James, in these last few verses, gives us a taste of what he is going to dig in to in the rest of the chapters. Just as verse 18 was a summary of the whole of the book of James, verses 19-27 have a crucial role in setting up the rest of his letter for us.
In the last session, we compared the life of a Christian to the process of baking a cake and introduced the idea of the Christian process. Remember just like the cake, if we are pulled out of the heat before we have gone through the whole process, we won’t receive the desired results. I asked, what are some things that are pulling you out of the oven and what are some trials you have been avoiding?
Whatever your answer was… I hope we have identified some of the trials you are dealing with so we can battle against them now!
"How?" you might ask. James neatly explains it for us:
The first step is to have a listening ear, a controlled tongue, and a level temper. These are qualities that are necessary to develop a complete and mature character that God desires.
- A person who is quick to listen is usually someone who is quick to be unassuming, less likely to make irrational decisions, and ready to receive wisdom.
- A person who is slow to speak usually chooses his words wisely, does not pour out useless or destructive speech, and usually knows the consequences of what they say.
- A person who is slow to anger is not lead by their anger and frustration, has a clear reality that is not masked by their own emotion, and is well-balanced.
It is necessary to learn how to respond righteously to trials. We need to have well thought-out actions; instead of "spur of the moment" natural human reactions. When you react righteously through trials, you are capable of battling those trials so you can persevere. By applying righteous reactions, you are showing perseverance; through that perseverance, you are becoming mature and complete in the Christian process.
A mirror’s main purpose is not for you to check yourself out, but to check yourself.
To check yourself is to check that all is well with your appearance. If a person goes up to a mirror to look at their reflection but fails to inspect their reflection…they walk away with a glaring issue.
What James is trying to describe is someone who looks into something and completely misses the purpose of why they did it in the first place. He is saying that the person that hears the Word might not even apply it to their lives. That wisdom becomes useless to them if it is not applied.
Look into the perfect law and actively seek to apply it to your life because when you have reached out to apply it then you will also be blessed in your efforts.
We will talk more about these verses in the next session, but for now all you need to know about 26 and 27 is that we are to have a:
“Controlled tongue, compassionate heart, and a clean life” (Alistair Begg, Faith that Works).
These three things are the evidence of applied wisdom.
James tells us:
- How to face the trials that come our way by having a listening ear, controlled tongue, and a level temper (verses 19-21)
- We must apply it to our lives (verses 22-25)
- What evidence of applied wisdom looks like such as attributes of “True Religion” (verses 26-27)
I’m sure my personal experience was somewhat different than yours, but at some point in your life you have probably had to learn a practical skill such as tying our shoes.
A mother stoops down to her child as he trips over his shoe laces. She picks him up to his feet and starts to tie his shoes…but stops. She says, “I think it’s time you learn how to tie your shoes,” and begins to form the laces into bunny ears. She goes through the little analogy about the bunny and his home then has the boy repeat the steps. Yet, in his frustration trying to learn how to tie his shoes, he says, “Mom, but why do I have to learn how to tie my shoes! Why can’t you just do it?” She replied, “You need to learn how to tie your own shoes because you will have to do it your whole life. If your shoes are not tied, your shoes will fall off. The only way your shoes can help you is if they are tied and secured.”
Just like the necessity of the child tying his shoes… It is necessary for us to tie the Word onto ourselves. What I mean by this is having a listening ear to God, intentionally studying the word of God, and applying it to our lives.
It says in Proverbs 3:1-3:
“My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
The key to applying wisdom is to listen to God’s Word: don’t forget it. Search it, study it, and tie it onto yourself. Make sure you apply it to your life. You can know that you need to tie your shoes and still not do it. How useless is it if we take in the wisdom of God and not apply it to our lives? As Christians, it is crucial for us to apply God’s wisdom because if we don’t, it will never change us or affect us. The shoes will fall off, but if we tie that wisdom tight… Our shoes become useful. We can’t have someone else apply wisdom to our lives; we have to do it for ourselves. In the Christian process we will have to continually apply wisdom in our lives.
Maybe you struggle with studying the Word… sometimes it seems like a daunting task to study the Bible. Here is where you can start: this week, when you read your Bible, start in the beginning of a book and keep in mind these two main ideas: character and wisdom.
Ask the scripture these questions:
• What does this say about God’s character?
• What does this say about my character?
• What characteristics do I need to work on?
• What does this say about wisdom?
• How can I apply this scripture to my life?
So this week it is my challenge for you to do all of the above… Then apply that wisdom to your life.
Dear Lord, I ask that while I face these trials of many kinds that you would help me to react righteously. I pray that you refine me. I pray that I am not someone who only hears the Word but that I am someone who acts on it. Lord, I am done with avoiding the trials that refine me. I am ready to receive your wisdom and apply it to my life. It’s time I learn how to tie my shoes.