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Life isn't always the easy road, it often presents us with trials and tribulations which test our faith. We often need to check our lives considering Christ's goodness and love, not being swayed by tribulation. The way the world will know we are believers in God is not by our professing to know him, but by publicly living out the transformed life Christ has brought about in use as we have declared our faith in him.
Truth About Prayer and Healing
The Truth About Suffering and the Believer
The Truth About Wealth and the Joneses
The Truth About Slander and Silence
The Truth About Conflict in Our Lives and Communities
The Truth About Transformed People
The Truth About the Tongue
The Truth About Genuine Faith
The Truth About How to Treat People
The Truth About the Believer and the Word
The Truth About Temptation and How True Believers Respond
The Truth about Troubles and Trials
Welcome. We are about to have some fun diving through the book of James. It's a nickname. Actually his name is Jacob. How about that? But he goes by James. James is a book that is essential to who we are today. It is the very first book written to the New Testament church.
You might look at the book of James and think it was inserted a little bit later after all the good doctrine and dogma was out there about how we're saved by grace through faith that the church would have drifted and become a little bit antinomian…I'll explain that later…all about just believing that because I'm saved by grace it doesn't matter what I do, then James was a book written to correct it, but that is not the case.
It is the very first letter written to the church of Jesus Christ. It was written about AD 46 to 48, about 15 years after Jesus was crucified and resurrected. His brother, who was the bishop of the church in Jerusalem… That's where the church started, Jerusalem. Then the surrounding area of Judea, then the outermost parts of the world. Before Paul ever started his public ministry, James wrote this book.
There are 108 verses in James, five chapters. Fifty-four of the verses are what are called imperatives. They are commands. James does not jack around. He wants you to know this is who we are and they will know who we are because this is what we do. The old song, "They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love." James says that's not some idea we evolve to around some campfire song. That is the beginning tenet of our faith.
This is Jesus, James' older brother. John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples…" James is writing to the church. He is going to say the way the world is going to know we are believers in God, who has fully revealed himself in the person of Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Messiah, is not by our professing to know him but by publicly displaying the transformed life Jesus has brought about in us as we have declared our faith in him.
This is a book written by a godly man who did not believe his brother was the Messiah while his brother was alive. We know Jesus had at least four brothers and some sisters, Matthew 13:55 says that. It says after he got done teaching many parables about the kingdom he returned to Nazareth where his family was and his brothers…one of them Jacob, known as James; Joseph; Simon; and Judas…were there along with his sisters.
There are some traditions that will tell you Mary was a virgin all the way to the grave. We have no tenable really belief for that. They want to make the case that maybe James and Simon and the boys were brothers who had come from a previous relationship Joseph had, but again, that's pure speculation, argument from silence.
James, being the younger brother of Jesus, was his half-brother. You would imagine what it was like growing up with Jesus as your older brother. How many times do you think he heard, "Why can't you be like your brother?" He was probably pretty glad when that public ministry started and moved him on.
They mocked him in John 7:5. It says his brothers said, "Hey, why don't you leave Galilee and get down there to Judea where all your disciples can see all the amazing things you do?" James did not believe until he saw that his brother was no mere brother. In fact, he met the resurrected Jesus. That has a tendency to change your opinion of your older brother when you find him risen from the grave.
James then dove in. James, I said, 54 imperatives, 108 verses, quotes 22 different Old Testament books. This guy knew his Bible. That's what elders always do. You're going to lead the church, you'd better know God's Word. He quotes his brother's most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, 16 times.
He is going to start by saying, "Look. They're going to know we're believers, not because we are a bunch of philosophers and not because we're a bunch of professors, but because we practice the faith. My brother, the Lord, said, 'If you believe me, you will follow me. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.'"
That word keeps doesn't mean, and James doesn't think, believers never sin. What James says is you have to keep going back to the faith and the truth that you have come to understand that has reconciled you to God and you must live in it. If you have ever wanted to know what the Bible thinks a holy life looks like, holiness is not when you remove yourself from the riffraff in the world, and build your own little community where you hang out.
Holiness does mean separate. That's what the word means. But the holiness the Scripture talks about is that you live in the midst of the broken, fallen world and you are not of it. You are in it, but not of it. You are separate in that you live above them because you don't have a natural understanding but a hupó-natural, a supernatural understanding, and you are shining stars in the midst of a dark and perverse generation.
James says if we don't do that, if all we do is take notes and do really well in the lecture hall, but we don't go out there in the lab of life, we are not going to be who God wants us to be. In fact, you may not be who you think you are. James doesn't jack around. You want to go deep in theology, you study Paul. You want to go wide and really understand the full scope of God's redemptive program from beginning to end, the book of Hebrews might work for you. You want to see the mystery of God revealed in the incarnate Son of God, read John.
But if you want to get to it and sit down and go, "I don't have much time. How do I know if I'm not just some empty shell of a professor?" Not like a college professor, but somebody who sings songs and 'honors God with his lips, but my heart is far from him,' how can I know? James is going to tell you. He is going to say, "If what's inside of you is more than an awareness of an idea, if what's inside of you is real biblical belief, real biblical faith, it always looks like this. It produces this."
James is going to say, "If we're going to be the church, we have to make sure we can lead ourselves before we lead others to God." God wants to lead you. If God is leading you, this is what your life will look like. You're about to find out right now if you are, according to the elder of the church in Jerusalem, a follower of Jesus Christ.
