For over a month now we have been studying having the compassion of Jesus. Though we could go a lot further with this in many different areas, I think we are supposed to move on to something else. Today I am going to conclude this study with some of the things that we have already covered, but there will be some new scriptures. I also am going to play a song at the end of the message with a brief message from John Piper that I want you all to listen to.
First, let’s start with what compassion means and do you have it, and what does it mean to you in your life. Have you felt someone was being compassionate towards you lately? Do you feel compassionate towards others more than you want them to feel compassionate towards you? Why do you feel the way you do?
Let’s look at a verse we used at the beginning of this series. Please turn to Matthew 9:36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
If you remember, we looked at the definition of compassion: Compassion means having a sense of deep sympathy and the heartfelt feelings of sorrow for someone hurting physically, mentally or emotionally; an unselfish need to reach out to help relieve the unfortunate misery of a person in need. The feeling of regret and pity, showing a kind, loving attitude.
What kind of compassion did Jesus, our Savior have?
Jesus had the perfect righteous compassion. Let’s look at Matthew 20:34 So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.
Jesus was perfect in every way possible and free of carnal sin. (The sin we are born with, dating back to Adam and Eve when they sinned mankind's first sin.) The life of Jesus was not tainted with jealousy or immorality as yours and my lives are. Christ was righteously pure and full of positive faith because He was doing the perfect will of the Father who sent Him to save mankind.
Jesus being perfect had pure unselfish motives when He felt compassion toward others. Unlike the people of the world, Jesus Christ cared more for our lives than He did His own. (His precious sinless life was laid down for our sins at the cross of Calvary.)
Jesus compassionately understood people’s feelings. Let’s turn to Matthew 14:14.
Matthew 14:14 And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with (what?) compassion toward them, and He healed their sick.
Jesus was motivated to win souls, why? Compassion!
John 6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me.
John 6:40 And this is the will of Him (God) that sent Me (Jesus), that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
Jesus wanted to share the Father’s love, why? Compassion!
John 15:12-14 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Friends, hear me on this. Hear the Holy Spirit. We have to be willing to lay down our lives for others. Not one person should be left on the earth that doesn't have the chance to make the decision to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. Nothing in our lives should be more important than that quest. We are in a spiritual war for people's souls and we must not let up one minute or back down. From time to time we may have to withdraw our forces to recoup and heal up our battle wounds and scars, but as soon as we are able to fight, we have to get right back into doing our righteous duty. Even from a hospital bed people have been led to Jesus, and by opening up your mouth so can you! If we love our fellow mankind, then no matter how badly we get hurt and wounded we must not give up the fight. Satan will throw everything that he can at us, but we must not quit. If one door is closed, then we strive to walk through another door. We must not always assume that every door closed was Satan's doing, but realize that the hand of God is with us leading the way. We just have to trust Him to be doing the right thing even when it seems like He is not. We have to trust and walk by spiritual eyesight and not worldly carnal eyesight.
Leanna and I could have very easily given up many times with this ministry. Between health issues with both of us and losing family members. Discouragement of sowing money into a sites that very few seem to take advantage of. Major car repairs or appliances needing to be replaced, when we seem to be just about getting by. We could have said the heck with it all. But we know, and at times have to remind each other, that God is still in control. We keep trusting in Him. That is what we all need to do when we see or hear another brother or sister going through a tough time. That is what Jesus had to do with the disciples when they got down on their faith. We also need to be in prayer for others going through trials or not. It is that important.
Jesus showed compassion with great courage. I think it was in the second part of this series, I discussed Jesus' half brother James, preaching to the Jews that were scattered because of fear after Jesus was put to death. Let’s see How Jesus was affected when His chosen people were scattered abroad without a shepherd. Please turn to Mathew 9:36.
Matthew 9:36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
Suffering from sin that Satan brought into the world we, as Adam and Eve did, go through some of the same things. Let’s look at Genesis 3.
Genesis 3:1-7 KJV Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. Let’s look at this word. Subtle: crafty, sly, artful, crafty, deceitful, and treacherous. And notice, the serpent, Satan was already there. Even though in Genesis 2:15-17 says And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. (16) And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: (17) But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Back to Genesis 3:1-7 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he (Satan) said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? (2) And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: (3) But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. (4) And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: (5) For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (6) And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (7) And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
Now this is Satan's plan:
1) He tempts us to doubt and question God's Word.
2) The devil strives to get us to look at the problem rather than God.
3) By making us think that wrong things look easier than what we should do in the Lord’s eyes.
4) Satan affects our emotions by making us feel like a failure.
5) The devil gets us to delay in doing what we know to be right so the job never gets done. He makes us afraid with fear!
6) What is the job at hand for believers? Winning souls for the Kingdom of God!
Have any of you experienced any of these attacks? I can tell you that I have had them just as clearly as can be. Some I have overcome with ease, because of my trust in Jesus. There have been some trials that I still struggle with right now.
Let’s look at how Jesus felt compassion when He saw people who were suffering:
Matthew 9:35 And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
Here is Jesus' commandment to His followers. Matthew 10:8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.
Matthew 11:5 The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
Are we carrying out these commandments? I tell you my brothers and sisters, if you want to see God do miracles in your life, you need to be. We all do. Not just me, but each and every one of us. If you want to know how, let me teach you. Write to me or ask me after this service.
Let’s look at a man possessed being freed of demons.
Mark 5:2-13 KJV And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, (3) Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: (4) Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. (5) And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. (6) But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, (7) And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. (8) For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. (9) And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. (10) And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. (11) Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. (12) And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. (13) And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
Praise Jesus, my friends. And we, when we are saved, can do the same thing when we have the faith. How do we get that faith? Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God and also by being in prayer.
We can all be casting out demons, healing lepers, raising the dead, laying hands on the blind so that they can see, healing the lame, all in the name of Jesus. We also need to have that same compassion as Jesus had and still has today, sitting at the right hand side of God the Father. Jesus did all these things because of His compassion for them, you and for me. Jesus felt compassion at the risk of His very life. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says.
Hebrews 12:2-4 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
Friends, this is why we don’t ever give up the fight to win souls. Even though we may at times get wearied in our minds, yet we know that we have not resisted unto death to win souls for the Lord. We should have and use Godly compassion.
Through some of the studies that Leanna and I have shared, I have said that Jesus taught by example of how to be compassionate.
Matthew 9:36-37 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Jesus taught people to follow Him and teach others how. Mark 6:34 And Jesus, when He came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and He began to teach them many things.
Jesus taught believers to pray for workers and laborers. Matthew 9:38 KJV Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
Here is a major verse. The Lord taught us compassion by giving all He had.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus wants you and me to develop compassion towards others. I can list many times where we are commanded to love our brothers and sisters. Love our spouses. Love our neighbors. Love our enemies. Turn the other cheek. Do unto others as you would like done unto yourself. These are hard things to do with certain people. But do you know what? It can be done if we truly want the compassion that Jesus had. Here is a list of how.
A. By constantly dwelling upon His Word filled with spiritual teachings.
1. Read, study, and study some more.
2. Act and live out our lives by the teachings, letting them become a part of us.
B. Spending time among Godly people.
1. Going to church and attending regularly.
2. Having dinner with believers and getting to know their personal lives and sharing your faith and testimony.
3. Ministering to their needs and watching their Godly examples.
C. Here is where I truly want to see each and every one of us. Spending time looking and seeking out the lost and lonely.
1. Getting to know them by inviting them out to lunch and spending time with them.
2. By visiting the nursing homes, hospitals and even grocery stores as well as jobs. Clubs and classes are excellent places to look.
3. Become aware of anyone that is isolated and lonely like the sick,
disabled or senior citizens not yet in nursing homes.
4. Get to know your neighbor by showing up with a tray of cookies and invite them over for coffee. Leanna and I at one time shared goodies at Christmas time with many neighbors.
5. Here is a tough one, but an important one, and Jesus mentioned it. Visit the jails and minister to prisoners.
These are just a few suggestions, but do you know what? If you are serious about doing God’s work, He will guide you with what gift He has given you.
In closing, I really want you to think about these points I am about to bring up. I want you to think about where you are in all of this.
Where are all of the souls that should be saved today after 2,000 years of Bible training? Are people any different today in their desire to reach the lost than they were in Jesus’ time? What keeps us from reaching out with compassion to win souls for the Kingdom of God? Lack of real courage and compassion?
Does the desire to win souls permeate your whole being and when we see people that we strongly sense are lost, do we reach out to minister to their needs? How can we say that we care about the lost when we make no real effort to even try to reach them? How many people truly try to even talk to their neighbors, and who are our neighbors if not all of mankind?
If we become too engrossed with our own problems and comforts, we will never be able to reach out to the lost. Set aside TV and computers for a time and go out of your way to reach the lost. Jesus set the example by going out to the multitudes, didn’t He? Can we believers do anything less with our lives? Should we let comfort keep us from striving to reach out to the unsaved?
