In James 1:2-11, he gives us three practical steps in verses 2-11 that we need to take if we are going to end up being the blessed man he talks about in verse 12. In other words, he gives us three steps to living like we are dying.
First, whenever bad things happen to you, think about that situation as a reason for rejoicing.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete lacking nothing.”
We tend to really love this world. It is a really great place planet Earth. What can happen though is that because we are so excited about this world, we have a hard time waiting for the next.
You might say we have a hard time enduring.
We have a hard time being patient.
That is a major problem because endurance is an essential quality when it comes to spiritual maturity.
You see the way James puts it at the end of verse 4. He says that endurance has to have its perfect result which he defines as helping us become perfect and complete lacking nothing. In other words, spiritually mature and truly godly.
Let endurance have its perfect result.
You have to endure if this is going to happen.
You have to be able to wait if you are going to be spiritually mature. and not only is endurance important and essential when it comes to you spiritually maturing, it is also if you look down at verse 12, essential if you are going to receive the crown of life.
Enduring is important for you now and it is important for you in the future, which is why God brings difficult situations into our lives.
Look again at the process in verses 2 through 4. You encounter trials, all kinds of trials, and those trials test your faith. They reveal whether you have it and they strengthen it. And that testing of your faith produces endurance, the ability to wait.
God knows we have a hard time enduring. He knows how important enduring is, so He steps in and helps us learn to endure, and He does that through trials – not because He is mad at us but because He loves us.
I mean if I were to take a poll which you thought was more valuable and important, this life or the next, I would guess most of you would say the next life is the better life. But we tend to live for this one which is part of why God brings difficult things into our lives. He wants to teach us through our own personal experience that the next life really is better and to help us feel that deeply, which is a good thing for Him to do because if He didn’t do that, if all we had here on earth was unending wealth and happiness, most of us would not live for what is most important.
After all we already have a hard time not living for this earth and remembering that we are going to die and be judged when things are so hard. Can imagine if God didn’t let us have trials? To quote Calvin, who can deny that “it is very much worthwhile for all of us, not just to be admonished with words in a sermon, but by the experiences of our lives, through trials that there better be a heaven, there better be something after.”
Which is why, I am challenging you whenever bad things happen to you to actively choose to think about those bad things as God’s gracious way of reminding you what is most important and helping you learn to wait for heaven, to endure, so that you can be spiritually mature in the here and now and so that you can receive a crown of life when you stand before him, and instead of getting upset and thinking that God has forgotten about you, rejoice in the middle of that difficult circumstance because you know he hasn’t.
Second, if you look at your life and you don’t know how to do that and it all sounds like one giant cliché to you, get down on your knees and ask God to make you wise.
James says, “but if any of you lacks wisdom” which is a way of saying if there is anyone out there who is thinking that all this sounds great in theory but doesn’t know how to actually put it into practice in his life, “let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
I think sometimes we might think to ourselves that the reason we are ignoring death and judgement and living like everybody else is because we don’t know how to live any different. What James says here is that is actually not necessarily true.
Because if you pray and ask God for help He is more than willing to give you the necessary know how to put biblical truths like the ones we are talking about into practice in real, every day life.
It is God’s character James says to give generously and without reproach and then in case you are still confused, he evens adds a promise, ask and it will be given to you.
The real problem if we are so stuck on this world that we can’t rejoice when difficult things happen to us is not that we can’t if we are Christians, instead it may be that we either haven’t looked to God for the help we need or it may be even deeper and that is that we don’t really trust God that he knows what is best and that he is telling us the truth, which is the warning James gives in the very next verse, “but let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
It is like he is saying if you hear what I am telling you and you are excusing yourself saying you just don’t know how to put it into practice the real problem may not be that you really don’t know how to put into practice because there is no question that the resources are available for you to learn to do that, instead the real problem may be that you are kind of double minded about this whole thing where you say you want to live for the world to come but in your heart of hearts you really don’t and so as a result you are just kind of going with the flow of what everybody else is doing and if that is your attitude you can’t expect God to help you.