He takes away the mystery. He is going to lay it out for you. He is going to talk to you about how to handle trials, how to handle temptation, how to look at truth, how to handle the poor, how to handle your tongue, how to handle the idea of doctrine and practice. He is going to talk about how to get through irreconcilable differences. He is going to talk about how to view tomorrow, what to do when you see a brother struggling. James is going to go, "This is who we are."
Too many people have a knowledge of God and they agree the story about God is true. They have heard God is very good, we're very bad, he loves us very much, his Son came, he died on the cross, that's the means through which God's infinite perfection was satisfied through the infinite perfect sacrifice, which is Jesus Christ, and you go, "I have a Bible by my bed, not a Qur'an, not Hindu holy books. I don't meditate in the lotus position; I mediate on Scripture," But he is going to tell you if you don't act on that meditation, then all you are is deluded.
In other words, you know the answers to the question of what a Christian believes but you don't believe it yourself unless that belief produces a life that bears fruit from the live and living spirit of truth which is inside of you. This book, we're going to find out in James' one verse introduction, because he is anxious to get with it, is written to the 12 tribes, primarily Jewish believers, that are being dispersed.
There are lots of regions that are being dispersed. Jerusalem is not a city well known for its economic prowess. It was really a city that was set in position because of its military sensibilities. It's a city set on a hill, easily defended. There was a great economic source of trouble going on there at this time, a famine that was going on right there in AD 40.
Many people had come to Christ and they did not go home, so they stayed in Jerusalem. They didn't have jobs that were there necessarily. There was a lot of oppression by Rome as there was instability that was going on there in that first century with Rome's relationship with Israel or the Jews.
Then there were schisms within the Jews in that there were a lot of Jews who did not like those who claimed Jesus was the Messiah. The church was a persecuted people inside a persecuted people. They were very poor. Many people in that church were starting to try and show favor to certain wealthy people who might believe because they thought that was the key to them maybe surviving.
James is going to say, "No, no, no. Don't you be a respecter of persons. You be a follower of Jesus." We're going to get to that in James, chapter 2. James is going to explain to them about the trials they are in the middle of and the fiery ordeal that they live in. He is going to say, "Don't be surprised. This is not new information. My brother told you that's what was coming."
Are you ready? You're going to learn something and you're going to get to test to see if your life matches up what Jesus and what the Holy Spirit and what James says is true of a biblical believer. I get really tired of hearing folks who go, "You know what, man, Watermark is one of those do churches. It's do, do, do, do, do. I just want to go to a be church where I can just know I'm loved by God and be loved by God."
Well let me just tell you something, you are loved by God. There is nothing you can ever do to make God love you more. God has given himself for you. He has made him to become sin on your behalf that knew no sin. Jesus, the full revelation of God, who though he was rich for your sake became poor so through his poverty you might become rich.
James is going to show you if you have become rich in Jesus, this is the evidence. James cares about you. He doesn't want you just to answer questions about Christians; he wants you to be one. He doesn't want you just to sing Christian songs; he wants you to be one, because your very life is at stake and other people's perception of the revelation of God is at stake.
There is no such thing as a person who is a believer who is not a doer. Belief informs what you do. People may say what they think, but they do what they believe. The problem in America today is we have a church that is filled with people who say what they think, but they are not doing what they say they believe. James is going to say, "You may not believe what you think you believe." May that not be true of us.
This series is going to be called Walk the Line. Why? Because James, very early on, is going to snap the plumb line. Anybody here built something? When you build something, you want to make sure you get the foundation right. The foundation is the gospel of Jesus Christ. You are saved by grace, through faith.
There is no other way to be reconciled to God. You're not saved by what you do, but the evidence that you are saved is borne out in how you build. In other words, if you say, "That is north," and you want to go north, you go north. You don't sing about north and wander all around like you're lost. James is going to say, "Let's get busy."
A plumb line is a construction tool where you lay this little line out and you pull it up and you snap it after you have tacked it with a leveler between two positions. You build off it. What James is going to do is tell you how to walk the line. This is the plumb line of truth. We'll all veer off. We'll need to encourage each other. There are going to be some things that try and pull us off.
In fact, he is going to start the book, "You have persecution from without and you have trouble from within. You had better be anchored in truth." That's chapter 1 laid out for you right there. Here is James 1:1. James reveals himself this way. He can say a lot of things about himself. He is a bond servant of God. That's what he chooses. Men usually are introduced by their highest title.
James, when he gets a chance, introduces himself, does exactly what Paul does in 1 Corinthians, chapter 4. It's what I do on Twitter. I have that in common with James and Paul and that's about it. Here is my Twitter bio. "If anyone regards me, let it be as a servant of Christ or as a steward of the mystery of God." That's all I really want to be.
When I'm useful to others, I am a servant of Christ. When I am destructive in relationships, a source of discouragement and confusion to others, it's because I'm serving me. When I'm not a steward of the mystery of God, I'm a steward of the learnings of Todd. Those are very limited and finite. When I want to serve you well, I will do what James did, what any godly man does. He will take you back to the book. Twenty-two different Old Testament books inform his short 108 verses. Because James is not here to show you how smart he is, 16 times he is going to refer to God incarnate's most famous message. That's what you should do.
You want to improve your Community Group? Here is what you should do. Don't speak unless you can rightly and accurately represent the Word of God. You want to be a godly friend? You do what James does. It's what any elder does. I am a servant of Christ, so if I'm going to serve you, I'm going to push you towards what Jesus would push you to and nothing else.
He is a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. He says, "Jehovah and my older brother, Jesus, are one and the same. I have seen him. He is the Christ," which is Greek for the Messiah. "He is the one who God said would come who would deliver us." "I'm writing this," he said, "To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings." Let's go. That's his whole introduction.
