Holiness, Me and the Church – Part 7

Two Kinds of Wisdom

Based on a sermon from 26th June 2022

 James 3:13-18

We’re continuing our journey through the Epistle of St James. 

When you come to a fork in the road, or when you have to make a decision, who or what do you turn to for the answer?  Do you base your choices on what feels good?  Do you ask your friends or family?  Do you use your own logic and reason, or do you follow your heart?

The world says, “Listen to your heart” but God says;

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).  

God doesn’t want us to lean on our own understanding. He wants us to lean on His. God wants us first and foremost to go to Him, and then wait for His answer before we make a move.  Remember what James said at the beginning of his epistle;

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

God doesn’t want us to go on whims and feelings that rely on our logic.  He wants to give us the wisdom that we need in order to make the right decision and to know exactly what to do.  Therefore, there are two types of wisdom, worldly (i.e. of the flesh) and Godly.

Last week we looked at “The Taming of the Tongue”.  A key to right talk is right thought.  The tongue is contained in a cage of teeth and lips and yet it escapes.  Intelligence cannot keep a lock on that cage, but true wisdom can.  A controlled tongue is possible only with cultured thought.  A mouth full of praise results from a mind filled with purity.

So…

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

James begins with this question:  Who is wise and has understanding among you?  Do you have wisdom and understanding?  People cannot merely think they have wisdom.  Wisdom must be shown in action.  The evidence of humble wisdom is shown in good conduct.  To state it more precisely, James is saying: we prove which wisdom we have by our actions.  He is asking us to evaluate not only what we know is right but also to practice what is right.  Wisdom is revealed by the way one lives his or her life through good conduct.

Not only are we to have good conduct, but we are to practice this good conduct in humility.  Humility in the Bible means: “The quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance” (see also Proverbs 11:2).

James shows us what wrong wisdom looks like.

But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such ‘wisdom’ does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

If a person has envy, jealousy, and selfishness in the heart, that person is living a lie.  As we read in v14 such people deny the truth.”  They are claiming to be wise, but they are living in a way that denies the claim.

Where does envy, jealousy, and selfish ambition come from?  They come from having a sense of one’s self-importance.  These attitudes come from believing that we must look out for our own interests.  These attitudes come from seeing others receive what we think we ought to have.  Worldly wisdom says, “I will take care of myself.”  Worldly wisdom says, “I deserve this” and “I demand that.”  “I demand respect.”  This is how the world teaches us to think and act.  But here the Bible condemns such thinking.  Such wisdom is not from above.

James calls this wisdom “unspiritual.”  We are not acting or thinking spiritually, but according to the sinful nature.  Paul used similar language to condemn carnal, worldly thinking:

I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” (1 Corinthians 3:2-3).

James is not one to mince his words.  He states that this worldly wisdom is “demonic.”  What a statement!  He is saying, “You think that you are of God when you act like this!  You are not of God; you are influenced by the demonic”.  We are constantly in a spiritual battle, attacked on every side by demonic forces.   Stop fooling yourself! Stop lying to yourself! This is a very serious warning.

In verse 16 James describes the result of this worldly wisdom.

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”

As the world rejects the Gospel, there will be an increase of disorder and every evil practice.  Why is gun-related, and knife-related crime increasing?  Because the gospel is being rejected.  Rejecting God does not make us more civilised, as experts and philosophers supposedly claim.  Rejecting God causes people to be more disorderly and wicked.

We see this in families; many are disorderly and broken.  Relationships are damaged and ruined.  Society and relationships are becoming more destructive as we focus on ourselves and stop focusing on God.  The longer we remain selfish and reject the wisdom from above the greater the mess we are making of our lives and the world around us.

 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (v17)

Here in these verses James describes for us various characteristics that will test us to see if we have the wisdom that comes from above.  The first characteristic above all else is purity.  The pure life is clearly a life that is obedient to godly wisdom, God’s wisdom.

Nothing shows wisdom from below more than a life of impurity. We are lying to ourselves if we think we have wisdom and understanding because too readily we are living an impure life.  Where is our wisdom?  Where is our understanding?  Further, why would we listen to the “wisdom” of people who are leading impure lives?  How foolish to listen to their instructions!  Living a pure life demonstrates godly, spiritual wisdom.