We can all pray for the lost and that the Lord will send laborers into the field and I pray that we all do, daily. If we have trouble teaching people, can’t we at least invite people to come to church to be taught? Be an encourager of those who are going out in the field because they will be under demonic attack. They will need to be spiritually covered with all of our prayers. Let compassion to save the lost motivate you into action.
Some of the people were filled with ingratitude and self-centeredness, yet Jesus revealed His compassionate heart when He showed His mercy by feeding and healing them.
Jesus felt a burning desire to save them spiritually, but He knew their immediate needs had to be met first in order to reach their hearts. The eternal needs could then be met after their physical needs were satisfied. Feeding their bodies made the people look with love and become more receptive to receiving the message. In other words, they had to trust the messenger first before they could trust the message. The Lord was tired, and yet He placed His own needs and comforts aside to minister to other’s needs. Can we do any differently?
I have learned much these past few months in trusting God. When we go through trials and troubles, the Lord teaches us how to handle problems so that we then have the knowledge and sympathetic compassion to help others. As we see their problems, we remember how we felt and how we were able to make it through. This then opens the door to winning souls for the Kingdom of God, because the Lord can use our painful past to minister healing into the lives of other people. We become the laborers of the Lord harvesting souls for the Kingdom of God.
If we are failing to see people as God does, it is because we haven’t yet learned to develop Godly compassion. Jesus had compassion for those weak in faith and yet He still reached out to save them. He fed the five thousand by taking care of their physical needs first and then their spiritual needs. Find a way to help others first and then you will reach their hearts.
I would urge everyone to listen to this song and the words from John Piper.
I challenge your attitudes and actions to become motivated to minister with compassion into the lives of people and show them their need to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Start viewing people from a biblical perspective and come to understand the mind of God when it comes to winning souls for His Kingdom. Remember my friends, there may be a finger pointed at each and every one of you, but I have them pointed back at me too. Let’s let God take full control over our entire life and be so on fire for Him that people around us can’t help to take notice and want so badly what we have. Let’s win back what the enemy has stolen from us. It starts with a change in me and you. It starts with prayer. It starts with a deeper relationship with Jesus. It starts with a greater knowledge of God’s word. It starts with a change in our speech. Cursing and blessing. And also starts with a change in our actions. Are you up for the challenge?
For about a month J and L Ministries has been teaching a series Living a Life that Shows the Compassion of Jesus. For those who have read these teachings, I hope that you have been blessed as much and learned as much as I did preparing them. There is a lot to read, but I believe you will find it very scriptural.
This morning we are going to continue our study from the book of James. We want to find out what little things impact you and me and how they can change our lives forever. Do the little things in your life impact the big things in your life? They absolutely do. But I want everyone to take a few minutes to think about this question and share your thoughts before we start on this study. Then see how you feel about this question after this study.
Little things have a tremendous impact on destinies. They have a tremendous impact on all the big things of our lives.
Please open your Bibles to James, chapter 3. I want everyone to listen carefully to these verses.
James 3:1-5 My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. (2) For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. (3) Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. (4) Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. (5) Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
Okay, now the New King James.
Here is what the amplified says:
Not many of you should become teachers self constituted censors and reprovers of others, my brethren, for you know that we teachers will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation. For we all often stumble and fall and defend in many things and if anyone does not offend in speech never says the wrong things he is a fully developed character and a perfect man able to control his body and to curb his entire nature. If we set bits in the horse’s mouths to make them obey us, we can turn their whole bodies about. Likewise look at the ships. Though they are so great and are driven by rough winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the impulse of the helmsmen determines. Even so, the tongue is a little member, and it can boast of great things. See how much wood or how great a forest a tiny spark can set blaze.
When you stop and think about these verses, it is very powerful. He uses a lot of metaphors showing us examples of how little things can make a big difference in big things.
I love horses and because I owned them when I was younger and learned how to break wild horses, I can relate to what James is saying here. Because of their size, let’s use the Clydesdale horses as an example. You know the kind of horses. The ones that pull the Budweiser wagon? They are huge. Here are horses of significant power and yet with the little bit in their mouth and over the course of teaching the Clydesdales, they can make them go right or left, stop, go forward and even backwards by these little tiny bits in that huge horse’s mouth.
Ashton, our grandson, used to get me to sit down and watch cartoons with him. I never liked cartoons, even as a young child. This is still not my favorite thing to do, yet it gives another example of how a little child can get a big grandpa to do this because of the influence he has on my life (a small mass influencing a larger mass).
A tiny little seedling can make a difference in how a tree grows. What James is telling us in this, the tongue is a very small member, but the tongue has significant impact over all your life. So if little things can influence great power, imagine what the tongue could do. The tongue can be used to put nations at war. Example, how Hitler did. Or the tongue can convince people to stop war as Churchill did.
Let’s take a moment to think of some of the quotes from presidents.
John Quincy Adams: All men profess honesty as long as they can. To believe all men honest would be folly. To believe none so is something worse.
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
Abraham Lincoln: A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?
Ulysses Grant: Hold fast to the Bible. To the influence of this Book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization and to this we must look as our guide in the future.
George Washington: If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.
Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions.
One little letter, whether you realize it or not, sent to a senator, representative, or congressman might change a vote. Your one little thank you note to a pastor could make the difference in his next sermon or bible study. Husbands, I hope I’m right here; our words can bring a smile that lasts all day on the face of our wife, children, or grandchildren.
Little things have great impact over big things. James wants us to understand what we say has a significant impact on how other people respond to what we say. There is more here he wants us to know. Little things influence great destinies as well as great power. Your destiny where things go in your life is changed by what you say.
James 3:3 talks about little things influencing great power. You put a tiny little bit in a great powerful horse’s mouth and you can make that horse do pretty much what you want it to do.
Verse 4: Look at the ships: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds they are guided by a small rudder.
So if verse 3 talks about little things influencing great power, verse 4 talks about influencing great destinies, that one little rudder can change the direction of a huge ship.
It can change whether you go to South America or North America. It can change whether you go to the west coast or the east coast. It can change whether you go to Asia as a person seeking a new route to India or end up in America.
Now I think that’s what James points that out in this verse. He is saying that little things like decisions in our lives can have a huge impact later on in our lives. But just think about the little tiny decisions. The decisions where we go to church, or where one might go to a college or university, decisions on who to marry or where to work. A huge one for Leanna and I was whether to grow J and L Ministries to where we would be holding services. It was a decision where we needed to trust in God, because I have not gone to school to do this and neither has my wife. I have to rely on God to give me what I teach you. I praise Him for this opportunity to be His mouthpiece.
As I’m writing this study, all the while I’m thinking of examples that might give you a greater understanding where I’m going with this. I like to paint pictures in people’s minds, so they can see what I want to say.
Before Leanna and I bought this house, we looked at a small restaurant. I had always liked to cook for the public, and from a friend who is gone now, I learned the restaurant business. I knew that there was money to be made. After we looked at it a couple times, I knew that it was the wrong decision, because I knew me, and I knew health issues that we both have, and that would not have been the right choice.
Another example – After asking my wife one morning, many years ago, after never talking about God together, if she would go to church with me the next Sunday and the words that she spoke, and the way she spoke those words was definitely a big decision with a huge impact. That yes answer may have been her final time to begin a relationship with Jesus.
Tiny decisions can affect significant changes in our lives. Now James is saying this: It’s necessary to balance things in our lives. You and I have a tongue that we can say good things with and we have a tongue that we can say bad things with. If we find ourselves wondering whether what we have to say is valuable or not, balance the effect of what we have to say.
If you can put a little bit in a horse’s mouth and control great power, if you can put a tiny rudder in the water and control great direction, great destinies, is it possible that you can control your tongue and control great power and control great destinies at the same time?
I have seen parents speak to their children with their tongue in such a way that they can change the destiny of that child. When they say to that child, “You’ll never amount to nothing…….. you’re not as good as your brother or sister is…….. you’re never going to be smart……. You’re ugly……. You’re an idiot……… You’re dumb” or worse. Those words can actually scar that child and change their whole direction of their lifetime. On the other hand, when parents talk to their children in a loving, nurturing way, that changes their direction too, plus it teaches the child to be a good example with his or her friends and their children when they grow up.
What James wants you and me to know today, is that we have to balance our words, because our words are very powerful. We need to balance our words because our words can change destinies in people. The whole point of these verses is you and I have to control our tongues, because if we don’t control our tongues, everything in our lives gets out of balance.
