Monday, May 15, 2017, 7:33 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Total Praise.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 1 (Select vv. ESV).
Joy (vv. 2-4)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Depending upon the type of trial, and the severity of it, we may find it harder, at times, to count it all joy when we face life’s trials and tribulations. And, yet, joy is the antidote to the mental and emotional distress involved in suffering. It never fails to lift my spirits when I sing songs of praise to my Lord whenever I am going through a time of great difficulty, or even in the midst of the small tests of faith and of perseverance. Our praise to God gets our focus off our trials and on to the Lord; off the emotions of discouragement and on to hope, faith and love. Praising our Lord in difficult times also lets the enemy of our souls know he is not going to defeat us, but that greater is HE who is within us than he who is in the world. Allowing the joy of the Lord to fill our hearts, instead of being brought low by our circumstances, will always result in spiritual blessings from above.
In America, especially, it appears the vast majority are resistant to pain and suffering, and so Americans tend to medicate and escape suffering rather than face it head on and conquer fears, resist Satan, flee sinful passions, learn steadfastness, and grow in maturity through our difficult times. It seems there is a pill for just about everything these days, and they all have side effects, so many people take multiple pills just to counter the side effects of the other pills. And, yet medicating, in its various forms (not just with pills), rarely teaches us reliance upon the Holy Spirit, trust in God, perseverance in faith, or steadfastness in spirit. We sometimes get this idea that suffering is always a bad thing, but God uses suffering in our lives for our good and for his purposes, to train us to be godly, that we might share in his holiness, and that we might produce the fruit of his righteousness.
Wisdom (vv. 5-8)
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
So, when we are faced with life’s difficulties, we should pray for wisdom from above rather than respond in our flesh. If we pray for wisdom, and we are given wisdom, then we should trust what God shows us and not doubt his counsel. But, we should make certain that the counsel we hear in our heads is indeed biblical, and of God, and not of our own thinking. And, if we pray for wisdom, and we are given counsel from our Lord, then we should follow what we have been shown and not take matters into our own hands.
If we make it our practice to pray for counsel from above, but it is also our practice to not heed the counsel given, but to still go our own way, what good is it then to pray? It is to no avail, because we didn’t do what we were instructed to do. If we do this consistently, we lack godly wisdom, we are driven by our flesh, and we are like on a see-saw going back and forth (or up and down) between opinion, and thus we are not steadfast in spirit, but are more like the waves of the sea tossed here and there by the wind. We are double-minded and unstable in all we do because we have no solid footing, because we just go where the wind blows us. And, thus, we should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Steadfastness (vv. 12-15)
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
So, what does it look like when we remain steadfast under trial? It means we are unwavering, resolute, persistent and firm in our faith and in our commitments to Christ, that we stand on the Word of Truth, and that we are not easily swayed by opinions of humans, so that we go back and forth in belief and in practice depending upon who we are with at the time. If we change like shifting shadows, depending on the people we are with, or depending on our circumstances, our faith is not much good, is it? If we back down on what we say we believe just because we are going through difficult times, our faith will not stand up under the test, will it? We need to be the same (consistent, without wavering) no matter the company, or no matter the circumstances. This is what it means to be steadfast.
What does it mean to be tempted? It means that something is attracting, arousing or seducing us to sin against God in our minds, in our hearts and/or in our actions. And, what is sin? It is failure, missing the mark, sinful deed, not of God, not of faith (source: biblehub.com). It is wickedness, evil, immorality, and wrongdoing, etc. So, at what point does temptation turn to sin? It becomes sin when we act upon the temptation and we do, even in our minds, what we are being tempted to do. For instance, Jesus said that if a man looks at a woman lustfully he has committed adultery with her in his heart. This goes for women lusting after men, and same sex attractions, as well. If we are tempted to lie, and then we lie, we have sinned. If we are tempted to gossip, and then we gossip, even if we stop half-way and confess the wrongdoing, it is still sin, i.e. the part we did before we stopped.
It is good if we stop, but then we have to acknowledge the sin and turn from it to follow our Lord in obedience. If we make a practice of sinning against God, though, the Bible says we don’t really know God, and we don’t have the hope of eternal life with God (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Jn. 1:6).
Total Praise / Richard Smallwood
You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to You.