Going Through Tough Times
“Consider it a great joy my brothers whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2 The byproduct of going through a trial is an increase in endurance and personal strength. That does not mean that it is right to say that God creates trials for this purpose- it simply is a statement that when we go through difficult times, then we grow in strength. Remember, just as God cannot be tempted or lured by sin and evil, he does not willingly tempt us. It is our own evil desires which lead to our downfall. So, don’t accuse God or hold Him responsible! It is our own weakness and tendency to sin that is the cause of our temptation and subsequent downfall. And remember this, don’t be puffed out with self praise just because you think you are better than anyone else. If obeying the Lord naturally comes easy for you, good for you! Keep your boasting to yourself, because remember, one day your life will end just as the autumn leaves which dry up al fall off the trees. And if you struggle daily to obey the word of God, don’t beat yourself up over it, praise God, because you are aware of your spiritual need. No matter what, keep this one thing in mind, when you do have the strength to endure hardships and tests in life, remember you will be blessed all the more when it is finally over! The message we have heard makes us a new life in Christ, we are totally different! If there is something we do not understand, or something we really feel that we need or that is important to us, we should ask God about it. And not only this, we should be confident in God’s willingness and ability to meet all of our needs!
Keep a reign on your temper! If you have a short fuse, watch your mouth- and keep it shut. Put a muzzle on your mouth. If you want to hit someone, go lock yourself in a closet- restrain yourself! If you know you have a problem in this department, some anger management skills cannot hurt. Anger does nothing to help others come to God! And remember, don’t use “righteous anger” as an excuse to do or say whatever you want either. So think about it, your anger accomplishes nothing to promote the message of God. In fact it hinders others from understanding and accepting the good news of salvation. Do you think you are religious? Do you feel you have a gift? Well think twice- if you are consumed with anger, all the preaching in the world will not help your listeners or draw them closer to God. “Rid yourselves of all moral filth and evil excess.” James 1:21 Don’t just read the bible and listen to sermons. Do something about it! Put what you read and learn into practice as well. Remember to help one another in need.
Don’t play favorites! How unfair! Don’t be quick to judge others by their clothing and wealth. Remember that in God’s eyes, those who wear designer clothing, handbags & jewelry and who drive expensive have no advantage! Do you think they are better people because they have money? Then why do you act as if they are better by giving them preferential treatment and by acting nicer to them! What an injustice! Don’t you know that when you do that you are guilty of discrimination? Don’t you know that you are taking the liberty of being a judge! How dare you! And what good do the wealthy do anyway, but to flaunt their riches as if they are better, and to use their so called power for selfish ambition? Remember that God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith. His message was delivered to the poor as well as the wealthy. God considers all to be equal and commands us all to love our neighbors- whether they are poor or rich! So stop being a stuck up snob- treat everyone with fairness.
Doing the Word; Bringing Your Faith to Life!
Bring your faith to life, by putting into practice what you read and what you learn. If you see someone in need, don’t just feel pity; don’t simply offer words of encouragement. Sure those are good things, but how much better is it, to actually go out of your way and help your brother or sister or neighbor who is in need. Empty words with no action is useless! What good is it to encourage a starving man, yet not even offer him a piece of bread? Go the extra step, don’t be lazy. Remember faith comes first and we cannot merit salvation based on works. But keep this in mind, faith without action is essentially useless- or dead. We need to put into practice what we learn in order to show love for one another and to carry out the purpose of why we believe. What good is it to retain all the knowledge of God, and to have faith but do nothing about it? Faith comes first of course. Secondly, live the word, and act! Sure this teaching is more advanced, than faith alone… but when we receive the good news, we should have in us a desire, or at least a responsibility to be doers of the word as well.
