What is the Meaning of James 1.17-18

“God is Good All the Time and He Proved It”

James 1:17-18

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of James 1.17-18

James 1. Have you ever been tempted to doubt God’s goodness? If so, you’re not the only one. A young man raised in a Baptist church doubted God’s goodness when he wrote about God not answering his prayers about family difficulties. He wrote: “The first time I questioned the faith was when my grandmother shriveled up in front of me for 6 month’s due to cancer. I was 13 & my mother & father [were] getting a divorce. My father told me I should have been aborted. I prayed to God but nothing fails like prayers.” [1]

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A woman raised in a Methodist household described her step-father as “cruel and abusive” to her, and she could not understand why “if God loves me, why won’t he protect me instead of letting this happen to me?”

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These folks have gone through real trial and have doubted God’s goodness to them. Have you ever actually said those words? I know … and you know when tragedy strikes, you too often have been tempted to doubt God’s goodness. Whether some tragedy, or relationship problem, or you don’t get something from God you want, or you keep falling into some sin, … when something like that happens, you may be tempted to doubt God’s goodness.

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And this is exactly what’s going on with the first readers of this letter. James is writing to persecuted believers. This letter tells us that they are scattered … they’ve been run out of Jerusalem and their homes have been taken over or destroyed, property confiscated, … “God, where are you?” What’s the answer to that? And in the midst of that …if that wasn’t enough, they were tempted, not by God, but by their own lusts.

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What’s the answer to this? If God is good, how can God allow this to happen? Look … God does test, but He doesn’t tempt, His people … He rewards those who suffer for Christ’s sake, He will judge all evil doers, and He uses suffering to bring people to Christ. In the end, all the wrongs will be made right, justice will be served, the judge of all the earth will do right….and during those times, as you submit to Him, He comforts you during your trial so that you can comfort others with the same comfort that you’ve been comforted with by God. This is what God is doing in trial and when you’re tempted. And I’m surprised that there is anything other than calamity in my life, given how I’ve sinned against God.

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But when all the facts are in, God is good all the time and He proved it. This is James 1:16-18. We’re going to read these verses. James begins by correcting us about God’s goodness…why does he correct us, … why does he tell us not to be deceived?? …

Because he knows that for you to resist temptations and to get through trials is going to take your faith in God’s goodness.

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James 1:16–18 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

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To help you get through trials and resist temptations I’d like to preach that God is good all the time and He proved it. And the main point this morning is this …

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To resist temptations and get through trials, don’t be deceived about God’s goodness. God is good.

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[doubts welcome, btw]

And by the way, if you are doubting God’s goodness, or doubting God in some way, your doubts and expressions of doubt are welcomed with me. Feel free to talk with me or talk to others about your concerns. There are good and right answers to help you. Don’t let deception about God to fester; if you do, you’ll slowly kill off your spiritual life. Get the answers to your questions …

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Don’t be deceived

If you are doubting, what you need is that counsel … “Don’t be deceived!” The tempter is real, your sin nature is real…don’t be deceived! Doubting God’s goodness leads to spiritual shipwreck. If you are in a real struggle or if you are tempted to sin in some way … you might be right now … deceived about God’s goodness.

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“Dear brothers, don’t be deceived!”

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ILL: Oswald Chambers, the devotional writer of yesteryear, said “The root of sin is in an incurable suspicion of God. …That He is not Good enough. … and that we can do better.” An incurable suspicion that God is not good… at least, not good enough!

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But if you can trust in the goodness of God … You’ll have strength to resist temptations. But getting you to doubt God’s goodness is the oldest trick in the book.

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You remember how Satan comes to Eve … And when he begins to tempt her he says, “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?” … that’s a loaded question… Satan is really making a statement in that question.

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“Can you believe it? God is keeping good things from you. Is it really true he is soooo not good that He would create these trees and then tell you not to eat from them? What kind of a God is that? He’s not good if He’s witholding that from you … besides, what’s wrong with a tree anyway, it’s not that it’s bad of itself anyway….”

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When Satan begins the temptation, he first attacked at the goodness of God. He attempts to deceive God’s people into doubting God’s goodness. Satan is still using this tactic today. You might be tempted to think God is holding out on you. But if you begin to believe that, you’re headed toward destruction. But if you truly believe that God is good to you and he is more than enough for you, temptation will lose its power.

