The Faithful Giver

James - Faith that Works  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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James 1:16-18 gives 3 truths to encourage the heart that is being deceived by trouble.


Prone to Wander

In 1743, Robert Robinson was 8 years old.
He had lost his father.
He was angry, bitter, and fatherless.
He grew angry at God, threw off all restraints.
His teenage years were filled with drinking, gambling, and raising havoc.
In despair, he lost all hope.
In his early 20’s, he heard the fiery George Whitefield preach.
God used George Whitefield’s preaching to break through Robinson’s hard heart.
Robinson was converted, and entered into ministry.
He was an angry man.
Angry at life.
Angry at God.
Yet, sometime following his conversion he put these words to song:
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I'm fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
He understood the pull of being disappointed.
You can empathize with a man who’s life is filled with hurt and tragedy.
Especially, when you hear these words:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it Prone to leave the God I love Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it Seal it for Thy courts above
As a Christian, you will face trials.
There are things in your past that might still be open wounds.
They hurt even today.
There will be things that come into your life.
And you will be tempted to lose heart.
Because you’ll wonder if God still cares.
And if God cares, why would He bring this into your life?
gives you wisdom when you feel the pull to wander.
directs our eyes to truths of God.
Read :16-18.
It is in these times, that we need to remember 3 truths of God.
Whether God really intends for your good.
If God is making things up.
These 3 truths will keep you from falling victim to the lies about God.
Specifically, that He does evil, does not care, and that life is left to chance.
We don’t do this enough, but focuses our attention only upon God and what He’s done.

We must remember God Gives Good Gifts.

My dad was a deputy sheriff growing up.
When I was in middle school he was stationed at the mall.
In middle school, I loved going to the mall, and my dad knew all the cool spots.
He knew when things were on sale, because he was paid to wander through the mall.
I remember my dad taking me to the sports paraphernalia stores.
There were these San Diego Chargers jackets that were cool.
Back in the 90’s it was cool to wear these giant puffy sports jackets.
And these jackets were puffy.
They didn’t get any puffier.
It was like walking around with pillows for sleeves.
As Christmas neared, anytime we were there, he frequently took my brother and I to the same store, to try on the same jackets.
Just to see if they still fit.
December arrived.
The Christmas tree went up.
My dad frequently took my brother and I to the same store, to try on the same jackets.
Just to see if they still fit.
And to make sure the price hadn’t gone up.
My brother and I were sure, this was what we were getting for Christmas.
It wasn’t long till 2 identical gifts showed up under the tree.
One for me.
One for my brother.
They were clearly something made of fabric.
They were just about the shape of a puffy San Diego Chargers jacket, and folded up and wrapped.
My brother and I were so excited.
If we were betting men, I would have put all my money on getting that jacket for Christmas.
Finally, the big day came when we could unwrap the presents.
We opened them up.
My brother and I each carefully opened that metallic wrapping paper.
And inside we found that we got matching … bed sheets with pictures of wolves on them.
It’s safe to say that we were pretty disappointed.
There’s a saying that says, “You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”
We shouldn’t complain.
But under those circumstances, we were set up to receive something different.
We really thought we were getting jackets.
On a weekly basis we were trying them on.
And we got bed sheets.
I don’t think any 13 year old boy has ever said, “Mom, I want matching bedsheets for Christmas.”
The context of this passage is still talking about trials.
Jesus said, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?” - .
God gives good gifts, and they don’t disappoint.
The context of this is still talking about trials.
James has been trying to teach us that trials are actually a blessing.
They are something to find joy in.
They make us complete.
We find wisdom in them.
They keep us humble.
They give us a focus on what is important, and to trust in the Lord.
When you go into a trial, believe it or not, the trial is what you need.
It is a good gift.
It might feel like bed sheets when you were expecting a puffy Chargers jacket.
You need that trial.
God gives good gifts.
He’s driven that point home in this chapter.
Now we look at the giver of the trials.
We look at the giver of the gifts.
And we learn about Him.
He gives perfect gifts.
They are complete.
Amanda and I have all these gadgets for baby Ben.
We’ve got bassinets that wobble.
Bouncers that shake.
And speakers that play static.
And every single one of them takes batteries, and batteries of every shape and size.
We have this bouncer.
Amanda put it together.
She connected all the rods.
Got it all put together, and at the end realized it needed batteries.
What kind of batteries?
Were they AAA batteries, the common kind that fit into your remote control for the TV?
Were they AA batteries, the common kind that fit into toys?
Were they 9 volt batteries, the common kind that fit into smoke detectors that beep at 2 in the morning?
They were D.
Who has D size batteries?
So I went to the store and spent probably more money on D batteries than the bouncer itself.
Batteries not included is not a complete gift.
But the gifts that God gives are perfect and complete.
They lack nothing.
There is nothing that needs to be added to them.
There will never be another version, to improve an earlier model.
Why are these gifts so perfect?
Because of who they come from.
They are from above.
They originate with God.
And they come down to us.
But there is a danger, the danger is thinking that what God has given us is not enough.
That they need to be improved.
That somehow they are lacking.
When we go through trials and heartache, we start accusing God of doing something wrong.
God I think you messed up when you put this into my life.
We see this in regards to a relationship with Christ.
You have sinned.
You feel guilty about your sin.
And how do you deal with your sin?
For some it’s do good.
To try and do enough good things that you remove your original offense.
You do enough good deeds and God will forget that you ever sinned in the first place.
Others they try to balance the scales.
If you do enough good deeds, you will tip the scales in your favor and you’ll be called good.
They jump on a treadmill of trying to be good enough.
All of this is an attempt to improve the good and perfect gift that God has already given you.
You don’t need to improve what God has already given.
It has come from God.
It doesn’t need to be improved.
And what is this Gospel?
Let’s talk about Christ.
The Catholic Church says that in order to become good you must:
You must go to confession.
Go to Mass.
See a priest.
These are all attempts to improve the gift that God has given.
Jesus is the perfect gift, sent from above.
says something better in regards to your sin.
doesn’t say that if you feel the guilt of sin, you need to:
And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
Do good deeds.
Visit a priest.
Or go to confession.
points us to the perfect gift, sent from above.
“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,”
Jesus paid for sin.
It’s done.
What does this mean for us?
It means you get to rejoice in the gift giver.
He’s done the work.
Now you get to admire who God is.
You get to worship God, without fear that something is lacking.
You get to worship God without the idea that you need to make yourself worthy.
He gave the perfect gift.
What is it you think you are lacking in your quest to be made right with God?
Understand Jesus has paid it.
Now you get to rest in Him.
You get to admire Him.
I love this passage of James because it is all good news.
In the middle of a James which is such a practical book.
It’s been teaching us how to deal with trials and temptations.
A lot of tips, and wisdom for you to do.
In the middle of all this is the reminder, that Christ is sufficient.
That He is enough.
That He is the good and perfect gift sent from above, down to us.
And so we to stop and remember, that Christ is enough.

