Living out the Light Pt 1
Pastor Terry Inman
The book of James is a concise, how-to guide on being a real follower of Jesus. The books title bears the name of its author. James was a brother of Jesus. He didn’t have much choice about being a brother, but after some initial doubts he chose to be an influential follower.
At first Jesus brothers didn’t really believe him. They told him to leave the obscurity of Galilee and prove himself by going public in Jerusalem. Jesus knew it was bad timing. He went to the feast covertly but not because he had something to prove to his brothers. He was always obeying His father in heaven.
Jewish leaders were accusing Jesus of occult practices. So Jesus’ mother and brothers came looking for him. Someone told Jesus his family members were waiting outside. He told this gathering, “My mother and brothers (my spiritual family) are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Luke 8.21(NIV)
James discovered that. In this book he says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1.22 (NIV)
Faith must have been a struggle for James, how could the kid he grew up with be the Messiah? They had the same mother but a different Father. Somewhere along this journey, he experienced his half-brother as the Son of God. After Jesus death and resurrection he emerged as an apostle and the head of the Church in Jerusalem.
James is the just the right book to prepare us further for the pray-care-share lifestyle we are practicing. We are calling this series LIVING OUT THE LIGHT. James deals with what’s on the inside so we can really shine on the outside!
This short book begins with a radical view of trials and temptations. They prefect the gifts God has given us. Before we take this verse-by -verse let me skip to the key line of this opening discussion. Grab your bible, Iphone or Ipad and find the book of James. Let’s go to verse 17.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1.17 (NIV)
God is Light. He is the Father or creator of heavens lights, the sun, moon, planets and starry galaxies. At noon the son is bright but at six it is casting a long shadow. James says God’s goodness is never shadowed. “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1John 1.5 (NIV)
James who watched his own brother get killed for being God’s gift to humanity says, no matter what happens with trials and temptations, the Father of Lights is good, his gifts are good in fact they are just perfect!
The bible says God lives in unapproachable light. (1 Tim. 6.15) He never changes and what He is giving us and doing in us is good! The trails we go through simply brighten our light! He refines us so we authentically reflect His pure, unadulterated, unchangeable, white-hot light!
It is so sad to hear of very gifted ministers that fail because their gifts get ahead of their emotional and spiritual maturity. They are talented but not fully tested. We have shadows but God has no shadows. His light shines into our shadows so we can really live out his light!
Let’s begin with chapter one and take it verse by verse. James authors this book as a “servant” not the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He also identifies his initial readers as the twelve tribes that are now “scattered” among the nations. Later in chapter two he calls his readers “brothers” and “believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ”. James 2.1
These scattered are the followers of Jesus that moved out of Jerusalem because of violent persecution. In (Acts 1.8 NIV) Jesus told his disciples “you will receive power to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the remote parts of the earth.”
In (Acts 8.1 NIV) following Steven’s death, Luke says, “On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.” Persecution scatters people but is also spreads the fire!
In light of this adversity James reaches out to his dispersed brothers and says, “pure joy” comes from facing trials. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1.2-3
So let’s put this together God’s is pure light. He is totally good. He gives us his perfect gifts. But we joyfully face numerous and diverse trials that strengthen us, and prefect his gifts in us!
James intentionally uses the word “trials” not difficulties, problems, struggles or challenges. Trails are tests. They prove our value. When we pass a test we are joyful. The only way we can pass a trial is to face it!
God uses trials to put our faith to the test. Are we the real deal? Are we proven? Are we going to hang in there? Are we really living out the light?
Do we really have a TEST-imony to share? If we don’t have a testimony, trust me we will get one! Our faith will be tested. Here’s one trial you can count on. Paul told Timothy, “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” 2 Tim. 3.12 (NIV) The Godly are tested!
Are we going to chuck this prayer-care-share lifestyle the first time we get harassed? Or are we in this for the long haul? Are we true blue?
