A Lesson in Everything Count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds. (James 1:2)
With every tragedy or crisis comes a valuable lesson. At the time of grief or sadness, the lesson might be hidden. When one has a chance to reflect and sort things out, the lesson will be revealed in full measure.
You will be able to handle life difficulties and disappointments better if you know there is a lesson in them for you to learn. That lesson will teach you to do better next time, to make wiser decisions, or to develop a more meaningful relationship with God. There is always a positive outcome.
It is no wonder that James, the brother of Jesus could tell us to "count it all joy when we are faced with trials of many kinds." He knew about lessons in tragedies. He experienced a big one first hand. He did not know his brother was the Messiah on Friday when Jesus was crucified, but by Sunday when God raised Jesus from the dead, it was no doubt in James' mind. He knew his brother was who He said He was — the Messiah who had come to save the world. Through the death of his own brother, James came to believe and was converted. That was James' lesson. What's yours?
In Hot Water
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. (James 1:2)
It is amazing that when you put an egg in hot water, it gets hard. When you put a carrot in hot water it gets soft. When you put a tea bag in hot water it gets strong. Have you ever noticed what happens to you when you get in hot water whether by the hands of someone else or by your own choices?
Being in hot water simply means being in a situation you can't handle on your own that is sure to bring devastation to you and to those you care about. The hotter the water, the worse you feel. The hotter the water, the more you become afraid and panic. However, being in hot water might not be a bad thing. When you are in hot water, you pray more powerful prayers. When you are in hot water, you are forced to focus on God more than usual. When you are in hot water, stress is turned into surrender. When you are in hot water, allow God to take over your situation, you and your hot water.
In the natural, remember this about being in hot water: It is like getting into a tub of hot water. Once you are in it for a while, it isn't so hot any more. In the spirit realm, being in hot water is where God can toughen up soft hearts (like the egg), soften up hard hearts (like the carrot) and make weak hearts strong (like the tea bag). Each one of these item fulfills its purpose when it is in hot water. This might just be the case with you. God can mold you into shape much easier when you are in hot water!
Paths Without Obstacles Don't Lead Anywhere
Count it all joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials [obstacles] of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
Have you ever tried to climb a smooth mountain? You must admit a smooth mountain can be quite slippery. Wouldn't the rough side of the mountain be better for the placement of your feet as you make the ascent to the top?
Paths that lead somewhere are rough and have obstacles. In order to get to the promised land, the Israelites had to wander through the wilderness and face many obstacles along the way.
John L. Mason, in his book, "Let GO of Whatever Makes You STOP" says, "A man with twenty challenges is twice as alive as a man with ten. If you haven't got any challenges, you should get down on your knees and ask, "Lord, don't you trust me anymore?"
If you find a path with no obstacles, it certainly won't lead you to anything significant. What do you do on the path with obstacles? Turn them into opportunities. The obstacles might be in your path for God to see how you will respond. It might be God's way of determining if you really can turn those obstacles into opportunities.
Are obstacles in your path? Then count it all joy. You are on the right path for an opportunity.
The trying of your faith worketh patience. (James 1:2-4)
You probably find your patience tested in some way every day. Thank God for difficult life opportunities that help you to grow knowing that you can deal with them only in God's power, not in your own strength. We rejoice in life challenges not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know God is using life's difficulties and Satan's attacks to build our character. Our problems develop our perseverance, which in turn will strengthen our character, deepen our trust in God, and give us greater confidence.
In the future we will BECOME, but until then we must OVERCOME.
Are You Double-Minded?
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. (James 1:6-8)
To waver is to straddle the fence. To waver is to say "yes" one moment and "no" the next moment. To waver is to limp between two opinions. To waver is to avoid taking a stand for one thing or the other. To waver is to vacillate irresolutely between choices. To waver is to fluctuate in opinion, allegiance, or direction. To waver is to weave or sway unsteadily to and fro. A mind that wavers is not completely made up and convinced that God will do what He says He will do. Based on the above scripture, there are no blessings for wavering.
Doubting is a form of wavering. Doubting is praying to God for something and then believing He won't do it. According to the above scripture, those who doubt will receive nothing from the Lord. This is not because God can't or won't do it; it is because the doubting has blocked the blessing. So why pray if you will doubt God's power and willingness to answer your prayers?