This wisdom from above is not only pure but peace-loving, considerate, and submissive (v17).  These are characteristics that describe the wise person’s disposition.  If we truly have wisdom, the wisdom that comes from above, the wisdom that is not destructive and unspiritual, then we will be peaceable, gentle, and open to reason.  Those with the wisdom from above listen to others.  They are teachable. They are meek.  They are gentle, and humble.

Now we have established that the first three qualities describe the wise person’s disposition, let’s turn to the second set of qualities.  The second set of qualities reveals the wise person’s actions.  James says that those with godly wisdom are full of mercy and good fruits (v17).  These qualities describe the wise person’s actions.  We do not have the wisdom of God and cannot claim to have godly understanding when our lives are not full of mercy and good fruits.  Can your life be described as “full of mercy and full of good fruits?”  Remember how James began this teaching in v13.  Your good conduct shows the meekness of wisdom in your life.  So where is the good conduct?  Where are the merciful acts?  Where are the good fruits?  When we rise tomorrow, Lord willing, we must think about what good works and merciful acts we can do.  This will show that God’s wisdom is at work in our lives.

To stand for the wisdom of God is increasingly counter-cultural in our world full of selfish ambition.  There is no question that it takes faith to pursue the wisdom of God.  Thankfully, James points to some of the “good fruit” that will come as we trust and believe that the wisdom of God truly is best:

“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (James 3:18)

The world around us is desperately longing for peace.  Despite the work of the devil through his minions and demons we can attain the peace God has for us because the wisdom of God brings that peace in the midst of disorder to all who are searching for peace.  While we are all surrounded by a cacophony of hatred, fighting, hostility and contempt, ask God for His wisdom to give you faith and the courage to stand as an example of His peace.

Which wisdom leads your life?  Are you following the wisdom from above or the wisdom from below?  It is easy to know which one you are following.  Look at your life; your actions and conduct.  Look at your character and attitude.  If you have jealousy, envy, and selfish ambition, then you are lying to yourself if you think you are following God.  You are following the wisdom of the world.  Those who follow God show it by their good conduct that is full of purity, peace, gentleness, and mercy. Live the righteous life that God demands from you.

Living thoughts

This is an opportunity to spend time alone with God.  The more time you spend with Him the more you will get to know Him as He reveals more of who He is to your heart, soul and spirit.  This time will be personal and wholly unique to your faith journey with Him.

Re-read the Bible passages, James 3:13-18 & Matthew 7:21-29.

Digging into God’s Word

Start by taking a moment to allow God to call to your mind the times when you have acted out of worldly wisdom and not Godly wisdom.  What impact did that have on your life and on the relationships with those around you? 

As you confess your sins, do so in penitence and faith, firmly resolved to keep God’s commandments and to live in love and peace with all.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we have sinned against you and against our neighbour in thought and word and deed, through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault.  We are truly sorry and repent of all our sins.  For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who died for us, forgive us all that is past and grant that we may serve you in newness of life to the glory of your name. Amen.

Declaration that you are Pardoned

Our God fulfils His promises and is true to His word.  Having confessed my sins, I declare that God has forgiven me.  I declare that God willingly pours out His wisdom on me.  I receive it as the good gift that it is because Christ died for me. Amen.

Digging Deeper into God’s word

  1. Why are people quick to follow someone who claims wisdom and knowledge?
  2. What are practical examples of true religion today?
  3. In a world overflowing with knowledge, why is wisdom of critical importance today?
  4. How can we discern the type of wisdom people are using in the world?

Prayer Response

Lord, we praise you for your straightforwardness.  You make it plain to hearts that want to know what you are saying and foolish to those who just want to fight you.

We thank you for the power in Christ we have to choose peace even when peace is not offered from others.  We always have the choice of how we will react, whether we choose to sow peace or harshness.  May we believe your truth and put it into practice:  “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word provokes anger.”

Give us the strength, wisdom, and courage to sow in peace so we can reap a harvest of righteousness.

