“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1.17
Every one I know, including myself, likes to receive gifts. James encourages us with this powerful statement: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above … ” Is your mind racing like mine is right now? I am thinking about the good gift(s) and the perfect gift that I have received from my Heavenly Father. I do not wish to be simplistic or redundant, but here are some of the gifts that I have received from God: (1) life itself, (2) eternal life, (3) the health to serve Him each day, (4) a wife whom I love dearly, (5) children who have brought so much joy to my life, (6) grandchildren and great grandchildren that are a bonus from God, (7) a wonderful church in which to serve, (8) a job that allows me at my age to continue serving God, and the list is almost endless.
I want to come now to the perfect gift that is from above. The only perfect gift I have ever received is the person of Jesus Christ. I must never question His perfection. To do so is to put myself in a place of weakened faith. When there is a question regarding something that God does through His Son, the question is on my end because God’s way is perfect (Psalm 18.30).
Notice how James describes God in these phrases: (1) the Father of lights, (2) God is not variable, and (3) God does not cast a changing shadow. One translation says this: “he never changes or casts shifting shadows.” In other words, whatever God does, He does well, with no attempt to deceive or trick us, and He is not changeable. That is the kind of God I want to know more intimately. How about you? Just my thoughts …
“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Colossians 3.13
Does it seem to you that as Christians we are asked to put up with a lot from other Christians? Why can’t I just be myself? I don’t want to be a phony! Have those thoughts ever gone through your mind? I’m sure some of us have answered yes to that question.
So what is Paul telling us to do here? I have a choice when another believer has wronged me. I can either just “be myself” or I can be Christ-like! Who would you rather interact with? Someone who is just “being themselves”, or someone whose very demeanor is a reflection of Christ? Paul is telling us, “Be Christ-like! Be forbearing. Be forgiving!”
I think the strongest argument he makes is this one: “if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” When you think of all that Christ had to deal with when He forgave you, forgiving someone else for whatever the offense may be, is a very small matter in comparison Let’s not make excuses for why we cannot forgive someone. But rather let’s remember the grace and mercy extended to us and with willing heart forgive one who has offended us. Can I suggest that such action on our part will display Christ to a brother or sister in the Lord, but it will also show a watching world that Christ really has made a difference in our lives! Just my thoughts …
“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Isaiah 43.2
I remember several occasions when I was a child that my dad would be driving in the car and come to a road that was blocked by floodwaters. I was petrified that he might try to drive through the waters. He never did, for which I am thankful. So, when I read this verse, I am greatly encouraged. I know the verse is not talking about floodwaters, but about the circumstances in our lives that threaten us like flood waters. I suspect that most if not all who are reading this have experienced those life circumstances. Here is God’s promise: “I will be with thee.” How many times have we asked, “Where is God when …?”, only to discover that He was there all the time. You aren’t the only one who has ever felt forsaken. While hanging on the cross Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” God had not gone anywhere. It just seemed that way!
“ … when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned … ” Talk to the three Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They experienced this very thing and came out of the literal fire with no evidence that they had ever been in it. Even Nebuchadnezzar had to admit, “It looks like Jesus is in there with them.” (Burton translation) You and I won’t be going through any “fires” as such, but we will experience some life circumstances that will seem like fire. Aren’t you glad to know that God’s concern for you and protection of you includes even the worst conceivable circumstances? “neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Amen! Just my thoughts …
“And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will show to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. (14) The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.” Exodus 14.13-14
The situation here is one that Israel had never faced before and would never face again. The Red Sea was in front of them and the Egyptians were behind them. And God said, “I’ve got this!” So Moses tells the Israelites, “Keep your mouth shut and watch what God does for you.” I’d say that’s pretty cool advice. Do you think that would work for us today?
