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Faith Works - Staying Power
you can hear a MP3 recording of sermon here
James 1:9-18
Sunday, 15th September, 2013

 Last week Sam pointed out that our Good news turns the world upside down. We are called to count trials as ‘joy’. Spiritual wisdom does not make sense to the human mind without the Holy Spirit making the sense for us. So we are called to have joy in troubles. Doubt we are told is bad for us leaving us floating around from one panic to another.


Today we see this upside down way of seeing the world applies to our attitude to wealth. We are going to talk about our attitude to wealth a lot in listening to God through this letter. It keeps popping up.  We see that these trials are not heaven-sent but God is revealed as loving and giving good things to those he created and saved. Faith that God is able, willing and going to get us through the trials of life is another subject that this letter keeps on about. We are going to pick up from verse Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. To understand more about the trials and temptations of life. You see, the Bible is God’s word about real-life issues. The things that worry you, the things that make for life. So where do we start?


. So let’s start with ‘what is God like?’

You see that is the underlying foundation of our faith and our trust in him. What we believe he is like changes our world-view and our life-style and our thought patterns. Knowing Jesus transforms everything we know about life.


The Gods are often seen as capricious, erratic, only interested in our good when it suits them. Or God is seen as unreachable beyond our ability to connect unless we have fulfilled an eternity of lives and risen to such heights that we receive enlightenment.


In western culture, God is seen as the cause of our ills. Religious fanaticism evidence that God is malicious or probably absent. The idea we should take note if what is written in His name is objectionable. We are casting off God because he restricts our freedom. Let’s not restrict marriage to an man and a woman let’s have same-sex marriage. Already on the blocks is the next step which is designer children using DNA from a number of parents, so we can throw off this medieval idea that we have a destiny given by God. Our destiny is now in our hands to create and destroy what we like. Our Brave new world is a frightening cutting loose from every convention with no rules, no anchors and no hope.

 But the revelation of God that comes from Jesus is counter any other concept of God. He is unchangeable, reliable, consistent. God is the Father of light. He is not evil, he cannot be tempted by evil. These are important to get our heads round. He says I the Lord do not change

Listen to Balaam, speaking to Balak in Numbers 23:19-20

19 God is not human, that he should lie,
    not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
    Does he promise and not fulfil?
20 I have received a command to bless;
    he has blessed, and I cannot change it

Or Samuel in 1Samuel 15:29

29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

Malachi 3:7

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

We would like God to be like us and change to suit our moods but he is not like us, he is self-consistent. And for that we can be truly thankful because his promises are more secure than the very existence of the earth.  His promises are Yes and Amen!  When he says “I love you”, he is not about to go off with someone else. When we say “ Sorry” to him,  he says “your sins are forgiven”, he is not going to dredge them up 20 years done the line. When you arrive in heaven, you can be certain that yours sins, even though they fill up our minds so much now, will not be mentioned, not even remembered, except that , in Christ you were cleansed, your were clothed in his righteousness.

 God cannot be tempted. There is nothing he desires for in the universe that he cannot have. He is a God of love. He has no trace of evil in him, so there can be no envy, no greed, and no lust, which can enter his pure and holy mind.  He is a God of love, so when we sinned in Adam, his desire was to love those who rejected him. That is why from eternity he planned our salvation. His very nature was to want to bring us back. His wrath is for those who refuse his salvation, not those who have sinned. God hates sin, but he loves you, sinner though you are.


 He certainly does not set us up with endless trials for us to struggle over like some assault course of life. Trials come, we know that, we are not blind to realities of life, but they are not sent by God. So when Satan arrives at the door, saying he has a package from God, that he is simply doing God’s dirty work, send him away. He’s lying as he always does.  I know some Christians think that there is a distinction between temptation and trials but in this passage the Greek words are the same for trials and temptation. God does not tempt us or bring on the trials. What he does is promise to walk us through every step of the way, to teach us faith through trials, strengthen our love and trust through temptation. Jesus taught us to pray ‘don’t lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil.’  Here we see that trials become temptation to doubt God and find another fix than his way.

