Scriptures: James 1:2-5; 23
The title of my message this morning is “Sometimes.” This message came to me as I was actually meditating on another message in my series on the names of God. Let me give you a little background.
Sometimes things are going extremely well in our lives and sometimes they are not. Sometimes we are very happy and sometimes we are not. Sometimes we find it easy to praise God and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we have peace within our spirits and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we feel financially secure and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we want to be around a group of people and sometimes we wish to be left alone. The word connecting all of these situations is “sometimes.” The message that I have for you this morning is that “sometimes” means that whatever you are dealing with does not have to be “all the time.” The fact that we experience some things “sometimes” means that there are other times in which we are experiencing something else. The problem that we face is that when we are experiencing the negative “sometimes” we can get into a mindset that these negative “sometimes” becomes our “all the time” experiences and even when things are going well we are so tied to those “negative sometimes” that we fail to see the blessings that we are experiencing in the present. This also holds true when we adopt the negative “sometimes” as our always reality and we begin to live through those experiences. All of know people who are so negative that it is hard for them to feel positive about anything. It can be so bad that even when you’re feeling good about something in your life their negativity puts a damper on you. Then there are those times when we are the negative ones and we are the ones that are casting that shadow of negativity as we focus on what is wrong in our lives.
This morning I hope that you walk away with the knowledge that our “sometimes” moments do not have to define us and that we can be defined by the inner core of our being that is so locked on Jesus that our sometimes moments do not move us off center. I want to encourage you to understand and accept the fact that even though you’re experiencing these negative “sometimes” moments it also means that there are times in your life when you’re not experiencing them at all. Sometimes mean just that, “sometimes” which is not “all the time.” What we allow the negative sometimes moments to do in our lives is up to us, but we do have a decision to make. Our negative “sometimes” moments do not have to become so prevalent in our lives that it is all we can see and concentrate on. We can choose to make the tough decision, actively deal with a situation we are facing, and in effect move beyond those negative “sometimes” moments. Turn with me to James 1:2-4.
I. Trials Can Strengthen Us if We Do Not Give Up
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
We think that our negative “sometimes” moments are hard to bear, but think about what James wrote and to whom he wrote it. In the earliest years of the Church, those who chose to accept Christ were faced with unrelenting persecution for their belief. Every single day they were confronted by hostile powers that were coming against them and their sole purpose was to try and influence them to turn their backs on their faith. They faced culture, pagan religion, government, unsaved family and friends all of whom were putting constant pressure on them to forfeit their faith and return to their old ways. The challenges that we are facing today do not compare much to the challenges they faced. We have a government that will allow us to worship however we choose. Although we might have some family and friends who are not saved, they are probably not trying to get us to go back to the way we used to be. I am not making light of the struggles that we are facing, but I just want to put into perspective what James said. When James wrote this, there were Christians who were being taken from their homes, put in jail and then thrown into an arena to be mauled and eaten by hungry lions. There were Christians who were burned alive at the stake for professing Christ. This is what the receivers of this letter from James lived every single day and yet he was telling them to count it all joy when they faced these things because of their relationship with Jesus Christ. He told them that the testing of their faith produced endurance – in other words, these testing would enable them to become stronger.
The “sometimes” moment that the early Christians experienced were much more difficult and severe than ours, but the effect that they had on a person’s mentality could be similar. You see, when we are faced with too many negative “sometimes” moments back to back, Satan takes those moments and begin to build a case against God in our lives. He tells us that God has turned His back on us and that He cares more about someone else than He cares about us. He tries to make us believe that our faith is a sham because when we are “walking in faith before others” he reminds us of what we are really feeling on the inside – anger, pain, fear, disappointment. I am telling you what I know, not what I think. I am telling you what I have experienced personally, not what I have read about in someone else’s “sometimes” moments. Not only do I (and you) have to contend with Satan, I have to contend with myself. You see, some of my negative “sometimes” moments were created by me and I do not need Satan to remind me of them as I do a good job of it myself. Some of my negative “sometimes” moments were because I refused to change as I liked the way I was and saw no need to change me. It took a lot for God to show me who I was and that I was not necessarily the person that I always thought I was as I looked in the mirror. Have you had that experience? Have you always told yourself you were one person only for God to show you a picture of your true self and then ask you are you ready and willing to change? That was me. What James said in verses 23-24 applied to me. He said, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and hone away, he had immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.” God had to remind me several times of who I really was and once this got into my spirit, I had to change. I had to make different decisions. Some of you are at the point of looking in that same mirror and having to make some difficult decisions about changing.