No doubt every one of us has been in a situation that seemed impossible. We couldn’t move forward and the enemy seemed to be closing in behind us. How many times has our first reaction been to argue with God – reminding Him of what He PROMISED us? “You said you would never leave me or forsake me. Where are you now?” “Lord, there’s no way I can handle this. I am emotionally spent.” “My family is falling apart and there is nothing I can do about it. Help me please!” I understand these cries of desperation for help. And so does God. I also know there are times when I just need to be quiet and let God do what only God can do. I don’t need to understand HOW He is going to do it. Nor do I need to try to force Him into my schedule of events to do it when I want it done. I just need to “Fear not … stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD.” What does that require of me? Absolute trust. Since the Lord is going to fight for you, it is ok to hold your peace. Try it! Just my thoughts …
“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. (6) Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Colossians 4.5-6
How do we walk in wisdom and how do we redeem the time? And who are “them that are without”? Walking in wisdom indicates that we think about where we walk, how we walk, and why we walk there. You’ve probably heard the expression, “He walks like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” You can be sure that cat knows where his tail is all the time in relationship to the rocking chairs. Since we know others are watching, it makes good sense to walk in a way that does not do damage to the kingdom of God. We need to make good use of the time God gives us. Whatever time we waste can never be reclaimed. Parents often challenge their children with the command, “Don’t waste your time”, but do we fall into the trap of wasting precious time because we do not allow the Holy Spirit to direct our every step?
This next verse may be more powerful than we realize. Our speech needs two things: (1) to be always be spoken with grace, and (2) to be seasoned with salt. When we speak with grace, we guard the character of our words, realizing the value they may have to others. This phrase “seasoned with salt” takes our speech to a different level. When you put salt on something, it changes everything. When I realize that my speech has the potential to change everything, I certainly want what I say to be glorifying to God. How ought we to respond to every man? In a Christ-honoring, God-glorifying way. That will keep us busy today. Just my thoughts …
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (8) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” James 4.7-8
There are three very powerful words used here that are significant for us: (1) submit, (2) resist, and (3) draw nigh. The one thing that marks James’ epistle apart from the others in one sense is its practicality. He cuts right to the chase on so many issues that are prevalent in the believer’s walk with the Lord.
Submit – in the simplest possible terms, quit arguing with God. Either He knows what is best or He doesn’t. If He doesn’t, then don’t submit. But if (since) He does, then we need to stop arguing with Him and give full voluntary submission. Until I do that, I can’t do the next thing James mentions with any degree of success. Everyone of us wants the devil to flee from us, but we must first resist him. That is only possible once I have submitted myself to the Lord. When Satan flees from us, it is not a once-for-all event. He will be back. We will need to keep on resisting him and that requires that we keep on submitting to God.
Draw nigh to God … this needs to be a daily experience for us. How do we do this? We take down the barriers that separate us from God. This goes back to the concept of submitting to God. When I am not arguing with God, I can allow those barriers to go away and I can draw near to Him. When He draws near to me, I become aware of His presence. It is not a “mystical” something. It is the very sense of His presence. Psalm 16.11 reminds us: “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Let’s listen to James. Let’s do what he says. Let’s enjoy the benefits of submitting, resisting, and drawing near. Just my thoughts …
“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah” Psalm 68.19
David speaks such great truth in this verse. When was the last time you said (to yourself or someone else): “Blessed be the Lord … ”? Do we even think like that? Why would David even make such a statement? The next phrase gives us his reason: “who daily loadeth us with benefits … ” When was the last time you stopped to try and count the Lord’s benefits? Take a moment right now and ask yourself, “Which of the Lord’s benefits as I most thankful for?” If you are like me, it is difficult to name just one. It is difficult for me to get beyond the generous gift of salvation. That benefit alone is enough for me to cry out “Blessed be the Lord … ”
Then David speaks specifically about “the God of our salvation.” At the point of oversimplifying truth, you and I need to see God first and foremost as “the God of our salvation.” If your days are anything like mine, it is so easy to simply view God as our divine errand boy. We don’t set out to do that, but when the going gets tough, we may bombard the throne of grace with “God, I need this now.” Or “God can you do this now?” our focus can shift to our needs instead of on the God who meets our needs.
