As leader of the Jerusalem church, what words of encouragement would James write to these persecuted Christians?
Perhaps a little surprisingly, his key message was: faith works. Genuine belief inevitably transforms our speech, suffering, compassion for the poor, humility, prayers, priorities, and, frankly, every other aspect of life. In 5 chapters James introduces and briefly touches upon a whole variety of issues that concern the new believers. In a simple, forthright style he urges them to live out their faith, knowing that God's grace is sufficient for every trial and that there is a value and purpose to their suffering.
James' own life illustrated this message. He had grown up with Jesus and was naturally skeptical about his brother's Messianic claims. But a post-resurrection encounter with Jesus revolutionized his life. He was transformed from a vocal critic into a key leader of the early church and prime mover in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15).