In this episode, The Book of James encourages us to lean into wisdom, walk by faith, and pursue God’s version of success. We win at life by walking by faith. In the midst of our up and down circumstances, we are called to make choices. Life is a mystery and is over in the blink of an eye. So we must make the most of it by navigating our circumstances with the wisdom that only comes through faith.
Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
But let patience has its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing.
Now this word perfect—I wish they had chosen a different translation for that. This is the word teleios. And teleios is the word that we get telescope from. So when you see, telescope.
What does it do? It lets you go way out and see something at the end of your viewing range. But the end of your viewing range is longer than it would have been otherwise, right? But it still has an end, doesn’t it?
Well, that’s the idea of teleios. To the end.
So, what is the end of our life? Is it to be perfect? Well, not the way we usually think about it. We can get to the point where we overcome sin in our daily lives. We have that power, the resurrection power of Jesus allows us to overcome sin every day. If you know anyone that you—gosh, I never see that person ever sin anymore. Call me! I’d like to go visit them. Maybe that person exists somewhere.
But it’s not that—if you can’t get to this point, then you’re not successful. The goal is to get to that point, to get to that point where you’ve reached everything you can do. Whatever it is God has laid up for you, your gifts, your capabilities. You get to that point.
It’s not going to a monastery so that you can’t see anything, you have no negative influences. That’s not it.
It’s your work, your goal in life, what you’re doing as you interact with other people that your gifts are being fully employed. And you’re doing it in a way that’s consistent with the wisdom of God and the walk of faith. So you get to that point that you’re complete in who God made you to be in your daily life, every day.
Lacking nothing. And we know that God has given us gifts, and we have the capability; we had the resurrection power of Jesus in us. We have to engage that so it actually comes out in our daily life. And that’s the goal.
Think about it. If we have that perspective, even though we go through difficulties you don’t like—nobody likes to puke because they’re tired and running. Nobody likes to be sore and have your muscles ache. Nobody likes that.
But if we look at it as this is a means to an end. This is getting me where I want to go. This is where winning comes from. Then we can look at it and say, you know, I’m glad about this. This is my opportunity in life. This is what I get as my opportunity to grow.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
What is wisdom? This is the Greek word sophia. Wisdom is just simply looking at things from God’s perspective. It’s having the perspective of God instead of the perspective of man.
It takes wisdom to have this perspective that I am ore being turned into gold. It takes wisdom. And the cool thing is here, it says if you ask without doubting, it will be given to you.
Now this is a little bit of a loop here, isn’t it?
How do you get wisdom? You ask.
How do you ask? You ask in a way where you don’t doubt. If you don’t doubt, are you going to be able take this perspective that it’s telling you to have?
It’s like the think, act, feel. If you think, it’s going to affect your feelings. Your feelings are going to affect your actions. Your actions are going to affect the way you think. These things are all interactive.
Hermann and I have had multiple debates on this. Which comes first? It’s very much a chicken-and-egg sort of thing. And you can argue it all. But what you don’t argue is that they’re all connected. They all come together.
If we believe and say, you know, I am going to make a choice to trust God that God’s way is best. God will show you that in real time. He will show you that through difficulty; but he will show you that in real time.
The wisdom of the world
Now the alternative to the wisdom of God is the wisdom of the world. What does that look like? Well,
—he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
You’ve been to the sea, and you’ve seen it toss things around. This word doubting is probably better translated debate. With no debate. I’m not going to go back and say, well, is it really in my best interests to go through difficulty? Is it really in my best interests to trust God? No! I’ve decided! It’s making a decision. I have decided that that’s the case.
The alternative is to say, I’m just going to take circumstances as they come, and I’ll trust God if it’s convenient, and then I won’t trust God if it’s inconvenient. And I’m just going to go, it’s okay for me to do these things today. Oh, God, help! This thing I did was bad! It gave me negative consequences! Bail me out, please! What’s wrong with you, God? What’s wrong with you? You promised you would make my life happy, and I’ve got these problems that I created for myself, and you’re not bailing me out. What’s the problem?
Well, double mindedness, naturally goes along with debating back and forth, and I’m just trying to navigate wherever my eyes tell me is convenient for today.
