Growing

When I Grow Up I Want to be a Waiter
James 1:19-27

By Ed Jansen

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it– he will be blessed in what he does. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:19-27 NIV)

When I was seven years old I remember Mom coming home from her job she had as a waitress, plunking down on the sofa and rubbing her feet. Oh her feet. They were always so sore after a hard day’s work. Yet I always knew she loved her work regardless of how tired she was. Maybe that’s why I find great pleasure today attempting to brighten up the day of servers who wait on me in restaurants. I enjoy making them smile, especially when I see that they’re having a tough day. Sometimes, when they come back during the meal to ask, “How is everything?” I’ll say, “Wonderful! You’re a great cook!” It always produces a smile. And sometimes they’ll laugh and say, “Oh, I don’t cook it!” Well I know that. They’re merely delivering what someone else has already cooked up. Well, today’s message is about God’s people delivering something from God’s Kitchen He’s already cooked up.

In verse 22 of James 1 he says, “Do not merely listen to the word…Do what it says.” But before we can DO God’s Word, we must first understand it. Luke 9 tells of the disciples being a part of the miracle of feeding 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus involved them to show them (and us) a valuable lesson. Here’s what happened. After Jesus finished teaching, the disciples came to Him and said, “We’ve got a problem. It’s late in the day, all the people are hungry and there’s no food in sight.” All Jesus said was,  “give them something to eat.” Well, they searched high and low and all they could find was a lad who had five small barley loaves and two small fish.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he (Jesus) gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. (Luke 9:16-17)

Now here’s a question: “Did that miracle come from the disciples?” Could they have fed the 5,000 by themselves? No way. But Jesus allowed them to hand it out just like the waitress did with my lunch the other day. The lunch she didn’t cook. No, that miracle that day came through the disciples. They were “doers of the Word” because God worked through them.
There are two stumbling blocks which prevent people from being “doers of the Word.”

  • The first one is an attitude of pride. It’s God’s who’s the Cook, right? So if we forget that, He’ll merely finds another waiter who isn’t quite so prideful. If I tell my waiter how great this meal is, he can’t really say, “Thank you. I did it myself.” The credit belongs to the cook.
  • The second stumbling block is an attitude which pleas inadequacy as a reason for not being a “doer of the Word.” When I order an omelette the waitress doesn’t say, ” I can’t cook that!” Her capabilities are not the issue here. It’s what the cook can do that counts! Our ability, our adequacy is not the issue when it comes to putting our faith into action. It’s HIS ability working THROUGH us! Is that clear? If it is, we then have a foundation of understanding this passage. Here’s the premise: Being a “doer of the Word” is living a life of faith in which God works through us. This is the crux of this message so I want to say that again: Being a “doer of the Word” is living a life of faith in which God works through us.

Now some might ask, “How do I get this life of faith?” St. Paul says: So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans10:17). So, here’s the process: We begin our life of faith by hearing the Word of God. Then we study the Word to know what God says so that we can do it. You see, once we hear the word, study and understand it, then and only then can we know how and what to do. Now there are three facets of becoming “doers of the Word” according to James: Preparing, receiving, and putting faith into action.

Preparing for a life of faith Before a life of faith can manifest itself in our lives, we need to do some preparation work first. God can’t work through us when we’re deaf to His leading, we think we have all the answers, we get angry when things don’t go our way, or we’re living immoral lives. James is very specific about these four areas of preparation:

  •  An Open Ear Everyone should be quick to listen. Someone once said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Anyone who exhibits living a life of faith is a person who is a good listener….someone who “listens” to God for His leading rather than their own personal agenda.
  • A Controlled Tongue slow to speak. When someone blurts out something without much thought, it’s usually a sign that they’re not a very good listener either. Directly related to quick to listen is being slow to speak. They go hand-in-hand. People living a life of faith are those who listen for God’s lead and are quietly confident, not in themselves, but in the fact that God is working through them.
  • A Calm Spirit slow to become angry. Do you see how each facet of this preparation is a building block; one building atop the other? When God is working through people, they listen for His lead, they’re quietly confident in that leading, and they don’t get upset when things don’t go the way they expected them to go. They know He’s in control. They go with the flow. They roll with the punches. They don’t get upset over trials because we understand that they’re only tests. They count it all joy (remember?).
  • A Clean Heart get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent We are sinners saved by grace, but God cannot work through someone whose life is not an example of one who truly walks in repentance. Why did David pray for a clean heart in Psalm 51? So that God could work through him. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall return to You. (Psalm 51:13)

Receiving a life of faith humbly accept the word planted in you. An essential ingredient for receiving a life of faith is having the right attitude. James wants us to receive our life of faith (God working through us) with humility. The waitress cannot boast about how good the food is as if she cooked it, she can only deliver it. When we humbly realize what our role is in living a life of faith, God is prepared to work through us. Now, here’s the deal. Jesus says “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:14 NKJ) Later on Jesus explains that “asking in His name” means according to His will. We know that part of God’s plan on earth is to work through His people. So when we ask God to give us this life of faith James is speaking about, it’s a given. It’s a “no-brainer.” God will give it to us gladly. All we need do is receive it.

Living a life of faith Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Here’s where we put our money where our mouth is. This is where we separate the talk from the walk. I’ve got many more cliches, but I think you get my point. This is the very issue that keeps so many people from coming into a relationship with God. It’s because the people of God don’t practice what they preach. (I snuck another one in on you.) Let’s conclude:

The Command Do not merely listen to the word… Do what it says. James doesn’t just say, “be doers.” God isn’t looking for political activists who don’t KNOW His word. Nor does He need people who know His Word and do nothing. Living a life of faith is when we take the knowledge of God’s Word and allow it to work through us.

The Illustration Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James is comparing God’s word to a mirror. But unlike the mirror that merely reflects our outward appearances, the Holy Scriptures, when applied to our lives, reveals our inner character.

The Application
True religion reflects no discrepancy between what it says and how it says it. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.

True religion reflects no discrepancy between what it says and how it responds to the needs of others. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress

True religion reflects no discrepancy between what it says and how it lives it. True religion does reflect integrity, virtue, and morality in the life of every true believer. True religion keeps oneself from being polluted by the world.

Do you really want to do something great with your life? Do you want to really make a difference? Do you want people to be blessed just by the mere fact that they know you? Well, there’s something that God has prepared in His Kitchen that He wants delivered. All He needs are people to deliver it. People who James calls “Doers of the Word.” This truth beloved, is at the core of living a life of faith in Jesus Christ.

Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45 NIV)

In Christ’s love and service,

Father Ed+

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One Response to Growing

  1. Barbara says:

    I know I already said how much I love the Book of James, but I have to say it again… I know that the scriptures are important to understand and that there are a lot of prayers and its Gods “footprint”. For me this Book tells me everything I need to do keep Jesus Word in my heart and to pass it to others!

    Just give it to God and pray then forgive and pray. Help those who need help. Don’t rise above others. Once you think about all the things that James has to say it seems like common sense. Thank you for posting this I always feel ….”refreshed” after reading from the Book of James.

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