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Faith That Works - Part 3


"9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with [l]a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away."


Good Morning my beloved,

Welcome to worship this Lord's day! We're so glad to have our brothers and sisters from around the world here with us today. Please know, that we continue to lift all of you up in our prayers. We would  ask that you would do the same for us. We praise God that He continues to grow our ministry, allowing us to reach even more people! We invite you to share it with all of your family and friends.

Many people in our culture today, constantly fight against covetousness, and battle to have confidence in Christ. Contentment is an issue that even many believers struggle with. The standard of living and the inequality we feel between ourselves and our neighbor, are much of the day to day frustration that people tend to feel in our nation. Let's be honest, we have a sinful tendency to keep up with the Jones's, and we tend to measure our self worth and the value of our lives according to our material possessions.

It is almost certain, that we will all face economic hardships at some point in our lives. For some, it is a matter of making ends meet each week. While others are concerned about providing basic needs for their children. I have little doubt, that in many ways, we can all relate to some aspect of this.

In our text, James tackles the economic issue head on, and he makes the point powerfully that it is in Christ alone that we find our significance.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father,

Father, we thank You for Your Word, for reminding us how You use men and women who are faithful and humble and holy for Your purpose. Lord, we thank You for the various trials that You have brought us into to test our faith, and having passed the test, demonstrating that our faith is genuine. Our hearts are filled with gratitude and thanksgiving. Father, we know that You use trials that humble us, that wean us away from the world, that call us to eternal hope and that remind us what we really love. Thank You for using trials in order than we might be a help to others, help us to graciously accept the trials that produce spiritual growth and faith. Thank You for building our spiritual character, for developing us for greater usefulness, if we really understood what you were doing, we would humble ourselves, we would willingly submit and believe in prayer for wisdom. Accomplish Your good and perfect plans and holy purpose through all the trials of life, so that we may rest in the confidence that there is no trial that is come to us that we are unable to bear. May it all be for Your glory and for Christ's sake. O' Lord, hear our prayer.
In Christ's name we pray.


Today's Message: Faith That Works - Part 3

James deals in this section with two brothers, one wealthy and the other poor, and exhorts both to rejoice in the Lord. He then closes the section by noting the blessing shared by rich and poor. I believe that whether you consider yourself to be either wealthy or poor, this passage of Scripture speaks directly to your economic trials. James addresses two brothers with the same spiritual inheritance, however, with very different material circumstances. 

I invite you to follow along with me as I read to set the text in our minds, as we prepare our hearts for a Word from our Lord. Listen to what the Spirit is saying.

"But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away."  

In Verse 9, "But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position."

The apostle James begins by addressing the poor brother, I would like to note, that the operative word is brother. The word used is the word adelphos, meaning a fellow Christian, in the same religious community. I believe that this is significant, because it indicates that regardless of your socioeconomic standing in society, your belief in Christ places you as a brother in the family of God. In fact, James uses the word 19 times in his five chapters. This is very rich discussion.  

The term humble circumstances, has the idea of one who barely rises above the ground. It speaks of one of a low degrees on the socioeconomic scale; in other words, it refers to one who is relatively poor and powerless. However, in a stroke of irony, James tells the brother who barely rises above the ground to "rejoice" or "boast" in his exaltation. Now, if you will recall, the word "exaltation" speaks of achieving great heights. It is the same word that the Apostle Paul used of Jesus’ being exalted by His Father in Philippians chapter 2 verses 9–11. Therefore, James is saying, "Let those who have not risen very high rejoice that they have reached such great heights!"

In our society today, we often associate boasting with sinful arrogance, but the word that James uses here for boast, is the word kauchasthō, which literally means to joyfully exult. It is translated in the New Testament variously as glory, joy and rejoice. As a footnote, boasting is not always sinful, and here, James uses the word in a positive sense. The one who does not figure highly on the world’s socioeconomic scale, who doesn’t boast of material possessions or great wealth, is to glory because he is exalted in Christ. I believe that this teaches us a very valuable lesson, material wealth means nothing in the scheme of eternal things; it is far greater to have one’s inheritance in Christ. He may have nothing in the world to rejoice about, however he has the joy of legitimate pride, that you have true riches in Christ.

Contrary to what many believe, both the poor and the prosperous undergo financial trials. While our humble circumstances are temporary; our exalted personal relationship with the Lord is permanent, therefore, the sole basis of our confidence needs to be in our identification with Jesus Christ. The issue James is pointing us to, is a proper value system, and in order for us to have a proper value system, we require biblical wisdom, wisdom which can only come for the Lord.

To put it another way, if you have been deprived so that you find yourself at the lowest level, you have cause to rejoice, because spiritually you are exalted.  He may be hungry, but you have the bread of life.  You  maybe thirsty, but you have living water.  Though you may be poor, you have eternal riches. And, although you may be cast aside by men, you have received by God! Therefore, let the poor people boast. The person who is deprived can accept his deprivation, because he has the hope that God is exalting him and ultimately bringing him to future glory.