Chapter 3: Responsibility & Words
“Not many should become teachers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment” James 3:1 In other words, don’t be too hasty in rushing into a position of responsibility or leadership. Sure it is an ego booster to be a teacher over a class, or a leader or pastor. But with that role comes a grave responsibility before God. When you teach others, you are essentially taking into your own hands, the salvation of your hearers! What you teach affects not only yourself but others as well. Also be careful of what you say. Words can be very powerful; more so than you realize. What we say can have the power to harm others or to help, so take great care. “No man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison”. James 3: 7,8 And finally, keep this in mind, if you really think you are wise, the you should really show it by your actions. If you are envious and ambitious, then don’t pretend you are wise, and certainly don’t go around bragging that you are wise- because you are not! You are just lying to yourself, because there is no way you can fool God. He knows what is inside. Envy and ambition, though they are very common qualities and even praised by so many in society, are really evil and terrible qualities. Seek after humility, peace and fairness and reject favoritism, ambition and envy!
Chapter 4: Reject Selfishness and Greed
This world and the people in it care so much about wealth, favoritism, pleasure, selfish ambition and other greedy desires! These are the sick and useless things that cause so much distress, and make this world evil in the first place! We need to reject these things not embrace them! Don’t pursue your selfish ambitions or wealth! We must choose friendship with God or the world- we cannot choose both because they are in direct opposition to one another. This world, with its selfish evil priorities and desires- is really the enemy of God. Selfishness, ambition and the pursuit of pleasure pleases the Devil! Remember that! So you need to reject these things, even though you may not want to. Sure you may feel left out or deprived without worldly things. Maybe you will feel like a second class citizen. But, you need to overcome self pity and greed. You cannot make your Coach purse, your career, your technological gadgets, your Mustang or your bank account your priority. You can if you really want to, I suppose, but don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you are doing the will of God if you do. And on top of that, you presume to judge others who don’t have the same material possessions as you to be inferior? You think that you are luckier or better off because of your wealth or possessions! Then you are delusional! You place a lot of reliance of your bank accounts, your homes, cars and material possessions. Remember you are on shaky ground with God if you do. You boast in your travels, your vacation getaways, your cruises and your parties. You talk about your 401k plans and your stocks and your plans to retire early! Perhaps you plan your agenda months in advance. But remember this humbling fact- you do not even know you have a tomorrow, there are no guarantees in life. Instead you should say “If the Lord wills, we will do this or that. But as it is you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil”. James 4:15-17 “Cleanse your hands, sinners and purify your hearts, double minded people! Be miserable and mourn and weep….. Humble yourselves before the lord and He will exalt you.” James 4: 8-10 “Come now, you rich people! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you. Your wealth is ruined: your clothes are moth-eaten; your silver and gold are corrupted, and their corrosion will be a witness against you… You stored up treasure.. you have lived luxuriously… and have indulged yourselves… you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter”. James 5:1-6 Don’t misplace your faith and happiness on wealth and worldly possessions.
Chapter 5: Persist in Prayer and Encouragement
Remember that Jesus will return. You can be assured of it, but be patient as well. We ready and be faithful. Keep your encouragement up as well. Remember what Job, of the Old Testament, went through? Who can say they went through the tough times he endured, yet he persevered in his faith and was blessed by God in the end. That should serve as an example to us all. Remember to be honest, and confess our sins and our troubles to one another. Pray if you suffer and praise God when you prosper as well. Prayers of a righteous faithful person, is especially powerful so remember to pray for one another. Remember to call upon the elders in the church as well as each other when you are in need. And if one of you should stray from the truth, that man who helps him in the right path will have saved him from so many sins!
This letter was written from the apostle Peter to the believers of the early Christian church. Obviously this letter applies just as much to the believers of toady as in the ancient times 2000 years ago.