What James is going to do is he is going to care for a group of people who are experiencing a lot of heartache. Getting right to it, he is going to say, "All right. I bet you have a question. If you know God and you're his servant, and you believe Jesus is the Messiah, why is it so hard?" If you're going to lead a group of people, you don't cower away from the difficult questions.
James is going to lean right into this. "God loves you. God is good. You're suffering. What's up?" How could that be? Every single one of us wrestles with this idea. Nonbelievers, when they hear us talk about a loving God, they go, "This is God's world? I'm not impressed. If God is sovereign, that means he is in control of everything and God is good, then I have to see or hear some reason for this." They hypothesize if God was good he would change the world. If God was God he could change the world. The world is not changed; therefore, God is either not good or he is not God.
James is going to go, "Hogwash. My brother told you when he was here. In fact, at the very end of all of his ministries to his disciples, in John 16:33, this is what my brother said to you, 'These things, everything I've said to you up to this point, including and especially the fact that I'm now going to go and be turned over and crucified and betrayed and you're going to be scattered, I have told you so you might have peace, you might be filled with a sense of God's sovereignty. In this world,' he says, 'you will have trouble, tribulation. But take courage, take heart, for I have overcome the world.'"
We have, gang, a logical explanation, a congruent understanding of why a loving God who is sovereign over an imperfect world makes sense. Christopher Hitchens, who wrote the book God Is Not Great… I was with him in a room when he acknowledged, "You know what? If it is true that Jesus is God and that he has come to reconcile a fallen world to himself then the reason that God has not rolled up human history and executed judgment on evil is because he doesn't desire for any to perish but all to come to eternal life and he is leaving his children here to suffer as he suffered to declare that message with hope to a lost and hopeless world, then that explains everything and I have to amend my book and believe that God is great and God is good."
"Frankly," he said, "that is a logical explanation. The only logical explanation I have ever heard, but I reject that as true; therefore, I don't think God is great." Now I was with him also when friends of mine walked him through evidences from observable reality and science for why our belief is rooted in that which can be tested. Yet, he couldn't refute a single one of them. He was funny. He was winsome. He spoke with a Scottish or an English accent, which always makes you believe him. But he just said, "I don't know."
James wants you to know and he wants you to know what you do if you believe. Some people would even say, "Listen, just like that early church was dispersed, we in a sense, we live here, we're being dispersed, we have trials. This world is not our home." A tremendous application to us.
There are way too many people who are deluded in their belief. The American church is a church full of thinkers and professors. It is not a church of followers and believers. I'm praying that about 12 to 16 weeks from now we would be a little bit more of what Jesus wants us to be. Let's dive in. Let's take care of this very first thing we all run into.
James is going to tell you right here, "I want you to think this way. There's an attitude you're going to have to have. Let me just lay out the very first part of this book." In verse 2, he is going to say, "You can think this way." In verse 3, he is going to say, "You can know this." Then in verse 5 and following, he says, "You can ask this, so you can think and know what you need to think and know if you're going to make it."
One guy would say, "You have to have this attitude because you understand this advantage to suffering and right here is where you can go for assistance." Watch this. "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you get married." No. "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials…." Can everybody relate?
I have never been any place where somebody goes, "What? Talk to me, Pastor. Deal with reality. My life is good and perfect and wise and true. I don't have trouble. Move on." No, every time you speak, people are like, "I have a real issue with the suffering in my life." Everybody suffers. Single, married, people with kids, people who don't have kids, people with jobs, people who don't have jobs. The only folks who aren't suffering any more are folks who are dead.
My Bible says how you respond in this life really determines whether or not you will suffer when you're dead. Let's pay attention. This is really helpful. James is going to start, and before we start here, I'm going to tell you how all the Bible ties together. Do you remember the series I did just before this? It was called InTIMEacy.
The series on InTIMEacy was all about the things we do to spend time with God that we might meditate on who God is so we can live as people who benefit from a relationship with God. Now think about that. God is real and God is there, and he doesn't want you just to do things that measure up, but he has come to you and done something so you can be reconciled, and he has made you his friend. That is the claim of the Bible.
Let me say that again. The Bible is not a book of rules that if you follow them God might judge you worthy. The Bible is a book revealing God's pursuit of you in your lostness because he is a compassionate and merciful, gracious, loving God and doesn't want you to experience the justice and judgment of God which will come to those who are not righteous before him.
He says the solution to your righteousness is to be made new again by his grace when you acknowledge you need to be made new again because you have screwed the deal. You have broken fellowship with the Holy One by choosing sin. God is saying, "I'll tell you what. I'll make provision for your sin and then you can be my friend."
If you are friends with God, don't you think if he is real and good and loving your life ought to be different? The problem with the world is they look around and they go, "You people all say you're the friend of God. Your life looks just like mine. So God must not be there or he must not be very good." That's why James is writing.
I told you the reason we studied the InTIMEacy series is because every spiritual discipline, every choice we make to get in front of God who is our friend and our Father to learn of him is so we can do the only thing that our Father wants us to do, which is to trust him, to believe him, and to walk with him.
To look at him and go, "What do you want to do next, dad? You're good. You love me. I am a rebel. I am a kid who thinks I know better than you, except for one thing. I know I don't know better than you. I've never seen you make a mistake. Dad, there's a lot of trouble in this world that I think you could stop if you wanted to. You've chosen not to stop it and you've even told me why. I'm not sure I understand that, but I'm going to trust you. What do you want me to do in the midst of this world with trouble?"
