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Be All That You Can Be

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BE ALL THAT YOU CAN BE....                         James 1:2-4       

-Do you recognize that slogan?  If you are thinking of a TV commercial we are on the same wavelength.

-Who is it that uses that phrase in their advertising?  (U.S. Army)

-I wonder how many of you want to be all that you can be???  Perhaps as a mother or father, as a spouse, or a business person, a singer or an athlete..

-I just can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t want to be all that they can be.

-Why then aren’t you running down to the Army recruiter begging them to take you???  That’s what they promise...

-Is it because you really don’t believe them?  You know that they can’t make you all that you can be, it is just a hollow promise with no substance to it??

-But what if someone, who always keeps his word, promises you that you can be all that you can be in one important area of your life.  Would you students listen to what that person has to say? How about you parents or you empty nesters or retirees?

-How about you.... would you listen to what they had to say?

-Let’s suppose that the promise is that you can be all that you can be spiritually.... would that interest you? 

-the book of James was written to teach you to solve problems God’s way so that you will become a complete, be all that you can be, Christian.

James 1:4 says, And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

-the Gk word for “perfect” is “teleios”.. I think that has a nice sound to it... That you may be a teleios man/woman

-now I can just hear some of you arguing with me already, it sounds something like this, “Pastor, are you telling me I can be that type of Christian?  You sound like the Army commercial, and I don’t believe it.”

-but wait, before you write me off, let me try to define what James means when he uses these terms... The teleios person is one who is progressing in their Christian life on all fronts,

-not someone who is sinless...But someone who is maturing and growing in all areas of their life.

-You may want to take a little inventory here... How about your life... is it lacking in humility, or patience or graciousness or love or generosity or ... well, you get my point...

-James wants you to recognize possible lacks in your life and has written both to identify them and to tell you what to do about them...

-and look at what he says right off the bat... James 1:2,3 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

-I’m not going to take a poll here, but could you be lacking in this area?  I mean when trials come into your life do you meet them with joy?

-there you go again, you’re arguing with me, saying, “O, come on Pastor, God doesn’t really expect us to be joyful in the midst of trials, you don't know what I'm going through".

-But James tells us that the teleios man does not lack joy even in the midst of tough times.

-this text seems to ask the impossible of you when you are cut from the team, when your dream boy tells you to drop dead, when you are fired from your job or when the child you waited for with such great anticipation is stillborn, or like me, you realize you are getting older and life seems harder...

-When you think in those terms isn't God asking a lot

-James has to explain to us what he means because we can’t really understand it when we take it at face value. There has to be more to it..

-so let’s ask James some questions, just as if he were here, First let’s ask

I. JAMES, WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY “CONSIDER IT JOY”?

-maybe we should start out by taking the position that James doesn't know what he is talking about, after all he just wrote this one little book.... maybe he doesn’t know what he is talking about...

-the problem with dismissing him that way is that in Rom 5:3-4  Paul says, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; {4} perseverance, character; and character, hope.

-or 1 Pet 4:12-13  Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. {13} But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

-Even Christ in Matt. 5:12,13 says something very much like this...

-so James is legitimate, but what does he mean when he says the "teleios" Christian rejoices in trials?

-we need to think about the meaning of "consider it joy"

-James is talking about the inner and not the outer response of the mature Christian

-James does not say, "I want you to feel joyful" he says, "consider it all joy"

-God doesn't command us to feel joyful in painful situations, he knows we can't do that, our emotions will not be manipulated like that.

-but the word consider is the key here, for it speaks about how we react inwardly, in our mind or heart.  Remember the right outward actions depend on a heart that is right with God.

-James tells us we must learn what and how to think when trials come our way.

--let me try to illustrate what I mean.... I am driving down the freeway, and I have two traffic offenses on my record.  I am minding my own business, in the middle of a long line of cars that are traveling about 75 mph and a CHP officer pulls me over and gives me a ticket for speeding....

-how would you expect me to respond... something like this... "That wasn't fair.. all of those others.... why me"...so the anger & gloom sets in.

-why do I react that way?   Because I've learned to react that way.  All of my life I've seen others around me act that way and I have learned through 53 years of observation, that's they way people are supposed to think...

-what do you think in a situation like that?  Do you get mad? Depressed? Discouraged?  Do you think things that you are ashamed about afterward?