Let’s go to verse 5, where James talks about fires. I have been through some fires. The one that really triggers my mind, and I think sets an example of how James is describing this whole chapter was while I was working at a dairy farm. A grain truck was blowing grain into the grain bin way too fast and whether it was because of static electricity or the friction, no one will probably ever know, but it caused the grain bin to start burning, which then spread to the barn as we were milking, and then to the attached house where a 3 month old infant died. That one little spark destroyed a metal grain bin, it destroyed thousands of dollars of grain, some of the young calves didn’t survive being thrown out available doors or windows into sub-zero temperatures. The barn was so badly burned that it had to be rebuilt. Part of the house had to be rebuilt, and the whole inside was redone because of water and smoke damage. Plus, as I mentioned before, there was a baby that lost it’s life. Now we get into the power of the tongue in that whole situation. Through the building and rebuilding and getting through the insurance garbage, the husband and wife did not handle this situation as they should have. It was a horrific situation as one can only imagine. The wife wanted nothing to do with farming, the husband had done nothing but farming, I witnessed words thrown back and forth at each other on numerous times. Sadly they divorced and the husband, after the farm was up and running, couldn’t deal with the loss of his wife and loosing an infant child. He sold the farm, and that meant three employees also lost their jobs.
James 3:5 KJV Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
The point James has to make in this, it doesn’t take much of a spark to set an entire forest ablaze, like it doesn’t take much of your speech to set ablaze a whole family or to ruin a whole family. The great Chicago fire started with Mrs. O’Leary’s cow. It didn’t take much of a cow to burn down a great deal of Chicago. And what James is indicating here is, little things have great impact on big things.
We have to take care of little things before they are able to make big things out of little things. The tongue is a very small member. Look at the members of your body. Your hands and your feet are all bigger than your tongue. Though the tongue isn’t the smallest part of your body, it has great power, and compared to the damage that your tongue can do, or the good that your tongue can do, it is a very, very small member.
James wants us to understand that little things can influence great disasters. Marriages are often ended by the sharp words that can come from a person’s tongue; kingdoms sometimes go to war over statements made by a dictator or a leader who simply didn’t know how to control his tongue. Here is something that you may not have thought about, but churches have split right down the middle and destroyed, their testimony in the community is destroyed simply because of a wagging tongue. Someone who preferred to gossip rather than keep control of their tongue.
The tongue is there to encourage us, it’s there to lift up hope for the rejected, it’s there to comfort those who are sorrowing, it’s there to soothe those who are dying, but all too often we don’t balance our tongue with those things, we balance it on the opposite side by cutting words, by hateful words. We balance our tongues by saying things that later on we regret and everyone else regrets.
James wants you to know this: Faith without works is dead. But, if you take your faith and out of your faith you work the wrong thing, you kill your faith. So you have to learn to balance your faith and works, you have to learn to balance your words so that your words are not killing your faith. It’s one thing for me to tell you I believe God, I believe God is gracious, I believe God is good, I believe God is righteous, I believe God is always right. It’s one thing for me to tell you that, and then to speak in a way that shows God has no influence on my life at all. To speak in a way that I have no interest at all in serving a God who is righteous, who is good, God’s character is great.
Life is lived in a balance, and in order to have the kind of balance we need, because the tongue can be used both for good or bad, we need to make sure that we use our tongue to build people up, and not to tear them down. James says “A big forest fire is set on fire by the little spark of our tongue.” So be careful little tongue what you say.
I don’t want to let my words kill my faith, and we didn’t read these verses, and this is where I get the chance to say how important it is for each and every one of us to read God’s Word daily. It is where I can put emphasis on how important it is to be in prayer daily. This is where I urge everyone to pray for their families, friends, this country, the world and for those who don’t know Jesus.
This is where I urge everyone to listen to the Power of Blessing CD's when you get them and to also purchase the book that this CD series is from. I can send you the link if you would like, so that you can order it. When you look up the Greek and Hebrew word for bless, Oh my, it should and will change your life, when you start practicing blessing others, including ones you are not fond of. I would love to get into this more, but there is nowhere near enough time today.
James 3:6-9 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. (7) For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: (8) But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. (9) Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
Did everyone catch this end and see why the Bible and prayer are so important? Knowing that, it sounds like that’s something we should be turning our attention to daily. It says “No human being can entirely control the tongue”, so I have to recognize first of all that I’m not fully capable of making sure I only say the right things. I do however, know someone who is fully capable and that’s the person I need to go to every day, and that’s the Spirit of God. I need to pray to Him every morning “Lord, I’m going to say a lot of words today, and I’m gonna speak to a lot of people. May what I say and what I speak always please You.”
Now if I know what pleases God, I can say what pleases God and benefits others at the same time. That means that I have to have some mouthwash every morning, and my mouthwash is right here in the Bible. This mouthwash enables me to control the tongue and at the same time use the tongue to benefit other people. That’s a daily process just like brushing your teeth is a daily process……. Except for me. LOL
I have found sometimes, going to Legion meetings or like when I met with the couple living a life of adultery that I might have shared with you a few weeks ago, about saying this quick prayer: “Lord, let me be wise in what comes out of my mouth. Give me the words to help this person out. Help me with the words in this situation. Father, help me speak Your Words, and not those of my own, as You know the heart or hearts of those I will be seeing.” I have often said, “Lord, don’t let me make a fool of myself by what I say”. As human beings, our tongues can get us into trouble all the time.
I think often about what Joseph went through. Here he was 17 years old and went the extra mile as asked by his dad, to go where his brothers were. What happened? He was thrown in the pit, then sold as a slave.
I think there are times that God allows us to go through things to make us trust Him more. To toughen us up, if you will, so that when we go through trials, we are more prepared to overcome them. Joseph trusted God, and look how it prepared him and the Israelites at a later time. After the events I just mentioned, he was slandered by Potifer’s wife and thrown in a dungeon. Volunteered to explain a dream of a butler also in prison and was promised that he would be remembered, yet not for 2 years was he remembered. In a message I did on Joseph some time back, I mentioned that Joseph never complained, according to the Bible. It is as if the harder that Joseph tried to live a Godly life, the more trials came up.
Psalms 105:17-19 He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: (18) Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: (19) Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.
I want you to catch this. When you read from the Gill’s commentary on these verses, and I am only going to read a short part, I think it might teach us something about Joseph and maybe have a better understanding of this part of the message and what Joseph went through.
Whose feet they hurt with fetters,.... For it seems Joseph was not only cast into prison, upon the calumny of his mistress; but had fetters put upon him, and his feet were made fast with them; and these were so close and heavy, as to pinch and gall and hurt him; which, though not mentioned in his history, was undoubtedly true; see Gen_39:20.
He was laid in iron: or "the iron" (or, as the Targum, "the iron chain") "went into his Soul" His body; it ate into him, and gave him great pain: or rather, as it is in the king's Bible, "his soul went into the iron chain His body was enclosed in iron bands. In all this he was a type of Christ, whose soul was made exceeding sorrowful unto death: he was seized by the Jews, led bound to the high priest, fastened to the cursed tree, pierced with nails, and more so with the sins of his people he bore; and was laid in the prison of the grave; from whence and from judgment he was brought, Isa_53:8.
In writing this part of the message, I want to remind everyone about what scripture tells us when we go through trials.
Acts 16:23-36 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: (24) Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. (25) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. (26) And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. (27) And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. (28) But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. (29) Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, (30) And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? (31) And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (32) And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. (33) And he took them the same hour of the night, and washedtheir stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. (34) And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. (35) And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go. (36) And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.
Paul said in Philippians 4:11, "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."
I John 4: 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
Ps 50:15 "Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me
Friends, we must praise God in every situation. No matter how bad it looks or feels, praise is the answer. God always delivers. He always comes through. Maybe His timing isn’t ours but He always takes care of business. We need not worry.
Philippians 4:6 "Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
In closing, let me close with this scripture. If today you are going through something hard, just remember you must endure hardness as a good soldier and keep on going on.
2nd Timothy 2:3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
I know there was a lot to digest in this, but I pray it helped all of you and that you may be blessed by this message.
This morning, let’s continue our study in James. Last week we looked at faith and how to balance faith into our lives, according to what James said in Chapter 1. This week, I am going to show you about balancing faith and works. Many people get confused with this topic. Faith and works are the 2 most important things of living the Christian life. If you have one without the other, you only have half of a life. So today we want to find out how to balance your faith with what faith does.
There are lots of people who think faith and works are opposites of each other. Many Christians bump heads over this topic. I am praying that through this study, God will reveal what He has revealed to me in a way that is easy to understand. They actually are complementary to each other. I see faith and works the way I see french fries and ranch dressing. They're both good, and they're good apart, but they're a lot better when they're together.
And so today we want to look at what James has to say from James 1 and James 2, about balancing your faith with your works.
Let’s look at James 1:21-24 KJV Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (22) But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (23) For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: (24) For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
Now I love the mirror image because we can all identify with that. There are three possible responses to looking into a mirror that I can think of. My wife will say I am wrong, but I often throughout the years see her looking in the mirror or a reflection to make sure her hair is not out of place. I think it is a woman thing to look in the mirror when they pass one.
I want you all to picture this. You’re at one of those places and you get one of these mirrors that are curved where you either look extremely tall or extremely short. You are fooled by what you see looking back at you. You know the mirrors I am talking about? You look in that mirror and it makes you slender; it makes you tall, and you say, “I think I'm losing weight. I think I'm getting taller”. But you aren’t. It’s the mirror that's doing that. There are lots of people who fool themselves with their mirrors.
