Pastor Roger Barkley illustrates the blunders of living without checking-in with God and explains the “direct line” we have to God’s guidance. This sermon is based on James 1:4-8; 3:13-18.

The Book of James
Week 3 Seeking Wisdom
James 1:4-8; 3:13-18     September 16, 2018

Alex King, the man who rented our outer building for his Reliable Imaging business, closed his office here, is selling his house, and is moving to a new home in Iowa.

It’s a fresh start for him and his new wife.

He’s excited because for what he is selling his Northridge home he is able to buy a larger house and an apartment building in Iowa

There’s only one problem: He has to live in Iowa.

His wife is from Russia, so Iowa winters are not a concern for her, but I think Alex may have some adjustments to make.

For one, he’s going to have to learn about winter “peephole driving.”

Peephole driving starts when you’re in a hurry to get to work, but when you walk outside you find your car encased in a layer of snow and ice from an overnight storm.

You start the car and turn up the heater and defroster, and then get out your scraper to chip away until you’ve cleared a little space on your windshield.

After maybe ten minutes you have an opening the size of a pepperoni pizza.

You are now shivering and miserable and realize that you still have to clear the rear window.

After another ten minutes of chipping, you have another pizza-sized clearing to see out the back, but by then you feel frozen to the bone, so you throw caution to the frigid winds and get in the car and drive away.

It’s hard to see where you are going, so you compensate by leaning close to the windshield.

At some point, as you cautiously creep down the road, you realize that other drivers are also peering out their own little peepholes!

Peephole driving is an invitation to disaster, yet many of us actually live that way.

How often have you plowed through your day myopically seeing nothing beyond your own little agenda, not taking the time to seek God’s bigger perspective, priorities or plans for the day?

That’s what we’re going to look at in the Letter of James today.

First, God wants to be involved in your daily life.

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

There are lots of things that can limit our vision.

Often it is the routine that numbs us, or just feeling overwhelmed by all our responsibilities.

We just need to get up, get it gear and get moving.

But that doesn’t allow room for fresh opportunities or unexpected joys.

Other times, we are just carrying too much emotional clutter.

For example, you may be carrying around negative scripts written by your parents, teachers, or the schoolyard bullies that say you aren’t capable of success or deserving of blessings – but that’s not God talking.

God loves you and wants the best for you – that is the nature of God.

2 Corinthians 9:8-10 God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done. As one psalmist puts it,

He throws caution to the winds,
giving to the needy in reckless abandon.
His right-living, right-giving ways
never run out, never wear out

Think of a time you got caught up in your life before you realized how far off track you’d gotten.

Now had you stopped to pray, God wouldn’t have said, “Oh, now I hear from you, now that you’re up to your eyeballs in trouble. But where were you last week?”

God gives generously and joyfully because that is His nature.

And the Bible makes clear that you have a direct line to God – His wisdom does not need to be mediated through the Vatican, or priests, or any other privileged few.

The Protestant revolution turned on this point.

Martin Luther and other reformers challenged Rome by insisting that God is directly available through a personal relationship with all believers.

So, God is personal and doesn’t give begrudgingly.

But maybe you’ve heard, “Oh, I don’t want to bother God with my little problem.”

But saying that is denying what the Bible teaches about the very nature of God who wants to be involved in your everyday life.

How many parents don’t want to hear from their children?

I was talking with someone the other day whose college student hadn’t contacted them in a few days, and they were sad.

We want to hear from our children, just like God wants to hear from His.

Second, Wisdom is a gift from above.

As we’ve said before, the Letter of James is the earliest document in our New Testament; it was written just 17 years or so after Jesus’ death.

And, it was written by Jesus’ brother, who grew up with Jesus, shared household chores and played with him.

After Jesus’ resurrection appearance to him, James headed the Jerusalem church alongside the disciple Peter.

This congregation was primarily Jewish and so James drew upon the Hebrew Wisdom tradition such as Proverbs 2:6-7a For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright ….

If you don’t seek God’s wisdom, then you may miss a great opportunity that sits just out of sight, and you won’t be alerted to dangers lurking in some choice you’re about to make.

So, you can begin your day with a written devotion like Life Journal, or Daily Hope by Rick Warren, or the UCC Daily Devotion.

