By Scott Brown
Pastor of First Baptist Church, Waverly
Focal passage: James 1:2-15
Recently, on a long flight, I watched the movie “42” based on the life of Jackie Robinson. There is a line that is repeated either by him or about him many times that really gripped me. Facing all the adversity that stands against him he says, “God built me to last.” Facing incredible odds, many enemies, and innumerable threats Jackie Robinson persevered and helped to change baseball forever.
It’s that same attitude James is telling his readers they should seek to have. As we seek to know Christ and make Him known, there will most definitely be obstacles, obstructions, and enemies along the way. Don’t give up! Persevere! All of the trials and troubles may seem like they are working against you but, in Christ, they are actually working for you! They work to further your growth, to exercise your faith, to weaken this world’s grip on you and sweeten your longing for the world to come … only as you choose to respond rightly and persevere.
James continues in the text by sharing how we might persevere in trials. First, we need wisdom from God to know how we should rightly respond in the situation. Wisdom involves more than making the decision that is popular or profitable but it is understanding God’s will and following Him. Only God is omniscient so only His wisdom is perfect.
As we ask God for the wisdom we so desperately need, James warns us that we must be already yielded and prepared to do what God reveals. The idea of asking in faith not only means that we must trust that God can and will give wisdom but also that we are willing and ready to obey whatever He reveals. Why should we presume that God would ever reveal His will only for us to argue with Him or disregard it altogether? Let us not be unstable but trust and follow Jesus by doing as He commands when He commands.
The second thing James tells us we need in order to persevere is a proper understanding of our identity in Christ. For the follower of Jesus, a person’s value is based upon the fact that they are image bearers of God. The rich man who believes he is more important is humbled by seeing that his riches can never buy him greater standing with God. The poor man who believes he is nothing is encouraged by trusting that his worth is not in what he does not have but only in what Christ is and offers. Our self-worth is not found in our net worth nor is it in how many good or bad decisions we’ve made but it is found in that one great decision we can make to repent of our sin and follow Jesus.
Third, James reminds us of the prize that we will receive in the crown of life if we do not give up! The text ends with a reminder: trials can come from God but temptations do not. Let us not confuse our desire to quit, to give in, and to run into the sin that entices us as something that God enacts or accepts.
Think of Adam and Eve after they are caught in sin. Adam refuses to take responsibility, blaming not only Eve but God Himself for making her. Only when we take personal responsibility for our obedience or lack thereof can we truly persevere and mature in Christ as He desires. B&R