In the One who was tortured for our sins, yet still asked for us all to be forgiven, realising we didn’t know what we were doing – Amen.

Wisdom…it seems so elusive, Lord!  But then I realise it is only elusive because I am holding on to pride.  When I humble myself before you and seek your truth with my whole heart, you give it freely.

Oh, Lord, may I stop trying to make your words fit my agenda.  Instead let me read your word without my preconceived ideas and ask what it is you are actually saying.  Give me wisdom and courage to apply your truth to my life even when it is uncomfortable for me to do so.

May I have a reverent fear for you so I will not twist your words to fit what I want.  Let me study more and share my opinions less.  May I let your Word talk to my heart and change me so that I may humbly live and serve in a way that glorifies you.  To the One who is the Word and my Saviour.  Amen.

Lord, help us to discern the difference between the wisdom that you give and the counterfeit wisdom that is of the devil.  When we get anxious over our desires, plans or ideas and need them desperately to work out for us in order to be happy, that’s when we lose humility and scheme on how to get our way.  We get angry with anyone in our way and envious of those who win support for their ideas over ours.  But the wisdom and ideas you give. Lord, make us more peaceful, content and focussed on building unity and oneness around us.  Oh, make us a wise people that reaps a harvest of goodness for everyone who works beside us.  Amen.

Holiness, Me, and the Church – Part 3

An introduction to James

“MIRACULOUS!” …”Revolutionary!” … “Greatest ever!”  We are inundated by a flood of extravagant claims as we shop on-line, flip through television channels or magazine pages.  The messages leap out at us.  The products assure us that they are new, improved, fantastic, and capable of changing our lives for the better.  For only a few pounds, we can have “cleaner clothes”, “whiter teeth”, “glamorous hair”, and “tastier food”.  Cars, perfume, diet drinks, and mouthwash are guaranteed to bring happiness, friends, and the good life.

But talk is cheap, and too often we soon realise that the boasts were hollow, quite far from the truth.

‘Jesus is the answer!” … “Believe in God!” …  “Follow me to church!”  As Christians we also make great claims but are often guilty of belying them with our actions.  Professing to trust God and to be His people, we cling tightly to the world and its values.  Possessing all the right answers, we contradict the gospel with our lives.

James confronts this conflict head-on.  It is not enough to talk the Christian faith; he says we must live it.  “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?” (2:14).  The proof of the reality of our faith is a changed life.

Part of the good news is that a genuine faith will inevitably produce good deeds.  This is the central theme of James’ letter, around which he supplies practical advice on living the Christian life. 

The book of James is considered to be written by James the brother of Jesus, which makes what he writes even more powerful.  Why?  Because James tried to stop Jesus.  His family (brothers) thought He was crazy and didn’t believe Jesus when He said He was the Son of God!

After Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to James, (1 Corinthians 15:7).  Can you imagine that conversation?  I’m sure it was filled with lots of tears, repentance, forgiveness, and Jesus’ amazing grace.  After that episode, James becomes Jesus’ biggest supporter.  As one of the leaders in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15), he bravely proclaims Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.

This letter can be seen as a how-to book on Christian living, containing tools for Christians on how to live a holy and righteous life before God.  Confrontation, challenge, and a call to commitment await us in its pages.  As we journey through James over the next three months our hope should be that we become better at being “doers” of the word (1:22-25).  We will be exploring this under the theme of Holiness, Me, and the Church.  Our verse for this term is from Psalm 51:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

May we hold this verse before us as together we dig into James this term.

Learning from James 1:1-18

These verses  give us some tools that are useful for us in order to become the “doer” of the word that God is looking us to be.  I will now share tools that I believe we can find in this passage.  Later you will have an opportunity on our own to re-read those verses from chapter 1 and ask God which of these tools you are struggling with in your personal and corporate relationship with God.

Pure Joy (v2)  Note James doesn’t say “if” you face trials, but “whenever” you face them.  We will have trials but with God’s help it is possible to profit from them.  The point is not to pretend to be happy when we face pain and difficulty, but to have a positive outlook (“consider it pure joy”) because of what trials can produce in our lives.  So, James is telling us to turn our hardships into times of learning.  Therefore, tough times can teach us further the importance of perseverance. Which is the next tool…

Perseverance (v3)  This is the same as patience, endurance and steadfastness.  Perseverance is persistence in doing something despite difficulty (pain) or delay in achieving success.  It’s about pushing on through to the end and not giving up.  The outcome of perseverance is growth in maturity….