The reason we perform, practice the spiritual disciplines is not so God will love us; it's so we can remember his love so we can live the way we need to live in this world that is filled with trouble. The only spiritual discipline that matters is death to self. We do all the other disciplines so we can die to ourselves.
There is a verse in Romans, chapter 6, verse 11, that I closed the whole series with, "…consider yourselves to be dead to sin." The Greek word there is logizomai. In other words, it means to figure or consider. We get the logarithmic table, that word, from it. Calculate. You, because you have given yourself to God, want to be a person who just goes, "I don't have anything left of myself to live, so I'm not going to do what I want to do. I'm going to, by faith, believe I can do what God wants me to do because I believe the spirit of truth which indwells in me now that I have been reconciled to God."
"Dad, what do you want? Dad, what would you do? Dad, I just messed up, will you forgive me? Thank you. Dad, I should run with people who love you, too. I shouldn't be surrounded by a band of fools. "…the companion of fools will suffer harm." I don't need to be deceived. "Bad company corrupts good morals."
"Dad, I want to walk the line." How do I walk the line? By not leaning on my own understanding, but in all my ways acknowledging you. We have to know what his Word is so we can think with a mind of God. Now watch this. Here comes James, the very first elder, very first word, "Consider…." But it's not the word to go figure or calculate. It's a different word.
We actually get a word in our English language directly from the word that is used right here. Hēgeomai is the Greek word. We have a word in the English language, hegemony that we use. Not very often, because no one here has used it this week. It's a word that is used of a leadership or of a predominant nation that influences another nation or a person who has predominant leadership influence over another.
This is what James is going to say. "Hey, you have to put yourself under the authority of God. You have already considered that he is God and you are not. You have humbled yourself under the mighty hand of God. So follow his leadership." He is going to say this, "Put yourself under the authority of God. Be led by him and be filled with joy."
You might go, "Wait a minute, Todd, my daughter just died of cancer. You want me to be filled with joy? Wait a minute, Todd, my spouse was just unfaithful to me. My dad physically abused me. I just got fired. I just lost all my income. I've been an idiot so long I've lost all personal respect." And on and on and on.
"I just went to the doctor's office. You want me to celebrate the fact that I'm underneath the sovereignty of God?" Listen to me this morning. Yes, I do. Because I'm going to tell you again who God is. I'm going to show you right now this is where every New Testament writer and where every pastor has to go again and again. I have to remind you of the character and nature of God. He is God and he is good.
He explains why this world is the way it is and why we have cancer and why we have rape and why we have war and why we have failing economies. It's because this world is not God's world. He is the Lord of it, but it is not the world he intended. This is the world we get when we don't follow him.
What he is going to say is, "You who do follow him, you consider everything a joy because the story has already been written. Remember, Jesus said, '…take heart! I have overcome the world.' You have peace with God and now you're the peace of God in the world." God is not panicked. God does not go, "Oh my gosh. Afghanistan. Oh, what am I going to do about Afghanistan?" God doesn't go, "Eighteen trillion dollars of debt. What am I going to do about debt?" God understands why debt is there. He knows what we need to do to deal with that 18 trillion dollars of debt.
God is not surprised when sinners sin. They're just fulfilling the job description. God keeps seeking sinners before the day of judgment comes that they might be saved because he takes no delight in the death of the wicked. God is never stressed. He is deeply troubled because he loves you and you may not be enjoying him, but the peace of God knows that he will ultimately be seen as the loving Creator who did come and did reconcile the world to himself through his own provision that you might declare he is righteous and good and loving.
You have a relationship with that God. He says, "You're my child. You're the apple of my eye. I know when you stand up and when sit down. I know everything that happens to you. When they hurt you it's like they are hurting me." Be filled with joy. When, not if. We're all going to encounter suffering and trials. It's not an elective in the curriculum of advancing with Jesus. It is a required course. You are required to go through this. It's part of the world you live in.
He says, "…when you encounter…." The word encounter is when you run into, when you fall into, or when you run into it. You're going to. It's just going to happen. "…various…" which means many and diverse. Every single one of us has stuff going on. He says, "You can count it all joy." It's your attitude.
You might say, "Now Todd, how can I count it all joy? How can I do this?" I'll tell you a short story and then I'll give you some Scripture. It's a story of a guy who lived by this little idea that God is all good all the time and all the time God is good. He had a friend who was a king. This king loved being with this guy because he was so positive and he always, "God is sovereign. God is good. It's going to work out. We may not always see it, but God is all good all the time."
He would do everything with him. He would rule with him. He would do business with him. He would go and recreate with him. One time they were out recreating and this buddy loaded a gun for the king. When the king pulled the trigger, the guy didn't load the gun right and it blew the king's thumb off.
His friend looks at him and says, "It's all good." The king goes, "This is not all good! You just blew my thumb off because you were irresponsible with the way you loaded that gun." The guy said, "Listen. It's all good." The king said, "No. I'll tell you what's all good is you're out of my life." He imprisoned him and threw him in jail.
The king continued to operate and do things on his own. One day, as the story goes, he moved outside of his sovereignty to an area he shouldn't have moved in. He knew he shouldn't have moved into it. A group of enemies caught him. They were cannibals. They were getting ready to destroy him and eat him. As they were getting ready to do that, they looked at the guy and they realized he didn't have a thumb on his right hand.
Out of superstition, they did not eat anybody who was disfigured or defamed, so they let him go. As he was walking back, the words of his friend came to his mind that it was all good. He goes to his friend and says, "I have to ask your forgiveness. I have to get you out of jail. I am so sorry. I can see now that it was all good. I couldn't see that at the time. You have to get out of jail."
