It’s very tempting for us to start wondering about what God’s like when life is not going the way we want.
It is especially tempting to doubt whether or not He really is good.
It’s so easy for us to allow our circumstances to start shaping what we think about God instead of allowing what we know about God to shape what we think about your circumstances.
And it’s that issue in particular that James is addressing in James 1, verse 16.
When you are being tempted to sin, “Don’t be deceived my beloved brethren about the character of God.”
Specifically, don’t start doubting that God’s good.
As a Christians there’s hardly anything more important to be sure about than the fact that God’s seeking your best.
While I know that most of us would never say, ‘God is not really good’ I also know that deep in many of our hearts, especially when things are not going exactly the way we would like, we easily start wondering, if He really is good, or at least, if He really is being good to us.
We are not going say out loud God’s not good.
We think it. And we live like it.
That’s what we are doing every time we complain or step outside of His revealed Word and as we look at verses 16ff we see James is very concerned that we don’t fall for that lie and I think it’s because he knows that”once you doubt the goodness of God, you feel justified in rejecting His will and making your own decisions about right and wrong.”
In other words, once you start questioning God’s goodness you feel like you might as well go out and do what you want to do. And this is why it is so important be sure about God’s goodness and love for you even in the middle of the uncertainties of life.
And because that’s so fundamental, I want us to take some time in the next two posts to look at the way James seeks to convince us it’s true.
His approach is fairly simple:
He reminds us of what God is like.
“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…”
And, he repeats himself for emphasis.
Every good thing given and every perfect gift comes from God. This means if you’ve got something truly good and perfect in your life, it’s from God.
If it is good it’s from God.
If it’s from God it’s good.
If something is good, if it is noble, if it is beautiful, if it is of value, it is from above. If something is perfect, if it is complete, if it is mature, it is a divine gift. There’s nothing you have that is good except from God and there’s nothing but good that comes from God, whom James calls here, the Father of lights.
Apparently, that is a Hebrew way of describing God as the Creator of the heavens.
It’s like, if you look up at the stars, the heavens, the sun, the lights above; God is the creator of all those things. And obviously as you think about light, you think about purity and holiness.
God is the creator of all that is good and all that is holy.
As we look at the good gifts in our life, we need to remember that they have come down from God, who is the Creator of the heavens.
The phrase ‘coming down’ is in the present tense which means James is picturing these perfect gifts as continually coming down on us.
It’s like, God is just pouring out good gifts on us. It’s like, we are being drenched with goodness.
And yet it’s hard to see that or feel that sometimes because we are all basically professionals at seeing what we don’t like and ignoring all the good stuff we have to enjoy.
We’ve been doing this since childhood.
I often sit down with my children at the end of the day and I will ask them about their day, and when they were younger I would say, what are you thankful for, and sometimes it would be difficult for them to answer.
And I would be like you guys remember, we went here, we did this, oh yeah.
Or you guys realize, like how amazing God’s been.
And yet, it never really was that way, when something happened that they didn’t like.
I mean, you know that right away with a child. We are awesome at seeing what we don’t like, and not appreciating all the amazing stuff in our lives.
We can be in the Garden of Eden and be discontent.
And so certainly there are going to be things that you are disappointed with, and it’s going to be easy to become so focused on those things, you have got this plan for your life, these things you want, and you get so focused on what’s not quite the way you like, that you miss out on how good God’s been to you.
First, with obviously all the common grace he’s shown you, I am talking about stuff like rain, jobs, food, sun, it’s easy to take all that for granted, I mean, we could go on and on, but the thing is, James here is not even talking so much about things like that as he is about God’s special grace.
And that’s it.
I mean, think about the spiritual blessings in your life.
You are seriously swimming in an ocean of grace, and when you are struggling and wondering whether you can trust God, that He is seeking your good, you need to develop the habit of slowing down and thinking a little more carefully about what He’s really like.
Because He is unendingly higher than any one else in this universe in goodness.
There’s no comparison.
Man’s goodness versus God’s.
We might hear a story of how someone famous did something for someone else, was good to them, or showed them mercy, but when it comes to goodness and mercy, our God, is infinitely exalted above anyone else.
