Summary: Pass the tests of life when you revel in your losses, receive Christ into your heart, and take responsibility for your own sin.
Richard S. Halverson, the former U.S. Senate Chaplain, used to challenge people with the following image:
You're going to meet an old man [or woman] someday down the road – ten, thirty, fifty years from now – waiting there for you. You'll be catching up with him [or her]. What kind of old man [or woman] are you going to meet? He [or she] may be a seasoned, soft, gracious person – a gentleman [or a lady] who has grown old gracefully, surrounded by a host of friends, who feel blessed because of their relationship with him [or her]. Or that person may be a bitter, disillusioned, dried-up old buzzard without a good word for anyone – soured, friendless, and alone.
That old man [or woman] will be you. He [or she] will be the composite of everything you do, say, and think – today and tomorrow. His [or her] mind will be in a mold you have made by your beliefs. His [or her] heart will be turning out what you've been putting into it. Every little thought, every deed goes into this old man [or woman]. (Daniel Henderson, The Deeper Life, Bethany House Publishers, 2014, pp 165-166; www.Preaching Today.com)
Tell me. What kind of old man or old woman will you meet in the mirror 10, 30, or 50 years from now? A person who has grown old gracefully? Or a bitter, disillusioned, dried up old buzzard?
If you want to meet that person who has grown old gracefully, I invite you to turn with me to James 1, James 1, where the Bible shows us how to become better, not bitter, through life’s trials. James 1. Now, last week we saw in verses 2 & 3, that you become better when you rejoice in the trials. In verse 4, you become better when you remain through the trials. And in verses 5-8, you become better when you request wisdom from the trials. Now, let’s take a look at verse 9.
James 1:9-11 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. (ESV)
Wealth is only temporary. Like a delicate flower in the scorching heat, any fame or fortune you might enjoy quickly shrivels away.
Take Amy Schumer’s comments about her rising fame in Vulture magazine just a year and a half ago (November 13, 2015). You'd think the actress and comedienne would be enjoying it, but listen to what she said about the downside of her celebrity status: “I'm, like, newly famous, and it turns out it's not fun… I'm just now learning that my dreams have been a sham, and that it's actually not great and it just only comes with pain.” Then she gave this pessimistic outlook about her new-found fame: “We all know it's going to last another three months because that's how it works.” (Adrienne Gaffney, “Amy Schumer: I'm Newly Famous, and It Turns Out It's Not Fun,” Vulture, 11-13-15; www.Preaching Today.com)
Wealth and fame are only temporary, so don’t boast about your wealth. Don’t celebrate your gains. Instead…
REVEL IN YOUR LOSSES.
Boast about your hardship. Celebrate your poverty.
That’s what the Bible says! Look at verse 9 again. “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation” (James 1:9-10). The rich believer should boast about the coming loss of his earthly wealth. And the poor believer should boast about being rich in what really counts.
Greg Lucas, a police officer and Bible teacher, recently wrote a blog about taking his special-needs son, Jake, to the dentist. After a particularly challenging visit, Jake was afraid to take the elevator, so the longsuffering nurse looked at him and asked, “Do you want us to help you take the stairs?” Lucas writes:
“Jake was so overjoyed that he stopped every two or three steps and kissed the nurse right on the cheek – big, sloppy, drunken, bloody kisses.” [Lucas] apologized for the muddled morning this poor lady had to endure, but she just smiled and didn't even wipe her face.
There were about 300 steps between the elevator and the exit doors two flights down. That translated into about one hundred kisses for the nurse, and probably fifty or so apologies from [Lucas]. Lucas says, “As usual, I was so caught up in my own pride, that I didn't see what God was actually accomplishing in the hospital this day.”
Nearly 20 minutes later [they] reached the bottom of the stairway, exited the hospital, and Jake leaned back and gave the nurse one last kiss on the cheek. And [Lucas] gave one final apology. And that's when it happened. The gentle, soft-spoken nurse looked [Lucas] in the eyes and said, “Will you stop apologizing! I needed every one of those kisses today!”