“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone” (James 1:5-6, NLT).
In some mythical Greek and Roman stories, the gods cause mischief and take great delight in watching the helpless humans deal with the mayhem.
God isn’t like that – he doesn’t amuse himself by causing us trouble. Rather, he enjoys our successes and provides everything we need for life. When we ask for daily bread, we acknowledge his sovereignty and our dependence on him. When we ask for wisdom, we humble ourselves before the one who IS wisdom and he freely gives it. The wise are the ones who know where it comes from and who to ask.
“God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10, NLT).
We tend to think of wisdom in terms of lessons learned by older folks, like don’t get involved in a land war in Asia (sorry, couldn’t resist quoting from Princess Bride). There are many kinds of wisdom and it doesn’t only come from the elderly. Wisdom can come from anyone, at any age and in any circumstance. Some even believe in the wisdom of animals.
God is the source of all wisdom, and gives it freely. As this verse says, his wisdom is rich in variety and he uses his church (his body) to display it. We don’t always do a good job of that, but maybe we are looking for wisdom in ourselves. His wisdom is on display, not ours, which means it doesn’t look like ours and often may not even be apparent except to those unseen rulers and authorities Paul mentioned. The wisdom of God is rich in variety and often way above our heads. Thankfully he shares it with us if we will only ask (James 1:5).
“Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ” (Ephesians 3:8, NLT).
Riches, treasures, wealth – the stuff of dreams. A sunken ship was recently discovered, holding billions of dollars worth of treasure. There will no doubt be some arguing about who owns what, but the discoverer will get a nice share of the booty.
Loving money hasn’t made anyone happy. It seems to cause more heartache and grief than anything else. But the riches in Christ are the best kind and don’t lead people to shoot, sue or hate anyone. His riches are unfathomable to our three dimensional minds but he has given us a taste now to whet our appetites for more. Salvation by grace, knowing God, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), being in Christ – these are some of God’s treasures we can only understand in part now, through the proverbial dark glass, but which we will fully experience when we receive eternal life. We can’t even imagine the “endless” part!
“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God” (Ephesians 2:8, NLT).
Everyone loves to receive gifts. Even though we’ve all heard it’s more blessed to give than receive, do we really believe it? After all, what can be more exciting than anticipating and then opening a lovely gift?
God is the original gift-giver. We can’t out give him and in reality have nothing to give. Everywhere we look we see his gifts – the earth and all it holds, the beauty of life, love and relationships, mates, babies, friends. The best gift of all is the gift of salvation but sometimes the hardest thing is to accept it for what it is. It truly comes with no strings attached, no conditions, no quid pro quos. When God gives a gift, we are the ones who are blessed and in receiving, bless him back by accepting it with gratitude and grace.
“But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NLT).
Those of us who aren’t rich wonder what it would be like to have so much wealth we could do whatever we dreamed and never have to worry about being on a budget. It sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
Our God is rich – everything belongs to him, all the precious metals and gems and every resource this earth holds. The riches that mean the most are the intangible ones: his mercy, kindness, wisdom, strength and grace. These are the riches he shares with us by giving us life when he raised Jesus from the dead. He doesn’t wait for us to do anything; we can’t earn it or perform for it like a dancing bear. We have been saved by his grace and that makes us the wealthiest ones on earth.
“I entrust my spirit into your hand. Rescue me, LORD, for you are a faithful God” (Psalm 31:5, NLT).
It’s hard to know who we can trust these days. It seems everyone lies and if you don’t think you do, you might be fooling yourself. I find myself suspicious of anyone trying to sell something and I’m a firm believer in the old saying “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Many have trouble trusting God because they’ve been deceived too many times by anyone and everyone. They wonder, can God be trusted too or will he turn out to be just like everyone else? He is not like us. He is the only one who can be trusted – he can’t lie, he is trustworthy and faithful in every way.
“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Will you give me a drink?'” (John 4:7, NLT).
So starts a conversation where Jesus displayed his patience. The Samaritan woman clearly didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about, and was puzzled as to why he was even talking to her in the first place. Jews and Samaritans hated each other.
Jesus stuck with her, even though it seems he was being vague on purpose and knew she wouldn’t understand, to get to his big revelation – he told her he was the Messiah, which is something he rarely did. To us, this conversation almost seems comical, but I’m sure Jesus was kind, patient, gentle and truly cared about her. Our prayers probably sound a little like this exchange sometimes and Jesus is just as patient and gentle with us. He wants us to get it too – he is the Messiah, our Savior and Liberator.
“Now I, Paul, appeal to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ—though I realize you think I am timid in person and bold only when I write from far away” (2 Corinthians 10:1, NLT).
Paul did a lot of correcting in his letters, to the point it seems that’s almost all he did. Granted, the Corinthians had a lot of problems. He also tried to be encouraging and positive – the prayers in his letters are beautiful and give us a good example of how to pray for others.
I love how Paul appeals to them with the gentleness and kindness of Christ. He was imitating Jesus (as Paul said we are to do) who seemed to correct people (go and sin no more) gently and with extreme kindness. May we all learn to be more gentle and kind to everyone.
“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4, NLT).
Many churches, especially over the past couple of centuries, have used the fear of hell and punishment to convince people to repent of their sins and become Christians. It used to work but not so much anymore. People are turned off by the message of an angry God holding their feet over hot coals. Instead of scaring them into action, this message turns them completely away from God.
Think of a parent browbeating his children into obedience – how well does that work? Children respond much better to love and kindness. Their obedience comes from not wanting to disappoint the one they love so much. Paul’s message focuses on God’s kindness and patience, which is much more attractive – both the message and the kind God we love.
Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more” (John 8:10-11, NLT).
Another thing I love about Jesus is how much he values each and every life. This woman was about to lose her life. Jesus knew the law supported the actions of the teachers of religious law and Pharisees. His answer was to give them a little more to think about than what the law condoned – none of them had the right to condemn another when each of them was just as guilty.
Jesus showed them and us not only can we not condemn each other but each life is of value to him and worth redeeming. He redeemed the woman from death in this one act of kindness. He redeemed all humanity by the biggest act of kindness – laying down his life for our eternal life.