Friday, August 05, 2005

James 1:12



I know that in yesterdays post I said that I would do a few more book reviews today, however something else has come up in my mind. To be honest with you it has really been one of those crazy weeks. One of those weeks where you are not even sure what day it is, but you know it should be later in the week than it is. But everything has happened on schedule. And it just happen to be that as I have been living in this week (as I trust most of you are) that I have been preparing to teach on James 1:12 Sunday. Oh the joys of expository teaching. What a wonderful thing God has done in my life, if I can only hold on to his glorious gospel with white knuckles I know that I will be ok. If I can just put away this silly American dream, remember that God doesn't plan the ends without the means, and see things from God's perspective...

Well this is my first draft on James 1:12. All of you English teachers out there please be merciful, it has been one of those weeks (see above).



James 1:12


In this first chapter of James we have talked about some pretty radical things. We are to consider it a joy when we go through all kinds of trials. We are to glory in being poor, and consider our lowness in human riches. What James is saying is that we should view see the world upside down. Poverty = Riches! Wisdom = foolishness! Weakness = Strength! This is a pretty amazing way to see the world. We as Christians are to see the world as few in its history have. If at any point you have wondered why James was able to write these remarkable things, this is the reason. His view of the world was so consistently Christian that trials did not worry him. At the risk of sounding extreme, we should have this same view of the world. Do you really want to do this Christianity thing? Do you want to stop playing around with Church, and commit your life to Christ? If you really want this here is what will happen: you will gain all the riches of eternity and the freedom of a relationship with Christ. However, be fore warned, you may loose everything else that you have ever held dear in your life. But the point is that it does not matter. We have an eternal inheritance, and full hope that should not only counterbalance our loss of earthly things but tip the scale over on its side. When you really think about it I am not encouraging you to see the world upside down, actually I am encouraging you to stop seeing the world upside down. This world is not about this world. There is an age to come and this is what James has been talking about this entire chapter.

Notice here that James’ language resembles very much the language of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount passage. Blessed is the person who endures trials. Have you really wrapped you mind around this idea? No matter what you are going through right now you have a life of joy available to you. You have the offer of wisdom through trials, and glory in highness or lowness. What a joy it is to know that you have a savior working in your life. What a wisdom that comes from seeing the difficulties of this world in light of eternity. This is the eschatological blessedness that we spoke of last week. This blessedness comes to those who wait for God’s salvation to deliver them from their trials. Look at what Romans 4:7-8 say. The person whose sins have been forgiven is the blessed person. Are you depending on God’s salvation in your trials? Do you even remember God’s salvation when you go through a trial? If you can somehow figure out a way to flip the way you view the world upside down you can be the blessed person. You can have an inner quality of life, a joy, which is not dependent upon your circumstances. Job 5:17 tells us that the man whom God punishes, and disciplines is happy. He is happy because he knows that God is doing a work in him, and correcting areas of his life that fall short of God’s holy standards. Do you hate to be punished, or are you like the man who understands the work God is doing and is joyful about it? If you are anything like me you are thinking of all the times in your life that you got into a difficult situation and forgot the salvation that God had provided for you. Thankfully failure can be repented of, and reversed. Thankfully God will give us another opportunity to go through a trial. The person who consistently endures is blessed because he has been made righteous through the blood of Christ. Do you struggle with a feeling of unrest, do you have a lack of joy in your life, do you feel lonely, anxious and fearful? Maybe you struggle with these things because you are not taking full advantage of the trials that God has put in your life. For when we endure through a trial, depending on the ever present Grace of God, a work is being done within us and we will be the recipients of God’s favor.


When we read verse 2 again after this verse we realize that a trial is an occasion for joy because it is an opportunity to endure. The blessed man is the one who does not give up when he is confronted with trying circumstances, but remains strong in faith and devotion to God. A good example of this can be found in the contrast between Peter, and the followers of Christ described in John 6:66. It is important to understand that those who endure a trial are blessed, not those who go through a trial. We can really look at this from two different angles. 1) If someone is a true believer like Peter he may mess up in the midst of a trial, but ultimately he will remember the salvation that he forgot in the midst of the trial. In this sense all true believers will endure in the long run. If you will, take notice that those disciples who left Christ when he began to face opposition are never heard from again. 2) There is another way that those who endure trials are blessed. The believer who, in the midst of his situation, sees God at work and allows God to accomplish his purpose will be that man of Job 5:17 who is happy with the correction of God. This person will be blessed because he is allowing God to work for his sanctification. Unless you have this attitude you will be like the child who continually is punished for the same thing until there is change. Are you enduring?


This man who never relinquishes his faith is a true believer. Through God’s Grace he will persevere, and ultimately stand approved before the throne of God. His willingness to remain in the midst of trials proves that his faith was real, and that he was not a pretender. He has been put through the fire, and his faith has withstood the test. Look at what Peter says in 1 Peter 1:3-5. Peter makes it very clear that the heavenly inheritance of the saints is secure. There is nothing that can destroy it because, unlike the riches of the world, it is imperishable and undefiled. Perseverance may be the most important of all the doctrines concerning our salvation. If we can loose our salvation what good are all the other doctrines? If Christ’s sacrifice was not enough to save us; and God’s promise of an inheritance not enough to assure us of heaven what good would is it to believe any of it? This perseverance is the reason for our blessedness. Because God has made a provision for us in Christ we can be certain that He will fulfill His promise when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The endurance of this man is proof that God has done a work in this man’s life. For apart from the work of God no man could endure. The testing has effectively demonstrated his character as firm and reliable. Each new test proves fidelity to God, and contributes to his approved faithfulness.


As a man approved before God, preserved until the end, this man will receive the crown of life. This man will receive the eternal life that is promised to those who truly love God. Look at what Romans 8:28-29 say about this. If you are one of God’s children then he is working in you life, and will not stop working until you have been glorified in His eternal kingdom. This is the focus that James wants us to have in the midst of trials. Even if you are not wise enough to see it God is working in the lives of those who love Him. And, in James’ thinking, love for God is displayed by what we do not what we say. 1 John 4:8 teaches us what true biblical love is. Before we get confused lets take a minute and think this through: we are saved by faith not of our works, and we receive God’s grace when we identify ourselves with Christ’s work through faith, our faith will result in our endurance (perseverance). So our endurance is a byproduct of God’s work in our life, and our love for God is the external proof of God’s work in our life.
James does not say that God will give us eternal life because we have endured. James tells us that when we stand approved before God we will receive the crown of life. Eternal life is not earned through human effort, but our endurance in the midst of trial is proof that we have eternal life. Our perseverance attests to God’s work in our life, and God’s work in our live proves his approval, and God’s approval brings the crown of life.


Do you realize how amazing this verse is? Not just this verse, but the whole Gospel. Because of the work that Christ has done we will stand approved before the throne of God. We have been declared righteous, and our future reward is yet to come. If we can just fathom a fraction of this glorious message we can turn our world upside down and see things the way God does.

2 Comments:

Blogger Sue said...

Amen and Amen. And when we endure the trials, not only is that God's proof of His approval of us, but it's also our way of showing those who are watching that our God is real - so real that we can confidently endure, and even rejoice in, the trials He sends our way. When I was a unbeliever and saw that, I wanted it. What a great God we serve! Thanks for the post.

9/8/05 12:27 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Sue,

There is no doubt that our endurance proves God's Work in our life. For apart from God's grace we could not endure.


Paul

10/8/05 7:38 AM  

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