James 1 v9-11

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How would you finish this sentence? "If only we had more money then we'd be able to ...."

Now you could finish that sentence any way you like, but let me offer you two opposites:

If only we had more money then we'd be able to buy that yacht or go on that cruise or afford that little luxury we've been wanting.
or
If only we had more money then we'd be able to know where the next meal is coming from
Same desire. Two very different motives. Two very different circumstances.

We might not find ourselves in either of those two extremes but this is relevant to each of us here tonight. You see us Christians are more affected by our wealth than we like to think. We are more affected by our socioeconomic circumstance than we realise. And here in our passage this evening we look at how to cope in the trials of our socioeconomic circumstances

Last week Tom very helpfully told us; in times of trial, to not only see the trial close up, as we experience it, but also to keep hold of the big picture at the same time; to be able to be objective and consider what God might be doing in his big plan. And again, we find that a helpful view to have when considering the trials in today's passage. However there's another dimension to bear in mind today and that's the one of time. The present and eternity.

Practical as ever James clearly tells his readers to DO something. He tells them 'take pride' in a couple of things (take pride in a good way). Elsewhere in the Bible this 'taking pride' referred to here is translated as "to boast in" or "to glory in" - sometimes "to rejoice in". This is a kind of 'hold in your heart' and be proud of, not ashamed, something you would take pride in and tell people about and even defend in front of adversaries.

Before we look at it let me ask "What do we take pride in or hold in our heart? What are we ready to boast about or proclaim to others?"

And what is God is telling us to take pride in, to take to heart and keep here in my heart, to hold on to and not let go of. What is God telling us to boast in and rejoice in and revel in and let people know about and be so sure of that we will proclaim it even when Non-Christians ridicule us and tell us that we're wrong. God wants us to know a truth that we're certain of and trust in. A truth we can rely on.

So he tells us to take pride in two things. And they're specific to people facing two different kinds of trials. If you're in that circumstance then you should take pride in this. And if you're in this circumstance then you should take pride in that. However no matter what circumstance we're in I'm sure there's something we can learn from both scenarios. Let's have a look at the first. Verse 9 tells us that

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position.

The brother in humble circumstances - This means poor. - someone who has low status in the World's eyes.
You see the World tells you that if you're poor then you're insignificant - that you have no voice and you have no power to affect change. It says if you're poor then you've failed, you're a nobody or you're not a man! - you can't provide for you family! Or 'you haven't got the latest clothing or shoes or car or gadget or gismo or you can't buy your children what the marketing departments tell them will make them happy and the kids see YOU as the bad guy as a result. There are lots of trials with being poor.

I remember ministering to a dad who was giving his family jam sandwiches for their evening meal. He couldn't afford to feed his family and he was distraught, understandably so.  I wonder if you've ever been in that situation where you don't know where the next meal is coming from or how on earth you're going to pay the next mortgage or heating bill. And it can be soul destroying.  I wonder how many of us can relate to those in less developed countries or the homeless and addicted or those on the breadline in our community?

And based on the World's standards if you're poor you have pretty low status.  So here is James talking to the brother in humble circumstances - in low circumstances but the verse says he ought to take pride in his high position.  He IS in humble circumstances but he's also in a high position at the same time - he's a brother - he's a Christian - Now shall I show you how high his position is, how high the Christian is lifted up? Turn with me to Ephesians ch2  

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

If you're a Christian then you are alive in Christ and will be alive for eternity AND you are seated NOW in the heavenly realms NOW. Why? How? Because you're united to Christ. Nothing can separate you from him. You are his and he is yours and you are WITH him.

If you're a Christian you have everything you need in Christ; everything you need and more. You are seen as heirs and royal sons of the eternal God. And so what are we to do, particularly if we are poor or struggling financially or have low socioeconomic status? We are to take pride in this position - this HIGH position - boast in that! Glory in that! Glory in Christ!  Glory in your eternal status in Christ - nothing can ever change that for all eternity - forever!  Glory in your eternal status in Christ

What about the wealthy? What about the rich? Verse 10 tells us 

"But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position,"

Take pride in what? glory in what?  Now see the World tells you that if you're rich then "you've made it."! If you're rich then you have control. You have power. You can affect change.  Generally speaking the poor man can be bitter towards God because of his lot in life but the rich man thinks he doesn't need God. The poor man knows he needs someone else to help him but may be bitter that he has to rely on others OR that others have more than him. But the rich man thinks he is perfectly self-sufficient and needs no-one - I'm alright Jack - I'm doing fine.

Even the rich Christian can be tempted to think too highly of himself because the world holds him in high esteem and he might believe the lie that is fed to him - the lie that because of his wealth he IS someone.
And James says The one who is rich should take pride in his low position. How's he got a low position? And how can he take pride in that? How? Well we need some help understanding and kindly James explains it a bit more. Look with me to verse 10 and 11

"But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.
For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business."

