Utah Motorsports Campus
September 10 – 11, 2016
The Book of James
“What Is My Life?”
We are moving up to part seven (7) of the Book of James. It is titled “What Is My Life?”
I am sure that you have figured out that James is a pretty simple and straight forward message that doesn’t necessarily take anyone else to help you figure what the bottom line message is. If we simply sit down and spend a little quality time with the Lord by asking Him to reveal what we need to understand in James, we will get it.
As I stated from the beginning that James is a power packed book on how to “live and do the Christian faith.” Yeah, I said that James is not only relevant to his day, but also today, and the future of all mankind. It is rock solid, period!
God speaks His Word through His servant, or Prophet as He did through Isaiah 55:11:
“My Word always accomplishes what I desire, and they’ll complete the assignment I gave them. My Word will never return to Me unfinished.” Therefore I believe we can expect that He will accomplish everything within us that He wants us to at this time in our lives.
“What Is My Life?”
Everyone on this planet has to address this question sooner or later and then attempt to live out that reality. The Bible says that trying to answer this question without the perspective of our Creator makes us think and act like fools. Lets’ go from here and look into four (4) issues to face in today’s message.
Our Scripture basis today is James chapter 4 verses thirteen through chapter 5 verse six:
13 Now listen, you who boast and say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to some particular city, spend a year there, carry on business and make lots of money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are like a fog that appears for a little while and then vanishes when the sun burns it off. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast about your arrogant plans. All such boasting is evil. 17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.
Warning to Rich Oppressors
5 Now listen, you arrogant people who count upon your riches, weep and wail because of the misery that is headed your way. 2 Your hoarded wealth and greed will testify against you and destroy you from within. has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment as you hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! All the workers you’ve exploited and cheated cry out for judgment. Their groans are crying out against you in the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. But all you’ll have to show for it is a fatter than usual corpse. In fact, what you’ve done is condemn and murder the innocent and righteous persons, who stand there and take it.
This passage confronts an attitude that is going to lead to an action. The first verse (13) if read alone sounds like a business plan and nothing out of the ordinary. But, the reality here is the fact that the plan does not include the mind of God. Anytime you leave God out of the equation in the Bible is likened to foolishness. Proverbs is big on that. Ignoring God’s will or input as if He did not exist when making plans for the future will cause you to reap the whirlwind of those decisions you made. Timothy Keller writes the following quote about this: “Foolishness in the Bible is culpable blindness to reality that leads to destructive choices.” That word culpable is a legal term meaning you are responsible for something because you are purposefully and willfully blinding yourself. The issue here is not forward planning but it is that you are boasting. You are boasting about tomorrow and what you are going to be able to do when you don’t know anything about what’s happening tomorrow!
- So the first problem here is boasting.
All of us try to convince ourselves of something to face the day by boasting. “You’re good enough to do this.” “Seize the day!” This is psychological warfare in all reality. In our sports world we call it “trash talking” today. Sure, nobody wants to go into a competition with a perspective we are going to lose. But the problem lies in that it says “it’s all up to me.”
Jeremiah 9:23-24 says: 23 This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, 24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they truly know M and understand Me, that I am the Lord, who demonstrates kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.
Do you hear God’s heart here? He is saying yes, I want you to boast, but I want you to have something to REALLY boast about! James is calling us out on what we boast. Mostly we are boasting about the “look at me compared to you.” That may be by how we dress, or are undressed at the gym, or in what we drive, or house we live in and toys we have.
- Why is boasting so dangerous? It’s dangerous because it eliminates God. In our culture we don’t walk around everywhere bragging about God. That’s probably only in church, and not always even there. Instead we walk around bragging about ourselves. No one buys the t-shirt that says “I puked on the Viper Thrill Ride at Darien Lake.” No, you buy the shirt that says “I survived The Viper!” (And, yes, Kathy & I did with Leeanne and Sarah back in the day, but o-boy, we almost didn’t.)
Today in America we have come to think and say I can do anything I set my mind to if I work and practice hard enough. Wow, that sure fits with a race driver doesn’t it today? There are thousands of kids out there thinking they are going to make it into Sprint Cup, aren’t there? Well, in some respects that’s good, because you never know until you try your best, but I also think about the kids whose self image or identity are trashed to almost un-repairable unless they are strong enough or helped work through the pain. Once again it becomes “it’s all up to me” when all along God had something better for you all along. Or, if success comes my way then it’s all because of me. I did it all.
It goes from there to, for example, of passing by someone who is in need when I could help, but figure why I should help them when I had to earn it and they should too. They just need to go out there and do it the way I did it. Once again in all this we are missing the God part. It just becomes fatalism and hopelessness on one end or if we knew the future worrying all night about what’s coming tomorrow and missing it. Jesus said that worrying can’t add one hour to your life span… (Matthew 6:27, Luke 12:25-26)
Also for an extra read on this subject try Deuteronomy 8. Here God tells what He is going to do and make the Israelites wealthy and successful but don’t forget who did this …and it’s NOT YOU! You see God has called us to co-create with Him in all kinds of life’s areas, BUT; He won’t share His glory in it.
