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2019-03-10 James 1:17 Tried and True (6): Only The Best

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TRIED AND TRUE (6): ONLY THE BEST (James 1:17) March 10, 2019 Read James 1:17 – Did you ever have a deceptio visus? You say, “What?!” Deceptio visus, Latin for “visual deception.” They’re common. For example, put a straight stick into a basin of water. It turns crooked, right? Not really. It just looks like way. Why? Because light travels at one speed thru air and another thru water – thus your stick looks different in air than it does in water. The same thing is true of events seen thru the medium of flesh and spirit. Things look one way to our sensory perception but entirely different from God’s perspective. Spurgeon tells of sitting in a garden one day with his secretary – both in perfect health. Life was good. Then he says, “Within 5 days I was stricken with disabling pain, and far worse, he lost his wife.” The straight stick suddenly looked crooked. God’s goodness didn’t look so good. But Spurgeon goes on, “Here is our comfort: the Lord has done it. The best rose in the garden is gone. Who has taken it? The Gardener. He planted it, watched over it, and now He has taken it.” Tragic from our perception. Yet Spurgeon concludes, “We know it is best that He should come and gather the garden’s finest.” What faith, to see God was just as good now as He was five days ago. It hurt! But the mourning is not mourning of despair but of hope. So, is God just as good when the prayer to heal is answered positively as when it is answered negatively? Or is God only good when He suits our purposes? The Bible answers in Psa 73:1: “Truly God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.” Could be translated “God is only good to those who are pure in heart.” So how do we deal with a deceptio visus – where God’s good doesn’t look good?! Jas can help. The deceptio visus is always a trial that will either grow us or sink us. James tells us how to see straight – how to think rightly about this trial – see it as God sees it. In golf, you are always looking for a swing thought – some truth that will help you swing straight. Jas gives 3. I. God Generates Good 17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” Good originates with God – nowhere else. Just God. He alone is the Father of lights – of understanding, clarity, good – as opposed to darkness which in the Bible represents evil, wickedness, waste, loss. 1 Father of lights -- source of lights. Why do physical lights exist at all? Bc God is good and bc God loves. Psa 136:7: “To him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Day one of creation: Gen 1:2: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. . . . 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” Note: God made physical light, and even day and night, before the sun, moon and stars which do not come until day 4. God doesn’t need the sun for light. He’s the source of light. He created it, and it was all good! Out of chaos, God brought good. But those mighty physical lights point us to His even greater glory as the Father of moral and spiritual light. God’s the source of light bc God is light. I Jn 1:5b: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Pure, unadulterated light and pure, unadulterated goodness originates in one place – God! The greatest expression of God’s goodness was His sending of His own Son to be one of us so we could have a clear vision of this light. Jn 1:9: “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” Why? Mt 4:16, “The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” Here’s ultimate goodness – God sending Jesus to deliver us from our greatest enemy – death. God is pure goodness in His creation and He is pure goodness in His recreation of every person who will accept the forgiveness paid for by Jesus Christ. All that is good originates with God and nowhere else. But why mention that here? In vv. 13-16 the subject is temptation which always involves the idea we can enhance our happiness acting contrary to God’s character. A false good! Some besetting sin grabs us – the temptation to overindulge self – or some new temptation to gratify self – to feather our nest with a small lie, to fight boredom with a new flirtation or private moment of lustful indulgence, to further ambition with a stolen idea. It looks so good! In those moments James says, here’s your swing thought. Good originates only with God. He’s just told us the mixture of natural desire with our sin nature is a toxic concoction that will look so desirable – and lead to death. Now he says, If what looks so good can’t be traced back to God, look out. Good originates with God. Anything else is “fake good”! Giving in to temptation is re-enacting Gen 3 all over again. Satan convinced Adam and Eve that God was holding out – that His commands were not good 2 – so they sought good elsewhere. Gen 3:6: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” It all looked good – but we know how that turned out – and so it will every time we seek good outside of God’s boundaries. If you can’t invite God to your party, you’re looking for good in all the wrong places. Good only comes from God. A burly man answered a knock one day to find a guy who asked, “Do you own that Rottweiler?” They big guy answered, “Yes, what about it?” The knocker said, “My Chihuahua just killed him.” They burly guy said, “Are you kidding? How could that little runt of yours kill my Rottweiler?” The guy replied, “He got stuck in your dog’s throat?” And so little rebellions in the pursuit of happiness bring big destruction. God is the only source of good, Beloved. If you can’t invite Him to your party – cancel the party! II. God Gives Good 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” Seems easy to understand on the surface. New car – good gift – came from God. Easy. But there is ironic depth in this statement we must get if we are to be tried and true. Satan also gives gifts. And the irony is this. Satan’s gifts always look good and never are. God’s gifts sometimes look good and sometimes not -- tho they always are. It takes discernment to discriminate. Take the first statement. Satan’s gift’s always look good but never are. In the end you always pay dearly for his gifts. Joshua 7. The Israelites have finally entered Canaan after 40 years wandering in the wilderness. Took Jericho without a shot fired. Just marched around and blew trumpets. Then came Ai – much smaller. Simple. Spies advised Joshua – no need to send everyone, 3,000 men will do. So Joshua sent the 3,000 who returned shortly in utter defeat. Tails between their legs. Thirty-six dead. Bad day at Ai. So Joshua tore his clothes, fell on his face – and blamed God! Josh 6:7: “And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us?” How could You do this to us. We should never have come. God answers: “On your feet, Joshua. Israel has sinned. Someone took things in Jericho that I said were mine – devoted to destruction. Find the man or the trouble continues.” Next morning, Joshua narrowed the field from tribe to clan to one man – Achan. Josh 7:20: “And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against 3 the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them.” They looked so good. Achan probably rationalized, “I can’t believe the Lord led me to find this treasure. I’ll tithe it and give my kids a great education.” But it violated God’s Word which violated God’s character and Achan paid with his life. Contrast that with David who, after being anointed king, not once, but twice, while being hunted by Saul, found himself in position to kill Saul. The first time, Saul went alone into a cave to relief himself – the very cave where David and his men were hiding. David’s men urged, “Isn’t God good?! He’s put Saul right in your crosshairs!” David did sneak up to cut a corner from Saul’s robe. But he refused to kill him. I Sam 24:8 Afterward David also arose and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth and paid homage. 