Editor’s note: Upon completion of this sermon for his church, Joe Pruett felt it fit with his ‘Blessed through’ columns.
I so hope you all are enjoying Jim’s passage through the book of 1 Samuel. Our journey today will take us away from his sermon series, so we might consider this a brief break of sorts. I hope to walk us down two paths today, using both of the scripture readings we have read. First we will look at our Psalm reading and then our passage from James, and I want to enable us to see how truly blessed we are, and quite likely it is thru wisdom from above that helps us see those blessings.
As we begin I first want to share two recent quotes I have seen and their impact on me upon seeing them.
#1. It is not what you gather but rather what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived. This quote is by Helen Walton and the words are in big bold letters as you are departing from Sam’s club. When I reflect on those words it truly means to me that sharing is the key in our lives. I believe that when we live with a heart full of contentment sharing becomes so much more prevalent in our lives. This sharing can be financial, or it can be in time. In my office I had a sign that said, in life, spend twice as much time and half as much money with your children. We all are limited in our financial resources, but I do personally believe that everyone of us has the capacity to make a difference in someone else’s life with our time. Let this be a driving force in your life.
#2. The second quote I want to share as we begin today came to me ironically just minutes before I sat down to write this sermon. God so does work in mysterious ways in our lives. The quote was on a license plate and it said, I am grateful, thankful and blessed. Do you live your life with these three words as the key to your life? I so pray you do, because living our lives with these words at the forefront will indeed make an impact on your life and in turn allow you to affect so many around you. Try to live each day, gratefully, thankfully and blessedly and see if this doesn’t alter your outlook daily!
Ok, let us now begin our journey into our scripture readings and see together just what God is showing us in our lives with his word. Psalm 1 starts right off by saying, Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. This is from my ESV study bible, now hear this same passage from the good news bible. Happy are those who reject the advice of evil men, who do not follow the example of sinners or join those who have no use for God, instead, they study on it day and night. Two different translations, yet both offering us wisdom from above. The first speaks to a man that is Blessed, and the second replaces the word with Happy. Ironically in my bible, hear this commentary: the truly happy person is happy because God showers him with favor. When we think of favor that God may show us, I believe we can turn to Jesus for a description of what this might look like. Let’s take a look at the beatitudes he gave us in Matthew 5:3-11. Hear these words from our Lord and Savior.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they all see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Wow, a sermon could be made from all of those topics listed above, maybe one day in the future we will do just that, but for today I want to highlight how each one of these individual comments begin with the word Blessed. Blessed is more than a temporary or circumstantial feeling of happiness, it is a state of well being in relations to God that belongs to those who respond to Jesus and his ministry.
Connecting all of this together, we are blessed and happy when we are in continual communion with God, when our thoughts are his thoughts, our words are his words and our delight is in being near him both day and night.
On my desk at home is the very popular book by Brother Lawrence, titled, The Practice of the Presence of God. I suspect many of you have read this short book. He states many wonderful things in his book, but one I wish to share is this. We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed. Friends, following this guidance will indeed lead us to living a life both blessedly and happily and you know the real truth of the matter is, isn’t that just the way you really want to live your life, so do little things for the love of God, staying in connection with him and delighting in his law.
So, if that is what we should strive to do, listen again to our second reading today and see what gets in our way of doing those things. James, Jesus half brother tells us in vs 2, for we all stumble in many ways, and if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. Here, were shown how a person’s words reflects his character and thus are a key to his whole being. Our words indeed are a direct reflection on our character. Now, make no mistake our actions also have an impact on our character , but it is just as easy to harm others with our words, maybe even much more so than our actions. Hear again vs, 5&6, So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire. And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire courses of life.
These verses speak to the harm a little small part of us can cause. Pride is a major cause of the misuse of the tongue. We are careless with our use of the tongue and a great forest fire is the resulting impact. A world of unrighteousness, the tongue represents and puts into expression all the wickedness of the the world. Evil speech destroys because is comes from Satan himself. Blessedly though James gives us guidance we need, hear again the last part of our reading today, and think of this as wisdom from above.
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works and the meekness of wisdom. (Meekness: Jesus elevated it! Comes from trusting God). But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not wisdom from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy, and good fruits, impartial, and sincere, and a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
The key to the answer of disorder James tells us is to seek wisdom from above. This happens when we remain diligent both night and day in the laws of the word of the Lord. Wisdom from above produces character qualities beginning with purity and ending with peace. Did you notice also the similarities of those qualities that are found by one living with the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control, against these there is no law. This is living with wisdom from above by living in The Holy Spirit. I have a coin on my desk that I can hold and look at all the time, it is right by my computer, it has this on it, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Grace Presbyterian , the psalmist gave us insight many years before James words to us, but isn’t it amazing how God connects them together, and he also involves the apostle Paul in his wisdom teaching to us as well. We are indeed blessed thru wisdom from above, let us live our lives scattering more than we are gathering, and always remember we should indeed strive to live everyday gratefully, thankfully, and blessed, and I might also add, contently.