Wednesday after Invocabit + James 1:2-15 + March 8, 2017

Psalm 32
Antiphon: BE GLAD || in the Lord and rejoice, you | right- | eous; *
And shout for joy, all you up- | right | in | heart!

|| 1 Blessèd is he whose transgression is for- | giv- | en, *
Whose sin | is | co- | vered.
|| 2 Blessèd is the man to whom the Lord does not impute in- | i-qui- ∙ | ty, *
And in whose spirit there is | no | de- | ceit.
|| 3 When I kept | si- | lent, *
my bones grew old through my groaning all | the | day | long.
|| 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy up- | on | me; *
My vitality was turned into the drought | of | sum- | mer.
|| 5 I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not | hid- | den. *
I said, ―I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,‖ and You forgave the iniquity | of | my | sin.
|| 6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You in a time when You may be | found; | - *
Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not | come | near | him.
|| 7 You are my hiding place; (+) You shall preserve me from | trou- | ble; *
You shall surround me with songs of de- | liv- | er- | ance.
|| 8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should | go; | - *
I will guide you | with | My | eye.
|| 9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no under- | stand- | ing, *
Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not | come | near | you. || 10 Many sorrows shall be to the | wick- | ed; *
But he who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall | sur- | round | him.
|| 11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you | right- | eous; *
And shout for joy, all you up- | right | in | heart!

GLO- RY || be to the Father, and to the | Son: | - *
and to the | Ho- | ly | Ghost;
AS IT || was in the begin -ning, (+) is now, and ever | shall | be: *
world without | end. | A- | men.

Collect 1
O Lord, mercifully hear our prayer and stretch forth the right hand of Thy majesty to defend us from them that rise up against us; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

Collect 2
We beseech Thee, O Lord, by the mystery of our Savior’s fasting and temptation, to endow us with the same mind that was in Him toward all evil and sin; and give us grace to keep our bodies in such holy discipline that our minds may always be ready to resist Satan and obey the promptings of Thy Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
James 1:2-15
Luke 22:24-32 

Grace and Peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         St. James tell us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” This has to be revealed to us by the Word, because we, by nature, run from all kinds of trials and think them a terrible hardship. When hardships come upon us, when we are afflicted in body our soul, or when we face any kind of suffering, we are to rejoice when it happens. We are not commanded to seek our suffering. Nor are we to think suffering under the cross merits us anything in God’s sight. We joyfully bear our cross, whatever it may be, because it is from God. James tells us that we are to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” By sending trial, suffering, and affliction to you, God your heavenly Father is testing your faith. He is giving you an opportunity to exercise your faith in His goodness and promises. This is why the apostle writes that we are to bear up under afflictions joyfully, because we know the affliction is from God not for our harm, but for our good. We never see it that way in the middle of a hardship. Our flesh, wanting to run from the cross, assumes that God has sent it to us to harm us, to avenge our sins, or even to kill us. But this is not the case. God sends it to produce patience and endurance, so that you exercise your faith and bear up under your affliction, trusting that the Lord who has sent it knows best how to remove it in His own good time according to His own gracious wisdom. James shows us the goal of such trials from God in verse 4. “Let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

2)         None of us are up to this task of bearing up under suffering and cross. The flesh hates suffering and always assumes it is a thing of wrath and punishment. The patience we need to bear up under our crosses can only come from God Himself. In every affliction and trial God wants us to joyfully pray to Him for an increase of faith and a strengthening of our confidence in His promises. James writes, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” The wisdom you need in order to bear up patiently under your affliction is faith. It is a holy wisdom which sees beyond the external circumstances to see God’s gracious hand in the trial. Human wisdom faces trial and says, “This is a terrible suffering. How can I get out of this as quickly as possible?” Divine Wisdom encounters suffering and affliction and says, “This affliction is from the Lord and He wants to exercise me through it. I cannot remove it on my own or by my own plans or striving. I must rely upon Him to remove it, for He knows how to remove it so that it is beneficial for me.” This is foreign to human reason, which hates affliction and flees it. Faith in Christ bears trial patiently. Faith is Christ is wise in that is knows that the trial is ultimately for our good, even it if kills us, because then Christ has used that affliction to bring us to our heavenly home. The key in affliction is faith. And when your faith falters, James says to ask God for wisdom. He gives liberally to His baptized children.