In I Peter 1:6-9, Peter says "In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials,so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls."

And, in Romans 8: 16-17, Paul says "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him." In other words, poverty is a short lived trial, because we have true riches. Don't draw your joy from worldly circumstances, because we can look ahead to a glorious time of exaltation.

In verse 10, he says "and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away."  Now, we are talking about, the rich Christian, the one who seems to have it all together.  You know, so many trials in this life are related to poverty, but the rich person who seems to have it all together, let him rejoice, not in his riches, but in his being made low, in his humiliation. What do I mean by that? Because when a rich person goes through a trial, he then begins to realize,that all that he possesses cannot buy the real things of life. 

Therefore, when a wealthy Christian he goes through trials he has to face the bankruptcy of worldly riches and depend on the gifts and the grace of God. In other words, the humble person rejoices in the provision of God and the wealthy person rejoices in the provision of God, in the same way. The person who has nothing rejoices in what God provides, the person who has everything realizes that all he has cannot buy what he needs most, he too can rejoice in what God has provided. When we find ourselves battling materially, it is an opportunity for us to truly evaluate our values. Because, we are all humbled to the same level in the midst of trials, we all have to lean on God!

Beloved, I ask you, what is it that gives us significance? The size of our house? The car we drive? Where we sit on the airplane? The size of our bank balance? The color of our credit card? Or is our significance found in the fact that we are exalted in Christ?  I can assure you that money doesn’t buy people out of the real trials in life! Oh, it may solve your financial issues, but soon enough, you will face a trial that money cannot resolve. Trials come to bring us to true humility. I have learned through many various trials in my life, that my greatest resource is God! It is our faith in Christ, that lifts us beyond the trial, from a position of poverty, to a high position in the kingdom of Christ. Just as the poor brother forgets his earthy poverty so the rich brother forgets all his earthy riches and the two are equals by faith in Christ.

When you lose a  child, a spouse or a parent, it really doesn't matter how much money you have. No amount of money will buy you out of that trial. Money is insufficient to buy what we need spiritually! Therefore, in the church, we do not exalt those who have much over those who have little. Because trials place us all on the same level.  

In verse 11, James says "For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away." Notice, that James seems to have a particular concern to really hit the rich people. He is not speaking specifically to the rich Christian, but the rich in general, who are going to pass away, just like the flower of the grass.

James' thought here is borrowed from Isaiah 40 verses 6 through 8, which says "A voice says, “Call out.” Then he answered, “What shall I call out?” All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever."

I was recently speaking to a believer who had been experiencing some difficulties in his church and, upon reflecting on that trial, he said, "Maybe one day we’ll know why this all has happened." To which I replied, "And perhaps one day, maybe we won't care." There is a lot of bad counsel in Christian circles today. Some counselors claim that when a person is undergoing difficulties, the first thing they must learn to do is to forgive God. What? That is blasphemy! God doesn't make mistakes; God does not sin; and therefore, He certainly does not need our forgiveness. In fact, the first thing to do when undergoing trials is to pray, asking God for wisdom.

We are to face trials with a joyous attitude, an understanding mind,  a submissive will, a believing heart. A humble spirit that trusts not in our possessions, but in the provision of God. And should you find yourself not handling your trials joyfully, then ask God for wisdom. If we cannot count it all joy, then we must beseech God to let us see Christ.

There have been a number of people who would argue, that because James does not specifically address the rich as a "brother," that he is speaking of an unbeliever. I however, do not believe that this is the case. On the contrary, I believe that brother is implied. Let the brother of humble circumstances glory in his high position: But the rich —brother—glory in his humiliation.

In Closing..

Our Lord said in Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." In every sense, God provides what we need to persevere. So, in our greatest losses, we find are our even greater gains. This is how we should face both life and death. Perseverance in trials marks genuine believers.

I have often found, that the more a person accumulates materially, the harder it is to get through to them spiritually. It is often true that professing believers fail to survive God’s blessings. The sad reality is, that people are easily ruined by prosperity.  

Therefore, I believe that it is clearly a demonstration of God’s grace when He humbles the wealthy person to realise their poverty of spirit. Salvation is the great leveler; let the rich rejoice in that! I believe that quite often, prosperity is more of an economic trial than poverty. In times of poverty we quickly recognize the need to pray, asking God for our daily bread; during times of prosperity, all too often, we find ourselves giving into the temptation to self-sufficiency.

While many are tempted today, to boast in the wealth, social status, or material possessions, in times of trials, we quickly learn, it has no eternal value. Scripture teaches that God is close to those who are poor of spirit, even if they are materially wealthy. Similarly, those who are proud in spirit are far from God, even if they are as poor.

It is easy for us in this life to get caught up in accumulating wealth, though in the end, earthly possessions will fade, however, our relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ does not! Though wealth may be a blessing, it is not the greatest blessing. Life is not about amassing wealth; it is about knowing God. The greatest blessing is to know that you are in Christ and to know that you are therefore exalted in Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father.

May it be so..

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name
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