-James says, 'That's not the way the mature Christian thinks..."

-We may not completely change our emotions in painful situations, but we can change the way we think about those situations...

-James says we are to consider, or think about, trials as a ground for rejoicing.

-We must make a deliberate attempt to pull our mind out of the well worn ruts of our sinful ways of thinking and learn to think as God thinks...

-Isa 55:7-9  Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. {8} "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. {9} "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

-If you trust Jesus and his blood has washed away the old way of life and of thinking, you can begin to think his thoughts... even in trials...

-This is a glorious thing about knowing Christ as our Savior and Lord, he changes our life and we are never the same, the old ingrained ways of thinking and acting are changing

-And the ways of reacting in trial can be learned anew, for we have the mind of Christ in these matters... 

-so if you have never trusted Christ, these things will be impossible, but when he saves you he not only forgives your sins, but he renews your mind and leads you to new ways of thinking...

-But please, don't think that I am saying that we should clap our hands and sing "I'm so happy.." as we lead the funeral procession of a child or parent or friend... Not at all....

-this is much deeper than that... it is making a prayerful effort to consider trials as God considers them.  And scripture says we should think about trials as a reason for rejoicing.

-but that leads us to the second crucial question we need to ask James....

II. JAMES, HOW CAN I CONSIDER MY TRIALS AN OCCASION FOR JOY????

-listen carefully to how James answers this question...

James 1:2-3  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  [knowing that] (because you know that) the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

-first there is a command... "consider it..."  then the rational "knowing that"

-what this teaches us is that the ability to consider trial as an opportunity for joy depends on your knowledge...

-in other words, if you don't know or understand what follows, you will never be able to consider trials with joy...

-here is the secret, you need to know what trials do for you...But it is an answer only for those who trust Jesus….

-you need to know they produce something wonderful in you

-by testing your faith it grows stronger, you become a teleios person.

-it's like having braces on your teeth... when I was in Jr. Hi.  only a few kids had them... teased... looked funny.... pain...  it's better now, but why do you go through something like that???

-only because you know you are going to have a great smile and a correct bite when you are through.

-I got my braces when I was 40... I loved them and hated them, but I went through all of the pain because of the final result...

-We have learned to do that with some things in our life... James tells us that the mature Christian has learned that because of the good and godly things that trials produce in our lives we can look at them as an opportunity for rejoicing....

-when trials are handled God's way they have a positive effect, producing endurance which brings a completeness in our spiritual life.

 -but there is something in our text which is really intriguing to me... v. 4 also contains a command, "Let endurance have its full effect...."

-doesn't this imply that when trials are prematurely cut short they will not produce endurance and then maturity?

-faith is strengthened when trials are handled God's way, but if we give up and do whatever we can to get out of the trials, they don't do the work God puts them there for.

-God holds you responsible to endure and if you don't you will remain spiritually immature...

-if God cuts the trial short, fine. But if you use some unbiblical method of cutting it short then you will not profit from it.

-ill--your dad told you not to drive the car, but when he was gone you drove it anyway, but someone backed into the car in the parking lot and you didn't even know it until you got home... but dad sees it and asks you what happened.... how do you respond?  Lie... Deny... or honestly admit your sin and take whatever discipline comes your way?

-through  confession, repentance and facing the consequences you learn God's lessons, through lying you further destroy your spiritual life...

-Men how about you?  Overspent at home to enjoy boat, car,.... now it catches up to you, do you take money from work to get through? Or do you change your lifestyle, restructure your debts, and do without things in order to faithfully repay your creditors?

-it's not hard to figure out which leads to spiritual maturity and which to spiritual bankruptcy.

-That’s why we are commanded to let these trial produce their full measure of endurance... hang in there until God lets up.

-Don’t use an unbiblical way of cutting them short, for if you do you not only forfeit their benefit, but it also tears down the good in your spiritual life  

-But the only way we can endure them is if we consider them a joy because of what they are producing in our life.

-The way of maturity in the Christian life is almost always through the struggle of painful trials...  you must not be surprised when they come.

-in psalm 119 David says this; v. 66-68  Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.  Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. v. 71-72  It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.  The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

 -You see, when godliness is a high priority in our lives then the things that get us there become precious circumstances.

-Perhaps you need to ask God to change your priorities, or just your way of thinking about the trials that lead to being all that you can be in your spiritual life.

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