The Main Thing: James 1:16-18
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
There is a very real temptation when you look at this passage by itself to take it out of context. We must remember that the verses and paragraphs of Scripture are not isolated islands of information; they are part of a train of thought from both the human and divine author. So, we must take the time and do the heavy lifting to figure out what the Creator of the universe is trying to convey to us.
Remember that we are still in the extended introduction of James’s letter; he is still talking about rejoicing in trials as God uses them to make us more like Jesus. In the last paragraph James was vindicating God by saying that He is not intending to bring situations in our lives that result in sin. God wants His children to be complete and perfect. In light of that knowledge, we can have confidence in our lives because our heavenly Father is in control, and He is constantly giving us good and perfect gifts directed toward our perfection. These are both perfect gifts and perfecting gifts. There is not a circumstance that arrives in our lives that God is not in control over, and our obedience requires us to submit to the Lord in these circumstances, so that we will grow in steadfastness and Christlikeness.
On top of that, James wants us to know that we can trust God completely. Let’s put ourselves in the first century context for a minute, then we can fully understand the picture he is painting for us. He calls God, “the Father of lights”. What in the world is he talking about? God is the maker of the stars; think about it. For us the stars are just really pretty lights in the sky with no other purpose than to look at and try to find the Big Dipper, but in ancient times they were so much more important. The stars were their map and guide – their GPS navigation system. They were always there, they were consistent and reliable. The stars were totally trustworthy and you could set your course by them in navigating through the world. You could follow them and know where you were supposed to go. See what James is doing? God made them. If you can set course and direction from the stars how much more can you set the course of your life on the will of our Heavenly Father, the Maker of the stars?
But it goes even deeper and more personable than that. God is our Father. “Of His own will he has brought us forth by His Word.” He is using the same “giving birth” word picture from the last paragraph, only this time in a positive sense. We have already seen that desires give birth to sin and sin gives birth to death. Now James is telling us that God has become our Father through His Word. We are His creation, his children, born again so that we will be like Him.
This should cause our perspective change. We are not at the mercy of our circumstances; rather our circumstances are at the mercy of our Creator. We need to see our trials and tests as gifts from God geared to our perfection. Our lives are in control of the One who is in control. We need to see the opportunity for growth in each one of the situations that we face in our lives today, and submit to our Creator as we follow Him throughout the course of our lives.
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