He finds happiness in His creatures doing well.
He as Jonathan Edwards has said, “delights in making of them exceeding happy and blessed, if they will but accept of the happiness which he offers.”
If you want proof of that, look around, everyone you see, is living on the overflow of God’s kindness.
“He” and this is Edwards again, “maintains the whole creation of his mere goodness: every good thing that is enjoyed is part of his bounty.” And for us as believers, there’s not just His common grace, that’s not where see His goodness most.
Because, it’s the spiritual blessing we enjoy.
I mean, guys, He’s given you Jesus.
The one in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge – he’s yours: the one who is the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of his person – he’s yours: the good Shepherd: my prophet, priest and king: the one who has no restrictions, and no boundaries save his own determination and purpose – he is given to you!
And there’s a lot we can’t understand about that, I mean, we have been given a gift beyond our ability to conceive, and sometimes it is especially hard for us to understand why God would have given us something so extreme, and while there are a number of answers to that, I guess, one is just that fact that we serve a giving God.
That’s James point.
It’s just God’s nature to give.
We serve an unbelievably generous God.
Jonathan Edwards once put it like this, “God never begrutches his people anything they desire.”
In other words, God wants your best more than you do.
He’s not up in heaven thinking about how to make your life difficult just for the sake of making it difficult, if you look back to verse 5, you see he is the giving God who gives liberally and without reproach, and here in 17 we see that everything he gives is good and perfect and actually back in verse 13, James has told us that he never tempts us to do evil, which means really at the end of the day, no matter which way we look at it, in the middle of life’s uncertainties, one thing we can know for sure, is that God is good and everything He is doing in your life is for your good.
He is more interested in your long term good than even you are.
And the thing is, that’s true whether or not in a specific moment, He seems good to you.
Which means, really whenever you are being tempted and that temptation maybe looks enticing because you think it seems like it might be better to disobey God than it is to obey Him in that moment, you can know, flat out, that’s impossible. Because there’s no good outside of God, and nothing comes from God except that which is good for you as a Christian.
And you know, I really feel an urgency about this.
Because obviously as a Christians you are going to be making decisions that are radically different than the world around you, and sometimes those decisions will seem difficult, and you can start to feel bad for yourself, but in the middle of all that, it’s important to remember that as Christians, it’s not like, we are closing our eyes to reality and blindly endure trials refusing to give in to our desires for absolutely no reason.
I am going to be tough.
I am going to do the right thing.
Instead it’s that we are refusing to listen to our evil desires and choosing to trust God because we are convinced of certain truths about Him.
And the first big one is that He’s good. He’s the source of all that is good.
Which is obvious but it doesn’t always feel obvious, that’s the thing, and that’s why I guess James has to say, “Don’t be deceived my beloved brethren” because the only way you are going to keep from giving in to your desires when life gets difficult is by developing certain convictions about the character of God.
Especially when life is uncertain.
Because I don’t know but I feel like sometimes when life is uncertain, there are points where we sort of get into a little bit of a panic, and we are like, oh no, everything is going the wrong way, but it’s like, what if God were good, and what if He were seeking your good, because He is.
And you can count on that, because God just doesn’t change.
This is the second half.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
Once again, James is painting us a picture.
He calls God the Father of lights, which leads us to begin to thinking about the sun and the stars and although the sun and the stars are awesome, beautiful, with the sun and stars, there are variations and there are shadows.
Sometimes it is light out and sometimes it is dark.
But James wants us to know God’s so much better than that.
He’s contrasting God with creation.
Where the heavens change, God does not.
There are no variations with God. There are no shadows. There’s not even a hint of darkness in his purity and his goodness.
And this is so important for you to remember, because if you are going to make decisions that make sense and that are good for you, you have to make those decisions on the basis of what is true, and obviously sometimes that can seem difficult because life is hard to figure out, and you are like what’s really happening here, but one thing that is always true, and that you don’t have to worry about, and that you can always bank on, and that every decision you ever make should be based on, is the character of God.
He’s good, He’s looking out for your good, and that’s not going to change.