12/11/2016

How To Know What's Going On (James 1:5-12)

(A Question that God is Always Happy to Answer)

"If any one of you falls short in wisdom, they should ask God for it, and it will be given them. God, after all, gives generously and ungrudgingly to all people."

In the first sermon, Horrible Days (Jas 1:1-4) or The Way to Maturity and Completeness, James tells us that horrible days and hardships, trials and tribulations should be thought through thoroughly. We should count and consider them as something positive, even joyful, for that is God's way to bless us with what we truly need in life: perseverance (patience, endurance)--which in God's time will lead to maturity (perfection) and completeness, not lacking in anything.
Even Jesus was such a man who went through hell. He endured the cross and made light of its shame (Heb 12:2). As a result, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Heb 5:8) and became a source of blessing to all people (Heb 5:9).

This second sermon is How To Know What's Going On (James 1:5-12) or A Question that God is Always Happy to Answer. Here, James tells us what to do when we are not able to figure out what the heck is going on with us or with the world when we encounter hardship and difficulties, disappointments and despondency, trials and tribulations.
"If any one of you falls short in wisdom, they should ask God for it, and it will be given them. God, after all, gives generously and ungrudgingly to all people. But they should ask in faith, with no doubts. A person who doubts is like a wave of the sea which the wind blows and tosses about. Someone like that should not suppose they will receive anything from the Lord, since they are double-minded and unstable in everything they do.

Brothers and sisters who find themselves impoverished should celebrate the fact that they have risen to this height -- and those who are rich that they are brought down low, since the rich will disappear like a wildflower. You see, the rich will be like the grass: when the sun rises with its scorching heat, it withers the grass so that its flower droops and all its fine appearance comes to nothing. That's what it will be like when the rich wither away in the midst of their busy lives.

God's blessing on the man who endures testing! When he has passed the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:5-12, N.T. Wright).
Today, we live in a generation of TMI--too much information. It is inundating, overwhelming and even paralyzing to have TMI coming from all four corners of the earth thrown at us every single day. So we feel the urge to know what's going on everywhere as much as possible. Yet we know that most of this information has little to no relevance to us whatsoever. Do we really need to know with much detail and speculation what is going on with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's divorce and their custody battle over their six children?? Do we need to know who Justin Bieber's latest girlfriend is, or that Prince Harry's latest girlfriend and possible wife is an American actress? Do we need to be obsessed with the Cubs in the off season before opening day 2017? There's just surely TMI "out there."

But there is one particular knowledge that is most crucial for all God's people to know. It is to know what God may be doing in our own hearts and lives. We need to prayerfully figure out what God's purpose and goal may be when we encounter situations in our life, both good and bad.

God often purposely does something in our lives to remove an area of immaturity or deficiency in us. He sends us certain trials or circumstances to work on something that is lacking in us. The trials are designed to make us more mature, fully complete in godliness and no longer lacking in any area (Jas 1:4). That's why James says that we should consider painful trials as "pure joy" (Jas 1:2, NIV), "all joy" (Jas 1:2, ESV) and "great joy" (Jas 1:2, HCSB).

As a result, this important question should be raised, "What is it in me that is immature or incomplete that God needs to work on? What am I lacking that he has to let me face this difficult trial?" So we live with some lingering feeling of not knowing what the heck is going on with us. So what should we do about not knowing what's going on?"

James says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you" (Jas 1:5, NIV).

This is not a promise for students to get an A after not studying or doing one's homework. This is also not a promise for wisdom in general. Rather, in keeping with the theme of James (trials and tribulations), this is a promise for wisdom about why your trial is occurring. If you don't know or are not sure what God is doing in your life, ask him. If you lack wisdom as to what area of your life God is trying to make more godly and Christlike, ask him. God is more than happy to always answer such questions generously!

"Generously" means that God will gladly give you what you need to know freely, quickly and without hesitation. God is delighted to do it. It's there just for the asking. That's how much God wants to answer you/me when we ask him about how and in what areas He wants us to mature and be more patient, godly and Christlike. God is open-handed. He wants to give us all the wisdom that we want to know about our present difficult trial.

God not only gives generously and openhandedly, but he also gives without making you feel bad in the process--he doesn't find fault (Jas 1:5). God doesn't want to make us feel bad that there's still some sin, some immaturity or lack of wholeness that needs addressing. No, God never finds fault, unlike we humans who seemingly love to find fault with others and regard them in the worst possible light.

Always ask God for wisdom about your trial. God will always give it generously, openhandedly amd without finding fault.

How does this work? How does God give us the wisdom we're asked for? How does he reveal what the trial is accomplishing?

Trials often involve a deteriorating relationship with another person in the church. We think that our problem (or needless trial) is because of something that someone else is saying or doing that affects us. But James says that it is because we want something, and we think that he or she is keeping us from having it (Jas 4:1-2a). We may want a big church, a thriving ministry, or at the very least a reputation as a respected and influential Christian. We're got all this pride and ambition and ego but someone else in the church is saying and doing things and is stopping it from happening. So God allows some other Christian to deal with our own pride, ambition and ego.

But for God to give us wisdom as to why our trial is happening there is one condition. We must come to ask Him with a trusting, believing heart (Jas 1:6-8). We must come convinced that whatever is happening, God is being good to us and we must not doubt at all that he is working good in our life. We must come with a gentle, yielded spirit (Mt 11:28-30).

If we want God's wisdom,we can't come with a quarrelsome, argumentative, rebellious, defiant, bitter attitude. If we doubt that God is doing something good through the trial, we'll not get an answer or a sense of direction. We'll never know what's going on, and we'll keep blaming others in the church and lash out in all directions--like a wave of the sea (Jas 1:6).

Double-minded (Jas 1:8) means that you're unable to decide whether the trial is God working on something in you (it always is!), or just the result of other stupid people. We must always settle in our mind that God is always working good in our life (Rom 8:28), and that he's in control of what's happening and that his goal is to bring you to maturity and completeness (Jas 1:4). We must never ever doubt that God is good (Jas 1:6), especially when we are going through some painful trial (Jas 1:2). We must trust God with a believing heart (Prov 3:5) and willingly hear God's wisdom and persevere with him until his good work is accomplished (Jas 1:3).

James goes on to give some examples of the kind of wisdom God will give in a trial: Someone who's gone a long time without having enough money (Jas 1:9a). What should they do? Be more impressed with the eternal riches that God has given them (Jas 1:9b). The next example is someone who's lost a lot of money recently (Jas 1:10). Instead of complaining about their declining and dwindling finances they should realize more deeply that it is what's done for eternity that matters. No matter how much one has or how rich one is, someday it will all disappear and perish (Jas 1:11).

Consider it pure joy whenver you're facing a trial (Jas 1:2). God is making you mature and complete (Jas 1:4), which is what we truly long to be whether we know it or not. God desires that we look more and more like his Son and receive the crown of life (Jas 1:12).

"The crown of life" is not eternal life. We don't get eternal life by persevering in a trial (Jas 1:3), but by faith in Christ as our Savior (Jn 3:16). The crown of life is what you receive as you move through the experiences of life. In the NT world, the crown was a garland of leaves that was placed on the victor's head, a circle of flowers on the head of the wedding couple, a lacework of gold that the king wore in his coronation parade. The crown meant that you were the center of admiring attention, that you were full of joy, and that everyone around you acknowledged that great fortune had come to your life.

The crown of life is what God is promising, if we will let him finish his good work in us!