by Scott Stephens
Scott Stephens is the counseling pastor at West End Baptist Church’s West End Counseling Center, a board member of Redeemer Biblical Counseling Training Institute, and a PhD student in the Biblical Counseling Program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. To find out more about our counseling center (WECC), please call the church at 864-232-7312.
God’s revelation to us in His Word is powerful! It permeates the inner being of the believer, yet many times, we don’t live as if we believe that all of His Word applies to our lives.
James, the brother of Jesus, gives exceptional guidance to the believer for the use of God’s Word. In James 1:22, he warns us that we are to be doers of the Word, not just people who hear the Word. We are not to be people who do not act on its guidance.
How many people do you know who have a firm grasp on God’s Word yet fail to live it out? We all know someone who does this. As a matter of fact, I believe we may all be guilty of this. Each one of us does this regularly in one way or another. For instance, God tells us not to be anxious but to pray about everything (Philippians 4:6-7). I find myself getting anxious from time to time and not praying as fervently as I should. It also tells us to trust Him with all our heart, not leaning on our understanding of the situation (Proverbs 3:5-6). I, at times, tend to look at a situation from a negative, worldly point of view rather than one that acknowledges God’s love and sovereignty. These are just two examples, and I believe I could write dozens more examples of how we are given clear guidance, yet we fail to act on it for one reason or another. Sadly, these are some of the less challenging circumstances we encounter. It becomes more complicated when we are to forgive one another, love one another, not covet one another’s possessions, not lie to each other, and not complain about our circumstances (the list can go much further).
There are some things to remember that will help us to be obedient to James’ message.
- Remember that you are to “put off” your old way of thinking and acting. Thinking the worst of the situation is usually a default response when bad things happen. It’s amazing. We don’t have to think about the circumstance in any depth; our emotions have automatically (habitually) taken us to a level of anxiety, frustration, anger, and perhaps hopelessness. It’s important to recognize this process and seek to change it. As followers of Jesus, we are new people. We are no longer to think and act like we did when we were unbelievers. We are called to think with a new mind…to act in a new way (Ephesians 4:22-32).
- Remember that you have help. John 15:26-27 tells us that Jesus sent us a helper, the Holy Spirit, who tells us what we need to know about Jesus. This is a gracious gift since we are called to become more like Him daily. The Spirit teaches us what is written in the Word (John 14:26; 16:13-14) and gives us the ability to obey the Word and glorify God as we live (2 Corinthians 3:18). We have the power to understand and practice God’s commands because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. It is essential that we remember and constantly rely on this wonderful gift.
- Remember that our obedience (or lack of obedience) is a direct reflection of our walk with God. In John 14:15, we read where Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” In the next verse, He reminds us of the “Helper” that He has provided who will help us keep His commandments. With the Spirit’s help, we can notice when we are not obedient; with His help, we can change how we respond. Remember, God does not ask us to do anything He has not already given us the ability to do, with His help.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that the Word of God is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Pray that the Holy Spirit will not only “sear” God’s Word to your heart but that He will enable you to live His Words, becoming more like Jesus.