Invitation to James: Persevering Through Trials to Win the Crown by Donald Sunukjian
These published sermons by renowned preacher and Preaching Professor Donald Sunukjian (author of Invitation to Biblical Preaching also) are chalk full of wisdom concerning preaching and understanding the audience. Taking us through the Book of James, Donald opens both the newspapers of our culture (what’s going on in the lives of those people we preach to), and the world of James (the 1st century Biblical world) to give us God’s wisdom for our lives. What initially turns out to be some written sermons after reading becomes a clear model of how to preach clearly, effectively, and winsomely.
Opening the book is a sermon on James 1.1-4 is an illustration from Judith Viorst’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Alexander wakes up with gum in his hair and he goes to bed with his terrible railroad pajamas on and no cat in his bed. Donald takes up this book in connection with all people who experience anger, frustration, and pain that they don’t want and wish would go away (6-7). He then goes onto set these examples in light of James’ situation as a church leader in the midst of a hostile world where their shops were boycotted, their lives endangered and harassment at every corner. In this context, Donald helps his audience understand what it means to “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds,” James 1.2. Donald goes onto point out that these trials are very specific in nature, they are “the kind of trials he’s talking about are those where you can’t do anything to deserve such difficulty; and there isn’t anything you can do to stop it. You didn’t cause it, and you can’t end it:…” (10). Dementia, financial failure because of the economy, pain of having drug addicted parents, all these things are not part of the normal way of things. Donald has a way of getting to the bottom of issues in the text that point to very real life events in the audience.
On speaking about loving impartially and James 2.1-13, Donald writes, “There’s a second reason why you should love impartially. You must do so not only because it shows your trust in God, that he is in control, but also because it shows your wisdom about people – that it’s often the poor who have the deepest walk with God….whereas the rich often have no use for him in their live” (45). We don’t often think about classes of people like this because often we are more concerned about what they can give to the church, money, than about their wisdom in the things of God. Donald brings about to the underlying truth of James’ words about impartiality.
This book of sermons is a breath of fresh air for those wanting a sober account of the book of James. Even more, Donald provides sterling examples of how to dig into the text and into our culture, bringing together the hope of the gospel for the weary soul.
Thanks to Weaver Book Company and Cross Focused Reviews for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.