Mature and Complete (v4)  God wants to make us mature and complete, not to keep us from all pain.  That can be difficult to accept, if God is a God of love then surely He will protect us from pain?  However, God always turns things on their head, so instead of complaining about our struggles we should see them as opportunities for growth.  I have found that thanking God for promising to be with me in rough times helps me to persevere and helps me to grow in maturity.  In thanking God, He wants us to ask him to help solve our problems and to give us the strength to endure them.  As we do this we need to be patient, and remember that God will not leave us alone with our problems for He will always stay close and help us grow.  The outcome of growing in maturity with God is wisdom….

Wisdom (v5)  By wisdom James is talking not only about knowledge, but about the ability to make wise decisions in difficult circumstances.  Whenever we need wisdom we can pray to God, and He will generously supply what we need.  We don’t have to grope around in the dark, hoping to stumble upon answers.  We can ask for God’s wisdom to guide our choices.

Therefore, wisdom means practical discernment.  It begins with respect for God, leads to right living, and results in increased ability to tell right from wrong.  God is willing to give us this, His wisdom but we will be unable to receive it if our goals are self-centred instead of God-centred.  To learn God’s will we need to read His word and ask Him to show us how to obey it.  Then we must do what He tells us.  As we do, at least two things happen: we grow in belief and trust…

Belief and Trust (not doubt)  To “believe and not doubt” means not only believing in the existence of God; but also believing in His loving care.  It includes relying on God and expecting that He will hear and answer when we pray.  We must put away our critical attitude when we come to Him.  God does not grant every thoughtless or selfish request.  We must have confidence that God will align our desires with His good and perfect purposes.  Our requests therefore, must be in line (in harmony) with the principles of God’s Kingdom.  The stronger our belief, the more likely our prayer will be in line with God’s will, and then God will be happy to grant answers to our prayers.

Allowing God to deepen our belief and trust means that our mind will be less likely to waver.  If we are not completely convinced that God’s way is best we will treat His word like any human advice, and we then retain the option to disobey.  A wavering mind, wavering between different opinions, actions, between allegiance to subjective feelings, the world’s ideas, and God’s Commands will lead us to act unwisely and immaturely.  When we are struggling, remember that you can trust God.  Then be loyal to him.  The way to stabilise your wavering or doubtful mind is to commit yourself wholeheartedly to God.

As belief and trust grow, we can grasp better the concept of God’s promise that we have received the Crown of life (v12)  The crown of life is like the victory wreath given to winning athletes (1 Corinthians 9:25).  God’s crown of life is not glory and honour on earth, but the reward of eternal life – living with God for ever.  The way to be in God’s winners’ circle is by loving Him and staying faithful even under pressure.  So we move on to the next point..

Love of God (v12)  This helps us to overcome temptation.  Temptation comes from evil desires inside us, not from God.  It begins with an evil thought and becomes sin when we dwell on the thought and allow it to become an action.  Like a snowball rolling down hill, sin grows more destructive the more we let it have its way.  The best time to stop a temptation is before it is too strong or moving too fast to control.  What helps us to stop temptation is to know the….

Word of truth (v18)  God’s Word is truth and it gives us new birth, the ability to resist temptation, to give direction and power to become the “doers” of the word God is always calling us to be.  The Word of truth sets us free from our past, rebirths us into new life by the truth of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  As believers in Christ, we are the recipients of God’s best and sweetest gifts.

Living thoughts

I encourage you to read James 1:1-18.  As you do, ask God which of these tools you are struggling with in your personal and corporate relationship with God.  As an aide-memoire this may help

  • Are you struggling with considering it pure joy when you face trials?:
  • Do you give up easily, and wish you had better perseverance?
  • Are you lacking in maturity?
  • Do you struggle to make wise decisions?
  • Do you lack belief and so doubt God’s promises?
  • Do you feel that the crown of life is just outside your grasp, that you are not good enough for it?
  • Does temptation get in the way of your love of God?
  • Are there things getting in the way of you believing and trusting the word of truth?

