Need Wisdom?

1_5 Wisdom

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” –James 1:5

As we go through trials, we inevitably have questions. The biggest question is “why?” The good news is we are not left to strive or struggle (with joy) on our own. God tells us that if we don’t know something, we should ask! However, at this point, we must recognize the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge comes through work and study, wisdom is the ability to apply that knowledge is every day decision making. This leads to another incredibly important issue: the source of wisdom.

Scripture is clear that God is the source of all wisdom. James tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God. It is crucial to look to the right places for answers. If you go to the world’s system, you are going to be told what the world thinks you should do. Not surprisingly, the world is often wrong. God, and only God, has the proper perspective on our trial. Only He can see the big picture. Only He can see tomorrow. If we have access to this type of wisdom, which James says we do, why would we not ask God?!? To top it off, God gives us wisdom generously! That is a promise of God we can stand on.

God loves it when we come to Him, seeking His wisdom. We can’t afford to make decisions on our own. We need God’s wisdom.

How about you?

Do you look to the world or to God when you have questions?

What is stopping you from relying on God’s wisdom?

In what area of your life do you need wisdom? Stop. Ask God for it. Then wait.

When we ask God, we are talking to Him, this is known as prayer. How are your prayers?

How much time do you spend seeking Godly council or relying on earthly advice?

Grow up…

1_4 Baby

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” –James 1:4 (NIV)

There is an interesting word at the beginning of this verse, “Let.” This means we have a choice. As we’ve seen, we can choose how to respond when trials come our way. We can look for the easy way out, rely on our own strength, run, or face it with God’s help. The choice is ours. If we choose God’s way, perseverance will finish its work. We will grow in holiness, maturity, and Christlikeness. These are all goals of the Christian life.

When it comes to maturity, it is sad to see so many Christians still act like baby’s years after they are saved! Imagine having to spoon feed a 23-year old who is physically capable of feeding himself (or herself). When our daughter was born, she was completely helpless. She relied on us for everything: food, clothing, shelter, comfort, diaper changes, everything. As she is growing older, she is relying less and less on us. Her favorite saying these days is “All by myself,” which she says about everything!

Similar to our physical life, our spiritual life should become less and less dependent on man (always recognizing our need for our Heavenly Father and the importance of growing in community). I often tell folks that if you tried to only eat one meal a week, you would physically die. The same goes for our spiritual diet. If you only feast on God’s Word once a week, you are starving yourself. You must learn how to feed yourself!

What about you?
Do you want to mature in your faith?Do you want to grow up into a vibrant follower of Christ?

If so, look at your trials as seasons of spiritual growth; let God stretch and mold you into His image, into His child.

Testing faith…

1_3 Test

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”-James 1:2-3 (NIV)

Tests are given to see if a student can pass. So, trials in our lives serve as tests of faith. Trials are not always evidence of God’s displeasure; Job is an example of this. He was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1, 8). Yet he lost everything, his kids, his livestock, his friends; only his nagging wife was sparred. What we learn from Job’s story and what James is trying to remind us is that if we are followers of Christ, then everything that happens to us has been filtered by the Father. He has allowed whatever trial is going on in our life. We can trust the Lord’s discipline, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12). These trials that are allowed by God are there to produce perseverance. Perseverance is linked with endurance and patience.

One thing I’ve noticed about patience, immature people are always impatient. I’m raising a three-year old now, who daily gives me an opportunity to display patience. She knows what she wants and she wants it now! But impatience isn’t limited to kids…  Adults have a problem waiting to buy what we want, so we go into massive debt to get what we want when we want it. We used to have to save for things. Not anymore.

We’ll talk more about perseverance and its effect upon us in our next post.

Verse three starts with “because you know…” These were persecuted followers of Christ that had learned, and were continuing to learn, what James was saying. They were learning by experience that trials lead to perseverance.

 

How do you usually respond to trials or setbacks in your life?

What is testing your faith?

Do you truly believe that God is sovereign? If so, you can trust that your trial is “Father filtered.”

How have you experienced the Lord’s discipline in the past? [this is also known as chastening.]

Where do you need more patience in your life? Ask God!