The next great truth that James teaches us is God Never Changes.

Look at the description of God at the end of verse 17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
We have a hard time wrapping our minds around a God who never changes.
There was an old philosopher, Heraclitus, and he said, “The only constant in life is change”.
Because we see change.
We see a lot of change.
At one time music was released on records, then cassette tapes, then CDs, now you stream it on your phones.
Movies used to be something you went to.
Then you rented them on VHS.
Then on DVD.
Then Blu-ray.
Now you stream it.
Change happens so much that the idea of something always being the same is preposterous.
Think of yourself.
Your thinking changes.
Remember when you were a kid.
Do you ever see old pictures of yourself?
When you see yourself in those old pictures, what do you say?
“I can’t believe I wore that.”
It’s embarrassing.
But at the time, you couldn’t imagine wearing anything different.
You fought with your parents over what you wore.
Your tastes change.
As a kid, coffee was the worst thing in the world.
Then at some point, you discover that it tastes better than water.
We change.
Yet when it comes to God, He never changes.
James says that there is no variation with God.
He doesn’t make any big sudden changes.
He doesn’t change like a shadow either.
How do shadows change?
They gradually change throughout the day as the sun changes it’s position in the sky.
It happens throughout the day.
You can’t watch grass grow.
But look at your lawn one week from today, and it certainly has grown.
God does not change.
He’s been around for an eternity.
And in that eternity He hasn’t changed.
He doesn’t shift His position like a shadow.
He’s been here for an eternity, and is still the same.
says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
If God says something, it’s true and it will never change.
Listen to a few passages.
- God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
- And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.
, God says, ““For I the Lord do not change; ...”
Why do you need this?
Because we experience change in this life.
So much so, that Heraclitus said it’s the only thing we can count on.
And there will come times, especially in trials, when you will think that perhaps God’s changed His plans.
You will wonder, “If God is sovereign, how can He allow this to happen?”
And you have to remember, that God has not changed His mind.
He has a set plan.
He is in control.
And everything is operating according to His good and perfect will.
And no matter how disastrous the current crisis is … God is on His throne and He is giving you exactly what you need.

