Responsive Reading: James 1:9-20
Key Verse(s): James 1:13-14
Background Scripture: Gen. 2:8-3:1-6
I want you to know today that you are in control of your life and not anybody else. All of us have the power and authority to choose to live for the better. So, in today’s sermon, I want to encourage you, again, to live for the better by taking control over your life so that you can prosper as the Lord has always desired for all of us to do.
Our Power to Prosper
So, I feel my message this week is two pronged in that we need to have an understanding of our power, and at the same time, we need to understand that prosperity is according to the Lord.
God given authority over the world
God has given all of us the same power to be able to live for the better. Of the Lord’s desire for us to live for the better, James wrote that God brought us forth by the word of truth so that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (Jas. 1:18).
Again, let’s reference Genesis 1:26, where we see the Godhead say, “let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” In His image and likeness, we know that we were created holy and righteous – perfect. Now, we may not be perfect today but the Lord has made it possible that all of us can become holy and righteous.
When we think of God, the first thing we think of is that He is all powerful – He is sovereign and has authority over all. The Lord does not answer to anybody as He moves as He desires and according to His own while. Now, many of us may question the way that God moves but there is nothing that we can do about; we cannot make God do anything or correct what God has done.
As Elihu said to Job, “God is exalted by His power; who teaches like Him? Who has assigned Him His way, or who has said, ‘You have done wrong’ [to the Lord]? (Job 36:22-23)” Again, people try to tell God what He ought to do but when God moves, there is nobody that can challenge His power and authority.
Do you realize that you were created with given power and authority? Again, remember that you were created in the image and likeness of God so yes, power and authority is in your nature. We see In Genesis 1:26,28 that the Lord gave mankind this world to have dominion over. God stated in these two verses, “let them (mankind) have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth … Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.”
Dominion: authority; absolute ownership (control). Subdue: to conquer; to bring under control.
God given authority over ourselves
Now, some will view our dominion over the world as great authority, to which it is, but God has given us authority that far exceeds having dominion over the world. You see, when God created us in His image and in His likeness, He created us to have free will. I tell you that there is no greater power that one can have than the power to be able to make their own choices!
As early as Adam and Eve in the garden, before mankind’s fall, we see that man had the power to choose to either live for the better or not (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:1-6). It is true that after Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that the Godhead spoke to how mankind had become like Him in knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:22). However, free will was something that they always had!
God gave Adam and Eve the power of free will to choose between obedience or disobedience when He explicitly told them not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For a period of time, Adam and Eve chose to be obedient by not eating from the tree. So, when they both ate from the tree, we should understand they did it by their own choice; they deliberately chose to disobey the Lord.
Some will ask or say, ‘what about Satan, preacher?’ Adam and Eve had authority over their actions and they chose; the devil did not force them to do anything.
Own up to our power
You and I, we have authority over our thoughts, feelings, and our actions and that is what we must understand. Yes, our power and authority is always going to be under attack. Satan, our great enemy, is always going to challenge the authority we have over our own actions, just as he did in the garden.
But at the same time, I am not going to let Satan rob you or me of the power that the Lord has given to us! You see, we must own up to and take responsibility for the actions that we choose to take in our lives. We must also take responsibility for when we choose to heed wise counsel or not — there are no excuses.
So, yes, while Satan is our great enemy, if we were to look in a mirror, our greatest enemy will look back at us — we can be our own worst enemy. So, we must understand the power and the authority that we have over our lives. You must come to understand that you are in control of your life and ultimately, you are in control of whether or not you live for the better.
You Are In Control
Like I said in my sermon last week – Turn It Over to Jesus – we choose how we live in this world – we have that power. We choose whether we think positively or negatively. We choose whether we will be happy, sad, or upset. As Paul said to the Romans, as much as it depends on us, we all have the power to choose whether or not we will live peaceably with all of those around us (Rom. 12:18).
