We are now in Week 1 Day 5 of Faith. The last several days I really haven’t felt like doing my Bible study. I have some kind of infection in my mouth with a great deal of pain and swelling. Today is the 3rd day of that experience. It would have been so easy to tell God that because of the pain medication I was taking, I just couldn’t go through the Bible study. But I made a commitment. Here we are studying about trials and I’m having one of my own. There was NO way I was going to be defeated in getting closer to my Lord. I tell you this not to pat myself on the back, but to encourage you. Even with the excruciating pain I’ve been in, the studies the last few days have been incredible. Work during Day 3 and 4 culminated with me laying some really huge burdens I’ve been carrying (I’m calling it The Great Cleansing), and laid them at the Lord’s feet – 8 full pages! I’m truly experiencing pure joy in my trials. Who would have thought???
Here’s today’s text: “Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 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 will fade away even while they go about their business.” (James 1:9-11)
At first sight, these verses seem unrelated to the larger theme of life’s trials. Yet money is a common cause of trials and “double-mindedness” (unreliability). James is teaching us here to adopt a non-materialistic worldview. Wealth is meaningless in the face of certain death. Rather, we must focus upon God’s view of exaltation and lowliness. Both positions are true of all believers. But the lowly need to be encouraged that they are exalted before God, whereas the exalted need to hear a message of humiliation. “For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave.” (1 Corinthians 7:22).
What we can have in Jesus outweighs anything in this life. Knowing Him gives us our exaltation, where we find true dignity. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galations 3:28-29) Our station in life is completely irrelevant; all that matters is that we profess our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, confess and repent of our sins, pick up our cross and follow Him!
It’s also available for the rich brother, as long as he humbles himself and realizes his wealth is fleeting – Only Christ can offer us eternity. “But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.” (James 1:10) God cares for us. He is mighty. He calls us to humble ourselves under Him. Not because He is a controlling God that wants you to bow down to Him because you are nothing, but rather because He wants to exalt us and care for us. As we humble ourselves, that is when we truly worship Him. We’re trusting Him with what’s going on in our lives and believing He is the provider instead of ourselves. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
God values the attitude of our hearts above all else. Apostle Paul had impressive credentials; but his conversion to faith in Christ wasn’t based on anything he had done or had – just like for all of us, it is only because of God’s grace and mercy. “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” (Phil 3:7-9)
I’ve noticed lately in the majority of my conversations with people that everyone is tired. We’re busy. We’re weary. We’re taking on a lot of responsibilities. We’re working hard for our families. We’re trying to attend as many social events as possible. We’re trying to pay the bills as best as we can. We’re just trying to “get by.” “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
We are working too hard. We are thinking way too much mentally. We are putting things on our shoulders that don’t belong there. We are forgetting what Jesus said and what He has done when we feel that it’s “all on us” to get things to happen. Most of the time, we’re probably putting so much effort into the wrong things all together (I am guilty of this too).
In today’s culture, we’re told if you labor and are heavy laden then you are doing the right thing. You are sacrificing for your family and friends. You are pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and working hard to hopefully one day achieve paradise (retirement) where you get to do nothing as you live out the rest of your days. This is wrong. Don’t let culture tell you that putting everything on your shoulders is wisdom. Trust Jesus when He tells you that His burden is light.
What believers do is a result of faith, not a prerequisite to faith. Don’t think that you will satisfy God by feverishly doing His work. He will reward you for what you do but ONLY if its a loving response to His free gift of salvation. No amount of lawkeeping, self-improvement, discipline or religious effort can make us right with God. Righteousness ONLY comes from God, and we are made righteous by trusting in Christ.
Most of the time when we don’t humble ourselves, we are really saying we don’t trust God. There are times as a follower of Christ when we forget God’s character or doubt Him. We’re told in Scripture to think on the things of God. To meditate on anything worthy of praise.
These things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, or excellent are all praiseworthy because God is all these things. You’ll never find an area of the Bible that contradicts God’s character at the end of the day and that should encourage us in those moments of doubt. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
We are made perfect in our weakness. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) What you have in your heart, not your bank account, matters to God and endures. Don’t compare yourself and your actions to others – look to Jesus as an example of how to live your life, not others. “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,” (Galations 4:6) Jesus is our ultimate example of humility. Out of obedience to His Father, He humbled Himself all the way to the point of death on the cross. The Bible says because of this that God exalted Him just like how it says He will exalt us (1 Peter 5:6-7). His example will inspire you to do your very best, and His loving acceptance will comfort you when you fall short of your expectations.
“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.” (James 1:2-3) When you are having trials in your life, humble yourself and seek your joy from God. You are rich in faith and an heir to the Kingdom of God. You are loved and cherished by your Heavenly Father. God sacrificed His Son for us. Not only does that tell us everything we need to know about God’s character, that shows us just how much He loves us. And the love of the Father is worthy of boasting!