The book of James is full of wonderful secrets. It contains God’s wisdom hidden in mystery. It has a surface meaning to the casual inquirer, and a much more profound meaning to those who are in tune to the Spirit’s revelation. As we learned in our other lessons on James, James is full of pearls of truth. In the book of Revelation, John tells us that the heavenly city had twelve gates, each gate was made of a single pearl. Everyone who would enter into the city must come in through the pearl gate. The spiritual truths that James presents are like those pearl gates – they offer gateways into the spiritual life.
As we pray for revelation and use the Spirit’s method of teaching comparing Scripture with Scripture, and spiritual thoughts with spiritual words, the impact and beauty of James’ teaching will begin to unfold before us. God speaks to us through His Word, and His Word is Living Seed that has the power to germinate in the hearts that will receive it, and bring forth fruit and blessing. The Word of God is living and active when anointed by the Holy Spirit and “more powerful than a two edged sword.” It can pierce into the depths of your heart and “divide between soul and spirit.” When quickened by the Holy Spirit, it has the power to reveal itself to anyone who is hungry for the bread of life. As the Holy Spirit reveals truth, it will come as radiant flashes of light or in visions, either sleeping or waking.
How to Obtain True Joy
In chapter two of our Bible study on the book James, How to Live a Life of Excellence, James directs us to the source of true joy. James shows you what this joy is like and how to obtain it. James points out that true joy has nothing to do with outward circumstances. He emphasizes that the source of true joy does not depend on what we have. True joy is not found in possessions, and the source of depression is not because of the lack of material substance. Regardless of whether you are in a place of material need or in a place of material abundance, your joy should know no bounds. Jesus promised not only a joy that the world can’t give and the world can’t take away, He promised us His very own joy. Not “our joy” but “His joy fulfilled in us” (John 15:11). As Jesus’ very own flesh and blood brother, James knew what true joy looked like after observing Jesus for all those years. In fact, the Bible tells us that Jesus was anointed with the oil of joy above all His companions. Instead of feeling downcast because of being in a place of material need, James exhorts us, “Let the brother in humble circumstances glory in his elevation as a Christian, called to the true riches and to be an heir of God”(Amplified, James 1:9). True joy is found in knowing the Lord. This fills your heart with secret delight.
Pray for the Light
Along with James, Paul emphasized the importance of knowing the true riches and understanding what it means to be an heir of God. He prayed for the believers that “their hearts might be flooded with light” so that they “might know the wonderful future He has promised to those He called and realize what a rich and glorious inheritance He has given to His people.” He also prayed “that they would begin to understand the incredible greatness of His power for us who believe Him, which is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead” (Ephes.1:18-19). That is some power! There is no question that encountering this great power of God’s eternal Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead has the power to “quicken or mortal bodies,” change our circumstances, raise us up from anything that is dead in our life, and make us creative and prosperous individuals who are doing our part to change the world for Jesus Christ. If you really want to understand this you must make Paul’s prayer your own, because the riches of Christ and the great inheritance He has given us can only be known by revelation. You might be poor now, but if you follow on to know the Lord, you won’t stay poor. God is an Abundant Supplier, as we obey Him and trust in Him for our supply.
Understanding True Riches
To the rich, James reminded them that “they will fade away like a flower in the field. The hot sun rises and dries up the grass; the flower withers, and its beauty fades away. So also, wealthy people will fade away with all of their achievements”(James 1:10-11). Peter explains it this way: “Mankind is like grass and all its glory and honor like the flower of grass. The grass withers and the flower drops off, but the Word of the Lord – divine instruction, the Gospel – endures forever” (1 Peter 1:24-25). What does this tell us? If we have an abundance of this world’s goods, we should not put all our time, energy, and thought into our possessions. Instead, we should put all our thought, effort, time, and energy into seeking Jesus and learning how to live by the power of His Spirit. We should wait in His Presence, learn what the will of God is, and do it. All work, whatever field of endeavor, is sacred when it is done for the glory of God, and no matter what God leads us to do, as we follow Him, we will be supplying our part in the progress of His kingdom. We should never put our confidence in riches or trust in them. Our trust should always be in the Lord who is our Provider, regardless of our circumstances.
Paul echoes James as he explains his own attitude toward material possessions: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.” (Phil 4:11-13) Paul’s source of joy was not in what he had – his source of joy was in Who he knew. Jesus of course emphasized this very thing. He taught, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Seek the kingdom of God first and His righteousness and everything you need will be given to you” (Matt. 6:24,33). Although every Christian knows that Jesus taught this, very few people obey this Scripture and prove its truth as a promise from Jesus Himself. Yet, this is the very thing that you must do if you would experience the abundant life of joy and peace that Jesus promises. If you will do what Jesus said here, quit worrying and start trusting Him, and seek His kingdom first, money will loose its hold on you.
Idolatry of Money
Both people with money, as well as people without money, worship money. Sometimes people who have no money worship it more than people who do have it. Why? Because their heart is full of fear, worry, and concern over money. In fact, worrying over money fills their minds so much that they hardly have time to think about anything else. When you fear money and the lack of it, you yield your life to the power of money. You are proclaiming that money is more powerful than God, whom you claim to worship. You are no better than an idol worshiper who sets up an idol and falls down and worships before it. We are told throughout the Scriptures that the only One we are to fear is God alone. So serve God and put Him first. You will prove this by your right thoughts, speech, and actions. Change you mind today, cast out fear, turn it out the door and enter in, trust in God and His Living Word. Refuse to worry about the future and about today and tomorrow. Jesus said, “Those who obey My commandments are the ones who love Me. And because they love Me, my Father will love them and I will love them, and I will reveal myself to each one of them” (John 14:21). Well, here we have His commandment, and three times He commands us “do not to worry “and tells us not to seek after how we are going to be able to obtain the things we need for daily living, but to instead, “seek the kingdom of God first and His righteousness.”