Lastly, remember God Sovereignly Creates.

In the middle of verse 17, James called God, “the Father of lights”.
In the Greek, He’s called the Father of the lights.
This was a Hebrew phrase used to describe God.
He’s the creator of the lights, and the lights are the stars.
He’s creator of everything that we see.
As we think about God, we must remember that He is Creator.
Everything that exists, exists because He created it.
Life is not a cosmic accident.
Life isn’t the product of colliding planets, or exploding stars.
It began with a word.
It began with purpose.
It began with a plan.
I’ve often find it funny, that our culture tries so hard to build up people’s self-esteem, and yet fails to see any purpose behind life.
We tell people they’re special, and meaningful.
And yet, we say the cosmos is a product of collisions, and chance, and evolution.
We tell people their life is important.
And yet, we call them accidents.
Abortion is encouraged if there is a birth defect.
Because that life must be random.
Abortion is encouraged if the life is even an inconvenience.
We live in a culture that is confused.
We say every voice is valued.
People are nicknamed snowflakes.
And yet, it’s all an accident.
This is what happens when we forget, that God is Creator.
Father of lights, The Father of THE Lights - alludes to God’s creative nature.
But He has not only created physically, but He creates spiritually.
Verse 18 is describing the conversion and the creation of the Christian.
He’s not just talking about God physically creating, like in .
He’s now talking about your spiritual re-creation.
Listen closely, as we go down this next path.
What James will say next will keep you from ever being spiritually proud or arrogant.
This will keep you from ever thinking that you are good in front of God because of your efforts.
This will keep you from ever thinking that you are somehow better than anyone else.
I told you there is a temptation to think that God’s gifts are not perfect.
There’s a temptation to say that when God gave you gifts, “Batteries were not included.”
That there is something we need to add to it.
In looking at God’s work in your conversion to Christ, you will see that what He has done is perfect.
Your conversion is something that has come down from above.
It is something that the glorious God, the Father of Lights, has done upon little you.
James says, “Of His own will he brought us forth ...”
We are born again, we are converted, because of what?
What caused us to be born again?
What caused you to be born again?
His Will.
Go with me on a journey through Scripture.
We will be flipping lots of pages in our Bibles.
I’ll flip my pages too, just so I don’t go too fast.
It starts with our nature.
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
What were we prior to conversion?
What was our desire?
Not to be obedient.
But to be sinful.
It says we were following the prince of the power of the air.
Our sinfulness and rebellion against God was hardwired into us.
“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.”
This was who you were.
There was no changing it.
It doesn’t sound politically correct today to even address the color of a person’s skin.
The Ethiopian can’t change the color of his skin.
No matter how hard a leopard tries to change his spots, it’s who he is.
Our nature is that we are naturally opposed to God.
We were rebellious not because of a lack of knowledge either.
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
It’s not a lack of knoweldge.
It is a lack of understanding.
In our unconverted state, we refuse to believe the truth of Scripture.
Prior to my conversion, there were certain things I read in the Bible, and I said, “No way.”
That can’t be true.
I was confirming I Corinthians 2:14.
The sad reality is that we start looking at these truths and putting them together, we find that you cannot come to God on your own.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”
No one can - that describes an inability.
There are somethings I cannot do.
I cannot flap my arms hard enough to fly.
It won’t happen.
And no one can come to God on their own.
The reason why many Christians don’t adore God, is because they think too lowly of God.
They think that somehow their salvation started with them.
Or that it was something they initially desired.
They just needed to add the batteries.
Where does James say every good gift comes from?
But the way we talk, we talk as if it starts with us.
But it doesn’t say every good gift comes from below.
They come from above.
says these revolutionary words about the reality of your conversion.
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
We love to boast about the will of man, and free will.
Who’s will is responsible for your conversion?
Not yours.
John says we are born again, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man
How can that be?
As I’ve shown you in the previous verses, man’s will is naturally against God.
We are dead in our sins.
We naturally serve the power of the prince of the air.
We naturally reject truth.
James says that your conversion is of His will.
Celebrating conversion is not just celebrating the Cross.
That’s a huge part of it.
But it’s also celebrating what God did in your life.
