As a person of faith in Jesus Christ, what does it look like to thrive? I want you to be safe in your faith. Relative security. But better is to thrive, grow, joy…you thrive when you become active in your faith, when what you believe impacts more and more of your life, and you experience peace and security even when a storm is raging. I love the phrase I saw in a home this week that was given to them as a Christmas present: “Don’t tell God how big your storm is, tell the storm how big your God is.” That’s thriving ~ bringing your faith into your everyday life.
People who are at risk for food don’t always have enough, they eat what is available, don’t have a way to prepare good food, people who are safe have enough to get by and eat regularly, but people who thrive have choices, variety, balanced, knowledge, discipline… People who are at risk spiritually are overwhelmed, don’t know if they can make it, afraid, desperate, people who are safe have a measure of security as long as nothing goes wrong, hang on one more day, but people who thrive have a sense of the presence of God so that even if the storm rages they have confidence, they meet the challenges of the day with energy…. Wherever you are, the idea is to move up the scale….At Risk…boy I know a lot of people in this category in Sumas…. To safe….that’s a good place…. But to thrive…grow, mature, the spirit in you testifying to others of Christ….
Today’s scripture is about Living in Obedience to God as an expression of your faith in Jesus Christ. It is moving from At Risk in your faith, to Safe, to Thriving.
The first verses of today’s scripture are about moving from At Risk to a Safe place. If a child is in an abusive home, just to move them into a foster home is the best. Maybe it is not perfect because it is not “home” but it is safe, a measure of love even if the foster parents are new to the child. If your faith is at risk, if you are in danger of collapsing, giving up, moving into a deep depression, let’s get you to a safe place. It may be that the only verse you need today is James 1:19. READ. How do you find a safe place in your heart: you pause. You listen.
When Esther was first learning to walk we were in B’ham at my sister’s house. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Esther toddle/wobble towards me, only it wasn’t me she was after, it was the mug of scalding hot water on the piano bench next to me. She pulled it down ~ you can still see the scar on her arm where it hit… I paused, picked her up, calmly walked her to the kitchen sink, ran cold water over her arm to cool down the burn…. Went to the hospital….
We get in trouble when we panic, whether it is an emergency or our faith. James 1:19 is saying when your world is hit with crisis, listen and stay calm. Do not get angry. Joe Carter has often said if he could just have the Christian world live one verse that would revolutionize the world it is this: “Be still and know that I am God.” [Amen?]. When life is overwhelming, listen for the voice of God. Listen for the still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart. Listen to the birds singing the symphony of God’s creation. Listen. “Be quick to listen.” For those who are overwhelmed, those are the four words for you to memorize. Be quick to Listen… Listen and be Calm. “Slow to speak and slow to become angry” are two ways of emphasize the role of developing your listening ears….
Some people talk more than others. They learn less too. Listening is intentional. Not withdrawing. Not getting lost in depression. But listening. If you speak too quickly, if you get angry, James 1:20 outlines the result: READ. Righteousness simply means being right with God. A right relationship. This week I went to see Deb A____.. He has stage 4 lung cancer. I spent half an hour with him. As I left he almost had a tear in his eye: “thank you Carl, you’ve been a good friend to me and my family for years.” I am the most blessed person in Sumas, I hope I do half the good towards others as they do for me. To be in a right relationship with the A____’s. How much more to have a good relationship with God. I am so amazed by James 1:20 because it says God is the one that desires a good relationship with us. Doesn’t that give you chills. God desires you. For those who are at risk in their faith, the overwhelming feeling of being rejected by God is a lie. He desires that everyone find a safe place of righeousness with him. Comfort in his presence. How do you find a safe place with God? A listening ear, listening for the things of God, listen for his affirming voice, sensing his love and protection. A safe place for your soul is a place where all is right. Rest. Peace. Calm assurance.
James 1:21. READ. This is simply building more and more what it means to be safe. I would put this verse on my chart in the middle, a spiritually safe family/person is one that is characterized by good morals, good decisions, not getting sucked into the temptations of the world, but focusing on God as a chief identity, seeking to live according to the principles and teachings of the Bible, the word of God, the Spirit of God. And I absolutely love that the verse says the WORD is PLANTED IN YOU. It’s there already, the message of God’s salvation, the word of hopeyou just need to discover the hope of God’s word. And it comes through listening, calm assurance….
