James 1.17



1.   Last week I took as my text  the second sentence in Matthew 6.10:  “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”  You will remember that the message was the second of three installments on the subject of the skill of living by faith.

2.   You might also have noticed that the message last week, like the one before it, was not as clear and concise a treatment of the subject as you would, no doubt, liked for it to have been.  But there is a reason for that.

3.   Going back to Charles G. Finney’s impact on the cause of Christ in the early 1800s, it is to be noted that he greatly depersonalized evangelism.  Prior to Finney, it was common for spiritual pastors to deal with sinners in a personal way, probing their consciences, examining and reviewing their innermost beliefs and convictions about God and sin and Jesus and salvation.

4.   In short, it used to be that evangelism was intensely personal.  A personal sinner being dealt with by a personal minister that he might guide him to a personal Savior for reconciliation to the personal God he had so grievously committed personal sins against.  The result of Finney’s impact was to mechanize everything and reduce it from a reconciliation of persons, one human and the other Divine, to a mere formula.

5.   How does that relate to these sermons?  Simple.  It is far easier to be concise and mechanical in sermonizing when one’s view of evangelism is mechanical, when one is not really dealing with the personal God and striving to come to the personal Savior.  When everything is mechanical you reduce everything to a formula.  When you are seeking to guide a lost man to a personal Savior, or when you are providing instructions for a child of God to deal with his heavenly Father, things are not mechanical.  Things are . . . personal.

6.   This, you see, is why the name it and claim it guys on Christian television are so wrong about their word of faith theology.  With them everything is mechanical.  If you say these words, if you do these things, then God is automatically bound to give you this or to do that for you.

7.   But God never so binds Himself, either by covenant or by promise, that a man’s relationship with Him is reduced to the purely mechanical.  No.  God’s dealings with His creatures are always and in every case intensely personal.

8.   This is why, in the message I delivered last Wednesday night, I made mention of the verity that God will bless according to His wisdom, not yours.  To recap:  The blessings of God’s promises precede the fulfillment of those promises.  Always.  Yet God never surrenders His prerogative to give and withhold blessings to individuals on the basis of His Own wisdom in deciding what is best for the child of God.

9.   Thus, the timing of the blessings, the quantity of the blessings, even the choice as to whether to actually bestow the blessings, depends entirely upon God’s wisdom and judgment of what is best for each Christian.

10. This naturally leads to my text for this evening, James 1.17:  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

11. If God’s gifts are always good and perfect, both in the giving of blessings and in the withholding of blessings, what must a Christian do to avoid grasping for what God may not want him to have?  Take what God does give in His promises, by means of five directives: 


1B.    Psalm 37.5 reads, “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”  The reason you can commit something to God is because you can trust Him.  He is trustworthy.  He is reliable.  He is competent.  His motives are pure.  This is precisely why Peter wrote, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”[1]

2B.    At some point you have to yield to God to produce the result that you seek, if your desire is to live by faith.  Are you striving for a certain number of professions of faith?  Are you working toward a goal of so many baptisms?  Are you having a big day goal of so many in attendance?  It should be no surprise why we see no such goal setting in God’s Word.  Such is not of faith.  Men can produce such results as those, while faith depends upon God to do that which man cannot possibly do.

3B.    This is why Abraham’s example of faith is so valuable to us.  God promised him a son.  He trusted God to fulfill the promise He had made.  Abraham relied upon God to do something that was completely beyond his own capacity to perform, and God came through.

4B.    Let me close this point with an illustration that I will carry through the sermon.  Say you have an unsaved loved one.  Understand that you have duties, obligations and responsibilities toward that unconverted person.  You are obligated to rebuke his sin.  It is your duty to witness to him.  You are responsible to express and show love toward him.  You commit sin against him if you do not pray for him.  But you can only commit his soul to God’s care.  Whether he gets convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, drawn to Christ by the Father, and saved through faith in the Savior is out of your hands.  You are to do what you are supposed to do, but then exercise faith by committing his salvation to God.