And not only this, Jesus said that if we obey His commandments, we show that we love Him. And because of this, we will experience His love for us, and He will “reveal Himself to us.” This is joy and delight above anything the world can give and take away. But this relationship with Jesus is conditional upon our obedience. Yes, you can obey His commandment not to worry about, fear, or seek after money, because Jesus not only says you can, He expects you to do it. So simply obey Him. Become a positive agent for the will of God. Put all your thoughts and all your effort into looking to the Father to learn His will, looking always for Him to guide and lead you. You will receive from God all the help you need, and if you will persist in this with determination, despite any discouragement, you will walk straight in to all the good that God has for you. In light of this great inheritance, James tells us all, whether rich or poor, to “rejoice in the true riches,” and you will be an “heir of God.” Wow! What a promise!
How to Stay Out of Poverty
Paul told the Corinthians how to stay out of poverty. “Remember this – a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, ‘Godly people give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will never be forgotten.’ For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, He will give you many opportunities to do good, and He will produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched so that you can give even more generously. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will break out in thanksgiving to God”(1 Cor. 9:6-11).
Jesus taught His disciples the following principle, showing that no one can limit the blessing in your life except you: “If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving–large or small–it will be used to measure what is given back to you.”
God will Bless Faithful People
God’s will has always been to bless faithful people. The Old Covenant promises that “the faithful person will abound with blessings” (Proverbs 28:20). In fact, the Scripture tells us that faithfulness in prayer and giving is noticed by God. The book of Acts tells us about a man named Cornelius, a Roman army officer who was the captain of the Italian Regiment. The Scriptures tell us that “he was a devout man who feared the God of Israel, as did his household. He gave generously to charity and was a man who regularly prayed to God. One afternoon about three o’clock, he had a vision in which he saw an angel of God coming toward him. ‘Cornelius!’ the angel said. Cornelius stared at him in terror. ‘What is it, sir?’ he asked the angel. And the angel replied, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have not gone unnoticed by God! Now send some men down to Joppa to find a man named Simon Peter. Ask him to come and visit you’ ” (Acts 10:1-6). Peter came and preached to Cornelius and his household. They were saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit and water. Why did Cornelius receive this revelation of Jesus? Because he feared God, prayed regularly, and gave to help others. Because of his faithfulness to God, Cornelius and his household abounded with material and spiritual blessings.
If you are not abounding in blessings, check out your faithfulness. Do you give generously to help others? Have you really been faithful to seek God first and foremost in your life above all else? How much time have you spent in His Presence seeking Him compared to the number of hours you spend watching television or surfing the internet? Turn off the TV, walk away from your computer, and give a lion’s share of that time to the Lord and obey Him. You will be amazed at the transformation that takes place in your life and the blessing that comes to you in your financial affairs. The Bible teaches that, “The blessing of the Lord will make rich, and He will add no sorrow to it” (Prov. 10:22).
Why People Think That to be Poor is to Suffer with Christ
Down through the ages, poverty has been mistakenly heralded by some as a great spiritual state and considered as suffering for Christ that brings with it great reward in the world to come. This idea was developed during the Dark Ages of European history. During that period of history, most people were ignorant of God’s Word. Most had never read the Bible, including the clergy. Most of them were illiterate. The Bible was rarely preached and there were no copies available for the masses. The impoverished masses, who were working for feudal lords for little more than slaves wages, endured great suffering.The feudal lords were the privileged few and were worried about the impoverished masses rising up in rebellion against their authority. In cooperation with civil leaders in hopes to maintain order, the leaders of the Roman church made poverty a “Christian virtue.” Unsuspecting millions were taught to believe that poverty was a spiritual quality to be desired.The only problem with this idea is that there is nothing in Scripture that backs this up. Take a look at Deuteronomy 28 at the blessings that come on the obedient and the curses that come on the disobedient. God says that to those who will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord and obey Him, “everything they do will be blessed” and God “will give them an abundance of good things.” But to those who refuse to listen to God and obey His commandments, “they will be cursed in everything they do and they will serve their enemies in hunger, thirst, nakedness, and the lack of all things.” Deuteronomy 27 lists specific sins that you can commit that will bring you under the curse. Jesus died on the cross and took the curse upon Himself so He could deliver all those who have repentant hearts. So turn the curse out the door. If you have committed sins that have brought you under the curse, repent of them by asking forgiveness. Then turn away from those sins and obey God.
Moses sums up the choice that only you can make, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendants might live! Choose to love the Lord your God and to obey Him and commit yourself to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days” (Deut. 30:19-20). Make a decision to obey God’s Word. Get out of your poverty and get into God’s blessings. This you must do for God’s glory.
How to Enter into God’s Blessing
One day Peter asked Jesus, “Lord we have left everything to follow you. What reward will we have?” Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life’ ” (Mark 10:28-30). So go ahead, jump into our Bible Study, How to Live a Life of Excellence. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may come to know the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God, and learn to life the life of the spirit.