To live for the better
As the Lord did for Adam and Eve, He has done the same for us if we truly desire to live for the better. What has God done for us? God has given us His instructions and these instructions advise us for how we ought to live.
The first thing the Lord advised us to do, in order to live for the better, is to have faith in Him (Mark 11:22-23). So, God should be our hope and we should be dependent on Him in all things, rather than depend on any other or even ourselves. Jesus told us that whatever we ask in His name, He will do so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13). As James said, our faith should never doubt the Lord as God is always going to lead us to our blessing (Jas. 1:5-8).
The second thing the Lord advised us to do is to eat the bread which came down from heaven and gave His life to the world (John 6:33-51). In John’s gospel, we read about how Jesus called for the Jews to consume Him, the bread which came down from heaven. As I said in my first sermon of this year – Choosing God Over Everything, if we truly desire to live for the better, then we ought to consume and digest the Word of God.
When you and I heed this wise counsel and consume the Word, the Word becomes a part of our being; we would live for the better in every state – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In other words, when we digest Christ, we are making the choice to live a much healthier life. However, when you choose to consume and digest the word of the world – sin – you are choosing to live in poor health physically, mentally, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually.
Prosperity in the Lord
Now, ask yourself this question: why did the Lord share this wise counsel with us? The Lord shared this wise counsel with us so that we can prosper. If you think about this for a moment, when God initially created mankind, He created us to be fruitful and multiply. God created man to prosper. To prosper means to grow and to thrive; to increase and to make gain.
By worldly thinking, when we think of prosperity, our mind instantly begins to think about wealth and adding on to our wealth. However, looking back to when God created mankind, I would point out that worldly gains were not in mind for mankind. Think about it, Adam and Eve were placed in the garden not for monetary or worldly gains as they did not need to grind or hustle for anything; God attended to their every need.
The Lord will supply your every need today if you choose Him over everything. When God says that His thoughts towards us are of peace, a future, and a hope, He’s not dreaming of giving us great wealth in the world. I want you to understand clearly today that the Lord wants you to prosper but His focus is not on earthly treasures. The reality of the matter is that Jesus said we should be storing up our treasures in heaven and not in this world where treasure can and will be destroyed (Matt. 6:19-20).
So, when we talk about prosperity, spiritually, prosperity is about growing and improving as a person. Prosperity, you should understand, is about you being the best person you possibly can be and continuing to grow. Our growth, our prosperity, leads to us bearing good fruit. When you and I prosper, it can lead to the growth and prospering of all of those around us.
So my overall thought for this series of sermons boils down to whether or not you will choose to live for the better. Frankly, I would tell you that this choice is an easy choice to make, especially if you love yourself. Do you love yourself enough to choose to live for the better.
Not saying be selfish or egotistical
Now, when I call for us to love ourselves, there are a few things that I want us to understand. For one thing, I am not speaking about only loving our outward appearance but choosing to love ourselves completely in all four states of our being – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
So, let me ask, do you love the way in which you operate? Do you love the way you think? Do you love the way you feel? Do you love who you are?
Some believe themselves to be perfect and without flaws. Love of this nature is extraordinarily dangerous for a couple of reasons. The first reason being that love of this nature is blind and ignorant – it blatantly chooses to ignore that all of us are flawed. As I have said before, the perfect person will never grow and never improve; they cannot live for the better.
Secondly, love of this nature is what caused Satan to sin and rebel against the Lord. You see, this type of self-love is filled with pride, ego, and overt selfishness. So, we must be wary of this kind of self-love that gets to the extent of one believing themselves to be perfect and driven by pride because it leads to wickedness.
Now, if we truly love ourselves, then we will learn to hold ourselves accountable for who we are; we will recognize our flaws and then we will do our best to move in a manner that is healthy for us. This is what we see James touch on here in his letter.