Are you double-minded and would like to do something about it? To stabilize the wavering and doubting mind, simply commit yourself wholeheartedly to God. Trust Him and never doubt. Believe that God can and will do what He says.
Trials and Temptations
For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. (James 1:13-14)
What is the difference between trials and temptations? A trial or test is a situation in which God gives a person an opportunity to do something right. A temptation is a situation when Satan tries to get a person to do something wrong.
God NEVER tries to trip us up. But He does allow tough circumstances to build our character and maturity. God DOES NOT tempt us by trying to seduce us into sin. God does test us, but He does not tempt us. Temptations come from the evil desire within us, not from God.
It is so easy for us to follow Flip Wilson's rationale that "the devil made me do it." Yes, there is a constant battle going on within us and God allows Satan to tempt us, but our spiritual maturity and faith in God will help us to stay on the Lord's side. So, recognize it when the devil tempts you. Fight back by focusing on God and obeying Him in all situations. "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
The Snowball Effect
Temptation itself is not a sin. Remember Jesus was tempted, but he never sinned (Matthew 4:1-11). The sinful nature is an easy target for temptation because it acts on evil desires. Temptation brings to life an evil thought that becomes sin as we dwell on that thought and allow it to become an action. Like a snowball rolling downhill, sin's destruction grows the more we let sin have its way.
The best time to stop a snowball is at the top of the hill, before it is too big or moving too fast to control.
Selecting the Right Gift
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights. (James 1:17)
Many of us have no problem giving gifts to others to help them celebrate special occasions. No doubt it is convenient to tuck a card with money in an envelope to give someone for a birthday, graduation, retirement, wedding, or new baby. A more modern method of gift giving is to use gift registries. The internet and most stores have gift registries where the honorees select their own gifts for others to give them. While this makes it possible for the receivers to get exactly what they want, a limitation has been placed on the givers' imagination, creativity and choices.
Praise God, we couldn't select our own gift for salvation. More than likely, it would NOT have been Jesus. We probably would have chosen the royal; not the lowly Jesus. We probably would have chosen what comes with all the frills of richness and beauty; not the humble Jesus. Thank God, the choice wasn't ours to make. God knew what was best for us. He sent His only begotten Son as a lamb to be slaughtered. Jesus came in humility and died with humility. Thank God, we had no choice in selecting our Savior. That's why the gift of salvation is perfect . . . without human interference. Jesus: the right gift; the perfect gift; the ultimate gift. Jesus: the gift where one size fits all.
Good Listening Advice
Everyone should be quick to listen and slow to speak. (James 1:19)
Every Christian is called to a ministry of encouragement which involves a certain degree of counseling and giving advice. However, the major key in any type of counseling is the skill of attentive listening. Typically, we don't listen as much as we should. We are too eager to speak to let people know what we think.
Based of the words of James, let us challenge ourselves to listen twice as much as we speak. After all, God gave us one mouth and two ears. Simply put, we should speak half as much as we listen.
In summary, let's cut our speaking in half while doubling our listening skills.
Be ye doers of the Word, not just hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)
It is extremely important to study God's Word and to hear God's Word, but it is also important to do what God's Word says. We can only measure the effectiveness of our study of God's Word by the effect it has on our behavior and attitudes. Do you put into action what you have studied, or heard? Or does God's Word go into one ear and out the other?
Working As A CIA
But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. (James 2:18)
When two people are getting acquainted, one of the first questions they ask each other is: "Where do you work?" Thank God it is not: "Do you work?" For the Bible says, "If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat." (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
Yes, most of us work or have retired from working. However, there is a job that no Christian should retire from. Every Christian should work as a CIA (Christian in Action). Every Christian should be active in the things of God. Every Christian should work FROM his faith not FOR his faith.
Some people think Paul and James are contradicting each other. Paul says we are not saved by works but by grace. "Now if by grace, then it is not by works; otherwise grace ceases to be grace." (Romans 11:6) We are not to work FOR our salvation; we are to work BECAUSE of our salvation. On the other hand, James says, "Foolish man! Are you willing to learn that faith without works is useless?" (James 2:20) This merely means that if we have faith, our works should demonstrate it. The two men did not contradict each other; rather they complemented each other.