5B.    Of course, decisionists show their lack of faith in God by seeking to force the issue, twist the sinner’s arm to get him to pray the sinner’s prayer, coerce a profession of faith, and otherwise take into their own hands things that should properly be left to God.  To be sure, we should emulate Paul, who wrote, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”[2]  But God help us from dishonoring Him by a lack of faith that insists on trying to do what only God can do; convict of sin, draw to Christ, regenerate the soul, and give assurance of salvation. 


1B.    Since the life of faith, trusting Another, is not a life of sight and proof and constant verification, does it not make sense that faith requires that you wait upon God?  It should be no surprise that faith requires what we normally think of as patience.

2B.    In Luke 24.49, Jesus said, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”  But what, precisely, is tarrying?  Is tarrying not simply waiting?  Sure it is.  There are things you can do while waiting, but you should not do things instead of waiting.  What did the disciples do while waiting, while tarrying?  They prayed.  But they prayed while they were waiting.  They didn’t stop waiting and then do something else.

3B.    As you can see, there is more to waiting on the Lord than just waiting.  I would suggest to you that prayer is integrally involved in waiting on God to do what you are trusting Him to do.  Do you desire something from God?  Are you humble enough to admit that what you seek can only be given by God?  Now that you have humbly committed the matter to Him, you should do just what Jesus told His disciples to do; tarry.  And you should tarry the way they tarried.  They prayed.  Who knows?  Perhaps the time God wants you to wait may have been conceived by Him solely for the purpose of driving you to your knees to pray.

4B.    Psalm 10.17:  “LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.” God hears your desire.  God will prepare your heart.  God will cause His ear to hear.  So now you wait.  While you wait you pray.  But throughout you are trusting God to work.

5B.    To revisit our illustration:  You have committed the salvation of your loved one to God.  You are fulfilling your duties, obligations and responsibilities toward that individual.  You chastise his sin, you love him, you witness to him, you do your best to present a good and consistent testimony before him.  But that is not all.  As an integral part of your tarrying you must pray for God to work.  Like Samuel did in First Samuel 12.23, you recognize that it would be sin against God on your part if you failed to pray for that loved one. 


1B.    Turn to First Samuel 1.18, where I want you to notice something in that verse’s second sentence that Hannah did after pleading with God for a child:  “So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad.”  This woman committed her issue to God.  She wanted a child.  She waited on God, and sealed the matter with prayer.  Then she arrived at a settled conviction about the matter.

2B.    My friends, look at it this way:  God is your heavenly Father if you are a Christian.  Thus, every problem that you have, every issue that grieves your soul, every desire of your heart, is a matter of importance to Him, because He is your Father.  In fact, your problems are actually His problems.  And He solves His problems.  So, give the matter to God, trust Him to deal with it, prayerfully seek His blessing in the matter, and leave it with Him.

3B.    There are so many people who bring their issue to God’s throne of grace and lay it before Him in prayer, only to drag it behind them after they have left off praying because they still have a thread of unbelief tied to the problem.  Don’t do that.  Leave it where you leave it.

4B.    And if you have been diligent to stay in the place of blessing and it seems that God’s answer is not forthcoming?  Remember, for you to live by faith you must not only trust God to answer at a time of His choosing, but also trust God to answer in the manner of His choosing.  And sometimes God’s answer is to not answer when you want an answer.

5B.    What about our illustration of an unsaved loved one?  Times goes by and it seems as though he is not interested in the things of God and shows no desire to obtain forgiveness for his sins.  If this matter has been properly committed to God then you should leave the matter with God.  Continue to witness.  Continue to rebuke as need arises.  Continue to love.  Continue to pray.  And do not forget that this matter is God’s matter to handle, not yours.  Remember, God works according to His wisdom, not ours. 


Two examples from God’s Word will show the wisdom of this course of action:

1B.    First, turn to First Samuel 13.8-14:

8      And he tarried seven days, according to the set time that Samuel had appointed: but Samuel came not to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him.

9      And Saul said, Bring hither a burnt offering to me, and peace offerings. And he offered the burnt offering.

10     And it came to pass, that as soon as he had made an end of offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might salute him.

11     And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;

12     Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.

