Imagine your young child has wandered from the safety and security of home. You would stop at nothing to find them. You would search night and day. You would liquidate everything for a ransom. You would hang up posters and boldly bang on doors. You wouldn’t stop until they were safe in your arms.
James closes his letter with this sentence, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
The wanderer is the heartbeat of James. It is the culmination of all the practical advice packed into his letter thus far, pointing to true and genuine faith; what it looks like when we aren’t lost and wandering. Perhaps he is reflecting on his personal experience as a wanderer, remembering his mocking and unbelief when Jesus, his half-brother, was walking the earth. The risen Jesus appeared to him personally and his wandering ceased. He believed and his life was changed. His Savior pursued him. He didn’t leave him in the dark.
We are part of God’s search and rescue team. Why don’t we pursue our lost brothers and sisters like we would a wandering child? Why are we so quick to leave them in the dark armed with excuses?
Bible.org commentary says of our mistaken rationale, “One member of the search and rescue team says, ‘It was really cold and stormy, and there was a good show on TV. So I just prayed for you to be okay.’ Another says, ‘I wanted to be sensitive to your feelings. I thought you might be embarrassed if we came looking.’ Another says, ‘I wasn’t sure you were really lost. It would be judgmental to imply that you actually were lost. Besides, it would be arrogant of me to say that I’m not lost. After all, we all have our own paths on the journey.’ That’s not the kind of search and rescue team that I would want if I were lost!”
The truth is, it is hard. Because unlike a physically lost child who wandered off into the woods, our spiritually lost friends don’t always want to be found and rescued. They don’t realize they are lost. They don’t know they need to be rescued. We have to trust the Spirit to lead us to those we should go after and pray that the Spirit opens their eyes to the fact that they are indeed lost. God will join us on this mission near and dear to His heart.
May we have the kind of urgency toward wandering and lost souls that we do for a physically lost child. God, soften our hearts and open our eyes to chase after who and what you are chasing.
We don’t know much about the early life of Jesus. I often wonder what it would have bene like to be his sibling or best friend growing up…to watch how he played, and learned, and interacted with family and friends. I think James, as His half-brother, would have such a unique perspective on the Gospel and Christian living. So when James teaches things like joy in trials, living humbly, not just hearing the word but LIVING it, having compassion toward those in need, showing no partiality, backing up faith with good works, being aware of the power of our words…when James teaches these things, I imagine him going back in time and remembering what it was like to be with Jesus and the way Jesus naturally lived life. Not just when crowds were around, but always…in the mundane daily chores and tasks and downtime…in the everyday relationships.
James, armed with this knowledge and perspective, doesn’t hold back either. He says, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Pretty intense, right? But it echoes things that Jesus said about not being able to serve two masters and watching out for the little leaven that seems small and insignificant, but slowly and severely changes the composition of the thing it enters. We think we can handle a little of what the world has to offer; that we can manage the worldly ways and things and not be changed by them…but this is a mistake.
James says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will fell from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” To think we can straddle the fence of the world and God’s kingdom is to remain double-minded.
Commentator David Guzik says, “Our problem is we often want a middle road; a little popularity, a little reputation, but still the anointing from God. We want the power without the cost.” God doesn’t share His throne and we are with Him or against Him. May we always choose God.
“Who is wise and understanding among you?” James asks. Wisdom is more than knowledge and accumulation of information. Wisdom is action; found in the living. In the Old Testament we learn that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. In the teachings of Jesus, we learn that the wise person rooted in God’s truth and character. He or she hates injustice and evil; loves righteousness; is alert and ready for His return. Wisdom is a manifestation of faith and spiritual living.
“By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” James continues. True wisdom will show...in our conduct, in our good works, in our attitude and posture toward others.
So, how do we know if we are wise? If we have wisdom that is from God and not from the world? James offers a series of tests by which we can verify the genuineness of their faith, because when are truly saved and genuinely know God, we display a wisdom that looks and acts like it is of God. The wisdom we display is a reflection of the kind of a person we are.