How do you describe your work? Unless you work by faith as a CIA, your work is useless.
The Weight of Our Words
We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. (James 3:2)
As Christians, we should be mindful of what we think, what we say, and what we do. What we do is oftentimes a result of what we think and what we say. Just as we can call forth blessings, the universe does not make a distinction. We can also call forth curses. Let's be more aware of what we say.
Words carry a lot of weight. In the above scripture, James tell us that we stumble in many ways. We can stumble under the weight of our own words. The word "stumble" means "to fall or to trip." One little trip can do a lot of damage. The word "perfect" means "complete" or "mature." We are not spiritually mature when we say things to cause ourselves or others to trip or stumble. Therefore, controlled speech is a measure of maturity.
The next time you think an evil thought, nip it in the bud right then and there by reading and embracing Philippians 4:8, "Whatsoever things are true . . . , think on these things." The next time you attempt to say an unkind word, remember Proverbs 18:21 "Death and life are in the power of the tongue." So speak life; not death. And if you have stopped the thought and refrained from speaking, more than likely the evil act will never take place.
Yes, our words have impact not only on those who hear us speak, but they also have a great impact upon ourselves as well. Our words do have weight.
Out of the Same Mouth
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? (James 3:9-11)
James, the brother of Jesus, points out the many dangers of the tongues in Chapter 3 of the book that bears his name. In the above verses, James specifically says we ought not to use the same mouth to both praise God and curse men that God has created. Later in the same chapter, James asks the question, "Can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?" to show us how unnatural it is to praise God and curse men with the same mouth.
To praise God and to curse men with the same mouth is opposite and contrary to each other. We use our mouths to praise God which is a good thing. Then we turn around and use the same mouth to curse his creatures which is an evil thing. James calls this an inconsistency and says it ought not to be. He says a fountain does not give out two kinds of waters. Neither does a tree bear two opposite kinds of fruits. Nor should the mouth bear both blessing and cursing, good and evil.
Let praises for God and His creatures come from your mouth. And since you have only one mouth, do not use the same mouth to lie, gossip, and speak evil of God or His creatures.
And now say like the psalmist, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)
Hearing and Doing
Do not mere listen to the word, and so deceive yourself. Do what it says. (James 3:22)
We all agree that "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." So hearing the preached word will certainly help us build up our faith, but that's only part of what God wants. We MUST do something after hearing the word. We should be provoked by the Sunday sermon to go out and put the sermon into action. In other words, after we HEAR the word, we should DO the word.
James tells us that hearing the word is a way to increase our faith. However, we shouldn't stop with just having faith. We should use our faith to go much further. Having faith definitely pleases God (Hebrews 11:6), but in order to have the righteous life God desires we should use that faith.
We are not blessed by an increased faith. We are blessed by what we do for the kingdom of God. (James 3:25)
Some Reasons We Have Not
You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3)
According to the above two verses, there are main reasons we do not have. James, the brother of Jesus, tells us that we have not because we ask not. We think about what we need, we tell others what we need, but we don't go directly to the source...God. Let's start asking God for the exact things we want.
Another reason we do not have is because when we ask, we ask with the wrong motives. The wrong motives include asking for things that are not lined up with God's word and His will. Instead, we want to receive from God so that our pleasures may be enhanced. Let's stop asking with the wrong motives.
Let's be specific by asking God for what we want. Let's make sure what we ask for lines up with God's word. Let's ask for things that will build the Kingdom of God instead of spending it on our own pleasures.
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
How much of what you hear during the day worthy of listening to? Not everything you hear is beneficial to your spiritual development. With all the chit-chat going on in your office, some times you have to turn a deaf ear. With all the bickering going on in your household, some times you have to hear but don't hear. Whenever people gossip and try to get you to become a part of it, take this advice: "Don't listen!" Don't give the devil a foothold into your life. When people try to fill your mind with lies and want you to agree with them, "Don't listen!" Tune the devil out by focusing on God. Resist the devil, and those devil-speaking people will flee from you.
No Legal Ground
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Satan is always waging war against God's people. He is always battling against those who are on the Lord's side. To withstand these attacks, we must depend on God's strength. We win the battle with Satan by taking heed to James 4:7. First, we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. We make sure we are covered and safe in the arms of God. Being in that position will give us the power to resist the devil. Without God on our side, resisting the devil is difficult.
