Read James 1:5-8
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God…” James 1:5a
If you are anything like me you have probably faced a bunch of stuff that you felt less than fully prepared to handle. Some things may even seem simple enough at first glance but as the situation unfolds it can get real complicated really fast. The thing is that no matter how “smart” we may be (look at you with all that fancy book-learnin’) there will always be situations in life that we can’t figure out on our own.
I have heard it said many times that there are no dumb questions, just dumb people (I said I heard it, I never said it sounded nice). The more you think about that the more you realize how true it is. Some questions may make us burst out laughing because of how obvious the answer seems to be to us, but the truth is that all questions are just questions and all questions come from someone who is at least smart enough to know what they don’t know (go ahead and read that sentence again, it’s ok, I’ll wait). The dumbies are the ones who are not smart enough to know that need to ask a question in the first place.
There is a difference between wisdom and intelligence. Being intelligent is simply a matter of knowing things about things. Being wise is not just about how much info you have jammed into your cranium, wisdom is the ability to use that information to make good decisions. James instructs us ask our generous God for wisdom and to trust that He will give us what we need. The problems here, as James points out for us, is that first of all we need to be smart enough to ask for the wisdom we need and that secondly, we need to be sure to go to the right source for that wisdom. There is no reason why we can’t learn new things from the world around us but we must learn to trust in God alone for wisdom. Information is one thing but when it comes to the ability to use our knowledge in ways that please God we need to ask Him.
Don’t be a dumby. Don’t be like the wave that is tossed around by the wind and has no sense of control or direction. Instead, be clever enough to go to the right source for wisdom and trust that your Heavenly Father will give you exactly what you need (way to go smarty pants.)
Pray: “Father, I trust you to give me the wisdom I need to make the choices that will please you.”
Read James 1:1-4
For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. – James 1:3
It’s easy to be happy when you get a good report from your doctor. But have you ever gotten a bad report and reacted with genuine pleasure and gratitude? I can honestly say that I haven’t. When was the last time that you felt joyful over a troublesome event that occurred in your life? If you are at all like me, you probably can’t think of a single time when you reacted with joy in the face of pain.
James says that when we see trouble coming we ought to see it as an opportunity for great joy. Yes, great joy. (Yippee, my life just fell apart!) Ok, so no one ever feels that way and hey, you shouldn’t feel bad about that. It’s not natural to face a trial and be happy about it. Good feelings are a result of good things and bad feelings are a result of bad things. It is delusional to feel good when bad things happen to you. God doesn’t expect you to live in denial of your reality and He never commanded that you should.
James tells us to consider troubled times as an opportunity for great joy. In other words, when a bad thing happens you will likely feel bad, as you should, you can’t control that. But once a little time passes and you start to think about your new bad situation you can control how you think about it. “Consider” it an opportunity for great joy. James knew bad things make us feel bad. Being a Christian does not mean being immune to bad things or bad feelings or even bad thoughts (I know, scary right). What we can do is start to see every bad situation for what God can make of it.
When you face some trouble the result ought to be that you begin to pray about it and trust God with it. Taking your trial to God is an act of faith and faith grows the more you use it. The stronger your faith gets the more you will be able to endure. As your endurance grows stronger the next troublesome event will be a little less scary. The more we practice bringing our problems to Jesus the better we get at bringing our problems to Jesus (seems simple enough right). The goal here is change the way we think about our troubles, not to feel bad because we feel bad when bad things happen.
Pray: “Jesus, please help me to trust you with all the troubles I face.”
Read Acts 17:16-33
Key Verse: Acts 17:32 “When they heard Paul speak of the resurrection of a person who had been dead, some laughed, but others said, ‘We want to hear more about this later.” (NLT)
When we want to share our faith with others we are often nervous and hesitant because we are afraid that someone might laugh at us. The desire to Act Out for God is there in our lives but the idea of being laughed at makes it so difficult to do what we really want to do for God. The important thing that we need to remember is that we are not alone in this, even the Apostle Paul was laughed at, yet he never let that stop him from continuing to Act Out.
People always laugh at ideas that seem strange to them, it’s just a human reaction to try and deal with being forced to accept new ideas. People laughed at the idea of the world being round instead of flat, they laughed at the idea of space travel, they even laughed at the idea of gravity. It does not really matter that people laughed at those ideas in the past, what matters is that we have accepted them all now. Imagine if people stopped trying to prove that the world was round simply because they were laughed at. North America would hardly be populated at all and it certainly would not be the home of some of the world’s greatest nations.
People may laugh at you when you share your faith and Act Out for God. But the real important thing is that while some may laugh others may come to believe and you may be able to help change the world for somebody.
Prayer: “Lord, it is very hard to share about your love to people who laugh at me but I know that they only do it because they don’t know how to react. Help me to stand up and Act Out for you because although some may laugh, others may come to believe in you.”
