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.”
With the vast amount of information now available online we have access to all kinds of “wisdom” to help us find the answer to “What is the meaning of life. “Google it” has become a verb in which many of us use today. Wikipedia has become a free “reliable” source of information that covers nearly any topic you can imagine. Just for fun I searched for “the meaning of life” on Google, the search engine returned about 274,000,000 results. It took Googles servers 0.82 seconds to come back with all those results, it’s going to take you more than a lifetime to read them all. Here is a shortcut…
The author of Ecclesiastes has really given us something to think about when it comes to understanding wisdom and life. He, presumably Solomon, takes us on a wild and at times confusing journey of trying to find meaning and purpose in life through pleasure, work, prosperity and wisdom. “Meaningless! Meaningless! Says the teacher. Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” (1:2) “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” (1:14) Solomon was in his time one of the wisest men in the world, “God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore.” (1 Kings 4:29) So here we have the words of a very intelligent man, one who was given a gift from God to lead and guide his people, to help them find purpose and meaning in life so that they could lead a life holy and pleasing to God. This collection of life experience and Godly wisdom written for the people of that time is transferrable to our lives today. We all live in the same world of sin and despair today. God, who is our hope in life and in death has revealed to us through his word the true meaning of life.
So, can Google or any other online search help give you and answer to what the meaning of life is? Yes, I believe it can, but it is like finding a needle in a haystack. Our online digital world is relatively new compared the writings of the bible which date back much further and much deeper into history. Understanding wisdom, finding meaning in life has been a journey many people have made before us and God inspired man to record it for us in His word. The author of Ecclesiastes comes to a point in his journey that brings him to this conclusion about life, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” (12:13) Our attitude in life is one that needs to focus on trust and obedience to the word of God. Yes, life is difficult. Live and grow in the knowledge and experience found in this collection of teaching on wisdom written by Solomon, it is the needle in the haystack of 274,000,000 hits on Google, and it will only take you an hour to read it.
One of the things I enjoy about living on the west coast of British Columbia is the easy access to a variety of different types of beaches. One of my favorite things to do on the beach is collect uniquely formed rocks and rocks of interesting color. I am not a rock expert, I can’t identify all the different types of rock or tell you how they are formed. My rock identifications skills are limited to knowing the best skipping rocks on the beach and the rocks that fly perfectly straight from my slingshot.
In Matthew chapter 7:24, Matthew uses a simple illustration to help us identify the connection between listening to God’s word and living them out in our lives. This is what he says: “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock”. “These words of mine”, refer to the teachings of Jesus recorded for us in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7). Wisdom is living a life that is holy and pleasing to God; to be wise like the man who built his house on the rock is a picture of us standing on the foundations and truths presented by God through the Bible. The Sermon on the Mount is bursting at the seams with knowledge and understanding for us as believers. Jesus is extremely clear in his teachings on topics like murder, adultery, divorce, generosity, love for our enemies, prayer and worry. All these things and more define how we are to live among one another, how we are to respond to the grace and mercy of a God who created us and desires to have a relationship with us.
Our human condition (our sinful nature) is constantly fighting to distract and pull us away from living out the truths of scripture. Sin has a notorious way of creeping into our lives, it rolls around and mixes into our lives causing us to stumble and fall. Matthew continues to tell us of the foolish man who built his house on the sand and how it was destroyed by the water and wind. Living in ignorance to the words that we have heard in scripture is foolishness and leads to separation from God. There is a wonderful little children’s song that teaches these truths from scripture, my favorite line as a kid was “and the house on the sand went splat”. The house is you and me, build your house on a firm foundation like the wise man, feel free to “renovate” and add-on but follow the building code (be wise in the knowledge and understanding of God’s word).
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.
Our western culture portrays this rather mysterious birds as wise; the owl is known for its stealth like ability to hunt its prey at night. It has been said that Athena, who was the Greek goddess of wisdom is often represented by the image of an owl. The famous character Owl from the classic story of Winnie the Pooh is characterized as a know-it-all. What about this perspective; The owl is considered dumb and empty-headed in India because it has the tendency to sit and stare blankly into space. So, is the owl really all that wise? I will leave that up to you to decide.
The book of Proverbs is filled with wisdom, instruction and divine truths. This is how the author opens this book, “Purpose and Theme: The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple.” This short introduction gives us a pretty clear scope of what God has provided through His word for direction in our lives. Verse seven of chapter one is the key to everything we find written in this book of wisdom, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” What is this fear? Well, it is an attitude of the heart and mind, an attitude of reverence, respect, awe, loyalty and obedience to live according to the words of the Lord.
The Bible is the inspired word of God given to man. The wisdom imparted through the Book of proverbs came from the Lord in a time much like we are living in today. The world that surrounds us has been plagued with foolishness (the antithesis of wisdom), dare I say it as the Indian culture describes, “empty-headed”. Reading through proverbs I found it noteworthy that the author was often addressing his son; the message was directed to those who were young and receptive to the teachings of the word. Solomon records these words in Proverbs 10:17, “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.” As Christian leaders, we are called to be an example of one who heeds discipline, to increase in our knowledge and understanding of who God is and how we should live. We are called to teach this wisdom, knowledge and experience to the next generation of believers, giving them the proper foundation to grow on.