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Abraham and Sarah got tired of waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled and tried to take control. They began to focus on themselves, they stopped caring for others, such as Hagar. But God cared for her, and unlike Abraham and Sarah, calls her by her name.
How do we get back on track with God? By repenting and putting God first, by being willing to make hard decisions rather than drifting when we meet with challenges and by walking by faith like Abraham, rather than walking by sight like Lot.
Abraham didn’t make the decision to move; it was God who took the initiative. Abraham was nobody special and was slow to obey God. Nevertheless, he trusted God, and we also should trust God even when we don’t understand what God is doing. So let’s follow Abraham’s example of a life a faith, a life of obedience and life of worship.
We need to learn how to lament. We can do this by using our own words or by using some of the lament psalms that have been given us to help us pray. We need to make a deliberate decision to turn to the Lord, bring our complaint to him, make definite clear requests, and choose to trust him.
God delights in restoring those who have wandered away. We should be a people of real concern, who care for those wandering from the truth; a people of real discretion in confronting them; and a people of real zeal for bringing them back.
Some of us may have been excluded for being Christians, whilst others may have experienced more intense suffering. James calls us to be patient, but he is not insensitive to suffering, nor is he telling us to be inactive. To cope with suffering, we need to learn how to lament. Our ultimate hope is the return of Jesus.
James is addressing people who may be experience many big changes in their lives and are not copying or responding well, so he points them to the wisdom of God - its source, which is Jesus who is the wisdom of God; its character; and its outcome. We can bless the world around us by making peace because we have listened to Jesus.
How do we respond to the trials of life? We are to respond with joy, not because the trials are enjoyable in themselves but because we recognise what God is doing through them. Let’s allow perseverance to finish its work.
We are reminded of the importance of being spiritually awake and alert. There has been a long wait for Jesus to return, and we need to be careful how we handle this wait - the reason for the delay is so that everybody can hear the gospel. We need to be prepared - we can’t rely on the spirituality or prayerfulness of others.
Perhaps we need a wake-up call. A church can fall asleep by lying down (assuming a low profile), getting comfy (living for pleasure), and staying still (not acting on what we hear). A church can make sure it’s woken up by standing up (making it clear we’re with Jesus), getting dressed (getting rid of sin) and having breakfast (being sustained by God’s Word, not our own will-power). It is worth waking up because we get the opportunity to walk with Jesus and will be honoured by Jesus before the Father.
We should consider supernatural generosity, and not believe the myths that having more money makes it easier to give, that I don’t have the gift of generosity, that giving should always be spontaneous and that we should give without expecting something in return.
Being a shepherd is not glamorous or prestigious, but it’s what God calls leaders to be. Jesus left his disciples an example, by washing their feet. We should submit to right authority - not unquestionable obedience to dictatorial decrees.
God’s grace is secure, but we need to make sure we respond well. We must make sure we’ve truly received his grace, that we practice it by living it out, and that we look forward and anticipate its harvest.
We can have confidence in approaching God because he is on the throne, because Christ has opened the way, and because knows what it is like to be human. We approach God by praying, whether we feel like it or not, focusing on him, remembering that he knows best, and not worrying about the length of our prayers.
We have been justified by faith. This is a done deal, and three facts follow from this: We have peace with God (not just a feeling, but reconciliation); we stand in grace (we are not just saved by grace but we live by grace); and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
Peter wants to remind us of our secure position in Christ, from which we need never fall so long as we continue to trust in him. He also urges us to grow in grace, which we can do by focusing on Jesus and fixing our thoughts on him, by making a list of everything he has done in our lives and thanking him for it, by seeing suffering and hardship as an opportunity to depend on God, and by talking to God about everything on good days and bad days.
The church is urged to have a unity that derives first of all from a right understanding of the cross. The cross shows us that Spiritual leadership doesn’t involve being at the top of a pyramid but at the bottom. Leaders are the servants of Christ, the stewards of the mysteries of God, the scum of the earth, and father-like.
There was a real and serious problem in the church where vulnerable people were going hungry. The leaders recognise the problem, but they also recognise their own limitations, so they delegate responsibly to others.