Thursday, December 4, 2008

When times are well...

Scripture: James 4:7-17

7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
11Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
13Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." 16As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.


Topic: When all things are well
The word "therefore" is mainly used to introduce a logical conclusion based on facts or reasoning. It is as though "therefore" served as a purpose of "drawing out the main point" for the readers. In this short passage (James), you can clearly see that there are two "Therefore" in the passage (v7 & 17). As a result, it shows forth that in this short passage, all the words written there will be concise and important. In this respect, we will be looking into this passage and draw out the spiritual elements for ourselves.

In this passage, it is clear that the passage is written in an imperative format, whereby all the things stated here are commands / essential for the Christian. For instance, Submit to God, Resist the devil etc.

The passage can be further divided into 3 sections.
a) V7 - V10 == Focusing on self
b) V11 - 12 == Focusing on the relationship with others
c) V13 -17 == Focusing on the relationship with God

Our main focus will be mainly on V13 -17. Therefore, let us now study His words further in order to find out what God has to say to all those Christian who are currently not facing any trials and all things are well in life.

If you read V13, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit", you will have the idea that the person who said such statement will be in a state whereby he/she is carefree. He/She should be in a state whereby all things are well and not facing any difficulties in life. In fact, you can see that that person is trying to improve their life through investment.

Implicitly, people who said such words seem to portray that they are confident in their financial state. If you think further, aren't many of us fall in the same category? Well, you might not be confident in your financial status, but what about physically (i.e. having a good body shape)? Mentally? Socially (i.e. Having a big social network in life)? Psychologically? Many of us tend to be too over confident upon ourselves and forgetting that all things come from God.

Many of you can argue saying that "we are just planning for the future", is that wrong? Well, I didn't say that we shouldn't plan ahead, in fact, we should! But what makes it a sin and displease God? Look at verse 14. God clearly told us that we are way too over confident with ourselves and plans until we forgot the fact that we are not at all in control of all things. We are as though planning and being so certain that it will turn out the way we expected it. We forgot the fact that regardless how well we plan, if it is not God's wills, all things will not take place as we plan. To make the matter worse, we always tend to plan things according to our heart desires and preferences and not submitting to God ultimately. How then can we please God with our earthly desires plans? It will never please God!

Hence, how should we plan and not displease God with our plans?
We should always put God in the picture and submit to His wills whenever we are planning or deciding on our future. For instance, if you are hunting for a job, you take into consideration of the working hours (don't work on Sunday), working environment that will affect your spiritual growth etc. If it doesn't help you spiritually or doesn't glorifying God, you tend not to pursue it. Yes, though it might take you longer to seek for a suitable job but nevertheless you trust in God that He will provide. That is how you plan and decide on your future by acknowledging God and submitting to Him regardless what are the outcomes of your plans.

When all things are well, God knew that we tend to be overly confident regarding self. Therefore, God reminded us through James to submit to Him, resist the devil, draw near to Him, purify our hearts, humble ourselves etc (V7-12). But the most important message in this passage would be in V13-16 whereby God reminded us that we shouldn't be looking too much on the horizontal view (relationship with human) and forgetting the vertical view (relationship with God) even at times of ease.

Therefore, regardless what is happening in your life, regardless how you look physically, regardless of anything, submit yourself whole-heartedly to Him and constantly seeking His will and His words.