Because, dear Christian, prior to your conversion, you were opposed to Him.
We’ve talked about our inability to convert ourselves.
So how does conversion happen?
Keep your Bibles open.
Go to
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,”
It began before the foundation of the world.
When God chose you.
He predestined you.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
Conversion does not start with you.
And remember, we didn’t choose God.
On our own, we were opposed to Him.
He chose you.
And God wasn’t choosing those who would choose Him either.
Because on our own, we would never choose Him.
And after choosing us, He doesn’t leave us, but He calls us.
The sovereign, life giving power of God, is greater than your own hard-heartedness.
In , after describing your own fallenness, and deadness, Paul explains that God does not leave His elect in that fallen condition.
He’s active.
says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
James says that He converts us “by the word of truth.”
There is something that is said.
There is some kind of decree.
There is some kind of statement from God.
That causes you to come to Him.
Think of Lazarus in the tomb.
Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died.
Was in a tomb.
Do dead men get up and walk?
What do they do?
They be dead.
Jesus went to Lazarus’ tomb and called out, “Lazarus, come out.”
And then Lazarus came out of the tomb.
Lazarus came to life because of the word of truth that was spoken by Jesus Christ.
“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”
God calls you.
There was a moment, when you heard His call.
Not an audible call.
Not like a phone call.
But suddenly, it all made sense.
The Gospel became real to you.
I grew up in the church.
I attended church nearly every Sunday of my life.
But it never made sense to me.
I can remember questioning core doctrines of Christianity.
Not because my Sunday School teachers were wrong.
Not because my youth leaders failed.
But because I had a hard heart.
I remember wondering about the Cross, and why it needed to happen.
Then there was that day.
That wonderful day, when the Gospel made sense.
I heard the Gospel for the first time.
What was different?
It was God changing my heart.
It was God calling me out of my deadness.
It was the word of truth.
When you understand the impossibility of your own conversion, and you recognize the miraculous life giving power of God, suddenly your own conversion becomes something you praise God for.
says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”
The key words there are that He has caused us to be born again.
You know why so many people’s of God feels flat?
It’s because they don’t think God has caused them to be born again.
They think they had to add the batteries to their faith.
James is addressing various deceptions, various lies.
And the deception is that God does not know you or your life.
Trust me, He knows you.
If you are a Christian, look back on your conversion, and look at how He converted you.
You are converted because of His will.
You are converted because of Him making you understand truth.
And He did all this for a reason.
Look at the final phrase of , “that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
That word, firstfruits, is a New Testament word to describe Christians.
At the end of , God looks at His creation, and do you remember what He said about it?
“Behold it was very good.”
It didn’t take long until sin entered the world.
Because of Adam’s sin, all of us are guilty.
All of us are sinners.
None of us are good.
But what is God doing with us?
He converts us.
He changes us.
He is making us a kind of firstfruits.
There is something different in Christians.
He makes us good.
How are we made good?
He makes us good because of Jesus.
says, “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”
We are considered good, not because of what we do or have done.
We are considered good because of Jesus Christ.
If you have been converted, you are good because Jesus is good.
And His goodness is given to you.
Batteries not included.
You don’t become good because you add to His gift.
You become good, because He makes you good.
And with this new nature and this new goodness, we live in the newness of Christ.
We no longer go back to what we were.
We are new creations.
We are a firstfruit.
God is making something new in His church.

Folks, I want you to be able to persevere through trials, and I want you to persevere joyfully.

For that to happen, you must believe big things about God.
You must believe in the perfection of God’s gifts.
He doesn’t give bad gifts.
His gifts never say, “Batteries not included.”
Salvation is complete in Christ.
He removes sin.
He makes you good.
He never changes.
If He says it, He’ll do it.
You have experienced the biggest miracle there is, conversion, regeneration, being born again.
This should give you a confidence and endurance.
If you’ve been converted, you’ve experienced all of of this.
You better be the most joyful person there is.
If this hasn’t happened to you yet, this should be your first prayer.
See your helplessness.
And cry out to God to change your dead heart.
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