Taking the stage for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience. I remember anxiously waiting backstage for my cue during a performance of “One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest”. It was my senior year of college and I had landed the role of Billy Bibbit.
Billy is a fascinating character. Of all the inmates at the asylum where the play takes place, Billy is the only one there by choice. His fear of failure, of pain and of trials leads him to step away from everyday life. Rather than battle through disappointments and temptations, he chooses to hide away in the confines of an insane asylum.
This is similar to the situation James addresses in Chapter One. The followers of Jesus are scared, frustrated and rudderless. The pain of their daily lives has overwhelmed their senses. No longer are they focusing on the person and model of Jesus. Their fear has left them susceptible to many base temptations: materialism, judgementalism and lust to name a few. Rather than viewing their circumstances as an opportunity for Jesus to intervene in and through them, they are left powerless and cowering.
James sets out to correct this line of thinking. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. “ (vs. 22) This is the bottom line as James sees it. At some point the followers of Jesus need to decide what they will stake the rest of their lives on. Will they follow the shifting ideas of this world or will they establish their hopes on the unchanging bedrock of the Word of God?
In the original Greek that the letter was written in, James employs theatrical language in verse 22. A literal translation might read, “take the stage as a performer in a play”. James invites us to fundamentally shift the way we view ourselves. No longer are we to be spectators or audience members. We must rally our courage and step confidently onto the stage of our lives. A performer in a play has a set purpose and a set series of tasks to accomplish during their scene. They must hold tight to the word of their script, trust their Director, avoid distractions, and consider it a joy to wrestle through the creation of their character.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances” As You Like It by William Shakespeare
What kind of entrance are you prepared to make? Will you trust Jesus through the performance of your life? Will you read His Word and apply it to your daily life? The alternative is to willingly submit to the insane asylum of “normal” life. For Billy Bibbit, this leads to his eventual downward spiral and death. It need not be that way for you and I. We have a powerful model and savior in Jesus Christ. With His strength flowing through us we can take courage, consider it pure joy, trust in His Word and TAKE THE STAGE!
Digging In – Find at least one other man to wrestle through these questions with.
Which passages from Chapter 1 jumped out and you? Why do you think that is?
James uses the example of looking in a mirror then forgetting what you look like when you look away. What truths from scripture have you moved away from over time? Where are the disconnects between your beliefs and actions?
Consciously invite God into those areas. Ask Him for the strength and courage to, “not merely read the word, but to do what it says.”