13     And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.

14     But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee. 

1C.   Saul tarried, did he not?  But he reached a place of impatience and decided to take matters back into his own hands, trying to encroach upon business that was not his to meddle with.  He tarried, but then he stopped tarrying . . . when he thought he had tarried long enough.

2C.   The result of his meddling?  He concerned himself with the consequences.  People, the outcome is God’s business, not ours.  Correct?  The consequences are ultimately His concern.  Saul thereby forced himself, exhibiting great foolishness, sinning greatly against God, and being told that his kingdom would not continue, because God is seeking a man after His Own heart.

2B.    A second example is found in Acts 27:

1      And when it was determined that we should sail into Italy, they delivered Paul and certain other prisoners unto one named Julius, a centurion of Augustus’ band.

2      And entering into a ship of Adramyttium, we launched, meaning to sail by the coasts of Asia; one Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica, being with us.

14     But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.

15     And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.

18     And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;

19     And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.

20     And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.

22     And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.

23     For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,

24     Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.

25     Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.

31     Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.

42     And the soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape.

43     But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea, and get to land:

44     And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land. 

1C.   Paul received a promise from God.  Paul committed himself to God’s promise.  Paul waited on God.  He remained settled in his conviction.  He resisted becoming impatient.  And he and the others were delivered.

2C.   Here we see Paul behaving in a manner decidedly opposite the behavior of Saul, with opposite results.  A good example for us to follow in our life of faith. 

5A.   Finally, And To Conclude, PERSEVERE

1B.    One of the troubles we are oftentimes faced with is thinking too much.  By that I mean, thinking apart from consideration of God’s Word.  On one hand, a Christian can become cocksure and confident, thinking that God must bless him because he is so deserving.  Such thinking is so much pride.  On the other hand, it is possible that one who is humble and immature will think, “I do not deserve the least of God’s mercies,” as though that would lessen the likelihood of God blessing him.  But such thinking sets aside the graciousness of God and the mercy of God.

2B.    Of course, you deserve nothing from the hand of God.  No one ever said you deserved anything, or that I deserve anything.  After all, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”[3]  If God has given to you His Son, why should He hesitate in granting to you anything of vastly inferior cost to Him.  If I have given you a billion dollars, why should I quibble about giving you a quarter?  So, there is another issue at work besides what you do or do not deserve.

3B.    Turn to Genesis 32, where we see the example of Jacob:

24     And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.

25     And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him.

26     And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

27     And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob.

28     And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.

29     And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there.

30     And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. 

1C.   I believe this to be Jacob’s conversion experience, but it provides an illustration to every Christian.  Jacob vigorously exerted himself, yet salvation is by grace through faith and not works.  Correct?  Why, then, did God wrestle with Jacob?  To show him his weakness.  Why did God demand from Jacob perseverance?  To put on display his faith.

2C.   Faith is displayed in perseverance.  Jesus said, “. . . he that endureth to the end shall be saved.”[4]  But it is those who have faith who are saved.  Thus, those who have faith will be those who endure to the end, will be those who persevere.

3C.   So, in placing you in situations where you must persevere, God is either showing you that you have faith, or He is showing you that you do not have faith, because faith perseveres.

4B.    There is also the Syro-Phenician woman, who was rebuffed by the Lord Jesus Christ, but persevered.  Why did she persevere?  Because she had great faith.[5]  But the point is made.  Faith perseveres.  Faith continues.  Faith sticks.  Faith continues until the promise is fulfilled. 


1.   I think I am not skillful at living by faith.  I think I see others who substitute gross presumption for faith, but it is not faith.

2.   But I am becoming more skillful at living by faith.  In Malachi 3.10, God challenges the people to “prove me.”  So, it is clear that He wants us to become more skillful in the art of living by faith.

3.   If you are a Christian you will live by faith.  But why live life in a clumsy fashion and without skill when it is possible to sharpen your skills and so be a greater testimony?  Amen?

[1] 1 Peter 5.7

[2] 2 Corinthians 5.11

[3] Romans 8.32

[4] Matthew 10.22

[5] Matthew 15.28

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