Step Towards Transformation
James 1:9-12 (NKJV)
9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation,
10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away.
11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
So far, we have examined
As we continue to move forward through this series, this week we will examine another issue that is a problem area in the lives of most Christian people: How To Seek A Proper Perspective on Life!
Illustration; I was watching one of those crime shows on the dish the other day. This was a story of a young lady who went missing after going into a bar. Authorities have no idea where this young lady went, or what happened to her. In an effort to locate this young lady, the police started pursuing all the leads they could find. One of the leads they found which they thought to be important was some video footage of a young lady at the bar ordering some drinks. The mother of the girl told authorities what her daughter was wearing when she left home. The video which was not too good showed a young lady but this girl was wearing different clothing. The authorities based their investigation on this video footage of a young woman whose clothing did not match what the mother told them she was wearing. Now it is my understanding that in a missing person’s case, the first 24-48 hours are very important. Six weeks later, information surfaced that the young woman in the video was NOT the missing girl. Six weeks pursuing the wrong leads. The mother was very upset.
Now imagine that you spend your whole life pursuing something that you feel is important. Your pursuit lasts for years. One day when you get to the end of life you find that what you were pursuing, you pursued based on bad information. What you thought you were going to find, you did not find. How devastating.
Today we are going to examine a couple of verses that deal with both a poor and wealthy Christian. Now it is easy to look at the passage at a glance and think that God is condemning wealth, but wealth is not the real issue at hand. Things are not always as they appear. We need to understand there is more to this life than what we see.
We do not want to get to the end of life and find we wasted it pursuing the wrong things.
Illustration .- One day, a wealthy family man took his son on a trip to the country so he could have his son see how poor country people were. They stayed one day and one night at the farm of a very humble farm family. When they got back home the father asked the son, “What did you think of the trip”?
The son replied, “Very nice Dad.” Dad said, “Did you notice how poor they were?” “Yes”. “So, what did you learn from this trip?” “I’ve learned that we have one dog in the house, and they had four. We have a fountain and imported lamps in our garden, they have a stream with no end and the stars in the sky. Our garden goes to the edge of our property, they have the entire horizon as their back yard.”
At the end of the son’s reply the father was speechless and then his son said, “Thank you Dad, for showing me how poor we really are.”
v.9: HUMBLE MEANS HIGH
v.9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. Humble means high?
I Peter 5:5-6 “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
If we go down, we will also go up! If we humble ourselves before God, He will lift us up. But the problem is this: most people don’t like to humble themselves before anyone, including God! We don’t like to admit that we could be wrong. We don’t like to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.” And even to God.
Illustration:.- A preacher named Eddie Martin said: This well-dressed woman came forward during the invitation. I took her hand and prepared to give her a prayer to repeat after me. I took this woman’s hand and began to give her the prayer to repeat after me. “Dear Lord, I know I’m a no-good sinner.” She never said a word. I looked at her and said, “Don’t you want to be saved?”
She said, “Yes, Eddie, I do want to be saved, but I’m not a sinner.” “Then you can’t be saved,” I said, “Jesus only died for sinners.” “But, Mr. Martin,” she replied, “I’m a good sinner.”
“A good sinner! Lady, there is no such thing as a good sinner. You will have to take your seat. God can’t save you until you become conscious that you are a no-good sinner and need His forgiveness.”
“But, Mr. Martin, you don’t understand. I’m really not a bad sinner.”
I told her to go back and sit down. She held on to my hand with a vise-like grip. Finally she looked me in the eyes and said, “Oh, please forgive me. I know I am a no-good hell-deserving sinner. I am a proud, no-good sinner. I do need Christ to forgive me of my sins.” “Wonderful! Now, lady, you are ready to do business with God.”
Until a person is willing to be humble before God, they cannot be saved or lifted up in any form.
Greatness comes through being a humble servant. We go up by going down. The humble will be exalted and the exalted will be humbled.
Illustration.- Someone told this story about the famous inventor Samuel Morse who was once asked if he ever encountered situations where he didn’t know what to do. Morse responded, “More than once, and whenever I could not see my way clearly, I knelt down and prayed to God for light and understanding.”
Morse received many honours from his invention of the telegraph but felt undeserving. He said, “I have made a valuable application of electricity not because I was superior to other men but solely because of God, who meant it for mankind, must reveal it to someone and He was pleased to reveal it to me.”
Morse was honored but only because he first humbled himself before the Lord.
When we humble ourselves before the Lord, seeking to honor Him, we will experience the greatest “high” there is. Pride brings people down. Humility lifts people up.
-Riches can also test your faith in God. Wealth has a tendency to so confuse a human being’s perspective that it can lead to eternal consequences.
No matter how long a person may live or how rich he may be, money cannot bring him HAPPINESS.
Illustration : In his book For Better or For Worse, Walter Maier included this story: “A rich man had committed suicide. In his pockets were found two items: $30,000 in cash and a letter. The letter read in part: ‘I have discovered during my life that piles of money do not bring happiness. I am taking my life because I can no longer stand the solitude and boredom. When I was an ordinary workman in New York, I was happy. Now that I possess millions, I am infinitely sad and prefer death.’”
Illustration: A number of men were standing at an open grave having watched the burial of a friend. One man turned to another and said, “I wonder how much Old John left” Another responded, “Old John left it all!
-John D. Rockefeller Jr. wrote “The poorest man I know is the man who has nothing but money”.
So does that mean that having wealth is a bad thing? It doesn’t have to be.
