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The Epistle of James - Godly Values

Part 5 - Persevere!

13th April 2018

James 1v12
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

There are times, when we're in great physical or emotional pain, when your church, or your family, or your finances, are giving you genuine pain, that we can feel like giving up on God and doing something else with our lives.

Blessed is the person who perseveres, who keeps on living the Christian life, who keeps on believing in God, and keeps on accepting Christian values, even when we're seriously tempted to adopt non-Christian values: "I am poorer than him so I will steal from him". "He hurt me so I will hurt him". "I want this so I will take it".

Blessed is the person who continues to love his God with all his heart, and all his soul, and all is strength, and loves his neighbour as himself, while being tempted. This takes wisdom and courage, and - sometimes - an extra impartation of the Holy Spirit. But God will give you what you need, if you'll ask for it.

James is not saying this is easy. Remember, he was the pastor of the Jerusalem church in the first half of the first century. He saw his Christian friends undergoing tremendous suffering. He was martyred when they threw him off the top off the top of the temple, stoned him, and then whacked him with a club until he died. But he was still able to believe that blessed is the person who keeps going, who is still gentle, and kind and godly, even when we're really hurting.

I'm not saying it's easy; I'm just saying blessed is he who continues to act, and speak, and think, as a Christian should, even when his body or his soul is crying out in pain: he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

God rewards those who persevere. Every day you live in the trial, and still act kindly, gently and in a godly way, more treasure in heaven will be credited to you.

The crown of life is probably not a crown like the queen wears; it's probably made of laurel leaves. It's probably the crown given in Roman times to those who won an athletics competition, particularly to those who win a race. Hence the metaphor of a crown - blessed are those who persevere to the end, for they will receive the victor's laurel wreath. if you quit three quarters of the way through the race, you don't get the laurel wreath. You still get eternal life, but you don't get this crown.

Keep going. It is worth it. Show kindness, gentleness and godliness, always.

James 1v13
When tempted, no-one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;

Logically, that must be true. Since sin is anything contrary to the will of God, then God can't sin. But it means more than that. God is perfectly good. God is 100% just and 100% loving, God will never sin, and God will never tempt you to sin.

There's a really important distinction here that we need to grasp: God will put you in a trial and, in the trial, you will be tempted to sin, but the trial is not the temptation.

  • If you're walking around town and somebody smacks you in the face, that's a trial. The idea that it would be fun to smack him back is a temptation.
  • If you're poor, that's a trial. The idea that you should take money out the offering plate is a temptation.
  • If you wife doesn't love you, that's a trial. If you feel like running off with your secretary, that's a temptation.
  • If you're really unhappy, if someone's been really unkind to you, that's a trial. The desire to go home and drink a bottle of whisky is a temptation

God puts us through trials, but God isn't the one who says, "Go on, you know you want to". God tries us, but he doesn't tempt us.

James 1v14
but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.

We all know what that feels like. It's my evil desire to smack the guy back, to run off with my secretary, to steal, get drunk. Sometimes I want comfort. Sometimes I want revenge. And if illicit sex, or too much alcohol, or too much food, or inappropriate jesting, or gossip, comforts me, then when I hurt enough, when my trial is severe enough, my flesh says, "Go on, you know you want to." And so does yours.

It's not God. Usually it's not even Satan. Usually, it's me. Sometimes I want to do something wrong. And sometimes I do it. And so do you. Don't blame God for it. Don't blame your brother or sister or wife or husband.

Sometimes you can blame others for your trial, but usually you can't blame them for the temptation. If your wife locks you out the house, you can blame her for how cold you feel. But don't blame her for what you do with your neighbour's wife the next day.

James 1v15
Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

We all get tempted. We all have desires to sin. Let's resist those desires, because if we don't resist them, they will give birth to sin, and if sin becomes a habit, it can take us away from God.

I believe "once saved always saved". I believe that every Christian will hold on his salvation. But I also believe:

Hebrews 6v4-6
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

If we continue to sin, we can reach the stage where it's impossible to repent, and we lose our treasure in heaven. We're still saved, but everything else is burnt away until there's nothing left.

1 Corinthians 3v11-15
For no-one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

If you belong to the Lord but you choose to live a sinful life, whether the sins of the body, or of the tongue, or the mind, or the whisky bottle, or whatever it be, you will lose your inheritance.

If a sin has gripped you, whatever it is, deal with it now, for your own sake. Righteous living is the right thing to do, but it's also in your own self-interest, because your reward in heaven is great.