You know, if we believe that we are in control of the universe, if we believe that if we are angry we can control other people, if we believe that if we are anxious that we can control the future, if we believe those things, we’re going to be double minded, aren’t we? Because we believe something that isn’t true. And we’re going to be acting as though those things do happen, when they don’t. And it’s just the wisdom of the world. It’s craziness.
For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
We can’t trust the world and walk in the wisdom of the world and expect the benefits of the wisdom of God and the walk of faith. That just doesn’t happen. If we want to trust the world, walk in the perspective of the world, chase our own appetites, as we’ll see here shortly, and walk in the wisdom of the world, we’re going to be just tossed around. We’re not going to have any stability. We’re going to be bounced all over the place. And we’re not going to get the benefits of being refined from ore to gold.
What kind of circumstances are we talking about? What does this testing look like?
We’ve got two different kinds of circumstances that we’re going to be shown here. Of course there’s everything in between.
Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation,
That’s one kind of circumstance, lowly.
but the rich in his humiliation—
That’s the other kind of circumstance, rich.
Lowly. What are some low points in your life where things just did not go right?
Losing somebody. That’s a low point.
Physical ailments can be really difficult, can’t they?
Rejection. You feel rejected, right? There’s all kinds of rejection. Rejection in a relationship. Rejection by an employer. You run for office and you lose. You’re up for an award, and you lose.
A whole lot of life is difficult circumstances.
What are some rich circumstances? “Yahoo! This is fantastic! I love today!” kind of circumstances. Nobody had any of those?
Hiking in the mountains, and you reach the summit, and you just feel like this is wonderful. It’s a high in every respect, right?
Birth of a baby! Going through labor is actually one of the worst things. And then, boom, it’s one of the best things. The scripture talks about that. I never want this to happen again. Why am I doing this? Oh, this is great. Let’s do it again tomorrow. (Not quite)
What are some other just fantastic highs? Winning a state championship. Winning a championship of some kind. That really fits in well here. Go on TV, and you hear these guys talk about winning the Super Bowl, or something like that, and they say, “There is nothing that compares to the feeling you have when you win a championship.”
We’ve got both extremes here. And of course, everything in between would be implied, wouldn’t it?
Circumstances bring choices
So what do we do with these different kinds of circumstances?
Obviously, the poor circumstances are a trial, aren’t they? Because it tells us the testing of your faith. This proving. We’re in the refiner’s fire when we’re in these lowly circumstances.
And it says glory in your exultation when that happens. Well, that’s kind of hard, right? Because it’s like, “I got rejected. That’s fantastic! What a day! This is great!”
What is he telling us to do here? He’s telling us to make a choice. And what’s embedded here is that our perspective is a choice we make. That is one of the choices we make.
You know, most of the things in life we don’t choose. The vast majority of things in life we don’t choose. We don’t choose the time we live in. It’s today. It’s now. We didn’t choose that. It just happens to us. We don’t live in the past. We don’t live in the future. And we can’t control when the present is. We’re just here.
We didn’t control the DNA we had. We just inherited it.
We don’t control the parents we have. They just happened to us.
We can’t control other people’s choices. I mean, we can control somewhat who we interact with to some extent. But we can only control our side of it. Eight billion people in the world, and all the rest of them other than me are going to do what they want to do. I can’t make them do that, right? That’s not very much to control.
But the things we do control, who we trust, the perspective we choose, the actions we take, they’re monumental. Look at this impact. It depends on who we become, and who we become has a huge impact on the whole universe. It’s amazing.
So what we can do is say, this is my time! This is my opportunity. I’m being refined. This is awesome. I don’t like it. I wouldn’t choose it. But I’m going through this, and I’m going to look at this as a great opportunity. That’s choosing a perspective in a difficult circumstance.
But there’s another circumstance that’s even more difficult. Let’s look at it.
but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away.
For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.
When wonderful things happen—I won the state championship. I had a baby! All these things happen. I got a raise! I won the lottery!
You know what happens to most lottery winners, don’t you? Eighty five percent of them end up in bankruptcy, and everybody hates them because they didn’t get what they perceived as their proper share of the goodies. And they go back and say I wish it had never happened to me.
The problem with rich circumstances is that we tend to forget reality. And we tend to start relying on our money and say, well, my money can now make me happy. How does that work?