If this is the problem, then what can make it worse? James now moves to the next area of what can become the problem in chapter five (5). You must note here that in the original there are no chapter breaks so this follows right along with chapter four. Also, let me say right up front that James is NOT hammering upon wealth or rich people here. Sadly, this is far too often used out of context to do just that. What James is hammering on is the people whose attitude is spoken of from the last chapter and their boasting and the “I did it all by myself” attitude. Listen to the verbs in this section that James highlights:
- You failed to pay…
- You lived on earth in self-indulgence…
- You condemned and murdered the innocent and righteous…
James is simply firing away at the actions that the previous attitude produced in those people. He is describing a Godless economic system here, …and don’t forget that he is speaking to believers! Wow, this was some two thousand years ago and here we are today in this current election cycle talking about the same stuff that’s going on in our America with an incredibly powerful capitalist and on the other side an incredibly powerful socialist who wants to give America away as we know it. Both of them are missing the ultimate point. James is speaking about an eternal and far more important picture that we lose sight of because that immediate thing of finances is right in front of us and we cannot get away from it… or, can we? We think that if I had just a little bit more I wouldn’t have to think about that, …or some of the other things we face. But that is the opposite of what actually happens because the more you have the more you think about it. Question for you: Who here has not experienced how money when injected into a situation it creates issues? Just watch someone who wins the lottery for example and their original thinking was “if I only had a million then I would be fine only to find with millions their problems jus begin. I have seen it over and over and also know the statistical record of it.
Look at what James says about this in verses three (3) through six (6). James is saying that that very thing that God did for you to bless you and you left Him out of it is now going to eat your life away. We need to stop and think about that just as James was attempting to reach these believers! God says the very thing I gave you to bless you and bless others with is now going to eat your life and flesh away.
Another extra reading opportunity for you is in Luke 12: 13-21. Jesus takes an opportunity to not only instruct through parable or story example but totally deal with the issue of being RICH TOWARD GOD when your life is suddenly taken from you. Look at what Jesus has to say. What He rebukes is not the riches the man had but the poverty towards God. Look, we can live in the richest country in the world and be the poorest people on earth. If we look around at America’s culture today this has to concern you, …no, scare the daylights out of you! Do we as Christians really believe that God is enough for us?
Remember, both capitalism and socialism can be found and supported by scripture in principal. The separation of fact that counts is that both apart from God just becomes man’s political agenda and always ends in selfishness and self indulgence. Throughout history both those systems when cut away from God went on to exploit the masses and destroy people and societies. That’s another reason for saying we cannot ignore history and survive as God intended America to function as a blessing to this world just as He intended Israel to be a blessing to the world.
4. So then what makes it better? We hope that James has answer to how we can make it better. But he doesn’t. So what do we do? We like in a wealthy nation, educated, one that rewards hard work and has opportunity for all. However, let’s track with verse 14 here because this is important. James says what you need to understand is you’re like a fog. The word fog is a vapor, or mist in some translations. If you get up on a cold morning and walk outside and breathe you get a mist that disappears in a moment. James says that is what we are. That’s not something to get too excited about is it? But that is the truth just the same. James is simply telling the truth here. We have no promise of the next second, minute, hour, day, month or year of life do we? Everything we have or are from our wealth, our strength to any beauty is going to fade into history quicker than we ever imagined. Just two or three generations down will not remember or even know who we were.
Think about that. Do you know who your great, great grandfather was? But what an indicator of our thinking that is. If we haven’t thought about that or that concept has not sunk in then we haven’t dealt with our eternity in our mind, will, or spirit. We have to face the truth here. We are not made for this life alone. We are made for eternity and will live eternally …that’s forever …and that is a concept that most of us really cannot wrap our head around no matter how true it is.
But there is more to eternity also. All the good parts and suffering parts of our life both are going to fade also. The only thing that remains is the future of our eternity and the God who promises it along with the rewards He has for us. His plan is the only thing lasts forever. Hey, that’s amazing and it should cause us to rejoice! Yes, scripture is very clear on the fact that we will be known as who we are.
All that should cause us to live differently right now. That should cause me to think like a steward of the things in life instead of a consumer. This kind of truth can set me free if we pause and spend time to contemplate it all. We don’t have to keep up with the rat race or other people.
So how do we stay connected with this idea; because the immediate is always in front of us? We don’t get to stop thinking about the bills. They will keep coming in the mail. So what will cause us to be reminded about all this that is just as powerful as a bill arriving in the mail? What will remind us to make choices that count and will reverberate into eternity? For one thing, that great, great, great grandma or grandfather are still alive but on the other side of the veil. But, we are connected to the One that pierced through that veil and makes it possible for us to also do so. And He has come from that other side to speak life, resurrection life to us. That is the very point of way we do church, read the Bible, worship, pray, and all those things. It’s so that we remind ourselves that this is the real and true life beyond what we can see with our own eyes right here and now …because that’s all just part of that fog, mist and vapor.
In closing let me tell or show you a quote from a writer named Patrick Morley that is important to ponder: “Failure is not to have attempted some endeavor and then have fallen short…
What if real failure is too succeed at something that ultimately doesn’t matter?”
That is a game changer. You see, IF our life is hooked onto eternity, then our failures and successes in our present life that we life in the flesh are kept in perspective. But, if I have no belief in eternity and everything is on us right here and now in this life just the weight of that will crush us because it is not sustainable. It’s not untouchable. It’s at the mercy of the economy. It’s at the mercy of those who like you today but maybe not tomorrow. It’s at the mercy of a body that works really well today but maybe not at all tomorrow. It’s at the mercy of all these temporal things. But if our life and our decisions are connected to eternity then God holds our security, our worth, our affirmation, our value, and most importantly our future.
The entire message can be seen and heard at:
This message text fits alongside the Church On The Hill in Salem, Oregon message by:
Sr. Pastor Bruce Stefanik and Executive Pastor Jason Treadwell.
Bible version: GBB (Gospel by Bob)