There are a ton out there – the key thing is to be still and orient your mind to God and then be still and let God speak to you.

Be honest, share what’s going on, what you’re feeling, what you’re worried about.

If you feel too busy to do this, then this is especially important to do.

Then as you begin your day you might ask, “God, what are you up to today, and how do I get on board?” and then give some time to hear God.

When James talks about wisdom, he means more than IQ or knowledge.

Have you ever known someone who is really book-smart but never seemed to get their life together?

I used to be married to a woman who was so smart that she hit her SATs and her GREs out of the ballpark.

She got nearly perfect scores … but she made some really bad life choices (and, no, I don’t mean like marrying me!).

For one, she got caught up in a cult – eventually leaving her family to live (in) an isolated community that had some really weird, convoluted beliefs.

A few years after we separated I ran into her in an airport – I think it was Chicago.

She was at the foot of an escalator holding a placard and passing out literature that was hard to make sense of.

So, with all her intellect would you say she is a wise person?

No, at least not way back then.

I think she has changed a lot since then and is doing fine, actually is a quite lovely person.

Just like we constantly warn our kids not to hang out with troublemakers, the Bible cautions us to choose carefully whom we spend our time with.

Proverbs 13:20, Spend time with the wise and you will become wise, but the friends of fools will suffer.

Wisdom is more than book smarts, more than streets smarts, more than what they’re calling emotional IQ.

Wisdom comes from God who sees the whole picture.

Third, Wisdom understands how things work.

You may remember that last month we saw that the Bible personifies Wisdom as a woman who has been with God since the beginning of creation.

Proverbs 8:22-30 God sovereignly made me—the first, the basic—
before He did anything else….
I arrived on the scene before Ocean,
yes, even before Springs and Rivers and Lakes….
Long before God stretched out Earth’s Horizons,
and tended to the minute details of Soil and Weather,
And set Sky firmly in place, I was there….
And then I staked out Earth’s Foundations,
I was right there with Him, making sure everything fit.

Lady Wisdom holds the blueprints as God created the universe, so She knows how things are supposed to work.

She knows what is knit into your DNA – so for those who listen, She counsels us how to prioritize our days, what to avoid, what to invest in.

James makes a special point of saying that Wisdom from above guides us to health, harmony and justice, whereas worldly wisdom leads us to conflict, bitterness and chaos.

James 3:17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

You can use this verse as a template to compare choices to make, who to be close to, how to invest your time.

Will your choice lead to peace, mercy, and honesty?

Wisdom of the world fuels envy, selfish ambition and conflict.

Wisdom from the world breeds contempt for people because of their economic status, race, sexual orientation, which side of a border they were born on.

Use this as a measure of whom you spend time with because their energy and attitudes will rub off on you.

Are they someone who brings peace and generosity to their lives, or are they drama queens, complainers, or cynics?

Wisdom of the world divides our soul – nagging us for not being good enough, burdening us with guilt from old failures, diverting us from living out our purpose and the joy of this day.

James 3:15-17 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

There are so many choices today of where you can spend your time – what websites you monitor, the TV you consume, the people you spend time with.

You tend to become what media you consume, what attitudes you cultivate, what social circle you choose.

Unless you choose consciously and wisely, you will be pulled down by the world, and when you try to make God-led choices you will waver.

James warns,

James 1:7-8 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Your connection – or disconnection – from wisdom is revealed in your life.

Two Northwest Airlines pilots overshot the Minneapolis airport in October 2009.

Flying from San Diego, they became so absorbed in their laptop computers that they maintained radio silence with air traffic control for 91-minutes, only becoming aware that they’d passed over their destination 22-minutes earlier when an anxious stewardess asked them for an update on their estimated time of arrival.

In suspending the licenses of these two experienced pilots whose combined flying time was over 30,000 hours, the FAA wrote, “You were disengaged and impervious to the serious threat to your own safety, as well as the safety of people for whom you are responsible. This is a total dereliction and disregard for your duties.”

Don’t get lulled into just cruising through your life, not paying attention to what’s happening around you.

By all means, appreciate your peaceful times, give thanks to God for the good times, but also don’t become impervious to the spiritual forces at work around you – some wanting to bring you blessings, others lurking to do you harm.

Each day, check in with God to see what He’s up to … it may be far more than you imagine.