It's like a wild flower which springs up and is really pretty - beautiful. And its as if they say, "Look at me. See my beauty." And they are genuinely beautiful. And the same could be said of the Rich man who appears on the scene and has done very well for himself OR has been given wealth - either way he is blessed and he has all needs materially speaking and he's in a very attractive situation. And it's so attractive that he can say "Look at me isn't this wonderful isn't this beautiful" - he's in a genuinely blessed situation. You see the thing is; we must recognise that the rich is very fortunate, is very blessed. We must not deny that he's better off than us and more blessed than us. That would be like denying the truth that a beautiful wild flower is beautiful. BUT THE KEY is to remember the present and the future. That it won't last - it will be gone in the blink of an eye.
verse 10 tells us

"because he will pass away like a wild flower.
For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business."

And for those fortunate enough to be in that situation they need to take pride in its temporariness - and not just its temporariness, but HIS temporariness. Notice it doesn't say, "The wealth will pass away." - it says, "the rich man will pass away." He should glory in his temporariness - his own temporariness. He should glory in his temporariness? That's right. Yes. Take it to heart. Revel in it. Boast in it. Be glad to tell those non-Christian friends and family members who are so materialistic. Tell them "I'm just here for a little while and soon I'll be gone" Why? Because it's part of the Gospel! It's part of the Gospel that we're here one minute and gone the next. We're just little squirts. We're mortal and we have no power to change our eternal destiny. This here and now is not all there is and in fact the here and now is nothing compared to eternity. Spirutally the rich Christian hasn't made it! They haven't achieved anything themselves - they've been GIVEN salvation
Before God they were spiritually penniless, bankrupt, destitute; all of us are before God. We're dependant completely on God and he has GIVEN us salvation.

Every material thing we have is decaying. Everything is returning to the ground which it came from; including you and me ourselves. Why is death and decay in the world? Because we've sinned. Romanss chapter 8 verse 20

"For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay"

It's a bit like the opposite side to the coin of salvation. James mentions two positions we all have - we all are lifted up and we are all fleeting - boast in that!

On one side: there's not much to us, we're little squirts who will soon be gone. we're nothing really but on the other side we're royal heirs who will be given the crown of righteousness. So the poor man who sees his destitute current circumstance must look to his royal wealth in Christ and the rich man mustn't rest on his laurels thinking he's got it made but must look to his own mortality and temporariness. Why Glory in that? Like it says in Philippians "to live is Christ to die is gain." It is far better to be in heaven with God than here with loads of wealth but it's good to stay alive to serve God and your fellow man. So the wealthy man doesn't get attached to his wealth, not one iota. It's not his anyway, he's just using it, it's God's. So he's not to be precious about his wealth. Yes he should be a good steward of it, but he's to hold loosely to it because he's not going to be here much longer. And he's not to boast in what he cannot keep. He's to take pride in and boast in the fact that he's only fleeting.

And to boast of that would be mind-blowing to the non-Christian. What a good witness that would be. He is to say to himself, "I'm nothing special, nothing special at all." And he's to say that to the world, which they wont understand, but they might question and ask why? And the rich believer can point to this - something bigger than me exists. Something bigger than me exists. In James's illustration it's the scorching Sun. It's as if the flower springs up and says look at me, aren't I pretty and the sun says, "You've forgotten about me." And so it is with the rich man, "look at me. I've made it." but something bigger than him exists; the scorching God. It's as if the wealthy man does well for himself and says "Look at me, aren't I good and God says, "You've forgotten about me." When you've made millions and you can say you're nothing special and your humility will point to one far greater than you so Glory in your temporariness
Glory in your temporariness

So when do you and I need to remember these things? Our temporariness and what we have in Christ? What circumstance are you going through or what situation are you next going to face when you need to remember to Glory in your eternal status in Christ and to Glory in your temporariness

To conclude. So what does he tell us to take pride in - two things. What are you going to glory in? I have everything in Christ; there's nothing more I want, and I'm not here for very long. The point is specifically for the poor man when he's facing trials and testing, perhaps particularly the trials and temptations that come with being poor. What should he remember and take pride in? His exaltation in Christ. Do you moan and get bitter that others have more than you or do you glory in your redeemer? And specifically for the rich man when he's facing trials and testing, perhaps particularly the trials and temptations that come with being rich. What should he remember and take pride in? I'm not here for very long. Do you sleep at night because YOU can look after yourself, because you're so self sufficient and have no or little need of help from others or do you glory in the fact that you're not here for very long? James mentions two positions we all have; we all are lifted up and we are all fleeting - boast in that! Whatever situation you're in don't focus on earthly circumstances boast in these two eternal realities.

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