Or my success can make me happy.
Or, now because I’m famous, that means people really love me, so I’ll keep pretending to be somebody I’m not so people will love me. And then you lose who you are and realize nobody even knows you; and you end up all alone. Which is why, I think, we see these celebrities—I only know what I see on the grocery store checkout line, but apparently the amount of self-destruction you have to do to make those periodicals is pretty dramatic.
You just end up doing crazy stuff.
It’s really difficult to look at a rich circumstance and say I’m going to enjoy this. God’s given us richly all things to enjoy. I’m going to enjoy this, but I’m not going to trust in it. I’m not going to put my hope in it. Why? It doesn’t last. It’s like a flower.
Do you enjoy flowers? Do you put your life hope in the flowers? Oh, as long as this flower is in the vase and looking beautiful, I will be happy. Is that going to work out? No.
Do you like green grass? Do you enjoy it? Do you put your hope in it? Not in west Texas. Well, yeah, there are a few places on earth where maybe you could put your hope in it. There are still worms there.
The sun comes up and it withers the grass. You don’t put your hope in the grass! When it gets summer, it’s going to brown eventually.
Life is a vapor
So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.
Nothing we do in this life is going to survive us.
I think I’ve told you this: I’ve been to Cooperstown, the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I really like baseball. I like it in large part because I was so bad at it, and I wanted to be good at it.
And it just fascinates me that these guys can hit this little bitty ball that people are throwing at them. If you stand behind a 90-mile an hour fastball, it’s like a bazooka being shot at you. And the fact that these guys just don’t fall down on the ground every time it comes out of the pitcher’s hand—that in and of itself is amazing. The fact that they can hit it with a little stick is just really amazing.
So, I’m fascinated by the game.
I went to Cooperstown, and I went through, and I saw Babe Ruth’s plaque and I saw Mike Schmidt’s plaque. And then I started seeing all these other plaques, and I’d never even heard of these people. The vast majority of the plaques! They’re in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and I’d never heard of them.
If they weren’t in my generation or the handful of people from prior generations that were famous, I never heard of them before. And they’re in the Baseball Hall of Fame. They’ve already been forgotten!
Well, that’s the way it works with us. What do you know about James Polk? He was a President. Where’s he from? What did he do? He was a President! We don’t even remember these guys, right?
It reminds me of that Inside Out. You know, where the little guys are vacuuming up the memories, and he says well, here’s a bunch of Presidents. What do you want me to do with them? He says, ah, keep Lincoln and the fat one, and go ahead and vacuum up the rest of them. That’s what happens! We just fade away.
Those who choose God don’t fade away
But, you know, glory, honor, and immortality goes to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality.
If we’re seeking pleasure from God, we actually will be in a hall of fame where we will not be forgotten. But it takes faith to say that’s in a different dimension and in a different time. That takes a lot of faith. But we can choose to have faith. We can choose to have a perspective that deferring now gives me benefit later.
And then we can take actions to make that be a reality.
James is this amazing book about wisdom. It tells us how to walk in faith. And the goal is to win.
We’ll end with verse 12 which we’ll come back to multiple times.
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
So next we’ll go into what temptation is.
Temptation’s different from a trial. A trial is just a difficult circumstance. And what is a difficult circumstance? Any circumstance. It’s either difficult because it hurts, or it’s difficult because it lures you into a false reality of trusting something that you shouldn’t trust. Or it bores you to death. And everything in between.
And the monotony makes you feel like you’re not important anymore. Or that you don’t have an important role. I’ve changed a hundredth diaper. I’ve added up the thousandth column. Who cares? Well, God does because he tells us in Colossians 3 that he will give a reward to those who do whatever they do heartily to please God.
So everything in between. Every circumstance is a difficulty.
But God doesn’t give us these difficulties because he wants us to fail. But there is somebody who does want us to fail. And the difference between a trial and a temptation is the desired goal.
Your teachers give you a test, a trial, so you’ll get good answers and pass. A tempter gives you a trial because they want you to stumble and fall. And our fundamental problem is not things from the outside. Our fundamental problem is us. I have met the enemy, and it is me.
We’ll look at that next as we continue to look through how to choose a true perspective, who to trust, and how to walk in faith.