We are going to move now from SAFE to a THRIVING place. SAFE is good, but the Lord wants you to get to the place where you thrive. Let me just say, I don’t believe for a second the person who is thriving is loved more by God than the person who is SAFE or even the person that is at risk. I am pretty sure we will see people in heaven that had pretty messy lives on this earth, but the desire of God is that we grow and mature in our faith. This is what James 1:22 is all about. READ. I heard a testimony of a man raised in the church, a good man, a man who testified that he fully believed in Jesus Christ, but then in his middle age years something changed and he felt in his spirit it was time to start giving back instead of only receiving. That, according to his testimony, is when he began to thrive. YES, he firmly believed he was saved at a young age, but he began to thrive in his 50’s when he became active…. READ James 1:22-25.
Two words in these verses that demonstrate what keeps us from thriving in our faith: Deception and Forgetting. We deceive ourselves. We tell ourselves we are pretty good people and that is enough. That keeps us safe. Lies are bad anytime, but the worst lies are the ones you tell yourself. The apostle John addressed the problem of self deception in his first letter: “If we say, ‘We have fellowship with Him,’ yet we walk in darkness” (1 John 1:6). “If we say, ‘We have no sin’” (1 John 1:8). When we deceive ourselves, when we pat ourselves on the back too much, that keeps us from going deeper in our service to the Lord and keeps our hearts from expanding in our love. We may be SAFE, but the goal is to thrive…
Self Deception keeps us from thriving in our faith. So does forgetting. You heard the words in the scripture about looking at yourself in the mirror then walking away and forgetting about it…I remember years ago buying a new sport coat because it was required to go on an outing… that was a cruise to Alaska when we were first married that was given to us…. Sally and I sat down with these strangers at the dinner table the first night and the first thing one of the other women said to me was, “You just bought that coat didn’t you.” Yes, I said, kind of wondering how she knew. “You forgot to cut off the tag. I had just seen it in the mirror and then forgot!
It is so easy to study, study, study….I like Bible Studies but a healthy church/life also has to have opportunities to practice what we study. If all we do is small study groups then the Christian life is reduced to a theory. It is good and necessary to study, it will keep you safe. But to thrive, we cannot forget when we walk out the doors of Sunday morning worship and we are still called to live our faith in the world. We thrive when our faith becomes part of our daily walk…and we give of ourselves…
James 1:26-27 is an emphasis on the need to thrive with Christ, not just accept a compromised form of faith, but to thrive. READ
Self Deception and Forgetting is the double anchor that keeps us from thriving, going forward in faith. To thrive in your spiritual faith is to remember and put into practice the Word of God. It’s so easy to read the words, “Love one another” but then forget, “Pray without ceasing,” but then forget, “Rejoice always,” but then forget, “In all things give thanks,” but then forget.
The goal is to thrive in Christ. If self deception and forgetting is the double anchor keeping us from going forward, the way to pull up the anchor is to let the word of God judge us and convict us READ James 1:25. Look intently because the word of God, the Bible, the Spirit within is freedom. Psalm 19:12 speaks a bold truth: “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults”. Only the Lord himself can deliver us because he alone sees the part hidden from our own view. Ask yourself: Am I willing to be corrected by the Lord? One person said it this way. Hang on to this powerful insight: “It’s one thing to read the Bible. It’s another thing to let the Bible read me.” (Ray Pritchard)
I want nothing more in the days, months and years to come than to see people mature in faith. Those that are at risk, those who live in fear, uncertain, in danger of sinking into depression, to find a safe place. “Be quick to listen.” “Be still and know that I am God.” A safe place is a place of peace. You are at least hanging on. But guess what. The Lord wants more for you than to hang on, he wants the day to come when you thrive, he wants to see you active in your faith, to blossom and enjoy life, to live as a servant of Christ actively engaging in making a difference for others, a person of confidence. Do not stay in that safe place by deceiving yourself or forgetting, but submit to the Word of God, “looking intently into the perfect law that gives freedom,” and allow the Lord Jesus Christ to change you from the inside out. As you thrive, your faith will express itself in making a positive difference to others. Amen.