A second response is that you can get an accurate assessment by looking into a mirror and become discouraged by it. You get up in the morning, you look in the mirror; you have an accurate assessment and you say, "Man, this day is going to be terrible! Look at my hair. What can I do with this?” Another woman thing. That's getting an accurate assessment, but not coming away from looking in the mirror with any great help.
The third response is you can get an accurate assessment and make a positive change. You can look and say, “Look at this hair, something has to be done. I'd better get to work on it right away”. And when you come away from the mirror, this time not fooled, and you do something about it. Have I painted a picture?
So what James is telling us, is this: Faith without works deceives us into believing we are something we are not. We think we are very gracious people and we think we are very faithful people. We think we are very spiritual people, but we don't do anything about our faith. And it's like looking in a mirror and saying, “I am a good person”. But it's deceiving ourselves. So he starts out by saying faith without works can deceive you.
Look at James 1:25 KJV But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
Here's the contrast: Faith without works deceives some people, but faith with works blesses everyone who makes an adjustment based on what you see in the mirror.
Leanna and I have been listening to a series on blessings. It is a 6 part series and if anyone is interested, I can send you the CDs, yet you should really read the book. If you remember the message I shared a while back on what we should say or not say, this series goes much deeper.
James talks here about the perfect law of liberty. At first they don't sound like they go together. The perfect law of liberty? I want you to keep your place in James but let's go to Psalms 19:7.
Psalms 19:7-11 KJV The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (8) The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. (9) The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. (10) More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Ok , listen (11) Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
What is the perfect law of liberty? What are your thoughts on these verses? We have it in our hands. This Bible is the perfect law of liberty. What he says here in Psalm 19 is the “law of the LORD," verse 7; it's a synonym for the Bible. "The testimony of the LORD" is a synonym for the Bible. The precepts of the LORD. All these words are just simple synonyms for God's Word.
So when I look into God's Word, I can either fool myself and not believe what I see there, or I can look into God's Word and know what I see there and know something about myself and be so discouraged and say, “I might as well just give up”. Or I can look into God's Word and say, “I need some positive changes in my life.” And so He says when you look at faith and works together and make the changes that are necessary from your faith, you work out your faith by making those changes and Praise the Lord; you will be blessed by that.
This book that we are reading from is the perfect law of liberty, perfect in the fact that you need nothing else. This Book doesn't tell me what I ought to do, it tells me how to live so that I please God and benefit other people. So I'm freed by the law of this Book. Again, this series that we have been listening to Power of Blessings, discusses this too.
This Book doesn't say, "You shall not do this”, But when it does, it says, You shall not do this because it will harm you in this way. What the Bible does is it shows me the way to live that benefits other people and pleases God at the same time. So it brings to me liberty. Only God's law truly can set me free. Still keep your place in James, but turn to John 8:32
John 8:32 KJV And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
Are we looking for the truth? Do we want to be free? What did Jesus tell us in this last verse we read? And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Praise Jesus
James 1:25 KJV But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
This is where you get the balance between faith and works. You look into the Law of God, the Word of God in faith. You come away from the Word of God, acting on what you learned from God's Word. So, I am blessed when I do something as a result of looking into God's Word. I'm not blessed simply because I looked into it; I'm blessed because when I looked into it, I learned something and I acted on what it said.
Leanna received what could be a very discouraging report from her doctor back about two years ago. Without going into details, there could be some very negative consequences if some of her numbers didn’t change for her kidneys. We believe God still heals today. Now does that mean she just sits around and just hang on to that promise? No, she needs to do much more than that. Diet and exercise played a big role in her recovery. Faith in her healing will play a huge part. I believe speaking scriptures, praising God like we learned a few weeks ago and telling Him that He is what she needs to be better and thanking Him for already doing this. Amen? She ended up getting an awesome report. Kidneys that don't get better in the natural are healing. Praise God.
What James wants us to understand is pretty clear. He says you need to not only see yourself clearly, but you need to respond to what you see. You need not only to know who you are and get a right assessment of who you are, but if there are changes needed to be made, you need to make those changes.
It doesn’t help us to look at God’s Word and say, “Yep, that's me. I'm a miserable failure. I can never be what the Bible says.” If you do that, you're no better off than those who never looked at all. But when you and I look into this Book and we find ourselves in the pages of this Book and we see the positive changes we need to make in our lives and then we go out and we make those changes, we change the way we live. We change the way we treat other people. We change the way we treat the neighbors, the family and the kids.. We change the way everything is in our lives when we make positive changes as a result of getting a good picture of ourselves in the mirror of God's Word. That's the balance of faith and works.
And it takes both of those. You can't just work, making changes, if you don't know what those changes ought to be. And in order to know what the changes need to be, you have to look into God's Word. But when you look into God's Word and you make no changes, there's no balance between faith and works. Is everyone understanding this?
Through writing this study, I have to remind everyone that every time you open God's Word we should pray “Lord, show me in this reading I do today, who I am. Show what I need to do. Show what I need to change”. When we do that, we may get a difficult assessment of who we are. Other times we may have a better picture, but if we want to be the light of Jesus and to have the compassion like Jesus, that’s where we need to start.
James is absolutely right here. The most difficult thing in the Christian life, is the balance that is necessary to live the life that pleases the Lord God. And the great balance in the life of the believer is the balance between faith and works. James 2:18 KJV Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
While we do God’s good will, He abides with us still, and with all those who trust and obey.
I came to this conclusion while studying for this. When we think about works, we have a tendency to think of works with deeds. These are the deeds you and I might do. I help the little old lady across the street. Call an older person and ask if I can help them go grocery shopping, or things like that. Those are good deeds, but I think more than that, it’s the work of understanding God's Word. It’s the work of applying God's Word to my own life; and if I do that correctly, and I do it consistently, it's going to filter out to the little old lady who needs help to cross the street, or the person we take shopping.
Let's go to James 2:14 Remember last week I mentioned that there were times that the disciples had disagreements, but how they looked to God for the answers? We may see that here.
James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him?
I want to stop here because this is where a lot of people think there is an issue between Paul and James. Paul constantly, in the Book of Romans, and Galatians, and elsewhere constantly is saying it is faith that brings salvation to us. James entirely agrees. One cannot be saved apart from faith, but the key here is this. He says, What good is it my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? Not "Can faith save him? Can the kind of faith that looks into God's Word and says, I have faith, but doesn't do anything about it, James says that's not the kind of faith that saves. There is no difference between James and Paul on these issues.
James 2:15-16 KJV If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, (16) And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
Now what can someone who is dead do? Let's just take a few minutes and get a pen and a piece of paper out and list all the things a dead person can do. That sounds foolish doesn’t it? But look what James says. Faith that does not activate itself is not activated by God's Word. That kind of faith is totally useless. James describes it as being "dead."
Now, there are three issues he brings up here. The first one is found in verse 14. What good is it my brothers if someone says he has faith, but does not have works? What he is talking about here is the difference between deeds and creeds. Now, some people believe all the right things; they just don't do all the right things. And what he's doing here is making a distinction between those who say, “I have faith”, and those who actually live out their faith.
What he's saying is not easy for us to hear. But what he is saying is the absolute point of James in this chapter. James 2:14 tells us that if we have creeds, we believe things, but if those creeds don't lead to deeds, those creeds are dead, our belief system is dead. It is of no value whatsoever.
Verses 15 and 16 tell us that words without deeds are as bad as creeds without deeds. You can believe something and not do something about it and that's not good. But you can also believe something and talk about it and never do anything about it and that's not good either. So he says in verse 15, if a brother or sister is poorly clothed, lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, listen to the good words here. Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
In the first verse he's saying there's a distinction between deeds and creeds. In the second verse he's saying there is a distinction between words and deeds. We talk about what needs to be done, but we don't do it. We talk about how we need to be in God's Word every day, but we don't ever go to God's Word every day. We talk about sharing our faith with our neighbor, but we never share our faith with our neighbor. Or, ready for this? Sharing our faith with a perfect stranger. There are times that we may be led to share God’s word with someone we have never met………………….
What he is saying is, “Your faith is dead. It's lifeless. It's useless”. You have to exercise faith and exercised faith produces you saying something about it. In verses 15 and 16, the contrast is between words and deeds. You can say to a person, “Oh! You're so poor. You're in such pathetic condition. I wish somebody would help you.” But if you don't help them, you have not lived out your faith. You haven't helped them at all. And then notice verse 17. This is the key of the whole argument James 2:17-18 KJV Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (18) Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. I think this is the key to James’ argument in the entire book. Faith is designed to work.
You all have heard the parable Jesus told of the good Samaritan?
Luke 10:30-37 KJV And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. (31) And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. (32) And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. (33) But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (34) And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. (35) And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. (36) Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? (37) And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
This my friends is faith and works working together. And what did Jesus say to do? Verse 37 Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
Faith is not designed to be a body of truth that you have memorized and you hold dear. Faith is not to be something that you inculcate in your life, you put it in your mind, you hide God's Word in your heart, and then you see a person in need and you're not moved at all by that. You do nothing to help that person. That isn't faith. And what James is saying is the only kind of faith that matters is the kind of faith that acts upon what it believes.
