Monday, August 8, 2016, 6:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 1:1-18 (ESV).
Joy in Trials (vv. 1-4)
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Trials, although they can be very painful, at times, are for our good. When we are in the midst of them we may not always see it that way, though. Sometimes pain and suffering clouds our vision for a short period of time, so we can’t see clearly to see that what we are going through is actually for our good. But, if we cry out to God in our times of trial and difficulties in this life, he will see us through, and he will teach us what we need to learn. He will show us how these troubled times are for our benefit, as they have the ability to produce within us much steadfastness of faith, if we respond to them in the right manner.
When we go through times of distress and suffering we should look to God and pray to Jesus, and ask our Father in heaven to look on our suffering, to comfort us with his love, and to teach us what he wants us to learn through the trials. We should thank him and praise him even in our times of difficulty, believing that he will work all things together for the good of those who love him and who are called according to his purpose (See: Ro. 8:28). And, we should allow God to do his finished work in our lives through these troubled times so that we mature in our walks of faith, and in order that God may accomplish in our lives all that he has planned for us to be and to do.
If we fight against what God desires to do in our lives through these trials, we may end up circumventing the good that God wants to accomplish in and through our lives. We can do that by running from the pain, and by escaping into other things in hopes that we may be able to somehow drown out our suffering, but all we do is end up making things much worse. In order to gain the benefit God has for us through these trials we need to yield to his sovereignty over our lives, trust him with our circumstances, and pray for his grace and deliverance through them. When we do that, we will come out stronger and more determined to follow our Lord in obedience, and God will use us in other people’s lives to encourage them in their walks of faith and to comfort them with God’s love for them.
Ask in Faith (vv. 5-8)
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Especially when we are going through difficulties, we need wisdom to know how we are to respond to our trials. Yet, wisdom is something we need every day and in every circumstance. So, what is wisdom? To me, wisdom has always been applied knowledge and discernment. Many people know a lot of things, but if they don’t put into practice what they know, then what good is it? In other words, we can study the scriptures, and we can know what they say, and we can even teach them to others, but if we don’t apply them to our own lives then they aren’t much use to us. So, wisdom is not just knowledge, but it is knowledge combined with insight, discretion, good common sense, prudence and good judgment. It is the understanding to know what is right and wrong, and the ability to make the right decisions based on that insight.
When we respond properly to our circumstances, we gain wisdom from what we go through. We learn what God has for us to learn, so that when we go through something similar again we know better how to respond and what to do. For instance, if you touch a hot burner and you get burned from it, wisdom teaches you that if you do that again you will get burned again. So, the next time, if we are exercising wisdom, we don’t touch the hot burner. When we exercise wisdom gained, we should not keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again, yet many do, and they keep getting “burned” by their repeated mistakes (errors of judgment). It is not because they lack knowledge, though, but because they don’t apply the knowledge they have to their lives. They are hearers of the Word but not doers.
So, I believe that asking God for wisdom and then doubting is more than just doubting that he will give us the wisdom needed, or even that he has the ability to grant such wisdom, but it is the asking for insight and then continuing to repeat the same errors of judgment over and over again because we fail to apply to our lives the wisdom (good sense) he does give to us. And, that is why these who fail to apply the wisdom asked for are like waves of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind, because they ask, but when they receive, they don’t apply what is given to them, but they continue on the same unsteady path over and over again. So, when they ask again none is given them, because they have proved themselves to be unfaithful. They are double-minded because they ask, but they never intend to put the wisdom into practice.
Rich and Poor (vv. 9-11)
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
If we are poor in worldly goods we should not be ashamed of our poverty or feel deprived because we don’t have the wealth that others have. Sometimes being poor can be a blessing from God, because often those who are poor in this life are rich in faith, because they have learned that their dependency must be in God and not in earthly goods.
On the other hand, those who have much wealth in this world may have the tendency to put their faith and trust in their wealth and not in God, so they must humble themselves before God and acknowledge that all they have belongs to God, and that it is to be used for his glory and not for their own pleasure and will.
The bottom line in all of this is really that it is God who gives and it is God who takes away, and that the things of this life are temporary, at best, so we should not put our faith and trust in what is going to pass away, but our faith should be in what has eternal value, i.e. in our God and Savior. And, we should lay up treasures in heaven and not on this earth.
He Does Not Change (vv. 12-18)
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
What does it mean to love God? Well, the Bible says that if we love God we will do what he says. We will obey his teachings and walk in his righteousness (See: Jn. 14:15-24; 21:15-17; 1 Jn. 3:10; 5:3; 2 Jn. 1:6). As well, if we love God, we will love others. If we say we love God, but we hate our brother, we are liars (1 Jn. 3:10; 4:20-21). When we love God, his desires become our desires. We want to do what pleases him, according to his will and purposes for our lives, and not according to our own will.
The promise of the crown of life is not for all who just remain steadfast under trial, though, but for all who truly love God with the kind of love described in these scripture passages who also remain steadfast in their love for God under trial, who endure, and who remain in Christ and in his love to the end (See: John 8:31-32; Romans 11:17-24; I Co 15:2; Col 1:21-23; II Tim 2:10-13; Hebrews 3:6, 14-15; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; I John 2:24-25).
Although God does bring or allow trials and tribulations to come into our lives for our good, to mature us in our walks of faith, and in order that they may produce steadfastness within us, he does not tempt us to sin. He does permit Satan to tempt us, and he did allow Satan to continue to exist after he rebelled against God, fully knowing that we would be tempted by him to sin, but God does not lead us to sin. NEVER! It is our own flesh which is tempted to sin against God. Only good comes from God! God only has our best interest in mind, i.e. what is beneficial for us and is ultimately for our good, to work his will and purposes in our lives. God never changes! He is always working for our good – for what is truly best for us.
His purpose for us in giving us new life in him is that we forsake sin and walk in his righteousness, i.e. that we are crucified with him in death to sin, and that we are resurrected with him in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, and that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15). He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but who walk according to the Spirit (Ro. 8:1-14). His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await his return (Tit. 2:11-14). This is why he died, that we might die to sin and live to him and to his righteousness.
My Jesus, I Love Thee
William R. Featherstone / Adoniram J. Gordon
My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
For thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.
I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say, when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.
In mansions of glory and endless delight;
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.