Do not be enticed
The first chapter of James’ letter jumps out to me as a chapter that focuses on one’s journey; he speaks to how life is filled with trials and temptations and what we need to do in order to endure those trials and temptations.
James writes, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved (judged by Christ), he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (Jas. 1:12).” We need to touch on temptation for a moment because temptation often challenges our power and authority – our control.
Temptation is defined as the act of enticing evil. Temptation, for all of us today, is the same as it was for mankind in the garden: to eat from the forbidden tree or not. As the children of God, we should know better than eating from the forbidden tree as God has instructed us to not be disobedient.
To not speak figuratively, the world, I would have you understand, is the forbidden tree that we should not eat from. The fruit of the world (its ways) stands in total opposition against the Lord. Yet, many of us are enticed and pulled in by the world and its beauty – its treasures. In fact, it seems many of us take God’s instructions to not eat of the world as an invitation to actually go and do it! It is like when mom said you could not have a cookie before dinner but you could not help but to want that cookie even more!
We cannot let temptation rule over us; we cannot be obedient to temptation! Again, James said that the one who endures temptation will receive the crown of life, or as Paul called it, the imperishable crown. The crown of life is a reward given to those who did not let go of their control because of temptation, but held on to it and lived for the better!
Get in peak condition
If you do not want temptation to rule over you but want to live for the better and receive your crown, Paul wrote to the Corinthians in his first letter that one must learn to be disciplined (1 Cor. 9:24-25). In other words, when it comes to temptation and the enticing of the world, Paul called for you to remember that you have the power and that you are in control!
In this familiar passage of scripture to the Corinthians, Paul spoke to how the believer should be like a disciplined and trained athlete. Paul spoke to how the trained runner is temperate (disciplined) in, not just a few things, but in all things. Rather than eating unhealthy, the trained athlete disciplines themselves on eating healthy so that they can be in peak condition. Rather than being lazy and lounging around all day, the trained athlete is disciplined and exercises so that they can, again, be in peak health.
I think about us believers and I begin to wonder how many of us are in peak condition today or, how many of us have become dull of hearing. How many of you are adding on to your faith by diligently studying? Again, you are in control in doing this as nobody is holding you back. Who holds you back from being diligent in your studies? You!
How many of you are adding on to your faith by strengthening your fellowship with the Lord through prayer? Again, you are in control in your prayer life as nobody is stopping you from praying and being in fellowship with the Lord. The only one that can keep you from praying is you.
How many of you are adding to your faith by heeding God’s rebuke and making proper corrections in your life? Again, you are in control in doing this as nobody is plugging up the ears of your heart from heeding the voice of God.
So, we should learn to be disciplined so that we can continue to prosper and live for the better. An untrained athlete is an athlete that will never win a prize. Likewise, one who chooses not to prosper, spiritually, and live for the better can never prosper live for the better, spiritually.
Be accountable for yourself
Some of us choose to blame the Lord for how we live in this world. In other words, when we feel that we are not prospering, we feel that God is at fault.
James wrote, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He himself tempt anyone.” Do we really believe that the Lord does not want us to prosper? Does God not want us to be fruitful as He wished for us?
Why would the Lord ever want us to fail when He has given us His instructions, advice, in order for us to prosper? Rather than blaming the Lord for our failure to live for the better, we must finally take a look at the real villain and hold him or her accountable. The real villain is ourselves.
As it says in my key verse for today, when keeps us from truly prospering is when we give away our power by being enticed and drawn away by our lusts. You are in control and you have the power to overcome temptation. Temptation, James said, gives birth to sin which will bring forth death, spiritually. Yet, again, I tell you that you even have power over this as well! We overcome temptation, sin, and death, spiritually, when we hold fast and remain disciplined in our faith.
I encourage you today, for the rest of the year, and for the rest of your life to choose to be disciplined in your faith in the Lord if you truly desire to live for the better — you are in control! Your discipline, your faith in God, will be rewarded and you will prosper and you will live for the better!