Welcome to Welling, for your spiritual well-being and your ministry overflowing.

I’m the oldest of three brothers. We know the firstborn in the family is the original version, and the others are all sequels– number two, three, four– and the two, three, four, are never as good as the original.

Of course, the retort my brother says– one thing I can always look forward to in life is when I’m old, my big brother will still be older. People say that my brother and I look alike. When it’s a compliment, he looks like me. When it’s not, I look like him.

Well, in our passage of the joy counter, verse 2 of James 1, the apostle James says, consider it pure joy, nothing but joy, joy counter. And then he uses the phrase “my brothers,” my brothers and sisters, standing for all spiritual siblings. It’s a plural call. My brothers, we are God’s family, brotherhood, and we have a higher source of belonging and strength. Several times, over a dozen times, in the book of James, he uses the same word, brothers, to show closeness, belonging, responsibility.

Now, how do brothers relate? Someone said brotherhood is man’s oldest competition inside the house. We might compete, there is brotherly sibling rivalry and competition. You may have heard of the immigrant brothers from India who came to Texas as foreign exchange high school students. They wanted to play cowboys and Indians, so one brother said, I put on a 10-gallon hat and chapped jean trousers, and the other one went on to MIT and graduated in computer science. I’m now a ranch hand in Fort Worth, and he owns a tech company in the Silicon Valley with offices all over the world.

My brother is my partner in crime until we get caught. Then it’s all his fault. To compete, competitive– my brother and I laugh, somebody said, at how competitive we were as kids, but I laugh more than he does. Now, inside the house there might be some challenges. But let no one dare to touch my brother or sister outside. We are together in suffering. The Richard brothers, we give strength to one another, care for one another.

Actually, my brothers can finish out sentences even before I finish them. Family care. Brothers and sisters. Later on, 2:15, James says, if a brother or sister in pastoral care, they share the same values having to relate to trials, trials that are bigger than they are. They laugh and cry simultaneously, their tears and joy.

Brothers is a family title. It’s the highest title known in scripture. Not professor or doctor or even mister. Brothers.

The highest title in scripture, which is the only one which is worthwhile, is not really a title. There is an intimacy of belonging. Brother simply means that we belong to one another. We are firm in the belonging and love in all its implications of equality and compassion. We’re brothers by creation, one in humanity. By the way, the Jews call all nations brothers. The apostle Paul says, brothers according to blood, by nation.

But there’s another meaning of brothers with the cross being the blood. We are equal at the cross. And then we’re equal at the church, at the door of the church. We’re equal in Christian community. We’re equal in our convictions, especially the five basic alones. That is, on scripture alone, faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, for God’s glory alone.

We are the same cohort experience of life, so much so that a major technology company named its products Brother to accompany you through life. We’re equal in our callings, giftings, placements, and hope we can be equal in our commitments to those callings.

So title, belonging, but what about a cause? Here we are a band of brothers. So if you’ve heard of the Band of Brothers series, it’s a dramatized account of something called Easy Company during World War II when soldiers took over Kehlsteinhaus, which is Eagle’s Nest, the holiday of Hitler, and then it refers to the surrender of Japan.

The main central character, he works on accomplishing the company’s mission and missions to keep his men together, to keep them safe. And some men have to be sent back because they got sick or got injured. Others die. Serious wounds lead them, causing them to carry one another. Some others still recover.

They rejoined the units in order that the cause might go on. These experiences are calling for mental, moral, and physical strength in the mental, moral, and physical hurdles that they experience. Trials make brothers. But the good thing is, joy and trials make brothers. When I was making a decision on what cancer treatment I should choose, I found a group called Proton BOB, B-O-B, the Brotherhood of the Balloon. Seems like BOB, band of brothers. And they got around me, sent me testimonials and witnesses and record keeping just to encourage me.

Some time ago, I talked about the hymn “Ode to Joy,” which took Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. But the original words was not having to do with hymns. They had to do with brotherhood, but joy, joy, the spark of divinity and power that unites people as brothers under this common father.

And we have a special brotherhood because we belong to our older brother, the lord Jesus. When James says, I am your brother, my brothers and sisters, he could have claimed, I am a brother of Jesus. That is exactly what he was. But he says, I know what it is to walk in your shoes. I’m living what you’re living. I’m living what I’m asking you to do, and that gives us credibility and authority and relationship.