Chapter 1: Faith and its Reward
As believers we have much to look forward to! We have a hope in Heaven for everlasting life. And for this we have to thank God, who in his mercy and grace gave us this gift through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus. This hope we have is eternal life- it will last forever: it won’t fade away or disappear- our faith is not misplaced when we depend on this. We have God’s guarantee. Therefore, rather than being discouraged, we have great reason to rejoice and be happy. Our hardships pale in comparison to what great things are in store for us. We are talking about something more important than wealth or money or gold- we are talking about eternal life! Even though we cannot see these things we can be assured that they are true. The goal; the result of our faith is eternal salvation! Even the old testament prophets which you do trust believed these things which you are learning now. Keep your eyes and your lives focused on your hope in heaven. When you live your life, in whatever you do and say, keep this in mind. Remember to consider God’s will in your life- you are called for holiness. Do not follow selfish ambitions and worldly desires. Treat life in this world as temporary. Our physical bodies and our lives on earth will not last forever. Get your priorities straight! You were redeemed by the blood of Christ, don’t waste it; live it as if you believe it! You have been born again so act in a way consistent with your rebirth.
Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5: Christian Behavior
Put your former life behind you. Remove the wickedness, deceit, envy, hypocrisy and slander that you used to do! Remember the analogy of the stone in the Old Testament scriptures? The seemingly plain and simple stone, that was rejected by the construction worker, was chosen by God as the foundation for His Church. Consider yourselves to be these stones! You are the living stones, to boot. And as a stone causes some to stumble, the irony of your election, may cause others to stumble as well. Pay no attention to those who are acting like sour grapes and hecklers. They are just jealous. You are the beneficiaries of God’s mercy, rejoice and live as though you are! Avoid selfish and fleshly desires. Remember you should be an example not just to other believers but unbelievers as well! Don’t be hypocrites either, disguising your evil deeds beneath a cloak of “religion”. Even though obeying God comes first, that is no excuse to break the laws and disobey the authority of the government. If you are a slave or if you are an employee, obey your master, and obey your employer. Remember the suffering of Jesus. He did not deserve to suffer, yet he did- and so much more- for our sakes. So if Jesus- who did not deserve to suffer willingly did- then we must keep this in mind when we must suffer. He suffered for our sins. Therefore if we have consequences as a result of our sins, shouldn’t we just accept it? Husbands and wives should respect and love each other. Beauty is within- it has nothing to do with your physical appearance or your clothes or your jewelry! Everyone should have compassion and love for one another. Don’t be too hasty to get angry and seek revenge when others insult you or offend you. Do what you can in your power to seek peace at all costs. And if by chance your suffering is undeserved and you are persecuted for your faith, then consider yourselves blessed for you are in good company. It is better to suffer for what is right than to suffer the consequences for doing what is bad. Remember Jesus’ sacrifice. A clear conscious before the Lord is the best that you can strive for. Those who live their evil lives, rejecting the gospel will be judged by God. Don’t envy them for they will get what is coming; pay no attention when those evil doers make fun of you. No matter what continue in your faith and continue to please God. If you are an elder of your congregation or church, you are entrusted with a greater responsibility to oversee your congregation with willingness and humility, and without expectation of worldly recognition.
Chapter 6: Remain Alert
“Be sober! Be on the alert! Your adversary, the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him!” 1Peter5: 8,9 We are called to eternal glory with Jesus. But remain on the watch, don’t become lazy or complacent with the evil ways of this world or you will be caught off guard and become an easy target for the devil’s schemes.
Grow in Faith
Through God’s divine power, we have everything we need in line and everything there is to know in order to live a life of goodness. God has promised to us eternal life and a hope to look forward to so that may need not despair in the evils and corruption of the world that is around us. We need to “supplement” our faith with goodness, knowledge, endurance and self control. Not only that, we need to strengthen and train ourselves to increase in these good qualities. This will help us avoid stumbling when we are face to face with the temptations and evils of this world. We should not be stagnate, we need to continue to grow and learn! Remember that we want to enter into the kingdom of heaven. These words of Peter will remain true, long after his death because they reflect the eternal message and truth of God.
God’s Word is Truth!
