2021 – The Other
What to do when you don’t know what to do.
Last Sunday morning, we began a study in the letter of James. We saw last week; James is the Kindergarten of Christianity. James encourages us to step back into the fundamentals of what it means to live as a Christian. Occasionally, we need to get back to the basics.
Let me set the stage for the basic of the morning. In the book of Acts, Luke tells of the growing conflict between the followers of Christ and those who had crucified Jesus. The Jewish leadership in Jerusalem rejected the claims of Jesus as the Messiah. They turned Jesus over to the Romans to be executed. But Jesus came back. The resurrection forced the Jewish leadership to either accept Jesus as the Messiah or double down on the persecution. They chose to double down. Watch the escalation…
Acts 4:1-3, 18-21The priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon Peter and John, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody… So, they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard." And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened.
Acts 5:17-18,40 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison… And when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
Acts 7:55-8:1,3 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles… But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Acts 12:1-3 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also.
The early church was in trouble with the law. So, the first fundamental, the first basic to get back to the basics… how do you handle trouble.
NLT James 1:2 Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way…
From the beginning the church was called upon to deal with trouble; trials, persecution.
So, James begins telling his kids… what to do, when you don't know what to do. James begins by telling them; telling us, there are seven things you need to do when you don’t know what to do. “Seven things? I would have been happy with one or two.”
There are basically two responses to any trouble. You can whine and complain and do your best to avoid it. Or you can face it with faith in the LORD.
I don’t belief all trouble is meant to be by God. Saul was wrong in persecuting the young church; which he admits, later in his life. But there is a basic attitude of trust in God that allows trouble to be transformed into joy.
NLT James 1:2-4 Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.
Most of us, learned on the first day of kindergarten, that there are two types of kids.
--Type One: those who pitched a duck-legged-fit, that is a technical term.
--Type Two: Those who were excited about learning something.
Trouble is the opportunity to find out who you are. When our faith is tested, it will reveal courage or cowardice. It will reveal our immaturity or our strength. We can see from our reaction… duck-legged-fits or introspection… providing an opportunity to grow. Character is developed in the crucible of crisis!
This is the joy of problems. To see who we are. To develop your character. To grow in faith!
What to do when you don't know what to do Number One: Consider trouble as an opportunity to see who you are! Consider trouble as an opportunity for joy!
The second thing we learn, on the first day of kindergarten, is who to ask for help. You find this loving caring person - all Kindergarten teachers are like loving or else you don't last as a teacher – this loving person is there to help you through the first day and your first year. So, James says…
NLT James 1:5 If you need wisdom-- if you want to know what God wants you to do-- ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.
I'm not sure that there is another verse in the Bible that I have prayed more than this verse. James says, “If you can't quite figure what to do, you can always ask.”
God has promised us wisdom. He is not going to give you a credit check to see if you are qualified for help. He generously gives wisdom to all who ask without finding fault! What a promise! What a deal! What a help!
God doesn't mind sincere questions. God is not afraid of your honesty. God doesn't mind the why question. When we ask why, he offers wisdom.
God may not give us the answer. He may say, “Trust me”. But God has promised to help us have the wisdom to get through the trouble.
What to do when you don't know what to do Number Two: Ask for help.
When I was in high school, I lived on the island of Guam. On Guam they typhoons. About every year or two a mighty typhoon sweeps up from the South Pacific. These storms clean the island of all the garbage and all the homes that aren't solid. For the two years we were on Guam we lived in a concrete house. The floor, the walls, ceiling were all reinforced concrete, not blocks but poured concrete. When the typhoons sweep over the island, trees were blown over, shacks were cast into the sea, trailers were toppled, but our concrete house was not phased.
James says your life must be like that. You must have your faith in place before the storm. You must be ready, before the typhoon.
NLT James 1:6-8 But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. People like that should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. They can't make up their minds. They waver back and forth in everything they do.
In the peaceful times, we need to build our faith. In the good times, we need to be wrestling to strengthen our faith. We need to have a strong abiding faith in God, so that when the storms come, when the typhoons crash into our house, we will have the concrete faith that asks for help without doubting.
What to do when you don't know what to do Number Three: Prepare your faith, beforehand.
Keep going to number 4…
NLT James 1:9-11 Christians who are poor should be glad, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should be glad, for God has humbled them. They will fade away like a flower in the field. The hot sun rises and dries up the grass; the flower withers, and its beauty fades away. So also, wealthy people will fade away with all of their achievements.
Whether you are rich or poor; whether you are the head of state or the lowest of pawns; whether you live in a palace or on the street… the hot sun eventually rises withering even the prettiest of flowers. “That’s pretty dark.”
One of the recurring themes throughout the letter of James is the attitudes ofthe rich and the attitude toward the rich. Evidently, because of the scattering of these Christians and because their persecution, many of the people James is writing to are poor. Perhaps, the trouble these young Christians are facing is because of the rich.
So, James reminds his people that your financial status is not a reflection of how much God loves you. James encourages us to take the long view of stuff. The few short years we spend on this earth are nothing compared to the glory to be revealed in us in the next age. So, we must continually remind ourselves that… this too shall pass.
What to do when you don't know what to do Number Four: This too shall pass.
Because… Number Five…
NLT James 1:12 God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
This life is not all there is. I don't know how an atheist deals with trouble. If this is all there is; if when I die, I am dead like over like Rover; if there is no hope… then the tragedies of this life are just tragedies. If all the lessons I have learned through the struggles rot with me in the grave, then they are not worth it. If God is not preparing me for something more, something bigger, something glorious… then why bother?
But, if I know God is active in this world; if I know God is restoring his creation; if I live with hope… this life as meaning! This life is real. This life has purpose! I live to for his glory both now and to the day of eternity!
What to do when you don't know what to do Number Five: Remember: There’s a crown coming!
NLT James 1:13-15 And remember, no one who wants to do wrong should ever say, "God is tempting me." God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else either. Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires. These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death.
Sin brings trouble. The very reason sin is sin is because it destroys. So, when we give into sin, it produces horrendous problems in our lives. If it is stupid, don’t do it because it hurts… others and ourselves.
James says we should not blame God for our foolish choices. We should not blame God for our ruined lives when we chose the stupid. We should not point the accusing finger at God when it was our own evil desires which brought us catastrophe.
What to do when you don't know what to do Number Six: Don’t be stupid. Stupid makes it worse!
ESV James 1:16-18 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
We are to rejoice in God’s gifts. God is good. God is perfect. God is never fickle. By the same word that brought the light into existence, God brings us to himself by the word of truth. So, that we can be the firstfruits of his creatures.
What to do when you don't know what to do Number Seven: Know God is Good!
Wow, that is bunch of advice. Let me review…
1. Consider trouble as an opportunity for joy!
2. Ask for help. Ask for wisdom.
3. Prepare your faith, beforehand.
4. This too shall pass.
5. There’s a crown coming!
6. Don’t be stupid.
7. God is Good!
Let me summarize this in one line…
NLT James 1:12God blesses the people who patiently endure testing.
October 24, 2021
Los Alamos Church of Christ
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