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James 1.22-25 – But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.
23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.
25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act — they will be blessed in their doing.
God’s Promises for Doers of the Word
When I was a pastor in Charleston Missouri, there was a very kind and wise Christian man. He was also super wealthy, but you couldn’t tell it from the truck he drove and his designer clothes from Walmart. One day we were drinking coffee and he asked me if Toni and I had any money. I told him we did and he said, “Take your money and buy Exxon stock.”
Toni and I talked it over, cashed in our entire savings and bought Exxon. It ended up being the best financial decision of our lives.
Don’t miss what happened. I heard a word from a wise, honest and wealthy man. Toni and I trusted his word, acted on it and the outcome was very beneficial.
Is God’s word any less wise and significant than a man from the country, who drove a rusty Suburban and wore tan work uniforms from Walmart? James gives us counsel on God’s word. Basically, he says, “Go all-in on what God tells you. You can’t lose.”
God’s consistent word to people throughout out the Bible is to know his word and to act on it. Below are three good passages, literally among a multitude that say the same thing. If we know and do God’s word, we will be blessed.
God’s word to his people before they entered the promised land was, “If you will only obey the Lord your God, by diligently observing all his commandments that I am commanding you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth; all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 28.1-2). The next verses list ten specific blessings that come by doing what God tells them to do.
God’s word through Isaiah the prophet was,
“If you are willing and obedient,
you shall eat the good of the land;
but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be devoured by the sword;
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 1.19-20)
Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock” (Matthew 7.24-25).
Toni and I received expert advice on the purchase of Exxon. Infinitely better is the direction that God gives us through his word. He consistently connects his blessing to knowing and doing what he directs us to do.
It really does work, if you work it.
James describes God’s word to us as a perfect law that will give us a life of freedom (verse 25).
I remember my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at Maple Street House. I was there to celebrate sobriety birthdays with some friends. The meeting ended with the Lord’s Prayer, while everyone held hands. Then, the group said, “Keep coming back. It works if you work it.”
There were many things about that meeting that impressed me, but the ending saying certainly got my attention. “It works if you work it,” can certainly be applied to James’ message in verses 22-25. The result of doing God’s word is freedom. Many of my AA friends work the AA program and surrender to the Lord. The result has been sobriety and an excellent quality of life.
A program for knowing and doing the will of God
If knowing and doing God’s will gives us freedom, how can we start doing it? Is there something to help us consistently hear God’s word and do it?
Dr. Henry Blackaby wrote a famous book, “Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God,” that gives us steps for doing just that. According to Blackaby, there are seven realities to knowing and experiencing God.
(1) Know that God is at work in the world.
“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5.19a). The first reality we need to know is that God is working 24/7 in the world. A large part of his activity is aimed to help people like us live in a relationship with him.
(2) God offers us a relationship with him that is real and personal.
Jesus said, “I have called you friends.” (John 15.15). We literally are offered a relationship where we can live in a friendship relationship with Jesus.
(3) God invites people to join him in what he is doing in the world.
“In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us” (2 Corinthians 5.19). God is at work to help people like us live in a relationship with him, and he invites us to be part of his team.
(4) God speaks to us through the Bible, circumstances, and/or through the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, and invites us to join him in what he is doing in the world.
One example of God speaking to people was the calling of Paul and Barnabas to a specific mission. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13.2).
(5) When God invites us to join him, our response if often, “Who me?” Faith is required to act on his word to us. From Moses to Paul to people in our day, trust and obedience is absolutely necessary at this point. Blackaby calls this “the crisis of faith,” because it takes us out of our comfort zone and causes us to rely on him.
(6) In faith, we adjust what we are doing and join God in what he is doing. In the Acts 13 passage, Paul and Barnabas adjusted their lives and began a missionary effort among the Gentiles.
One of Blackaby’s famous sayings is, “You can’t stay where you are and go where God is.”
(7) As we obey God’s word to us and join him in his work, we experience God in ways that we never thought possible. Going back to the AA slogan – it really does work, if you work it.
I challenge you to look back over these seven realities and ask yourself a couple of questions.
— Where am I right now on the list of Blackaby’s seven realities of experiencing God?
— Do I need to deepen my friendship-relationship with Jesus, so I can hear him better?
— Has Jesus called me to do something, but I have been holding back through lack of faith or obedience?
— I realize that I can’t go where Jesus is calling me to go and stay where I am.
— I believe “it works if you work it,” but have I really been “working it?”
Dear Jesus, it is easy to read a devotional thought and go about my business without being changed. I ask you today to show me how to adjust my life to what you are doing. Please give me the faith to both hear your word and to do it today. Thank you for your grace.