This morning we are going to continue the series on having the compassion of Jesus and discussing wisdom and how we can use it to balance our life. I am in hopes that we can learn from this series to better our lives and that all of us can truly have the same compassion as Jesus in every area of our lives. For me it's a daily process. I struggle at times with not having enough patience with circumstances, but I know that Jesus can help me there.
Hopefully it will help in some of the issues that you face?
In this study we are going to be looking into the book of James. We have to know how to balance the wisdom that we find around us in the world with the wisdom that comes from God. I hope that in the next few weeks we can learn through these studies how to do that.
Let us pray.
I love the Book of James because it's such a balancing act. When I first thought of the title of this study, balancing, I had a vision of gym class back in 4th or 5th grade. It wasn’t a pretty site if you were to watch me on the balance beams. I had the strength and balance to do what we were taught, but I had a fear of heights, as it hadn’t been that long before that I fell out of a huge pine tree. And as I was studying this book of James, it reminded me that life is like that. You have to keep your balance or you fall off and you become a casualty. So today we're going to begin looking at the Book of James. Let's read James Chapter 1
James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
Now, let me stop there because first of all, James is a man who is one of the pillars of the church at Jerusalem. James, Peter, and John were all missionaries to the Jewish people. He's writing to Jewish people here. Jewish people of what is called the Dispersion. Dispersion – Webster’s dictionary: The state of being scattered or separated into remote parts; as the Jews, in their dispersion, retain their rites and ceremonies.
So that would be those Jews who were driven out of Jerusalem, lived perhaps even outside of the country of Israel. And it's great that this happened because many of those people became believers in the Messiah, Jesus. And the great way that God used to spread the missionary Gospel, the Gospel message around the world was through this act of Dispersion. So James, speaking to people who were living outside of Jerusalem--and he has a great message of comfort and hope for them. And these people really needed it because they were facing significant trials. We'll see about that in verses 2 and 3.
What I also wanted you to notice is that James who is the half brother of the Lord Jesus, James does not bank on the fact that he is related to Jesus. He doesn't even bring it up in this conversation. James called himself here a servant of God, literally a slave of God. That was an expression Paul used often. And he uses the Lord's name only twice in this little epistle, here and again in chapter 2, verse 1. It doesn't appear in any one of James speeches, the idea that he is related to the Lord Jesus. You can check those out in Acts 15 or again in Acts 21. From what I get from all of James writings is he simply wants to say, “I am following the same Savior you are following. I've come to know the same Messiah that you've come to know. I've come to know Jesus of Nazareth who is my half brother, but more than that, He is my Savior”. And that puts James in a very unique category. There aren't many people who can write about Jesus from the perspective of James.
Well, he says, "Greetings," to them, verse 1, also an important word. It's a word that is used by James, and for a few months, I have been using it when addressing people in e-mails. It's the Greek word (chario) which includes joy and fellowship and happiness," and it seems to be the signature word for James, just like Paul always says, "Grace and peace”. This is the word that James uses.
James 1:2-5 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations; Now, let's get into what he's talking about here in this verse. My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations; (3) Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (4) But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. 5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
James is talking about the balancing act. And the balancing act in these verses relates to the balancing act between our need and God's ability to fill that need. Notice what he says here. He says, "You people are going through severe trials and you don't understand these trials. And that's OK because of this reason, verse 5, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."
Now the question immediately comes to our minds. Why would he even say this? What wisdom is it that they lack? And you have to connect this to verses 2 and 3 because in verses 2 and 3 he says, you’re going through deep, deep waters here. You're having incredible difficulties, great troubles. And you don't understand these troubles. And you know what? These people are just like you and me. Every time we go through deep water, every time we might backslide to live on the dark side of life and we can't see up and don't understand what's going on, we need answers. That was me last week. But I lack the wisdom on my own to provide those answers. So I needed a place to go to find that wisdom. I found the answers through prayer and trust in Jesus
Back to James and his letter. James is very tactful here. He doesn't say, "Look, you people are going through deep waters, and you don't understand what you're talking about. And you need to consult God here." Look what he says. He says, If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God-- very, very tactful approach. So there's a very common need here. James is saying, our common need is, we need the wisdom of God, but there's a very sensible solution to our common need.
Yes, I need God's wisdom, so what do I do about that? Well, look at his answer. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God. You know, sometimes what is so evident, so close to us, so immediate, so understandable as the nose on our face, many times what is the most understandable, most logical, most likely response is the last one we think of. If you're going through a tough time right now and you don't have answers, if you lack the wisdom to appreciate the difficulty of your life, James says to you, "Just ask God." The simple solution to a very common need is just simply to ask God. Now when you don't understand what's going on, you can get advice from all your friends. You could get advice from the advice columns (Dear Abby), when I was a kid. Some go to the Pastors for advice in figuring out how to solve tough life choices. The simple response and I tell everyone in every blog I post that God inspires me to write. The simple solution to our need for knowledge is just to ask God. Either find out in His Word, or in prayer, or both.
I have clung to Jesus in the past couple weeks. As I mentioned last week I needed a fresh word from another pastor. Even though I had been in God’s Word for Sermon messages, in the word when Leanna and I got up each morning and the Bible course that I had been taking form Peter Stanway, I still hungered. Then we met an associate Pastor from another church and we had been attending evening services. Then Leanna being in the hospital, again I spent more time in prayer, as I was totally baffled with the symptoms that came about. Then the day I brought her home from the hospital, my mom called to let me know that my dad had passed away. I was asked to give a remembrance speech. In much alone time, I spent most of it in prayer for God to give me the words. In this speech, much of it ended up being a salvation message that because I had been in prayer for the Holy Spirit to work on the hearts and because I leaned on God to give me the words, many hearts were touched. That all took place 2 years ago last Friday
Now, God is very available to us. Notice in verse 5 it says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." Now, what I want you to see here is how God gives wisdom. I mean, just think about the character of God. He's very available to us. He gives wisdom these ways. First of all, He gives it generously. There is no limit on the amount of wisdom God has. God can give you wisdom and not be depleted at all in His wisdom. He can give wisdom to me when I need it and He's still not depleted. He is very, very generous. Unlimited is how God gives wisdom.
Remember the old nursery rhyme Old Mother Hubbard? "Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to fetch her poor doggy a bone. And when she got there the cupboard was bare and so the poor doggy had none." That will never happen when it comes to seeking wisdom from God. There is an unlimited supply of wisdom with God. All we have to do is ask.
So first of all, He gives it to us generously. Secondly, notice He gives to all. Wisdom is not just for the chosen few. Wisdom is not just for the super spiritual. Wisdom is not just for your pastor, or not just for your husband or just for your mother or father. Wisdom is for you too. God gives generously to us. "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God who gives generously to all." So there isn't a single person on the face of this earth needing answers to the issues of life: Why am I going through such a tough time? There isn't a single person on the face of the earth today who cannot go to God and find wisdom from God.
Now the issue is will we recognize the wisdom of God and go to Him. Or will we try to figure it out ourselves? Or what often is the case, will we simply blame God and say, nobody can give me wisdom and why I'm going through such a tough time.
Now there have been times where I've asked for wisdom when I feel God has really put something on my heart like putting these sermons together. And other times where I've asked for wisdom, and I don’t seem to sense any sort of response, and so I'm not quite sure. So how do we make sure that we are receiving wisdom and that we're hearing from God and not just our own minds? Any of you go through the same thing?
That's a very legitimate question, because that happens to all of us. We ask and we don't seem to know. Let's remember first of all that our asking and not getting a response does not reflect on God's ability to respond. It may be that we aren't ready to receive the response. You know, we haven't come to the point in our lives where we're willing to trust the response. You ask God for wisdom and He says OK, but this is what wisdom is going to mean for you, and He knows you're not there yet. So we need to wait a little bit. It may be that we are not still enough to hear that still small voice. I speak for myself in saying this, we need to be quiet.
Sometimes the response is the response that God knows is best for us, but not at that time best for others around us. So He'll ask us to wait. And the worst thing is having God ask us to wait, because we want answers and we want them right now. I raise my hand. But it doesn't work that way. So we should never assume that God isn't listening. We should never assume that God isn't able. We need to assume that God will provide the wisdom as He says He will in the time that it's best for us to have that wisdom.
Wisdom is available to us. Wisdom comes from God. God gives wisdom unlimited. I mean, He has all the wisdom there is. This is not just for the intelligent, not just for the spiritually elite. God gives wisdom to everyone. He gives it universally.
And notice the last thing there. He gives it uncritically. He doesn't give it with reproach. If you don't understand what's happening to you right now, and you're going through a tough time in your life, and you say, Lord, help me. Please let me understand, God doesn't say to you, "Well you dummy. You should understand." You know, that's not the way God responds. He doesn't do it with reproach. He doesn't find fault in our needing wisdom. He simply provides the wisdom necessary in the way it is best for us to receive it.
