v 9,10 –‘The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position –here is the good news for us all – ‘because he will pass away like a wild flower.’
Let me illustrate by telling you about my friend in East Yorkshire, Jack Clubley. I once took him to Scotland because he had never seen hills in his life before. I also took him to the Lake District one day and he stood and cried. He said, “Man if the streets were paved with gold, I’d think I’d be in heaven.” Which only confirmed to me that the nearer you get to Scotland …! He was a poor man and every year of his working life he would go down to the market and sold himself for a year. In the old days, up until the second world war men used to do that – they would sell themselves to the highest bidder – some of you know what I am talking about – in farm work as a labourer. They used to say about Jack, who was an old Methodist and the only one of his family a Christian, ‘Jack, man, thou hast got a tile loose!’ and he used to say, ‘Praise the Lord, that’s where the light got in!’
The world is full of that. It will give people a knighthood for their success one day and they are in the bankruptcy courts the next day. A man invented a little three-wheeled trolley one day and it became the world’s one day wonder and the next he was twelve million pounds in debt. Now, I’m not against riches, if you are using them in the Kingdom. But I’m against riches if you are making them your security. You will find if you are giving God your pound coins, and you will discover He puts a bit of elastic in the middle! They are especially invented to make holes in men’s pockets – well don’t let them make a hole in your pocket. They do have a dead sound and weight to them, have you noticed that? But when God gets a hold of them – there’s nothing so happy as a pound coin in God’s economy. Don’t make them your security, but let God expand them. You probably think that I’m a nut – so I am – no I’m not, I’m a fool for God!!
Verses 9 to 11 are about security in faith. Some of us want to make a virtue of our poverty and some of us want to make a false security of our wealth and God says neither are right – ‘let the low man be proud of his high position in Christ and let the man who has human security get rid of it and take pride in his low position in Christ’. This is exactly what Paul says, ‘he who was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich’. That means, in the end, if we live like this, none of us will be poor because we will discover the riches of Christ, which is a totally different thing. Satan gets us into a trap; either a poverty trap or a wealth trap. You’ll say ‘I’m not rich’. Don’t you believe it. If you go into most other countries, even those of you who are on the dole, you will see how rich you really are. It’s an attitude of mind. It’s an attitude of spirit; it’s whether we are trusting the Lord.
For example, I’m looking to the Lord to answer a great need in our lives. Now what satan says to me is, ‘don’t bother praying so intensively, you’ve prayed for the last six months and look at the answers – tremendous, but you’re going on holiday next Saturday and it’s a bit tiring – don’t pray so much, why don’t you do something on the human level and work it out for a minute.’ That happens to me frequently and I have learned in the last number of years how to live by faith, especially in terms of economics. In my own life the big lesson God has taught me since I finished teaching theology and moved to join Kingdom Faith Ministries, the big thing God has taught me is how to live and operate daily by faith, and I love it! But there are moments when satan comes along and says, ‘Now Bob you’ve done well this year, relax a little bit, don’t do it that way for a minute, why don’t you do a kind of rational thing and save yourself a lot of hassle.’ And I’ll get to that and when I look back over this year, that will be the failure spot of my life – it is a continual struggle. What satan wants to do in the life of faith, is to challenge our security in God and to get us instead to put our security in something or someone else. Don’t do it – trust God, even to the eleventh hour, fifty-nine minutes and thirty seconds trust God and then kick the devil in the teeth with the cheque that God sends!
v12 – ‘Blessed – makarios – blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life…’
Now, in Revelation 3:21 we read – ‘to him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me upon my throne’. It’s not only for tomorrow, but it’s for today! How often have you received the crown of life? How often have you been crowned by Jesus? I’m going to look forward to that day, when we receive the crown, we are going to wear the crown, we are going to reign in glory as He reigns in glory. But today – when we have stood the test – there is an ultimate sense but there is a present tense! You can always tell the people who have stood the test, there is something about their life, they have the mark of God upon their life – overcomers assigned by God. They have the stamp of God – his hallmark, God doesn’t want sparkle, He wants stamp! What people are looking for is the stamp of authenticity – the mark of the pure gold of God.
When you get to glory, you’ll know if the crown will fit you because you probably should have had two or three trail runs already! It’s a bit like going through the difficulty and Jesus comes along with the crown and says, ‘Yes, a bit more adjustment here’ and then one day when we get there, He’ll say, ‘it fits perfectly’. Hallelujah! Those of you who have never faced any difficulty, the crown will be around your ears!
v13 – ‘When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone…’
Here is an important lesson – when you are tested, don’t say God did it. Right since the beginning of time, Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the devil. We have always been blaming somebody else, and if we can’t blame anybody we blame God.
The Daily Telegraph reported on a crash on M25 the other day. The coroner’s judgement said that there was nobody we could blame, that this was an act of God. When I read that I thought there is something wrong here. This was a time when I was never more near writing to the Daily Telegraph than at that moment – this had made me so angry. That is what satan wants to do. He wants to paste it all over the place today; Ethiopian famine – God is to blame! Terrible earthquake – God is to blame! Dying of cancer – God is to blame! There is nowhere in the whole Bible where you will find that theology stands or holds water. We need to understand the source of these things – ‘God never tempted anyone by evil…’ God allows test; He tested Abraham, He tested Job, He tested Moses.
v14 – ‘…never by evil and never for evil intent; each one tempted by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.’
If you knew of the political intrigue, the selfishness, the sinfulness, the blackness, the darkness, the corruption that has gone on – the political movements of east against west – you wouldn’t credit it, and you read nothing of that in the papers today or see it on the television. When we get to the great white throne in heaven and the books are going to be opened and one day we are going to see the 20th century from God’s perspective, instead of man’s. We are going to have to repent, we ought to be repenting, not just of individual sins, but of the corruption that has gripped the human race in a cosmic sense. Millions of innocent people are dying today because of it. We need to look at our hearts today – ‘what is of sin is death’.
v15 – ‘Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, give birth to death.’
What satan wants you to say in all your difficulties is to start blaming somebody around about you – faith doesn’t do that. Faith brings it to the throne and finds the victory of Jesus.
v16,17 – ‘Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’
I love the way the old Authorised version puts it – ‘He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. He is the Father of lights in whom there is no variableness or shadow caused by turning.’
I was watching a sun dial the other day and the sun was shinning and I never knew it before, but as I stood and watched the sun dial for three-quarters of an hour I could see the shadow moving. It was amazing, because I thought it would be so slow I wouldn’t be able to see any change but the more I looked and the more I became accustomed to the dial, I could see the shadow moving! God doesn’t change – He is the same.
‘The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.’