As you ask God and let Him speak to you, acknowledge where you are struggling, where the enemy is using his evil schemes to tempt you.  Then confess to the Lord the harmful impact these are having on your life, receive God’s forgiveness, rebuke the schemes of the enemy and replace what you have rebuked with opposite of what you have confessed.  So for example, if God has shown you that you lack His wisdom, pray that you will be blessed by His wisdom so you are able to make wise decisions in your life that are in line with His plumb line truth.

Holiness, Me, and the Church – Part 1

An introduction to James

Based on a sermon from 1st May 2022, and James 1:1-18

“MIRACULOUS!” …”Revolutionary!” … “Greatest ever!”  We are inundated by a flood of extravagant claims as we shop on-line, flip through television channels or magazine pages.  The messages leap out at us.  The products assure us that they are new, improved, fantastic, and capable of changing our lives for the better.  For only a few pounds, we can have “cleaner clothes”, “whiter teeth”, “glamorous hair”, and “tastier food”.  Cars, perfume, diet drinks, and mouthwash are guaranteed to bring happiness, friends, and the good life.

But talk is cheap, and too often we soon realise that the boasts were hollow, quite far from the truth.

‘Jesus is the answer!” … “Believe in God!” …  “Follow me to church!”  As Christians we also make great claims but are often guilty of belying them with their actions.  Professing to trust God and to be His people, we cling tightly to the world and its values.  Possessing all the right answers, we contradict the gospel with our lives.

James confronts this conflict head-on.  It is not enough to talk the Christian faith; he says we must live it.  “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save him?” (2:14).  The proof of the reality of our faith is a changed life.

Part of the good news is that a genuine faith will inevitably produce good deeds.  This is the central theme of James’ letter, around which he supplies practical advice on living the Christian life. 

The book of James is considered to be written by James the brother of Jesus, which makes what he writes even more powerful.  Why? Because James tried to stop Jesus.  His family (brothers) thought He was crazy and didn’t believe Jesus when He said He was the Son of God!

After Jesus rose from the dead, he appeared to James, (1 Corinthians 15:7).  Can you imagine that conversation?  I’m sure it was filled with lots of tears, repentance, forgiveness, and Jesus’ amazing grace.  After that episode, James becomes Jesus’ biggest supporter.  As one of the leaders in the Jerusalem church (Acts 15), he bravely proclaims Jesus as his Lord and Saviour.

This letter can be seen as a how-to book on Christian living, containing tools for Christians on how to live a holy and righteous life before God.  Confrontation, challenge, and a call to commitment await us in its pages.  As we journey through James over the next three months our hope should be that we become better at being “doers” of the word (1:22-25).  We will be exploring this under the theme of Holiness, Me, and the Church.  Our verse for this term is from Psalm 51:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

May we hold this verse before us as together we dig into James this term.

Tools from James 1:1-18

These verses  give us some tools that are useful for us in order to become the “doer” of the word that God is looking us to be.  I will now share tools that I believe we can find in this passage.  Later you will have an opportunity on our own to re-read those verses from chapter 1 and ask God which of these tools you are struggling with in your personal and corporate relationship with God.

Pure Joy (v2)  Note James doesn’t say “if” you face trials, but “whenever” you face them.  We will have trials but with God’s help it is possible to profit from them.  The point is not to pretend to be happy when we face pain and difficulty, but to have a positive outlook (“consider it pure joy”) because of what trials can produce in our lives.  So, James is telling us to turn our hardships into times of learning.  Therefore, tough times can teach us further the importance of perseverance. Which is the next tool…

Perseverance (v3)  This is the same as patience, endurance and steadfastness.  Perseverance is persistence in doing something despite difficulty (pain) or delay in achieving success.  It’s about pushing on through to the end and not giving up.  The outcome of perseverance is growth in maturity….