When James wrote this letter to the Early Church, there were Christians who were dying daily because of their belief in Jesus Christ. Our problems (negative sometimes moments) today for the most part are related to relationship, finances, family issues, job issues (or lack thereof), and other problems of a personal nature. We are under an immense amount of pressure to meet a standard in the world while also trying to ensure we are living out our faith. Although no one that we know of are being fed to hungry lions or being burned at the stake, there are pressures that we all face “sometimes” that if we are not careful can begin to take on a more permanent place in our lives. To this end James called out the purpose of endurance (patience).
James said “let endurance (patience) have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The Greek word for patience in this verse is “hupomeno.” It means to “remain in one’s spot; to keep a position; to resolve to maintain some territory that has been gained.” As it relates to this message and what James was telling the early Christians it is a state of mind that says “This is my spot and I’m not moving!!!” When we examine the Greek word hupomeno, one of the ways to express what this word exemplifies is to think of a military battle. The determination inherent within this word can be seen on a battlefield where soldiers were ordered to maintain their positions even in the face of fierce combat. Their orders were to stand their ground and defend what they had gained. To keep that ground, they had to be courageous to do whatever was required, no matter how hard or difficult the assignment. Their goal was to see that they survived every attack and held their position until they had outlived and outlasted the resistance. These soldiers had to indefinitely and defiantly stick it out until the enemy realized they couldn’t be beaten and decided to retreat and go elsewhere. This is what this word is portraying when we are to “let patience have her perfect work, that we may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” This mentality will require us at times to rise up and take a stand. It will require that we call someone out who needs it so that we might be able to continue to walk in our faith. It might require that we distance ourselves from someone who continues in their negative behavior refusing to allow God to operate in their lives. I am not saying that we should turn our backs on those in need who are trying to do better. But we all know of people who are in need and it seems that they are unwilling to do anything to change their circumstances. I am asking you to take a look at what you are dealing with this morning and have a face to face with God. Allow God to show you the truth. Then I pray that you will accept the truth and then do something about it. James wanted this mentality of knowing where they stood in Christ applied to their thoughts about their circumstances so that no matter what they faced they would not turn their backs on the one who had saved them. If we consider the fact that during our negative “sometimes” moments will strengthen us, we can confess that these sometimes moments will pass. We can confess that during these moments we will not allow our faith to be shaken to the point where we begin to doubt what God has done and will continue to do in our lives.
When James wrote to the early Christians, he told them that the testing of their faith would produce endurance. Endurance signifies the ability to withstand or to keep going in spite of. One scholar calls it “staying power” where another translates it as “hang-in-there-power.” Both of these translations adequately express the right idea about the Greek word hupomeno. This is an attitude that never gives up. It holds out, holds on, outlasts and perseveres. The Early Church called patience the “queen of all virtues” for good reason. They knew that as long as they had this character quality working in their lives, it wasn’t a question of if they would win their battles, it was only a question of when they would win their battles. For them, their “sometimes” moments were just that, sometimes. Those moments did not define the core of what they were facing or dealing with internally, as internally they were locked, loaded and focus on Jesus Christ. Are you locked, loaded and focused on Jesus Christ?
