head. I love that! 😉 I have read his letter countless times, I have even attempted to pray through it once before – given this current season that I am in – I cannot seem to stay away from it. Every time I read it, I glean something entirely new. There is power in THE Word!
So it is clear to say that several decades ago, I fell in love through letters. Something that I thought was completely unique and could never happen again. And then I began to pour over the Bible. Grabbing verses here and there, devouring entire books, flipping through to the ‘favorites’ and low and behold not only did I come to realize that I have a God who loves me like crazy…but that is how I came to love Him too. There is purpose in His holy word.
Then I look at the very simple first verse found in James. James 1:1 and it says, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.” I’ll confess that for the longest time I thought this was a ‘throw away verse’. Nothing super life-changing in this simple little opening. Not really a verse that I’m going to quote when a friend comes to me for encouragement or give as a verse to live by. Not one that I’m gonna spend much time on because lets face it, in the book of James there are some meaty verses in there – let’s skip this one and get to the good stuff…i.e. a throw away verse. But when I stop to realize that ALL of scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16) well, then I can’t really throw this verse away, but instead better look at it that much closer. There is a lesson in His holy word.
To get much out of this verse, it is helpful to know a little something about James, in particular that he is the brother of Jesus. He has been with Jesus his entire life – he has eaten with him, washed with him, done chores with him and yet as it states in John 7:5 ‘even his brothers did not believe in him.’ In fact, it wasn’t until Jesus was resurrected that James believed. And here he is not just finally believing but pouring his life out to make the name of Jesus known. I think about the weight of that truth. He could have taken on the attitude of a name dropper…’I am James. The brother of Jesus. You know the one who performed miracles, raised folks from the dead, walked on water – oh yeah and came back to life himself after being dead for three days? Yeah, you know him? I am his brother.’ I’m relatively sure the rest of the book would have unraveled had that been his starting point. He could have also taken the approach of ‘ashamed’ – all those years, all of that access to the one true Messiah and he never believed. He could have hung his head in regret and shame, anguished by the years of wasted time and had he done so there may not have been book at all. But the approach he took – the word he used? Servant. He didn’t boast in his title or hide in his shame. He made it clear from the very first line of his letter that it wasn’t about him at all. ‘James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’. There is meaning in His word.
When times get difficult. When conflict arises and fractures begin to appear (in relationships or any situation), we always have a choice of how to address it. We can puff ourselves up with an attitude of ‘don’t you know who I am’, we could get completely defeated with an attitude of regret and ‘I should have never come here’ or we can set ourselves aside. We can remember that in the end – it is not about us, it is not for our glory, it is not for our sympathy…it is about being His. If I would start every argument with ‘Hi, I’m Sarah, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’ there’s not going to be much anger that follows that statement. If I would start every scenario of conflict, fear, worry or stress with ‘I, Sarah, a servant of God…’ then … As a servant, I’m not in control. As a servant, I’m not ‘all that and a bag of chips’. As a servant, I’ve been called to serve and therefore have worth. As a servant… There is conviction in His word.
How about you? Which approach are you taking with others? Do you approach based on making a name for yourself? Do you cower in insecurity? What prevents you from simply being His servant? What stops you from drawing close to His word?
My prayer for today…
Precious Lord, I come before you empty, worn and completely uncertain about so many things. I have given the enemy so much freedom to play with my thoughts and wreak havoc on my heart. I find myself bouncing around focusing on so many other things when my focus – to every day, to every situation, to everything that I do should be as your servant, as your girl. Sometimes I bend toward the side of wanting to show others where they are wrong…that is your job – You are God…I am your servant. Sometimes I want to hide away from all of the unknowns, all of the changes, all of the uncertainties…but you knew of these things before the foundations of the earth – You are God…I am your servant. I am in a season where I am confused by the doors you are opening and those you are closing. I want to take control, check all of my boxes, and wrap it up in a nice tidy little bow…You are God…I am your servant. I have been blessed to have had you in my heart for over thirty years. There have been times where I have felt you dance with me, times where I’ve relied on you to carry me, times of deep conversations and sweet songs. I confess that while I see the challenge of this one simple verse in James – and I pray it out before you here – I struggle to truly let all else go and just trust that being your servant is sufficient. Lord I want so much to fall in love with your Word all over again. I need to be reminded of how much you love me – and remember that nothing else matters. I desire to be your girl, to find rest in you, and to boldly lay all else aside to just serve you. Help me find a renewed joy in serving you. Help my sweet friend who may be reading this now be bold enough to proclaim to be yours, to put down selfish desires or insecure excuses and just hold to being yours. Help them to see the power that is in your word, the purpose and lesson that you have placed in it for them. Open their hearts to what you need from them – as a servant in the church, as a servant in their home, as a servant in their relationships, as a servant for you. Lord while I know you continuously promise you will never leave or forsake – I also know that I have to take those steps to stay closer to you. I am excited to dive deeper into your word. I need you Lord. I love you so very much. I pray all of this in your precious Son, Jesus’, name – Amen!