Pastor Bruce Simpkins
Renewal Community Church
Preached: January 8, 2012
We are just beginning the book of James. Let me give you a quick review of this book from last week.
This is written by James, the brother of Jesus, which is miraculous in itself, because we noted that early in Jesus ministry, all of Jesus family thought he was “out of his mind” and needed to be taken charge of. It also said His brothers did not believe in Him in the beginning.
This book is not for the faint of heart because he brings human misbehavior out in the open, faces it, and deals with it. His primary overall focus is: James 1:22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.
Don’t come to church on Sunday and listen to all the teachings, but then walk away thinking you are done for the week. Just going to church does not make you a Christian any more than going into your garage makes you a car. Being a Christian means living like one ALL THE TIME, and when we fall short, confessing and repenting and moving on.
The good news about the book of James is that he doesn’t just tell us WHAT we should be doing, but he tells us HOW to live our lives authentically. His teaching is both practical and doable. For James, faith is not what we think about, but what we DO.
So lets pick up then in:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
Robert Lewis Stephens wrote Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jekyll invents a potion that divides his personality so that he ends up being like two people in one . . . one good and the other evil. And the two personalities begin competing to become the dominant nature and a monster within begins to emerge.
The interesting thing is, we have all already taken that potion too. It is called sin. There is a battle between good and evil for dominance in your life too.
James warns us we will have circumstances that will cause us to become double minded. It is easy for us to fall into the trap of living two lives. A secular life and a sacred life. Difficulties and trials divide us into a Jekyll and Hyde existence. One day we take a stand for Christ, but then we are surprised at how easily we compromise that stand and rationalize, “but in this circumstance . . . I’m not so sure any more” and we begin to doubt God.
When you are in church or at a church function, you are one person. When you are at the grocery store or somewhere else, you have a different face. If we are honest, everyone does this from time to time. Sometimes we are the one person and sometimes the other. Sin is the potion divides us into these two faces and gave us a double mind. It divides you from God and your relationship with him. It divides from other people, and it divides you from your self. It is destructive to all three. As you find yourself shifting back and forth, it becomes a life with no foundation.
There was a news story on June 21, 2008 about a minor league baseball pitcher named Pat Venditte. Maybe you saw this online. There is a u-tube video of it him too. He is a switch pitcher. He had a special glove made that he could wear on either hand and depending on the batter being left or right handed, he would pitch with the hand that gave him the advantage. But on this particular occasion, it was the bottom of the 9th inning with two outs and the batting team was losing. When the batter came up, he took the left handed hitting position and so Venditte was about to pitch with his left hand. But the batter was a switch hitter so he stepped across the plate. Venditte switched hands and the batter stepped across the plate again. This went on for 7 minutes. The umpires were at a loss because there was no rule for this situation. In the end, they decided that the batter can only switch the side of the plate one time, which gave Venditte the advantage and he struck the last batter out.
Being double minded is just like that. You just keep switching place and can never get anywhere. No progress. You don’t grow in your Christian life.
We tend to pray when it is convenient. We go to Bible study as long as nothing else comes up than we would rather be doing. We go to church if the weather is good . . . unless its TOO good then we “worship out in nature” . . . but when we get out in nature do we really stop and spend an hour of uninterrupted worship of God?
When we constantly give in to our desire for worldly things, God simply brings trials and tests into our life to remind us that we need Him. We need the foundation of Jesus Christ so we are not TOSSED about by the trials and tests in our lives. When our relationship with God is right, the trials and tests do not even ripple the water. In fact, we consider it pure joy when the trials and tests come. When I was in school, I was not really a stellar student. There were many tests I took in school for which I was not prepared . . . and when the test came, I felt tossed about. But when a test came that I was prepared for, I looked forward so I could prove I knew the material.
James says it’s the trials that actually help us demonstrate our relationship with God, whether good or bad.
Our temptation when we have trials though, is to think that God is not present . . . when in fact is He is more present than ever. But if we give in to the temptation to “switch-hit” from God’s way to the worlds way because of our circumstances, we do not grow Spiritually. We just mark time and make no progress like Pat Venditte. The writer to the Hebrews says the same thing.
12. . . though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.
The truth about righteousness is we must stay single minded about Jesus Christ. Our James passage is saying that when you have trials to Consider it pure joy when you face trials. But we say, how can I have joy when the Dr. brings that diagnosis to us. Or when my car breaks down AGAIN. Or I can’t get a job. How do I count that as joy. Well, once again, Jesus sets the perfect example for us. Jesus didn’t say, “Oh yippee, I am going to be whipped and beaten and crucified”. His joy was NOT in the suffering, but His joy was in the results of what His suffering would bring. Life to all mankind. See what Hebrews 12 says:
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
If everything is coming easy in this world, that is when you should get uncomfortable. Because the Lord disciplines those who are in His royal family, but if you are not a son of God, He lets you have it your way for a time and gives you over to your own way. But that is the worst thing that can happen to a person . . . for God to give them over to their own way. It is a curse.
10 I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. 11 “But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. 12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.
13 “If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways, 14 how quickly would I subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes!
There are bad things that happen to us, but there is nothing worse that can happen to you than for God to say, “I am giving you over to your own devices”.
Trials make you depend more and more on Him like never before. He will keep them coming so we will become more and more SINGLE minded which results in maturity and Spiritual growth. If you are double minded and avoid God when it suits you, you will never grow.
There is an old hymn that says, “He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way”. The only time we can really be that close to Him is in a trial. If you are double minded, you will never walk and talk with God about it.
I was talking to a man many years ago who was considering leaving his wife for another woman. He knew it would alienate his whole family from him. He was unhappy with his current circumstance and said, “Bruce, I just don’t know what to do. I would do anything for my family, but I really want a new marriage. I know I can’t have both, and I don’t know what to do.”
He knew what was right, but he was saying that under THESE circumstances, I want it my way. He was being double minded. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde monster was beginning to emerge. Listen, if you have given your life over to Christ, a trial like that can actually help you develop your trust in God. But if not, you will never learn from that trial.
There’s an old saying I learned long ago. Trials should REFINE you, not DEFINE you. When God refines us, it is like gold. It is not to hurt us, but to make us precious to the lord.
though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
The trials are simply to measure your progress, not to judge you. When we are double minded, we live life like we have eternity, but when faced with trials, we fear death.
In our original scripture in James 1:5 its says:
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt . . .
Ask God for wisdom because He can make you wise, and then believe it has been given and do not doubt.
James 1:12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.