We are starting the book of James in our Sunday morning Bible Study class this week. I’m very excited, as this book deals with a lot of questions that we have in our religious culture. I know it’s going to be incredibly beneficial for us as a group, and I pray that God expands our knowledge and gives us insight into His great will for our lives and into more of His perfect character and love. I pray that I, too, would grow in knowledge of Him as we embark on this glorious adventure together.
One of the very first things we’ll be dealing with is a passage that, when mis-read in light of its context, can give the Christian a very wrong perception of who God is. I’m referring to Chapter 1, Verses 6-8. If you read these without including verse 5, you get the impression that if you ask anything of God, having “enough” faith, then it will be given to you. And in turn, when you ask something of God and He does not give it to you, you can deduce, then, that you have not had “enough faith.”
I remember counseling a woman a few years ago who was desperately in love with her husband who had left her… she kept asking God and asking God to restore their relationship, and it never was restored. Her conclusion was that she must not have enough faith.
Then, there was that time in college when a group of us “believers” (from all different denominations) were in the break room. One of the crew admitted difficulty in a situation, and so we decided to pray for her. Well, a sister in Christ began to pray while we were all there and she began commanding God to do certain things. Her rationale was that she was not “double-minded,” but knew exactly what she wanted – and if she prayed with any less assurance of her demand, then she would be “doubting God.”
And one more example – the “give-Me” God preachers… you know who I’m talking about. “God wants you to be prosperous financially. He wants you to be healthy physically. And if you are lacking in one of these areas, it is because you do not have enough faith.”
Now I know that there are a lot of other scripture verses that these kinds of “Christians” take out of context and distort their meanings… and I could give you a list of them… but alas, we are going to focus on James 1.
The verse in context reads: (by the way, part of this was the theme verse for LifeWay’s VBS this year)
What is the object of the question here? It is wisdom. God gives WISDOM to all liberally and without reproach. Not anything you ask for. That’s just silly.
Then we pull out James 4:2… “You desire and do not have. You do not have because you do not ask.” But wait a minute… that’s not all the passage says… “You ask and do not receive because you ask for the wrong reasons,” (verse 3). And all of this is encapsulated by a description of the selfish “war” within us. We are at “war” within ourselves. Our judgement is clouded by our preferences and narcissism.
I’m recalling now a quote from Benny Hinn that goes something like this: “God will begin to prosper you. Money always follows righteousness.” What??? Where did he get that? And most of us reading this blog would admit that sounds a little ridiculous. But don’t we expect that a lot of times?
I think many of us EXPECT God to bless us financially. We pray and pray an pray that He would give us prosperity and health. Can I just ask you, “WHY are you asking for this? What is your MOTIVATION?”
Look back at James 1:2-3… “Consider it joy, brothers, when you face trials of many kinds. For the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Have you considered that maybe – just maybe – it IS God’s will for you to experience the trial you’re in? Maybe He desires for you to understand that He is sovereign. Maybe you need to realize, and even verbalize your dependancy on Him. Maybe you need to reconsider or rediscover your NEEDS. What do you need to be whole? What do you need to be “happy?” What do you need to be significant and secure?
I don’t serve a “Give-Me” god. I serve the sovereign, righteous, holy God Who has never failed me – even when I have walked through the darkest, most desolate valleys of my life, He has never – not even once – forsaken me or let me down. And with every trial comes more joy. Because I know that He is “for me,” (Romans 8:31).
Well, let’s hear it… Can you think of some other scriptures that “Name-It-Claim-It” or “Give-Me God” preachers pull out of context and use for their twisted purposes?
Grace and Peace,