Focus intently upon the Word, in order to be changed.
So often we get stuck in the rut of our human selfish nature. We sometimes tend to hear only a portion and miss the full story, or we do not take the time to fully comprehend. Sometimes we feel as though we are being treated unfairly by others who are behaving selfishly, and we find ourselves becoming upset or frustrated. Our thoughts begin working, and our emotions take over. Before we know it, we are acting in ways we should not be acting and are saying things we should not be saying. We forget or don’t consider that once an action is done or a word is spoken, it cannot be taken back. Although apologies can be made and forgiveness can occur, the lasting effects of the damage are done and cannot be removed from people’s minds.
Our focus this week deals with the way we interact with others in tense situations. As you read and journal, allow God to guide and direct your thoughts and ask Him to reveal to you areas in which you need to change in order to be more like Him. Allow God to show you how He sees you instead of how you see yourself.
Why do I act and react the way I do?
Sunday: Read James 1:19-27 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
Today, read this passage two or three times and meditate on the entire passage. Allow God’s Word to penetrate your heart. Pray and ask God to begin revealing areas of weakness that He wants you to face and change. In your journal today, write out the areas that God has brought to your attention. This revealing may take all day or even all week. Be patient and trust that God is doing a work within you, but it may be similar to eating an elephant—one small bite at a time. If God has brought or throughout the week brings more than one area to your mind regarding the scripture passage, ask Him to show you which one He wants you to deal with first. In your journal underline or highlight the one area He has revealed that has top priority at the moment.
Monday: Focus on James 1:19-20 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Today’s focus is on the quick tempers that often take control of our actions and words. According to the scripture, we are to be quick to hear regarding the needs of others, slow to speak our thoughts and opinions, and definitely slow to anger regardless of the situation.
Do you ever get down right mad over a situation or an action of another person? (Be honest—this is between you and God, and He already knows the answer). Why do you get so upset? Is it because you are not getting “your way”? Is it because you feel you are receiving injustice? Is it stemmed from a sense of pride? Take a few minutes and write out the answers to each of these in your journal.
Now, think of one situation that comes to your mind in which you behaved in an inappropriate manner. Make a note of that situation in your journal and let’s begin processing it. The latter part of verse 20 tells us “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” In the situation you noted in your journal, were you demonstrating the righteousness of God? I assume we both agree the answer is, “No.” Right now pray and ask God to forgive you for allowing that kind of attitude to creep into your mind and pop out through your actions and words. Ask Him to give you the ability to submit your mind and thoughts to Him, so that this characteristic can be removed and replaced with God’s way of listening, staying silent and gaining a deep understanding, being filled with compassion, patience, and grace instead.
We need to be able to act, react, and speak in ways that others can see the righteousness of God in us in all situations. We will be more effective in reaching and drawing others to Him, if we appear different from the world and demonstrate a loving, sweet spirit that only comes from God and radiates His grace and compassion. One last question for you to address in your journal—Is God possibly allowing you to endure a situation so others can see His glory and greatness? Don’t get hung up on your own selfishness and miss how God is desiring to use you in the lives of others.
Tuesday: Focus on James 1:21 “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Maybe you only deal with anger and becoming upset with others once in a blue moon. If that is the case, don’t relax and begin to feel you are completely in the clear. Today our focus is all other filthiness and rampant wickedness we have in our lives. Specifics are not listed in this particular passage, but you, as well as I, know that any characteristic we have within us that is not of God is filthy, wicked sin and must be removed. Pour out your heart to God today begging Him to reveal to you the characteristics that you may have within you that is hindering your relationship with Him as well as hindering your effective usefulness to glorifying Him and enhancing His Kingdom. You may still be struggling with yesterday’s devotion point of anger and quick temper or you may have another characteristic God has brought to your attention. Write that in your journal and begin praying that God will enable you to completely surrender that characteristic to Him and allow Him to remove it from your being. Then, pray asking God to implant His Word within your heart so that when tempted to revert back to that old characteristic, you will be able to submit it to His will immediately.
I must admit, it is very difficult to behave in a Godly manner at all times as none of us are perfect. However, we are able to behave in Godlike manners if we have His Word in our hearts daily and submit ourselves to Him at the very beginning of our day. If we wait, events will occur that will set us up for a major fall, and we will end up doing more harm than good for the Kingdom of God. It is far easier to ask for God’s enabling power to handle the events of our day at the onset of the day than it is to seek His help after we are smack dab in the middle of the event that is leading us astray. Write a statement of commitment in your journal stating that you will submit your day to God each morning upon awakening, and you will allow Him to implant His Word in your heart. Once that commitment statement is written in your journal, highlight it, so you can quickly be reminded of your commitment as you thumb through your journal from time to time.
Wednesday: Focus on James 1:22-25 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
Yesterday, we touched on putting God’s Word in our hearts and minds first thing in the morning each day to help guide us through occurrences that pop up during the day. Today, we are going to focus more intently on the importance of applying God’s Word daily. Today we see in the scripture that we are to not only listen to (or merely routinely read) God’s Word, but we are to do what it says. God’s Word is a clear indication of how we are to be living on a daily basis. It is not enough to just read the Word daily, but in order for us to become more like Christ, which is our goal as a Christian, we should apply the principles and characteristics that are discussed in the scripture. How can we understand the specifics of the instructions if we flippantly read God’s Word and move on about the rest of our day? We absolutely cannot comprehend and understand what He is instructing us to do unless we spend time focusing and pondering the words we read.