We should give the devil no legal right to enter our lives. He is forever looking for a window or a door to be open where he can enter. He is always looking for strategies to gain a foothold. When sin is in our lives, the devil has legal rights to be there. We should make sure our lives are free from sin as much as possible, therefore; Satan has no legal right to enter. He will then flee because Satan will not reside where sin is not prevalent. His dwelling place is where sin is. After all, that's his legal territory.
Agents of Change
Your laughter must change to mourning and your joy to sorrow. (James 4:9)
Our lives can be compared to a kaleidoscope. No two kaleidoscopes are the same. As a matter of fact, no two pictures will ever appear to be the same on the same kaleidoscope. Why is that? Every thing that happens to us changes the picture to some degree. Any small movement of the kaleidoscope produces a different picture of what it was only moments ago.
Have you ever thought you were having just a normal day, and one telephone call or one letter or one e-mail came and changed your day from good to bad or from bad to good? At any rate, it changed your day from being just another ordinary day. An agent of change caused the picture on your kaleidoscope to be different.
What, then, is an agent of change? An agent of change is that particular instrument that effected the change. The agent of change can be large or small. There is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent changes from occurring. What, then, can you do?
You can purpose in your heart to accept the change. You can be assured that God will reveal the real purpose of the change to you. The picture on your kaleidoscope has changed from the last time you looked at it. How can I be so sure? I can be so sure because there are no stop or pause buttons on a kaleidoscope. You cannot freeze the picture to go back to it at a later time.
What does this all mean? It means that changes take place all the time. Accepting those changes and moving on indicate growth. If your kaleidoscope doesn't have a pretty picture now, give it a slight turn and look at it again. You are guaranteed to have a different picture.
Life is Short
What is your life?" You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14)
Each moment of life is a gift from God. Even so, life is short no matter how many years we live. Don't be deceived into thinking that you have lots of remaining time to live for Christ, to enjoy your loved ones, or to do what you know you should do. Live for God today! Then, no matter when your life ends, you will have fulfilled God's plan for you. Ask God to help you to realize how brief your time on earth is and to do what you were born to do (Psalm 39:4).
Do Your Best
Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)
God knows what you are capable of doing because after all, He made you. He knows when you haphazardly do something. And He knows when you have done your best. When you abuse your job, your boss might not know, but God knows. Even if you receive a good evaluation from your earthly boss, your heavenly boss has not been fooled.
You are to do your best in every task you undertake whether you are compensated for it or not. Everything you do must be done as unto God. While your family and friends might be fooled temporarily about your hypocrisy, God knows and is keeping a record of all those things you THOUGHT you got away with.
In order to please God, do your best. Do your best in your work and in your play; for the God who created you knows what you are really capable of doing.
When Doing Nothing Becomes A Sin
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. (James 4:17)
Did you know that you could sin by doing nothing? Sin begins with a choice. When you choose not to budge after God says, "Move" then you have sinned. You have sinned by omission.
When God shows you something that needs to be done and you look the other way, you have sinned. When God puts words in your mouth to speak and you hold your tongue, you have sinned. When God prompts you to give to the needy and you pretend not to hear, then you have sinned. When God tells you to do something now and you procrastinate and say you will do it later, you have sinned.
When it comes to doing the things of God, you cannot be neutral. So stop turning a blind eye, holding your tongue, and pretending to be deaf and dumb. It may not feel like sin, but doing nothing is a sin.
Behold, we count them happy which endure. (James 5:11)
Have you noticed that when people first embark about a project, a task or a new venture, they are excited and go forth with much enthusiasm? Then when reality sets in, the initial burst of enthusiasm becomes deflated like a punctured balloon. The reason for this is because they do not have staying power. What is staying power?
Staying power is simply sticking with something to the end. Staying power is hard because we never know when the end will be. It could happen the next minute or the next month. We never know if it is best to bail or safe to stay.
Staying power is having the determination to stay with something no matter what it looks like. It is having the stamina to see it through to its fruition. In order to have staying power, we must align our will with the thing we wish to accomplish. Then we press forward in spite of obstacles. Having staying power allows us to appreciate the limits for we know that overcoming each hardship puts us closer to our goal.