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Why should I go for that temptation when what God has given me is enough? “Why should I go out for a hamburger when I can have steak at home?” God is more than enough for me!

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But if you question God and you become suspicious of Him and His goodness, you’ll begin to be drawn into this or that temptation…and you’ll begin to think to yourself, “Maybe I do need ____ to get me through the day” or “I should defend my honor right now…” Don’t be deceived! God has been good enough for you to give you everything you need!

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TRANS: So what James is saying is that God does not tempt you … Don’t be deceived about that … Not only does He not tempt, he only gives perfect things. So in verse 17 … notice here first God is good…

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  1. God is good.

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James 1:17 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above,

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God is good because he gives good things. These gifts come from above. And James repeats himself emphasize the truth. Every good thing given … every perfect gift … same thing but repeated to emphasize the truth of it. Good gifts come from God.

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If it comes from God, it is good. If it is good, it comes from God. God can only give good things because he himself is only good. God is good.

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Contrast: We give less than good gifts. In a couple of months, you’ll be thinking about Christmas…Last year, Lindsay was thrilled to find a stocking and, under the tree, several carefully wrapped gifts from her [avid golfer] husband Christmas morning.

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She was thrilled, that is, until she opened them.

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Lindsay, a young elementary-school teacher, had been hoping for her [rub hands!] favorite perfume, new boots or maybe a nice purse.

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Instead, her golfer husband gave her golf gloves, a golf skirt and a golf shirt with a country-club logo on it— and she’s no golfer. He also presented her with a heating pad to keep those aging muscles from getting sore, Listerine breath strips to cure her bad breath and nasal strips to prevent her snoring at night.” How thoughtful!

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Not exactly your selfless gift…and not very flattering for a young wife.

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God is not like that; He doesn’t give expecting anything in return. His gifts are good.

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Matthew 7:8–11 8 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

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God only gives good gifts because He himself is only good.

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ILL: Paul the apostle went through many trials. In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul receives his throne in the flesh. And Paul complains and bickers and grumbles, disputes with God over this, complaining that God is not good…is that what he did? No! He knew that thorn was there …. why ? …. to keep him from exalting himself. To be kept from exalting yourself …. Do you view that as a good gift?

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Many times, we need to be re-oriented as to what is a good gift and what isn’t. Just because you can’t see the goodness in it, doesn’t mean that it’s not good. You’re not omniscient, you’re not all-knowing.

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ILL: Do you remember Joseph in Potiphar’s house? Joseph remembered God’s goodness and it helped him to resist temptation. Joseph is in Potiphar’s house and Potiphar’s wife tempts him … But he resists her saying, “how can I do this great evil and sin against God?”

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Joseph knew that God had been enough for him. Joseph knew that God’s goodness was enough for him.

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And you know what happens next? Joseph is falsely accused thrown into prison. “Where’s God?” Is that what he said? No,

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Genesis 39:21 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.

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The LORD was working great works and was kind to Joseph and at the end of the story it was through Joseph and through his many hardships that God was working to save many people alive from the future famine in the land. If it hadn’t been for all those hardships and trials of Joseph went through, many thousands and thousands of people would’ve died.

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What about you? Is it worth it? Are all your difficulties and struggles worth it? Yes they are … you will see the goodness of the Lord like Joseph did … the psalmist says… Psalm 27:13 13 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.

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If you don’t believe you’ll see His goodness toward you, you will be in despair. But who knows but that these things have happened to you for such time as this…

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Joseph remembered God’s goodness and that enabled him to resist temptations and to get through his trials. And that’s the same with you. To resist temptation and to successfully get through trials, you must not be deceived about God’s goodness. God is good.

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Think of all of God’s good gifts to you, even though you’re sinful…: your life, your health, his provision for you, the land that you own, the house you rent, the business you own, the job you have, your family and friends, encouragements from his people, fellowship, food, fun, and happiness. He has given you so many good things … And he bestows them more and more abundantly upon you even though there is a risk that your heart could grow stale and you forget the Lord.

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TRANS: God is good and secondly this morning … God is good all the time.

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  1. God is good all the time

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    A. He gives abundantly (“Father of lights”)

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    It says there in verse 17 that he is the Father of lights. What that means for us is that …. He gives abundantly. The lights here refers to all …the stars in space.