The friend goes, "No. It's all good. Don't worry about it." He goes, "No, it's not all good. I had you in jail for years." The friend says, "It's all good." He says, "It's not all good." The friend says, "Yes, it was. Because if I had not been in jail we would have been together. We would have gone hunting and they would have eaten me."
Now I like that story because sometimes there is nice closure. I want to tell you sometimes I bury 3-year-olds, and I don't see any closure. Sometimes I talk to little girls who have been sexually abused by their dad and I don't see any closure. Sometimes I deal with people who have been sex trafficked and I don't see any closure. Sometimes I see 50 million abortions in my country and I don't see any closure. I go, "I believe it's all good all the time."
I consider it that I'm in this world, I consider that my friend just had this awful diagnosis, and I know, God, you're all good all the time, but I don't always start by coming and saying, "Hey man, I'm here. It's all good." "…all things…" by the way, "…work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose." I never start by saying that. I always start by praying that eventually they will get there.
I'm here to tell you the way you can live there is you have to be aware of this specific truth I'm about to teach you right here from James. In verse 3, there is an advantage to trials. Here is what it is. You may not like it, but I'm going to tell you this is what you have to be governed by. You have to be governed by this understanding about who God is. You can know this.
James says, "Consider it all joy…" because you know that the testing of your faith, that your faith is going to be proved out. You're going to be a person where it's evident you really do know God who is sovereign, who is good, who has overcome the world. That's going to be borne out by the fact that your faith will produce. God is always at work making something in you. It is an endurance.
The word endurance is a great word. It's a word that basically means to think under. Hypomonē is the word, which basically means to be under a certain kind of thinking. People who endure and continue to live and don't quit and don't tap out are people who know something other people don't know, because everybody would tap out.
If they didn't know that God had overcome cancer, sexual abuse, rape, loneliness, infertility, injustice, wicked men prospering, they'd just tap out and just say, "I'm going to get in, I'm going to do what they're doing to get all the pleasure I can right now because this makes no sense." God says, "This makes perfect sense. This is what people do if they don't know me. They will exploit and abuse and hurt each other and they will try and numb themselves in pain."
By the way, people who don't tap out when they're under trials, but people who stick in there and who learn life is more than ease and pleasure and fame and that of hope in the midst of hopeless circumstances, they develop a fortitude of character and spirit that we almost go, "If the rest of the world was like you, this would be a better world."
This is exactly what it says. It says, "…knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result..." Ergon is the word for result. It's perfect work. If you have an ergonomically correct chair it works correctly. Faith is supposed to work in your life so you might be perfect, complete, and lacking in nothing. In other words, you have whatever it takes.
Have you ever been around somebody like that? Whenever something goes wrong, they're like, "Where is that guy? Because if that guy was here, somehow we would get through this." That's what God wants you to be, that person the world who has a congruent and tenable and followable worldview and who is filled with joy no matter what happens, because you know what God is up to and what God is doing.
This is what you have to know. You have to know again the character of your God. You're under his leadership. Friends, let me just show you this is not just a Jamesian idea. Let me take you very quickly… Paul , when he is writing to the church in Rome. In Romans, chapter 5, he says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith…"
James believes you are justified by faith. He believes you are justified by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone. James rightly teaches if you have faith in Jesus Christ your belief is never alone. Your belief is always accompanied by behavior. They are inseparable. James knows people say what they think, but they do what they believe.
By the way, that's the way you treat people. If somebody says they love you and then every time they say, "I love you," they just give you a left cross then when you go like this and you come back, they kick you in the groin, "But I love you," you go, "You do not love me. I don't know what you think, but this is not love." That's a crazy hyperbolic example, but let me just tell you something, there are going to be millions of people pouring out of churches today singing what they think.
The world is going to keep watching left crosses and kicks in the groin and same desperate clinging after fleeting things, and they're going to go, "I don't know what you guys really believe. I know what you think, but it doesn't seem to have any effect because you're just as distressed as I am by disease. You're just as in love as I am with self-pleasure, advancement, fame, glory, money, and distraction. You gossip about each other and treat each other and don't reconcile with each other the same way we gossip about each other and exploit each other."
Paul is writing here, and he is saying, "…having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations…"
Paul is going to say, "I exult in my tribulation." James is going to say, "I consider it joy when I go through trials." Watch what he says, "…knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance…" I wonder where he got that idea. From the elder in Jerusalem, that's where. The elder in Jerusalem got it from the Holy Spirit. "…perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
So far, if you're like me, you're like, "Okay. That's all fine and good but, man, remind me of something." "For while we were still helpless…" I'm going to remind you of this. Here is the hegemony that you're underneath. Here is the predominant Lord you're underneath when you're a Christian. Are you ready to meet your God? "For while we were still helpless, at the right time [God] died for the ungodly." And the person of Jesus Christ, the one you're following.
Gang, let's just acknowledge one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for a good man someone would dare to even die, but God died for you and me. God demonstrated his love to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Here is this amazing thing, he is saying, "What's going to happen is if you keep living underneath that mindset of God, it will have its perfect work in your life that you're going to be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." You go, "When am I going to be perfect and complete?"
Jump to Romans, chapter 8, because I'm going to give you the answer. What does perfect and complete look like? Let me ask you guys a quick question. If I had to say I'd give you three seconds to come up with a name, who is the most perfect and complete man who ever lived? James' older brother, who is the visible image of the invisible God.
What's going on is God is showing you you're not God. You can try and save the world, you just know the world can't be saved. By the way, even if you do a good job turning this thing around, you're dead. Then what are you going to do? "I want to make you like the perfect God-man." You remember this? Here comes the perfect God-man.