When Bible scholar Dr. John Phillips was alive, I heard him speak several times and was always refreshed with his treatment of the psalms. I remember him clearly calling attention to this little word Selah. He would say in his distinctive manner, “That means, stop and think about that.” So here we read, “even the God of our salvation. Selah” Let that sink in. Just my thoughts …
“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Philippians 4.6
The word careful here means anxious. Paul is reminding the Philippian believers that they do not need to be anxious about anything. If that is true for the Philippian believers, it is true for us as well. Don’t most of us get anxious about the things in our lives that we cannot control? What does that anxious feeling change? Absolutely nothing. So we have wasted energy and refused to exercise our faith in the only One who could control things.
What is Paul’s alternative to being anxious about things? Here it is: “in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Don’t miss the words “in everything”. There isn’t any part of your life about which God does not care. So everything means everything. Now notice the steps Paul mentions: (1) prayer, (2) supplication, and (3) thanksgiving. When you and I begin with prayer, everything changes. Prayer invokes a power that cannot be accessed any other way. We are saying to God, “I need you. I can’t handle this on my own.” Supplication is that part of prayer when we pray for others. How many times have we said to someone, “God’s Got This”? How many times have we reminded ourselves, “God’s Got This”?
The final element is to submit our anxious moments to God with thanksgiving. I suspect some are thinking about some life circumstance right now and thinking, “I am supposed to give thanks for this?” Only if you want God’s help. Only if you believe God knows best. Only if you trust God to always do what is best. Only then can you bring those anxious moments to Him and not be anxious. Just my thoughts …
“He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction.” Proverbs 13.3
When I was growing up, there were two maxims that were repeated to me over and over: (1) Children are to be seen and not heard, and (2) speak when spoken to. I know those two thoughts don’t fit every occasion, but as a child I soon learned there was a time to speak and a time to be quiet.
We have all been around people who were so in love with the sound of their voice they didn’t know when not to talk. I believe that is the type of person Solomon is describing in the last phrase of this verse. It is so easy to destroy relationships with hasty words that should never have been spoken. Can you remember a time when you said something and wished you could take it back, but it was too late? I certainly can.
Let’s focus for a moment on this phrase: “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life … ” When speaking of keeping your life, we are talking about your influence, your ability to interact with people. So, what does it mean to keep your mouth? When one keeps his mouth, he guards every word that comes out of his mouth. That means that we think about every word before we say it. Such an attitude requires constant focus. It requires that we give up the idea of simply saying whatever feels good and hope no body gets offended. It requires that the Holy Spirit approve my conversation, word by word. So here is the challenge for us all today. Let’s covenant with God to keep our mouth so that we can keep our life and thus keep our influence. Just my thoughts …
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51.10
David’s circumstances here certainly caused him to cry out to God for a clean heart. He had sinned with Bathsheba and Nathan, God’s prophet, had confronted him with his sin and David was broken before God. The critical thing to notice here is that even though David’s sin was heinous, he did not lose his relationship with God. He was even guilty of having Bathsheba’s husband murdered. If we are going to categorize sin, murder and adultery rank pretty high on the list. But David’s relationship with God was not broken, only his fellowship.
You and I can be thankful for the promise of eternal life. Once we come into the family of God, we have established a relationship with God that cannot be broken. Just as in our human families, there is nothing a child can do not to be our child, no matter what their behavior, the same is true in the family of God. But there are frequent times in families when the relationship is strained because of some particular behavior. Hence David prays, “renew a right spirit within me.” David has come to God with a repentant spirit. That is what God was looking for. In our own families when there is a strained relationship, we want to know if the guilty party has a repentant spirit. When they do, we are ready to forgive and move on.
Since the life you and I live each day is a delicate balance between pleasing self and glorifying God, our constant prayer needs to be that God will enable us to live a life that is above reproach and the only way we can do that is through the power of His Holy Spirit. Just my thoughts …