We may become bored, impatient, distracted and even lose faith in what we have undertaken. Disheartened, we may even give up. When realities set in whether it is in a marriage, a new job, a new ministry or a new mission, instead of looking for a way of escape, we should muster us all the staying power we have to endure until the end.
Get a fresh set of batteries and continue to stay with the thing if it is worth enduring!
Prayer is Powerful!
The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much. (James 5:16)
The Christian's most powerful resource is communion with God through prayer. The results are often greater than we thought were possible. Some people see prayer as a last resort to be tried when all else fails. This approach is backward. Prayer should come first. Because God's power is infinitely greater than ours, it only makes sense to rely on it — especially because God commanded us to do so and because Jesus, our example, did it. Our earnest prayers have powerful results. Make prayer a regular part of your life.
Why not offer a prayer to God right now!
Let Us Pray
The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous availeth much. (James 5:16)
Prayer is communication with God. There is no required length. The Bible records prayers as short as "Lord, save me" spoken by Peter when he began to sink while walking on water to longer prayers by David, Paul and Jesus.
The volume of one's prayer has no bearing on God's response. Prayers need not be loud. God is not hard of hearing. Therefore, we don't need to yell at God. Hannah prayed by merely moving her mouth to the point that Eli thought she was drunk (I Samuel 1:14).
Since prayers should be dialogues and not just monologues, we should also listen. God has something to say to us just as much as we have something to say to Him.
God delights in having His own words repeated to Him. He also delights in having us exalt Him and honor Him rather than merely making requests.
What Is An Intercessory Prayer?
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16)
An intercessory prayer is an act of petitioning God on behalf of another person or group of people. When is there a need for intercessory prayer? A person who has sinned has separated himself from God. Therefore, he needs someone to intercede for him until he is back in right relationship with God. When you ask someone to intercede on your behalf, make sure that person is in right relationship with God. Otherwise, his prayers are no more effective than yours.
What's included in an intercessory prayer? If you are praying for someone else, and you bring in your own needs, the prayer is no longer intercessory. An intercessory prayer is NEVER about your needs. It is ALWAYS about someone else's needs. True intercession is selfless. The greatest example of intercession is when Jesus petitioned God to forgive those who crucified Him. (Luke 23:34)
What can hinder the effectiveness of an intercessory prayer? The ongoing sinfulness of the person you prayed for can hinder the effectiveness of the intercessory prayer. If the person knows you will continue to intercede for him, it could give that person a license to continue sinning. God says not to pray for that person because He will not listen to you. (Jeremiah 7:16)
Make sure that when you intercede for someone, you yourself are in right standing with God and you are focusing on another's needs and not your own. Otherwise, it is NOT an intercessory prayer.
We Pray For Too Much (In the Same Prayer)
The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16)
Notice the title is NOT "We Pray Too Much." The title is "We Pray FOR Too Much (In the Same Prayer)."
I've read all the prayers of the Bible. I've heard others pray in my family, school and church. I have come to the same conclusion: We pray for too much at one time; that is, we pray for too much in the same prayer.
The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much when he focuses on one main issue. The shortest prayer in the Bible is the one Peter prayed while he was failing at walking on water. He prayed, "Lord, save me!" (Matthew 14:30) Three words. One request. That was not the time to bless his fellow disciples, or even pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
Joshua prayed for the sun to stand still. (Joshua 10:12-13) Elijah prayed and the widow's son came back to life. (1 Kings 17:19-22) Elisha prayed and the Shunammite's son was restored to life. (2 Kings 4:32-35) Hezekiah prayed and 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were slain. (Isaiah 37: 21, 36) David prayed with one main thing in mind in 73 of the 150 psalms. The Jerusalem church prayed and Peter was released from prison. (Acts 12:5-10) One request. One focus.
Prayers should be like memos. One main idea per page; one main request per prayer. What, then, do you do if you have more than one issue? Don't let your prayer requests pile up. Talk to God OFTEN. Follow the biblical examples and limit your prayer requests to the MAIN issue at hand.
God is able to handle all our concerns, but we should follow the biblical examples of those whose prayers were answered. Let's keep short accounts by talking to God often...one main request at a time!