There is an amazing verse in Hebrews, chapter 5. It says this, "Jesus learned obedience in that which he suffered." We are learning obedience in that which we suffer. Jesus, God, learned what it was like to trust God as a man. We are learning to trust God as men. We are being conformed into the like nature of his Son.
What was his Son like? Well, his Son, even though he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but he emptied himself and became a bond servant. Being found appearance as a man, being made in the likeness of a man, he became obedient even to the point to death on the cross.
Do you remember what the God-man did when he was getting ready to go to the cross? "Hey, Dad, if there is any other way for us to get this job done, let's not do it this way because this doesn't look fun. Floggings, scoffing, people I created telling me I'm powerless, best friends deserting me, Mother looking at me and thinking she was mistaken in the vision she had at night in the way that she watched me, being separated from you for a moment when I become the sin of the world.
If there is any other way, I have to do this another way. This does not seem like what a loving God would have me do. But I have laid aside my ability to see things from God's perspective. I am, as a man, looking up at you and all I know is that you're good and I trust in you. So not my will but your will be done." What did Jesus do? He laid his life down, and in that moment when he gave his life, he saved the world.
It's true. Let me tell you something that's true about man. When men forget themselves, they usually do something everybody else remembers. We have Medals of Honor we give to men who do that. We just go, "That's what a perfect man does. A perfect man gives himself for other people." By the way, not just for good men, but like jumping in front of the bullet that was intended for Bin Laden and say, "No, take me. Not him." You go, "Who would do that? Bin Laden is enemy number one."
God loves every man created. He takes no delight in the death of the wicked. This is your God, and he loves you. He died for you. Paul just made that case. This is Romans 8:28-32. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." There is that verse.
Don't just drop that verse on people, know it's true. This is what he says, "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…" Perfect humanity. "…so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things?"
If God, who saved us, is going to make us back to what we were before we chose to abandon God, we have nothing to worry about. "If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all…" I'm underneath him. So just bring it, world. When you find somebody who lives like that, you just go, "I want to follow you." This is what great men do.
There was an early church father, his name is Polycarp, you don't know much about him, and you shouldn't, really. Polycarp was that guy. He just didn't care. He was ready to endure anything. He would not denounce his belief in Christ, specifically the fact you're saved by grace through faith.
The Council said to Polycarp, "We have beasts, and we will call those beasts and we will throw them to you unless you repent of your profession." Polycarp said, "Bring me the beasts. Call them. Because all it's going to do is usher me to glory. I'm not here for my own comfort. If God's story ends with me right now being eaten by beasts, so be it. Just know he is worth dying for because he died for me."
We honored our buddy, Sam Brown, who the day he was burned over 30 percent of his body said that was his alive day because he stopped trusting in everything he was trusting in before and had nothing left but just his desperate need for God. This is what trials are supposed to do. Trials are supposed to drive you on your knees and let you know you're not in control here.
The book of Job says trials come to man as surely as sparks go up. You live in a broken, fallen world because this world has left God. Trials are going to be here even if you're God's people. You're going to be in a world filled with trials. He is going to say, "You be in this world with hope, because you know God is going to make it right and you've already been saved from the judgment that is due to this world."
He is conforming you in the image of his Son. What's the image of his Son? This, in the midst of anything. "God, I didn't want cancer, but this is your deal, not mine. God, I don't want to see people I love and care for suffer, but you love them more than I do. My job is to fight against injustice, speak out against injustice and do everything I can, sacrifice everything I have, but at the end of the day, Lord, this is not about me. I'm just here as your servant and to steward the mystery.
I can explain why that's there. Because evil men are having their day. I need to tell those evil men they need to repent before the day of judgment comes, but as for me, I will not stop. I will not grow weary. I will endure. I'll be underneath your leadership. You tell me why you let wicked men do their thing for a season. Their season of judgment is coming. My job is to love them and call them to repentance and speak hope to others who are hurt by them."
Scripture says when you live that way God is willing to help you. Verse 5. This is where you get assistance. You can think this way, you can know these things and you can ask this question. "But if any of you lacks wisdom…" In other words, if you don't think with the mind of God. Can I just prove to you a second that you don't think with a mind of God? This is why you have to keep coming to God all the time.
When I tell you that you want to be a strong person, you want to be strong, how do you think you're going to get strong? If you think with the wisdom of God, you know it's by becoming weak. If I told you, you want to be rich right now, what strategy fills your mind for wanting to be rich? If you didn't think about doing all you could to invest in God's kingdom so your money is not going to be stolen or rust or just vanquished at the grave, then you don't think with the wisdom of God about where riches are.
Beauty. How are you going to become beautiful? If you don't think right now about developing your inner person, because bodies deteriorate and charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, then you don't have the wisdom of God related to beauty. How about this? Wisdom. Where does wisdom come from? If you thought learning, then you don't think with the mind of God. Wisdom biblically comes from considering yourself a fool.
The way you become an individual who is strong by being weak that is great not by seeing how many people you get to serve you but by seeing how many people you can serve, by being rich this way… You don't think with a mind of God. You have to constantly go to him and say, "God, help me think with your mind. Let me be transformed by the renewing of my mind." "But if any of you lacks wisdom…" Don't we all lack wisdom? In beauty, in riches, in strength, in greatness, in wisdom. We all lack it. It says, "…let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach…"
God wants to give you these things. It will be given to you, but you have to ask him. When you ask, this is very important. Ask this way, "…he must ask in faith without any doubting…" Without diakrinō, without any double judgment. That's what the word means. You can't go, "God's going to…. Well maybe he's not. Maybe the world's got some points."