So maybe I should say it like this, instead of ignoring death and what comes after like most everybody else, first whenever bad things happen think of that as a reason to rejoice because you know God is helping you live for the next world and second if that is very difficult for you to do, pray that God would help you have the wisdom to take biblical truth and put it into practice in your life, but here it is, make sure as you pray that you are really committed to valuing what God values and not what the world all around you says is important.
Which is not as easy as it sounds, honestly.
It is like there are two roads ahead of us, two directions we can take with our lives, we can’t take both at the same time, it is impossible and we’ve got the whole world shouting out at us to take their path and it looks a whole lot easier and more comfortable but it is leading the absolutely wrong direction which is why we’ve got to pray if we are going to have the kind of wisdom to not just know certain truths and be able to quote them at church but actually live them out when it comes to real life and as we pray that we should remind ourselves of different reasons we can wholeheartedly trust that God is speaking the truth to us about what is most important.
Third, make a deliberate choice to get excited about what is really important in life. Apply the reality of death and what comes after to life.
James puts it like this,
“but let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position, and let the rich man glory in his humiliation, because like the flowering grass he will pass away. for the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass, and its flower falls off, and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed, so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.”
If we go out into the world we will find people who are poor and they are just miserable because they are poor and we will find people who are rich and they are so sure they important
They will drive around in a nice car and think they are so important because they have all this stuff which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because of the fact that it is all here and gone so quickly.
The rich man dies just like the poor man.
Glorying in your riches is kind of like a flower glorying in the fact that it is pretty.
That’s the image James uses.
“like a flowering grass he will pass awayfor the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass, and its flower falls off, and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed, so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.”
You look into the coffin of a rich man and a poor man and the rich man, he’s just as dead. His stuff isn’t really all that impressive then, which we know but i think what is interesting about this passage is that James doesn’t simply say isn’t that a bummer, don’t glory because of the fact that you are going to die instead he says the fact that you are going to die should cause you to make sure you are glorying in the right things.
“Let the rich man glory in his humiliation because like flowering grass”
James is looking at Christians and he is saying, you shouldn’t be done with glorying and boasting and exulting, but you should do so in a way that makes sense in light of the big picture.
Like if you are poor you don’t have to go around all the time thinking about how terrible you have it and how it would be so much better if you weren’t poor and that your life is miserable.
Instead if you are poor and you are a believer you should deliberately and actively choose to glory and exult in your high position, which I don’t think is the fact that you are poor, but instead the fact that you are a believer, an heir of eternal life, a son of God.
Or if you are rich, James doesn’t say here you have to stop being rich, but he does say you need to actively and deliberately choose to glory in something other than your riches. If you are rich and you are a Christian, I think brother is implied here, you should glory in your humiliation.
Whereas the poor believer is going to be tempted to start thinking of his life as just awful because he is poor and so he needs to meditate on how good he is going to have it, the rich believer is going to be tempted to become proud and think because he has certain things that he is really important and so what he needs to do is remember the fact that he is going to die and it is going to be quick and that all that is going to matter is his relationship with Christ not his stuff. So instead of getting all excited about how much stuff he has, the rich believer should get excited that God has humbled him and showed him his need of Christ, that’s what he should glory in. If we look around in our materialistic world, we know how hard it is for rich people to think they need anything. And so if you are a rich Christian, what’s really exciting is not that you have a little bit of stuff that will last you for a couple of years, what is really exciting is that you have seen your need for Christ and you have repented of your sins and you have thrown yourself completely on his mercy. That’s what you should glory in.
Instead of ignoring death, remember it.
Remembering that you will be dead soon can be one of the most important tools you’ll ever have for making the big choices in life. Your time on earth is limited, so don’t waste it living for things that really aren’t that valuable in the long run.
When God brings things into your life to help you remember that, rejoice. Ask God for a heart of wisdom, that really knows how to number your days. And actively, deliberately choose to value RIGHT NOW what you are going to value most when you stand before God IN THE FUTURE.