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Living the Good Life, Part One

Diana Hagee

God declares in His Word that His children should experience a full and satisfying life. Psalm 91 ends with this promise, “with a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation, and Jesus affirmed, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Yes, God our Father wants us to live the good life!

So, what is the Good Life and who can have it? The Good Life is one that is filled with hope, joy, and peace. It is available to all who want it. It does not depend on who we are, where we live, what we do, or what we have. It rests solely on our relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who sacrificed the life of His only Son so we could be redeemed from sin and death.

In order to qualify for the Good Life we must first confess our sins to the Lord, acknowledge Christ as our Savior, and invite God into our hearts. He, in turn, promises to deliver us from the darkness of iniquity and accept us as His own (John 1:12-13). As the Spirit of God abides within our hearts—we are able to adopt His nature and inherit eternal life—this is not only unending life in heaven—it is life in the here and now—it is a life far greater than mere existence—it is the Good Life!

OUR RICH LEGACY
Christians take for granted that we walk in the shadow of spiritual giants like Abraham, Daniel, Moses, Joshua, the Prophets, the Apostles, Paul, and even the early church fathers like James, the brother of Jesus. One thing that we have in common with all of them is that we are all mortals chosen by God to do His will. Yes, you and I have been chosen by our Father in heaven to accomplish His divine destiny!

One way we accomplish God’s divine plan for our lives it to immerse ourselves in the testimonies of these giants which are found in God’s divine Word. The Word is the source of life! In it we find guidance, peace, and comfort. Today I write about one such source of wisdom—the Book of James.

The Book of James is the earliest of the New Testament writings. It is one of the 21 epistles or letters recorded in Scripture. James presents its readers more practical application for every day than policy. It contains no reference to the events in Jesus’ life, but bears more similarity to the words of Jesus than any other in Scripture.

Many of the principles and promises we quote as believers come from one of the shortest epistles recorded in Scripture. My mother-in-law, Vada Hagee, loved the Book of James so much that she memorized every verse. Although James wrote his letter over 2,000 years ago, if it were delivered to our homes today, it would be as practical and relevant now as it was then. This dynamic phenomenon is one of the miracles of the Living Word of God—it transcends time.

James wrote the letter to Jewish believers from the “twelve tribes scattered abroad” and to gentile converts that fled Jerusalem after Stephen was stoned to escape persecution for his faith in Christ. James wrote to encourage and advise believers through practical wisdom. This Holy Spirit inspired work instructed the followers of Christ to live righteously and maintain their moral duties while living outside of their beloved Promised Land. James desired believers to be a Godly example to others by the way they conducted themselves—he wanted them to be doers of the Word and not just hearers.

Although history records James as the first Pastor of Jerusalem, as the brother of Jesus, as “James the Just”, and “James the Righteous”, he simply identified himself as a bondservant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. A bondservant is one who serves through love and not law or dictates. James was emphasizing that there is no greater title than servant and no greater act than to serve.

Pastor James wanted all believers to grow their faith in Christ by seeking wisdom from God. He encourages us to mature in our relationship with our Redeemer and not remain spiritual infants. The following are some of the pearls of wisdom James sets before us enabling every child of God to experience the Good Life!

LIFE IS A TEST (JAMES 1:3-4)
James writes of an enduring faith that is characterized in two ways: It is a tested faith and it is an active faith. James refers to “trials of many kinds” which stem from the troubles created by circumstances beyond our control, by temptations that cause us to make bad choices, or as a result of our sinful inclinations and carnal desires. James wants us to learn from our trials and benefit from our times of testing.

CONSIDER IT JOY
James encourages us to “count it all joy when we fall into various trials.” Many of us read this verse and quickly want to turn the page—“surely I’m not to rejoice for my troubles!” Of course not—I certainly don’t! Instead, James is saying that accepting Christ as Savior does not exempt anyone from trouble and trials. However, when they come, James encourages us to confront adversity with the spirit of joy. He is not referring to the emotion of joy but the attitude of joy, which is a deliberate and mindful action that offers thanks to God during times of trouble. James is not asking us to rejoice in the trial itself but in the results that will come from the trial. The most important result is a closer relationship with God.

Testing is a way of removing impurities from our lives and patience is not resigning to bad circumstances but making a commitment to endure the tests until the victory comes. Remember this truth— acknowledging what God has brought us through in the past builds up our faith for the present we are in and the future trials we encounter.

Most of us are living in faith now but don’t recognize it. I ask you, are you appreciating today what you asked God for yesterday? This is called answered prayer! Are there things in your life now that you can easily endure that would have caused you to collapse yesterday? This is the miracle of God’s patience working in you!