James is writing to people who are going through tough times. They don't live in Jerusalem. They are on the outskirts of the land God gave them and they're being persecuted for their faith. They just lost their teacher Jesus, and they're having trials of all kinds. And in the process of that, they don't know what to do. And James says, Here's what you do. Ask God to help you understand.
Lets study the next 3 verses James 1:6-8 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (7) For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (8) A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
James says, "Look, you've got to ask of God. But when you ask of God, you have to believe God exists. You have to believe that God is good. You have to believe that God will answer you." So he takes a very positive approach. First of all he says, "You need to believe and don't doubt." It's easy for us to say, I doubt whether God can help me at all in this situation. But if you want help from God, you have to believe that God will provide that help for you. And you have to believe that God will provide exactly the right kind of help you need.
I read a story one time about a woman whose little daughter was ill with a fever. And the daughter was getting worse all the time. So she called the babysitter and said, “Would you watch her while I run to the store and get some medicine for her?” So she did. She watched the little girl. Mother ran off to the store in her car. Went in, got some medicine to bring the fever down, and when she got back to the car she discovered horror of all horrors. She locked her keys in her car. Well she prayed quickly, “Lord, send somebody by quickly to help me." And she looked down and there was an old rusty wire coat hanger on the ground. Now, she'd seen this on television so she unwrapped it, and she's trying to get this door open with a coat hanger. And she's praying the whole time saying, “Lord, please send somebody by who can help me.”
And just then a guy rode up on an old motorcycle. Scruffy looking guy, long hair, greasy-looking kind of dude and he said, “Can I help you mam?” And she said, “Well I've locked my keys in the car.”
And he says, “I can help you," gets off his bike. In a matter of seconds, he opens the door.
And she says, “Oh, you're such a nice man.”
He said, “No mam, I'm not a nice man at all. In fact, I just got out of prison today for breaking and entering automobiles.”
And immediately she hugged the man and she thanked the Lord and said, Oh, Lord, thank you for sending me an expert! You know, when God provides for our needs, it's never less than we need. We need to ask Him, though, and we need to believe that He will provide and we need to believe He'll provide an expert.
Secondly, notice in verse 6 it says we need to believe and not waver. You know, don't be like a wave of the sea driven and tossed. It's kind of like a cork in the water, you know? You've seen a cork bobbing around in the water. He says first of all, "Believe and don't doubt."
Secondly, When you believe, don't begin to waiver. Don’t' begin to weave back and forth in your belief system. Just believe that God will do what God says He will do.
I think the reason most people change their mind so often is that they never find one worth keeping. They believe God one day, and they don't believe Him the next day. And they believe Him again, and they don't believe Him again. You need to be convinced of the righteous character of God before difficulty comes into your life, because if you're wrestling with that issue when difficulty comes into your life, you're going to lose that battle every time.
So James says, number one, You need to believe and not doubt. And number two, You need to believe and don't waiver on your belief. Stand strong, even if the answer doesn't come directly from God, even if it doesn't come immediately from God. Believe and don't weave. And then notice in verse 7, He says, For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord. Believe and not doubt. Believe and not weave. And he says then believe and you will receive.
He's talking about people who are having a tough time in life. They're being persecuted for their faith. They need help in understanding how they could go through what they're going through. So he says, Look, if you believe, God will provide for your needs. And the needs on this case are just needs to understand what God is doing.
John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Abide in Me; My words abide in you, then you've met the qualifications to ask of God. See, a lot of us want God to respond to our needs without living a life that pleases God. Jesus says, first of all, you have to find your life in Me every day. The days that are good, you still find your life in Me. The days that are bad, you find your life in Me. You abide in Me. You stay in Me, and when you stay in Me, then you ask whatever you will and God will do for you whatever He wills.
This is not a promise that God will provide all of our wants. It's a promise God will provide all of our needs. And if you're having a tough time today and don't understand why you're having such a tough time, ask God. Let Him have the opportunity to explain to you why He wants to bless you, and that blessing doesn't seem to be coming.
I sometimes struggle with this verse because without the doubting part, not because I think I'm doubting God's ability, but because when I'm asking for wisdom, I so doubt my own ability to hear it, than about these verses. It is important to keep James' words and Jesus' words in proper perspective. That's why I read John 15:7 “Abide in Me and My words abide in you, then you ask whatever you want and I will give it to you."
We may not doubt God's ability to respond. We doubt our ability to hear His response. And the reason we doubt our ability to hear His response is we don't know where He's responding, and here it is, right here. So we abide in Jesus and His words abide in us, we spend time in God's Word. And the result of that is while we are in God's Word, God is showing us His response.
Many times, I don't think we get a response from God because we're looking for a lightening bolt. Like I was expecting when I said the sinners prayer, because that’s what I heard from others. And it doesn't come that way. God ordinarily does not speak to us out of heaven. He speaks to us through His Word. So any time you're going through a difficult situation, and you're asking God the why question, you'll find the response in God's Word, abiding in His Word.
Many of us come to God looking for solutions. But we're not asking Him for solutions. We have a solution we're presenting to Him. We want His spiritual stamp of approval on it. "I'm having trouble and this is why I think God. What do You think? I don’t believe this is the way we approach God. Our belief system is not a belief in why things happen or how we can handle the things that happen to us. Our belief system is in the character of God who promises us that Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
If we believe the character of God has our best interests at heart, then every time we face difficulty in our lives and we say, “Lord, help me understand this”, and we don't get an immediate response, we don't automatically assume that reflects on God's character. It automatically helps us to understand it reflects on God's timing. And timing is very different from character. So the more we read from God's Word, the more we understand God's character. The more we understand God's character, the better we are able to trust Him.
When we come to verse 6, it says that we need to ask in faith with no doubting. A lot of people have shaky faith. They are doubting. They're wavering back and forth. So if that's the case for someone today, what should we say to them so they can get properly correct in their faith to be able to ask for wisdom? I am new to this, but I would suggest saying, "The good thing about God is that He was not born yesterday. God did not come on the scene yesterday. God has a record and that record is recorded in God's Word. So, when questions of faith come up and you waiver in that faith, you can go back to God's Word and find out what other people who have had those questions did." Look at Abraham. I am in hopes to include some of his life in this series. Here’s a man who had great faith in God one day, and a little less great the next day, and back to great faith. I mean, he is a perfect example of where all of us are.
Let us pray.
This is from a 5 part series that J and L Ministries taught on a few years ago and bringing it back for others to hear and read. We pray that as you hear or read these sermon notes, you will both hear and be blessed by them, but most importantly, that you will allow the Holy Spirit to guide you to live your life for God.
What should we as Christians be doing in this day and age to mirror Jesus in His time in the 1st century? What are the keys to sharing Jesus Christ today? What kind of mindset or perspective do we need? That's what we're going to look into today.
The first step is to adjust our perspective, to see the world as Jesus saw it. One of the things we want to do today is see how Jesus views the world around us, because the way Jesus views the world is exactly the same way we want to view the world. The world view that we have is really the way we see the world around us and the lenses through which we view everything that happens in the world. If you take a look at how people view the world today, their lens is really different.
A friend sent me this a few days ago, and I think it fits with this message, although I doctored it up a bit.
Here are examples: How do politicians see the world? It depends on what their frame of reference is. It depends on what country they come from. For example: If a man had two cows, a socialist would say, "Give one of those cows to the neighbor who has none." That's the way he views the world. A Communist would say, "Give milk from the cows to a neighbor; keep the cows yourself." A Nazi would say, "Kill one of the cows. Use the money to buy a guard to watch over the other cow." A Fascist would say, "Kill both cows; take the money and run." A Capitalist would say, "Sell one cow and buy a bull." It's the way you view the world that determines how you are going to get along in the world.
That's true in religion too. Just think about the way various religions view the world around them. A Hindu sees the world as us all being a part of God's creation. Everything is sacred. Don't step on a bug, because it's a part of God's creation. A Humanist would say, "No, no, no. We're all products of evolution, and no one is any more special than anyone else." A Muslim would say, "Its part of our responsibility to be true to Allah, the one faithful god. Infidels must die because they are not true to the one god." That's a world view. New Age people would say, "Now, there is no one true god. I am the one true god. I, myself, am the sum total of all that the world is." Hollywood would look at the world and say, "Well, all we need to do is be entertained."
But how does Jesus view the world? That's the question I want to address today. I think Matthew 10:16 will show us the answer to that. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. (17) But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; (18) And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
Let me stop here, because I think that's sufficient for us to understand that the view Jesus has of the world is not looking through rose-colored glasses. Jesus doesn't look out at the world and say, "You know what? This is a beautiful world. My Father did such a wonderful job in creating this world and it's just such a wonderful place to live." You can almost hear Jesus singing with Louie Armstrong about how wonderful this world is. It is a wonderful world. But Jesus was not naive in the way He approached this world. So He says to His disciples, "I'm going to send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves." His take on the world was that the world was filled with wolves and you and I are sheep. And you say, "How could a loving God send you out as sheep among the wolves?" The answer to that is: He goes with us as the Shepherd among the wolves.
