Tried and True (2): Fostering a Believing Heart
Tried and True (2): Fostering a Believing Heart (James 1:5-8) February 10, 2019 Read James 1:5-8 – Joseph Parker was a great 19th century English pastor. He said that up until age 68 he never had a religious doubt. Then his wife died and his faith collapsed. He writes: "In that dark hour I became almost an atheist. God treated my petitions with contempt. If I had seen a dog in such agony as mine, I would have pitied and helped the dumb beast; yet God spat upon me and cast me out as an offense – into the night black and starless." He recovered, but if that can happen to a great pastor, we all need prepare ahead of time. Otherwise, the “why’s” will take us down. Without wisdom, emotions will prevail. Jas wants to take us to wisdom – not wisdom that knows every answer, but wisdom that trusts the One who knows every answer. Remember that there are 3 participants in every trial. There is God, who intends this trial to grow us; Satan who intends this trial to take us down; and us who decide the outcome by our reaction. Here James helps us understand how wisdom from God can help us get to the right outcome. I. God’s Intention in Trials – Give Wisdom Our first reaction to trials is to seek a human solution. Got a flat tire – fix it. Money problems, see the banker. Heart murmur, see the doctor. But God is looking for something different – that we seek Him first. Every trial, big or little, begs the same question -- where is God? Why did He let this happen? God would prefer we were asking, how can I handle this in a way that glorifies God rather than doubting Him? At the moment, it is all frustration, fear, exasperation, loneliness! How do I get from there to trust?! God’s answer? Before I seek the banker, doctor, mechanic or counselor -- 5) If any of you lacks wisdom, [1st class – assumed true – that’s why we’re frustrated, fearful and exasperated], let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” First recourse – check in with God. Be wise. See this test from God’s perspective. To me the trial seems evil. God seems negligent, absent, uncaring, even sadistic. He’s AWOL. So, how do I get His perspective? ASK! God’s intention is to grow us. But we have to ask wisdom. “Let him ask God.” Do you see, He is driving us to Himself?! Prov 2:3-5: “If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4) if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5) then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” This is not a diatribe but a true seeking His wisdom as you’d search out gold if you heard it was discovered in the Poudre. Seek wisdom with that intensity and you’ll find God. ASK! God’s more willing to give than we are to ask. No one faced worse testing than Job. It took a while, but eventually he asked for wisdom. Job 28:12) “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? 13) Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living.” [It’s not human wisdom we need] … 20) “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding?... 23) “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. 24) For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. [He’s got the big picture – we see only one small piece of the puzzle] … 28) And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” In other words, revere God more than the circumstance. We let the circumstance have the upper hand. Wisdom sees God has the last word. Wisdom sees that God is there, God is good, and God’s in charge. Israel was tried with captivity in Babylon, but God said to those of believing heart: Jer 29: 11) For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. [It wasn’t going to happen right away; but one day it would]. 12) Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. [You’ll ask; and I’ll answer]. 13) You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” 5) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God . . . and it will be given him.” Have you been asking? Truly seeking? The answer’s often different for diff people. There is no one right answer to facing cancer or loss or a difficult boss. What resonates with one may not help you, but God will answer. Ultimately, He wants to drive us to Himself. Are you asking? “Let me see you, Lord. Help me know how to magnify you in this test.” That’s the prayer. Warren Wiersbe’s sec had a stroke just as her husband lost his eyesight. Then he got a life-threatening illness. When Dr. Wiersbe said he was praying for her, she said, “What are you asking God to do?” He said, “I’m asking God to help you and strengthen you.” She said, “I appreciate that, but pray one more thing. Pray that I’ll have the wisdom not to WASTE all of this!” That’s the prayer James is seeking. That’s the prayer God is looking for. His intention is we get our intentions lined up with His intentions! Wisdom! II. Satan’s Intention in Trials – Create Doubt Here’s what trials require. Are you a believer? Great. You’ve trusted God with your eternal destiny. But now, to get wisdom for the trials of this life means to trust your earthly existence into the hands of that same loving God – never doubting His good will toward you. That is not our natural disposition. . Four turtles go on a picnic just as it begins to rain. Tommy Turtle volunteers to go home and get umbrellas but says, “You have to promise not to eat until I get back.” The other 3 give their word and off goes Tommy. An hour passes – no sign of him. Then another hour. “Should we eat?” asks one turtle. “No, we promised,” says another. So they wait – all afternoon, thru the night until noon next day. Frustrated and hungry, one finally says, “Let’s eat. Tommy must not be coming back.” So they all agree, “Let’s eat.” But just as they start, Tommy steps out from behind a tree and says, “If you do, I won’t get the umbrellas!” Sound familiar? Maybe a little like your prayer life? I can relate. We ask; it doesn’t happen in our timeframe, so we give up on God – doubting rather than trusting. Didn’t get my answer. Didn’t get it in my timeframe. This is where Satan wants us – in a sea of doubt! James is urging, “Don’t go there. Don’t doubt God. That turns off the faucet of His blessing. Rather than wisdom, we force Him to bring discipline. Some people interpret this text to mean if I have enough faith, God’s obligated to give whatever I ask. When that doesn’t happen, they get discouraged; faith flags; doubt reigns and they look like someone being tossed around by the waves. When they get an answer they like, faith is up; when it doesn’t happen, faith is down. The point is they’re driven by circumstances, not God. Events are our Lord, not Christ! We’re up and down depending on events. But God wants us anchored in faith, not driven by doubt. Yes, we’ll have weak moments, but not weak months and years. Do you know what doubt is? Doubt is trying to have my answer and God’s wisdom simultaneously. Doubt is created when I insist that God give me His blessing in