Looking at James 1:1-12, I outlined it. That has been something of a challenge that does not seem I should have.
It’s not that I am above challenges.
It’s that this is a simple text and it has me stumped as I try to be precise with it. There are some things I have not figured out, and I keep changing my mind as to where the pieces fit. I am leaning in one direction more and more though, so maybe that means I am coming to a conclusion. But I know that if I put it aside for now and come at it again in several months or years, I’ll probably still have trouble with it.
The problem relates to where the “praying” fits in the text. And the question is, “Does James tell us to pray if we lack wisdom to know how to ‘consider all joy’? Or is he saying that we should pray if we lack wisdom in letting ‘patience have its perfect work’.” I suppose that I could be arguing for either one and they both mean the same. Still, it is a problem for me.
I like to have my outlines nice and tidy, but I often find that it doesn’t happen. So I’ve learned to live with it and now I am getting to more important matters of finding the CPT. The Central Proposition of the Text is important to me. Here I am summarizing the intent and content into a sentence. That helps me remember the point there, and makes it much easier to find applications.
James 1:1-12 is about the Christian’s mindset.
Maybe it’s better to say that it is about the successful Christian’s mindset. What attitudes and intention should a Christian have in order to make the most of the trials we all face? What should we be looking for as we try to build a strong and lasting faith? That’s what this text is about. And I’m glad the book outlines these mindsets. I find myself struggling with consistency too often.
Here’s the basic message.
If you want to bring about joyous circumstances, you need to remember the value of the situation, choose to endure it, pray for wisdom, and be sure to rejoice in the things that are going to help you endure.
That last idea about rejoicing is a tough one.
It’s easy for me to “rejoice” in things that make me feel good or in things that are fun, but when I am in the thick of problems, there is not much “rejoicing” that I do. I work on my attitude and when I am in worship or in similar settings, it is much easier to rejoice, but this is not really talking about finding fulfillment in church (though it is part of it). This is about choices we make.
It’s about what we decide to treasure in life.
For illustration, James used the poor and the rich. I think everyone alive fits into one of those categories, even though I couldn’t tell you which one I am in. Sitting beside a Bill Gates, I am very poor. Sitting beside a starving and homeless man, I seem to have many riches. Still, the illustration works.
James told the poor to glory in their exaltation and the rich in their humiliation.
Poor people are exalted only in the spiritual sense. Those who are destitute can anticipate the time of their eventual exaltation in heaven. To some degree they can also see that exaltation in their lives now, if they choose to do that.
Rich people need to rejoice in their humiliation. That thought must refer to teachings about riches and their real value. You can have everything in the world, but if you don’t have eternal life, what good is your life? Imagine facing the grave knowing that you had everything in the world, but nothing could save you from that hole in the ground. But a rich Christian can “glory” in his humiliation. That is, he will choose to focus on being humble, avoiding pride and other vanities. The rich can learn to look at the self-sacrifice of Christianity as something positive and glorious, especially since it leads to salvation.
So what does it mean to me?
The reason it is a tough concept is because I tend to place value on things that don’t matter. I sometimes worry more about money than I should. I enjoy things that are probably not the best for me.
I’ve had a shift in my thinking about food in the last several months. I didn’t realize how much joy I found in food until I discovered that I have diabetes. I still love food. I love to experiment with different flavors and to try new things. I love eating with friends and family, especially in restaurants. The atmosphere and fun are part of the experience of food, but flavor is too. I occasionally find myself craving large spoons full of my wife’s incredible cake icing. (Yes, I’ve been known to eat it like ice-cream a few times.) So, clearly, I had to make some difficult changes in my relationship with food.
My mouth is watering now.
I am learning to “rejoice” in something else.
I am looking for the wholesome parts of my love for food and choosing to rejoice in those things. I am choosing to place more emphasis on time with friends than on food. I realize that most of that love for food was related to the more wholesome practice of having fun with friends. Now my rejoicing has shifted. I am choosing to have more fun and be more involved with things that are so much healthier. I can enjoy friends without going to a meal with them. It’s OK to eat with them, but the emphasis is not the food like it once was.
I’ve had to do this with a number of things in my life. I thought of doing it this way by listening to others talk about their difficulties in similar areas and how they found a way “out” of that loop. I also saw it in passages like Romans 12:1-2 where we are told that we must transform our minds. The problem is, how do you transform it? James 1:1-12 tells us the mindset we need in order to be faithful. And faithfulness leads to the ultimate victory.
This passage is beautiful to me. It is both encouraging and helpful. I see here some great help to overcome the trials and challenges I am facing. Food is one of them.
O Lord, let me glory in You and in the things that are wholesome and good.
See ya tomorrow!