I’ve been thinking about the first chapter of James and all the things that KPaul has talked about in the last three weeks. (See the sermon series here.) Three points that have stood out to me:
- Perseverance is hard, but it gives you what you need later. (Week 1)
- Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come instantly when we ask for it, but we need to learn to stay and wait and listen for God’s answers. (Week 2)
- Are we letting our emotions or our wills direct our actions? It should be our wills. (Week 3)
These messages in James are the opposite of what our culture says. James wants us to persevere: our culture says quit. James wants us to stand up to temptation and not give in to every desire: our culture says do what feels good now. James says be slow to speak and slow to become angry: the culture says air every feeling in person, on Facebook and Twitter immediately. Definitely don’t listen to what the other person says or be concerned about how your words might affect them. James says get rid of all evil and filthiness in our lives and follow God wholeheartedly: everything about our culture pushes us to do the opposite. Our culture is one of instant gratification, and James says that God’s way is different.
Instant gratification versus James chapter 1. Easy versus hard. I like easy, but God’s way isn’t necessarily the easy way. Sometimes we hear (not that it is necessarily said, but it is what we hear) that accepting Jesus will make our lives great. That becoming a Christian is all we have to do, and from then on our lives will be blessed. But accepting Jesus as Lord, as James did, is the first step on a narrow road, not the easy road.
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.Jesus — Matthew 7:13-14 (NIV)
James also says that this road of perseverance and choosing to follow God leads to life. Did you catch it?
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.James 1:12 (NIV)
We choose to follow God, to persevere, because there is a reward! Eternal life. A full life, an abundant life, as Jesus says in John 10:10. God isn’t asking us to do hard things with no hope. He is asking us to follow Him so He can give us a life that is better than any we have ever known. Praise the Lord that we don’t have to live life without hope! James says we should be joyful as we follow God’s path for our lives, not because it is hard, but because there is hope and a reward.
I have some friends who I have been watching put their marriage back together. They have chosen to do the hard. To forgive. To choose to love even when they don’t feel it. To get rid of the evil and follow God. And this week I have seen joy in them. The emotions have followed the choices. Too often we let our choices follow our emotions. But God says we should choose to do what He says, not what our desires says, and then we will have a joyful life.
So what is the message so far? Be careful of instant gratification. Don’t let your emotions run your life. That’s what the devil wants for you. It will lead to death eventually. God wants to give you life. So choose life. Choose joy. Choose wisdom. Choose perseverance. Choose Jesus every day, even when it is hard.