Pure joy…

1_2 Joy

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” –James 1:2 (NIV)

We are going to face trials in this life. They are guaranteed. What should be our attitude? James tells us we should be joyful! Consider means to fix your mind upon, pay attention to, or have regard to. This is describing an attitude and not a feeling. When we go through trials, the last thing we want to think about is our attitude. We want to get through it as quickly and as painlessly as possible. But James says no, we should examine our attitude. Joy dispels gloom and causes cheer. Pure joy is deeper than that! And that should be our attitude and our experience.

What type of trials? These are trials external to us [We will talk about internal struggles later]. Trials such as cancer, ill health, bankruptcy, competition at school, deadlines at the office, disappointed friends, sorrow, family discord, unmet expectations, and the list can go on and on. We call these the “storms of life.” We must realize there is a purpose in these trials. We may not ever know the purpose, but there is one.

Listen to this, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Did you catch that? Jesus went to the cross with an attitude of JOY! How is that possible?

What trials are you going through? How’s your attitude?

Do you look for the joy in the midst of trials? Why or why not?

Every day, God finds another way to ask you, “Do you trust me?” How are you answering that?

Is there someone you are close to who is experiencing a trial? How can you help them see joy?

Servant of…

1_1 Chains

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.”-James 1:1 (NIV)

The word for servant means slaves or bondservants-servants were legally owned by someone else and their entire livelihood and purpose was determined by their master. They owed absolute obedience, total surrender, and complete loyalty to their master. For James, his master was God. Jesus said “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). Everybody is a slave to someone or something. What about you?

 

What controls you?

What (or whom) do you obey?

Do you obsess over material possessions?

Does your money control you or do you control your money?

How much of your time is controlled by technology?

To what or to whom have you surrendered?

If you surrendered completely to God, how would your life change?

 

Responding to Enemies – Part 3 of 3

help

So far, we have seen six biblical responses to our enemies: love them, bless them, lend to/invest in them, do good to them, pray for them, and do not rejoice when they fall. Today, we look at the final three responses.

But, before we do, have you felt convicted of anything over the past few posts? Is God bringing to light any mistreatment of your enemies on your behalf? Have you been able to love them? Pray for them? If not, what is preventing you from following these biblical commands? If so, what has been their response?

Okay, back the responses…

  1. Treat them as you would like to be treated. This is the golden rule, the royal law. Luke 6:31 plainly says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” It doesn’t get any more straightforward than that. This is another response that is easy to say we believe it, but another thing to actually do it. Yes, I want to be extended grace… but do I want to show others grace? By its very definition, grace is unearned, it is free. But how often do we put conditions upon our grace? When we do, it isn’t grace; it becomes a performance based response. This isn’t biblical. I am so grateful that God does not deal with me based upon my performance… yet I require others to perform in order to earn my grace. This is especially true of “enemies.” They must repent before I forgive them. They must pay an eye-for-an-eye before they are no longer an enemy. Nope. That’s not what the Bible says…
  2. Help with their need or burdens. This is where the Bible gets very practical. In Exodus 23:5, it says “If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.” The modern equivalent of this would be to see your enemy stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire or empty gas tank. You may want to smile or laugh as you pass by, but that would not be a biblical response. You need to roll up your sleeves, help them with the tire, or give them a ride to the gas station and then pay for their gas! Proverbs also instructs us, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” (25:21). When you see an enemy of yours who needs something or is burdened, HELP THEM! You will notice that there are no conditions on these responses. Help them if… Nope, you just help them.
  3. Turn the other cheek. Enemies will strike you. They will come after you. That is why they are considered enemies. Listen to Jesus’ recommendation: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes you coat, do not withhold your shirt from them” (Luke 6:29). Can you imagine the patience, the calmness it takes to do this? If someone hits me, I’m looking for them with a clenched fist and burning anger. If someone takes my coat, I try to take it back. How are we to do this? This is where I offer some useful tip or story, but I can’t. Honestly. I’m obviously still working through this one.

In light of these nine responses to our enemies, what should we do. If I may make a few suggestions:

  1. Start with prayer. While it is number five on the list, this is the one where I believe we should start. There is something that happens when you enter the throne room of God and humbly ask His blessings upon your enemy.
  2. Realize that you are powerless to change the other person. You can’t change them, only God can. You are responsible for your actions, so do everything you can to follow the nine responses outlined above and let God do the rest. I know it is cliché to say “Let God be God,” but it is true nonetheless. I believe this is what Paul had in mind when he said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). Be open to reconciliation, but let God work on them.
  3. Don’t go it alone. You must not only turn this all over to God, but seek godly council from wiser men and women. Avoid gossip and slander at all costs; approach them with humility, be gentle and gracious, and be open to rebuke, encouragement, and challenges. You may not be seeing the situation clearly. Mentors can help.

