Faith Works: A Study in James

Devotional

How does faith work when you are frustrated? 


When we are kids, eventually we see a cartoon where someone is granted one wish, often from a genie in a bottle. How we might answer that question reveals a great deal about who we are and what we value.


If you could have one wish granted to you, what would it be? Answer what immediately comes to mind. A pile of cash up to what Paul calls the third heaven, a supermodel spouse who never sins and memorizes books of the Bible, kids who stayed out of trouble and make parenting easy, in-laws who act like outlaws moving to another planet, perfect health, or something else?


Amazingly, King Solomon was given the opportunity to ask God for one thing (1 Kings 3). Solomon’s request for wisdom was so pleasing to God that He not only gave wisdom but added to it wealth and honor to rule in power.


Throughout the Old Testament literature, the value of wisdom is described as more profitable than silver or gold and more precious than jewels. Nothing you ever hope or dream for (including whatever that one granted wish was) can even compare with wisdom. (Prov. 3:13–15). How do we get wisdom? According to Proverbs 2:6, God is the only source of true wisdom, and he generously gives it for the asking (James 1:5). True wisdom isn’t achieved; it’s received as a gift from God.


True wisdom comes from God alone, is marked by humility, flows from life in the Spirit, and is dependent on God as the giver of every good and perfect gift (1:17). The antithesis of wisdom is pride, which breeds obsessive self-focus and self-promotion, and excludes others.


Just like a dam blocks the flow of water, so too bitterness blocks the flow of wisdom. Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition never lead to righteousness, only strife. In keeping with James’ agricultural metaphors, true wisdom from God bears the fruit of righteousness and peace, both of which cause fertile ground where righteousness can grow. God, in his wisdom, gives of Himself and makes peace with us, through Jesus. In turn, we have peace with others, and the character of God is reproduced in man’s heart—the very fruit that produces a harvest of righteousness.


One day, our Lord Jesus Christ will return and stand upon the earth to raise the dead, judge the nations, lift the curse, and bring the world under the full rule of His Kingdom. In the end, there will only be two cultures. The Kingdom of Heaven will be marked by forgiveness, grace, humility, wisdom, love, and peace as people reap what the Spirit has sown. The Kingdom of Hell will be marked by unforgiveness, judgment, pride, foolishness, hatred, and discord as people reap what they sow. Today, we live on earth between the cultures of Heaven and Hell and the daily decisions we make, including our inward thoughts and motives, either invite the culture of Heaven down or pull the culture of Hell up into our lives.


 


How have you seen bitterness (including unforgiveness, an unhealed hurt, or a jealousy of someone else) constrict the flow of the Holy Spirit and wisdom in your life?