Have you heard the story about Maurice the Moose? Probably not, it was one that was fabricated by a grandfather to intrigue and capture the attention of his granddaughters. I’m sure you have heard the ancient story (fable) of the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” to many times. These stories and others have the power to leave a lasting impression on us. Our personal stories encapsulate who we are , they communicate life in a way that connects us to one another.
James pulls out all the stops to make his point clear about the importance of living a Christian life. Why do you think James takes the time to mention people like Abraham, Isaac, Rahab, Job and Elijah in his letter? He does so because each of these people have displayed exemplary commitment in their faith to follow God with wisdom and obedience. When James talks about faith in action, he reminds us of the story of Abraham and Isaac, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (2:22) He also mentions Elijah, and because of his faithfulness to God in prayer the people experienced the power and authority of God. Job’s faith in God demonstrates the importance of patience and perseverance in the trials of life. The story of Rahab gives testimony to one’s faith in God and the work that he calls us to, and the work that he will do through us.
Why are stories important? Well, like James did in his letter, stories have the power to connect not just with our minds but our hearts. When we hear a personal story or testimony of what God has done in and through the lives of other believers it excites an emotional response within us. Our stories of faith in God can often be a vehicle of inspiration that strengthens the relationships of other believers in their walk with God. These incredible stories are authored by God himself to reveal His love and compassion for those who don’t know him yet. When was the last time you shared your story? There is no time like the present to share what God has done for you.
We all make lists. It might be a mental or written “to do” list, a grocery list, a list of Marvel movies to watch, a wish list on Amazon, a music playlist or a list of your favorite cat videos. Depending on your personality you might make a list to organize your lists. (I know you are out there) Some people have a bucket list, a list of experiences or achievements that they hope to have or accomplish during their lifetime.
In the Bible, James gives us a practical list of ways to live as followers of Christ, to live a Christian life.
- Know that true wisdom comes from God, not from the things of the world (3:17)
- Put your faith into action (2:14)
- Overcome trials with joy (1:2)
- Think before you speak (1:19)
- Show no favoritism (2:1)
- Pride is our enemy (4:6)
- Taming our tongue (3:9-12)
- Be humble (4:6)
- When we are suffering, pray. (5:13)
- Confess your sin before God and others (5:16)
Did you notice the top two items on the list? Faith and wisdom. Faith is having an active trust and belief that is evident by obedience to the Word of God. Godly wisdom is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. When our faith in God is securely built on the foundations of Christ’s death and resurrection and we live that out in our lives we bring honor and glory to our Creator. Because of our faith we can ask God for the wisdom to live our lives according to the rest of the list James gives us. Our faith is strengthened when we find joy in the face of trials of life; when we recognize pride as our enemy we can grow in humility; when we call out to God (pray) in faith he will answer us. God never intended for us to live life on our own, he gave us brothers and sisters in His name to walk alongside us, to be a reflection and reminder of Him, to be listeners and encouragers. If you made it to the end of this blog, I challenge you to choose just one of the listed actions and live in it, ask yourself how you are doing in that area of life and ask God to help you live so that He may be glorified.
Hey Siri, where can I get wisdom?
“Ok, I found this on the web for ‘where can I get wisdom’”
“How to gain wisdom: 13 Steps (with pictures) – WikiHow – “Wisdom is a virtue that isn’t innate but can only be acquired through experience. Anyone who is interested in trying new things and reflecting on the process has the ability to gain wisdom. By learning as much as you can, analyzing your experiences and putting your knowledge to the test, you can become a wiser person.”
As smart as Siri might think she is I think that when it comes to gaining wisdom, we as believers need to take a different approach to gaining wisdom. James gives us the best advice in his letter to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations. Step one, “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.” That was step one, if that didn’t work go back and try again and again. James offers up some help when thing don’t go as you might have planned by offering up a this instruction. “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt.” James describes a faith that demonstrates action, a living out of what God has called us to without any doubt. He uses the term “double-minded” to describe someone who tries to live two contradictory lifestyles, one that tries to please God and another to please themselves or others; it is like oil and water, the two don’t mix.
God hears the prayers of those whose lives demonstrate that they have faith in him. When James talks about believe or faith, he is referring to an active trust and belief shown by obedience to the Word of God. The wisdom that we receive from God is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17). When we experience the incredible gift of grace offered to us through God’s demonstration of love for us through his Son Jesus Christ, when we live our lives obedient to his will, our lives (the way we live) will reflect Godly wisdom, a wisdom that shows greater concern for others than for ourselves. So, instead of the 13 steps suggested by Siri, I would encourage you to listen to what James has to say, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God.”
There are infinite possibilities when it comes to mixing colours. With all these possible combinations, my personal preference as an aspiriing artist is to do a lot of work in black and white. For me, I appreciate the simple contrast between these obvious opposites; black representing the complete absence of white, and white representing itself as brilliant and pure, free of any black.
James asks an interesting question in his letter to God’s people, “Who is wise and understanding among you?” (3:13). To fully grasp the scope of what James is asking, we need to understand the truth about how the bible defines “wise”. Thankfully James helps us with this by including these words in his letter, “Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (3:13-16) In essence, what James is saying is those who are wise should demonstrate their wisdom in how they live, by deeds done with an attitude of humility. We as believers demonstrate wisdom if our deeds reflect God’s commands.
You can now begin to see a contrast between two types of wisdom. James continues in his letter giving these words of truth, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (3:17). Pure and void of any darkness, this selfless and humble wisdom is filled with the characteristics of our great God. Each of these things stand in contrast of the way the world defines its wisdom. When we live out these virtues or characteristics in our own lives, when we show greater concern for others then for ourselves (this is what James would call a “good life”) we bring glory and honour to God. The good fruit that James writes about here parallels the words of Paul in his letter to the Galatians, this is where he describes for us the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. A good life lived in accordance to God’s will is evidence that we are wise and understanding. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we as believers will stand as wise in contrast to the “wisdom” of the world.
If you look closely at the image you can see stamped in each bar of gold the number 999.9. This number represents the measure of purity of the gold which can also be read as 99.9%. When I consider its weight, it’s value and the process of refining to get to that high measure of purity I have to ask these questions: “Why not 100%”? “What is it that binds to this natural element that holds is back from perfection?” A quick search online will tell you that the 0.1% is comprised of other metals that give the gold strength and uniformity in shape.
The book of James carries a lot of weight when it comes to practical instructions for holy living. We read about facing trials and temptations, listening and doing, faith and deeds, submitting to God and many other valuable lessons. When we consider the holiness of God and living a life that reflects that holiness we have to have a measure to stand against, James 3:17 helps put that into perspective: “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” The degree of purity that James refers to is that of 100%, a purity of wisdom that is unmatched on this side of heaven. In the previous verses James use some very strong words to describe any wisdom that does not come from heaven. In the light of this pure and holy wisdom flows the instruction to us today to live as James describes, peace loving, considerate etc.
You can’t add anything to 100%, it is the fullness of itself. As hard as it might be because of who we are and because we live in a fallen world, there will always be a percentage of vulnerable space in how we live and act in this life. Instead of mercy we may offer up revenge or harshness, in place of being considerate we may be disrespectful or impatient. James tells us to “get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (1:21). The beautiful part about this challenge is we don’t have to do it alone, we have a God who leads and guides us. We, like the gold need more than just our own strength to live a holy life, we need a God who is full of mercy and grace. As His church and His people we need each other, and to me that is worth more than gold.