9 And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’? 10 Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the LORD gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’s anointed.’ 11 See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands.” David refused the shortcut. He saw the trap. Satan’s gifts always look good but never are. Satan’s promises never develop – God’s never fail. But neither do they always look good at the time. It takes faith to see God in hard times. Kent Hughes had a very successful youth ministry during seminary – many kids coming to faith in Christ. Wonderful time. So when he graduated, his church began a spin-off that he pastored. But instead of the success he and everyone else expected, the church began to shrink. The harder he worked, the fewer came. Hope faded and he descended into depression. He comments: “One hot late-summer night in 1975, I felt a midnight of the soul and poured out all my dark, pent-up thoughts to my wife. They were mean and ugly—and shameful. At rock bottom, I said to my poor wife, ‘God has called me to do something he hasn’t given me the gifts to accomplish. Therefore, God is not good.’ I felt as though I was the butt of a cruel joke, and I wanted to quit.” He asked his wife, “What am I going to do?” Barbara answered: “I don’t know what you’re going to do. But for right now, hang on to my faith … because I believe. I believe God is good. I believe he 4 loves us and is going to work through this experience. So hang on to my faith. I have enough for both of us.” God’s gift of humility and dependence eventually led Kent to pastor College Church in Wheaton. The gift didn’t look so good at the time. But our swing thought must always be: “God only gives good gifts; and only God gives good gifts. So God help me stay the course.” III. God Guarantees Good It is not just God’s actions that are always good. Goodness is built into His very character. It is who He is. He is the one “with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” No shadow due to change. As stable as our universe seems, occasionally, the moon moves in front of the sun causing a shadow and we have an eclipse. We’ve all had the experience of finding a nice sunny place in the park, only to find ourselves in shade again as the sun moves across the sky. In life there is always variation. With God – never. Someday when life really has you down, read Psalm 136 which starts “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” “His steadfast love endures forever” is repeated 26 times in that chapter – 26! It is used almost 50 times in the Bible. Good is who God is, and since there is not even the hint of change in His character, that goodness is guaranteed forever. People change. Nothing ever stays the same very long in this life. Change is the one constant. So you can never be 100% sure. Even your closest friend may one day put his or her interests above yours. Or may get Alzheimer’s and forget who you are. We change. God never changes. His goodness today will be His goodness tomorrow. He never gets older, never forgets, never changes. When companies merge, the anxiety level skyrockets. No one is sure of their place in the new organization. Uncertainty reigns and it’s no fun. One TV network changed so fast hirings and firings among the top brass was a daily occurrence. One director said to his assistant, “I’m going out for lunch. If the boss calls, find out who he is and tell him I’ll call him back.” That’s an unnerving position. But it will never happen with God. Whatever is going on in your life, you can be sure of one thing – God intends it for good. Even if it’s a discipline, it’s for our good. We can say with David in Psa 119:68: “You are good and do good.” His character and His steadfastness guarantee it. So we can embrace whatever comes with assurance it’s for our ultimate good. 5 Conc – Years ago, a CT editor, Marshall Shelley, and wife, Susan, were expecting. But tests revealed the baby had an enlarged heart and would probably not survive birth. Shelley writes, “This was a design flaw and the Designer was responsible,” so they prayed for a miracle, that the child would have the breath of life. The date arrived; the child was born. Shelley relates: “He was a healthy pink, and we saw his chest rise and fall. The breath of life. Thank you, God.” Two minutes later, their child turned from pink to blue, and he died. The miracle of life followed by the mystery of death. When asked for a name, Susan responded, “Toby – short for the biblical name Tobiah -- ‘God is good.’” God is good? How could they give him that name? Because the Shelley’s believed that God is good not only when He makes sense to us, but even when He doesn’t. God is good not only when we understand, but even when we don’t. Marshall writes, “The name is what we believer, not what we felt.” But he continues, “It was what we wanted to feel again someday.” And one day they will. And one day, so will you – whatever your struggle – as you by faith commit it to the Lord. In believing in God’s goodness, He’s not asking anything He didn’t ask of His own Son. Where is God’s goodness most clearly seen? Not in the abundance of excess. No – God’s goodness is most clearly seen in a place of horror – at the cross. That was a severe goodness. It was not a happy occasion for either Father or Son. The devastation unleashed on humanity by the Fall exacted a heavy price for redemption. But that ultimate price was paid at the cross, making it an occasion of ultimate suffering, but also an occasion of joy as Jesus, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2) So, whatever our suffering, we can endure it for the joy that is set before us, trusting that in His good time we will see the wisdom of His plan. And we will see the certainty of His goodness. So let us revel in Him rather than rage at the circumstances. He cares enough to send only the best. Let’s pray. 6
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