    He is the creator, the Father of them all. No one knows exactly how many stars there are out there, but one estimate is that in our observable universe there are 100 octillion stars … that’s a “1” with 29 zeros after. I can’t fathom that.

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    Look at all of those stars and how God created them…James is using that picture to help you understand God’s goodness. Just like God has created an abundant amount of stars, so also he has been abundantly good to you your whole life. He’s been patient with you from the moment of your conception when you gave no thought of him … he fed you with food out of his gracious hand.

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    When you were running from him in all of your rebellious acts against him, he sustained you and kept you and provided for you … God is good…He’s good all the time, He’s the father of lights…Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights … That’s the kind of resources he has to bless you and has blessed you. The stars are an example of the great blessing that he blesses us with. Innumerable blessings! Just like God has created an abundant amount of stars, so also he has been abundantly good to you your whole life.

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    TRANS: He’s good all the time … He gives abundantly and gives constantly.

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    B. He gives constantly (“Coming Down”)

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    God gives constantly…look at verse 17 again … Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. God gives constantly.

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    That phrase “coming down from” the Father of lights gives this picture of the God of all creation speaking the worlds into existence … the sun the moon, and all the stars. He is the father of lights. He created all of those celestial luminaries out there in far reaches of space…and Him showering down all His goodness upon you.

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    In fact tonight, you’ll be able to witness, weather permitting, you’ll be able to see an example of God’s goodness. Tonight, for the first time in 33 years, you’ll be able to see a supermoon lunar eclipse. A super moon is a full moon visible at the closest point to earth.

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    Now, that supermoon will eclipse tonight. What that means is that the moon will pass directly behind the earth. So the sun will shine on the other side of the world …and as the sun shines onto the earth the earth will then cast it’s shadow on the moon and this will give the moon a red color.

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    This is a rare event. There was a supermoon lunar eclipse in 1910, 1928, 1938, 1946, 1964, 1982, 2015…and if you miss it tonight, you’ll have to wait until 2033.

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    And that moon is just one example of the overflowing goodness of God.

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    God is the Father of all those 100 octillion lights. He is constantly good. All of his goodness and gifts are coming down. That seems to give this picture of a constant stream of goodness “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” And so the picture seems to be that … Just like the light from those 100 octillion stars are constantly emanating their light onto earth in a constant stream…just like that … God Himself is constantly giving forth His never ending goodness to us.

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    Contrast: But that’s totally unlike us isn’t it? A missionary once asked a new convert, “Pablo, if you had a hundred sheep, would you give half of them…fifty of them to the Lord’s work?”

    He answered, “You know I would gladly give them.”

    “Pablo, if you had fifty cows, would you give twenty-five to the Lord’s work?”

    “Yes, you know I would be more than happy to do that.”

    Again the missionary asked, “Pablo, if you had two pigs, would you give one of them to the Lord’s work?”

    “That’s not fair,” Pablo replied. “You know I have two pigs.”

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    We’re not constant in our giving, are we? We qualify our giving our to others … we selfishly limit our giving…but not God, He gives abundantly and constantly.

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    ILL: It’s too bad David didn’t have this deep in his heart when he was tempted with Bathsheba. And you remember David sins with Bathsheba and then has Bathsheba’s husband killed in battle…and God sends Nathan the prophet to confront him.. And God convicts David of his sin … how? Well, for one, by showing to David how good God had been to him, showing David how much God had given to him…

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2 Samuel 12:7–8 7 Nathan says to David, … Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 ‘I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!”

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God is saying, “Look David, why did you go elsewhere? I am sufficient; my giving to you is sufficient. I never give too little.”

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If David would’ve had God’s goodness at heart and would have contented himself with all the good things God had given to him, this would have given him strength to resist temptation. Don’t be deceived in the middle of temptation and trial. God is good to you! For you to resist temptation and to get through those trials you must affirm and trust in the goodness of God.

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TRANS: But you say, “ok, God gives abundantly and constantly. But will that ever change?” No!

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C. God’s goodness never changes.

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God’s goodness never changes. End of verse 17 … With the father of lights, what does it say ? … “there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

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Earlier when I described the lunar eclipse that’s to happen tonight, I described shadows. I talked about how rare this super moon eclipse is. There is so much variation with these luminary bodies. Eclipses only happen so often …. they vary. The sun and the moon and the stars vary and their shadows shift and turn. The suns shadows shift, but not the One who made it!