I'm not going to lean to my understanding, except in these few areas, except my individual sex life, except the way I handle my lust. Except the way I invest my money." That's not the way you go to God. You go to God with this, "God, you know everything. You're perfect and good. I am desperately sick and my heart is deceitful above all else. That's the only judgment I'm bringing." Not "I think I know a little better than you and God, you're a little out of date. It's been 2,000 years since you've really spoken." It's not going to work out well for you.
You have to have a singlemindedness. Doubters, that's really what it means. The word doubt comes from a Latin word, which basically means to waver, dubitare. It comes from the word duo, which means what? Two. Duo-are. Do it. You are two things. That's what a doubting person is. "I don't know. It could be this or it could be this." The Chinese pictograph for a doubting man is a guy with a foot in two different boats, being torn apart.
Another word right here for doubt, being double-minded, is dipsychos. In other words, he has two souls. What James is saying is we can't do that. The days are short. We can't be double-minded. "Maybe MTV has its points. Maybe somebody other than God can provide me insight." That will not lead to transformation.
This will lead to transformation. All Scripture is inspired by God and it alone is authoritative. It alone can reprove you, correct you, and train you so you can be adequate, equipped for every good work, James would say, so that you might be complete, lacking in nothing. Question: Have you desperately, every time you've had a question this week, run to the Word of God, the people of God to make sure you're evaluating the Word of God correctly and said, "What's it say?" If not, you're a confusing church.
This is not a book that was written prophetically to correct the church 400 years down the road. This is how the church started. Love of God, love of others, absolute submission and surrender to his will and way in the midst of a world filled with trouble because you know God has overcome the world and you're his child.
It's all good. I can't always see that I'm not going to be eaten by cannibals because my thumb is blown off, but there is something going on here. I don't even need to know it. I need to know one thing…that God is good and he loves me. His ways aren't my ways. His thoughts aren't my thoughts, as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are his ways above my ways and his thoughts above my thoughts. He is God, he is good. I'm following him.
Gang, it's human at times, to get angry when this goes down and things happen and your little girl is hit by a car. It's human to move from anger to sadness, but you'd better, when you move, move towards him on your knees and just remind yourself you don't see the whole picture here. We have to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep, and we have to pray for them, but we should not be surprised.
This is a world that is not the world God intended. Sometimes kids die, spouses are unfaithful, friends fail us, but God is good. He never changes. His strength is sufficient for our weakness. We come in here and we gather and we say, "Our God is greater, our God is higher, our God is better than any other. How great is our God." Never once has he failed us. We sing these songs to remind ourselves of things that are true corporately, then we run in smaller communities throughout the week.
We cannot be individuals who doubt. "…for the one who doubts is like the surf of a sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." Being a dual-souled man. In verse 9, it says, "But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position…"
In other words, if you have something going on right now, part of what's going on with you is God is moving you towards Christ or you might be somebody who has already said, "That guy loves me." You remember in the book of Job? In Job 1:9, after Job was introduced this way in Job 1:1… "There was a man who was righteous and blameless, who feared God and shunned evil."
That's not a bad resume. It talks about all the wealth and prosperity he had. Then in verse 9, it says the Enemy appeared before God and he says, "Does Job love you for nothing?" God said, "Job loves me because I am good. You can take away everything you want, but just leave him alone." Then he came back and said, "Go ahead and touch his body, just don't kill him." Job said, "I'm not going to curse God." Job was greatly trusted by God.
Here is the deal. This nonsense that if you love God and you're faithful, you won't have any trouble or trials or sickness or poverty is nonsense. The truth, biblically, is the more God trusts you, the more he will entrust you with. That might mean sometimes when something is dealt to you…
I have people in our body, I look at them. I think about my buddy, Brandon Landis, who I hug and pray with every single week here, who when he was a 9- or 10-year-old, was smitten with a form of dystonia that his speech is slurred, his strength is weak, and Brandon comes up and prays with me and hugs me, clings tight to Jesus. He has many days when he is mad, and he has many days when he is sad, but at the end of the day, he is glad that God is his God. He doesn't know what God is doing and neither do I.
In my small-mindedness, I would think God would want to heal him, and I pray God would, but I know his strength is sufficient for Brandon's weakness in the midst of that. Everybody looks at Brandon and goes, "He has something I don't have." I don't know why that's the story he has written for Brandon right now. I don't know why he has the story he has written for you, but are you willing to trust God in it? That's what the church does. It cares for each other.
The brother of humble circumstances to glory in his high position, the rich man is to glory in his humiliation that right now what he has is fleeting. It's not anything that will really last. A rich man's wealth is a high wall in his imagination. That's what Scripture says. It says do not weary yourself to gain wealth. Cease from the consideration of it because money is a vapor. It takes wings and it goes away.
If you're sitting there and you think you're all good because you have a lot, you ought to just really be humbled because like flowering grass it's about to go. "For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away."
Here is what you'd better do, rich man. You'd better really be aware of the fact that you're not easily on your knees, that you're often loving that master and not the single-minded master of God himself, for man can't serve two masters. You'd better do what you can to use those riches, not to give you security, God alone should give you security, but to advance what God wants to see advanced, his name by loving and caring for others.
You have a good and loving God, he is happy for you to eat, drink, and be merry. Make sure that in your eating, drinking, and being merry, part of your merriment is honoring your Master. You'd better not think your wealth is a high wall that's going to permeate you from trouble, because it won't.