These are the nine biblical responses to your enemies.

I often wonder how this would look for a government to embrace these ideas about foreign policy and war. I often wonder how these principles could work on a local level to transform communities or the local church. Mostly, I wonder how many families would be reconciled if we truly tried to live out our faith when responding to enemies or perceived enemies.

Responding to Enemies – Part 2 of 3

pray

Enemies. We all have them even if we don’t know who they are. In my last blog, we looked at the first three biblical responses to our enemies.

How’d you do with loving, blessing, or lending to your enemies? Did you get spit upon? Attacked more? Did you start to see their heart soften? Please comment below and let me know!

We continue with the next three responses.

  1. Do good to them. Twice in Luke 6, Jesus says we are to “do good” to our enemies (vv. 27 and 35). This means we are to be merciful, gracious, benevolent, cheerful towards, happy for, comforting, and pleasant. There is a lot contained in the simple phrase to “do good.” Once again, we find ourselves going out of our ways to bring joy to our enemies. We look for ways to make them happy, to help them fulfill their dreams and desires. This is all starting to sound counter-cultural. We live in a dog-eat-dog world, where we are told we must look out for number one (with number one implied as being yourself). But Jesus’ words flip the cultural standard upside down. We are to be humble, to be low, to be a servant, to seek the good of others, even our enemies, above our own welfare.
  2. Pray for them. “Pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28); “Pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). This one is easy, at least in theory. Prayer means I can keep them at an arms distance. That I don’t have to get close to them, physically anyway. What I have experienced though is another story. When I start praying for someone that may be my enemy, I notice that my heart changes. I start to genuinely care about them. When I am in conflict with someone, I have to pray for them. Oftentimes, God changes my heart enough to where I can truly start to love, bless, lend to, and do good for them. On a lighter note, this reminds me of a country song. Yes, I said a country song. Here are some of the lyrics:

I haven’t been to church since I don’t remember when

Things were goin’ great ’til they fell apart again

So I listened to the preacher as he told me what to do

He said you can’t go hatin’ others who have done wrong to you

Sometimes we get angry, but we must not condemn

Let the good Lord do His job and you just pray for them

 Chorus:

I pray your brakes go out runnin’ down a hill

I pray a flowerpot falls from a window sill and knocks you in the head like I’d like to

I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls

I pray you’re flyin’ high when your engine stalls

I pray all your dreams never come true

Just know wherever you are honey, I pray for you

Verse 2: 

I’m really glad I found my way to church

‘Cause I’m already feelin’ better and I thank God for the words

Yeah I’m goin’ take the high road

And do what the preacher told me to do

You keep messin’ up and I’ll keep prayin’ for you

I don’t think this is what Jesus had in mind… In fact, I know this isn’t the type of prayer Jesus had in mind. I think David’s words from Psalm 35 are more appropriate: “Contend, Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and armor; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to me, ‘I am your salvation.’” (vv. 1-3). David prays for justice and vengeance to be in God’s hands alone. We ask for God to be our defender. As I often say, truth wins.

  1. Do not rejoice when they fall. The writer of Proverbs says “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them” (24:17-18). Since we know that truth wins, and that God is justice, it is only a matter of time until our enemy has to answer for what happened. If this occurs before judgment day, and we are around to witness it, we are not to rejoice or let our heart yell “yipeeeee!” We are to remain humble and continue to pray for them.

These three responses to our enemies are hard enough. When you add the first three and the next three, they become impossible. So, I want to pause and let you know that you are NOT going to be able to do this by your own will power. I often tell our church that the commands in Scripture are not “try harder stupid” commands. They include some assumptions that we must understand. First, we respond to our enemies this way because they are also made in the image of God. They are deeply loved by God, and we should love them as well. Second, if we were to truly evaluate our own sin, we would see just how much God has forgiven us, how much grace has been shown to us. In turn, we would forgive and extend grace, no matter what our enemy has done. All sin hurts the heart of God. Finally, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to live holy and pleasing lives. Our strength is never enough.

Next time, we finish up our biblical responses to our enemies.