The metaphorical analogy used in the scripture is that of a person who quickly looks at himself in the mirror and goes about his day, getting busy and forgetting what he saw in the mirror. That illustration is there to help us to understand the significance of intently looking at the scripture, which is the perfect law according to God, and contemplating what is being read as well as interpreting how it is to be applied to our life each day. We do this through prayer as we read and listen for God to provide understanding and direction. We should also ponder on the Word throughout the entire day. With God’s Word in our hearts and minds as we go through our day, it will help us when we find ourselves in sticky situations or moments of temptations.
In your journal today write your normal procedure for reading God’s Word. Evaluate that procedure. Do you spend enough time pondering on the Word? Do you pray and ask God to help you to understand how that Word applies to you today? Do you sit still long enough to hear from God as to how you are to apply the Word? Do you ponder on that Word all day, and use it when it is necessary? Do you ever find yourself lacking spiritually in your daily events?
Now, write a prayer asking God to help you develop a better devotion time with Him that will last throughout the whole day rather than just the few minutes you spend reading His Word.
Thursday: Focus on James 1:26 “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.” Today our focus is only one yet very strong passage. Today we focus on the tongue and the damage that it can do. Sometimes our tongue is the hardest obstacle we have to control. This passage tells us clearly that our religion is worthless if we cannot control our tongue. Sometimes we say things without thinking, and we don’t really intend to be harmful, yet others who hear those words become offended and even hurt as a result. If we apply this scripture, we will learn how to control our tongues regardless of the situations and how we feel about what is happening. In order to control our tongue, we must apply the procedure we discussed yesterday and allow God to be our guide all day each day.
Have you ever said something in the heat of the moment and later wished you had not said it? Maybe it wasn’t exactly what you said as much it was how you said it. After saying it, did you have peace and joy in your heart? Usually, we have guilty and uneasy feelings if we say malicious and hurtful words to others after the moment of anger or frustration passes. Today’s Word indicates the need to hold our tongue and walk away, rather than lashing out at someone in a bit of anger and rage. In reality, we are to demonstrate the spirit and presence of God and provide words of uplifting encouragement to others. Our words should draw people to the nature of God rather than tear someone down. One question you can ask yourself before you speak is this: “Will my words help this person to become closer in their relationship with God, or will my words be offensive and drive them further from God? If the second question seems to be the direction you believe will be the response in a given situation, then it is best to hold your tongue.
There are times when we must approach another person regarding negativity. However, the way we approach them and how we say the the words make a big difference in how we will affect that person. If we must deal with a negative situation with another person, we should saturate the situation and the words we use in prayer and ask God to intervene in that person’s heart and provide us with a clear direction of exactly when we should approach that person, what we should say to that person, and how we should say it. I promise, if we will seek God’s method and timing, He will provide a way to handle the situation and bring much better results than we can on our own. In fact, we tend to make the situation even worse when we speak from our own hearts and minds.
In your journal today write a prayer asking God to help you control your tongue. If you struggle with keeping your mouth shut in certain situations, express those feelings in your journal and ask God to give you the ability to restrain when you are tempted to retaliate. Keep in mind that the more you practice guarding your tongue, the better you will get at doing so.
Friday: Focus on James 1:26 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Yesterday, we noticed that a person who cannot control his tongue has a worthless religion. Today, we want to look at the kind of religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless. That is the kind of religion that dwells on looking after the needs of the orphans and widows when they are in distress as well as keeping ourselves from being polluted by the ways of the world. We will break this into two parts and deal with part one today and part two tomorrow.
The first part deals with how we care for others. We should put the needs of others before our needs. This will require us to do away with our selfishness and think of others more highly than ourselves. This is NOT an easy task for us to do. It is hard to put aside our desires when others have a need. We are accustomed in our society to take care of self and look out for self first. That is not the way God instructs us to live. In fact, it is just the opposite. In your journal today make two lists: 1. Times you have put others first before your own selfish desires. 2. Times you have put yourself first and ignored the needs of others. Now, ask God to help you to grow stronger in the area of putting the needs of others above your selfish desires.
Saturday: Focus on James 1:26 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Yesterday, we focused on the first part of what God considers a pure and faultless religion. That was the act of putting the needs of others before our own selfish desires. Today, we will focus on the second part of the kind of religion that pleases God. The second part is keeping ourselves from becoming polluted with the ways of the world.
This is difficult sometimes to do because the ways of the world has such a significant impact on our lives. We get in the habit of comparing ourselves to others as opposed to comparing our actions to the person of Christ, and that causes us to develop a distorted way of seeing ourselves and our actions. We begin to see some things as okay and not that bad although God sees them as completely inappropriate behaviours for a child of His.
Another aspect we must consider when weighing out the options of behaviours is the impact our actions will have on others. Yes, there are times when things we do will not really harm us or our relationship with God, but if others see us involved in such activities, what kind of effect will it have on their view of a true Godly relationship? In other words, will our action draw others to a pure and strong desire to have a relationship with Christ, or will they see that our action is similar to that of the world and to think why should they bother to change and come to the Lord if the God’s actions are the same as the those of the world. Another question to ask ourselves when contemplating the appropriateness of an action is “Will this action be a definite and pure testimony and witness for God, or will it hinder God’s work of drawing a person to Him?” If the action will not be an effective witnessing tool, the idea of the action should be aborted.
In your journal today list some actions that you believe God is showing that are questionable from His perspective. Under the list answer this question: Do I spend time processing and comparing all my actions to the image of Christ and the perspective of God? If the answer is No, think of one particular action that God seems to be pressing upon your mind that He desires you to remove from your life. Write that action in your journal and begin praying for God to give you the ability to do just that.
Remember, this is more about our witness and our representation of Christ to others than it is about our selfish desires.
Blessings to you!