Mature and Complete (v4)  God wants to make us mature and complete, not to keep us from all pain.  That can be difficult to accept, if God is a God of love then surely He will protect us from pain?  However, God always turns things on their head, so instead of complaining about our struggles we should see them as opportunities for growth.  I have found that thanking God for promising to be with me in rough times helps me to persevere and helps me to grow in maturity.  In thanking God, He wants us to ask him to help solve our problems and to give us the strength to endure them.  As we do this we need to be patient, and remember that God will not leave us alone with our problems for He will always stay close and help us grow.  The outcome of growing in maturity with God is wisdom….

Wisdom (v5)  By wisdom James is talking not only about knowledge, but about the ability to make wise decisions in difficult circumstances.  Whenever we need wisdom we can pray to God, and He will generously supply what we need.  We don’t have to grope around in the dark, hoping to stumble upon answers.  We can ask for God’s wisdom to guide our choices.

Therefore, wisdom means practical discernment.  It begins with respect for God, leads to right living, and results in increased ability to tell right from wrong.  God is willing to give us this, His wisdom but we will be unable to receive it if our goals are self-centred instead of God-centred.  To learn God’s will we need to read His word and ask Him to show us how to obey it.  Then we must do what He tells us.  As we do at least two things happen: we grow in belief and trust…

Belief and Trust (not doubt)  To “believe and not doubt” means not only believing in the existence of God; but also believing in His loving care.  It includes relying on God and expecting that He will hear and answer when we pray.  We must put away our critical attitude when we come to Him.  God does not grant every thoughtless or selfish request.  We must have confidence that God will align our desires with His good and perfect purposes.  Our requests therefore, must be in line (in harmony) with the principles of God’s Kingdom.  The stronger our belief, the more likely our prayer will be in line with God’s will, and then God will be happy to grant answers to our prayers.

Allowing God to deepen our belief and trust means that our mind will be less likely to waver.  If we are not completely convinced that God’s way is best we will treat His word like any human advice, and we then retain the option to disobey.  A wavering mind, wavering between different opinions, actions, between allegiance to subjective feelings, the world’s ideas, and God’s Commands will lead us to act unwisely and immaturely.  When we are struggling, remember that you can trust God.  Then be loyal to him.  The way to stabilise your wavering or doubtful mind is to commit yourself wholeheartedly to God.

As belief and trust grow, we can grasp better the concept of God’s promise that we have received the Crown of life (v12)  The crown of life is like the victory wreath given to winning athletes (1 Corinthians 9:25).  God’s crown of life is not glory and honour on earth, but the reward of eternal life – living with God for ever.  The way to be in God’s winners’ circle is by loving Him and staying faithful even under pressure.  So we move on to the next point..

Love of God (v12)  This helps us to overcome temptation.  Temptation comes from evil desires inside us, not from God.  It begins with an evil thought and becomes sin when we dwell on the thought and allow it to become an action.  Like a snowball rolling down hill, sin grows more destructive the more we let it have its way.  The best time to stop a temptation is before it is too strong or moving too fast to control.  What helps us to stop temptation is to know the….

Word of truth (v18)  God’s Word is truth and it gives us new birth, the ability to resist temptation, to give direction and power to become the “doers” of the word God is always calling us to be.  The Word of truth sets us free from our past, rebirths us into new life by the truth of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  As believers in Christ, we are the recipients of God’s best and sweetest gifts.

Living thoughts

I encourage you to read James 1:1-18.  As you do, ask God which of these tools you are struggling with in your personal and corporate relationship with God.  As an aide-memoire this may help

  • Are you struggling with considering it pure joy when you face trials?:
  • Do you give up easily, and wish you had better perseverance?
  • Are you lacking in maturity?
  • Do you struggle to make wise decisions?
  • Do you lack belief and so doubt God’s promises?
  • Do you feel that the crown of life is just outside your grasp, that you are not good enough for it?
  • Does temptation get in the way of your love of God?
  • Are there things getting in the way of you believing and trusting the word of truth?

As you ask God and let Him speak to you, acknowledge where you are struggling, where the enemy is using his evil schemes to tempt you.  Then confess to the Lord the harmful impact these are having on your life, receive God’s forgiveness, rebuke the schemes of the enemy and replace what you have rebuked with opposite of what you have confessed.  So for example, if God has shown you that you lack His wisdom, pray that you will be blessed by His wisdom so you are able to make wise decisions in your life that are in line with His plumb line truth.