Again, several Bible characters were wealthy, but they used their wealth to honor God and to help those in need around them. Also, they did not put their trust in it to give them their sense of value. True worth comes only from the One who is worthy – worthy of all that we are and do.
V.10.. RICH MEANS LOW
v.10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.
v.11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
Illustration: .- Andrew Carnegie, the wealthy steel magnate of a past generation, once remarked to a group of men that he did not feel the need of prayer. “What is the use of praying?” he asked. “I already have everything I want. What more could I ask for?” One of his hearers remarked: “Perhaps, sir, you might pray for humility.”
Rich means low. Possessing great wealth means nothing. The rich will be brought low and die just like everyone else.
Possessing wealth doesn’t keep a person from aging. What’s the idea? We all age. We all are brought low in death, even the high and the mighty, even the rich folks. Therefore, they need to make preparation for death and there’s only one way to do that! Jesus is the way!
We will die one day and our wealth will be gone. We cannot depend on that which we cannot take beyond the grave.
Illustration : Maybe you heard about the man who loved his money so much that just before he died, he told his wife, “When I die, I want you to put all my money in the casket with me. I want to take it into the afterlife with me.” She promised him that she would. At his funeral, just before the undertakers closed the casket, his wife put a box in the casket. The casket was closed and rolled away.
The wife’s friend said, “I know you didn’t put all that money in there with that man. You weren’t foolish enough to do that.” The wife said, “I promised him I would put the money in the casket.”
“You mean to tell me you put that money in the casket with him?” her friend asked. “Yes,” she said, “I wrote him a check.”
Illustration: A London newspaper once offered a prize for the definition of money. The winning entry was a follows. “Money is an article which may be used as a universal passport to everywhere except heaven, and as a universal pointer of everything except happiness.
I went online and googled the question, “What happens to people who hit the lottery?” I found an article that tracked 8 different lottery winners. Listen to their stories:
They “hit the big one” and think they’ve arrived only to find out that worldly wealth didn’t bring them the joy they thought it would.
Money is one of the most seductive idols of our time, and the desire for it leads millions to believe that they are fortunate if they have it and unfortunate if they don’t. That is a false perception that can ruin your life if you aren’t careful.
–Neither poverty nor material wealth determine the value of a man. The final measure of a man or a woman is based on their response to their Creator. All human beings have value because God created them
-So the proper response to such an amazing God is to say yes to Him. “Lord, I accept Your trade. You gave Yourself for me, now I give myself to You. I receive the gift of forgiveness from You. I am sorry for my sins and failures. I want to trade my life for Your life.”
Two important points to note when we are Living in light of eternity :
Illustration: One man got very upset with his pastor for talking about God’s ownership of all things and the transitory nature of our possessions. The man invited the preacher over to his lavish estate. He walked him through the gardens and woods of the elaborate grounds of the estate. When the tour was complete, he said, “Now, are you going to tell me that all of this land does not belong to me?” The pastor smiled and said, “Ask me that same questions 100 years from now.”
Listen beloved. 100 years from now, perhaps 50 years from now, perhaps 10 years from now, perhaps one year from now – our possessions are going to mean nothing. We will be gone or they will be gone or both. They don’t last. We cannot trust in them for our eternity. We must trust in Jesus Christ alone.
Rather than becoming boastful and proud when we find ourselves in a “have” situation, we should be humbled that God has entrusted us with so much, recognizing the great responsibility that is ours. By living each day in light of eternity, we will be reminded that what we have is “on loan” from God, and that all we have is due to His sovereign grace.
Illustration; George Adam Smith, a renowned Old Testament scholar, used to tell the story of a trip he once took to the Swiss Alps. With his guide, he went up on a lofty peak, the highest one in that particular mountain range. When they arrived at the top, he stood up to take in the panorama of that beautiful mountain range.
He said that when he stood on the top of that mountain, he did so with a sense of pride at what he had accomplished. But as soon as he stood to his feet, his guide grabbed him around the legs and said, “Down on your knees, sir, down on your knees. When you are up on top of a tall mountain like this, with the winds blowing as they do, the only safe place to be is on your knees.”
As we live in light of eternity, we will recognize that what we have has been entrusted to us by God, and we will become humble, not proud. Living in light of eternity will keep us from pride.
V.12 PERSEVERANCE MEANS SALVATION
12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
It will bring us reward
“Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” – Hebrews 9:27 (NIV)
One day every believer will stand before Christ to give an account for our lives. Believers who have not lived in light of this world will go unrewarded, but those who lived in light of eternity will be rewarded; for it will only be the believer who lived each day in light of eternity who is focused on living a life that is pleasing to their Lord.
Illustration: A man was driving one night down a lonely stretch of highway. As he came up over a hill, he came upon a hawk, that was feeding on the carcass of a rabbit that someone else had hit on the highway. Instead of flying away, the hawk stretched out his wings, and glared defiantly at the on-coming car. With a “whump,” the motorist hit the proud bird and he was dead.
Not long afterward, the man came upon a turtle that was crossing the road. Aware of the approaching automobile, the turtle pulled its legs and head into its shell. With another “whump,” the car rolled over the turtle, who was also left dead on the lonely highway.
Some believers are like the hawk. Prideful, self-reliant, boastful, unconcerned about the fact that they will one day give an account of their lives to their Lord. Others are like the turtle, hidden away in their own world of self-pity, self-interest, and self-absorption. They also are totally ignoring the fact that they will one day give account to God concerning the stewardship of their lives.
Every believer will one day stand before Christ to be judged by Him to determine the degree of reward they will receive in eternity. The only sure way of making sure that our life will be pleasing to Him on that day is to live our lives today in light of eternity.