Then James closes right here in verse 12. "Blessed is a man…" He just summarizes, really, what he has just taught us. "Blessed is a man who perseveres…" Who endures is the word, who lives under God. "…under trial; for once he has been approved…" In other words, when you see a guy who doesn't just keep increasing in health, wealth, and prosperity, and even as moves towards the grave, if he has had a pretty blessed life, he is still filled with joy and hope, that's a faith that's been tested. That's a faith that is approved. He gets the crown of life. His life has been the right life.
I've talked to people… I have fed ice chips to billionaires on their death bed. I've seen the haunting fear in their eyes. I've seen the high wall of their imagination just looking at me with panic. They couldn't even speak. There is no crown of life on them. I spoke passionately about the hope they could have with Jesus Christ. I don't know what they did with it. Maybe they got the crown of eternal life, but God wants your eternal life to start now.
He wants you to be one of those people who lives in the midst of a world that is what this world is in a way that the rest of the world goes, "I want to know the source of your hope and security." Yes, it's okay to be mad for a moment or weak for a moment because you're human, but you make sure you do what wise men always do. They ask others to pray, they stay on their knees before God, and they rise in the strength of their God. They say, "God, if this cup can pass, if my little girl who is abducted can be found, let her be found, but if she is not found, I will serve you."
I want to end just with this. President Reagan, on the fortieth anniversary of D-Day, was before a bunch of men at Normandy. He read this, and it has such an application to this. It says he was talking to these young men. He said, "You were young the day you took these cliffs; some of you were hardly more than boys, with the deepest joys of your life before you. Yet, you risked everything here. Why? Why did you do it? What impelled you to put aside the instinct for self-preservation and risk your lives to take these cliffs? What inspired all these men and all the armies that met here?"
Those we call them the greatest generation, we make them heroes. They stormed a hundred-foot cliff with mounted machine guns all across it. They gave their lives. Many of them didn't think they would necessarily get through, but they knew they had to do it.
Reagan says this, "We look at you, and somehow we know the answer. It was faith and belief; it was loyalty and love. The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next."
That's the reason we live our life. Because it's right and we're here with hope in a world that is hopeless and doesn't make any sense, living sensibly in a way that is right for the sake of humanity that we can tell them of the God who strengthens us as we move towards this hundred-foot cliff that is this world filled with trouble.
Some of us die awful deaths early on. Some of us have dystonia all the way to the cliff. Some of us keep just going through incredible hardship and we make it up because there is an evil there that God wants to vanquish. The world should look at us with that same regard.
Reagan goes on to say this, I won't read this part, but he says, "You need to know that 40 years ago when you were storming this beach, there were people filling churches in Georgia at 4 a.m. There were people on their porches in Kansas on their knees." Folks, that's what we all need. We need people praying for each other. We would not grow weary in doing good.
Then he closes with this, "Something else helped the men of D-Day: their rockhard belief that Providence would have a great hand in the events that would unfold here; that God was an ally in this great cause." It turns out, God apparently was an ally and finally and eventually thwarting the evil marching of Hitler and Nazi Germany, but that was just a symptom.
Some of us, guys like me who never get to serve in the military, we just go, "I want to be one of those guys, one of those Navy SEALs who just goes places no one else goes and takes care of things no one else can take care of." God said, "All of you, come on. I'm looking for a few good men to storm the walls that Hitler is just a symptom of, that Osama Bin Laden and terrorism is just a symptom of. I want you do to it with a rockhard belief that I want to deliver people.
You might die. You might limp. You might be burned over 30 percent of your body. You might be rejected by others who think your cause is not noble, but you know the cause is noble and your cause will win. You'll end up in a far better place than Arlington if you're my church and if I'm your commander in chief and you know I'm good." That's just the first 12 verses.
Do you see how he started, church? Hey, guys, this is going to be tough. This is not come here and God will make you lose weight and you'll be happier and your best life now. No, this is maybe be burned all over your body now. This is maybe you're going to love a woman who will never look good to you now all the way to the end so you can show the world what love really looks like. For the glory of God and for the revelation of his care for them, all you who are under his authority consider it joy.
Father, I pray we be that church. We wouldn't just sing, we would stand with you. We would honor you. We would love you. Help us to listen to James. Help us to listen to this elder who is filled with your Spirit and just to check our life. We want to come out here today, Father, considering your goodness and not being surprised at the fiery ordeal among us, and we thank you that your attentiveness to our situation and your love for us is sufficient. Help us to encourage and help each other.
Father, I pray for anybody in this room today who has not yet decided to follow you, that they would just say, "I want to know that God. I want to have that kind of purpose and mission in my life. I want to be a part of thwarting evil. I want to be a part of an army of righteousness and goodness. I need to be inducted into it, not because I'm worthy but because somebody has made me worthy. I trust in God's ability to use somebody as broken as me."
Father, would you bring them to you. All they have to do is just have faith in you that you are that God who saves wicked men. You demonstrated your love for them. You died on the cross for them. For those of us who know that, I pray we would not serve the gods across the river, that we would not serve the gods of the Amorites that many now serve. That we would say, "As for me and this church, we will serve the Lord."
Not just say things about him and sing songs, but we will serve the Lord. We will be your people. We will encourage each other. We won't let the anger of man spin us away from you. We won't let sadness and despair control us, but by faith we will run and we will set people free with our hope as they come to know the source of hope which is Jesus Christ. Would you allow us in this platoon of faith to spur each other on and be faithful to you? In Christ's name, amen.
All right, baby. Next week we'll talk about the inner toil of temptation and how we succeed against that. Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.