Today's Verse

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Our position in Christ: James 1:9-12

We have been studying through trials here in James 1. We've seen the purpose of trials. We've seen how we are to handle trials (joyfully, with understanding, submitting to the work of God in our lives), and we've seen where the source of our strength comes in trials. Now we see in James 1:9-12, a brief glimpse at two different individuals in trials.

In verse 9 we read, "Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted." First, this is a brother. He is one in the family of God. This is not just any stranger on the street, but one who has accepted the invitation of Christ. We see that invitation in John 1:12, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." This position of brother is not one that can be earned. Ephesians 2:8-9 states, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Christ is a gift. There is absolutely nothing that we can do in our own flesh to earn Christ. There is nothing that we can do that will make Christ think more highly of us. Christ offers me a gift. That gift is given freely, but it means that I have to come to the conclusion that I am completely helpless. I have to come to the humbling realization that what I am doing to earn favor with God is worthless. I cannot pull myself up by my bootstraps and get good enough for God. I must simply trust. Going back to John 1:12, all who receive Christ then become the children of God. Therefore, the one who receives Christ in Sri Lanka is brother to the one who receives Christ in Ethiopia who are then each brother to the one who receives Christ in the United States of America. These people who have received Christ Jesus don't just simply have nice feelings about Him. They've believed on His name--they have believed in all that Christ has done. I Corinthians 13:3-4 states, "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." Receiving Christ involves believing in what Christ has done -- that He willingly died on the cross for our sins, He was buried, but He didn't stay dead! He rose again (came back to life) three days after He was buried. The one who believes this and receives the gift of God is a brother.

James is talking about a brother. This brother mentioned in verse 9 is one "of low degree." He is a poor man. He doesn't have status or power or wealth. He is low. Yet he is to rejoice! He doesn't rejoice in his comfort. He doesn't even rejoice just in the little blessings of each day. This brother (or sister, by the way) rejoices "in that he is exalted!" He has an exalted position in Christ. This brother has a right perspective. He realizes that whatever he has here is temporary. The "things" here on earth don't matter because He is a child of God.

James then speaks of the rich man in verse 10: "But the rich, in that he is made low." The rich man rejoices in his humility. This man realizes that his money cannot buy everything. He is made low, humbled, because he realizes that in all of his riches, position, or power, he cannot make himself more acceptable to God. He realizes that, as verse 10 finishes, "as the flower of the grass he shall pass away." The end of all poeple is the same. We will die. Whether rich or poor we will each stand before God on even ground and give an account of our lives. 2 Corinthians 5:10 states, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." The rich man can rejoice in his humility, because the things of this world won't hold him in good stead before God. He cannot impress God with his stock portfolio. He cannot impress God with his house plans. Only those things that he has done unselfishly for the benefit of the kingdom of God will last. Verse 11 states, "For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways."

If my focus on this earth, whether I am rich or poor, is on the things of this world, then I have nothing of eternal value that I have done. The poor man can still focus on this world. He could have his eyes set on all he doesn't have, on all he wants or on all he thinks he "deserves." The trying hand of God comes on this individual, and he rebels. The trial reveals that he is not trusting in God. The trial reveals his satisfaction is not in God. He is still consumed with the things this world has to offer. The rich man suffers trial and we then see if his faith is in his Creator or in his things. We see if things have become so important that they cannot be given up. We see where his treasures truly are.

Ladies, trials reveal the same things about us. When the unexpected financial situation arrises, do we look first at our bank account and worry when we don't know how it's all going to work out, or do we go to God first thanking Him for the situation ("in everything give thanks" 1 Thess 5:18) and trusting in Him to continue to take care of us. Our trials reveal what is most important to us. Do I get angry when my husband doesn't give me the concern I think he ought? Do I get hurt when I do something good and no one seems to notice? In both I reveal I do not have the mind of Christ that esteems others as more important than myself ("Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" Philippians 2:3). When something in my home gets broken or lost, do I respond graciously? Not just politely on the outside, but graciously giving thanks realizing that all I have comes from God and is only good when used for His glory. On a side note, God doesn't give us our things merely for our comfort and pleasure. God gives us our things so we may better serve Him and bring glory to Him. Ultimately, when I respond wrongly to a trial I reveal that I do not believe that God is trustworthy. Proverbs 3:5-6 tell me trust in God with all my heart. When He brings trials into my life and I buck at him, I reveal my lack of faith in His sovereign hand.

On the flip side, James 1:12 tells us, "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." There is great reward in Heaven for the person who endures trial trusting God. For the one who endures to the end while clinging tightly to Christ, the Lord has promised a crown of life. What an abundant God! We saw last week God's promise of wisdom. Here we see a crown of life. God does not view us as disposable and test us like laboratory rats. He sees us as very valuable. Valuable enough to give us the gift of His salvation as we saw earlier. Valuable enough to test us so that we may be conformed to the image of His dear Son. Valuable enough to promise us a crown of life if we but endure. And we don't have to endure all by ourselves! God has promised that He will liberally give us wisdom if we just ask. He has promised to give us grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). We endure because we depend on His strength.

As we go throughout this week, let's examine closely about what our trials reveal about us. Am I clinging to the things this world has to offer, or am I trusting God to work in my life to conform me to His image?

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