I’ve long found it fascinating when I hear people say they’ve never heard from God. In a previous church Bible Study, where the majority of the women were over 70, it actually saddened me to listen to woman after woman say she loved God but never really felt His presence or heard Him speak. As I delve into a deeper relationship with our Lord, I keep hearing the same message from Him – you can walk up an aisle, stand when called, or raise your hand when asked if you want to receive Jesus, but until we seek out a personal relationship with Him our faith remains unfulfilled.
I recently was reading about a centurion man named Cornelius in Acts 10. He was not a Jew yet was devout to God. His family was considered “God-fearing.” He gave generously and prayed regularly. But He did not know Jesus was His savior. The Holy Spirit came to him one day.
He immediately obeyed. What was to unfold was discipleship at its finest. Trusting God’s word, obeying even though it seemed unreasonable. In the end, thanks to the actions of many, Cornelius and his family became the first gentile Christians – paving the way to you and me.
If you have ever watched the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” you will surely get the message of our interconnectedness. We so often think we are small and insignificant, while strangely also thinking everyone needs to know our opinions. But it is the actions we take – led by the Holy Spirit – that cause ripples of which only God truly knows the effects. My current Bible Study Girls are studying Charles Stanley’s, “30 Life Principles.” We’ve started to joke about if all Mr. Stanley wrote were the words, “obey God,” the book could’ve been much shorter! In fact, five of the 30 principles specifically use the word “obey.” Many of the others are really just variations of the idea.
To obey something is to first know what that something is or wants. Which means listening. Which means paying attention. I’ve challenged many friends and Bible study participants to take my “Coincidence Challenge.” For 30 days, every time you hear just the right song, see a sign that says the right thing at the right time, or a friend calls when you need to hear a friendly voice, don’t call it a coincidence. Call it God. When you do, you’ll find he isn’t silent. In fact, He is babbling away at you, desperately trying to get your attention.
The Book of James calls us to that personal relationship of listening and obeying God. His message is to those of us who already call ourselves Christians. It would be unfair to hold anyone else to the standards of which he writes. Many of these standards are difficult and challenging. And we are unable to meet these standards without a faith in God. God alone is our strength to keep us on the narrow path. At times it seems James is shaking us out of our Christian sleepiness. Calling us to wake up, pay attention and serve God with all our heart, mind and soul. James is the proverbial “bad cop.” But sometimes we need admonishment. We need correction.
I was having lunch with a good friend the other day and she said she needs friends who can call her on her “stuff.” If we are surrounded by “yes men” we struggle to improve our lives. It can lead us down destructive paths when the standards held by the majority of whom we associate with are “almost right” or just plain anti-Biblical. But when we have people who love us, want the best for us, and call us on our “stuff” based on Jesus’ standards, we grow to be our better selves. James is that friend. More importantly, James reminds us that God is that same friend.
This week we will be talking about James 1. Trials, temptations, wisdom, listening, and action are on the plate. So, buckle up. We are about to strip down to some hard truths. But remember too, that God is a merciful, loving and thankfully forgiving God. That same friend who said she needs friends to call her on her “stuff” also said she’s worried that a study in James will be painfully convicting. Let’s right now agree that if God shines a light on an area that needs work in our lives He does so out of love. He wants more for us. He knows what the future can bring us. So, we need to lean in to the stripping away of our old selves so that we can live in His plans for us fully.
Do you regularly hear from God? Tell us of a time you were asked to obey and it seemed unreasonable yet you took action. If not take the “Coincidence Challenge!”