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The sun rises and shines brightly on earth, creating many shadows that shift every so slightly as the sun rises up…and as it falls the shadows become longer and longer until the black of night falls…and every day that happens. So many different shifting shadows and variations…but not with God. With him, there is no variation or shifting shadow. His goodness never changes.

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“I am the Lord and I change not,” He says.

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ILL: We all long for something that never changes. I remember my sister telling me when she was a little girl she remembered looking outside this time of year seeing the leaves fall off the tree which is the inevitable sign of a great change by the end of the year. She recalled how she laid in bed thinking as a little girl, “I want something that never changes.” The unchanging God would eventually save her and she would get her childhood wish! God never changes …

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The King of love my Shepherd is,

Whose goodness faileth never,

I nothing lack if I am His

And He is mine forever.

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The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want … I shall not lack any good thing.

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ILL: But everything around changes, doesn’t it? The leaves, seasons, our food, our bodies…I bet when you get up for the last song in a moment, some of you will get up faster than others…and some of you will probably hear various noises…your joints popping and cracking…everything changes, but not God! His goodness is abundant and constant.

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ILL: It’s the same in our family. A year and a half ago or so our stove in our kitchen began to malfunction. It was this late 1970s pale, or puke green color … and it would spark in the back…it was a great fire hazard … When it was time to get a new stove, …a nice, gleaming white stove that was safe … one of our children began weeping saying, “I like the old stove better!” She just didn’t want change.

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It was the same with our deck. Many of you know we were getting water in our basement and needed that fixed. To fix it, you have to take off the old wooden deck. That old deck … had rotted wood… And as I was taking it down, this same child comes to me and says don’t take the deck down, I like this deck” and the same tears begin to flow …

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We don’t like change…that seems to be built into us, we are creatures of habit… God is the only one who doesn’t change and praise the Lord his goodness will be the same as it was yesterday today and forever and we will have all of eternity to get to know more and more of his goodness.

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TRANS: God is good. God is good all the time … His goodness is abundant, his goodness is constant, and he never changes. And now lastly, he’s proven it. He’s proven His goodness.

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  1. He proved it in the new birth(v.18)

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Look at verse 18 … here’s the ultimate proof of God’s goodness…He’s proven His goodness in the new birth.

James 1:18 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

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This describes the new birth, regeneration, being born again, or being born from above. This describes the moment of salvation when a person becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus.

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When that happens, when someone is born from above…James says here that he brought us forth by the word of truth. He brought us forth. Compare that to what your evil desires bring forth. Back in verse 15

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James 1:15 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it … here it is … brings forth death.

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Your evil desires give birth to sin and sin brings forth death. Same child birth word there.

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But God, in salvation, brings you forth! He gave you the new birth!

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A. The new birth is a work of God

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And this is work of God! In the exercise of His will He brought us forth. God did this.

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ILL: By a show of hands how many of you, before you were born, called your parents and asked to be born? No, it was the exercise of your parent’s will.

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That’s the same with God. If you are born again this morning, that happened through the exercise of God’s will. Are you thankful for that? Do you see that as God’s goodness to you? Yes, God is good … his will exercised on your behalf is good, abundantly good, constantly good, and never changing and He’s proven it all by giving you new life in Christ.

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B. He used the word of truth to give us the new birth

And to give you new life in your heart, God uses something…look at what he uses, he uses “the word of truth.” This is the gospel of your salvation…

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That glorious message that Christ died for your sins and was raised from the dead…

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1 Peter 1:23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.

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God is good! …His word is good!

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TRANS: And why did He do this? Why would He be so good to cause us to be born again, to have eternal life? He brought us forth so that we would be an example of His future goodness when He redeems all of creation!

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C. We are an example of redemptive plan for all of creation

End of verse 18…He brought us forth? Why, so that we would be a kind of firstfruits among His creatures…or among His creation, that is, speaking of all of creation.

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For those of us whom he has brought forth and has given the new birth, that work of God is the down payment, the promise, the example of what he’s going to do in the future when he redeems all of his creation.