Abraham tried that. God had promised a son and when no baby appeared, he had an affair, by arrangement with his wife with Hagar and Ishmael was born.  God did not give up on his promise and Isaac was born when God chose.

David was hanging around on the palace roof on a sunny day and found he was looking at a beautiful woman bathing. Instead of looking away, he lusted and that lead to adultery. The adultery led to him murdering Bathsheba’s husband and the child conceived died. The God of grace stepped in, exposed his sin and brought about repentance and forgiveness.

 Eve listened to the half-truths of Satan. That was temptation. She  saw that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil was tasty. That was desire. It gave birth to sin.

Adam was no better, and  Adam and Eve were ejected from the garden of Eden, the presence of God. And sin led to death.  As in Adam all die.


But the Good news is that in Christ we are made alive!

In this letter we are told:


 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.


So instead of complaining that God has sent you temptations and trials,  Persevere! Because every trial becomes a test of your faith. And every test of your faith is a step in the direction of heaven. Your trials will be the crown you will wear in heaven. God will be saying  “ Look at this wonderful person. I died for them and they went through all sorts of difficulties but hung on by faith, often wondering why and what and how but they stayed the course!” And if you fall down, he picks you up, reminds you he loves you, forgives you and carries you. The crown of life is what you received when you asked Jesus to be your Saviour. It is not just the certainty of eternal life with Jesus, it the here and now joy of the presence of the Holy Spirit.


Notice that the crown of life is not dependant on the persevering under trial , it is dependant on God has promised  and your love  It is the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – not the result of you jumping through hoops and ticking boxes.

So count it all joy, today. If you have survived a trial, then God has brought you through it. If there are trials tomorrow, Jesus will walk through them with you. If you are in the middle of trouble, then know that you are not alone, the Holy Spirit is right there where you are, anxious that you may be able to persevere and glow faith in the darkness.


 I have so far ignored verses 9-11. So lets look at them in the light of the rest of the passage.


9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.


We are going to find this wealth / poor business throughout this letter. It was written to the dispersed Jews, the greek word in verse 1 is Diaspora. Jews were sidelined and persecuted then. Christian Jews were despised by Jews, so were further down the pile. The temptation to give up on Jesus was economic. To them James says, Don’t give up. In fact more than that, recognise that poor is good. You are learning to depend on God every day. Give us this day our daily bread is a line of prayer. Until there is no bread in the fridge and larder and no money to buy some. Then it is a cry of faith.

And faith is worth boasting about. It is what saves you and it is what earns you that crown of life.


So the rich man, that’s you,  should be humble and take pride in his low position. Recognise that you have not demonstrated your faith. Further and more importantly see that this privileged position you have being born into this great nation which has a National Health Service and a national Insurance Scheme that entitles you to benefits and a pension, is not a God-given right. It can be swept away if we continue to spend more than we earn, use more wealth than we create. It could all be gone in a matter of weeks. You only have to look around the world and see what happens when evil forces are unleashed in corruption and violence.

But even if we survive as a nation, what does it offer for eternity. You can’t take it with you. The National Health has no cure for death, winning the lottery cannot buy your place in heaven. Learn from Woolworths. Once it was on every high street, now it is gone. Wealth is transitory. Money is just promissory notes, what is eternal, is the crown of life that Jesus gives to those who put their faith and trust in him.


So don’t give up. Stay the course, recognise that temptation is there to expose your faith , troubles are trials to polish and perfect your faith that you may be mature in Christ.


 And that rests on our faith in an unchanging and therefore safe God. He is not going to bring trials on us bit he well be your staying power in the trials of life. Trust him. If you have never done so before, today is the day to ask him to transform your life. To save you. Come to him, confessing that you are in need of forgiveness and receive the salvation Jesus brought through dying on the cross. And then survive all that life throws at you, even death itself and receive the crown of life. Remember

 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Firstfruits were special. They were given to God trusting he would provide the rest of the harvest. You are chosen. Offer yourself as a firstfruit trusting that God wants to bless you beyond what you ask or think.


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