my way. His answer to my specifications. Look at 8) he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” The doubter is δίψυχος – two-souled. He wants to have his cake and eat it, too. He’s unstable – because he’s divided – desiring God’s blessing, but his own way. Trusting God, but trusting self more! So when God doesn’t do as we think best, doubt comes crashing in – just what the enemy wants! The right answer is believing God is good and in charge, that His response to my prayer for wisdom is the most gracious and eternally satisfying answer possible. Faith must be in Him, not the answer! Heb 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” God blesses those who believe He’s good and in charge. Faith trusts God, not God’s blessings. And the time to settle that is now – before you hit the brick wall. We must look to God, not events. Know how to catch a monkey? Cut an opening in a pumpkin just large enough for a monkey to get his hand inside. Fill it with monkey treats. He’ll put his hand in to retrieve them. But then he’s got a problem. His fist around the treats is too large to extricate. He’s now a double-minded monkey – wanting to escape, but also wanting his treats. Just like double-minded people – wanting God’s blessing and their way. We have to choose, Beloved. True faith believes in Him, not His treats! III. Our Intention in Trials – Get Wisdom by Rejecting Doubt So, let’s get practical. How do I trust God and reject doubt? By prayer – exactly what Jesus did and what the disciples did not do on the night before He was crucified. The result? He passed the hardest test of all – the test of the cross – while they failed. Jesus is the example. Thus Heb 12:2: “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” He not only gave us faith initially; He’ll perfect it as we go along. Three great truths support this. A. He’s been there – Heb 4:14c-15: “let us hold fast our confession (no doubting). 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus has been where we are. There is no trial that He has not faced. Financial difficulties. He had “nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20c). Tempted to cheat? So was Jesus. Rejected for your faith?. Jn 6:66-67: “After [Jesus said Believe in me] many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” Dysfunctional family issues? Jesus’ brothers thought Him “out of His mind” (Mark 3:21). Jn 7:5, “For not even his brothers believed in him.” Feeling lonely? So did Jesus who asked His disciples in Gethsemane: Mrk 14:37c: “Could you not watch one hour?” Think the pain will last forever. Jesus suffered infinite pain on the cross. Feeling abandoned? “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” That was unimaginable loss. He lost the Father so we never have to. Jesus has been where you are. Last week I told of Joni – who became a quadriplegic in a diving accident. Initially, she raged against the loss of all her dreams. One night in a desperation, she begged a friend to give her some pills so she could die. When the friend refused, her outrage reached a fever pitch as she thought, “I can’t even die on my own!” She lashed out at her friend, she raged against her helplessness and she challenged God’s goodness. That’s when Cindy, desperate for something to say, blurted out, “Joni, Jesus knows how you feel. You’re not the only one who’s been paralyzed. He was paralyzed, too.” Joni stared at her and said, “What are you talking about?” Cindy continued, “It’s true, Joni. Remember, He was nailed to the cross. His back was raw from beatings, like your back gets raw. He’d have longed to move – to change position, to redistribute His weight to ease the pain -- to breathe! But He nailed in place. He knows exactly how you feel, Joni.” Joni later pointed to that moment as a turning point in her struggle to gain faith. And, Beloved, whatever your trial this morning, I tell you, Jesus has been there. You’re not the first. He knows you are going thru. Look to Him. Seek wisdom from someone who’s been there. Embrace Him; cling to Him. B. He is there – Whatever you’re going thru, He is there. The greatest trial in history – other than Gethsemane – was Jesus’ 40 days in the wilds of the Palestinian wilderness. Three gospels tell of this. Matt and Mark clearly note it was the HS who led Him into this temptation. Mt 4:1 “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Mark 1:12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” So while Satan’s the instrument, God is in charge. That’s Matt and Mark’s point. But Luke adds a clarifying note. Luke 4:1 “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.” Yes, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit. But Luke’s point is Jesus was led by the Spirit while in the wilderness! This was no drop-ship operation – not like a bomber dropping its load and then hightailing it away! No – the Spirit led Him into the wilderness, and then He stayed right there to lead Him in the wilderness. And He’ll do no less for you and me. Remember the 3 Hebrews boys in Daniel 3? Neb built this great statue and ordered everyone to bow down at the sound of the music, but these boys refused. In a rage, Neb ordered the furnace 7 times hotter and threw them in. But there was one more at his party than he anticipated! Dan 3:23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” God could have stopped that horror pix instantly. But He let those boys go thru that trial not knowing what was going to happen. But there He was, in the fire with them – and so He is with you in your test. However brutal it seems, however absent He seems, He is there. Reach out in faith. Trust Him. He’s not left you alone. Heb 13:5c: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” C. He will always be there – Last thing Jesus told His disciples. Mt 28:20b: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” It is for us to believe it, and live in the good of it. Conc – Joseph Bayly lost 3 of 7 kids before age 18. He wrote a column for Eternity magazine for 20 years. In the last one just before he died he said, "Since I've shared the severity of God with my readers" (speaking of the deaths of 3 of his children), "I want to share the goodness of God in this final column." Then he recounted God's grace in the lives of his four living children: Deborah, Timothy, David, and Nathan. Then he wrote: Mary Lou and I know that both by his severity and by his goodness God has shown consistent faithfulness. God is good. He is worthy of all trust and all glory.” How do you get to know God like that? Trials – intended as temptations by Satan to bring us down; intended as tests by God to build us up. Our choice makes the difference. How do you choose for God? By remembering what David said to God in Psa 119:68: “You are good and do good.” Embrace that this morning; God is good and God is in charge. Whatever your trial, grasp that, even if by your fingertips. In the end, you’ll find it’s true. Let’s pray.