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ILL: when our farmers went out into the fields for the first time to harvest their grain this fall and let’s say after a half an hour’s work they took a scoop of that grain and went inside and showed that to their family. That’s the first fruits. That’s not the entire harvest. That’s just the first fruits. That scoop is simply the promise of a great big harvest to come, or a descent harvest anyway …

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And that’s the same way it is with God’s people. God has caused us to be born again… And there is coming a day when he will renew his entire creation. Romans 8:21 there is coming a day when the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

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All of creation will one day be set free from its slavery to corruption and it will be ushered into a glorious time when all of God’s children are glorified, forever set free from not only the power of sin, but also the presence of sin and all its effects. All of existence for God’s children will be perfect.

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God is good! …He’ll one day right every wrong. We’re just the renewed firstfruits of all of God’s creation.

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Are you trusting in Him? Do you have this in your heart? Do you really know this? Do you see His goodness now? To resist temptations and get through trials, don’t be deceived about God’s goodness. God is good!

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of James 1.17-18

Joni Eareckson Tada has known trial and temptation in her life … she grew up in a very athletic family. She was first awakened at 14 on a church retreat. The speaker challenged her to measure her life up against the 10 commandments. And she got this overwhelming sense that she wasn’t going to make it and so she cries out to God, “Help me!”

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She says, “I came out of that retreat fired up. But through high school the enthusiasm began to wane especially when I began to confuse the Christian life with the American dream. Her prayers were so selfish … “God help me to lose weight …God I need a new boyfriend … God give me a good grade on this test.” Unfortunately I thought I did God a big favor by accepting Jesus as my Savior, but she says I remember praying, “Lord, I’m not doing this right. And I know it. I don’t want to defame Your good name. Do something in my life to jerk my life right side up. I’m living all wrong.”

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Before college, her sister invited her off to swim. She was on a floating raft out in the water and she took a dive… in really shallow water… she says, “I snapped my head back and crushed my fourth cervical vertebrae and severed my spinal cord. There I was lying facedown in the water, desperately hoping that my sister would see me lying facedown in the water.”

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But my sister’s back was turned away from me. And then a crab bit her toe… She turned around to scream, “Joni, watch out for the crabs.” And then she saw me in the water…ready to drown… She came swimming and pulled me up out of the water and I was never so grateful for fresh air. She saved me…. But for what purpose? For what reason? Because now the doctors were telling me that I would have to sit down for the rest of my life as a quadriplegic.

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No use of my legs or my hands. And she remembers praying, “God is this your answer to my prayer to be drawn closer to you? If it is, you will never be trusted with one of my prayers again. I was a new Christian … how could you have taken me so seriously?”

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I sank into deep depression. And my friends came to the hospital and attempted to encourage me from Jeremiah 29:11. Jeremiah 29:11 11 ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not [to harm you and] to give you a future and a hope.

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“God you plan not to harm me? What do you call quadriplegia, huh?” I would have attempted suicide but I had no way of actually performing it…so I prayed, “God if I can’t die, help me live!”

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And she began to realize with Jer. 29:11…that God’s plans for her weren’t that she’d get back her use of her legs and hands, but receive a deeper healing, a precious healing of the soul. She says, “Because now I am pushed in the arms of God every morning… Every morning I wake up saying, “Jesus I can’t do this thing called life. Please help me. Give me your smile. Give me your strength. I can’t make it through the day.” And because I do that, she says, I experience a wonderful union with Jesus Christ.

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Through it all, she became more and more thankful…more and more joyous…as she walked with Jesus each day, she came out of her depression… trusting Him and His goodness…she got through that deep trial because she submitted to Christ and walked with Him, trusting Him and His goodness to her each day.

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Now Joni has helped countless thousands through her art … she uses her mouth … , books, and songs. She’s president of a ministry to disabled people and a movie was made of her life.

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She says that suffering is like little splashovers of hell to wake you up out of your spiritual slumber. But splashovers of heaven are finding Jesus in your splashovers of hell. To find Jesus in your hell is ecstasy beyond compare.

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Joni was despairing because she didn’t believe that “she would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” But when she believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living, she revived. Why? Because that is the truth! God is good all the time…He gives abundantly …just look at the stars…He gives constantly … just look at the light from all those stars streaming down … and He’s proven His goodness, just look at your salvation and the future redemption of His creation.

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God is good!

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Go to James Main Page

Go To New Testament Books

Go To BibleTrove Home Page

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  1. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/blackwhiteandgray/2011/11/why-do-christians-leave-the-faith-breaking-up-with-a-god-who-failed-them/

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