Wisdom

Wisdom

Apparently there are six leadership capabilities, which collectively form the acronym W.I.S.D.O.M.

W – Work and acting with authenticity and appropriateness

I – Insightful and flexible fortitude

S – Shift your perspective towards a noble purpose

D – Decision logic with discernment and intuition

O – Openness to lead from any position

M – Motivated by enlightened self-interest

I think we would all agree that wise leaders are a very rare breed.

We’ve been following the story of Joshua leading the Israelites into the promised land.  When Joshua died, there was a vacuum of power.  The people, losing their spiritual commitment and motivation, abandoned God and worshipped idols.  This period of rapid decline was due to sin, individual and corporate, with everyone doing “as he saw fit”, resulting in the Israelites becoming captives.  Out of their desperation they begged God to rescue them.  In faithfulness to His promises and out of His loving-kindness, God raised up a judge to deliver His people and, for a time there was peace. Then complacency and disobedience would set in, and the cycle began again.  Over a period of 325 years there were six successive periods of oppression and deliverance, and there were 12 men and women who delivered Israel from her oppressors.

These judges were not perfect; in fact, they included

  • an assassin,
  • a sexually promiscuous man,
  • and a person who broke all the laws of hospitality.

However, they were submissive to God, and God used them as wise leaders.

Deborah fitted the description of wise leader perfectly. She had the right skill set, and she had a remarkable relationship with God.  The insight and confidence God gave this woman placed her in a unique position in the Old Testament. Her story shows that God can accomplish great things through people who are willing to be led by Him.

The Israelites once again faced a powerful army, but this army had chariots.  Chariots were the tanks of the ancient world.  Made of iron or wood, they were pulled by one or two horses and were the most feared and powerful weapons of the day.  To be faced with 900 chariots would have put great fear into Israel.  There was no way they could match this. Therefore, King Jabin, and Sisera, the Commander of his army, had no trouble oppressing the people, which they did for 20 years – until a faithful woman named Deborah called upon God.

Was Barak, Israel’s army commander, cowardly or just in need of support when he told Deborah she had to go with him into battle?  This was despite Deborah telling Barak that God would be with him all the way.  That appeared not to be enough for Barak.

His request shows that at heart he trusted human strength more than God’s promises. He lacked the faith to step out in God’s command.  He was a reflection of Israel’s lack of faith in God.

On the other hand, Deborah’s life challenges us in several ways.

  • She reminds us of the need to be available both to God and to others.
  • She encourages us to spend our efforts on what we can do rather than on worrying about what we can’t do.
  • She challenges us to be wise leaders.
  • She demonstrates what a person can accomplish when they allow God to be in control.
  • She was dependent on God and obedient to his commands.

As Israel was in a repeated downward spiral into sin, they refused to learn from history, living only for the moment, which took them further into sin.

Judges is also a book about sin and its consequences. Like a minor cut or abrasion that becomes infected when left untreated, sin grows and soon poisons the whole body.  Our sins harm both ourselves and others, but all sin is ultimately against God because it disregards his commands and his authority over us.

Recognising the seriousness of sin is the first step towards removing it from our lives, for sin leads us into living in a mess; struggles and dilemmas easily get out of control.  When we’ve messed up God should be the first person we turn to.  Instead we try to control our own lives without God’s help.  All this does is to lead us into further struggle and confusion.  In contrast, when we stay connected to the Lord by consecrating ourselves daily, we are less likely to create painful circumstances.

This is a lesson the Israelites never fully learned.  When struggles come our way, God wants us to come to him first, seeking his strength and guidance, thus seeking His Kingdom.  Jesus encourages us to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”.  Too often we push God to the back of the queue.  In other words, we are to turn to God first for help.  Then we are to fill our thoughts with His desires, to take His character as our pattern in life, thus serving and obeying Him in absolutely everything we do.

That’s when we grow in God’s love and blessings!

Judges 4:4-10 & 13-15; Matthew 6:25-34