Read Acts 17:1-15
Key Verse: Acts 17:12 “As a result, many Jews believed, as did some of the prominent Greek women and many men.” (NLT)
By this time it seemed that everywhere Paul went to spread the Gospel message people opposed him and tried to stop him for doing God’s work. Time after time the same things happened. Paul would arrive and start teaching people about Jesus. People would get saved and some people would try to stop them from teaching about Jesus there anymore.
The exciting part is that Paul was always a couple steps ahead of the bad element that wanted him stopped. He always seemed to be able to get to a new place and sow the seeds of the Gospel into people lives before he was forced to move on. Another great thing about this was that Paul never seems to get discouraged by the whole process. It must have been frustrating to just barely get a chance to start the work before he had to run off and try again somewhere else. But Paul kept on doing it anyways and according to verse 6 he and Silas turned the whole world upside down.
You may not get to see the fruit of your labor as you try and plant the seeds of the Gospel into people’s lives. But the important thing is to never give up and to keep Acting Out for God no matter how much bad seems to be following you around. You can turn your world upside down for Jesus if you refuse to give up and keep doing whatever work you can for Him. God will use you and only time will tell how much of a change you really made in the world.
Prayer: “Lord, I want to keep on Acting Out for you even in the face of the bad things that try and stop me. Give me the strength to keep on working for you and the courage to face anything that may come my way.”
Read Acts 16:19-40
Key Verse: Acts 16:25 “Around midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.” (NLT)
Paul once again ended up in prison for doing something good. Healing that demon possessed girl was the right thing to do, yet both Silas and Paul were beaten, imprisoned, and bound because of it. We read on to see the wonderful things that God does as a result of their being in prison. The prison shakes, the doors swing open, and the jailer and his whole family turn to Christ. It even served as an opportunity to encourage the believers (v. 40).
All of the wonderful things that happen in this passage can be traced back to the way that Paul and Silas reacted to being in prison. They were just badly beaten, thrown into the inner dungeon, and even tied up. But what do we find them doing in the midst of all of this? According to verse 25, they prayed and worshiped God. What’s more, they did it where everyone in the jail could hear them and they did it despite the fact that they were suffering so greatly for their faith.
How would you have reacted? Would you have prayed in that situation? Most of us find it difficult to say grace at a restaurant because there are people around us. Paul and Silas never let being beaten or even being imprisoned stop them from expressing their love to God. They choose to Act Out for Him even in the worst possible situation and God blessed them in incredible ways. Acting Out for Him means we need to learn to never be embarrassed of our faith in God whether we are in a restaurant or in jail.
Prayer: “Lord, please forgive me for the times that I lived like I was ashamed of you. Help me to never be embarrassed of you. No matter where I end up in life I want to let everyone know that you are the most important part of my life.”
Read Acts 16:1-18
Key Verse: Acts 16:10 “So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, for we could only conclude that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.” (NLT)
Paul and his companions traveled about looking for places to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to people who had never heard before. The Holy Spirit would not allow them to enter Asia at that time nor were they allowed to enter the province of Bithynia. God closed those doors, or opportunities, because He was about to open a different door for Paul and his friends.
God, through a vision, directed them to go to Macedonia. This was the open door they were looking for and as they went into this area God used them in great ways. They meet Lydia and she became a Christian. They even healed a demon possessed girl.
When an opportunity presents itself we often rush towards it and are excited to do whatever it takes. Sometimes God closes doors that we think are good. He has His reasons and He knows what He is doing even when we don’t understand. It is at those times that we need to wait upon Him and trust Him. What we want and what we want to do is not always what is best. God’s will is always best for us. We need to look for opportunities to share the Gospel. But we also need to be willing to let God lead us by showing us, through His Spirit, which doors are open to go through and which ones are shut for now.
Prayer: “Lord help me to accept the fact that your will is much better than mine. I want to trust you and know that you know best.”
Read Acts 15:22-41
“Key Verse: Acts 15:36 “After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return to each city where we preciously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are getting along.” (NLT)
It seems that disagreements and even arguments were not uncommon among the early church. There was the big debate over the gentile Christians and now we see Paul and Barnabas disagreeing. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them to visit the cities where they had preached, while Paul dd not want to bring him because he had a bad experience with John Mark.
Whatever the disagreement was about is not really important. What is important is how the two handled the situation. It was okay to disagree with each other but they needed to handle it appropriately. They decided to agree to disagree on this issue and went their own separate ways.
It is not wrong to disagree with someone. It is not a sin to have a different opinion then someone else. Disagreements become sinful when we allow our tempers to get out of control or when we fail to use wisdom and end up saying things that are meant to hurt one another. God used Paul and Barnabas’ separating to allow both of them to go their different ways and do even more work for Jesus.
We need to learn from their examples and discover the importance of being able to walk away from a disagreement without destroying a friendship in the process.
Prayer: “Lord, please give me the wisdom I need to learn how to end all arguments appropriately and without saying or doing something I will regret. Help me to have Godly attitude in all disagreements.”