James says, trials or tests develop perseverance. It is that never give up attitude. Perseverance is spiritual fortitude or tenacity. It’s stick-to-it-iveness. John Wayne would call it true grit!
James says the final outcome of perseverance is spiritual maturity. “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1.4 (NIV)
I gave my life to Jesus Christ when I was five years old. I was spiritually born. But I was immature. Halfway through my life, I was unaware that an essential building block of character was lacking in my life. Due to some childhood circumstances a “lack” of healthy boundaries brought me to face to face with a crisis.
But God is good! He shined is light into my shadows. I responded to my personal test. It wasn’t pretty; it was painful for a long time. But my faith was proven and perfected and ready for the next test.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Heb. 12.11(NIV) Trials are training for perseverance!
You know that bumper sticker that says God is not finished with me yet? It’s true and if we fail to pass our test we get to take it over again!
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 1.6 (NASB)
We all lack something. When we are being put to the test and our faith is on trial we typically lack wisdom. We don’t understand what is going on and what to do. Our natural senses are not adequate enough to explain our circumstances. We don’t know why we are being tested. We are supposed to consider this trial pure joy. So how do we get there when we are totally clueless? Here’s James’ simple solution…
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (v.5)
God knows we lack something. That’s why we get tested, to fill in the blanks! So wisdom is not philosophical or psychological babble it is spiritual insight. It is an understanding of the nature and purpose of our trial and knowing how to face it successfully and joyfully.
God wants to give us wisdom. He never withholds and he is never condescending. There is a condition to receiving spiritual wisdom. We must trust God fully and be ready to act on what we are given.
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 NIV)
When you ask for God’s wisdom it will not be conventional wisdom. In chapter three James compares worldly wisdom to heavenly wisdom.
The world’s wisdom comes packaged with bitterness, jealousy, ambition, arrogance and deceit. James says, it is earthy, unspiritual and of the devil.
Wisdom from Heaven is humble, pure, peace loving, submissive, merciful, and sincere. Trials can be frustrating, even make you irritable. In fact most trails involve relationships. Trials test our fragile egos!
It so easy to react to a trial in the flesh and get caught up in a whirlwind of conflict, and contention. Your emotions can get tossed around like the wind and waves. A double minded person is wishy-washy in all their ways.
Trials also can also produce a lot of fear. The disciples were experienced at net fishing from a boat. They knew about turbulent water. But in a violent storm they freaked out and thought they were going to drown.
Jesus was taking a power nap in the stern while breakers were about to capsize the boat. He got up and calmed the wind and the waves!
The Message bible quotes Jesus in Mark’s gospel. “Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Settle down!’ The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Then Jesus reprimanded the disciples: ‘Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?’” Mark 4.39 (NIV) Trials are a test of faith. Perseverance grows faith!
James wraps up this discussion on trials or tests with a vivid contrast between the people in what he calls “humble circumstances” and people of wealth and power. The “humbled” were the scattered. He says if your humbled in this life enjoy your “high” status. If you already have a share of the good life “lay low” because it’s all going to fade!
“The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.” James 1.9-11 (NIV)
James is not saying it bad to have wealth. He just saying it might be harder to stay humble. Even wealth is a test. The way to win that one is to let it pass through your hands before it fades away!
Next time we will talk about temptation and how it also perfects our faith, and purifies our light but here’s the final product of perseverance…
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1.12 (NIV)
“Blessed” or happy is the same word Jesus used in the Beatitudes. GR: Makarios is not circumstantial happiness, it is God like joy. That’s why James began this discussion with, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” James 1.2 (NIV)
Standing up to a trial and passing your test, is its own reward! You graduate to the next level. Like an Olympian you get a new metal for life. The word “tested” here means, proving the quality of precious metal.
Sure we hope for a crown someday, whatever that looks like, but here and now, we get lifetime achievement awards from the Father of Lights, just for passing our tests! This is living out the “Father’s” light!