Remember that the apostles delivering the message of the gospel: James, Peter and Paul as well as the others were eyewitnesses to these things. This isn’t a fairy tale. It is true beyond a doubt and it is proven by the testimony and witnesses of countless numbers of people. Consider the life of Jesus, and how many people that witnessed his teachings and miracles and resurrection! It is not made up. Pay attention to this gospel message. It is like a flashlight that shines brightly in the darkness. These messages are not derived from human minds and imaginations, but from the Holy Spirit.
False Teachers, Beware!
Be aware of false teachers as well as false prophets, who will subtly and secretly spread lies about God. Many people will be suckered into believing those lies, and countless others will simply condemn Christianity as a whole. These false leaders will use clever deception to exploit naïve people and believers! Don’t worry, their certain condemnation awaits. Think about this: If God did not even spare his beloved angels when they rebelled, or the wicked men in the time of Noah, or the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, then be assured the Lord will punish those false teachers as well. But don’t worry about yourselves- if God kept his faithful safe, such as Noah and Lot, he will keep his believers safe from judgment as well. God is an expert and is faithful in rescuing his faithful people from trails. He will not let his believers suffer the same fate as the deceivers and unbelievers.
Corrupt Evil Doers, Beware!
What nerve these arrogant unbelievers have! Who do they think they are? “Bold, arrogant people! They do not tremble when they blaspheme the glorious ones: however angels, who are greater in might and power, do not bring a slanderous charge against the Lord. But these people, like irrational animals- creatures of instinct…. speak blasphemies about the things they don’t understand, and in their destruction they too will be destroyed, suffering harm as the payment for unrighteousness”. 2Peter 2” 10-13 They critique and condemn God and the message of salvation. They throw it away in exchange for their own lies and deceptions. Anything that is filthy and evil, they not only do but approve of as well. They seek out sin. They see adultery as fun! They specialize in deception and lies, seducing the weak and the naïve. They may as well consider themselves cursed because they will be under the judgment of God. Their reward will be the eternal gloom of darkness which is well deserved. They go out of their way to tempt believers as well, trying with all their might to turn people away from the Lord. They claim to be open minded; they claim to offer freedom- but what they really peddle is death and destruction! Don’t be fooled! Don’t get caught up with these evil people. Don’t turn back from your faith. “For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn back.” 2Peter 2:21. Remember this, “a dog returns to its own vomit and a sow after washing itself wallows in the mud”. 2Peter2 :22 Those who are filthy and depraved, have a way of returning back to their filthy depravity.
Chapter 3: Jesus’ Return A.K.A the Lord’s Day
This is your reminder, recall everything you have been taught thus far. In the end days before Jesus returns, be aware that doubters and evil doers will increase in their number as well as in their depravities. Don’t be shocked or surprised. Ignore them when they make fun and place doubt in the fact that Jesus is returning. Don’t let their ignorant words and heckling discourage you. And as for yourselves, don’t get discouraged or impatient. The second coming of Jesus will come- but on God’s own time. To God there is no difference between a thousand years or one day. Sure, to us, even 100 years may as well seem like forever to us, but in God’s eyes, 1000 years is simply like a day. Its just that God’s conception of time, is not like our limited ideas about time. God does not back down on his promise but is patient knowing in His wisdom, that by allowing more time, he allows more people to come to salvation. The Day of the Lord, which is the second coming of Jesus, will come when we least expect it to come. It will “come like a thief” 2Peter3:10. When that happens, it will be obvious. With a loud noise, Heaven will pass away, and the earth will be consumed with fire. There will be a new heaven and a new earth! Not only that, just as miraculous, what we should be more concerned about is this: the works and motives of all men will be revealed. What has been hidden for ages, will be revealed to all! Therefore we should await this day in faith and confidence if we are believers.
Don’t forget that God’s patience provides an opportunity for salvation. Put it this way, what if the second coming happened 10 years before you accepted the message of salvation? Where would you be then? So just as you came to salvation, others who are not saved now, may come to salvation as well. Don’t be deceived or tempted by evil and be on guard always.