Sunday, in worship, we began a new five week worship series going through the book of James. I believe this letter will challenge and encourage us in our walk with Jesus Christ and help us live our lives more faithfully.
There is always more than can be said in a Sunday sermon. These devotionals during the week will hopefully help us keep the Scripture and the message in our minds. If we allow it to, the Scripture can go into our hearts so the word given to us by God is implanted on our hearts and we can be transformed people who work with God to transform the world.
This series is called “Transformers” since that is what the Spirit of God does in us and works through us and we step out in faith to transform the world with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Martin Luther called James, “an eptistle of straw” because the letter appeared to ficus more on being justified by works and not faith. John Wesley, on the other hand, saw James as central to the Christian life because he saw it was showing how we can live out our faith so that our works match the faith we have been given.
James 1:17-18 CEB “Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. He chose to give us birth by his true word, and here is the result: we are like the first crop from the harvest of everything he created.”
What is it you first hear when you read these verses? A child will most likely think of a material gift, something tangible. What about adults? I think it depends on the mindset and the character of the person. I have begun to think differently about “good and perfect gifts” the older I get.
My baby girl had a birthday recently and my wife and I celebrated it. We had the opportunity to go to the zoo and go to her favorite restaurant. My girl did not want a lot of people there, she seemed to want a simple birthday party. She did say she wanted a surprise birthday party and my wife reminded her “we don’t plan our own surprise parties because then it wouldn’t be a surprise.” So, she wanted a small birthday just with some family, and that’s what she got. It was an incredible day!
It also makes me chuckle to think about the times we would be in the store and want to walk down the toy aisle. Since her birthday was coming up quickly, she would point to every toy she wanted. I don’t think there was anything down the aisle she didn’t want. But, she was expressing some material items that she would play with and would help make her doll and toys collections complete. She was looking for the “perfect gifts.”
What about us as adults? What would really constitute a “good and perfect gift” for us? Lately, I have begun to thank God at the end of each day for the challenges, the frustrations, the times I lost patience, the times I was caught being arrogant and not understanding, and many more moments like this throughout the day. Could these be considered “good and perfect gifts?” I think so.
Without opportunities for us to experience a less than desirable feelings and emotions throughout the day, we would lose the chance for character development so we can learn to live more humbly. Even though I thank God for these difficult moments from the day, it doesn’t mean that I realized what was going on in the moment. Self-reflection is a good practice we should do at the end of the day, not to make us feel bad for our actions or thoughts or emotions, but to take the time to look back and see how God was with us throughout the day.
We have been given the gift of life so we can make a difference in the world. God allows us to go through situations to work in us so we can become stronger in our emotions, stronger in our character and be transformed into the person He created us to be.
Am I saying that the bad things that happen are from God, or that God causes them to happen? Not at all. I am saying we can view life as a gift with opportunities to become more because the Spirit of God is alive and active within us. In verses 13 and fourteen, James writes:
“No one who is tested should say, “God is tempting me!” This is because God is not tempted by any form of evil, nor does he tempt anyone. Everyone is tempted by their own cravings; they are lured away and enticed by them.”
We do have the ability to choose how we will live our lives. Unfortunately, some people take that freedom of choosing and impose their will on another person. These circumstances, I believe, do not come from God. If you have gone through something that another person did to you without your consent or desire, there is a perfect gift that is available to all people – Jesus Christ.
His is the gift that keeps on giving. He has promised never to leave or forsake us. He is with you and is with you through everything you go through. There is a counselor, the Holy Spirit, who walks with us each day. This is a “good and perfect gift,” because God, the Creator of the universe is with you and I each and every day.
God has and continues to choose you. His devotion to you is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We may not be able to “feel” God present, but He is there and He has not and will not leave you.
I pray the message of God’s good character and the gift of Jesus Christ sinks in to you to be transformed so we can work with Christ to transform the world.
Will you take time to accept the gift that God gave us and allow this gift to transform you?
“Be who you say you are, yes!; but more importantly, allow God to work in you to transform you into the person He created.”