Sometimes we experience moments in our lives that define us. For a Christian, hopefully that moment was when you came into the understanding of what it mean to accept Christ as your personal Savior. Sometimes we experience moments in our lives that cause us to question if we really believe what we say we believe or if we are just going through the motions so no one figures us out. Sometimes we experience things in this life that causes us to question if we are truly who we believe ourselves to be. Sometimes we experience things in this life because of the situations that others put us in. Sometimes we experience things in this life because we made the decision to help someone else out of a situation that they were in. Sometimes we experience things in this life that make us question if it is truly worth it to continue to try and live for Christ when it would be a whole lot easier to just walk and live the way the world lives. Sometimes we experience things in this life that make us want to give up on ourselves and those around us. The key word in all of these situations as I stated from the beginning is “sometimes.” Because we experience these things sometimes it means that there are other times when we are not going through them. The question that I want you to consider this morning is what are you doing “sometimes” and what are you doing “all the times?”
We experience bad situations sometimes. We experience the love of God through Jesus Christ all the time. We experience heartache and pain sometimes. We can experience the peace of God through them all the time. We experience financial needs sometimes. We can experience God’s provision all of the time. The sometimes moments that we experience come and go even though they may leave a lasting mark for a while. But through every moment we experience, both good and bad, the one constant in our lives are ourselves and Christ, if we have accepted Him. We know that through Christ we can walk in the security that God has provided for us IF we get out of our own way. You see, in some of our situations, we are the problem. We are the one that hindering God from operating in our lives because we refuse to line up with Him. We like being who we are and doing things our way. We like thinking that no one else knows us like we know ourselves. We like thinking that as long as I can depend on someone else I do not have to look in the mirror at myself.
I told you that I looked in the mirror one day and I did not like what I saw. I had a vision of who I wanted to be and who I thought I was, but God showed me the truth. I looked at others and felt that I was not as bad as them but God showed me I was worse because of the knowledge that He has given me that I was not implementing. He showed me that because I understood His word in some key areas of my life and I chose to ignore the truth I was worse than the person who did not understand clearly and were making the wrong decision. I was the man James spoke about that when he looked away from the mirror forgot what kind of man he really was. When God made me stand there and look at myself, I did not like what I saw in the mirror and I had to make a choice. I could forget my past and walk in my future or I could try and walk in my future by dragging my past behind me as a shackled weight. I could be free to move with Him or I could remain in bondage to my own thoughts, desires and decisions. I could move beyond my sometimes moments or I could remain in them until I died and went to heaven. Living negatively is not about going to heaven or hell, it’s about living in a hell of our making right here on earth. When you get tired of living in hell, you can make a choice. When you get tired of living with hell, you can make a choice. When you get tired of designing your hell and telling others to deal with it, you have a choice.
In the fifth verse of this same chapter, James says “But if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5) If you want wisdom in how to handle your negative sometimes moments, ask God. If you want wisdom as to how to get out of a negative routine so that you can move beyond your past, ask God. If you want the truth about what you’re doing and you’re ready to make a change, ask God. When you ask God be ready for the answer because He will tell you. I would ask God for wisdom, but I wanted it to compliment something I was already thinking or desiring to do. God does not operate like that. So you can stay in your hell or you can come out of it – the choice is yours. I chose to get out of my hell. Now when I have my negative sometimes moment, I know that they are just that, sometimes moments that will pass. All of us can be free to walk with God in peace. We can make the decision. This morning I want to ask you, what will be your sometimes moments. Today, right now this instant, is the first sometimes moment of the rest of your life. What decisions will you make moving forward? What negative sometimes past moment will you choose to leave in the past as you move forward? Today is the day to make that decision. If your decision impacts others, today is the day to tell them that you must move on. They can celebrate your walk with God or move out of the way. They can join you, or step aside. That decision is theirs to make as your decision is yours.
When you choose God over everything and everyone else, He will make sure that your decision is not voided out by circumstances. What decision will you make this morning to impact your sometimes moments? May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shin on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace. May you remember these words in your negative “sometimes” moments.