So how did Jesus view the world? First of all, He did not view it as a wonderful place in which to live in which there are no problems. He didn't look at this world through rose-colored glasses. He recognizes that the world is made up of wolves. But isn't it interesting that He says that you, as sheep, have to be as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove? You have to be smart in the way you approach the world. You have to have insight in the way you see taking your message of salvation to the world around you. And at the same time, I think you have to be pure. You have to be guileless. You have to be like the dove, harmless. And when you and I do that, we find ourselves talking to a world that isn't all that happy about the message of Jesus and salvation. But we can take it, because that’s the world for which Jesus died for.
So here's the key word. When you think about Jesus going out to the world, you think about Jesus taking the message to a world filled with wolves, but He does it because of His significant compassion for the world. This is the thing I want us to think about as we study this passage. The key word here is compassion. Jesus has compassion on the world, and that's why He sends us out into the world. It would be so easy for you and me, once we come to know the Lord as Savior, just to hang out with others who know the Lord, spend time in the aquarium with the other fish, and be fed by our pastor week after week as he drops a few flakes into our aquarium. But the Bible says that Jesus had such compassion for those who were outside of the aquarium, He told us we need to leave our comfort zones and go out to them. But when we go, don't be misled into the fact that everything will be fine for you. Everything won't be fine. This world is filled with wolves. But compassion is the key. You even have to love wolves. You have to love those who do not love you, and that's a hard thing to do.
According to Webster's Dictionary, the word compassion means "to suffer with." Compassion "with suffering, to suffer with." So basically, if I'm going to have compassion for the world around me, I'm going to see their needs and suffer with them in their needs. Their needs are going to become my needs, and my answer is going to become the answer to their needs. That only happens though, if I'm willing to go out into this world and to suffer with them. Some people are naturally compassionate. Brother Peter Stanway is the first that comes to mind. It's part of their makeup. As we talk about compassion, I think it is something that we can develop. I do think there are some people who are more compassionate than others by their very nature. Perhaps they just have a softer heart. But the more we allow the Spirit of God to work through us, the more we are vessels in God's hand. The more comfort and consoling we are able to bring to those who are hurting, I think the more compassionate we become. So can we develop more compassion? Yes. The way we do that is not to stay aloof from people who need us. We should ask God to use us as His conduit of compassion. The more that happens, the more we come to crave opportunities to become compassionate.
Here is where many of us struggle. I spoke earlier about getting "out there" to engage the world. But for some of us, that world is right where we live each day. We have family members who don't yet know or understand what Jesus came to offer. You can always begin; in fact, you should always begin with the closest people in your life. Leading a small group on witnessing, I found that everyone had issues on sharing their faith with others. Since then, I have seen some who attended become much bolder. Praise the Lord. Just ask Jesus to give you eyes to see the hurt and then to show compassion to whomever you see and to give you the words. It is that easy.
As we grow in the Lord, we find that things that we used to do, or people we used to hang around aren’t that important to us, or that should be the case. We find ourselves with Christian brothers and sisters. Now in saying that, should we stay away from those that are non believers? No! We shouldn't shun neighbors or co-workers, people in class with us, or people wherever we find them. Perhaps they need to see the compassion of Christ even more than our church family does. So we're to show compassion, to see the world as Jesus saw it. But if we want to see things the way He did, we have to be as realistic as Jesus was. Our key verse this morning in this study is Matthew 10:16. Jesus says to His disciples, "Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves."
Don't think of these as literal wolves wandering around the neighborhood about to eat you up. Jesus is talking about the world as it is. And Satan has a great deal of influence on the world as it is. Let's remember that sin does not come from God. Sin comes from rebellion against God. That's the original sin. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, that was mankind's original sin.
If you want to trace sin, don't trace it back to your grandparents, although they were sinners. Don't trace it back to generations in the past. Trace it back to rebellion against God. That's where sin always originates.
In our rebellion against God, suddenly we're paying a hefty penalty for rebelling against God. What you see in the world today that is all messed up, everything that is wrong in the world today. All the evil that we see around us today can be traced not to God and His compassion, but to Satan and his rebellion.
Let me give you some examples of the kind of world that you and I will go into. This is a world that is filled with poverty. Because Leanna and I were very involved in a food cupboard here in Brownville Junction, we saw it firsthand. Jesus told us to take the Gospel into the entire world, not just our comfortable, suburban, middle-class society.
Poverty is on the rise in a lot of places in the world. If we're going to take the Gospel to people, the Gospel in itself has to address some of the issues these people are facing. Poverty is one of those.
Beyond that, there's increased population. The more people there are, the more people we have to take the message of the Gospel to. Currently, the world's population is almost seven billion people. And the growth rate is the equivalent of four new babies born every second. This presents believers with an incredible task, and it's getting more and more difficult each day. So we have a world that's filled with poverty. We have a world that's filled with people. You put poverty and people together, you have a world that's filled with crime. We have about an 89% probability here in the United States of being a victim of a crime sometime during our life. In this country someone is murdered every 21 minutes. There is forcible rape every five minutes. Aggravated assault every 28 seconds, motor vehicle theft every 20 seconds. So, the society that is supposed to be wealthy and send people out to regions of the world in order to help them understand the Gospel is a society that's crumbling from within. Jesus said, "Look, I want you to see the world the way I see the world." This world is not a pretty place. It's a very needy place. It's a place in which you and I are charged to take the message of the Gospel.
OK. This is the way the world is. How do we change this world? What is the technology we use to change this world? What is my plan for tomorrow to impact the teenagers who live in the community? That's having keen insight. It's having shrewdness, or a sharpness. It's not just saying, "Let's just take the Gospel message and throw it out and see where it sticks." We have to be as harmless as a dove; but we have to be as shrewd as a snake. Here's what I want you to notice about the world. I brought up poverty, population and about crime. But when you think about this world spiritually, you and I are going out into a world filled with spiritual wolves. What that shows me is this: This world is not only filled with wolves but cults. They are breeding rapidly in this world.
Our task is more difficult today than let’s say 20 years ago. Besides that, non Christian religions are making roads into Christian places like they never have before. Most of us here in the United States think we are a Christian nation. But after looking in the Encyclopedia of American Religions today, I find that 1600 denominations are listed, of which 44% are non-Christian. So I think it would be foolish for us to say that the world is a wonderful place in which to live, that all we have to do is go out there and everyone's going to accept our message of salvation and they'll be happy that we've told them that they were sinners. It's just not going to happen.
That's why Jesus says, "You have to be as wise as a serpent." You have to have the desire to make a difference. But at the same time, and I fail miserably here at times, and if you are honest with yourself, most of you do too. It is a learning process you have to be unadulterated. You have to be pure. You have to be gentle. You have to be compassionate. And everything we know about Jesus, in going to His world of wolves, was that He had keen insight about what the world was. He wasn't fooled at all by this world. But at the same time, He was very, very loving toward them. I Have prayed hard and long during my much alone time traveling this week on what to say at my dads funeral Tuesday. I think there may be people giving their hearts to the Lord, Praise Jesus.
Jesus’ view of the world was very realistic. He saw the need, the challenge, and that it would be hard. He saw the wolves for what they were. When we look at things that are real, many times our response is fear. We retreat or feel defeated before we even begin. I think the problem is that that's our natural response. We tend to focus on the hugeness of our challenge instead of the hugeness of our God and His ability to help us meet that challenge. But let's face it, our first, our natural response to the world around us is fear. Fear of failure. And that's why it's so important to remember that we do have a secret weapon, something the world doesn't have or doesn't even know about. And that's the power of God's Holy Spirit. Never forget, "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." And also “you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you”.
I gave statistics on the growth of cults and different types of churches in the last few years. How do we handle those without developing a sort of spiritual quarantine to protect our theology or practice? The last thing we want to do is quarantine our faith. Jesus calls us to share our faith, not to seal it up and protect it. That's why it's so important (I think vitally important) that we build a strong faith so we have the strength necessary to handle the cults and the aberrations of true Christianity. That strong faith comes through getting to know God better. Friends, the only way to get to know God better and build your faith is to meaningfully engage Him. Daily engage Him in His Word and in prayer. I can’t stress this enough. I, through every Bible study that I have led and blogs that I write, when teaching how to get to know God better and to see Him work in your life isn't just to tell you what to do. It's the key to living the Christian life successfully.
If you asked people what is our greatest need, you'd hear things like better education, good jobs, more money, or maybe an end to poverty or cancer. We are all born with the same need. The need for a Savior. And Jesus is our only Savior. How do we present Jesus as the solution to mankind's greatest need?
