Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant.


Jesus dubbed James and his brother, John, the “sons of thunder” for a reason (Mark 3:17).   They were so zealous that they wanted to call down fire to consume some Samaritan villagers who opposed Jesus (Luke 9:51-56).

A man like James might have thought that Jesus was going to establish the kingdom of God through the same kind of zeal, possibly through violence and force.   But over time, he realized that Jesus had come to be a servant whose strength and power would be demonstrated by laying down his life, not by fighting or destruction.

Jesus’ example must have had a profound impact on James because he followed in his footsteps.   Like Jesus, he preached the gospel of God’s love and mercy. Like Jesus, he laid down his life for God’s people (Acts 12:2).   James was probably still the zealous person he always was, but that zeal was now directed toward love and self-sacrifice.

So what can we learn from the story of James’ life?   That God can mold us into saints, whatever our personality.   It doesn’t matter whether we are intense or laid-back, extroverted or shy, spontaneous or cautious.   What matters is that we keep following Jesus and learn from his example.

That’s why we shouldn’t get discouraged by personality traits that we think are obstacles to discipleship.   God made us that way for a purpose.   Just as he did for James, God can take whatever we see as a negative and turn it into a positive by redirecting it in a way that builds his kingdom.

Today, choose a personality trait you think might be holding you back from following the Lord more closely.   How might Jesus be inviting you to use that trait in a way that reflects his character?   Remember, he isn’t interested in changing who you are.   But as you allow him to mold and form you, he can—and will—use every aspect of your personality for his glory.

“St. James, pray that I can learn as you did how to become more like Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 4:7-15
Psalm 126:1-6