Part of the beauty of living in Christ is that the process of maturing is an ongoing journey no matter how old we are. The verse “perfect and complete, lacking nothing” refers to the process of continual spiritual growth. Be mindful of the difference between the processes of natural maturity and spiritual maturity. Once fruit is mature in the natural, it is ripe and then it decays—our goal for spiritual maturity is to grow in Christ but never allow the joy of the journey to grow stale or decompose altogether.

SEEK GOD’S WISDOM (JAMES 1:5)
The wisdom James refers to is not intellectual knowledge but spiritual understanding, insight, and discernment. God provides His children this kind of insight when we pray. He also imparts His wisdom through the reading of the Word, righteous counsel, and life experience. Remember, you are God’s child—He will generously provide for your needs without hesitation or contention—all we need to do is ask.

UNWAVERING FAITH (JAMES 1:6-8)
When I read these verses I realized how important it is for us to believe in what God’s Word promises. Our Father wants us to take action on His promises by asking Him for what we need without doubting that He will provide. He sternly warns that doubt will prevent us from receiving His bountiful provision and it will breed insecurity causing us to question who we are in Christ. Ultimately doubt will prevent us from living the Good Life.

Remember this truth—unbelief is like a consuming virus that will seize our thought lives. It will cause our prayer life to suffer, our commitment to church to waiver, and it impedes our fellowship with other believers. Soon we will gravitate to the world and eventually become more like the world and less like God.

UNDERSTANDING RICHES (JAMES 1:9-11)
James is not condemning the wealthy or the poor—he is instead warning that both prosperity and poverty can test our faith.

The Lord makes it clear that He delights in blessing His children in a material way. The Bible is full of examples of God’s servants who had material wealth:

  • Abraham “had become very wealthy in livestock, and in silver and gold” (Genesis 13:2)
  • Isaac’s “wealth continued to grow until he become very wealthy” (Genesis 26:13)
  • Jacob “grew exceedingly prosperous” (Genesis 30:43)
  • King David, a “man after God’s own heart” (I Samuel 13:14) and he “enjoyed long life, wealth and honor.” (1 Chronicles 29:28)
  • King Solomon was “greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings on earth.” (2 Chronicles 9:22)
  • Joseph, who provided the burial tomb for Christ, was known “a rich man in Aramethea” (Matthew 27:57,60)

We must not forget that it is the Lord that gives us the power to get wealth—not our own abilities or talents. God’s promises are clear—if we heed His voice and obey His mandates He promises to go give us “the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18). “Test me in this and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessings that you will not have room enough for it.” (Malachi 3:10)

However, James warns believers not to rely on or to gloat in our riches and cautions us about the temptations and evils associated with them. He encourages all believers to give thanks for their material abundance yet never overlook the value of their spiritual wealth which is far more important. Material blessings will fade but the Lord’s spiritual blessings will remain forever!

VICTORS CROWN OF LIFE (JAMES 1:12)
James declares that those that remain faithful and are not moved by their trials will not only receive a crown of life as an eternal reward but can enjoy the Good Life with abundance and fullness—now!

Does this mean we are not to be affected by our trials? No! We have God-given emotions that influence how we react to our circumstances. However, we must anchor ourselves to the promises found in Christ and walk through our trials with our heads held high. We are to plant our feet in the Word and not waiver or retreat but fully believe that nothing is too difficult for God who will provide the victory!

GOD TEMPTS NO ONE (JAMES 1:13-15)
James emphatically declares that God’s perfect holiness puts Him beyond the reach of temptation. God does not entice His creation to sin. God tests—Satan tempts. God’s “testing” produces patience, joy, and the fullness found in the Good Life. Satan’s temptation, on the other hand, results in sin and destruction.

We make wrong choices—God does not. Wrong choices lead to sin and sin leads to death which will eventually cut off our relationship with God.

AVOID DECEPTION (JAMES 1:16-17)
Remember this truth—God is the source of all good. We should take hold of who God is and what He does. We must stay focused on what His Word says about Him and believe the accounts of His miraculous power. Don’t stray into erroneous opinions, and go off from the standard of truth that you have received from the Lord Jesus by the direction of His Spirit. God is good, He is merciful and He does not change.

Know that nothing can deprive you from living the Good Life God has desired for you,

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

James wrote to believers that were dispersed to different nations of the world. He is also addressing believers today who are dispersed every morning into the world of jobs, school, social commitments, and every day survival. We can apply every precept found in his letter to our lives today. The choice is ours—we can merely exist in the world or live the Good Life God offers us by trusting Him.

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