Our view of the world should match up with Jesus' view. And He certainly saw it as needy. But He also said it would not give us a warm welcome. But instead of treating people as enemies or as adversaries, I think we need to do what Jesus did. We need to have compassion on them. This is a scary world. This is a dangerous world. This is a needy world. But it's a world we have to take the message to. So let's go back one chapter and today find out how Jesus saw the needs of people in this world. Matthew 9:36-38: "But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them” I want you to put that on the front burner of your mind. Jesus saw the world filled with wolves, and He had compassion for them "because they were weary and scattered like sheep, having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.'"
Lets see some more scripture in Matthew. I want you to see the compassion of Jesus. Matthew 14:13-14 When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. (14) And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. What I want you to see here again is the word compassion, and what immediately happened after this, the feeding of the five thousand. Why did Jesus feed these people? Because of His compassion.
Go next to Matthew 15:30-32: "And great crowds came to Him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at His feet, and He healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel. Then Jesus called his disciples to Him and said, 'I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.'"
There it is again—"compassion." Only this time Jesus is feeding the four thousand, different from the feeding of the five thousand.
Let's look at 1 more. Matthew 20:29-34: "And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, 'Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!' The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, 'Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!' And stopping, Jesus called them and said, 'What do you want me to do for you?' They said to him, 'Lord, let our eyes be opened.' And Jesus in pity [with compassion] touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed Him." Again, notice that before Jesus did any of these things (things that helped people in general), there is this note about His motivation. And His motivation is always compassion. The motivation for you and me to share our faith with our neighbors and our family and our friends is always compassion. But let's make sure we understand what compassion is.
Compassion is not something people are born with. Compassion is something that is generated when we see a need and we fill our heart with the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me just define what compassion is and compare it to something else. If you see a person who has a need and you help that person, it may be because that person is one you just simply have pity for. You see a stray dog. You take that dog in. That's not necessarily compassion. That's pity. I'm going to show you an example of this in the Bible.
Remember the story of Pharaoh's daughter when she found Moses in the bullrushes? Exodus 2:6 says that she had compassion on the baby Moses. But the word that is used there is the word for pity, not for compassion. So the reason she took the baby out was not because she loved the baby. She took the baby out because she pitied this poor little child.
Jehovah God always has more than pity on us. He has compassion on us. Psalm 78:38, He was full of compassion for He forgave Israel's iniquities and did not destroy them. God did not pity Israel because Israel was so frequently in God's face and doing things that disturbed God. He forgave their iniquities because He had compassion on them. He loved them.
So compassion is more than pity, first of all. Just feeling sorry for someone is not compassion. You don't take the message of salvation to a neighbor because you feel sorry for them. You take that message because you feel compassion for them.
Secondly, compassion is more than feelings anyway. We have a tendency to relate compassion with the love songs that we have heard or the love letters that we get.
Second Kings 13:23 describes God's feelings toward Israel: "But the Lord was gracious toward them and had compassion for them . . . ."
Graciousness and compassion in this verse have nothing to do with His feelings. It has to do with His relationship with them. In fact, Lamentations 3:32, says of God, that though He brings grief, He will show compassion. So great is His unfailing love.
Rather than say, "Oh, you poor thing, I'm going to share the Gospel with you," you may bring grief to your neighbor in telling your neighbor that he is doing something wrong, that he is displeasing to God. But you're doing that because of your intense love for that neighbor, your great compassion for that neighbor. Compassion arises more from unfailing commitment to people than it does for feelings for people.
Number one, compassion is not just pity; it's a lot more than pity. Number two, it's more commitment. I'm going to be compassionate. It's more commitment than it is feeling.
Then here's a third thing that I think distinguishes compassion and pity. Compassion arises more from our character than it does from our concern. Why are some people more compassionate than others? If we factor out the pity factor (that is to say, some people appear to be compassionate because they have more pity), some actually do have compassion because of their character. It has nothing to do their upbringing. It has nothing to do with their station in life.
Luke 10:30-36: "Then Jesus answered and said, 'A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. [Here's the Good Samaritan—ready for this?] But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you. [Jesus asks] So which of these three do you think was a neighbor to him who fell among thieves?'"
What we have here are two religious leaders who passed by on the other side of the road because they don't care at all about this poor beaten man. Then, we have a Samaritan, who was not privileged in life, but he is the Good Samaritan because he had a character that said to him, "I cannot go on without helping this person." He had compassion on him.
Are we learning the heart of Jesus here? Compassion arises more out of character than it does out of the fluttering of the heart. So when we want to be like Jesus, we're not looking at feeling like Jesus. We're looking at having the character that Jesus had in which He saw the world as filled with wolves and, yet, loved them and was willing to die for them.
Should we have compassion for just those that are sick or poor? I don't think it's wise to categorize or prioritize need. Need is need, and it's wherever we find it. One day our compassion may be needed for a neighbor who has lost his or her job. They need a basket of groceries. The day after that it may be for a woman who has been abused by her husband. She is in need of encouragement, maybe even direction to help her cope appropriately with her situation. It may be, like right now, I feel the need to lay hands and pray for a brother that has an injury. The gospel is the answer to all of our needs. It's the answer to our physical needs, emotional needs and spiritual needs. Everything.
Matthew 28, the last chapter in Matthew. Let me just read half a dozen verses here (1-6 ): "Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow (it must have been quite a sight Can you imagine?) And the guards shook for fear of Him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come see the place where the Lord lay.'"
Let me stop there. Isn't it interesting that this angel is so careful of his grammar when he speaks to these women? I don't see angels going to grammar school. It's just not the kind of image I have of angels. But when he talks to these women about the Lord Jesus, he says, "I know why you are here. You are here to seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here for He is risen."
In light of this; in light of what Jesus has taught (and these women were around to hear it); in light of what Jesus has done (and these women were around to see it—died for our sins on the cross); in light of that, what is the challenge given to these women that ultimately is the challenge to you and me in the this day? It's twofold, and here it is, very plain, verse 6, the challenge is this: First, "Come, see the place where the Lord lay."
I think it is important, if you and I are going to share our faith with others, we need to spend significant time in God's Word, absorbing the whole message of the Gospel, so that when we tell the message of the Gospel, we are so familiar with it, it just kind of rolls off the tongue. It's a part of who we are. Also for all of us to be prayer warriors, and used to being in communication with God the Father.
So he says to the women, "First of all, I want you to come and look into this tomb, look into this grave. I want you to see first that Jesus is not there." And that's the most important thing for you and me when we're testifying of our faith to others. We are absolutely convinced that Jesus is alive today. He's not in some Palestinian grave somewhere. We need to look into that tomb and be convinced so when the cultists come to our door, or when other religions challenge our faith in Jesus Christ, we're not saying, Umm, I’m not sure. We are sure, because we've been in God's Word.
So he says, first of all, "Come and look into this tomb. Come and see for yourself." That's the challenge of the soul, getting our soul ready to witness. That's number one.
Look at example number two, verse 7, “And go quickly and tell His disciples.” You and I cannot be effective going to tell others of the Lord Jesus until we have first come to see for ourselves. We need to be full of Him ourselves, before we go and tell others.
However, coming and seeing doesn't get the job done either. You can't hang out around the tomb. You have to leave the tomb, like you have to leave church, like you have to leave your Bible study group. You have to leave that at some point and go out and tell the friends that you have what Jesus has done for you.
So if coming and seeing is the challenge of the soul, going and telling is also the challenge of the soul. It's walking away from where you are comfortable and going and telling people about the Lord Jesus.
Come and see; then go and tell. That's our challenge in sharing Gospel. How do we make sure that we cover both sides of the mission? Because some of us are really good at knowing the Word, getting into the Word, but to leave the study part and go and tell is really scary. Or there are others who are fine with talking to people but they haven't really got a foundation beyond the few things they know. We have to take both sides of this equation equally seriously. We cannot just memorize a few scriptures and then just charge out into the world ready to win it for the Savior. That just doesn't work. It's also a source of a great deal of discouragement and disappointment for people who try to do it that way. We need to fill our lives with Christ first. Not so much with answers, but with the mind of Christ. And then we'll be ready to tackle the world. On the other hand, we can't marry ourselves to our quiet time, in prayer and never leave our sanctuary, because the world doesn't live in our sanctuary. The challenge here is for us to see the world as Jesus sees it and to handle it with compassion. I like this saying “But the one option Jesus doesn't give us as Christians is to ignore the need or to stick our heads in the sand and do nothing. Heads in the sand only get grains in the ears. They don't get light to the world.”
So we need to adopt Jesus’ strategies for engaging the world in a way that enables us to meet them at the point of their need with the compassion of the Savior and the salvation of God. Amen?
My brothers and sisters, do you want to see God really work in your life? Dig into your Bibles daily. Pray daily. Share the Gospel daily. Learn to love those that you have had a hard time to be around. Learn how to honestly walk, talk and through our actions act as Jesus did. Let us learn to have the mind of Christ. Let us learn how to let the Holy Spirit guide us in all we do. Amen?