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” James tells us that ungodly wisdom looks like BITTER JEALOUSLY and SELFISH AMBITION. It’s a heart issue. It is a life of self-focus, protecting our turf and/or wanting more for ourselves. John MacArthur describes it, “They are resentful of anyone who threatens their territory, who threatens their accomplishments, who threatens their reputation, who threatens to crowd their little slice of this world. Human wisdom, then, is self-focused, and any self-focused person has a tremendous problem with bitter jealousy.”
Wisdom from the world looks like attitude and action based on self...comparison, tension, competition. It looks like drifting with the tides of culture and self, rather than anchored in God’s ways. It looks like personal gratification...no humility, no love, no seeking the interest of others. James further gives us a picture of the consequences of earthly wisdom in action, “there will be disorder and every vile practice.” It wreaks havoc on us and those around us.
Wisdom from God looks vastly different, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Pure motives. Love of peace. Humble. Patient. Forgiving. Yielding. Merciful. Compassionate. Reasonable. No partiality. No hypocrisy or hidden motives. God, please fill me with not just more knowledge, but with YOUR wisdom and let my life be a reflection of You. You must become greater, I must become less.
“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” James 2:18-19
There is a difference in knowing about God — facts about Him; believing He exists — and knowing and believing IN Him. Submitting to His ways. Putting our faith and trust in Him as our Lord and Savior. We can believe our cell phone is a real thing that performs all of these useful functions, but we don’t believe it will save us.
Without a solid view of who God is we won’t ever fully submit to Him, or put much stock in who He says we are or what path He says we should be on. We can only go through the motions for so long over something we don’t genuinely believe. Without a firm footing, we will fall away easily when challenged. And this world is full of attempts to challenge our beliefs.
We often spend more time on our response to God than our relationship with God. But it is far more valuable to focus on WHO GOD IS than what we can or should be doing for Him. Because once our view of Him is right, the rest will follow…. naturally and wholeheartedly. It doesn’t mean we know and understand everything. No one does, or will, on this side of Heaven. God is far too big for our simple understanding. But it does mean we believe IN HIM, and we believe HIM. We choose HIM to be our counselor and guide.
Do you have a BIG view of God…that He is powerful, holy, good, in control, able, mighty, consistent, righteous, merciful, loving?
Do you believe He is who He says? That He keeps His promises? That He can do what He says He will do? Do you believe God created you and has good plans in store for you?
Do you believe that God is big enough to guide you, handle your burdens, forgive your sins, give you peace, have your good in mind, care about what happens to you?
WHATEVER is going on in your life, God is big enough- do you believe this? Do you choose God to be YOUR Lord and Savior?
Let’s say you really want to get in better shape. You go to a wellness seminar, you buy a handful of healthy cookbooks, you join a gym, you research and download the highest ranked fitness apps, you talk for hours with your best friend about your plans, you even make a calendar with a workout schedule and meal plan. But you never go to them gym or change your bad eating habits. The scale doesn’t budge.
Or what if you tell your teenager to clean their room. You smile as they happily head upstairs. A few hours later you peek in to check on them. They are sitting on their bed in their even messier room with a laptop in one hand, phone in the other, and sketchbook by their side. Shocked you angrily ask what they are doing. “Looking up videos on room cleaning, texting my friends for advice, and jotting down some plans. I’m all in and so inspired,” they tell you. But their room is still a mess!
Or you have this dream inside you. A gift from God. Something He has give you to do. And you think about it constantly, you pray about it and journal about it in great detail. But you never take that step toward it.
Or in a hurry to meet your dinner date, you quickly glance in a mirror. You notice your hair is a mess, your mascara smeared, your shirt inside out. You tilt your head in concern, let out a “hmmm,” then proceed to walk out the door. Though you no longer see it, you are still a walking disaster.
Or you go to church, consistently have quiet time, and wouldn’t think of missing your small group. But you never put what you hear, read, discuss into practice. It never transforms you. Your heart is still hard and your life outside of church activities hasn’t changed at all.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” James 1:22
God, help my desire to do what You say be as strong as my desire to hear what You say. I don’t want to be deceived, just going through the motions. I want to be changed. I want to transform into who You know I can be; who You created me to be.
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