3)         This is key, that we ask God our Father for the wisdom to see our afflictions as He means for them to be seen, and that we are wise to see past the earthly circumstances and rejoice that God is exercising our faith to drive us to prayer and the Word. In that moment it is imperative that we pray and not doubt. James says that God “gives liberally.” Consider the words of your Savior in Luke 11:11-13. “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” You are a child of the heavenly Father through Holy Baptism. He has promised to give you every good thing. To show you this He has even given you His Only-Begotten Son as your substitute under all of His wrath for sin upon the cross. This is why we can ask for wisdom, patience, and faith without a shred of doubt. James goes on: “Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” When you pray for wisdom, you approach your heavenly Father. The one who is exercising your faith by affliction He has send is the same one who promises to liberally and lavishly give you His holy Spirit so that you may not doubt and grow faint-hearted, but that you may rejoice that God your Father has drawn you closer to Him through cross and trial. Blessed are you, the Apostle writes, when you endure trials; “for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

4)         There is another kind of trial, though, of which the Apostle speaks, one that does not come from God but comes from elsewhere. This is the temptation to sin. This is called a trial because in Greek the word for testing and temptation are the same. The difference is the source and purpose. James writes, “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.” God tests with affliction, cross, and hardship to exercise faith. But the Lord God never tempts you to sin. David says, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost in Psalm 5:4, “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with you.” God cannot lead us into temptation because that would make God the author of evil, which would mean we cannot firmly believe that God will be merciful and gracious to us in every situation. If God is the author of evil and tempts men with false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice, then we become uncertain about His will for us because in the moment of temptation, if God is the one doing the tempting, then we cannot be certain that He will provide a way of escape from the temptation. God tempts no one to sin, for it is contrary to His holy character and would make Him untrustworthy and His Word unreliable.

5)         God tempts no one. On Sunday we heard that Christ Himself was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. Satan wanted to lead Christ to sin, to disbelieve the Word of His heavenly Father in His baptism. He wanted Christ to believe that the heavenly Father would not take care of Him. He tempted Christ to violate the First Commandment, not only in the temptation to bow down and worship the devil, but in the first temptation to turn stones into bread. Christ’s temptations are our temptations to sin as well. The Devil wants us to believe that God our Father is treating us poorly and that He won’t take care of us, that He won’t give us everything we need, and that He doesn’t give us only good things. So in the moment of trial and affliction, of are from God as an exercise of faith, the devil comes along and tempts us to look upon God as a stingy Father who is withholding blessings from us. Satan wants us to believe that we have to provide our own good things and thus he tempts us to be our own god, because a God is that to which we look for every good thing. He tempts us as He did Christ, to put God to the test, to make God prove His promises to us as if they were not true, or as if God had no intention on being faithful to them. In all his temptations to sin, Satan really has only one temptation for us: forsake God your heavenly Father and His promises and believe that you have to provide and care for yourself in all things. But as Christ taught us, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

6)         There is also our own flesh which tempts us to sin. James writes, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” Besides the devil, we have to content with our very flesh which entices us to sin. The flesh is by nature greedy for more wealth and discontent with what God gives. The flesh lusts for fleshly pleasures of the body, not content with what God has given us in the bounds of marriage. The flesh entices us into hatred of our neighbor, jealousy towards other’s lives and circumstances and discontent with our lot in life, as well as all sorts of other sins against God’s commandments. It is important to remember that we must watch against our own flesh, which is just as active in desiring sin as the devil.

7)         The answer that the Scriptures give us to stand in the hour of temptation to sin is the same as God gives us for the hour of affliction and cross sent from God. We are not to look upon temptation to sin as something from God, as we do with affliction and suffering, but we are to look to Christ’s promises for strengthened faith and the Holy Spirit. Divine Wisdom, that for which James says we ought to pray, causes us to see our temptations for what they are so that we, in the moment when desire begins within us, are able to apply the Word of God to it and extinguish it, lest it conceive and give birth sin in our life. In this, God is faithful. He has promised to give us what we need in the hour of testing and the hour of temptation: and that is faith in Christ’s promises given to us in the means of grace. St. Paul writes , “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Your way of escape is faith in Christ’s Word to you, not so that the temptation will go away and never return, not to make you immune to ever being tempted again, but to make you “be able to bear it.” Go in peace with the promises of God on your lips and tucked away in your hearts. In the moment of affliction, rejoice that your Father exercises you and strengthens your faith. In the moment of temptation, cling to His promises as your only way of escape. Finally, rejoice that God tempts no one but that He gives you everything you need to patiently overcome, so that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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