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.